What is Samadhi?

El Samadhi es un estado de absorción y conexión que se logra mediante la meditación y la práctica del yoga.

Samadhi is a Sanskrit term, used primarily in the yogic and meditative traditions of India to describe a state of deep consciousness, often translated as “concentration“,“union” or “absorption“. It is the eighth and final step of Ashtanga Yoga as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It goes beyond deep concentration; it is a heightened state of consciousness and is often described as the peak or ultimate goal of meditation.

In this article we will detail the different states of Samadhi described in Eastern philosophy, what are the practices used to reach these states, what obstacles prevent reaching it and what is the meaning of Samadhi within Buddhism.

Samadhi in Yoga

As we have mentioned, within the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Samadhi is the last step. It is described as a state of deep consciousness where the individual unites or merges with the object of his meditation. In this state, the meditator, the act of meditating and the object of meditation become one. Duality dissolves and only oneness remains.

The ultimate purpose of Yoga is Samadhi, the merging of the individual with the absolute or cosmic consciousness.

Types of Samadhi

In the classical yoga literature we can find various types and degrees of Samadhi. While there are many terms and categorizations, here we will focus on the most prominent states of Samadhi:

Savikalpa Samadhi (Samadhi with attributes)

This form of Samadhi is a preliminary stage towards the deeper experience of oneness. In Savikalpa Samadhi, there is still a sense of “something” with which the yogi is united or merged. Although the mind has become extremely calm and concentrated, there is still a sense of duality present. There is an object of meditation, and the meditator still has an awareness of his or her own individual existence.

In this state, the fluctuations of the mind have subsided, but they have not been completely eradicated. It is a state of deep tranquility and peace, but it is still far from the complete absorption of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. It can be compared to looking at the vast ocean from the shore; one feels in communion with the ocean, but is still standing on the land.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi (Attribute-less Samadhi)

This is the highest state of supraconsciousness. The mind is completely dissolved. The sense of the individual“I” disappears, and only pure consciousness remains. Here, the meditator, the process of meditating and the object of meditation merge into one. There is no duality; all is one.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is a state of complete absorption. It is an ocean without waves, where the sense of individuality has completely dissolved into the vastness of cosmic consciousness. Here, all distinctions and categorizations disappear. Time and space become irrelevant. Only the pure present remains, without past or future.

Sahaj Samadhi (Natural or Spontaneous Samadhi)

Sahaj Samadhi is considered the highest state of spiritual realization. In this state, one does not need to withdraw from the world or enter into deep meditation to experience oneness with the whole. It is a state in which enlightenment has become spontaneous and natural. Here, the individual lives in the world, but is not of it. Daily activities continue, but do not disturb the inner peace and tranquility.

How to attain the state of Samadhi

Attaining Samadhi is the result of an intensive and consistent journey and practice. There is no single“recipe” that guarantees its attainment, as it depends on the individual characteristics of each practitioner, his or her dedication, and the circumstances of his or her life.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali propose a systematic path towards this goal through Ashtanga Yoga, also known as the “eight limbs” of yoga.

Yama (Ethical Standards)

Before embarking on any intense spiritual practice, it is essential to lead an ethical life. The Yamas are the five fundamental ethical principles:

  • Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (continence)
  • Aparigraha (non-coveting)

Niyama (personal disciplines)

Niyama are practices focused on purifying the body and mind:

  • Saucha (purity)
  • Santosha (contentment)
  • Tapas (austerity, discipline)
  • Svadhyaya (study of oneself and sacred texts)
  • Ishvarapranidhana (devotion to the Divine)

Asana (physical posture)

Yoga postures help to strengthen and purify the body, making it suitable for meditation. Asana also helps in regulating the body’s energies.

Pranayama (Breath Control)

By controlling and regulating the breath, one can control the mind and vital energies. Pranayama is essential to calm the mind and prepare it for concentration and meditation. Breathing is considered one of the main points of union between the mind and the body, hence its importance in the different types of yoga.

Pratyahara (Retreat of the senses)

This is the practice of withdrawing attention from external distractions and focusing it inward. Instead of the senses being oriented towards the outside world, in pratyahara, they are turned inward to explore the inner nature of the individual.

Dharana (Concentration)

Once the mind has been calmed and removed from external distractions, it can concentrate on a specific point or idea. It can be anything: a point on the wall, the flame of a candle, a specific sound or mantra, a visualized image or even a sensation in the body.

