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Samadhi (Sanskrit: समाधि) is a Hindu and Buddhist technical term that usually denotes higher levels of concentrated meditation, or dhyana, in Yogic schools.

In the Sanatana Dharma, it is one of the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. It has been described as a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object,[1] and in which the mind becomes still (one-pointed or concentrated)[2] though the person remains conscious. To put it more accurately, it is a state of equanimity, where duality of anything ceases - for example, there's no right/wrong, good/bad, etc.

Within Hinduism, Samadhi can also loosely refer to the intentional departure from the physical body at death as well as the mausoleum of a saint, or spiritual leader. The more accurate way to refer to this process is called "Maha Samadhi".

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

Samadhi (समाधि samādhi, (pronounced: /səˈmaːdʱɪ|hi/) is a Sanskrit term for the state of consciousness induced by complete meditation. Its etymology comes from sam (together or integrated), a (towards), and dha (to get, to hold). Thus the result might be seen to be to acquire integration or wholeness, or truth (samapatti). Another possible etymological breakdown of samādhi is samā (even) and dhi (intellect), a state of total equilibrium (samā) of a detached intellect (dhi).

Thomas William Rhys Davids (n.d.: unpaginated) holds that the first attested usage of the term 'samadhi' (Sanskrit) in Sanskrit literature was in the Maitri Upanishad.[3]

In Hinduism

Samadhi is the main subject of the first part of the Yoga Sutras called Samadhi-pada. According to Vyasa, a major figure in Hinduism and one of the traditional authors of the Mahabharata, "yoga is samadhi." This is generally interpreted to mean that Samadhi is a state of complete control (samadhana) over the functions and distractions of consciousness.

Samadhi is described in different ways within Hinduism such as the state of being aware of one's Existence without thinking, in a state of undifferentiated “Beingness" or as an altered state of consciousness that is characterized by bliss (ananda) and joy (sukha).

Furthermore, samadhi has been categorised as:

  1. Laya Samadhi
  2. Savikalpa Samadhi
  3. Nirvikalpa Samadhi
  4. Sahaja Samadhi

Laya Samadhi is a latent ("laya"), potential level of samadhi. It begins in deep meditation or trance—even with movement, such as dancing. This kind of samadhi is a state of joy, deep and general well-being, and peaceful meditation.

Savikalpa Samadhi refers to the initial temporary state of full-valued samadhi. The conscious mind is still active, as is the kalpa, meaning imagination. One should compare this meaning to that of sankalpa, which is "wish." Kalpa takes on a different, but related, meaning to sankalpa because one must use imagination or consciousness (kalpa) to envision a wish or desire (sankalpa). Conversely, vikalpa means "against imagination." At this final level of samadhi, the mind has become quiet and given up its desires and attendant. Vikalpa leads to the Truth, releasing one from any binds of mind (which are mostly imaginations). In Savikalpa Samadhi, we get the taste of Bliss and Beingness, but are still attached to our erroneous identification with the body as well as to our numerous worldly attractions.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the highest transcendent state of consciousness. In this state there is no longer mind, duality, or subject-object relationship or experience.[4] Upon entering Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the differences we saw before have faded and we can see everything as one. In this condition nothing but pure Awareness remains and nothing is missing to take away from Wholeness and Perfection.

Entering samadhi in the beginning takes effort and holding on to a state of samadhi takes even more effort. The beginning stages of samadhi (Laya and Savikalpa Samadhi) are only temporary. By "effort" it is not meant that the mind has to work more. Instead, it means work to control the mind and release the self. Note that normal levels of meditation (mostly the lower levels) can be held automatically, as in "being in the state of meditation" rather than overtly "meditating." The ability to obtain positive results from meditation is much more difficult than simply meditating. It is recommended to find a qualified spiritual master (guru or yogi) who can teach a meditator about the workings of the mind.

Samadhi is the only stable unchanging reality; all else is ever-changing and does not bring everlasting peace or happiness.

