Ramakrishna Paramahamsa often went
into Samadhi. The Maharshi would go into it for hours at a time, and often
for days. When I arrived at the ashram he had already been in it seven
Although Buddhism and Zen Buddhism have a long history of the use and knowledge of Samadhi from their origins in the Indian tradition, nobody had heard much of or the need or use of it before Huxley or Isherwood. That doesn't mean it did not exist, only that it did not play a major or high profile role. It must be remembered that for the most part Buddhism and Zen was not well known as a general concept prior to World War II. Why did these modern Vedantins give Samadhi any such emphasis? It is certainly important to modern Vedanta, but the question can be legitimately raised as to what importance it has in the Upanishads, the very source of the Vedanta, and in the classical Advaita school of Vedanta such as in the works of Sankara, the most famous of all the Vedanta teachers.
The first point to be noted is that the word Samadhi does not occur in the ten major Upanishads upon which Sankara has commented. This is not a matter to be lightly passed over, for if the attainment of Samadhi is central to the experiential verification of the Vedanta, as we can gather it is, judging by the statements of some modern Vedantins such as those cited above, then one would legitimately expect the term to appear in the major Upanishads which are the very source of the Vedanta. Yet the word does not occur. The closest approximation to the word Samadhi in the early Upanisads is the past passive participle samahita in the Chandogya and Brhadaranyaka Upanishads. In both texts the word samahita is not used in the technical meaning of Samadhi ,that is, in the sense of a meditative absorption or enstasis ,although the closest approximation to this sense occurs in the Brhadaranyaka. In the first reference (BU 4.2.1) , Yajnavalkya tells Janaka: "You have fully equipped your mind (samahitatma) with so many secret names [of Brahman, that is, Upanishads]." Here the word samahita should be translated as "concentrated, collected, brought together, or composed."
In the second occurrence (BU 4.4.23), Yajnavalkya tells Janaka that a knower of Brahman becomes "calm (santa), controlled (danta), withdrawn from sense pleasures (uparati), forbearing (titiksu), and collected in mind (samahita). This reference to samahita is the closest approximation in the Upanishads to the term Samadhi, which is well known in the later yoga literature. However, the two terms are not synonyms, for in the Upanishad the word samahita means "collectedness of mind," and there is no reference to a meditation practice leading to the suspension of the faculties such as we find in the literature dealing with yoga. The five mental qualities mentioned in BU 4.4.3 later formed, with the addition of faith (sraddha), a list of six qualifications required of a Vedantic student, and they are frequently to be found at the beginning of Vedantic texts. In these texts, the past participles used in the Upanishads are regularly changed into nominal forms: santa becomes sama, danta becomes dama, and samahita becomes samadhana, but not the cognate noun Samadhi. It would thus appear that, while Vedanta authors understood samahita and samadhana as equivalent terms, they did not wish to equate them with the word Samadhi; otherwise there would have been no reason why that term could not have been used instead of samadhana. But it seems to have been deliberately avoided, except in the case of the later Vedanta work, Vedantasara, to which we shall have occasion to refer. Thus we would suggest that, in the Vedanta texts, samadhana does not have the same meaning that the word Samadhi has in yoga texts. This is borne out when we look at how Vedanta authors describe the terms samahita and samadhana. Sankara, in BU 4.2.1, glosses samahitatma as samyuktama, "well equipped or connected." In BU 4.4.23, he explains the term samahita as "becoming one-pointed (aikagrya) through dissociation from the movements of the sense-organs and the mind." The term occurs again in the Katha Upanishad 1.2.24 in the negative form asamahita, which Sankara glosses as "one whose mind is not one-pointed (anekagra), whose mind is scattered." In introductory Vedanta manuals, samadhana is also explained by the term "one-pointed" (ekagra). The word samadhana can thus be understood as having the meaning of "one-pointed" (ekagra). In the Yogasutra, "one-pointed" (ekagra) is used to define concentration (dharana), which is the sixth of the eight limbs of Yoga and a preliminary discipline to dhyana and Samadhi. We may see, then, that the Vedantic samadhana means "one-pointedness" and would be equivalent to the yoga dharana, but it is not equivalent to the yoga Samadhi.
The word Samadhi first appears in the Hindu scriptures in the Maitrayni
Upanishad (6.18, 34), a text which does not belong to the strata of the early
Upanishads and which mentions five of the eight limbs of classical Yoga. The
word also occurs in some of the Yoga and Sannyasa Upanishads of the
Atharvaveda. Samadhi would thus seem to be a part of yogic practice which has
entered into the later Upanishadic literature through such texts as the Yoga
Upanishads as a result of what
Mircea Eliade calls "the constant osmosis between the Upanishadic
and yogic milieus."
