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Everyone has different, deeply personal reasons for following the yogic lifestyle. However, for many people, they are urged on by a desire to feel at peace with themselves, to understand their existence, and to feel a calm, highly conscious state.
This joyous state is often called samadhi, enlightenment or Nirvana (in Buddhist philosophy), and it takes time and dedication to reach. The process requires many stages in order to achieve this higher state of consciousness. In this guide, we will explore what constitutes samadhi, and the stages of the process to attain it.
What is Samadhi?
As mentioned previously, samadhi is the state of enlightenment or Nirvana. It is a deep and philosophical understanding of the body and spirit’s place within the universe, and the soul as part of a transcendental energy system.
Different people experience samadhi in different ways, and combinations of different symptoms are common.
Most people, one going through the stages of the process and deep meditation, report feeling a higher level of awareness and intellectual activity, with degrees of insight and understanding that they never previously experienced.
Additionally, many report feelings of absolute euphoria, outer-body experiences, and lucid dreaming. Some even say they experience deep, mystical experiences as a result of this enlightenment.
The levels of samadhi are achieved through yoga and meditation, allowing the body, spirit, and universal energy to intertwine. There are believed to be eight limbs of yoga, all requiring mastering before true samadhi can be reached. These limbs are yam, niyama, asana, pranayam, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and then finally samadhi.
As the meditator works through these limbs of yoga, they are heading in the direction of total enlightenment, the climax of their dedication. It stops the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and allows the mind to enter a higher state of consciousness that is not accessible otherwise.
It doesn’t end there. Believe it or not, when a person who has reached samadhi dies, this is also said to be samadhi as they have broken the birth and rebirth cycle.
The Sacred Stages of Samadhi
There are two main stages of samadhi – the Samprajnata and the Asamprajnata. Each is made up of smaller sub-stages that must be obtained to reach each level of enlightenment.
Stage One: Samprajnata Samadhi (Savikalpa)
The first stage of samadhi is the Samprajnata. At this level a person is peaceful and serene, but still available and aware of the outside world.
This is a deep level of ongoing meditation where the soul is merged totally with the universe, and consciousness does not have a beginning or end, but it is in its totality. Even time and space begin to lose meaning as the meditation deepens.
However, unlike the second stage of samadhi, the Samprajnata Samadhi ends as the meditative period ends, and it is not a permanent higher state.
There are four main stages of Samprajnata Samadhi, as follows:
1. Savitarka Samadhi
This initial stage of the samadhi can happen without the meditator even necessarily noticing it. It literally translates to ‘thought transformation of an object with words[, and shows that the meditator is not yet at a stage of being able to separate words from the process.
This is the level of gaining higher knowledge, and an ability to differentiate between real and unreal, tangible and intangible, necessary and unnecessary. It is an essential stage for those learning the art of letting go as the mind weighs up options in a dialogue known as ‘tarka;.
2. Sa-Asmita Samadhi
At this level of samadhi the mind becomes deeper and purer. The meditator is able to differentiate between their ego and their true desires, and resist being led by inappropriate objectives. The ego starts to wane at this point, and the mind is able to penetrate deeper into its own psyche.
3. Savichara Samadhi
The level of Savichara Samadhi is devoted to truly understanding the nature of time and space. Time loses all linear human perspective, and becomes in tune with the space-time of the universe. When this awareness is reached, everything experienced is now framed within a new, universal temporality. This level of samadhi is quiet, unchaotic, and peaceful, but conscious thought is still accessible.
4. Sa-Ananda Samadhi
This final stage of Samprajnata is moving beyond intellect and objectivity. In this stage, true tranquility is reached, and the only awareness is of joy and calm. At this point, pure unadulterated confidence in your inner power and the cosmic journey is intrinsic.
Stage Two: Asamprajnata Samadhi (Nirvikalpa)
The second of the two stages of samadhi is the Asamprajnata Samadhi, when the meditator and the world lose their connection, and the meditator deepens their relationship with the self. Self-awareness, pure and deep, is the key here, and consciousness is emptied in its entirety.
There are three stages of Asamprajnata Samadhi in order to achieve total wisdom and purity of consciousness, as follows:
1. Nirvichara Samadhi
The first stage, Nirvitarka Samadhi, sees superfluous elements of the consciousness, shabda and jnana, fall away, leaving artha to be suspended as the mind loses awareness of its own existence. At this stage we develop increased control over the mind, and the dialogues which we encounter through tarka are deeper and more pure.
2. Nirvichara Samadhi
At this point, pure absolute enlightenment is nearby. For the first time in the meditator’s conscious memory they are able to maintain single-pointed concentration, without distraction from existence or power. All of time and space becomes inconceivable as the mind melds with the cosmic space-time, the limitations held by time become imperceivable.
3. Kaivalya Samadhi
Finally, through this long and intensive process, a complete and final samadhi comes in the form of Kaivalya Samadhi. In this level, you are one with the eternal universe, and the process is permanent and unchanging.
True enlightenment, or samadhi, takes hard work and dedication to obtain, but with this hard work comes untold and unrestricted peace, joy, and tranquility. Through working through the stages of samadhi described above, you are able to reach new levels of consciousness, becoming one with the universe and unobstructed by physical or temporal notions.