Samyama – part 4
ASHTANGA YOGA SERIES
What if someone told you there was a simple set of practices that could help you manage every aspect of your daily life, and at the same time take you to a level of human potential beyond your wildest imagination? Would you be interested? Most people would at least be curious.
That is in fact an accurate explanation of the practices of Yoga, but most people don’t realize it. Yoga includes a holistic set of practices for overall self-development and the well-being of the body, mind and soul. A few thousand years back, the great sage Patanjali compiled the current yogic practices of that time into a simple framework consisting of eight parts or limbs, and that framework is still used today. It is known as Ashtanga Yoga.
But the practices of Yoga have evolved since Patanjali was alive, in response to the needs of the time and especially during the last 150 years. So in this series DAAJI explores each limb of Yoga in the light of the modern day yogic practices of Heartfulness. He shows us how to integrate inner spiritual practices with living in the world and refining our personality, so as to create that true state of Yoga – skill in action and integration of the spiritual and worldly aspects of life.
SAMYAMA – part 4
Dharana • Dhyana • Samadhi
Samadhi is the eighth limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. It is considered to be the goal of Yoga, an inner experience of purity and balance that is one with the original state that existed before creation. During our yogic practice, we also encounter various stages or glimpses of Samadhi as we progress on the journey towards this original state. In the final article of this series, DAAJI explains this unfolding experience of Samadhi and how we eventually come to the ultimate goal of Yoga through our practice.
We have now reached the real purpose of Yoga, the zenith of yogic practice, the much sought-after state of Samadhi. The word ‘Samadhi’ simply means ‘that which prevailed before creation came into existence’, the absolute balanced state of oneness or nothingness or total emptiness. Our soul has always been craving for that ultimate state of balance, and, unless and until we attain it within, the soul will always find some sort of shortcoming in whatever we do in life. Once we achieve that Samadhi state in all our activities, both worldly and spiritual, then true happiness comes on its own, even when we fail in our actions. We remain unshaken.
Samadhi is the ultimate spiritual relaxation and the ultimate effortless concentration, and it is considered to be the goal of human existence in Yoga. You might even say that it is the reason for our existence as a species. Every species has a purpose on this Earth, and ours is to go back to the original state. Hence we have a spectrum of consciousness of a high enough order so that we can realize this purpose. Every other limb of Ashtanga Yoga is only a training and a preparation to help us arrive at that goal. It is the reason we refine our posture, our breath, or thoughts, our sensory inputs and our behavioral reactions to the outside world. It is the reason we turn all our faculties inwards and meditate. We are going home.
In its pure form Samadhi is that ultimate state,
but we also experience various glimpses or stages of
Samadhi along the way, throughout our journey.
Those experiences vary according to the view
from the vantage point we have reached at any given stage.
STAGES OF SAMADHI
In its pure form Samadhi is that ultimate state, but we also experience various glimpses or stages of Samadhi along the way, throughout our journey. Those experiences vary according to the view from the vantage point we have reached at any given stage. We view the ultimate state from the position we are at in the present moment, and that becomes our current experience of Samadhi. In the Heartfulness Way, we invite such states of Samadhi day after day and make them permanent. So when practitioners speak of experiencing Samadhi during meditation, they are speaking about these experiences that vary from person to person, and for the same person at different stages in the journey. There is a different flavor of Samadhi at each point or chakra, and also within each chakra, as we enter new levels. It goes on changing until eventually we can experience all of these states in one go. By the time we are at chakra 12, for example, we have already experienced infinite variations of Samadhi.
These stages of Samadhi have been described in a number of ways in classical yogic texts. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes the lowest levels of Samadhi as the experience of stone-like unconsciousness, where we don’t feel anything and we are oblivious to what is happening, because we have journeyed into those parts of our mind beyond awareness. In the second level we are in a dreamlike subconscious Samadhi, and in the highest we are fully alert and aware within our absorption. This is known as Sahaj Samadhi. Of course these are broad categories for the sake of understanding.
Sahaj Samadhi is a condition where we are deeply absorbed in meditation, and at the same time fully conscious of everything else that is going on. In the Yoga Shastras this is known as the Turiya condition, or the fourth state. Everything is in view. When we learn how to take this state into our day, we are then simultaneously able to focus on work, on the surroundings, on the TV, on something happening outside, and still remain in communion with our inner spiritual state, the condition that is prevailing within, something that is about to come into our system, thoughts that arise, and the next step we should be taking. We are peaceful witnessing all these things simultaneously. This is known as the Turiyatit state in Yoga, where we have three-hundred and- sixty-degree consciousness with eyes open. There is no need to focus on any particular thing. The moment we focus on a particular thing, it is no longer meditation, but concentration.
