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The Tripod of Meditation

23 Nov 2021 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy

Tripod of Meditation

Meditation is a journey into Nirvichara (silence). It’s journey of self, throughout the self, to the self. Meditation is one of the organs of Yoga. Meditation is the final tool or key for entire journey of yoga. Yoga is more about the Meditation. Physical practice is the vehicle for meditation and meditation is a vehicle for Yoga or Samadhi. In fact, there are no any types of Meditation, just the path ways or techniques for meditation. There are thousands of techniques for meditation. Among the eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga, the first five limbs, already described, are external (bahiranga) and the remaining three are internal (antaranga). The internal ones are: dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi. These three constitute the tripod of meditation yoga.

1. Dharana

To fix the citta (mind) to a particular location is called dharana. This word has been derived from the Sanskrit verb root dhr, which means ‘hold’. The place to which the citta is bound may be internal or external. When it is internal, it may be a cakra inside the body like the ajna-cakra (spot between the two eyebrows) or some tissue, organ or limb of the body. When it is external, it may be the image of a diety, a crystal, a colored or a black or a white spot, or any other external objects. Maharsi Patanjali has defined dharana in one of his aphorisms.

2. Dhyanam

Having fixed the citta to a particular location, the yogi`s mind remains busy with a single thought which continues to be one alone and which becomes continuous and uninterrupted. The single thought may be likened to the continuous flow of oil when poured from one container to another. Maharsi patanjali has defined dhyana, as has been outlined here.

The word dhyana has been derived from the Sanskrit verbroot dhyai, whuch means ‘to think’ to contemplate, to meditate on, to call to mind’.

Some Yoga Schools use the term bhavatta dhyana (transcendental dhyana). Such a use does not conform to the usage in classical yoga, however. There is a thought in dhyana, although single and continuously flowing. If dhyana transcends thought, it is not Dhyana at all ( It is Samadhi). Of course, ‘meditation’ is a word which is not equivalent to ‘dhyana’. Meditation may be transcendental, but not dhyana.

Patanjali has used the word pratyaya in his aphorism. It contextually means ‘conception, notion  or idea’. What flows in dhyana is one idea.

3. Samadhi

The word Samadhi has two prefixes, namely, sam and. It is derived from the Sanskrit verb –root dha. It literally means ‘to place, to put, to hold or to fix together’. It may mean ‘joining or combining with’.Here we introduce a word dhyeya. What is meditated on is dhyeya. It is the idea or notion on which dhyana is done. It is the object on which one meditates. Patanjali`s definition of Samadhi is stated here: When the contemplation shines forth in consciousness as the intended abject on which one meditates.

We may discuss the topic of Samadhi in two stages, the initial and the final. The initial ones are with seed (sabija)or with support (salambana) whereas the final ones are without seed ( nirbija) or without support (niralambana). Samapatti is the Samadhi with seed. The word literally means ‘to be like that’. According t Patanjali’s definition, the rajas and tamas whirls of mind being dwindled away, and the citta being crystal clear, with reference either to the knower or to the process of knowing or to the object-to-be-known, the citta attains samapatti by acquiring the form of one of these three, being tinged by one of these three.

The dhyeya (the object meditated upon) is gross in the deliberative (savitarka) and super-deliberative ( nirvitarka) samapattis whereas it is subtle in the reflective (savicara) and super- reflective (nirvicara) samapattis. The subtle dhyeya is one of the five tanmatras.

In the savitarka samapatti, distinctions among the world (sabda), intended-object (artha) and the idea (jnana) are maintained and the citta becomes one with each of them. In the nirvitarka samapatti, the yogi`s citta gets rid of the word and the idea and becomes identified with the intended-object.

In the savicara samapatti, the place (desa), time (kala) and cause (nimitta) of the subtle dhyeya are distinguished and the yogi`s cittas becomes one with each of them. In the nirvicara, samapatti, the yogi`s citta makes no distinctions of the place, time and cause of the subtle dhyeya and becomes one with the subtle dhyeya only.

All the four types of samapatti, described here, are with seed (sabija). Patanjali names them as sabija Samadhi. The savitarka and savicara types of Samadhi are savikalpa whereas the nirvitarka and nirvicara types of Samadhi are nirvikalpa. The sabija Samadhi is otherwise known as samprajnata Samadhi and the nirbija Samadhi as asamprajnata Samadhi. In the latter, the citta rests in the purusa.

In the nirvitarka and nirvicara samadhis which are devoid of vikalpas (distinctive deliberations and reflections), the dhyeya is gross and subtle, respectively. It is the dhyeya that serves as the support. In this meditational state, the whirls of mind (cittavrtti) do not completely cease to be. And hence this Samadhi is sabija. There is some sort of cittavrtti since there is awareness of the yogi on his identification with the dhyeya. The emerging cittavrtti is the seed (bija) that still remains.

By the efficient and prolonged practice of nirvikalpa Samadhi, the refined intellect (prajna) of the yogi realizes the Truth Maharsi patanjali uses the term rtambhara prajna which also generates samskaras, albeit begin in nature. As usual, these samskaras are also imprinted on the karmasaya, the reservoir of instrument (antahkarana) of the subtle body. The samskaras produced by the ttambhara prajna antagonize and uproot the other types of samskaras that already lie in the karmasaya. The other types of samskaras are rooted in the five klesas (avidya, asmita, raga, dvesa, abhinivesa). Thus the klesamula samskaras are erased and their place is occupied by the rtambhara prajna samskaras.

Through sustained practice of the higher type of Samadhi the yogi develops vairagya ( freedom from worldly passion;freedom from all wordly desires) and anasakti (non-attachment). This  results in the complete erasure of all traces of the rtambhara –prajna samskaras. Thus the citta has either seeds nor roots of vrttis( whirls). This Samadhi is nirbija ( seedless). This is the  culminating state of yoga, in which the yogi`s purusa ( self) is detached from prakrti ( the primordial nature) and attains kaivalya ( the liberated state of isolation).


The yogic processes of dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi, done together at a time, is known as samyana. This samyana is very important in yoga. In most cases, it is samyama that a yogi practices instead of dharana, dhyana or  Samadhi, practiced separately.

If you want to learn about meditation in detail, Join us Himalayan Yoga Academy in our Meditation Courses in Nepal. We offer various course like yoga teacher training Nepal, singing bowl courses, reiki trainings, Ayurveda Trainings and many more. also we provide special meditation package ( 42 Hours ) which will provide you insight in details of the pathways of meditation, meditation techniques, and many more.

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