Yoga Sutra - Samādhi Pada 1.41
क्षीणवृत्तेरभिजातस्येव मणेर्ग्रहीतृग्रहणग्राह्येषु तत्स्थतदञ्जनता समापत्तिः ॥४१॥
kṣīṇa-vṛtteḥ abhijātasya-iva maṇeḥ grahītṛ-grahaṇa-grāhyeṣu tat-stha-tat-añjanatā samāpattiḥ ||41||
[The accomplished mind] of diminished fluctuations, like a precious (or clear) jewel assuming the color of any near object, has unity among grasper, grasping, and grasped.
Samāpatti, complete absorption of the mind when it is free from its vṛttis, occurs when the mind becomes just like a transparent jewel, taking the form of whatever object is placed before it, whether the object be the knower, the instrument of knowledge, or the object of knowledge.
Patañjali has considered various objects that can be used to support the mind in meditation. Now he returns to the analysis (begun in I.17) dealing with stages within the meditative state itself, irrespective of its object. When the mind is freed from all distractions in the form of the vṛttis, it becomes like a pure crystal, maṇi, says Vyāsa. Just as a crystal exactly reflects the color of whatever object is placed adjacent to it, so the peaceful and fixed mind is colored, añjanatā, by any object presented to it, and, in advanced meditation, actually inherently assumes the form of that object. The comparison expressed in this sūtra by Patañjali is encountered numerous times throughout the commentaries and has attained wide usage in Hindu philosophical circles: Just as a pure crystal shines with a red color when placed next to a red hibiscus flower, so the calm, pure, and luminous sāttvic mind, when freed from the effects of rajas and tamas, shines with the form of any object presented to it. This occurs when the mind is focused one-pointedly on the object in question. Patañjali states here that the mind can reflect and assume the form of any object: an external object made of gross or subtle elements, grāhya; the very instruments of knowledge themselves such as the sense organs, grahaṇa; or the intelligence, grahītṛ, the knower, even in its purest and most subtle function of indirectly being aware of puruṣa itself. This sūtra, as we noted, has influenced the commentators interpretation of I.17.
The gross and subtle elements evolve out of citta (intelligence and ego) in Sāṅkhya, and thus the mind, being more subtle than its evolutes and, indeed, their very essence, can pervade them. This includes not only the, objects of knowledge, that is, sense objects, but also, as Patañjali indicates here, the grahaṇa, instruments of knowledge, that is, the sense organs themselves, and the grahītṛ, faculty of buddhi, the knower. The mind can not only internally mold its own guṇas into the prākṛtic form of an object or sense organ, but can actually externally penetrate into the object’s very essence. In a sense it becomes the object by merging with it and thereby gains ultimate insight into its deepest nature. This is the samāpatti introduced in this sūtra. Additionally, when completely pure and steady, the mind can ultimately reflect puruṣa to itself, the penultimate stage of yoga practice.
Obviously, the mind cannot know puruṣa in its own true nature, as Śaṅkara points out, since it is inanimate and puruṣa is more subtle than the mind. Things can grasp or perceive only things grosser than themselves: The senses can grasp only the sense objects, but not vice versa; the mind can perceive the senses, but not vice versa; and the puruṣa can perceive the mind, but not vice versa. This is a favorite trope of the Upaniṣads: “That which one cannot grasp with one’s mind [ātman/Brahman], by which, they say, the mind is grasped” (Kena I.5). “By what means can one know the knower?” (Bṛhadāraṇyaka II.4.13). “You can’t see the seer who does the seeing; you can’t hear the hearer who does the hearing; you can’t think the thinker who does the thinking; you can’t perceive the perceiver who does the perceiving” (Bṛhadāraṇyaka III.4.2). “Sight does not go there, nor does thinking or speech. We don’t know it, we can’t perceive it, so how would one express it?” (Kena I.3). “Not by speech, not by the mind, not by sight can he be grasped. How else can that be experienced, other than by saying ‘He is’?” (Kaṭha VI.12). “The self cannot be grasped by multiple teachings or by the intellect” (Muṇḍaka III.2.3). Only puruṣa can know itself. But mind can, however, redirect awareness back to its own original source and thus indirectly reflect puruṣa, just as a mirror can reflect a face. In other words, puruṣa can become aware of itself by means of the reflective nature of the pure sāttvic mind.
Although samāpatti, introduced in this sūtra for the first time, and samādhi can be correlated in a general way, and the states of mind they represent overlap, they are not technically synonymous: Vijñānabhikṣu points out that the various types of samāpatti occur as results of samprajñāta–samādhi. Samādhi in general might best be understood in terms of the goal of yoga: the state when all vṛttis of the mind have been stilled. Samāpatti is, more specifically, the complete identification of the mind with the object of meditation. Put simply, the former is the more general or overall state of the stilled mind, the latter the more specific content or object upon which the mind has settled itself in order to become still. Complete mental identification with and absorption in an object, by definition, can obviously occur only when all other vṛttis have been stilled and the mind is without distraction; hence samāpatti occurs only in the context of samādhi as indicated in this sūtra.