REFINING THE SUBTLE BODIES TO EXPERIENCE SAMADHI
Trying to experience Samadhi at a physical level is only a reflection of Reality. When the heaviest layers of our system are removed, and we transcend the various sheaths of the human system, known as the koshas, Samadhi has a different flavor. It is like the difference between seeing the bottom of a pond through still crystal clear water versus through dirty turbulent water. The more sediment in the water, the more turbulence, the more obscured the view and the less we are aware of what is happening.
We have entrapped the soul in heaviness, turbulence and complexity as a result of our samskaras – the impressions we have accumulated from the past, and the layers formed due to the seeds of future samskaras – as well as our ego. Until our inner journey crosses the 5 points in the region of the heart known as the Pind Pradesh, we are still very much entrapped in duality, in opposites or dwandwas, in likes versus dislikes, in likes versus indifference, in satisfaction versus dissatisfaction, in clarity versus confusion, and in all of the emotional spectra that characterize human life. These emotions include: greed, jealousy, lust, guilt, resentment, self-pity and prejudice versus contentment; anxiety and worry versus peace; hate and anger versus love and compassion; and fear versus courage. While our minds are prey to these opposite polarities, they become the seeds for the transmigration of the soul from life to life, recycling from one body to another in the process we know as reincarnation or rebirth.
When we remain away from the Source, from the cause of our existence, these opposites continue to prevail, because our senses continue to be drawn outwards. The functions of the mind known as the subtle bodies – chit (consciousness), manas (contemplation), buddhi (intellect) and ahankar (ego) – are also directed mostly towards worldly matters. In the process, the soul is buried within layers of complexity and we cannot connect with the center of our being. Because it is buried, it is impossible to lead a balanced joyful life because joy emanates from the soul. In fact it is the quality of the soul, so what do you think happens when we bury it and cannot connect within?
Once our attention is directed towards the Source of our being, then our inner world begins to open up. The three mental functions of contemplation, intellect and ego begin to fulfil a higher purpose. They become refined and attuned to assisting consciousness to evolve to a higher plane of existence. Then the soul receives its due attention and nourishment, and we are able to function holistically, with body, mind and soul in harmony. Though our consciousness transcends from one level to another, yet during deep sleep none of us are aware of it. The intellect and ego have no recourse during sleep; during sleep we are nobody. In contrast, in true Samadhi, unlike sleep, there is a natural recourse to the Source.
It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of humanity
that most of us have lost control of these subtle bodies.
Instead we let desires, ego, worldly worries, passion, guilt
and prejudice pull us in all directions.
This is the reason for the problems humanity faces today:
human conflict and abuse, environmental issues,
emotional problems, mental illness and stress-related diseases.
The whole purpose of Yoga is to lighten
this burden constantly created by the subtle bodies.
It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of humanity that most of us have lost control of these subtle bodies. Instead we let desires, ego, worldly worries, passion, guilt and prejudice pull us in all directions. This is the reason for the problems humanity faces today: human conflict and abuse, environmental issues, emotional problems, mental illness and stress-related diseases. The whole purpose of Yoga is to lighten this burden constantly created by the subtle bodies. But it is not that we are external and passive victims of our own destiny. God has bestowed us with the wisdom to use the same instruments, these subtle bodies, to trace our way back to the Source.
Swami Vivekananda explains it so clearly in his commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras when he says, “Chit manifests itself in all these different forms – scattering, darkening, weakening and concentrating. These are the four states in which the mind-stuff manifests itself. First, a scattered form is activity. Its tendency is to manifest in the form of pleasure or of pain. Then the dull form is darkness, the only tendency of which is to injure others. The Ekagra, the concentrated form of chit, is what brings us to Samadhi.”
Ekagrata is the centripetal tendency of consciousness, which we can bring about in meditation supported by all the other practices of Ashtanga Yoga. Patanjali summarizes it in one of the most important and profound of his Yoga Sutras, when he says:
4.6: Tatra dhyana jam anasayam
Only the original mind, which is uncovered
as a result of meditation, is desireless and free
from impressions. The original mind exists in itself,
without the need for support, cause or motivation.
In Heartfulness, it is Pranahuti that makes meditation so effective, as it gives us glimpses of our original mind from the very first meditation. Just as fish experience different depths in a pond of water, by swimming up and down, Pranahuti carries us effortlessly to depths of Samadhi consciousness we would not otherwise experience so easily and quickly. It can also be likened to a lift in a high-rise building – a one-way lift upwards to the purpose of our existence.
Each morning in Meditation, we create a meditative state
to carry out into the day. Each evening during Cleaning,
we create a state of purity to carry with us,
and each time we pray we create a prayerful state in the heart
so that we stay connected to the Source, vacuumized and receptive.
When we retain and nurture these three states throughout the day,
it keeps the top spinning of our inner condition
– creating a beautiful balanced state.
The Heartfulness Prayer also has a very profound impact on our deepening experience of Samadhi, when it is practiced before sleeping at night and on waking in the morning. Done properly, it connects us prayerfully to our deepest sushupti consciousness, and this brings about awareness in the deep-sleep state. We experience the entry and exit to and from various levels of consciousness – known in neuroscience as the spectrum of brainwave frequencies from Delta waves in deep sleep to Gamma waves in highly alert learning states. Our consciousness becomes elastic, expanded and more easily able to move between surface and depth. Gradually, over time, all these states are able to coexist simultaneously in the 360-degree consciousness of Sahaj Samadhi. This has to be experienced to be understood – it is such a dynamic, fluid and responsive state of mind.
The daily practice of Heartfulness Cleaning supports the goal of Yoga by purifying the subtle bodies, the field of consciousness. As layer upon layer of samskaras are removed, as the purified koshas are transcended, as thinking, intellect and ego are refined, and as stillness results, Samadhi becomes effortless.
Each morning in Meditation, we create a meditative state to carry out into the day. Each evening during Cleaning we create a state of purity to carry with us, and each time we pray we create a prayerful state in the heart so that we stay connected to the Source, vacuumized and receptive. When we retain and nurture these three states throughout the day, it keeps the top spinning of our inner condition – creating a beautiful balanced state. This practice is known as Constant Remembrance, and when we are able to hold it throughout the day, we not only stop the formation of samskaras, but naturally develop the capacity for Sahaj Samadhi.
How to do this? First, meditate well. Second, surrender to the soul’s existence, to the Source, to the Master within. Surrender is the key, because then there is no force in our efforts, and effortlessness is needed to experience Samadhi. After all, how can there be force in the original state of nothingness before creation?
This quality of surrender in a spiritual practitioner is generally not well understood. The ego rebels against surrender, so often there is resistance to the idea. But without this vital quality, Samadhi is not possible. It is one reason why having a Guide of caliber is so important, even for those at the highest pinnacle of spiritual evolution. The greatest saints have always had Guides, just like the greatest tennis players have coaches, because without that feeling of receptivity, humility, willingness to accept, and becoming nothing at the feet of Divinity, how will the current of Grace flow? How will dynamic evolution continue? As soon as we say, “I am there,” we are done for! So the third thing is to create dependency on a Guide of caliber and see where that takes you.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE ULTIMATE STATE
Many people think that Samadhi is associated with Divine Light, with Sat, with Purusha or God, but Samadhi is beyond all these things, way beyond Satchidananda, even beyond the potentiality at the base of consciousness. In true Samadhi we go beyond the beginning of creation, beyond the first mind of God, to the state of Tam or Prakriti that rests at the base. We come to the realm of the Absolute, of formlessness, of Akasha. It is the nothingness out of which everything arose and will return, like the nothingness at the center of the seed from which a giant sequoia tree grows.
But let me end with something for you to ponder. Is this life simply for the soul to return to the Source with the same nothingness with which we came into this world? If that were the case, what would be the point? In each life, each existence, we come with a certain potency or potential. Do we go back with a higher potential, enriched spiritually? If we come with 15X potency, do we return with 100X or 1000X potency? Certainly we would want this life to contribute something to our collective existence. Maybe even after the end of this universe we can also carry forward a greater potential of possibility to contribute to whatever comes next. It is worth considering.
I wish you all the experience of subtler and subtler states of Samadhi through the practices of Yoga, until one day you are able to swim in the infinite ocean while also living a joyful human existence. And that swimming is also endless in nature, so actually there is no endpoint to this journey of Yoga.
Article by KAMLESH PATEL (DAAJI)
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