Samadhi – Culmination of Yogic Effort

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, talk at Cama Hall, Bombay, February 1963, originally printed in YOGA, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1964

Trance, ecstasy or suspension of consciousness is not samadhi. Samadhi is sublime equanimity. There are many wrong notions about samadhi. According to some, samadhi is a state where one’s body becomes petrified and looks like a stone. The pulse rate slows down and the metabolic process stops. Suspended animation is the greatest science which has been mastered and perfected by Indian yogis, but it is not samadhi. In the state of suspended animation, or jada samadhi, there is no awareness or knowledge. The stock of subconscious or subliminal impressions remains unexhausted and dormant.

Samadhi does not merely mean a state of steady posture and total unconsciousness. A person who has been able to make the conscious and subconscious forces dormant is really commendable, but that has nothing to do with yoga and the ordinary person. If the state does not exhaust muscular, emotional and mental tensions, if it does not bestow peace, power and enlightenment, if it does not remove your complexes, conflicts, schizophrenia, psychological disorders etc., it is not samadhi.

What is samadhi then? Can everyone achieve samadhi? Is samadhi total awareness or complete forgetfulness? In samadhi are we conscious or unconscious? Is samadhi total suspension, forgetfulness, unconsciousness, total inertia, or is it absolute consciousness, total awareness? The mind is a bundle of mental patterns of awareness. When every pattern of awareness has been rejected and annihilated, what remains is the ultimate form of consciousness. Here peace is experienced within.

Source of tension

Modern man feels tension in day-to-day life. The busy mechanical life of cities, the industrial congestion, family problems all lead to increased tension. Tension is that state when two forces pull each other in two opposite directions, when you want to do something but some force dissuades you from doing so. This is the tension in the ego and superego, as the psychoanalysts would call it.

There are divine and evil elements in us. The war between the dark and light forces is the real tension. A psychologist can make you relax with certain methods, but there is still an inexhaustible stock of dormant subliminal tendencies, which are called anadi vasanas. A psychologist cannot help you to exhaust this stock. It is here that yoga comes to one’s aid. It has therapeutic, mental, spiritual, occult and psychic value.

If you wish to remove your tensions, the first step you have to take is to ease and relax yourself. Find out the ultimate and original cause or causes of tension. That tension is the constant struggle between the ego and the superego, the devil and the divine, Rama and Ravana, or the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Through the practice of yoga, the tensions are removed and the stage dawns where there is an end to this eternal struggle within. This is the stage of sublime equanimity. This subject is dealt with in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna asks Krishna how one who has attained the state of sthitaprajna, steady wisdom, sits, what he eats, etc. Suspended animation has nothing to do with this. Yoga helps to remove tensions and make life powerful, to awaken the dormant genius within, to activate the third eye and develop insight. This is the state of superconsciousness.

The internal battle

In samadhi you are awake inside. If you close your eyes now, you will feel blankness and darkness, but in the yogic state of samadhi you are awake both internally and externally. However, this is not the highest samadhi. The greatest samadhi is not just balance of mind, not just balance of consciousness, not just intellectual balance, but total balance.

Sometimes when you feel there is no tension in you, the tension has actually passed on from the conscious level to the subconscious or the unconscious. The greatest tension comes when you advance in the stage of meditation into your innermost body. The individual soul is in the wilderness. Rama, the pure soul, is in utter grief and sorrow. The ten-headed Ravana, the ten senses, has taken away Sita, the individual soul.

The individual soul comes into being out of sattwa, rajas and tamas. Rama goes into exile because of Kaikeyi, because of tamas the individual soul wanders in worldliness. Rama runs after the deer and loses Sita. The individual soul runs after a shadow, greed etc., having given up the four factors responsible for peace: satsang, swadhyaya, sadhana and inner silence. Now the soul wanders in search of peace, even as Rama wandered in search of Sita.

Here is the point where the real tension starts. First you find pleasure in the world, develop a hankering, a craving, a desire. Then your first fight is with Kumbhakarna, slothfulness, lethargy and indolence. Next you have to fight with Meghanath, the unseen forces of the mind, the conflicts in your consciousness. If Hanuman, Lakshman and the monkeys do not help you, you will lose the battle. Rama alone cannot win the battle.

Hanuman represents spiritual devotion and vital strength. Lakshman is the symbol of constant vigilance and mindfulness. You should not do sadhana for a few days and then give it up; sadhana must be constant and regular. But sometimes even Lakshman may faint. Sometimes one’s mind is eclipsed by lethargy and vigilance is relaxed because the senses are very powerful. What will be the outcome if he surrenders before his senses?

