In the same way, when it is on subtle objects, it is called sa-vicāra (with subtle associations) and nir-vicāra (without subtle associations)
Of these two, the sa-vicāra identification refers to subtle elements, whose qualities are manifest, with a particular location, time, cause and experience as their features.
The object of the meditation is the subtle elements, and then it is called sa-vicāra and nir-vicāra. The subtle elements (tan-mātra) are those of sound, etc. In the Sanskrit compound deśakālanimittānubhavāvacchinneṣu, the word for ‘particularized’ applies to each element separately, so the meaning is: featured by a particular location, a particular time, a particular cause, and a particular experience.
For purposes of ordinary life, everything is taken as having a particular location and so on, as related to the knower of that object, its subject. Such being the case, sa-vicāra is when the mental-constructs (vikalpa) of location and the others are associated with the object.
It is clear that on this point there is no difference between sa-vitarka and sa-vicāra, because in both there are illusory projections (adhyāsa). But there is this distinction, that in sa-vitarka there are all the illusory projections of verbal convention and object and idea, as well as projections of location, time, cause and experience, whereas in this sa-vicāra, since the tan-mātra subtle elements have no established verbal associations, the subtle object receives illusory projections of location and the other three, but no projection of any distinctive name. This is a clear distinction from sa-vitarka.
The object of the meditation is the subtle elements, grasped as one single idea, characterized by the qualities which are now manifest, and it presents itself to knowledge in the samādhi.
A subtle object, grasped as one single idea, characterized by the qualities which are now manifest the above-mentioned location, time, cause and experience, or manifest qualities in general, is the object of the meditation, so it is not bare unparticularized knowledge; and it presents itself to knowledge in samādhi.
But what is called nir-vicāra samādhi is on the subtle elements as in all ways and by all means free from particularization by any qualities dormant, manifest, or indeterminable, yet corresponding to the qualities and being the essence of all qualities. The subtle element, in its true form alone, by being meditated upon as such, colours the knowledge in the samādhi with its true form.
Nir-vicāra samādhi is on the subtle elements as in all ways in every manner and by all means everywhere free from particularization by any qualities dormant, manifest, or indeterminable.
Dormant means that having performed its function, it has ceased from it; manifest means that it has come up into function; indeterminable means that it is neither dormant nor manifest nor a visible cause producing something. The unseen powers of a lump of gold to produce many unpredictable forms would be indeterminable qualities. The subtle elements are free from particularization by qualities, yet they correspond to all qualities because there is no object separate from the subtle elements. This is called nir-vicāra; all the features in the definition of nir-vitarka are applicable here to nir-vicāra.
The subtle element in its true form alone as free from particularizations of location, time, cause and experience, as the essence of all and as corresponding to all qualities being meditated on as such colours the knowledge in samādhi.
It is when the samādhi-knowledge is seemingly empty of its own nature, with the object alone shining forth, that it is called nir-vicāra. Sa-vitarka and nir-vitarka are concerned with physical objects and sa-vicāra and nir-vicāra with subtle objects. The distinction between nir-vicāra and sa-vicāra is made clear by what has been said about nir-vitarka.
It is when the samādhi-knowledge is seemingly empty of its own nature, with the object alone shining forth, that it is called nir-vicāra: in this respect nir-vicāra has the same feature as nir-vitarka. He now shows where they differ: the sa-vitarka and nir-vitarka are concerned with physical objects with things of substantial size. The compound ‘thing of substantial size’ means an identity, like the compound ‘head of Rāhu’ (which is all head). It is the vitarka pair which have this kind of object; the vicāra pair have subtle objects. The vicāra pair is to be understood after the pattern of the vitarka pair; in the second one of each pair, mental constructs disappear. The first ones of the pairs also are to be understood by their common features. And the distinction between the two pairs has also been stated.
It has been said that the sa-vicāra and nir-vicāra have subtle objects. Now the further point is considered: what is the limit of subtlety?