Samādhi - Supreme Consciousness

Samādhi is the highest state of consciousness that a human can reach in life. It is the goal of our spiritual journey on earth.

Samādhi is the blissful return to our Divine origin. When the thousand-petalled Lotus of the Sahasrāra Chakra opens and the Jīvātmā dissolves within it, the goal of its long, experience-rich journey is reached, and its lifelong thirst for the “nectar of immortality” (Amrita) is quenched. AMARA TATTVA (or ĀDI TATTVA) is the element of the Sahasrāra Chakra that transforms our consciousness immediately into SAT CHIT ĀNANDA, the eternally true existence and eternally blissful consciousness, when we come into contact with it.

How can one describe the consciousness of Samādhi?

There is no longer any individuality. Consciousness and self-awareness continue to exist, but not in the previous duality of “that is mine” and “that is yours”. The person lives on, but from now on the inner Self remains with the Supreme Self. This means the end of all problems and pain, the end of suffering, of rebirth and death. The liberated one lives on the earth in eternal happiness and joy, and when the body is renounced the consciousness dissolves completely in the Divine Self.

As mentioned before, there are several levels of consciousness – deep sleep, dream consciousness, waking consciousness, supreme consciousness and cosmic consciousness.

At the lower end of the scale in deep sleep, we experience a state of mental unconsciousness. The mind is free from restlessness and worries and we enjoy a deep, unspoilt rest and relaxation. But when we awaken everything is as before. The thoughts and worries return, our situation and ourselves have not changed in the least.

On the second last rung of the ladder of consciousness we enter into the highest level of consciousness – Samādhi. Outwardly one is unable to determine whether someone is in Samādhi. An observer could think that the person was in meditation, asleep or even unconscious. As in sleep, physical sensations such as heat, cold, hunger, thirst, etc., are strongly diminished in Samādhi. The state of Samādhi, however, is in no way detrimental to the body. The Ātmā is at all times connected to the body, and is a witness to everything that occurs. Therefore, at any time one can return to “normal consciousness” just as one instantly awakens from a dream if touched or spoken to.

Superficially there may be little difference to sleep, but inwardly this is definitely not the case. We return from Samādhi consciousness fundamentally transformed. This means that even a completely uneducated and narrow-minded person returns as a scholar and sage when immersed in the infinite, divine consciousness of the highest level of Samādhi.

But even in Samādhi we are not completely one with the Cosmos. The final level of consciousness, Cosmic consciousness, can only be realised after death. Cosmic consciousness means to be one with the entire Universe, with every atom, and this is not possible on the physical level. As soon as the Supreme Consciousness begins to expand towards Cosmic Consciousness the earthly existence draws to a close. The body is “taken off” like an old article of clothing, whether through illness or peacefully passing away.

In his Yoga Sutras Patanjali describes three techniques, the practice and mastery of which will lead us to this Supreme state of consciousness – DHĀRANĀ, DHYĀNA and SAMĀDHI.

  • DHĀRANĀ means concentration. In concentration we direct our consciousness towards a single object (for example, a Bīja Mantra), withdrawing it completely from all other things. For this it is crucial that we focus our attention totally on a single point .
  • DHYĀNA is meditation. This is the next step after concentration when the “I” begins to dissolve in the object. This is the preliminary stage to Samādhi. One cannot “learn” meditation. When body and mind are correctly attuned and have become quiet and pure the meditative state occurs by itself – just as sleep overcomes us by itself when we go to bed in the evening.
  • SAMĀDHI is the Supreme Consciousness in which knower, knowledge and object of knowledge unite. I would like to know. I am the knower. I would like the knowledge. With the union of these three points of view the certainty and experience of “I am that – SO HAM” occurs.

Because in reality we are that for which we are seeking!

When, with this knowledge, our Self unites with the Divine Self it is like a radiant sunrise, like the beginning of a day after a long, dark night. It is the union of the drops with the ocean, the rays with the sun. All sorrow, all fear, all types of adversities (DUHKHA) end now. These only exist while Karmas exist, and all Karmas burn in the fire of the Divine Knowledge. This is the process of MOKSHA, liberation, the goal of Yoga.

