What Is Samadhi?
By Matthew Joyce
I’ve recently heard a term I don’t understand. Can you explain what samadhi is?
Samadhi is a state in which you transcend the bounds of your body, mind, and self-identity and merge into an undifferentiated unity with all that is. It is also the process of meditating with increasingly concentrated awareness until you reach that state.
The term “samadhi” is used in both Hinduism and Buddhism, and it comes from a Sanskrit word that very loosely translates as “Becoming One.” Although Hindus and Buddhists break down the experience a bit differently according to their traditions, the experience they describe is universal and people from other spiritual traditions—or no traditions at all—experience samadhi.
Rather than delve into the distinctions made by various schools of religious thought, I think it will be most useful if I describe the experience and the process for achieving it.
To me, samadhi is the realization of a non-dual state of being in which I and all that I experience are one and the same. While it is possible to achieve this ultimate state of samadhi in an instant, it’s more common to progress through a series of experiences or stages on your way to the ultimate goal.
Initial Hints at Samadhi
The first hint of samadhi is one of joy, peace and overall well-being. You can achieve it while meditating, exercising vigorously, or even while enjoying a sublime moment such as listening to music or watching a sunset. When you experience it you lose track of time and you temporarily become completely absorbed in your experience in the moment. While fleeting, these experiences hint at what awaits you if you pursue more profound levels.
The next phase involves a steadier state of consciousness, and for many people achieving it requires deliberate effort. When you reach this level, you experience yourself as a point of awareness that exists beyond your body, mind, emotions, and personality. While remaining perfectly aware of them, you no longer consider them to be parts of your identity. You perceive them as tools that you can use or, in the case of your personality, as a collection of experiences you’ve acquired.
In this stage of samadhi you enjoy profound and lasting peace, but your sense of yourself as a separate being remains intact. (This stage is the focus of our Awakened Awareness workshop.)
When you truly reach this stage you free yourself from suffering. This doesn’t mean that you feel no physical pain or that you don’t experience emotions. Rather you experience them as occurring within your body or your mind, and because you know that your body and mind are tools and not your true identity, you perceive suffering as optional. This is a profoundly freeing condition that can fundamentally change the way that you live your life.
Higher Levels of Samadhi
As wonderful as this stage is, it is the starting point for experiencing still further levels of samadhi. When you know yourself as a point of awareness that exists beyond your physical self, you can develop abilities to explore other dimensions and realities beyond this physical reality, other lifetimes, other timelines, and other ways of being. It is at this stage that direct contact with the Divine becomes possible through your deliberate seeking.
Mystics of all spiritual traditions—from Shamanism to the multitude of organized religions to unaffiliated modern seekers—tell of their adventures in these realms and the great learning, personal growth, and healing that come as a result.
There are countless opportunities for exploration and service at this stage, but this too is just a phase. Because eventually you realize that no matter how many fantastic, growth-promoting, or ecstatic experiences that you enjoy, you are still exploring the realm of duality.
Unity with the Divine lies beyond all experiences of duality and separateness. So you may strive to progress beyond occasional glimpses and connections with the Divine in order to merge completely with It.
The Great Challenge of Samadhi
But here you encounter a great challenge because until now, despite the varied and wonderful experiences you have enjoyed, you have retained your sense of separate self. Separate from others. Separate from all that you have experienced. In order to achieve samadhi of Divine union you must dissolve your individual sense of self as a separate being. This is no easy task and many people find this extremely challenging.
There is no single way of achieving this dissolution, but the path you’ve followed up until now prepares you to a certain extent. Relinquishing your identity as a body, mind and personality helps to shed your self-concepts. Traveling to alternative realities, encountering nonphysical beings, experiencing past lives and greater parts of your Higher Self imbues you with an expanded sense of who you truly are.
And so, whether by stripping away your layers of identity until nothing remains, or by expanding your experience of self to include all things, or by other means, such as expressing pure unlimited love and devotion, you relinquish all sense of separateness and dissolve into the pure bliss and radiant light that is Unity with all that is.
The Height of Divine Samadhi
In this state, there is no time. There is no place. There is no effort. There is no sense of anything other than yourself as all things. Up to this point the universe seems like an infinite place filled with an infinite number of things. In this state there is no universe. There is no infinity. There is nothing to experience because you are no longer separate from that which you are experiencing. You are neither conscious, nor are you unconscious. You simply are.
The state is so profound that leaving it is something you won’t want to do. And some spiritual masters make the choice not to. Yet those of us with more to do in human form must eventually return to the Earth plane.
When we do, we return forever changed. Because even after separating our individual awareness from that Divine unity, we retain the realization of our true nature as being inseparable from all that is. And thus we are able to consciously act as individuals within the physical realm while maintaining our awareness of Divine samadhi.
Each level of samadhi is an experience of growth on a path of spiritual development, and each level can be of great benefit depending on your life circumstances and particular needs.
May you enjoy samadhi at the level most appropriate for you,
P.S. If you would like to discuss your personal path, please feel free to send me an email.
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