Stages of Transformation

By Rudra Shivananda

In previous articles, we’ve explored some key concepts from Patanjali in his yogic exposition, such as chitta, vritti, and nirodha. Another fundamental term used by him is that of parinaama or transformation.

Parinaama is a dynamic process and not a specific state of awareness – it is the process of transformation when applied to consciousness that leads to the state of Self-Realization. According to Patanjali, parinaama when applied to the modes of matter, such as the five senses and the five elements will lead to the achievement of siddhis or special powers. In the course of normal activities, parinaama is the change that occurs in all phases of matter, including the accumulation of karmic dispositions called samskaras.

Before we begin discussing the various parinaamas, it is important to point out that these consciousness transformations can only truly occur in the states of samayama and not in normal consciousness. Keep in mind that the three states of dharana (concentration), dhyana (absorption) and samadhi (ecstatic unity) together constitute what is called samayama. The parinaamas are operating on the stored or seed impressions at a deeper level and not on the gross thoughts which have already been dealt with in earlier stages of meditation.

white dandelion under blue sky and white cloud

The first transformation is called nirodha parinaama in which the chittavrittis become suppressed by expanding the space between mental impressions. When one seed impression disappears and before the next seed impression appears, there is a momentarily gap of no-mind just as when motion in one direction has to be reversed, the object in motion needs to come to a temporary rest first. The transformation occurs when the no-mind gap is extended. The seed impressions are caused by the karmic samskaras and vasanas – the habit patterns and programs from past lives. By the application of effort, a new samskara is built up which aids in the transformation until the gap of nirodha can be extended at will and indefinitely without much resistance.

The second transformation is called samadhi parinaama. The natural tendency during the first parinaama is for the stored impressions to be highly diverse and so we choose a particular object for samayama and it is the form of the object which leads to more focused and specific streams of impressions. In this transformation, the seed impressions
are replaced by the essence of the object stripped of its name and form. The mind is transformed into a consciousness of direct cognition of the object – the mind stuff takes the form of the object repeatedly.

The third transformation is called ekagrata parinaama or single-pointed transformation. This occurs when the subsiding seed impression is the same as the arising seed impression. During this transformation, the gap between the arising and disappearing seed impression is expanded to such a degree that the seed impression itself can disappear as if it has been split apart, leading to the seedless or Asamprajnata Samadhi state or the avastha of nirbija.

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