Yoga Sutra - Samādhi Pada 1.36
विशोका वा ज्योतिष्मती ॥३६॥
viśokā vā jyotiśmatī ||36||
Or [steadiness of mind is gained when] the mind is pain free and luminous.
Patañjali here presents another cryptic sūtra, part of which the commentators interpret from the perspective of the esoteric anatomy of the subtle body most typically associated with the siddha/śākta/tantra cluster of traditions. Vyāsa says that this sūtra continues from the last, that is, the phrase “causes steadiness of the mind,” sthiti-nibandhanī, is to be carried over from the previous sūtra to this one. So steadiness of the mind can be attained through the viṣayavatī, object-focused, prescription of the last sūtra, and/or the painless and luminous one mentioned in this sūtra, which Vyāsa understands as having both objective and subjective varients. Actually, in their pure form, all of these experiences are free from pain and luminous, and the commentators point out that these are called painless, viśokā, and luminous, jyotiṣvatī, by Patañjali because they are free from rajas and tamas, the sources of pain and obscuration. Sattva, we recall, is luminous and blissful by nature.
One means of attaining stability of mind, says Vyāsa, is to concentrate intelligence on the lotus cakra in the heart.219 When one becomes skilled in doing this, one’s sense activities attain luminosity like that of the sun, moon, planets, and gems. (Luminosity here is not merely optical light but also the illumination of knowledge inherent in sattva that reveals things as they really are.) This is because intelligence, when manifesting its pure sāttvic nature, is luminous and all-pervading, like the ether.220 It is a preponderance of tamas that limits this all-pervading potential.221 (It is essential to note this principle of the citta’s all-pervading potential in order to understand the mechanics behind the siddhis, mystic powers, of the third pāda.) Since intelligence pervades all forms, it can perceive the true nature of all things when its highest sāttvic potential is manifest. Hence, when such sāttvic intelligence flows through the senses, the senses also become luminous, like the sun, etc. And, of course, another characteristic of sattva is happiness, hence the painless reference in this sūtra. This is object-focused meditation.
According to Vyāsa, Patañjali in this sūtra also implies subject-focused meditation, when the mind is fixed on the sense of I-am-ness (asmitā). Free from rajas and tamas, it becomes calm and unlimited in this state, like a waveless ocean, and is aware only of a sense of I am. Vyāsa states that the yogī in this state can ponder the ātman within the heart, which is the size of an atom, and realize the self in the form of I am. Vijñānabhikṣu explains that this type of I-am-ness is not the function of the ego refracting out into the objects of the world, as is the case with the asmitā of II.6,222 but is the highest function of the ego reflecting the soul itself. This type of cognition, says Vijñānabhikṣu, is different from cognitions having an external object, such as smell, since the object is the ātman itself. In other words, in this highly sāttvic state, by reflecting the light and consciousness of puruṣa, asmitā, the luminous reflective sāttvic covering of puruṣa, redirects puruṣa’s awareness onto puruṣa itself. Contemplating the ātman in this state, ego loses awareness of any other object and is aware only of pure I-am-ness. This all seems to correspond to the state of asmitā–samādhi of I.17.
This state is not the ultimate goal of yoga, which is nirbīja–samādhi when puruṣa ceases to be aware of anything other than itself, but it is nonetheless indirect awareness of puruṣa by the faculty of ego. This perception of the ātman, adds Vijñānabhikṣu, taking the opportunity to present his theistic perspectives, is the base for perception of Īśvara, the former preceding the latter.