Samadhi as expounded by Shri Shankara

(READING: Give up the thirst for wealth, O deluded one. Make thy intellect free from oppressive desires …(Shri Shankaracharya).

The subject is Samadhi. It is a very popular word. It is used by the Buddhists, Jains, followers of Patanjali, by the saints of the school of Bhakti. But in order to avoid confusion, let us study the sense in which the word is used in the philosophy of Advaita as expounded by Shri Shankara. It is good to have its implications according to the other masters, but our aim is to follow the holy commentator, and therefore close attention is required to this.

Another approach to it is by the Mahatmas. That approach also is propounded today. There is the classical teaching, and there is the teaching of the Mahatmas on the classical subject. They do not say that they have improved on it, but under their own experience they have added some details to the method; whenever they have found that any steps are very hard to traverse, they have made it easy under the light of their experience. And therefore the traditional teachings of the Mahatmas also are necessary. One very great difference is that the classical teachings are available only to scholars who know the holy language, which is not easy to be known, nor is it for everybody. Therefore the Mahatmas have given their teachings in the vernacular, Hindi or Punjabi, and it is another reason for studying them.

In Anu-smriti, in the Bhishma Parva of Mahabharata the following verse appears: “At the time of the dissolution of the universe, when even Brahma and others also cease to exist phenomenally, when all the universes and their contents, moving and stationary, come to nothing, in that state the Lord of the whole universe still abides unchanged and in the same one condition of consciousness; may he, whose name is Vishnu, be pleased with us.”

This verse is recited by way of benediction, because when we speak to the holy family we proceed traditionally, and the traditional way is that a benedictory stanza, or OM, or an aphorism of salutation, must be pronounced.

1. Sometimes the word Samadhi means Brahman. To some people it means a state of trance in which enlightenment takes place. It is subject to cultivation and therefore the first item is discipline. The most important things in Yoga are discipline and concentration. Discipline of the senses and of the mind, and concentration of the mind on the eternal truth. Discipline is a preparatory state; concentration is the direct method. When mind acts on itself, then the hidden power of the mind to perceive the truth comes to be known. Hence these two things are most important. Mere discipline is not enough. Mere concentration is not enough.

Let it also be known that a mind which is not disciplined will not be able to concentrate itself. Just as a man who has studied the science of archery is used to hitting the target with his arrow, so a man who has disciplined his mind by shama and dama, etc. , is able to concentrate on the highest truth. Discipline and concentration, when practised according to the holy teachings, give what is called Samadhi.

2. Let us know that we do not believe in the Samadhi of Patanjali. Let us see what Samadhi means according to the advaita.

There is a well-known work called “Advaita Brahmasiddhi”, one of the well-known classics written by an Acharya in the 9th century A.D. In “Advaita Brahmasiddhi”, Samadhi is classified as:

(a) Concentration upon things knowable, which in technical language is called grahya samapatti. The things which you can know – the cross of Christ, on Om, on Rama or Krishna, on the Guru. Concentration involves two factors: (i) withdrawal of the mind from anything other than the object in view; and, (ii) focussing of the mind on the object in view with all our inner strength. This is called concentration. Then the first thing is concentration upon things knowable.

(b) Grahana samapatti – concentration upon the sense organs or the things that grasp. The eye grasps its object, the tongue grasps the object of taste, the ears grasp words. Concentration upon the senses.

(c) Grihikta samapatti – concentration upon the subject that is “I”.

(d) Nirvikalpa samadhi. Concentration on the indwelling truth.

These are the four kinds of samadhi. There are things in the world which are knowable, e.g. a vessel. Then the senses by which they are apprehended and knowable, and third, the subjective state of “I” which receives the impressions conveyed by the senses and pronounces the judgement “It is this”. These things are very well-known. But there is something more than these things. Here is the point of departure from the modern psychology and the materialistic psychology. To them there is nothing more than ego. But there is the witness of the ego, there is that massed light from which the ego or the mind draws a little bit to perform its functions of cognition and recognition. To concentrate on it. How? And what concentration?

It is to be known how to concentrate and what is that thing that concentrates. Mind is blind, and the blindness is well illustrated because by means of mind you cannot come to any unquestionable conclusion about anything at all. And mind is dark because it is an evolute of prakriti. In the mind there is something which gives it the power of comprehension. If you want to fry spinach, you put your frying-pan on the fire; it receives a bit of fire and that bit of fire in it heats the oil, and then you cook. Without the fire you will not be able to fry the vegetables, ever. The mind is like the pan, i.e. an instrument of perception, conception, cognition, and so forth. It is able to perform all these functions by the fire or light which it receives from consciousness or Atman. It is this little fire in the mind which concentrates on its prototype, its cosmic aspect, and this it is which concentrates. It is this fire, so to say, of consciousness, by which the mind works and which abides in the mind; it is this which concentrates on its own self, the cosmic aspect of it. This is what we mean by concentration on the indwelling truth.

