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SAMADHI : What Does It Mean?

PRESENTED BY: The Wanderling
Excerpted in part from a much longer article by: MICHAEL COMANS(1)

Part I

The word Samadhi seems to show up regularly in things related to Zen and Buddhism, but what does it mean, what role does it play, major or otherwise, in either or both? Before we get too deep into such a discussion, it should be clarified somewhat what Samadhi IS in the firstplace, where it came from, and how it became, or is an integral part of the "path."

Zen or Ch'an Buddhism is a movement within the Buddhist religion that stresses the practice of meditation as the means to Enlightenment. Zen and Ch'an are, respectively, Japanese and Chinese attempts to render the Sanskrit term for meditation: Dhyana. (i.e. See NOTE)

Zen's roots may be traced to India, but it was in East Asia, that is, China and eventually Japan, that the movement became distinct and flourished. Like other Chinese Buddhist orders, Ch'an first established itself as a Lineage of Masters emphasizing the teachings of a particular text, in this case the Lankavatara Sutra. Bodhidharma, the first Ch'an Patriarch in China, who is said to have arrived there from India c. 470 AD, was a master of this text. He also emphasized the practice of contemplative sitting (that is, Samadhi), and legend has it that he himself spent 9 years in meditation facing a wall.(source)

The word Samadhi became a part of the vocabulary of a number of Western intellectuals toward the end of the 1930s and from there filtered down into the general lexicon. Two well-known writers, Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood, were impressed by Eastern and specifically by Indian thought. They did not find Indian spirituality by journeying to India, however--rather it was India which found them; and the variety of Indian spirituality with which these Englishmen came into contact in California in the late 1930s was that of the Vedanta Society, founded by Swami Vivekananda and his followers, who were monks of the Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Order of India.

In the 1920's a woman living in South Pasadena named Carrie Mead Wyckoff became acquainted with a young monk sent to America by the Order. In 1929 he established the Vedanta Society of Southern California in a house in the Hollywood hills given to the Order as a gift by Mrs. Wyckoff. By the 1940's the Society had attracted a number of noted writers and intellectuals that had been showing up in the general Hollywood area about that time, of which Huxley and Isherwood were two.(2) It should be noted that British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham, who wrote the novel The Razor's Edge about a young man in search of Spiritual Awakening, was peripheral to the group as well, although he had actual Travels in India and had met the Enlightened sage of Arunachala, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi personally.

A woman by the name of Mercedes De Acosta, who was intertwined with Maugham on and off in relation to Sri Ramana visited the Bhagavan in 1938. That visit was her first experience with Samadhi. A fellow American who was visiting the ashram at the time by the name of Guy Hague, and who has in the past, often been suggested as the role model for Larry Darrell in Maugham's novel, was the first to give a name to what she was experiencing. In 1960 she wrote a book titled Here Lies the Heart in which she writes about that experience AND, in her own words attempts to describe Samadhi:

As he (i.e., Sri Ramana) sat there he seemed like a statue, and yet something extraordinary emanated from him. I had a feeling that on some invisible level I was receiving spiritual shock from him although his gaze was not directed toward me. He did not seem to be looking at anything, and yet I felt he could see and was conscious of the whole world.

"Bhagavan is in Samadhi," Guy Hague said.

Samadhi is a very difficult state to explain. In fact I do not think anyone has ever explained it. Doctors have tried to analyze it from a medical and physical point of view, and have failed. I have heard it described as "a state of spiritual ecstasy in which consciousness leaves the body." But this is not the whole phenomenon, as the breath stops and so does the beating of the heart. But it is not a form of trance as in the trance state both of these continue. It is claimed that Samadhi is a state attained only by highly Enlightened people--people who have reached Spiritual Illumination. It is a state where the spirit temporarily leaves the body and goes into one of bliss. All the Enlightened Ones who have attained Samadhi describe it as Bliss. In the last century the great saint Sri 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 hours.

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.

NOTE: There are three main schools of Vedanta:

  1. Dvaita Vedanta - the dualistic approach

  2. Advaita Vedanta - the non-dualistic approach

  3. Kevala Advaita Vedanta - the pure non-dualistic school.

The main exponent of Vedanta was the great sage Adi Sankara who was an adept of the Kevala Advaita Vedanta path. In western circles it is not unusual to blend the last two together as well as interposing the words Advaita and Vedanta as having the same meaning, becoming in a sense euphemisms of themselves ("satsang" is often included as well). Generally speaking it works OK, but when fine tuning the specifics then a more in-depth process is usually required. To explore deeper the differences between Vedanta and Buddhism and thus then, how either consider Samadhi in their own realm of things, go to footnote 6 in bold below by clicking here.