But, with this, the path of development is by no means at an end – because knowledge has no end. Rather, now begins a new phase of spiritual evolution; and, in reality, it is only now that the real Yoga journey begins. We no longer grope around in front of us like the blind, but now progress consciously along the path, with vision and without doubts or uncertainty.

The consciousness of realised ones is so clear and pure, that they are able to perceive the vibration of the Self as light and sound. This unforgettable experience changes their lives fundamentally and permanently. They no longer identify with body, mind, senses, emotions, qualities, worldly position or profession. Their inner bliss is unshakable. The chains of Karma dissolve, and all associated attachments vanish. Ātma Gyānis are fully conscious of their Divine existence as unlimited, unchanging, eternal beings. They discover the entire Universe within and also identify the Self with the Cosmos.

My body is the whole earth. My consciousness expands in all four directions. My Prāna is the energy that flows in every atom of the Universe. All elements in the Universe are my elements. I am the infinite space. My consciousness (Chidākāsha) encompasses the entire Cosmos.

This cannot be experienced by the intellect alone - only when knowledge, knower and object become one. In the realisation of the unity of SO HAM (I am that) all questions are answered and all desires fulfilled; the knower no longer exists, knowledge is no longer desired; there is no knowledge to acquire or any object to know. In the fullness of perfect existence any desires are extinguished.

To have this experience means realisation of the truth – Self-Realisation and God-Realisation. In his well-known Bhajan, CHIDĀNANDA RŪPAH, SHIVO’HAM, SHIVO’HAM, Srī Shankarāchārya praised the God-Realised, liberated consciousness:

MANO BUDDHYAHAMKĀRA CHITTĀ NA NĀHAM
NA CHA SHROTRA JIHVE NA CHA GHRĀNA NETRE
NA CHA VYOMA BHŪMIR NA TEJO NA VĀYUH
CHIDĀNANDA RŪPAH SHIVO’HAM SHIVO’HAM

NA CHA PRĀNA SANGYO NA VAI PĀNCHA VĀYUR
NAVA SAPTA DHĀTUR NA VĀ PĀNCHAKOSHAH
NA VĀK PĀNI PĀDAU NA CHOPASTHA PĀYUH
CHIDĀNANDA RŪPAH SHIVO’HAM SHIVO’HAM

NA ME DVESHA RĀGAU NA ME LOBHA MOHAU
MADO NAIVA ME NAIVA MĀTSARYA BHĀVAH
NA DHARMO NA CHĀRTHO NA KĀMO NA MOKSHAH
CHIDĀNANDA RŪPAH SHIVO’HAM SHIVO’HAM

NA PUNYAM NA PĀPAM NA SAUKHYAM NA DUHKHAM
NA MANTRO NA TIRTHAM NA VEDĀ NA YAGYĀH
AHAM BHOJANAM NAIVA NA BHOKTĀ
CHIDĀNANDA RŪPAH SHIVO’HAM SHIVO’HAM

NA ME MRITYU SHANKĀ NA ME JĀTI BHEDAH
PITĀ NAIVA ME NAIVA MĀTĀ CHA JANMA
NA BANDHUR NA MITRAM GURUR NAIVA SHISHYAH
CHIDĀNANDA RŪPAH SHIVO’HAM SHIVO’HAM

AHAM NIRVIKALPO NIRĀKĀRA RŪPO
VIBHUR VYĀPYA SARVATRA SARVENDRIYĀNĀM
SADĀ ME SAMATVAM NA MUKTIR NA BANDHAH
CHIDĀNANDA RŪPAH SHIVO’HAM SHIVO’HAM

I am not this mind, nor intellect, ego or consciousness,
Nor the Gyāna Indriyas or the Tattvas.
My form is pure consiousness and absolute bliss
I am CHIDĀNANDA RŪPA SHIVA, the Supreme Self.

I am neither the five Prānas nor the seven Dhātus,
Nor the five Koshas, nor this bundle of Karmas
I am CHIDĀNANDA RŪPA SHIVA, the Supreme Self.