The majority of Acharyas accept Samadhi as only of two kinds: Sa-vikalpa, and Nir-vikalpa, concrete and abstract. The concrete is concentration on the first three (the objects, the senses and the “I”), and the abstract or Nirvikalpa Samadhi is concentration on the indwelling truth.

The great difference is that the Sa-vikalpa Samadhi is accompanied with modifications of chitta, that is vritti. When you concentrate on the knowable objects, on the senses,, on the “I”, then all this process is accompanied by the vrittis of the chitta. It is taking place in the mind. The Nirvikalpa Samadhi is not a modification of the mind stuff; it is direct cognition of truth.

Supreme efforts of :

(1) withdrawnness – withdraw the eye from the forms, nose from smell, tongue from taste; this is the supreme effort – withdraw, withdraw, and

(2) Renunciation of attachment to any object of matter. Renunciation is an important word. How? By the feeling called vairagya.

I was once in a boat and the cabin had to be fumigated by some poison gas. The steward said: “Do not visit the cabin today.” For my mind it was not enough, as it was not explained. Yachio and I went to eat in the cabin, and then we found our senses were becoming dimmer and dimmer. So I asked an intelligent man on the staff. He said: “It is fumigation by poison gas, and do not stay a minute longer!”Such is renunciation. One renunciation is by means of what is called Hatha: forcible insistence to give up a thing – ” I will not eat it.” The other is to know the reasons for not eating it, the harm that will accrue if you do and the impediment that the deed will constitute to the achievement of your ideal. This is vairagya. We should know that the objects of the world are not worthy of a deep attachment, because they are all maya, and maya is opposed to the light in man, Atman. You do not want to put two contradictory things together, like when the two charges negative and positive are brought together the result is explosion. If you are attached to son or father or body or mind, then an explosion will take place and it is called intense suffering. Therefore the law is vairagya, tyaga, through renunciation, renunciation by understanding it.

So there is withdrawnness, vairagya and tyaga. According to Patanjali, it is enough. But there is one thing more. “Understanding of Atman as non-relational and associationless from Prakriti.” By this process the chitta is dissolved in its original cause Prakriti, and then what follows is Samadhi. It is an important and interesting point. It is dissolved when the first two disciplines are practised and there is an understanding that the Self is non-relational and asanga. When these three are complete then what follows is Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the result of the drowning of the mind, i.e. of the upadhi, the limiting adjunct. The mind is the limiting adjunct. It is not meant only to be polished and made very penetrative. The object is to dissolve it. Not in patriotism but in its original cause, the primordial substance. When you have got rid of this magic cloak, then what remains is Atman within and without.

Prakriti continues to exist, but not for the entity whose mind is dissolved. In deep night you dissolve the darkness in your house by a lamp, but outside it continues.

The Yogi controls his thought process and he concentrates it on identity. First he controls the thought process. Identity is the common factor in the whole algebraic equation of sansara, objective and subjective, because all the things which are perceived, conceived, seen and understood have one common factor and that is the substratum and that substratum is spoken of as identity. Identity is even above unity. Unity is in the phenomenal, the conditional. Think of the soldier, the pot and the king made of clay – unity is to think: “Clay is in them all.” Identity is: “They are nothing but clay.” Unity is in the phenomenal world, but identity is: “It is nothing but clay; it has never been and never will be.”

Many of you have seen that we do not practise pranayama and we pay no attention to it. In the book on meditation we have not said anything about this breath control. There is so much quackery going about it, promulgated by many pseudo-Yogis.

The holy Acharya Shri Shankara believes, in the case of some, in the practice of scientific breath control. But as a principle, no pranayama, no exercises of the Patanjali system. You can obtain Samadhi and concentration without pranayama. If there are certain minds which are very, very active (and all activity is useless in the long run) , to them he says, take the holy word “OM” or the seven words “Bhur Bhuvah Svar Mahah Janah Tapah Sattya”, and breathe, concentrating the mind on them. But it is not absolutely necessary and it is only for a short time and it is not to become a habit and it is not to be essential in each and every case.

