Samadhi is an intriguing mystery to the aspiring yogi who usually mistakes it for a psychic state productive of such physical phenomena as loss of outer consciousness, being without breath or heartbeat, and suchlike. Consequently many practice drastic and strenuous methods, especially breath control, attempting to stop their breath and heartbeat. And they are usually frustrated in their attempts and feel that they are not really making progress. One of the first saints I met was truly an earthly angel who by a single look could awaken the spiritual consciousness of others. He spontaneously healed souls and bodies. Yet, because of the influence of a guru he had studied with in his early years of spiritual quest, he often lamented to others: “I have not really gotten anywhere. In all these years I have not experienced the breathless state even once. So I have not even begun to progress.” He was mistaking a physical condition for a spiritual one, as is common in both India and the West. So it is very important for us to understand what samadhi really is.
There are two stages of samadhi: savikalpa and nirvikalpa. Savikalpa samadhi is a state of conditioned oneness. The meditator experiences the merging of his soul with infinite consciousness; however, he cannot preserve the experience outside of meditation. Although savikalpa samadhi is the first break from delusion, in which the meditator realizes that God alone exists, the soul is still bound by ego-consciousness. Some souls who achieve this state may return to delusion if they hold onto the belief that “I” have access to infinite power.
Beyond savikalpa samadhi, nirvikalpa samadhi is the state of unconditioned oneness. The soul rises above all ego bondages and realizes that it is eternally one with God; it becomes a jivan mukta. Nevertheless, in order to achieve full liberation from ego-involvements, it must work through the memories of its ego attachments in the world. While working or speaking, for instance, the soul maintains its divine consciousness without any chance of returning to delusion.
There are different kinds of samadhi depending on the object of meditation; for instance, AUM samadhi is the state experienced when one merges with God through the cosmic sound AUM.
Samadhi is the state of consciousness in which oneness with the object of concentration or meditation is experienced. In meditation it is the experience of oneness with the individual spirit (purusha) or the Supreme Spirit (Param Purusha). Swami Sivananda, in the Yoga Vedanta Dictionary, says: “Here the mind becomes identified with the object of meditation; the meditator and the meditated, thinker and thought become one in perfect absorption of the mind.” From this we can see that samadhi is exclusively a state of awareness. Physical phenomena simply do not come into it, although certain conditions of the body may result as a side effect–especially in the case of beginners or those whose body and nervous system are not fully purified (refined) or controlled and so become overwhelmed and manifest various abnormal conditions. Because they are so dramatic, the states of breathlessness, absence of heartbeat, immobility or levitation are usually thought of in the West as being samadhi. As just stated, such states may accompany samadhi, but they are neither samadhi nor requisites or proofs of samadhi. “The fact of a person being in real samadhi is determined solely by the condition of his mind and not at all by the inertness of the physical body,” asserts I.K. Taimni.
“It may be noted in this connection that Samadhi, which is the most concentrated state of the empirical consciousness, a state in which ail differences apparently vanish, may be attained in every plane of the consciousness, specially in each of the chakras mentioned by the enlightened yogis. But the results of the Samadhi in the different planes, in the different chakras, are not the same. The samadhi-state of the consciousness may superficially appear to be similar in every case; but the realizations depend upon the nature of the planes and the nature of the objects or ideals upon which the mind is concentrated. Samadhi in every plane and upon every object of meditation does not lead to spiritual illumination. The psycho-vital energy has to be purified and refined and raised to higher and higher planes for higher and higher orders of spiritual experience; perfect illumination is attainable in the highest plane–in the highest chakra.”
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