In me exists neither attachment nor duality,
Neither greed nor jealousy, neither hate nor anger.
I have nothing to do with the illusion of the ego,
And also I am not bound by the four laws of the Purushārtha
I am CHIDĀNANDA RŪPA SHIVA, the Supreme Self.

I have neither sin nor virtue, nothing to do with either happiness or sorrow,
Or with Mantras, pilgrimages, the Vedas or ceremonies
I am neither the food, nor the one nourished, nor the enjoyer
I am CHIDĀNANDA RŪPA SHIVA, the Supreme Self.

I am the Ātmā, immortal and unborn
Time, space and death have no power over me
I have neither father nor mother, neither relatives nor friends
No Guru and no student
I am CHIDĀNANDA RŪPA SHIVA, the Supreme Self.

I am desireless and formless.
I exist in all living beings
I am not bound, nor require liberation
My form is truth, consciousness and bliss
I am CHIDĀNANDA RŪPA SHIVA, the Supreme Self.

What is the nature of the consciousness of those whose Self is established in reality and truth? How do they see others? How do they see their surroundings? What thoughts and emotions exist in the consciousness of the realised ones? How do they live in the world?

Realised souls can only be recognised with the eyes of the soul. Outwardly they appear exactly the same as anyone else. They eat, sleep, speak, laugh and go about their daily duties the same as others. But with deeper reflection the differences are noticeable. A peaceful nature, all-understanding goodness, purity, splendour and a quiet dignity radiate from a God-Realised soul.

Samādhi and Moksha (liberation) occur in the Sahasrāra Chakra, the “tenth door” . It opens when we follow one of the Yoga paths with perseverance and devotion – the path of Raja Yoga with discipline and practice, the path of Karma Yoga with selfless service, the path of Bhakti Yoga with devotion to God, or the path of Gyāna Yoga with study and renunciation. But for the final step of Moksha (liberation) we need Guru Kripā , as well as the guidance and assistance of a Master.

In India there is a popular saying: “You should not change your inner vision”. This means that we should remain faithful to the path, Master or Ishtadevatā we have chosen and not constantly change our beliefs or objectives. How can we reach the top of a mountain if we do not stay focussed on the goal and move forward, but instead continue to turn back or go around in circles?

Under no circumstances think: “I am the Ātmā, I am God and do not need a Master. I know everything. I am perfect and without fault”. Such thoughts stem from the ego and the intellect. They are pure theory and far removed from reality.

There are six things in life that nourish the ego and cause it to think it is above everything and almighty – youth, beauty, money, education, ethnic origin and social status. We should be on our guard against pride, which is based on superficiality. When we are lucky to be prosperous, healthy and good looking we should thank God for these blessings and not be proud and arrogant.

Never forget that true beauty lies within. The body is changeable – today strong and healthy, tomorrow perhaps weak and ill. We are permitted to be and should be glad when God gives us the means to provide for ourselves and our families; when He gives us the abilities and talents through which we are able to reach a position of respect. We should neither refuse nor give up these things, but rather accept them with gratitude.

Hand your life over to God, and then trust that He will give back to you in return what is best for you.

Before we are able to consider Moksha we must clear our Karmas and purify the ego so that the Ātmā can detach itself from the five Koshas that veil it and hamper its free development. In this phase of development we are occasionally in an extremely vulnerable and disagreeable state – comparable to a snake when it sheds its skin. During the period that the snake is shedding its skin it can see nothing, is almost unable to move and also cannot eat. But in the second when it is fully released from the old sheath it is free and in full possession of its power. And so, when the Ātmā has rid itself of all fetters and reaches the Sahasrāra Chakra, in that same moment it perceives the full light of truth.

It is difficult to determine what came first – the seed or the tree, the fruits or the Karma. For eternity, the seed has grown from the plant, and the plant from the seed, in an inexhaustible sequence. In the same way an action produces a karmic reaction, and this reaction again causes an action. Karmas and Samskāras (Karmic traces) have, from the beginning, been inextricably linked to one another. But through Yoga we can free ourselves from this cycle, because –

YOGA AGNI KARMA DAHATI
The fire of Yoga burns up karmas

Only when all the “seeds” of the Karmas and Vāsanās (desires, wishes) have been roasted and burnt in the “fire of Yoga” can they no longer sprout. Only then does the door to liberation open to the aspirant. Because from then on one’s actions produce no new Samskāras in one’s consciousness, and therefore no more effects for subsequent lives. With the dissolution of the ego – when the distinction of “my I” and “your I” no longer exist – the Sanchitkarma ((Karma from earlier lives) also dissolves.

