"Also (the mind) depending upon the knowledge derived from dreams or
dreamless sleep (will acquire steadiness)."
Nidra (deep sleep) and swapna (dream) refer to subtler vehicles into which the consciousness passes during sleep. Only partial contact is maintained with the physical body to enable it to carry on its normal physiological activities. Even though we all get into this state, only a few with psychic abilities can bring back a vague knowledge of their experience in that state. For a normal person, only chaotic dream images are produced as a result of interaction between the images in the mind during dream state and those received through the subtler vehicle. In the case of deep sleep, even higher subtler planes are encountered and the brain becomes empty. Only the mind stays active at a higher plane. Through proper training and practice, it is possible to bring back memories from the higher planes of dream and deep sleep states into the brain. These images are not chaotic and the knowledge can actually be carried over to the waking sate. It is this knowledge that is referred to in this sutra and contemplating on it is helpful in bringing the mind to a steady state.
"Or by taking as the object of meditation the images of dreams or the state of dreamless sleep (the mind of the Yogin gets stabilised)."
In dream, external knowledge is shut out and ideas in the mind appear as vivid. People with certain disposition can actually contemplate upon these vivified images. This can be done in three ways:
- To form a mental image of the object and think of it as real
- With practice, in dream also one is aware that one is dreaming. One can contemplate upon the desired object in dream and can continue this focus even on waking up.
- When a good feeling or idea is felt in dream, on waking up the same feeling should be contemplated upon
In deep sleep, both mental and external objects are obscured by Tamas and a hazy idea of inactivity remains. Contemplating on this hazy image, steadiness of the mind can be achieved.
Taimni, as we have seen before, is heavily influenced by his occult background. His interpretation of consciousness residing at subtler planes during dream and sleep states obviously represents that influence. On reading some of the other commentaries (from the book by Veda Bharati), I did not find any such reference subtler, higher planes during sleep. For the most part, the commentators mention that a ‘sadhaka’ who is on a spiritual path is likely to have dreams of an uplifting or spiritual nature. They recommend using memory of such dreams as objects of contemplation to achieve steadiness of the mind. It is also clear that not everyone has the ability to bring back such distinct uplifting images from their dreams since most dreams seem chaotic and disjointed. Only people with special ability can use this technique effectively.
We talked about ‘lucid’ or ‘vivid’ dreams where the dreamer is actually aware that he or she is dreaming. Even though in dreams, physical laws do not apply (for example, one can walk through a wall or can fly without wings), in vivid dreams such laws begin to take effect. It is possible to use images from such vivid dreams as objects for contemplation. A mention was made of Andrea Rock who is a famous researcher in the field of dreams. I was able to download her book, "The mind at night – The New Science of How and Why We Dream" from the internet. I have uploaded it to my own site for ease of access (I am assuming that I am not breaking any copyright laws since I got it freely from the net!). It is a large scanned file and might take a few seconds to come up.
Surprisingly, neither of the two commentators made a reference to sutra 1.10 which describes sleep as one of the five vrittis. In that sutra, we are asked to control the vritti that appears as a result of deep sleep. In the present sutra, we are using the knowledge from the state of sleep as a focal point of contemplation. It will be nice if someone can clarify this apparent contradiction.
“Or by meditation as desired.”
After giving multiple choices, Patanjali, in this sutras, says that the ‘sadhaka’ may adopt any method of meditation according to his predilection. As long as the method helps achieve steadiness of the mind, any method can be used. Also, the method should be in accordance with one’s own temperament. Someone with clairvoyant tendencies may like to adopt the method given the previous sutra (sutra 1.38) relating to sleep and dream states. It is OK to do a little experimentation to find the right method but trying one method after another will defeat the purpose of contemplation.
"Or by contemplating on whatsoever thing one may like (the mind becomes stable)."
If the mind can be stabilized on one thing for any length of time, it can be stabilized on other things as well. On attaining stability of the mind by contemplation on any one object, one can get engrossed in the ‘tattvas’ (elements) and gradually attain ‘kaivalya’.
Swami Veda Bharati, based on the commentary by other authors summarizes some of the other methods of meditation that can be applied:
- Meditating on one’s own chosen deity – e.g., Lord Siva, Christ etc.
- Any external objects of meditation should ultimately be internalized. For example, if one is fond of pilgrimage and enjoys meditating on it, then finally he needs to internalize the experience and remember that all sacred places of pilgrimage are within oneself.
- Meditation of various Chakras, the Kundalini Shakti etc.
- The science of Tantra provides other means of meditation like using ‘mantra’, ‘yantras’ or ‘mandalas’ etc.