3.17 – Words, meanings, and concepts overlay each other, creating confusion. Samyama on the distinctions between these reveals the meaning of the sounds uttered by all beings.

शब्दार्थप्रत्ययामामितरेतराध्यासात्संकरः तत्प्रविभागसंयमात् सर्वभूतरुतज्ञानम् ॥१७॥

shabda artha pratyaya itaretara adhyasat samkara tat pravibhaga samyama sarva bhuta ruta jnana

  • shabda – word; sound; name; voice; tone
  • artha – purpose; meaning; an object
  • pratyaya – contents of consciousness; mental content; notion; cognition; conception
  • itaretara – one another; mutual
  • adhyasat – case of mistaken identity; false attribution
  • samkara – confusing; mixing
  • tat – that
  • pravibhaga – distinctions; parts; classifications
  • samyama – the perfect integration of consciousness; the uniting of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi
  • sarva – all; every
  • bhuta – elements; being; existing
  • ruta – an utterance; sounds made by various creatures
  • jnana – knowledge; awareness

In ordinary states of consciousness, we don’t see things as they are. There’s a gap between our experience of reality and reality itself. Our incessant thoughts and unstable emotions create that gap.

As far as we know, we’re the only creatures who spend most of their lives in their heads. Trapped in an endless stream of thoughts about thoughts about thoughts, we go through our day in a type of augmented reality in which we superimpose our mental creations on everything we perceive.

Our thinking minds allow us to imagine, plan, and organize energies into creative action. But when unchecked, they also sever our connection with the present moment. Add some unhinged emotions to the mix, and everything becomes distorted. As Patanjali says, our words, meanings, and concepts overlay each other, creating confusion.

Restless thoughts and emotions make it next to impossible to establish a bond with someone. Two or more agitated people trying to communicate only produces frustration and arguments. We see this all the time in political and religious discussions. No one is attempting to learn from each other or establish empathy. They’re all too busy trying to get their own point across.

By becoming calm and collected and concentrating on what is present, we can feel into the moment and perceive it without filters. With training, we can become so immersed in the immediacy and intimacy of a connection with someone that we understand them at a heart level.

Certain people have this kind of rapport with animals. They can establish a resonance with them that makes possible the transmission of feelings and intentions. This type of heart-felt communication does not come through an intellectual analysis of the creature’s language but through an intuitive, energetic exchange.

That is a different experience of samyama than we’ve discussed up until now because for it to work, it must take place within the context of a moving and changing situation. Our consciousness has to be concentrated on the conversation as it’s taking place. Patanjali is showing us here that our practice has immersive, in-the-world applications and is not limited to rarefied experiences we have in closed-eyed solitude.

Samyama is perfect concentration on a point of focus. But this doesn’t mean the focal point has to be narrow. If our consciousness is still, whatever is within it is accurately reflected.

Advanced mindfulness practitioners can go about their daily activities in perfect inner quietude. Their entire environment has become the point of focus. In that state, there’s no gap being created because their thoughts and emotions don’t interfere, so there are no words, meanings, and concepts overlaying each other and creating confusion.

Not much needs to be said when two people in this state come together. There’s no arguing or debating, only an effortless and harmonious rapport.