But the Prārabdha Karma (Karma that has become “ripe” in this life and has already begun to work) is different. This continues to discharge itself. The following simile can serve as an example: When a turning wheel suddenly comes off, it continues to turn freely for a while before it finally comes to a standstill. And this is how it is with Karma. The root of birth and death – ignorance – is in fact destroyed, but the plant (the present life) still exists for some time.

Moksha is in no way a “final state”, to the contrary, it is a fruitful new beginning. When God gives a person riches it is not just so that this particular person alone can enjoy, but rather that the riches are shared with others. Whoever has acquired knowledge and experience through study applies this in their profession for the benefit of others. So it is also when someone has attained Supreme Consciousness and knowledge through Samādhi.

Some Yogis withdraw from the activities of society and live as hermits far away from civilisation. But they work spiritually for the benefit of the world through prayer and meditation. Their existence is itself a blessing for the world. Even the wind when it blows over the body of a Jīvanmukta is filled with Divine energy and radiation, and spreads harmony, happiness and peace everywhere it blows.

Other Realised Souls, though, go amongst people to teach them the truth. Even though they are liberated and unattached they give up the joy of Vaikuntha (heaven) and return again to Naraka (hell) in order to help living beings. To help others mentally and spiritually is a wonderful task – and at the same time a great art that requires deep understanding and comprehensive knowledge. For as long as we do not possess the insight and experience of a realised soul we should take care that we are not pulled back into Māyā ourselves when we would like to help someone.

In a Bhajan Mahāprabhujī says:

“You are chained to your Karmas and destiny, but the Realised One is Nirbandhana, unbound – he wanders freely in this world”.

The following is a very clear illustration of this:

A prisoner found guilty of a crime was serving time in a prison. Staff and visitors were also to be found in the same building as the prisoner, attending to their specific duties – but their attendance was voluntary. For a person standing outside who does not know the people or the background, the Director of the prison, the probation officer or the warder appear to be in the same position as the prisoner – though a vast difference exists between them. The former are free and can come and go as they wish, whereas the latter is locked up for the purpose of rehabilitation.

And it is the same with liberated souls who live in the world with people still affected by Karma –generally they are not recognisable. They possess the ability to enter and depart from different levels of consciousness at will. For them the physical world is only one room amongst many to which they are able to come and go as they choose. Their Self is always connected to the Supreme Self.

THE LEVELS OF SAMĀDHI

Basically one can differentiate two types of Samādhi:

  • Unconscious Samādhi – JADA SAMĀDHI
  • Conscious Samādhi – CHAITANYA SAMĀDHI

Laya Samādhi belongs to the first group together with Sahaja or Bhāva Samādhi. Savikalpa Samādhi and Nirvikalpa Samādhi belong to the second group.

Laya Samādhi

The story was told earlier about a farmer who clung much too strongly to his family and was therefore incapable of following his Master on the spiritual path. Through his attachment his consciousness continued to sink lower and lower until finally he lived as a tiny worm in a cowpat on his own farm.

But his Guru had not forgotten him. The Guru never gives up. He appears on whatever level the disciple exists, even though the disciple has no awareness of this. The connection of the spiritual Master to the disciple is eternal. Spiritual masters steadfastly keep the promise made to their disciples to never let them down.

So then the Master came to the little worm in the form of a bee. He then lifted the little worm up and laid it gently in a Lotus blossom. The farmer had once wished to meet God and masters always try to fulfil the wishes of their disciples.

So what happened next?

