Samadhi – A Taste of "That Which is Not"
When one dies and is buried, that place will be given the name of that person. But when one attains to a certain state in a particular place, the name of the place will be given to the person. That is why you see many yogis named after a certain place. This is how Sri Palani Swami got his name, because he sat in a state of samadhi in a place called Palani. People just called him Palani Swami because he never introduced himself to anyone. He never told them what his name was because he did not carry one. Because he attained in that place, people called him Palani Swami. Any number of yogis and sages have names like this.
What is Samadhi?
The word samadhi has been largely misunderstood. People think samadhi means some death-like situation. The word samadhi literally means sama and dhi – sama meaning equanimity and dhi meaning buddhi or the intellect. If you reach an equanimous state of intellect, it is known as samadhi.
The fundamental nature of the intellect is to discriminate – you are able to discriminate between a person and a tree only because your intellect is functioning. This discriminatory quality is very important for survival. If you want to break a stone, you have to discriminate between the stone and your finger, otherwise you will break your finger. Discrimination is an instrument which supports and executes the instinct of survival present in every cell of the body.
If you transcend the intellect, you become equanimous. This does not mean you lose the ability to discriminate. If you lose the discriminatory intellect, you will become insane. In a samadhi state, your discriminatory intellect is perfectly in shape but at the same time you have transcended it. You are not making a distinction – you are simply here, seeing life in its true working. The moment you drop or transcend the intellect, discrimination cannot exist.
Everything becomes one whole, which is the reality. A state like this gives you an experience of the oneness of the existence, the unification of everything that is.
The whole aspect of spirituality is to go beyond that discrimination and the survival instinct, which are meant only for the physicality of life. Samadhi is a state of equanimity where the intellect goes beyond its normal function of discrimination. This in turn, loosens one from his or her physical body. A space between what is you and your body is created.
In this state, there is no time or space. Time and space is a creation of your mind. Once you transcend the mind as a limitation, time and space do not exist for you. What is here is there, what is now is then. There is no past or future for you. Everything is here, in this moment. You may think someone has been in samadhi for three days, but for them, it was just a few moments – it just passes off like that. They have transcended the duality of what is and what is not. They have crossed the boundary and tasted that which is not – that which has no form, shape, attributes, qualities – nothing.
The whole existence, the many forms of creation, are present only as long as the intellect is there. The moment you dissolve your intellect, everything dissolves into one.
That Which Is Not
The existence is made of “that which is” and “that which is not”. “That which is” has form, shape, qualities, beauty. “That which is not” has none of these things, but it is free. Here and there, “that which is not” spurts into “that which is”. And as “that which is” becomes more conscious, it will long to become “that which is not”. Though one enjoys the form, qualities, attributes and beauty attached to it, the longing to get to a state of utter freedom of being is unavoidable and inevitable. It is just a question of time, and the bondage of time and space also is only the hallucination of “that which is”. “That which is not” neither perceives time nor space because it is boundless and eternal, not shackled by the limitations of time and space.
When this longing to become liberated from the very basic process of existence rises, the mind and the fearful nature of emotion can only perceive this as self-annihilation. For a thinking mind, spiritual process is nothing but willful suicide. But this is not suicide – it is much more than that. Suicide is a very poor way of wanting to end oneself. I say poor because it remains unsuccessful. It does not work. But in this culture, there are those who are experts at doing it the way it really works – this is a spiritual process.
Eight Types of Samadhis
Samadhis are of different varieties. When you are in the body, there are eight samadhis available to a human being. Of these eight, they have been broadly categorized as savikalpa: samadhis with attributes or qualities, which are very pleasant, blissful, and ecstatic; and nirvikalpa: samadhis that are beyond pleasant and unpleasant – they are without attributes or qualities.
The samadhis by themselves have no great significance in terms of realization.
Those who go into nirvikalpa samadhi states are always kept in protected atmospheres because their contact with the body becomes very minimal. The smallest disturbance, like a sound or a pinprick, could dislodge them from their body. These states are maintained for certain periods to establish the distinction between you and the body. It is a significant step in one’s spiritual evolution, but still not the Ultimate. The samadhis by themselves have no great significance in terms of realization.
Many of Gautama the Buddha’s disciples went into very long meditations. They did not come out for years. But Gautama himself never did so because he saw it is not necessary. He practiced and experienced all the eight kinds of samadhis before his enlightenment and discarded them. He saw this would not take him closer to realization. It is just moving into a higher level of experience and you might get more caught up because it is more beautiful than the current reality. At least when you meditate now, there is pain in your legs to remind you of the present reality. There, there is no pain to remind you, which in one way is more dangerous.
A Temporary State
Experiencing a certain type of samadhi does not mean you are released from Existence. It is just a new level of experience. It is like when you were a child, you had one level of experience. Once you moved into adulthood, you have another level of experience. You experience the same things in a totally different way at different points in your life – you have moved from one level of experience to another. Samadhis are just like this. You are moving from one level of experience to another in a much more significant and deeper sense, but still, it is just another level of experience.