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 object-consciousness, and 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.

The attainment of Samadhi is not a sufficient cause to eradicate false knowledge, and since false knowledge is the cause of bondage, Samadhi cannot therefore be the cause of liberation.

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, many Sarira 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."

Enstasy: A difficult term that embraces both ecstasy and profound attainment of wisdom, the state of enstasy is, in fact, that state of Nirvana when one recognizes The Void, the absolute reality that everything is nothing. See also Sunyata

Kalpa: (as a period of time) A Maha Yuga is 4.32 million years, ten times as long as Kali Yuga. Twenty seven Maha Yugas is one Pralaya. Seven Pralayas is one Manvantara. Finally, six Manvantaras is a Kalpa. That is, one Kalpa is 27x7x6 = 1,134 Maha Yugas. This works out to 1134 x 4.3 million = 4.876 billion years. (back)

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

The attainment of Samadhi is not a sufficient cause to eradicate false knowledge, and since false knowledge is the cause of bondage, Samadhi cannot therefore be the cause of liberation.

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.

Zen master Tai-yung, passing by the retreat of another Zen master named Chih-huang, stopped and during his visit respectfully asked, "I am told that you frequently enter into Samadhi. At the time of such entrances, does your consciousness continue or are you in a state of unconsciousness? If your consciousness continues, all sentient beings are endowed with consciousness and can enter into Samadhi like yourself. If, on the other hand, you are in a state of unconsciousness, plants and rocks can enter into Samadhi." Huang replied, "When I enter into a Samadhi, I am not conscious of either condition." Yung said, "If you are not conscious of either condition, this is abiding in Eternal Samadhi, and there can be neither entering into a Samadhi nor rising out of it."(SOURCE)

Part II

Zen master Tai-yung, passing by the retreat of another Zen master named Chih-huang, stopped and during his visit respectfully asked, "I am told that you frequently enter into Samadhi. At the time of such entrances, does your consciousness continue or are you in a state of unconsciousness? If your consciousness continues, all sentient beings are endowed with consciousness and can enter into Samadhi like yourself. If, on the other hand, you are in a state of unconsciousness, plants and rocks can enter into Samadhi." Huang replied, "When I enter into a Samadhi, I am not conscious of either condition." Yung said, "If you are not conscious of either condition, this is abiding in Eternal Samadhi, and there can be neither entering into a Samadhi nor rising out of it." (source)

Passing from 'concentration' to 'meditation' does not require the application of any new technique. Similarly, no supplementary exercise is needed to realize Samadhi, once the ascetic has succeeded in 'concentrating' and 'meditating.' Samadhi, 'enstasis,' is the final result of the ascetic's spiritual efforts and exercises.

The meanings of the term Samadhi are union, totality; absorption in, complete concentration of mind; conjunction. The usual translation is 'concentration,' but this embarks the risk of confusion with dharana. Hence, the preferred translation is 'entasis,' 'stasis,' and conjunction.


Patanjali and his commentators distinguish several kinds or stages of supreme concentration. When Samadhi is obtained with the help of an object or idea (that is, by fixing one's thought on a point in space or on an idea), the stasis is called samprajnata samadhi ('enstasis WITH support,' or 'differentiated enstasis'). When Samadhi is obtained apart from any 'relation' (whether external or mental) that is, when one obtains a 'conjunction' into which no otherness' enters, but which is simply a full comprehension of being one has realized asamprajnata-samadhi ('enstasis WITHOUT support,' or 'undifferentiated stasis'). It should be noted that in Vendanta circles asamprajnata-samadhi is sometimes refered to as nirvikalpa-samadhi. Vijnanabhikshu adds that samprajnata samadhi is a means of liberation in so far as it makes possible the comprehension of truth and ends every kind of suffering. But asamprajnata samadhi destroys the 'impressions [samskara] of all antecedent mental functions' and even succeeds in arresting the karmic forces already set in motion by the yogin's past activity. During 'differentiated stasis,' Vijnanabhikshu continues, all the mental functions are 'arrested' ('inhibited'), except that which 'meditates on the object'; whereas in asampranata samadhi all 'consciousness' vanishes, the entire series of mental functions are blocked. 'During this stasis, there is no other trace of the mind [citta] save the impressions [samskara] left behind (by its past functioning). If these impressions were not present, there would be no possibility of returning to consciousness.'

