3.7 – Concentration, meditation, and samadhi are more internal practices than the previous five limbs of yoga.

त्रयमन्तरन्गं पूर्वेभ्यः ॥७॥

trayam antar angam purvebhyah

  • trayam – three parts
  • antar – internal; inner
  • angam – limbs; body; divisions; parts
  • purvebhyah – previous; before; preceding

3.8 – But even these three limbs are external compared to higher, formless samadhi.

तदपि बहिरङ्गं निर्बीजस्य ॥८॥

tad api bahir angam nirbijasya

  • tad – that
  • api – even; also; too; though
  • bahir – external; outer
  • angam – limbs; body; divisions; parts
  • nirbijasya – without seed; formless

Commentary on Sutras 3.7 and 3.8:

Here, Patanjali describes nirbija samadhi (aka nirvikalpa samadhi), the heart of our yoga practice. The term nirbija means “without seed.” It’s samadhi without the support of an object.

Seedless samadhi is the experience of our true nature. The term is a synonym for yoga. It’s unity-consciousness, the uniting of our attention with Awareness Itself. This form of samadhi is more of a revelation than a practice. It’s the removal of the finest layer of the veil of ignorance. That veil is removed by the Awareness in order to reveal Awareness.

The power of grace gradually lifts that veil through our practice of concentration, meditation, and samadhi. Patanjali describes those stages as being external compared to seedless samadhi. Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is external compared to seedless samadhi because the state is beyond all attributes.

Whatever object we meditate on has attributes, no matter how refined and subtle those become during our practice. Nirbija samadhi spontaneously arises when we recognize the difference between those attributes and their source, when we discern between form and formlessness, the seen and the seer.

At that point, there’s no longer a need for any object of meditation. And when we let it slip away, only Awareness Itself remains.

There is nothing beyond Awareness, and so nothing beyond the state of nirbija samadhi. It is the highest state. But, even nirbija samadhi is not the end of our journey because the latent impressions in consciousness still remain. When triggered, they can bring us back down into lower states.

As we’ll see at the end of the last chapter, there is a type of samadhi called dharmamegha samadhi (the cloud of virtue) which dissolves all painful barriers and karmic conditionings (see 4.29).

In the next group of sutras, we’ll get a closer look at how the transition into nirbija samadhi takes place. That transition, or progression, will also help us understand how we may arrive at a state of Self-realization that never comes and goes.