Yoga sutra 1.17
Due to the nature of the object of focus the first stage of spiritual absorption, known as ‘complete – (saṁ) -elevated- (pra) -knowledge’ (jñā). This is the result of a four-step process: vitarka anugata, vicāra anugata, ānanda anugata, and asmitā anugata.
Knowing your true self, the dweller within (purusha), as described in the previous sutra, is the ultimate goal of yoga. In this process of Self-realization, the mind is the chief means as well as the greatest obstacle, in the four-step process:
The first (vitarka- rupa) is a preliminary step; superficial. It includes objects that are experienced by the senses.
For example, you can focus your mind on the OM symbol. In the beginning your mind wanders; then, because of your resolve, it comes back to the image of the OM symbol. As you continue practicing, your power of concentration increases, and the mind stays with the image of the OM symbol longer.
The second (vicāra-rupa) goes deeper into the heart of things to an intuitive layer within. It includes subtle objects which take the form of thoughts.
For example, you can focus your mind on a mantra like with transcendental meditation and use the same as your focal point.
The third (ānanda-rupa) is a consequence of the second level of consciousness and is great serenity and joy. The mind ceases to run from one object to another in search of happiness and finds pleasure within. It therefore loses its interest in chasing the objects and becomes steady in its seat of consciousness.
The fourth (asmitā-rupa) the ultimate stage is complete absorption into the object of mediation. This is the level of total unity (samadhi). It can only be achieved by continuing to practice.
Damian Cadman-Jones is an authorised teacher of Prana Vashya Yoga™