The pinnacle of the yogic process is known as samadhi, the state of ‘mystic absorption’ known to all spiritual traditions and referred to variously as nirvana, satori (sartori), jivamukti, and even enlightenment. …
At these ‘higher stages’ of yoga, it becomes increasingly difficult to put into words experiences that, by their very nature, transcend our worldly familiarity. But this is certainly an area where there is a lot of curiosity, and some points can be made about it that can be helpful for the budding spiritualist.
Simply put, the stages of dharana, dhyana and samadhi are really different phases of the same mental process, each stage differing primarily in the depth of concentration that is achieved and the even further removal of ‘mental distractions’. This point is articulated well by Swami Gitananda in “The Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali”:
“Patanjali deals with concentration, meditation and Samadhi as three parts of a continuous process known as ‘Samyama’. He says that when the one-pointedness of mind, or Dharana, is held long enough a free-flow of consciousness occurs in which the sense of self is ‘lost’, and that ‘Dharana’ then becomes ‘Dhyana’. When Dhyana, or meditation is held long enough, it flows naturally into the Samadhic state, when the sense of self is totally dissolved.”
The Nature of Nirvana
This highest state of consciousness in yoga is also called ‘Cosmic Consciousness’. Within this state, it is as though the mind has been ‘transcended’ and the typical mental states that we experience in our day to day awareness no longer exist.
Those things that we typically think about as being ‘who we are’ — our thoughts, feelings, sense of awareness and entire mental structure become, in this transcendental state, ‘At One’ with the Self (Atman).
… This is reflected in the Sanskrit term samadhi itself, which come from the roots Sama (same, or oneness) and Adhi (highest) — literally translated as ‘the same as (or ‘at one’ with) the Highest (Self)’. This state has been referred to in various ways, such as ‘Superconsciousness’, ‘union of the individual Consciousness with the Universal Consciousness’, etc.
If this ‘state’ is difficult for you to imagine, that’s because it is. We can use all manner of poetic or metaphorical descriptions here, but in the end we simply cannot describe samadhi nor conceive of it ‘mentally’ in a way that does any justice to this supremely state.
Within the state of samadhi, all of the experiences of the ‘lower mind’, those of a ‘sensory’ nature including our faculty of logical reasoning, have been eliminated, producing a state which could only be described as ‘super-sensory’, ‘extra-rational’, or ‘supra-mental’.
It is rare today to find someone who has truly had the lofty experience of jiva mukti, which means literally, ‘liberation of the soul self’. But in all fairness, it is probable that these folks have always been uncommon in any age, because now, as always, it takes tremendous disciple, guidance a great deal of work to get there.
The experience of samadhi can come solely as a result of all of the proper preparations of body, emotions and mind, and diligent training in the withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara) and internalization of the consciousness (concentration), or dharana.
The ancient Rishis have stated that the Higher experiences are ‘agadha’, or unfathomable (by the lower mind). As Swami Gitananda said:
“Whether [or not] it is possible to describe what happens in this Universal Unitive State is open to conjecture. Can a finite mind describe the infinite? Can a mortal mind contemplate immortality? Can a mind dominated by ego personality (individuality/duality) describe Universal Consciousness (Oneness)?”
Yet we have been given the path to this highest of goals, the experience of which has been garnered by many dedicated and determined aspirants in throughout the ages.
Through our study of this beaten path called yoga, we come to understand the obstacles to the attainment of this highest state of consciousness, and within the Ashtanga Yoga system of Maharishi Patanjali we have been given the means by which to overcome them and reach this ultimate goal.
The state of ‘cosmic consciousness’ is the pinnacle of classical ashtanga yoga, which is explored in greater detail in the step-by-step yoga training offered through International Yogalayam.
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