There is a work called ” Ialu Chandrika” . It is a very high classic on Vedanta. In it the Samprajnata Samadhi is defined as “continuity of knowledge as Self, or Consciousness, differing from its upadhi, the body and the mind.” The negative element in this sentence is that this knowledge differs from its upadhi, the body and the mind. This, the holy Acharya says, is Samadhi.

To repeat: first, discipline, then concentration, then an understanding according to the Advaita system of the nature of the Self, and finally the practice of all three of them leads to that state in which the light of consciousness in the mind oversteps the mind, and finds itself infinite and all pervasive.

(Answer to question about Samadhi: Savikalpa Samadhi is attended by the modifications of the mind. Mind exists in its vritti form in the Savikalpa Samadhi. The mind is dissolved in its cause and the result is Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Properly speaking Nirvikalpa Samadhi is ever-attained. Atman is Nirvikalpa).

Now we speak of a very great power which helps Samadhi -viveka, right discrimination. When we have obtained right knowledge, that is, the knowledge of identity, how shall we check it? By right conduct. Right knowledge reflects itself in right conduct. It is conduct according to dharma and for the good of all living beings.

In the classic called “Vivarana Prameha Sangraha”, the author says: “A will to give up all desires pertaining to life here or hereafter is the result of viveka, which is the power which kindles the light easily.” Without such a will (a will to negate all desire pertaining to this life and the life hereafter, svarga, etc, ) the control of the subjective nature and the objective nature (mind and senses) is an impossibility. Another thing which is very necessary is vichara -intellectual reflection. By intellectual reflection we know the truth of the objects of the world and their nature, which always produces suffering. It leads to right discrimination, viveka, which produces enlightenment, or Nirvana, or Samadhi.

People who say that the system of Shankara is anti-rational, they are wrong. If it were, there would be no need of intellectual reflection. Full latitude is given in one’s private life to reflect on all the pros and cons and the validity or invalidity of the holy truth, and this is called reflection.

These three are most important – vichara, viveka, vairagya – withdrawal of attachment from the objects of the world, knowing them to be productive of nothing but suffering, now as well as hereafter.

The mind after withdrawal into its cause does not sprout again. When it dissolves, enlightenment has taken place. But by the force of prarabdha a certain semblance of it remains till it is worn out. The potter has withdrawn his staff, but the wheel goes on. Practically, the mind has dissolved, but a kind of semblance remains and through this, untouched, uninfluenced, without being in any way tainted by it, the activity of the jnani goes on for the benefit of others.

According to the Mahatmic tradition (I just read this) progressive meditation according to the Mahatmic tradition: “By the process called meditation the mind is stilled and brought into the region of the spiritual light in the mind, and is fitted for an intuitional cognition of the great truth ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahman’. Meditation must be accompanied by purity of conduct, reduction – not the total annihilation of desire and aversion, raga and dvesha, and surrender of the emptied heart to the Lord of the universe abiding in the mind.”

If anything other than the Lord or realization of Atman is held dearer, then our meditation will not give the final fruition. The ego must be pierced by the razor of vairagya. All except the Lord is merely smoke. He who lightly takes the holy meditation and does not subordinate his self-will and will to pleasure or power, he is a worshipper at the gate and has not entered the temple. “It is too difficult, it is not for me”, say the blind souls. Let them suffer in the darkness like worms in a dunghill and we have nothing to do with them.

The progress and order of the states of mind of the meditation Yoga is as follows:

1 Agitation. The mind is moved by desires, by objective influences. Money, rest, sex-pleasures, name, lassitude, etc., enter the soul like the scorpions entering a cave. By prayer, by service of the Guru, by vigilance, by study, these influences can be overcome easily.

2. Pratyahara. The jiva obtains power over the thought process. He regulates his will and emotions according to the spiritual discipline offered to him. He withdraws from outer objects.

3. Dhyana. All outgoing of the mind having been controlled, the jiva identifies the ego with the content of meditation with a firm intention.

4. Reflection. Then because the jiva dwells deeply in the light and in its meditation, he finds a tranquil rest in his mind.

5. Blessedness. The mind, saturated and sanctified with the assimilation of the text of the meditation, or complete surrender to Guru and Govinda, now divine light begins to break into the mind, that is Buddhi.

6. Nididhyasana. The mind is unified with the object of meditation. The mind disappears, and the object of meditation takes its place. That is Shivoham. The soul in this state knows the truth. Realization – Atman-darshana. The avidya ceases for ever, duality is negated, illusion has passed, the knower, known and knowing are gone. All is Brahman. All is Self.


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