Intoxicated by the strong and sweet smell of the Lotus the little worm blissfully fell asleep, and in the evening the blossom closed over it. The next day during Brahma Muhūrta (sunrise) an angel descended from heaven to fetch a Lotus blossom as a gift for God and picked the Lotus in which the little worm was sleeping. As soon as the angel stood before God’s throne and handed God the Lotus the blossom opened, and the little being found itself directly in God’s hands. In the merciful gaze of God all its Karmas dissolved, because just as darkness yields to the light of the sun, before God no Karmas can continue to exist. Therefore with the help of the master this soul also reached its goal and united with God.

This story illustrates the first level of Samādhi – LAYA SAMĀDHI . It is still largely unconscious, similar to a dreamless, deep sleep. But in reality one does not sleep – rather one has a happy spiritual experience. In Laya Samādhi one forgets everything – the thoughts stand still and one experiences deep inner joy, harmony, peace and bliss. This first level of Samādhi can be reached by anyone after a few years of Yoga practice – for example, during or after practising Prānāyāma or in Yoga Nidrā.


SAHAJA SAMĀDHI

Sahaj Samādhi (also known as Bhāva Samādhi) is generally associated with intense feelings of Bhakti (love and devotion to God). Sometimes during Satsang, when singing Kirtans and Bhajans, when praying or when they receive the Darshan and blessing of a Realised soul, Bhaktas can suddenly enter into a state of inexpressible bliss.

Sahaja Samādhi is a beautiful experience and its effects are slightly discernable in the waking consciousness. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t last for long. It is similar to a light trance from which one awakens after a few minutes.

Laya Samādhi and Sahaja Samādhi could be called “samples” of Samādhi that inspire and motivate us to strive further so that one day we are able to enter Samādhi consciousness with full awareness and remain there for a long period of time.

We are able to experience two types of Samādhi consciously:

SAVIKALPA SAMĀDHI and NIRVIKALPA SAMĀDHI

Savikalpa means “with movement (of the mind)”. This type of Samādhi is also known as Sabīja Samādhi (with seed) and Savichāra Samādhi (with differentiation). In Savikalpa Samādhi emotions, thoughts and desires still exist – partly conscious and partly as subconscious or unconscious Karmic seeds. But in Nirvikalpa Samādhi (Nirbīja or Nirvichāra Samādhi) no more thoughts whatsoever exist; not one “seed” of a desire or Karma remains.

Imagine a lake that is mirror-smooth and motionless. When a pebble is thrown into the water circular ripples are created that reproduce and spread outwards. And so it is with every situation, every impression in our lives – “waves” are produced in our minds, just as with the pebble thrown into the water, and these reproduce and spread in our consciousness. Who is able to estimate just how much gravel and debris is submerged in our consciousness? That is why it can take such a long time for all disruptive factors (Kleshas and Vikshepas) to be raised, purified and cleared from the depths of our consciousness. Once this happens and the mind again becomes still, we are able to advance to the Supreme Consciousness.

The expression “Savikalpa Samādhi” is related to Sankalpa and Vikalpa (a wish or resolution made and then dismissed). Just as a child builds a sandcastle, then soon afterwards destroys it and begins to build again, so in our imagination we create an entire world that we identify with and also experience. Then in the next moment when we come up with something else we destroy it – and so it continues non-stop.

To watch a child playing in the sand is entertaining and amusing for a short while. And so it is for a sage, a wise person, who watches with interest and is frequently astonished by how people seem to constantly build “sandcastles” in their lives, and when one collapses to patiently begin to build the next.


THE TYPES OF SAVIKALPA SAMĀDHI

ENLIGHTENMENT

Just as waking passes imperceptibly into sleep and sleep into dream, so we arrive at our first experience of Savikalpa Samādhi – inner enlightenment.

Enlightenment already begins in the Āgyā Chakra and the Bindu Chakra. The closer we come to the Sahasāra Chakra, the more radiant the light becomes, until ultimately all forms dissolve and our inner space is filled with a radiant light, brighter than a thousand suns. We perceive a wonderful, all-pervasive sound (like the sound of OM sung by a thousand voices), and the door to the Infinite opens before our inner eye. A new, fascinating world full of wonder and mystery now unfolds in front of us, different to anything we ever imagined or conceived.