Samadhi itself has two stages,
samprajana-samadhi, or an enstasis where there is still
asamprajata-samadhi or nirbija-samadhi, where there is no
longer any object-consciousness (asamprajnata-samadhi became known later in
Vedanta circles as
nirvikalpa-samadhi). The point to be noted about yoga is that
its whole soteriology is based upon the suppression of mental fluctuations so
as to pass firstly into samprajnata-samadhi and from there, through the
complete suppression of all mental fluctuations, into asamprajnata-samadhi, in
which state the Self remains solely in and as itself without being hidden by
external, conditioning factors imposed by the mind (citta).
Duality, such as the fundamental distinction between subject and object, is
obliterated in deep sleep and in Samadhi, as well as in other conditions such
as fainting, but duality is only temporarily obliterated for it reappears when
one awakes from sleep or regains consciousness after fainting, and it also
reappears when the yoga arises from Samadhi. The reason why duality persists
is because false knowledge (mithyajana) has not been removed.
There is a certain ambivalence toward yoga on the part of the followers of Vedanta. It can be seen in Brahmasutra 2.1.3, "Thereby the Yoga is refuted," which offers a rejection of yoga following upon the rejection of Sankhya philosophy. The problem as Sankara sees it is that yoga practices are found in the Upanishads themselves, so the question arises as to what it is about yoga that needs to be rejected. Sankara says that the refutation of yoga has to do with its claim to be a means of liberation independent from the Vedic revelation. He says, "... the sruti rejects the view that there is another means for liberation apart from the knowledge of the oneness of the Self which is revealed in the Veda." He then makes the point that "the followers of Sankhya and Yoga are dualists, they do not see the oneness of the Self." The point that "the followers of Yoga are dualists" is an interesting one, for if the yogins are dualists even while they are exponents of asamprajnata-samadhi (nirvikalpa-samadhi), then such Samadhi does not of itself give rise to the knowledge of oneness as the modern exponents of Vedanta would have us believe. For if it did, then it would not have been possible for the yogins to be considered dualists. Clearly the modern Vedantins, in their expectation that Samadhi is the key to the liberating oneness, have revalued the word and have given it a meaning which it does not bear in the yoga texts. And, we suggest, they have given it an importance which it does not possess in the classical Vedanta, as we are able to discerm it in the writings of Sankara. See:
From the evidence of the above we suggest the role of Samadhi is supportive--or purifying--and is preliminary to, but not necessarily identical with, the rise of the liberating knowledge. As is well known, Sankara considers that knowledge alone, the insight concerning the truth of things, is what liberates. To this end he places great emphasis upon words, specifically the words of the Upanishads, as providing the necessary and even the sufficient means to engender this liberating knowledge. Sankara repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the role of the teacher (guru/acarya) and the sacred texts (sastra) in the matter of liberation. For example the compound sastracaryopadesa, "the instruction on the part of the teacher and the scriptures," occurs seven times in his commentary on the Gita alone, along with other variations such as vedantacaryopadesa, and it regularly occurs in his other works as well. The modern Vedantin, on the other hand, has overlooked, possibly unknowingly, the importance which sacred language and instruction held in the classical Vedanta as a means of knowledge (pramana) and has had to compensate for this by increasing the importance of yogic Samadhi which is then put forward to be the necessary and sufficient condition for liberation.
Although the importance of concentration is evident from the early Upanisads (BU 4.4.23), a form of yoga practice leading to the absorptive state of Samadhi is only in evidence in the later texts. We have seen that Sankara does speak of a type of concentration upon the Self which is akin to yoga insofar as there is the withdrawal of the mind from sense objects, but he does not advocate more than that and he does not put forward the view that we find in classical Yoga about the necessity of total thought suppression. We have seen that he has used the word Samadhi very sparingly, and when he has used it, it was not always in an unambiguously favorable context. It should be clear that Sankara does not set up nirvikalpa-samadhi as a spiritual goal. For if he had thought it to be an indispensable requirement for liberation, then he would have said so. But he has not said so. Contemplation on the Self is obviously a part of Sankara's teaching, but his contemplation is directed toward seeing the ever present Self as free from all conditionings rather than toward the attainment of nirvikalpa-samadhi. This is in significant contrast to many modern Advaitins for whom all of the Vedanta amounts to "theory" which has its experimental counterpart in yoga "practice." I suggest that their view of Vedanta is a departure from Sankara's own position. The modern Advaitins, however, are not without their forerunners, and I have tried to indicate that there has been a gradual increase in Samadhi-oriented practice in the centuries after Sankara, as we can judge from the later Advaita texts.
