Yoga Sutra - Samādhi Pada 1.48
ऋतंभरा तत्र प्रज्ञा ॥४८॥
ṛtaṃbharā tatra prajñā ||48||
There the wisdom is rtam-bearing (or truth-bearing).
It [seedless samādhi] has a different focus from that of inference and sacred scripture, because it has the particularity of things as its object.
The term viśeṣa, particularity or specificity, as discussed in I.7, is typically associated with the schools of Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika. In the metaphysical system of these schools, all of manifest reality can be ultimately broken down to seven basic categories, two of which are viśeṣa, particularity, and sāmānya, generality.243 Viśeṣa is best understood in contrast to sāmānya, which refers to the general category of an object. Let us consider a cow, or the standard item used to exemplify a generic object in philosophical commentarial discourse, a pot. The word “cow” refers to a generic category of bovine creature with udders and horns, who gives milk and goes “moo”; and “pot” to a roundish container usually made of clay (in India) that holds liquids or other substances. Although there are millions of cows in the world, and each and every one is distinct, individual, and unique in some way, the term “cow” does not particularize or distinguish one cow from another. It is a general term that refers to an entire category of creatures. Likewise with “pot.” The term sāmānya, then, refers to the genus, species, or general category of something; terms like “cow” and “pot,” indeed all words, refer to objects only in terms of their generic characteristics. Viśeṣa, by contrast, is what particularizes ultimate entities from each other—one atom from another (the character an atom has that makes it a unique specific individual, distinct from any other atom). These categories are discussed further in III.44.
Vyāsa says that the three forms of knowledge accepted by Yoga in I.7—āgama, scripture, referred to here as śruta; anumāna, logic (inference); and conventional pratyakṣa, sense perception—are all limited because they cannot provide information about particulars or specifics. Scripture and other types of verbal authority are dependent on words, and words, like “cow,” can only point to the cow as a member of a general class of things. There is an infinite number of cows in the world, as Śaṅkara points out, and, even though they are all unique and distinct from each other in some way, one cannot come up with a different name for each individual one, hence we use the generic term “cow.” So when we say something like, “There is a cow in the field,” we are really giving information only about the cow as a member of a species and not about particulars: We are not conveying precise information about the specific individual cow in that field.
Inference, also, deals only with generalities (and is, in fact, dependent on perception in the first place). The standard Indic example of inference is whenever there is smoke there is fire, yet the statement gives us no information about any specific fire. As for empirical sense perception, pratyakṣa, it is true, say the commentators, that when we look at a particular cow or pot, we might be able to pick up on some characteristic that distinguishes the cow or pot in front of us from other cows and pots—perhaps this cow has an unusual skin color or the pot an odd shape. But conventional sense perception, says Vyāsa, cannot provide us information about the very specific or subtle nature of an object—its atomic composition, for example—or about distant or hidden objects beyond the range of the senses.
Only through the clear, unobstructed insight of samādhi can one fully grasp the viśeṣa, particularity, of an object, its subtle substructure of distinct atoms and essences. Patañjali will later claim that the yogī can tell the difference between two “identical” items, since although they appear identical to normal perception, the atoms comprising them are different, and it is these that the yogī can perceive. We must keep in mind that the tradition claims one can actually perceive these essences, not merely theorize their existence, through the undeviatingly concentrated focus of mind in the higher stages of samādhi. This perception, then, is actually a form of pratyakṣa, but not that of conventional sense perception. As noted, the Yukti–dīpikā commentary on Saṅkhya points out that yogic pratyakṣa transcends normal sense-based perception. It is para–pratyakṣa, higher, supreme, supernormal, perception.
Following on the previous verse, Śaṅkara states that scripture provides us with information about the path that is to be followed, and inference or logic helps remove doubts about that path, but ultimately these must be followed by eagerness for meditation on what has been established by these other two sources of knowledge, that is, for direct experience of their truths. Patañjali is here clearly asserting that samādhi surpasses the ability of scripture and inference in their ability to fully experience an object at its subtlest level rather than understanding it in an indirect, generic, and mediated sort of way. And, ultimately, says Vyāsa, it is only through samādhi that one can grasp the distinct particularity of the soul itself.
The ingredients of the mind itself are the same as those underpinning the object in external reality; remember that the gross and subtle elements are nothing other than tamas-dominant evolutes from sattva-dominant buddhi and ahaṅkāra. Thus, when fully sāttvic, the mind can transcend its own kleśa limitations and merge into the common substratum of all things. This corresponds to such states as savicāra described above, when the yogī’s awareness perceives that the subtle nature of the object of meditation as well as the meditating mind itself actually pervade all objects and thus all reality. As Vācaspati Miśra puts it, once the obstructing qualities of rajas and tamas have been removed, then the pure luminosity of consciousness is able to pass beyond the limitations of all boundaries and finite objects. What, then, is there in existence that does not fall within its purview? In other words, the commentators claim that in the higher stages of samādhi, the yogī becomes essentially omniscient since awareness is no longer limited to the body or dimensionality but can radiate out infinitely and permeate the subtle substratum, in the form of buddhi, ahaṅkāra, the tanmātra, etc. (as well as the specific conglomeration of atoms that emerge from these tanmātras), underpinning all objects. It can thus perceive the viśeṣa, particularity, that is, the specific atomic composition, of any object, as Patañjali states in this sūtra.