We are, then, confronted with two sharply differentiated classes of states.' The first class is acquired through the yogic technique of concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana), the second class comprises only a single 'state'-that is, unprovoked enstasis, 'raptus.' No doubt, even this asamprajnata samadhi is always owing to prolonged efforts on the yogin's part. It is not a gift or a state of grace. One can hardly reach it before having sufficiently experienced the kinds of Samadhi included in the first class. It is the crown of the innumerable 'concentrations' and 'meditations' that have preceded it. But it comes without being summoned, without being provoked, without special preparation for it. That is why it can be called a 'raptus.'

Obviously, 'differentiated enstasis,' samprajnata-samadhi, comprises several stages. This is because it is perfectible and does not realize an absolute and irreducible 'state.' Four stages or kinds are generally distinguished: 'argumentative' (savitarka), 'nonargumentative' (nirvitarka), reflective' (savicara), 'super-reflective' (nirvicara). Patanjali also employs another set of terms: vitarka, vicara, ananda, asmita which correspond roughly with the first four Jhana states. (Y-S-, I, 17). But, as Vijnanabhikshu, who reproduces this list, remarks, 'the four terms are purely technical, they are applied conventionally to different forms of realization.' These four forms or stages of samprajnata samadhi, he continues, represent an ascent; in certain cases the grace of God (ishvara) permits direct attainment of the higher states, and in such cases the yogin need not go back and realize the preliminary states. But when this divine grace does not intervene, he must realize the four states gradually, always adhering to the same object of meditation (for example, Vishnu). These four grades or stages are also known as samapattis, 'coalescences.' (Y.S., I, 41-)

All these four stages of samprajnata samadhi are called bija samadhi ('samadhi with seed') or salambana samadhi ('with support):, for Vijnanabhikshu tells us, they are in relation with a 'substratum' (support) and produce tendencies that are like 'seeds' for the future functions of consciousness. Asamprajnata samadhi, on the contrary, is nirbija samadhi, 'without seed,' without support. By realizing the four stages of samprajnata, one obtains the 'faculty of absolute knowledge' (Y.S., 1, 48) This is already an opening towards samadhi 'without seed,' for absolute knowledge discovers the ontological completeness in which being and knowing are no longer separated. Fixed in samadhi, consciousness (citta) can now have direct revelation of the Self (purusha). Through the fact that this contemplation (which is actually a 'participation') is realized, the pain of existence is abolished.

Vyasa (ad Y.S., III, 55) summarizes the passage FROM samprajnata samadhi TO asamprajnata samadhi as follows:

Through the illumination (prajna, 'wisdom') spontaneously obtained when he reaches the stage of dharma-megha-samadhi the ascetic realizes 'absolute isolation' (kaivalya) -- that is, liberation of purusha from the dominance of Prakriti.

For his part, Vacaspatimishra says that the 'fruit' of samprajnata samadhi is asamprajnata samadhi, and the 'fruit' of the latter is kaivalya, liberation. It would be wrong to regard this mode of being of the Spirit as a simple 'trance" in which consciousness was emptied of all content. Nondifferentiated enstasis is not absolute emptiness.' The 'state' and the 'knowledge' simultaneously expressed by this term refer to a total absence of objects in consciousness, not to a consciousness absolutely empty. For, on the contrary, at such a moment consciousness is saturated with a direct and total intuition of being.



Khanika Samadhi is called momentary concentration (sequential momentary deep concentration) because it occurs only at the moment of noting and, in the case of Vipassana, not on a fixed object as Samatha-Jhana meditation but on changing objects or phenomena that occur in the mind and body. But when the Vipassana meditator develops strength and skill in noting, his Khanika concentration occurs uninterruptedly in a series without a break. This concentration, when it occurs from moment to moment without a break, becomes so powerful that it can overcome The Five Hindrances, thus bringing about purification of mind (citta visuddhi) which can enable a meditator to attain all the insight knowledges up to the level of Arahat. (source)



As Madhava (1) says, Nirodha [final arrest of all psychomental experience] must not be imagined as a nonexistence, but rather as the support of a particular condition of the Spirit.' It is the enstasis of total emptiness, without sensory content or intellectual structure, an unconditioned state that is no longer 'experience' (for there is no further relation between consciousness and the world) but 'revelation.' Intellect (buddhi), having accomplished its mission, withdraws, detaching itself from the Self (purusha) and returning into prakriti. The Self remains free, autonomous: it contemplates itself. 'Human' consciousness is suppressed; that is, it no longer functions, its constituent elements being reabsorbed into the primordial substance. The yogin attains deliverance; like a dead man, he has no more relation with life; he is 'dead in life.' He is the jivan-mukta, the 'liberated in life.' He no longer lives in time and under the domination of time, but in an eternal present, in the nunc stans by which Boethius defined Eternity.

