Union, the goal of yoga, achieves its full fruition when the human mind blossoms into samadhi. “Samadhi” translates to Sam “together,” a “towards,” dhi “integration or wholeness” and is the final limb in RajaYoga’s windy journey home. It represents the full flowering of human consciousness as the individual awakens to the deepest truth of being. This ever-present truth, the yogis tell us, quietly awaits its discovery, with nothing less then the promise to liberate the indwelling soul from the suffering inherent in an earthly existence. In that revelation we find true rest, as we turn toward the world with an open heart, integrated and whole.
Even though the above possibility seems like a far off, unachievable exotic dream for most, its sudden realization reveals that your very own awareness is samadhi, as the very substance and radiance that informs your personal life. The quiet formless witness that gives thoughts, perceptions, and your personality life and meaning, is in fact, that rarefied mystical ground, silently embodying all that you experience. Further, it is the essence of this very moment, just as it is, animating the changing world with its vitalizing light.
Where IS Samadhi?
If samadhi can be found in the simplicity of every moment, as a state of wholeness and contentment, why can’t we live in it? Its luminosity does creep into most people’s lives, such as in child birth, falling in love, watching a sunset, connecting with a friend, walking in the forest, dancing, or deep orgasm, but it is fleeting and ephemeral. Never lasting, as it recedes into memory while the mind desperately clings and grasps for more.
Our journey through the seven limbs of Raja Yoga is designed, systematically and scientifically, to clear and heal the mind-body system so that it can open to that ever-present truth of samadhi: the ground of this very present moment.
Each step is uniquely crafted to heal, open, cleanse, and release the blockages that obstruct the full realization of this awakened state. A way to bypass all the steps is simply to realize that your own presence, ever-present awareness, is samadhi. In that recognition you find peace, freedom, and true joy.
Our modern lives make this most simple realization almost unattainable however, as the excesses of an overworked and stressed out life continually agitate awareness into the familiar looping mind we all struggle with.
Always feeling like there must be something more to life, we fail to pause and ultimately recognize that we are what we are looking for. The deepest Self reveals itself to be the Source of all experiences, therefore complete and fulfilled all unto itself. This Self-realization, we are told, is the summit of human development and evolution; the golden prize after a long and arduous journey of unfolding awareness.
What is Samadhi?
Once the aspirant has learned to stabilize the mind through the previous limbs, the mind finally begins to flower into progressively deeper aspects of it-Self in the final limb of samadhi (absorption). The thinking mind and its egoic structures begin to effortlessly give way to a vast formless expanse behind all form, as the individual (soul-atman) merges and becomes one with Universal Source (God-Brahma). Our spiritual nature dawns as we learn that samadhi opens in progressive steps and levels: ever-deepening, merging, dissolving until there is no meditator or meditation, just pure Being. Space is transcended, time evaporates, and all that remains is One.
The first level of samadhi is called savikalpa samadhi, and features a devotional communion with the Supreme principle, or the highest Archetypal Deity. Corresponding to the subtle plane of reality, the aspirant at this level of trance has access to visionary vistas, Platonic Archetypal patterns, deities, gods, goddesses, and a panoply of spiritual entities and forces that intelligently guide our evolution.
This state can be reliably accessed by shamanic plant medicines, but through the deepest stillness of the concentrated meditative mind one can learn to tune and resonate with those deep frequencies without entheogenic help. The spirit helpers and guides are all around us; we just need to learn how to find and tune to that channel so that we may find guidance and spiritual support.
The Union of Subject and Object
The union or fusion of subject and object defines the deepest meditative state in yoga, nirvakalpa samadhi. In nirvakalpa, individual identity completely dissolves into its underlying, formless, unmanifest substrate of pure consciousness, where all duality is annihilated.
Here there is no content, only satchitananda (Absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss), and the yogi’s mind is at its stillest. Meditator and meditation cease, as there is complete, unmanifest absorption in an ocean of pure awareness. No thoughts, no bodily perceptions, no subtle currents. There is only One; a total transcendence of time, space, and matter.
Buddhists have mapped the subtleties of deepening samadhi in their formless jhanas. To enter each successive jhana, the meditator substitutes progressively subtler objects for concentration, refining concentration and equanimity until nothing is left within the field of awareness. The fifth jhana starts with space as the “object,” moving to a focus on pure consciousness in the sixth, and then emptiness in the seventh.
When all content ceases one enters the eight and final formless jhana, called nirodh (equivalent to nirvakalpa) a “sphere of neither perception nor non-perception,” approaching the ultimate limits of what we call perception and mind. Here there are no mental states, just a deep ocean of Being.
The final awakening of samadhi reveals our true nature, which we find to be changeless and ever-present. We realize that time does not touch it, as its eternal nature grounds us fearlessly to each sacred moment. Consciousness flowers from the heart, radiating out as unconditional love in a world starved for its healing touch.
After the mystical awakening, we return to our body, mind, and life, yet utterly transformed by the power and beauty of that which lies within. We remember who we are, and in that remembrance, we free the energies of love so that we can get on with healing our sacred planet.
Eugene A. Alliende has been practicing meditation and yoga for twenty years and facilitates weekly meditation groups and classes at his healing center. His passion is the exploration of consciousness, and how a deeper understanding of our true nature can help heal the individual and the world. Read his book Dimensions of Being here