When Lakshman faints, Hanuman goes to find sanjivani, a special herb to revive him, and he must bring it before sunrise. The individual has to take to spiritual practices in earnest without postponement. If you postpone the program of sadhana, it will never come in your life. That is the death of your spiritual personality due to lack of constant vigilance and spiritual alertness. Therefore, always remain aware. Shankaracharya says that kama (lust), krodha (anger) and moha (greed) are the three dacoits or robbers within the body. So be ever watchful. Lust, anger and greed are the three bandits who loot our divine, inner treasures.

How can you get rid of these inner dacoits? So long as you do not practise yoga, introvert your mind and control your senses, you will not be able to remove them. But the senses and mind are indestructible. Without craving, there can be no sense of mental activity. Craving or desire is the root cause of the war between Rama and Ravana. Rama’s arrows destroyed Ravana’s heads, but one after another they kept on reviving until Vibhishana suggested that Rama use the agneyastra, weapon of fire, which would destroy the power at Ravana’s navel. So there is no use in curbing the senses and only suppressing the mind and desires.

What does the power centre at Ravana’s navel signify? It is attachment. If you want to bring Sita back, if you want to restore spiritual peace, nirvana, sublime equanimity, you will have to burn or annihilate attachment and perfect the art of detachment. There should be no liking for pleasant things and no disliking of unpleasant things. This is the feeling of vairagya. It is not the physical, mental or intellectual detachment of vedantins. Such detachment will not be very helpful. Spiritual detachment is real vairagya. This is what Krishna describes in the practice of buddhi yoga.

Culmination of yoga

When the stock of anadi vasanas, the beginningless emotions and desires, is exhausted, there comes the state of perfect balance and peace. You will be what you are now; you will be conscious of all things as you are now. Samadhi is the state of absolute sense, intelligence and vigilance. You will recognize and know all in samadhi as you know people now in the waking state. You will maintain the normal sense of discrimination, but your mental, intellectual, political, social and sexual jaundice, your physical, mental and intra-intellectual crisis will be over.

You do not become inactive after samadhi, rather you become powerful. Hard work for days together does not tire you. You need not take sleeping pills and tranquillizers in order to relax. No incident of tragedy or joy influences you. You remain equal-minded in joy and sorrow, birth and death, loss and gain, insult and praise. You are full of indescribable serenity. You must have experienced serenity in deep sleep. In deep sleep you are in the lap of a blissful experience and nothing disturbs you. The only difference between deep sleep and samadhi is that in sleep you are unconscious while in samadhi you are conscious of everything, yet you are serene, balanced and cheerful. This is the highest stage of bliss, peace and joy.

This experience is what every individual needs in order to face the storms of day-to-day life with a balanced mind. You must have strength so that you do not get tired even after working for hours at a time. If you rest, you must get tired; if you eat, you must get hungry; if you take medicine, you must fall sick. If you know the body, its laws and its lawmaker, it is possible to live without sleeping, eating etc., but only after the attainment of samadhi, not before that.

Samadhi has been rightly regarded as a consummation to be wished for devoutly. But we are not to consider samadhi merely as a kriya or action. We have to attain perennial samadhi and personify it. Ours should be what Kabir called sahaj samadhi, effortless and felicitous samadhi. In the state of sahaj samadhi, we attain and retain all the sthitaprajna qualities described by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Modern man has developed many scientific superstitions and you have to do away with them. Each and every idea finds currency with us without proper examination. Accept yoga in your daily life. Yoga is a way of life, a culture of tomorrow. It is not necessary to go to a temple or meditate on your deity, but wherever and whatever you perceive, perceive with sublime equanimity.

For worldly achievements also you have to take up yoga. Yoga will fulfil your worldly ambitions and quench your spiritual thirst. Whether you wish for good health, for a happy marital life, for prosperity or for spiritual enlightenment, yoga will help you. The starting point of yoga is satsang, company of holy people or good books. Its culmination is samadhi.

You will always remain restless if you do not practise yoga. There will be something wrong with your inner personality. The first and the last and the only remedy for the removal of emotional, muscular and mental tensions is the practice of yoga. It is then and then alone that you will be free from all tensions and reach a stage where you will exclaim with joy and ecstasy, “I am happy, I am happy, I am happy.”