Part III


(nirbija: without seed)

NIRBIJA SAMADHI: the nondual state of consciousness which is unconditional because all projected conditions have been seen through.

Nirbija-samadhi has NO conditioning cause as they have all been transcended, and all conditional activity has been surrendered. The mind is now a radiant formlessness empty of both specific and generalised projection, seen and seer.

The nondual state of Nirbija-samadhi is often upheld as the ultimate state. However, nonduality is the polar opposite of duality. it is therefore also a function of duality. Liberation is going beyond duality to transcendental awareness. Here the nonduality of duality, the duality of nonduality are experienced and transcended. This requires the cleansing process of dharma-megha-samadhi , where this conundrum is dramatically manifest. Nirbija-samadhi is NOT the result of accomplished practice. It only occurs within practice when there is spontaneous surrender of the practice and practiser, which depends on the orientation underlying practice. This results more and more frequently from exhaustion of the misplaced faith in the activities available to the will, which in turn strengthens the orientation to surrender. Nirbija-samadhi is a natural progression from sabija-samadhi once the sense of self has begun to lose its power. It often occurs spontaneously in life as a result of the direct and open spaciousness cultivated in the mind by practice.

When all karmic imprints have been surrendered, Nirbija-samadhi alone remains. Until then Nirbija-samadhi is a temporary possibility in the space between the resolution of one perceptor and the firing of the next. When all karmic imprints have been resolved, dharma-megha-samadhi reveals irrevocably the dualistic nature of infinte space, infinite consciousness, time and the self: this establishes the nondual embodiment of kaivalya or otherlessness. (1)




DHARMAMEGA: "Cloud of Dharma." In the very last section of the Yogasutra: within the Kaivalya Pada it describes a condition immediately preceding kaivalya itself called dharma-mega-samadhi. Accordingly, the text infers dharma-mega-samadhi contains and encompasses all that can be known, just as a cloud fills the sky. And just as rain quenches the thirsting earth, so this "cloud" pours down the rain of the Dharma and exstinguishes the raging fire of all kinds of instability.

The only reference to dharma-megha-samadhi in classical Hindu literature, outside the commentaries on the Yogasutra, is a reference in Vidyaara.nya's Pa~ncada`sii. In I, 60 he mentions dharma-megha-samadhi as the highest stage to be reached in Yoga. Samadhi (not further qualified as dharma-megha-samadhi in the text) is described as "that condition in which the mind gradually abandons the notion of meditator and meditation and is merged in the object of meditation." In that condition the mind is likened to a steady flame of a lamp in a well-sheltered place. By way of confirmation, a reference to Bhagavad Gita VI, 19 is inserted. The effect of this Samadhi is the destruction of all 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)


KEN-CHU-TO, Fifth Degree:

Ken means "both" -- meaning the indepth realization of how both sho and hen are NOT separate but actually fully integrated-interdefused aspects of the same single, non-dual phenomenon -- refering to for example, albeit simply put, the interdefused non-dualism of say hot and cold --- seemingly different, but in actuality, both related aspects of a single non-dual temperature spectrum. Thus then, it can be seen the replacement in use of the word ken in lieu of the word hen, as say in ken-chu-shi rather than hen-chu-shi in the Fourth Degree carries within it's scope a much deeper meaning than a simple syntax variance or first letter change, the attributes again of hen not encompassing the full scope, being: relative, form-and-color, difference, manyness, and relative self.

A fairly good example of that subtle letter change can be found in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, wherein the Wanderling writes of his Mentor: "...ken-chu-shi was graciously accorded me by the person from which I sought guidence; he himself, having experienced full realization under the grace and light of Sri Ramana Maharshi some thirty-nine years earlier..." Notice his Mentor specifically selected ken-chu-shi over hen-chu-shi, meaning he felt in the nunances of it all a deeper level of understanding was attained than what hen-chu-shi offered. However, notice as well his Mentor DID NOT grace him with hen-chu-to, and most significantly NOT ken-chu-to, apparently indicating in both cases that although the Wanderling's attainment was deep, it was, at least at that time, not total.(source)



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

Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience and then proceed to make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself .(PLEASE CLICK)


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