Yoga: 8. Samadhi (Consciousness)

“tad eva artha matra nirbhasam svarupa shunyam iva samadhih" - Patanjali
When only the essence of that object shines forth in the mind, devoid of its own form, that state of deep absorption is called samadhi

Samadhi can be explained in many aspects. But do understand it is all the same phenomenon explained from different perspectives.

Samadhi is the experience that is beyond the influence of nature. State of consciousness with no vritti (fluctuation). In simpler words, the individual is sitting with no vicissitudes of thoughts, like a lake in absolute stillness. With dhyana, there is still an observer, observing, the observed. When the observer, the process of observing, and the object being observed all three collapse and the only thing remaining is the object, it is the experience of samadhi. When this deep absorption happens, dhyana has evolved into samadhi.

There are four kinds of vasanas (desires) that drive mankind. They are;
1.) Dharma - desire to fulfill duties, social/ethical/moral uplift.
2.) Artha - desire to accumulate resources, knowledge, wealth.
3.) Kama - desire to gratify sensual experiences.
4.) Moksha - desire for liberation and enlightenment.

These vasanas (desires) lead to karma (action). When such actions are not totally experienced, it leaves a residue called samskara, which again leads to newer karmas (actions) abiding the laws of cause and effect. Hence every reaction is the result of previous samskara. These samskaras when not expressed or experienced again, it gets buried deep under newer samskaras and these suppressed samskaras are expressed in our dreams, behavior pattern and diseases.

Force of vasana (desire) to experience these samskaras again and again is channeled through ida nadi (left nostril) driving the chitta sakthi (mental energy) and force that leads to karma (action) is channeled through pingala nadi (right nostril) driving the prana sakthi (life energy). When these both are channeled through sushumna, the vasana (desire) -> samskara (residue) -> karma (action) chain is broken.

Once broken, no more new vasanas, samskaras and karmas are accumulated. This triggers the process of depletion and draining all the existing samskaras. When all the samskaras are totally evacuated, the individual is an enlightened being. When someone can reach this point, they have absolutely mastered the art of total experience that leaves no residue. This means, any karma (action) is absolutely a total response, leaving no residue (samskara). This is the ultimate goal of anyone embarked in pursuit of moksha (liberation).

When the energies are channeled through sushumna, he/she is experiencing the samadhi. In initial stages of deep absorption, when one is unconscious of everything, there still remains fluctuations. It is called sankalpa (thought) and vikalpa (counter-thought). These vikalpas could be often misunderstood as samadhi, but it is not. Samadhi evolves in multiple stages as listed below;
1.) SaVitarka (Identified with gross physical forms like body, face, wealth, etc)
2.) NirVitarka (Unidentified from physical forms)
3.) SaVichara (Identified with subtle forms like thoughts, knowledge, opinions, etc)
4.) NirVichara (Unidentified from such subtle forms)
5.) Ananda (Identified with the experience of bliss)
6.) Asmita (Identified with psychological imprints, samskaras)
7.) SaVikalpa (This is very very subtle, identified with the ability to stop any thought to occur)
8.) NirVikalpa (Unidentified with anything gross or subtle)

This NirVikalpa Samadhi is the ultimate samadhi. In the current times, ego is one of the most overloaded words which in general means identity of a person. This 8 stages of samadhi can also be called as gradual and total dissolving of this ego. As one can see, it is not as easy as it sounds when people say "drop your ego". Without a complete understanding, maturity and a guidance of a right guru, it is very easy to be mislead at every stage to a sense of gratification and attainment already. It becomes increasingly difficult at every successive stage.

As explained before in Yoga: 2. Where to start?Upayas (Ways) to attain grace of samadhi;
1.) anavopaya (kriyopaya) - Kriya Yoga
2.) shaktopaya (jnanopaya) - Jnana Yoga
3.) shambhavopaya (bakthopaya) - Bakthi Yoga
4.) anupaya (anandopaya) - Karma Yoga

Yoga: 7. Dhyana (Absorption in Meditation)

“tatra pratyaya ekatanata dhyanam" - Patanjali
“Uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana)”

Dhyana is often mistranslated to meditation. There is no apt single word in english to capture the whole essence of dhyana. Hence the Japanese did not even attempt to translate but just called it "zen", a malformed pronunciation of this word "dhyan(a)".

Unlike the other practices explained in the past 6 chapters, this is something that cannot be practiced explicitly, but happens as a flowering of those practices. Regardless, a sadhaka (practitioner) on the path can try certain tools to facilitate this to happen. The foundation for any such practice is a right sitting posture. Padmasana (lotus pose), Vajrasana (diamond pose), Siddhasana (perfect pose) are best suited. For details on these poses, please refer: Asanas

Vippasana is a widely practiced technique to attain dhyana and eventually, the samadhi (devoid of any thought, identity or form). Anyone in the world can sign-up in and show-up for 10 days of practice, where food and accommodation is provided free of cost. Really! There is no catch of any kind. Lookup and try it if you can afford 10 days. Uppasana means idol worship with incantations, austerities and various other religious practices, which was widely practiced during the days of Siddhartha, a.k.a. Gauthama buddha. It was overdone to a point where the bright mind as buddha's can't take it anymore and hence he invented this technique called vippasana, which is nothing but an antonym of uppasana. In vippasana, there is no idol, no chantings, no mantras, but a very simple scientific technique that needs persistence and patience. Buddha identified the weakest link in the chain of human cycles and attacks it there to help him/her to find a way out.

By no means conclude that uppasana is bad, but overdoing anything will mask its real benefits and at times turn it against its own purpose. When done rightly, uppasana is an ultimate tool. Since it is a slippery slope, it is very easy go haywire in it. Uppasana in the past had lead to colonization, sectarianism, which eventually lead to conflicts, debates and some violent outbursts in the form of genocides. Hence simpler foolproof techniques like vippasana that can't cause much harm to the civilization is emphasized here.

Zazen is another famous technique, prominent amongst zen practitioners. This technique's essence is "the middle way". Choosing a seated pose (often vajrasana), the practitioner sways side to side to find the exact middle resting point and same by swaying forward and backward and do the same to settle the neck at its center. The eyes are neither fully closed nor fully open. Hands gesturing the dhyana mudra as shown below. Mind is brought to the center (without exerting effort) every-time it starts wandering. This is a beautiful technique and the benefits are immense, which will be conspicuous in day to day life activities of the practitioner.
Dhyana Mudra

When meditation happens to the practitioner, he/she experience a crystal clear mind, which awaits for commands to pick up a thought and churn it. At this point, mind is no more a veil, but a fine tool to explore the whole range of objects that make up the universe. It can dig deep into microscopic levels to analyze an atom or expand to experience and grasp the principles of galaxies.

All these does sound quite fictional or even philosophical, but these words don't do justice or even touch the surface of what the actual experience brings to a person. Refer to any artifact that was ever published without any commercial interest but for the benefit of mankind, it'll tell you the same thing in different ways.

Next: Yoga: 8. Samadhi (Consciousness)