What Is Samadhi?
The mind is a complex intellectual and psychological phenomenon of an individual. The mind is not static and can be found wherever we direct. The thoughts, emotions, and sensations form points that float in our minds. It is not possible to anchor the mind because of its volatile nature. The mind is unpredictable and unstable hence, it is not possible to stop it from getting affected, distracted, disturbed, or excited. It is nothing but thoughts.
Let us imagine a table messed and scattered with different items from pen to plate. The term random or haphazard best suits the situation. Now, imagine the same table with a plain white tablecloth and all the items staged and kept orderly in one corner. The second one aligns our visuals which also clams the mind that got a wave out of the first image. This is a metaphor of a basic level of Samadhi where you feel a state of satisfaction.
Now, in the context of Samadhi, one will find a number of definitions everywhere with different persons having different views based on their feeling. The diverse meanings are not wrong, but they are the expression of what people have felt. It’s a state of emptiness inside us, and it is okay to define it differently, all are correct. This is what the results are but to attain the results one must be aware and trust it.
All of us are experienced in cache clearing of a slow mobile phone, which makes the phone smoother and the mind relaxed. Now imagine clearing the cache of mind, how would it be if we could refresh and clear out our minds? Our mind is constantly working and is occupied with a lot of things added by us consciously or unconsciously. These are just like the junks in our phones or laptops that we clear timely. Unfortunately, we lack such an automated system for humans. The literal meaning of Samadhi is ‘placing together’ which can be attributed to alignment.
As per Ayurveda texts, all the functions of the Chitta (consciousness) constitute the entire mental field. To access the deeper consciousness there are three general functions,
- Memory: Our consciousness can remember the entire universe. It can be either bondage or
- Sleep: Where the outer world shuts off and we return to the inner world of consciousness and whatever arises as dreams are the activity of the subtle mind.
- Samadhi: It is the state of absorption in which our consciousness becomes entirely concentrated in one spot erasing everything else. Here, consciousness is put to rest leading to lasting peace and It explains that Samadhi isn’t limited to spiritual state but any peak experience. Any experience where we are involved in such a way that we forget ourselves is a kind of Samadhi.
“When a person is in the peak of his/her awareness where the mental body doesn’t function” is the explanation by ancient authors about Samadhi. Some explain it as, when one develops consciousness by the release of deep-seated desires, habits, and tendencies stored within it and absorbs in truth, that stage is Samadhi. Whereas many define it as the stage at which one’s consciousness is in its extreme and beyond it, no consciousness remains. The aatmic (soul) vehicle governs the body with no presence of any content or knowledge. Withdrawal from the physical as well as pranic (vital life force) senses of informed knowledge with only the awareness of mental state mark the beginning of Samadhi.
As per the yoga sutras of Patanjali, it is believed that our mind has three spheres, Manomaya kosha, Vijnanamaya kosha, and Anandamaya kosha and it gets finer accordingly. Anandamaya (inner mind) is considered the finest, the ultimate bliss. Beyond the three spheres of mind, annamaya kosha (gross body) and pranamaya kosha (energy sheath) lays a deep awareness that is known as Purusha (spirit). In context with these five koshas, Samadhi can be explained as the travel of consciousness through all the koshas (layer) to the kosha of awareness i.e anandamaya kosha. Here, one is practically free from Prakriti. Samadhi is explained by Patanjali in 7 sutras from sutra no. 17 to sutra no. 23.
The yoga sutra no. 17 is, ‘Vitarka- vicharanandasmitanugamat samprajnatah’. This marks the beginning of the explanation of Samadhi in yoga. Here, the vitarka that everything is changing and will disappear elevates one’s consciousness. Vitarka is when the mind has a special logic to pursue in the world and perceives the truth. Vichara constitutes the senses of smell, visions, taste, or sound. Anandaanugama explains the blissful state. The fourth is asmitaanugama which is the complete sense of individuality. All these four completes (aanugama) samprajyata that is consciousness in all of them. These are separately also described as,
- Vitarka anugami Samadhi (Special logic compliments Samadhi)
- Vichara anugama Samadhi (Awareness of the senses compliments Samadhi)
- Anandaanugama Samadhi (The blissfulness compliments Samadhi)
- Asmitaanugama Samadhi (The awareness of being just self-compliments Samadhi)
The entire range of samadhi is also categorized as a) Sabeeja (with seed) and b) Nirbeeja (without seed). Sabeeja Samadhi involves a symbol that gets contented in the mind. Anchoring to one of the four Samadhi mentioned above is part of it for fixing of mind. Nirbeeja Samadhi is considered as the highest Samadhi that doesn’t need a focus. It is a state devoid of awareness, consciousness, or a state of the blank. The explanations, derivations go beyond this which brings the next sutra (sutra no. 18), ‘Virama pratyaya abhyasa poorva sanskaara shesho anyah’.
Virama pratyaya abhyasa poorva sanskaara shesho anyah states that Asamprajnata (ideal state samadhi) is achieved by regularly practicing Samprajnata Samadhi (with a focus) to the point where different tendencies no more exist and only the sub or unconscious impressions remain. Here, Virama is referred to as stopping something whereas pratyaya explains the content of the mind. Many consider Asamprajnata Samadhi as a temporary transition phase as it is extremely difficult to remain content-less for a longer period.
The 19th sutra, ‘Bhavapratyayo videhaprakrtilayanam’. It states that there are two types of yogis, the disembodied and those merged into prakriti, and both can attain asamprajnata Samadhi right from birth. They can bypass all preliminary stages to attain Samadhi.
The 20th Sutra is, ‘Shraddha veerya smriti samaadhi pragyaapoorvaka itareshaam’ Which accounts everyone except the mentioned in sutra 19 can attain asamprajnata Samadhi through the stages of faith, strong will, memory, and intelligence derived from samprajanata Samadhi respectively. This considers Samadhi, in general, comprising both samprajnata and asamprajnata.
The 21st sutra is a direct one, ‘Tivrasamveganamasannah’. It refers to those who have an intense urge to attain asamprajnata Samadhi very soon. It is attained by prioritizing spiritual practice above all worldly things. Truth is the only commitment for them. And it is extended to sutra 22nd, ‘Mridu madhyaadhimantratva tatoh api visheshah’.
That states, with the passion intensifying via a mild, medium, and strong conditions make one to achieve asamprajnata Samadhi sooner. The intensity depends on one's sincerity. Patanjali declares that for the earnest, Samadhi is close. And this brings us to the last sutra of Samadhi, the 23rd sutra, ‘Iswara pranidhaan dwa’. This declares that asamprajnata Samadhi can also be attained by complete devotion to God. One who self-surrenders to God can attain Samadhi.
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- Shankar, S. R. (2014). Patanjali Yoga Sutras. Arktos.
- Frawley, (2005). Ayurveda and the mind: The healing of consciousness. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.