[Discussion on this sutra continued during the meeting on 5/22/10]
smRuti = memory; parishuddhau = on clarification; svarUpa = own form or essential nature; shUnya = devoid of; iva = as if; artha = real meaning; mAtra = only; nirbhaasaa = shining, appearing as; nirvitrakaa = samadhi characterized by absence of Vitarka
"On the clarification of memory, when the mind loses its essential nature (subjectivity), as it were, and the real knowledge of the object alone shines (through the mind), Nirvitarka Samadhi is attained."
While in Savitarka Samadhi, the modification of yogi’s mind (vritti) comes under the category of ‘smriti’ (memory). This vritti is a reproduction in the mind of something that has been experienced before. The term ‘smriti parishuddhau’ in the sutra refers to purifying this memory in the mind. In this state, the mind loses its own ‘subjectivity’ and hence is termed ‘swarupa shunya’ (devoid of its own subjectivity) in the sutra. As a result of this purification, the object of concentration shines through in its true essence, without the confusion of ‘shabda, artha, jnana’ (word, its essence and its general knowledge) mentioned in the previous sutra. This state of the mind is defined as ‘nirvitarka’ (without vitarka) in the sutra.
After the attainment of Nirvitarka Samadhi, the "purusha" gets involved in bringing about the further stages of samadhi as explained in the remaining sutras of this chapter. Purusha’s involvement is needed because in nirvitarka, the lower mind has completely fused with the object of concentration. This view is a departure from the philosophy of Samkhya according to which ‘purusha’ is merely a ‘drashta’ (a spectator) and not a participant in any activity.
"When the memory is purified, the mind appears to be devoid of its own nature (i.e. of reflective consciousness) and only the object (on which it is contemplating) remains illuminated. This kind of engrossment is called Nirvitarka Samapatti."
In "nirvitarka samapatti", a state in which the mind is free from verbal thinking, the true nature of the object contemplated upon is revealed. It is a state with true perception where the other modes of "pramana" (right knowledge) – inference and testimony, which are themselves based on direct perception – are absent.
Based on direct perception, knowledge of an object is stored in the memory along with its name. By practice, however, it is possible to think of the object without its name. This is called ‘purifying the memory’ and represents true knowledge of an object. Words may represent non-existing things. For example, in the expression, "time is beginningless and endless", there is no possibility of direct perception of time or its nature. Similarly, "Brahman is real and of the nature of consciousness" merely uses words which cannot be perceived or help in realizing Brahman. Only the knowledge gained without the use of words and being the nature of the object is the true knowledge.
"Swarupa shunya" (devoid of its own nature) in the sutra implies that the notion, ‘I am the knower’ or ‘I know’ is not there any more – only the object remains. In contrast, we saw that in ‘savitarka samadhi’ the knowledge is mixed with the words denoting the object. In ‘nirvitarka’, even if words are uttered, they appear only as pure sound, without any associated meaning. In ‘nirvitarka’ the complete assemblage of all the associated characteristics becomes available without association of the name.
Let us take an ‘apple’ as an example of a gross object of meditation. The name ‘apple’ represents the ‘shabda’ or the word. Its color (red), shape (roundish), smell (sweet), texture (soft), taste (sweet and sour) etc all represent the common knowledge ‘jnana’ associated with an apple. The ‘artha’ or the true essence of an apple could refer to its subtle taste or smell (without a name) or some other characteristic like its nutritional value etc. In ‘savitarka samadhi’, all these names and various characteristics of an apple will remain in the mind. Even though there is no other ‘object’ in the mind, the mind goes back and forth among these ‘shabda’, ‘artha’ and ‘jnana’ for the apple. In ‘nirvitarka’ samadhi, the mind becomes completely devoid of any names or any other characteristic which can be recalled from memory. The mind in this samadhi is totally absorbed in any one of the essential qualities of the apple only with no verbal association.