Someone may go into a certain state of samadhi and stay there for years because it is enjoyable. There is no space or time. There are no bodily problems. He has broken the physical and psychological barriers to some extent. But this is only temporary. The moment he comes out, again he gets hungry, he has to sleep, and everything comes back again.
Samadhi definitely has its benefits. There are many things it has to offer for an individual, but this does not really take you any closer to realization as such. Compared to a man who is sober, a man who is slightly drunk has a different level of experience, but he has to come down at some point. All samadhis, I would say, are a way of getting high without any external chemicals. By going into these states, it opens up a new dimension for you, but it does not leave any great transformation behind. It does not leave you permanently transformed. You have not moved into another reality. It is just that in the same reality your level of experience has deepened. You have experienced the same things in a deeper sense. You have not become free from the mind.
Trapped in Your Own World
Many yogis have created their own worlds and been trapped in realities like this. I am going into an area which is a twilight zone, but there are many yogis who have created their own world around themselves. A yogi goes into a cave and actually creates his own universe and lives there. This is not a joke. He creates everything that he wants – his own kind of planets, his own kind of earth, his own kind of everything – and lives there very happily. A universe is contained inside the cave. You can create a whole universe in an atom’s space because “here and there” and “this much and that much” are a creation of the mind.
There are many yogis like this, but they are no closer to realization than you. He lives in a different world, that is all. He is probably more caught up than you, because he is also the creator. He has learned the art of creation. This does not become an ultimate release. This just becomes a different kind of action, a different way of doing things.
An artist draws a new world on a canvas. A yogi actually creates it. The artist’s creation is two-dimensional, whereas the yogi’s is three-dimensional. This is more deceptive. An artist can get so involved in the world he is creating that he starts believing it is true, and it is true for him. A poet believes that whatever he writes is the truth. Similarly, a painter deeply involved in what he is doing believes what he is painting is the truth. When two-dimensional things are like this, if you create three-dimensional things around yourself, you are definitely going to be more caught up with them.
Setting the Goal
When you want to transcend your own consciousness, you need every ounce of what you have. Going into various states is not important. This will not lead you to liberation. We have sufficient energy to take a lot of people into samadhi states. If you want to go away like that for three or six months, it is possible, but what is the purpose? This does not lead to dissolution. It is just another kind of karma.
If the goal is set, if you have made realization the top priority in your life, then unless something takes you a step closer, it is meaningless. A man who wants to climb Mount Everest will not take one step sideways unless it is absolutely necessary. Every ounce of his energy is spent only on reaching the summit. When you want to transcend your own consciousness, you need every ounce of what you have.
As long as you are in the body, whatever liberation you attain, the body is a limitation. It is not complete liberation. When someone leaves their body in full awareness, then we call this Mahasamadhi because he or she has shed the body.
Mahasamadhi is a dimension where you transcend discrimination – not just experientially but also existentially. There is no such thing as you and the other. Right now, there is you and the other; it is a certain level of reality. In a samadhi state, you go beyond that discrimination and in your experience you are able to see the oneness of the existence.
Mahasamadhi means you not only see it that way, you have become that way totally – discrimination is finished. That means individual existence is finished. Who you are does not exist anymore. The life that is functioning as an individual life right now becomes absolutely universal or cosmic or boundless. To put it in traditional terms, you become one with God or one with everything.
When I say “one with God”, it does not mean going and joining someone somewhere. It is just that your individual bubble is over. To use an analogy, right now your existence is like a bubble. A bubble that is floating around is very real but if you burst it, where does the air inside the bubble go? It just becomes one with the atmosphere. It is completely dissolved. When we say “one with everything”, this is what it means. Nothing will be there. “You” will not be there. When we say mukti, it means you are free from existence. I am not talking about existence as a quantity which you are free from. You are free from your own existence – your existence is finished.
Nirvana – Going Beyond Existence
Mahasamadhi is a state where one willfully drops the body. The cycle is over. There is no question of rebirth; it is complete dissolution. You can say this person is truly no more.
When we say mukti or nirvana or moksha, this is what it means – freedom from the very burden of existence. That’s ultimate freedom because as long as you exist, you are bound in one way or another. If you exist in a physical way, it is one kind of bondage. If you leave the physical body and exist in some other way, there is still another kind of bondage. Everything that exists is ruled by some law. Mukti means you have broken all laws and all laws can be broken only when you cease to exist.
Nirvana is a more appropriate word because nirvana means “non-existence”. When there is no existence, you are even free from freedom because freedom is also a certain bondage. So you are free from your very existence. All discrimination between what is you and what is not you is finished.
For someone to be able to do this – taking this life and throwing it out without injuring the body – it needs tremendous energy. Mahasamadhi is a state where one willfully drops the body. The cycle is over. There is no question of rebirth; it is complete dissolution. You can say this person is truly no more.
Life just shifts from one level to another. In reality, there is no such thing as death. Death exists only to one who has no awareness about life. There is only life, life and life alone. But Mahasamadhi means the real end. This is the goal of every spiritual seeker. Ultimately, he or she wants to go beyond existence.
Editor’s Note: Find out what Sadhguru has to say about the Mystical dimension in Mystics and Mistakes.