1.18 Resulting from practice, a higher state of integration (asamprajñata samadhi), with no thoughts remaining, only subconscious impressions (samskaras).
This verse describes a complementary type of deep integration, asamprajñata samadhi, integration beyond higher wisdom. While some commentators indicate that this type of integration is a transitional state between each one of the four stages mentioned in the previous sutra, vitarka, vichara, ananda and asmita; other commentators suggest that this is a higher level of integration altogether. In this type of integration (asamprajñata samadhi) the yogi is fully absorbed in the direct experience of pure awareness without the need of a focal object. Reaching this stage requires that all ways of being are deactivated, at least temporarily.
Although the ways of being are effectively neutralized, there remain latent impressions of previous experiences. This yogic process progresses from outward orientation to the exploration of internal landscapes uncovering increasing levels of subtlety in your own being. You go from noticing your tendency to entertain yourself with constant opinions and internal commentary to enjoying temporary gaps in your inner talk. Gradually the gaps become longer and eventually, this new pattern of inner silence starts to take hold and grow. As your ability to focus grows, distractions subside. First, your focus feels like it needs to grip firmly to avoid getting distracted, until only gentle holding is needed. As it was suggested in verse 1.17, even that softness of focus can become subtler, so that there is no holding. Then, an experience of calmness and ease blossoms and continues into the pure experience of being an individual, I.
Continuing into further refinement, even the sense of “I” dissolves revealing a deeper stillness and silence when only latent traces of past impressions (samskaras) remain. At this level of integration there isn’t even a focal object or any knowledge or wisdom to attain, thus its name of integration beyond higher wisdom. On the way towards this objectless level of integration, as you remain focused you notice stray thoughts, memories and ideas crossing your space of inner awareness. Since you have chosen to focus on a specific focal point, these potential distractors are likely emerging from your subconscious mind. In other words, you are witnessing the fuzzy boundary between conscious and subconscious mind.
Where are those thoughts coming from? In Sanskrit one of the meanings of the word samskara is mental impression. During a regular day you are exposed to many sensory inputs. For example, as you walk from your home to the post office, you see people and many things, like plants, trees, houses, buildings and cars. Many of these things you may not remark on. When you return home, you may not be able to tell exactly how many people you saw, or how many blue cars were on the street as you were walking. If somebody asked you how many people were standing in line at the post office when you arrived there, you may not be able to give a specific answer, unless you made it a point to count when you got there. A samskara is an impression stored in your space of awareness. If, on your walk you saw something that captured your attention, like a beautiful garden with your favorite flowers in bloom, or an accident that almost happened, or a group of children playing animatedly, you would probably remember.
Usually, what seems worth remembering is something that generated an emotional response. Emotion is the glue that makes a specific experience stick some place in your inner environment. Everything you pay attention to and every experience can potentially leave an impression. For instance, well-rehearsed patterns of thought and action tend to become unconscious, so that you operate without even having to think about what you are doing. Think about how little attention you probably pay to the specifics of brushing your teeth, so that it is your “muscle memory” that controls those actions. In the same way, you store thoughts, expectations and memories. Some of these impressions may be completely out of your conscious awareness. Yet, every action you engage in and every experience may leave some impressions in you, some of them stronger than others. These impressions can influence your choices, like when you try to recreate a set of actions and circumstances to cause, or to avoid, a specific outcome, like wearing your lucky t-shirt, or avoiding going by a place that reminds you of something painful. With every action generating an impression, each person carries many past impressions buried deep within, with more impressions accumulating every day. This verse says that even when you experience great calmness and stillness within, there will be some lingering impressions.
Consider if there are memories that still seem to have a grip on you. Are you really at peace with your past? Or, are you holding a grudge, resentment or regret? Can you make peace with past events? Can you make peace with previous versions of yourself? Are some of your ways of acting a reaction, conscious or unconscious, to past experiences? As you also contemplate the type of concentration described in this verse, it may be useful to think of it as a shift on the center of experience from I, to simply being with what is.
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
विरामप्रत्ययाभ्यासपूर्वः संस्कारशेषोऽन्यः ॥१८॥
virāmapratyayābhyāsapūrvaḥ saṃskāraśeṣo’nyaḥ ॥18॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually: