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Samadhi (Sanskrit, lit. "establish, make firm") is a Hindu and Buddhist term that describes a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object,[1] and in which the mind becomes still (one-pointed or concentrated)[2] though the person remains conscious. Sahaj samadhi is the effortless and continual state of perfection of a satguru.[3]


Samadhi (samādhi समाधि) IPA: [sɑ ma dʰi] is a Sanskrit term for the state of consciousness induced by complete meditation. Its etymology comes from sam (together or integrated), a (towards), and dha (to get, to hold). Thus the result might be seen to be to acquire integration or wholeness, or truth

Samadhi in Hinduism

Samadhi is the main subject of the first part of the Yoga Sutras called Samadhi-pada. According to Vyasa, a major figure in Hinduism and one of the traditional authors of the Mahabharata, "yoga is samadhi." This is generally interpreted to mean that Samadhi is a state of complete control (samadhana) over the functions and distractions of consciousness.

In practice Samadhi is said to be the state of being aware of one’s Existence without thinking, in a state of undifferentiated “Beingness." Three intensities (depths) of Samadhi are usually understood in Hinduism.

  1. Laja Samadhi
  2. Savikalpa Samadhi
  3. Nirvikalpa Samadhi (or Sahaja Samadhi)

Laja Samadhi is a latent ("laja"), potential level of samadhi. It begins in deep meditation or trance—even with movement, such as dancing. This kind of samadhi is a state of joy, deep and general well-being, and peaceful meditation.

Savikalpa Samadhi refers to the initial temporary state of full-valued samadhi. The conscious mind is still active, as is the kalpa, meaning imagination. One should compare this meaning to that of sankalpa, which is "wish." Kalpa takes on a different, but related, meaning to sankalpa because one must use imagination or consciousness (kalpa) to envision a wish or desire (sankalpa). Conversely, vikalpa means "against imagination." At this final level of samadhi, the mind has become quiet and given up its desires and attendant. Vikalpa leads to the Truth, releasing one from any binds of mind (which are mostly imaginations). In Savikalpa Samadhi, we get the taste of Bliss and Beingness, but are still attached to our erroneous identification with the body as well as to our numerous worldly attractions.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the end result. There are no more kalpas (imaginings, wishes or other products from work of the mind), because the mind is finally under control. Upon entering Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the differences we saw before have faded and we can see everything as one. In this condition nothing but pure Awareness remains and nothing is missing to take away from Wholeness and Perfection.

Entering samadhi in the beginning takes effort and holding on to a state of samadhi takes even more effort. The beginning stages of samadhi (Laja and Savikalpa Samadhi) are only temporary. By "effort" it is not meant that the mind has to work more. Instead, it means work to control the mind and release the self. Note that normal levels of meditation (mostly the lower levels) can be held automatically, as in "being in the state of meditation" rather than overtly "meditating." The ability to obtain positive results from meditation is much more difficult than simply meditating. It is recommended to find a qualified spiritual master (guru or yogi) who can teach a meditator about the workings of the mind.

Samadhi is the only stable unchanging reality; all else is ever-changing and does not bring everlasting peace or happiness.

Staying in Nirvikalpa Samadhi is effortless but even from this condition one must eventually return to ego-consciousness. Otherwise, this highest level of Samadhi leads to Nirvana, which means total Unity and the logical end of individual identity (and also death of the body). However, it is entirely possible to stay in Nirvikalpa Samadhi and yet be fully functional in this world. This condition is known as Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi or Sahaj Samadhi (sahaja means "spontaneous" in Sanskrit). Only the truly Enlightened (Satguru) can be and remain spontaneously free.

In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, all attachment to the material world and all karma is dissolved. All awareness is withdrawn step by step from the physical, astral and causal bodies until self-realization or oneness with the soul is achieved. During this process, breathing ceases and the heart stops beating. Aware and fully conscious oneness with soul is then achieved in a most loving way, and all cells of the physical body are flooded with the Ocean of Divine Love and Divine Bliss for any period of duration—hours, days, weeks, until the individual shifts his awareness from the soul back to the physical body. Being fully functional in this world, his awareness stays in connection with the Divine. But some "strange" conditions accompany this state—better health (the body is sustained by Divine Grace), better feelings (even for other people who may contact the body which the enlightened soul has reidentified with) and various miraculous happenings may occur in connection with the Enlightened one.

Mahasamadhi (literally great samadhi) is the Hindi term for a realized yogi's conscious departure from the physical body at death. Which is also known as Nirvana (see above).

Mahasamadhi is the final conscious exit from the physical body. Every infinitesimal piece of attachment or karma is completely surrendered unto God and dissolved into the Divine Ocean of Love. The individual transcends to worlds beyond karma and returns to God, merging into transcendental Bliss.

Samadhi in Bhakti

The Vaishnava Bhakti Schools of Yoga define Samadhi as "complete absorption into the object of one's love (Krishna)." Rather than thinking of "nothing," true samadhi is said to be achieved only when one has pure, unmotivated love of God. Thus samadhi can be entered into through meditation on the personal form of God, even while performing daily activities a practitioner can strive for full samadhi.

"Anyone who is thinking of Krsna always within himself, he is first-class yogi." If you want perfection in yoga system, don't be satisfied only by practicing a course of asana. You have to go further. Actually, the perfection of yoga system means when you are in samadhi, always thinking of the Visnu form of the Lord within your heart, without being disturbed... Controlling all the senses and the mind. You have to control the mind, control the senses, and concentrate everything on the form of Vishnu. That is called perfection of yoga" - A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [4]
"Meditation means to absorb your mind in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is meditation, real meditation. In all the standard scriptures and in yoga practice formula, the whole aim is to concentrate one's mind in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is called samadhi, samadhi, ecstasy. So that ecstasy is immediately brought by this chanting process. You begin chanting and hear for the few seconds or few minutes: you immediately become on the platform of ecstasy." - A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [5]

Samadhi, a description

In his book Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, a reputed modern-day spiritual saint of India and teacher of Kriya Yoga, gives this stirring description of Samadhi consciousness:

My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage, and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead, yet in my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body, but embraced the circumambient atoms. People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my own remote periphery. The roots of plants and trees appeared through a dim transparency of the soil; I discerned the inward flow of their sap.
The whole vicinity lay bare before me. My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all perceptive. Through the back of my head I saw men strolling far down Rai Ghat Road, and noticed also a white cow who was leisurely approaching. When she reached the space in front of the open ashram gate, I observed her with my two physical eyes. As she passed by, behind the brick wall, I saw her clearly still.
All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures. My body, Master's, the pillared courtyard, the furniture and floor, the trees and sunshine, occasionally became violently agitated, until all melted into a luminescent sea; even as sugar crystals, thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken. The unifying light alternated with materialisations of form, the metamorphoses revealing the law of cause and effect in creation.
An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light. A swelling glory within me began to envelop towns, continents, the earth, solar and stellar systems, tenuous nebulae, and floating universes. The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being. The sharply etched global outlines faded somewhat at the farthest edges; there I could see a mellow radiance, ever undiminished. It was indescribably subtle; the planetary pictures were formed of a grosser light.
The divine dispersion of rays poured from an Eternal Source, blazing into galaxies, transfigured with ineffable auras. Again and again I saw the creative beams condense into constellations, then resolve into sheets of transparent flame. By rhythmic reversion, sextillion worlds passed into diaphanous luster; fire became firmament.
I cognized the center of the empyrean as a point of intuitive perception in my heart. Irradiating splendor issued from my nucleus to every part of the universal structure. Blissful amrita, the nectar of immortality, pulsed through me with a quicksilver-like fluidity. The creative voice of God I heard resounding as Aum, the vibration of the Cosmic Motor.
Suddenly the breath returned to my lungs. With a disappointment almost unbearable, I realized that my infinite immensity was lost. Once more I was limited to the humiliating cage of a body, not easily accommodative to the Spirit. Like a prodigal child, I had run away from my macrocosmic home and imprisoned myself in a narrow microcosm.

Samadhi as leaving the body

Advanced yogis have been said to consciously leave (or disidentify with) their bodies as a vital step in the attainment of this final samadhi, or soul-liberation. It is at this time that the soul knows a complete and unbroken union with the Heavenly Godhead, and, being free from the limitations of the body, merges effortlessly into the transcendent amrita of Divine Bliss. It is said that sometimes the yogi leaves the body and returns. According to Meher Baba, Jesus entered into nirvikalpa samadhi at the time of his crucifiction.[6]

Samadhi in Buddhism

Main article: Samadhi (Buddhism)

Samadhi, or concentration of the mind (one-pointedness of mind, cittassa-ekaggata), is the third division of the Eightfold Path of the Buddha's teaching: pañña (wisdom), sila (conduct), samadhi (concentration). It developed by samatha meditation. It has been taught by the Buddha using 40 different objects of meditation, according to the Visuddhimagga, an ancient commentarial text. These objects include the breath (anapanasati meditation), loving kindness (metta meditation), various colours, earth, fire, etc. (kasina meditation).

Upon development of samadhi, one's mind becomes temporary purified of defilements, calm, tranquil, and luminous. Once the meditator achieves a strong and powerful concentration, his mind is ready to penetrate and see into the ultimate nature of reality, eventually obtaining release from all suffering.

Important components of Buddhist meditation, frequently discussed (1, 2) by the Buddha, are the successively higher meditative states known as the four jhanas which in the language of the eight-fold path, is "right concentration". Right concentration has also been defined as concentration arising due to the previous 7 steps of the noble eightfold path in the Mahacattsarika sutta/MN.

Four developments of samadhi are mentioned in the Pali Canon:

  • 1) Jhana
  • 2) Increased alertness
  • 3) Insight into the true nature of phenomena (knowledge and vision)
  • 4) Final liberation ([1])

There are different types of samadhi mentioned as well:

  • 1) access concentration (upacara samadhi)
  • 2) fixed concentration (appana samadhi)
  • 3) momentary samadhi (khanikha samadhi) ([2])
  • 4) "concentraion without interruption" (anantharika samadhi) ([3])
  • 5) immeasurable concentration (appamana samadhi) ([4])

Not all types of samadhi are recommended either. Those which focus and multiply the Five Hindrances are not suitable for development.([5])

The Buddhist suttas also mention that samadhi practitioners may develop supernormal powers (called siddhis), and list several that the Buddha developed, but warn that these should not be allowed to distract the practitioner from the larger goal of complete freedom from suffering.

The bliss of Samadhi is not the goal of Buddhism; but it remains an important tool in reaching the goal of enlightenment. It has been said that Samatha/samadhi meditation and vipassana/insight meditation are the two wheels of the chariot of the noble eightfold path and the Buddha strongly recommended developing them both.([6])

Analogous concepts

Samadhi of Meher Baba, Photo by Win Coates

According to the book "God Speaks" by Meher Baba, the Sufi words fana-fillah and baqa-billah are analogous to nirvikalpa samadhi and sahaj samadhi respectively.[7] The Christian state of "receiving the Holy Spirit" could also be viewed as analogous to laja samadhi.

See also


  1. Diener Michael S. ,Erhard Franz-Karl and Fischer-Schreiber Ingrid, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, ISBN 0-87773-520-4
  2. (links directly to samadhi definition)
  3. "God Speaks" by Meher Baba, Dodd Meade, 1955, 2nd ed. p.316
  4. 'This Movement Appeals Directly To The Soul' Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture (1971)
  5. 'Center Society on Spiritual Profit' Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture (1968)
  6. Lord Meher, Bhau Kalchuri, VOL 3, p.752
  7. "God Speaks" by Meher Baba, Dodd Meade, 1955, 2nd ed. p.316

External links

[[category:Religious experiences

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