Dhyana (Deep meditation)

When concentration becomes sustained and undisturbed, it becomes meditation. Here, the meditator and the object of meditation begin to merge. Meditation is the gateway to Samadhi, which is the next and final step in the eight steps described in the Yoga Sutras.

It is important to understand that Samadhi is not something that can be forced. It is the natural consequence of a life lived with intention, practice and devotion. It is also worth noting that the path to Samadhi is as valuable as the destination itself, as one is transformed and purified along the journey.

Obstacles on the Path to Samadhi

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali identifies a number of obstacles (known as “Kleshas” and “Antarayas“) that impede the attainment of Samadhi and progress on the spiritual path. These obstacles can manifest at any stage of practice and it is essential that we know how to recognize and overcome them:

Kleshas (afflictions)

Patanjali introduces the concept of Kleshas as the fundamental afflictions or impurities that cloud the true nature of consciousness and are the root cause of human suffering. These Kleshas act as obstacles on the spiritual path and must be understood and overcome in order to advance towards liberation (moksha) or samadhi. Five Kleshas are distigated:

  • Avidya (ignorance): This is the main affliction and refers to ignorance or lack of understanding of our true nature. It is not simply a lack of knowledge, but a misperception of reality, where we confuse the eternal with the ephemeral, the pure with the impure, joy with pain and the self (atman) with the not-self (anatman).
  • Asmita (ego or false self): Arises from Avidya. It is the identification with the individual ego instead of recognizing our true universal essence. It is thus the misconception and identification with this false and separate self.
  • Raga (attachment): It is the desire or clinging to pleasurable experiences. This attachment is not only to material objects, but also to experiences, people and concepts that we consider as sources of happiness.
  • Dvesha (aversion or rejection): It is the counterpart of Raga. While Raga is the attachment to what we like, Dvesha is the aversion or resistance to what we do not like or what we perceive as a source of pain.
  • Abhinivesha (attachment to life or fear of death): It is an instinctive fear and attachment to life, present even in those who are learned or wise. It is clinging to the body and earthly existence.

Antarayas (internal obstacles)

Antarayas are a total of nine internal obstacles mentioned by Patanjali that may arise on the path of the spiritual aspirant, particularly in the practice of meditation and concentration. These obstacles can affect both the mind and the body:

  • Vyadhi (sickness): refers to physical ailments that can hinder practice. If the body is not in good condition, it may be difficult to concentrate or meditate.
  • Styana (apathy or lack of effort): A feeling of listlessness or lack of interest in practice.
  • Samsaya (doubt): Uncertainty or doubt about the practice, the results or even the teachings and the teacher may hinder progress.
  • Pramada (negligence or carelessness): This occurs when a practitioner becomes reckless or inattentive in his or her practice.
  • Alasya (mental laziness): This is a lack of mental energy or enthusiasm, leading to reluctance to practice.
  • Avirati (sensuality or desire for pleasure): The inability to resist sensual pleasures can distract the practitioner from the spiritual path.
  • Bhrantidarshana (delusion or misperception): Misinterpretation or misunderstanding can lead the practitioner down wrong paths.
  • Alabdha-bhumikatva (not reaching the desired state): The feeling of not being able to reach or maintain a particular state of concentration or meditation.
  • Anavasthitatva (instability): Even if a state of concentration or meditation is reached, there are times when the practitioner cannot maintain it.

Along with these obstacles, Patanjali also mentions the symptoms that arise due to these obstacles, such as pain, depression, bodily agitation and irregular breathing. Recognizing and addressing these obstacles and symptoms is important if we are to progress on the path of yoga. Patanjali suggests several solutions, including constant practice (abhyasa), devotion to the Divine (Ishvara pranidhana) and adopting oppositional attitudes (pratipaksha bhavana) to overcome these impediments.

Samadhi in Buddhism

En el Budismo, Samadhi es uno de los componentes del Noble Óctuple Sendero.

In Buddhism, Samadhi is meditative concentration or absorption. It is one of the elements of the Noble Eightfold Path, specifically “Sammā-samādhi” or “Right Concentration“. Samadhi is the ability to keep the mind focused and concentrated on an object or subject of meditation, free from distractions.

The practice of Samadhi is essential for deepening meditation and for developing the qualities necessary to attain enlightenment or Nirvana. A mind that has developed Samadhi is stable and concentrated, which makes it suitable for the development of wisdom (Prajna) through contemplation and insight.

Samadhi itself is not the ultimate goal in Buddhism. Rather, it is a tool that enables the practitioner to reach deeper states of consciousness and realize the true character of reality, eventually leading to spiritual awakening.

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