We all wish for spiritual experiences. But when the door of the Sahasrāra Chakra opens for us we can be like a bird sitting at the open door of its cage, uncertain as to whether it should fly out into freedom or remain in the well-known surroundings. This is exactly how we feel when the Brahmarandhra opens. Even though this is what we have longed for and aimed at, it requires courage to take the next step when we are standing on the threshold.

It now lies with us whether we would like to continue with this experience or again withdraw to normal consciousness. For an aspirant whose heart is filled with a burning desire for the Divine Light the meditation is not disturbed and continues. But if fear, doubt and uncertainty surface then we should stop the practice and consult the Master.

ASTRAL TRAVELLING

The next level of Samādhi is reached in the astral world. On this level we can meet Mahāprabhujī and other Divine Incarnations, liberated and God-Realised Saints and Masters. Here we receive our first initiation. This means that we experience a purification process in our Ātmā and feel that the Koshas are beginning to dissolve. We arrive in the pure, Divine Light that saturates the Ātmā.

In line with our faith and the image of God that we carry within us, each of us has different visions and experiences in Samādhi. Though, generally, it means that we have reached a heavenly sphere where we are joyfully welcomed. This is the second, or Divine, Māyā. Here we can have many beautiful experiences. We meet the Divine Masters and return again to the “normal” world with wisdom and knowledge.

Savikalpa Samādhi brings us wonderful “heavenly” experiences. Afterwards we can almost become addicted to them. But, gradually it becomes clear to us that we are unable to attain liberation in this way as we are still moving in other levels of consciousness. Then we again begin to strive for Realisation and are finally guided to Nirvikalpa Samādhi.


NIRVIKALPA SAMĀDHI

Nirvikalpa Samādhi is the state of pure happiness and absolute peace. In Nirvikalpa Samādhi the Jīvātmā quenches its lifelong thirst for fulfilment, and experiences Divine, absolute and unchanging bliss. It releases itself from the limitations of individuality and merges with the Divine Self, the Supreme Consciousness. It experiences itself as the “centre” of the Universe – as Ātmā, as God.

There is no suffering, no pain and no problems in the Divine Consciousness – everything is perfect (Pūrna). There are no wishes, no longing – no knower, no object and no knowledge; neither time nor space. There is only undivided existence. The identification with the individual person and individuality dissolves in the all-encompassing Cosmic Self.

In Nirvikalpa Samādhi we attain Moksha (liberation). But this final stage cannot be attained through any technique or practice – it is totally dependant upon Divine Grace. Sooner or later everyone will attain Moksha – either in this life or another. When the time is ripe we find ourselves in a state of constant development - but the right moment must be there. Just as a tree cannot bear fruit in spring a Jīvātmā must first wander through the cycle of its specific experiences before it can attain Moksha.

Many people maintain that someone who has attained Nirvikalpa Samādhi, and therefore Moksha, cannot live much longer. There are, however, two types of Realisation. Some experience God-Realisation (Ātma Gyāna) with full consciousness and continue to live afterwards as a Jīvanmukta (Realised and liberated soul) in order to pass their knowledge on. Others, however, experience enlightenment and liberation only when they leave the body. Qualitatively there is no difference. Those who attain Moksha at the end of their mortal life are liberated and realised in the same way as those who have attained God-Realisation during their earthly existence.

Nirvikalpa Samādhi is a state of indescribable happiness, from which we no longer want to return, and from where we can see no reason whatsoever why we should come back. We are everywhere – there is no place where we need to go. Who should return? From where, and to where?

Nevertheless many decide to bring their consciousness back into the body. Out of pure mercy they voluntarily renounce remaining in the bliss of Samādhi consciousness, and stay in the world to help innumerable souls who are still in the sorrowful condition of ignorance.

The liberated ones are forever free from the chains of Karma, which also means they are no longer subject to the cycle of birth and death. But, all the same, a few of them continue to return to the earth of their own free will, their only goal is to help other beings to attain liberation. Because only one who is free can free others.

The commentaries and teachings of the enlightened and liberated ones – GURU VĀKYA” - are found in all Holy Scriptures. They all contain the “words of the Master”. Those who follow them will one day awaken from the dream state of mortal existence and experience Divine Reality and Truth in perfect clarity.

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