Zen Master Seung Sahn(4)
speaks of two stories that illuminate the dangers of attaching to Samadhi:
A long time ago in China, during the time of
Zen Master Lin Chi,
there was a monk who was very famous for his Samadhi practicing. This monk,
similar to the traditions of
digambara, never wore any clothes and was known as the 'naked
monk.' He had mastered many kinds of Samadhi, had lots of energy, and didn't
need to wear clothes even in winter.
One day Lin Chi decided to test this monk. He called a student of his, gave
him a set of beautiful clothes, and asked him to present them to the monk. The
student went to the monk and said, 'Ah, you are wonderful. Your practicing is
very strong. So my teacher wants to give you these beautiful clothes as a
present.' The monk kicked away the clothes and said, 'I don't need these
clothes. I have original clothes, from my parents! Your clothes can only be
kept a short time, then they will wear out. But my original clothes are never
broken. Also, if they become dirty, I just take a shower and they are clean
again. I don't need your clothes!'
The student went back to Lin Chi and told him what happened. Lin Chi said,
'You must go to this monk once more and ask him a certain question.' So the
student went to the monk and said, 'Great monk! I have one question for you.
You said you got your original clothes from your parents.' 'Of course!' said
the monk. 'Then I ask you, before you got these original clothes from your
parents, what kind of clothes did you have?' Upon hearing this, the naked monk
went deep into Samadhi, then into Nirvana and died.
Everyone was very surprised and sad. But when the monk's body was cremated,
appeared, so everyone thought, 'Ah, this was a great monk.' Sitting on the
high rostrum, Lin Chi hit the stand with his Zen stick and said, 'Form is
emptiness, emptiness is form.' He hit it again, 'No form, no emptiness.' He
hit it a third time, 'Form is form, emptiness is emptiness. Which one is
correct?' Nobody understood. Then the Zen Master shouted 'KATZ!' and said,
'The sky is blue, the tree is green.' If you cannot answer in one word the
question about your original clothes, then, although you can get Samadhi and
Nirvana, you cannot get freedom from life and death.
Then the Zen Master stared at the Sarira -- poof! -- they turned to water.
This is magic! They all turned to water and disappeared. Everyone was
surprised. The meaning of this is: if you do Samadhi practice deeply, then
when you die many Sarira will appear. But, these Sarira will not last long
because they represent ,one mind,' not 'clear mind' which is our original
nature. Our original nature has no life, no death, no coming or going. When
the true Dharma appears, which means form is form, emptiness is emptiness or
sky is blue, tree is green- that energy -BOOM! - will appear, all the Sarira
will turn to water and disappear. Our teaching is substance, truth, and
correct life. Our Zen practicing means attain your true self, find the correct
way, truth, and life. Any style of practice is OK -- even using a
Mantra. But, don't be attached to Samadhi -- you must 'pass'
Samadhi. Zen means 'everyday mind,' not special states of mind. Moment
to moment keeping a clear mind is what's important.
And a second example. Once one of my students decided to practice with an
Indian guru. This guru taught Samadhi practice. So my student got a Mantra,
tried it all the time when he wasn't working, and went deeply into Samadhi.
All the time he was having a very good feeling. Then one day while doing this
Mantra, he was crossing the street. The next thing he knew, a car screeched to
a halt, almost hitting him, and loudly sounded its horn. The driver shouted at
him, 'Keep clear mind!' Then my student was very afraid. The next day he came
to me and said, 'Dae Soen Sa Nim, I have a problem. Last night I almost died.
I was practicing Samadhi, didn't pay attention and was almost hit by a car.
Please teach me my mistake.'
So I explained to him, Samadhi practicing takes away your consciousness.
But Zen means moment to moment keeping clear mind. What are you doing now?
When you are doing something, just do it. Then this kind of accident cannot
happen. So don't make Samadhi. Don't make anything! Just do it, O.K
Also know as asamprajata-samadhi.
Nirvikalpa samadhi: (Sanskrit) "Enstasy without form or seed." The realization of the Self, Parasiva, a state of oneness beyond all change or diversity; beyond time, form and space. Nir means "without." Vi means "to change, make different." Kalpa means "order, arrangement; a period of time."
For more on Nirvikalpa Samadhi click HERE.
