Laya is a conceptual term of Hindu philosophy. The term ‘laya’ ordinarily means to dissolve something at its source. It does not mean destruction or annihilation, yet the substance is to be traced in a reverse way. It should be traced backward, like following the course of the fruit to go back to the seed (vyutkramena), that is, in the inverted order.
The term is derived from the verb ‘li’ with many of its connotations denoting ‘to meet’, ‘to dissolve’ but when seen with reference to laya it means the act of dissolution or absorption.
|Halebidu In Karnataka|
In philosophical doctrines like Samkhya Patanjala and other allied spiritual doctrines of Tantra and Agama, the term laya has been taken to mean partiprasava, absorption in its cause (sva karane layah).
Vachaspati Mishra in his commentary on Yogasutra Bhasya (IV.34) expresses his view with perfect depth of insight thus: these gunas which are characterized by effect and cause go to rest in asmita, the state of ego-consciousness and the state of asmita in linga and that linga in alinga.
In the doctrine of Yoga, laya is denoted as pratisancara, which means going backward, back again to prakriti, the single source of everything. It is believed that everything which was once created goes finally to rest in the supreme abode, param padam, not to come back again in the order of creation.
The doctrine of Trika, known to have belonged to Kashmiri Shaiva Tradition, describes elaborately the procedure for meditating on all the principles down to the earth to be reabsorbed in the higher elements like water, fire, air, ether and so on.
Finally, all the gross elements are to be conceived as absorbed in the subtle form as if in the form of a seed, that is bijabhavena linani. They are thought to be abiding in the cause of it (of the effect), as the tree exists in the seed.
The doctrine of Trika hints at unique aspect of meditation. The character of meditation following the procedure of laya is known as anusandhana, threading all with the process of unification, that is, viewing, conceiving all from the gross to the subtle and from the subtle to the transcendent as shining as one single unit.
Therefore one who is desirous of liberation should conceive of prakrti as remaining dissolved in the highest Self, Paramatmani. But before going to rest in the highest self, one should meditate that is neither day or night nor twilight. There is no sun, no moon. It is all dark everywhere and there was no trace of worlds (bhuvanavarjitam). It is inscrutable, non-discernible. Meditating thus, one should think on nothing (no kincidapi bhavayer), that is, one should free the mind of thought. Then all at one Supreme Brahman shines forth, which is the light of all lights, and prakriti also abides there as the very essence of that light. This is the procedure for meditating on laya in order to reach the end of one’s spiritual journey.
Yoga Philosophy in Relation to Other Systems of Indian Thought (1930) by S N Dasgupta – Calcutta University Press
A History Of Indian Philosophy (1973) Published by Motilal Bnarsidass
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VI page 270 – IHRF