There is a sanskrit word
NIRODHA discribed usually as cessation that carries with it
a more indepth meaning. In the index of the Visuddi Magga, for example, there
are over twenty-five references that need to be read in context in order to
cull out a fuller more concise meaning. Briefly, like Deep Samadhi, it is a
very, very high degree non-meditative meditative state. During Nirodha there
is no time squence whether a couple hours pass or seven days, as the immediate
moment preceding and immediately following seem as though in rapid succession,
start and finish compressed wafer thin. During, heartbeat and metabolism
continue to slow and practically cease, sometimes continuing below the
threshold of preception at a risidual level. Previosly stored body energy that
would typically be consumed in a couple of hours if not replenished can last
days with very little need for renewal. The Visuddhi Magga cites several
instances where villagers came across a bhikkhu in such a state and built a
funeral pyre for him, even to the point of lighting it. During low-level
residual states the body temperature drops well below the 98.6 degree point.
If suddenly jarred to consciousness body metabolism is slower to regain it's
normal temperature, and inturn, that is recorded by the quicker to return
cognative senses as "being cold." The non-meditative meditative state of Deep
Samadhi and Nirodha are often, but not always, precursors to what is known in
Zen as the
Death of the Ego
That statement considered and non withstanding, akin to Deep Samadhi and Nirodha BUT way beyond it and the above, there is a little known awake-state "deep meditation method," based in part from Dogen's Shikantaza, "intertwined" of sorts with both of the above, and neither entering into nor rising out of the living state of conscious continuum, being neither Mindfulness Leading to Insight nor not Mindfulness Leading to Insight; it is as well neither Concentration Leading to Absorption nor not Concentration Leading to Absorption, although unnamed, sometimes refered to as Jishu Zammi, where Ji means "self," Shu means "mastery," and Zammi means "Samadhi,"...Samadhi of Self Mastery.
Karma accumulated over innumerable lives and the "growth of pure Dharma." The experts in yoga call this Samadhi dharma-megha because it pours forth countless showers of the nectar of Dharma. Through this Samadhi the net of vasana is destroyed and meritorious as well as nonmeritorious Karma is rooted out.
The borderline between the dharma-megha-samadhi and the kaivalya of Yoga, hen-chu-to and ken-chu-to in Japanese Zen, or between Bodhisattvahood and Buddahood at the stage of dharma-megha of Buddhism, is virtually imperceptible: it is only a question of fulfillment of a process, which from then on has only one direction. And here we may, possibly, discern a significant difference between the Yogic (Hindu) and the Buddhist dynamics: the Buddhist texts emphasize the altruistic aspects of this condition -- the possibility for the Bodhisattva to assist the world in reaching the highest goal, the beneficial effects which "the rain of dharma" has with regard to the quenching of the firebrand of the Klesa of those still under their sway. The Yogasutra seems to be interested in the benefit of the dharma-megha-samadhi for the sake of the yogin only: his Klesa and Karma are eradicted, his knowledge is infinitely enlarged, his kaivalya is secured, which means the attainment of his "being his true self." The Bodhisattva forgoes, for the time being, the complete bliss and the ultimate perfection of Buddhahood and accedes to the pleas of the devas to incarnate and make himself present in a bodily form among humans for their benefit alone. (2)
KAIVALYA: (Sanskrit) "Absolute oneness, aloneness; perfect detachment, freedom." Liberation. Kaivalya is the term used by Patanjali and others in the yoga tradition to name the goal and fulfillment of yoga, the state of complete detachment from transmigration. It is virtually synonymous with moksha. Kaivalya is the perfectly transcendent state, the highest condition resulting from the ultimate realization. It is defined uniquely according to each philosophical school, depending on its beliefs regarding the nature of the soul.(3)
Philosophers in their special way of analytical logic and reductionism have attempted to define kaivalya as an isolation rather than as union. Taken to its logical end (as is true with all fragmented thought), they wind up with absolute withdrawal or catatonia. Indeed, this is often how Western philosophers have "understood" Samadhi. In one sense only can this absurdity be said to have any merit. They are correct only in the sense that Nirbija-samadhi (as the ultimate integration) is dependent upon first separating the cit-prana from separation itself -- from false identification with a separate self (asmita) which is called egoism but rather it includes embracing the transpersonal non-dual all encompassing Integrity. So then an isolation from isolation (separation) in reality brings on an integration (which is Nirbija-samadhi) when the yogic context is not corrupted, but rather acknowledged and honored.
Thus, within the scope of authentic yoga, kaivalya, or ultimate liberation, is not an escape from any "thing"; it is not an aversion, hatred, a fear, a dislike, or even a desire in the common usage of the word (as all Klesas and Karma are eventually burned up through yogic practice). It is not a relative isolation, avoidance, control over, repression, transcendence from, an overcoming of, nor denial of anything in any form. Kaivalya is not achieved through strife, from control over anything, aloofness, nor transcendence. Indeed transcendence has to be given up as well. Simply one abides in the Uncolored Universal without striving. (4)
JISHU ZAMMI: Samadhi of Self Mastery
This site was last updated 07/18/10