Staying in Nirvikalpa Samadhi is effortless but even from this condition one must eventually return to ego-consciousness. Otherwise, this highest level of Samadhi leads to Nirvana, which means total Unity and the logical end of individual identity (and also death of the body). However, it is entirely possible to stay in Nirvikalpa Samadhi and yet be fully functional in this world. This condition is known as Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi or Sahaja Samadhi. Only the truly Enlightened can be and remain spontaneously free.

In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, all attachment to the material world is dissolved. All awareness is withdrawn step by step from the physical, astral and causal bodies until self-realization or oneness with the soul is achieved. During this process, breathing ceases and the heart stops beating. Aware and fully conscious oneness with soul is then achieved in a most loving way, and all cells of the physical body are flooded with the Ocean of Divine Love and Divine Bliss for any period of duration—hours, days, weeks, until the individual shifts his awareness from the soul back to the physical body. Being fully functional in this world, his awareness stays in connection with the Divine. But some "strange" conditions accompany this state—better health (the body is sustained by Divine Grace), better feelings (even for other people who may contact the body which the enlightened soul has reidentified with) and various miraculous happenings may occur in connection with the Enlightened one.

In Bhakti

The Vaishnava Bhakti Schools of Yoga define Samadhi as "complete absorption into the object of one's love (Krishna)." Rather than thinking of "nothing," true samadhi is said to be achieved only when one has pure, unmotivated love of God. Thus samadhi can be entered into through meditation on the personal form of God, even while performing daily activities a practitioner can strive for full samadhi.

"Anyone who is thinking of Krsna always within himself, he is first-class yogi." If you want perfection in yoga system, don't be satisfied only by practicing a course of asana. You have to go further. Actually, the perfection of yoga system means when you are in samadhi, always thinking of the Visnu form of the Lord within your heart, without being disturbed... Controlling all the senses and the mind. You have to control the mind, control the senses, and concentrate everything on the form of Vishnu. That is called perfection of yoga" - A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [5]
"Meditation means to absorb your mind in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is meditation, real meditation. In all the standard scriptures and in yoga practice formula, the whole aim is to concentrate one's mind in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is called samadhi, samadhi, ecstasy. So that ecstasy is immediately brought by this chanting process. You begin chanting and hear for the few seconds or few minutes: you immediately become on the platform of ecstasy." - A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [6]

As leaving the body

Advanced yogis have been said to intentionally leave their bodies as a final attainment or soul-liberation. It is at this time that the soul knows a complete and unbroken union with the Heavenly Godhead, and, being free from the limitations of the body, merges effortlessly into the transcendent amrita of Divine Bliss. It is said that sometimes the yogi leaves the body and returns.

Mahasamadhi (literally great samadhi) is a term often used for this intentional departure from the physical body at death. Every infinitesimal piece of attachment or karma is completely surrendered unto God and dissolved into the Divine Ocean of Love. The individual transcends to worlds beyond karma and returns to God, merging into transcendental Bliss.

Samadhi mandir of Meher Baba

As mausoleum

Samadhi mandir is also the Hindi name for a temple commemorating the dead (similar to a mausoleum), which may or may not contain the body of the deceased. Samadhi sites are often built in this way to honour people regarded as saints or gurus in Hindu religious traditions wherein such souls are said to have passed into maha-samadhi, (or were already in) samadhi at the time of death.

In Buddhism

Samadhi, or concentration of the mind (one-pointedness of mind, cittassa-ekaggata), is the third division of the Eightfold Path of the Buddha's teaching: pañña (wisdom), sila (conduct), samadhi (concentration) - within which it is developed by samatha meditation. Some of Buddhist schools teach of 40 different object meditations, according to the Visuddhimagga, an ancient commentarial text. These objects include the breath (anapanasati meditation), loving kindness (metta meditation), various colours, earth, fire, etc. (kasina meditation).

Important components of Buddhist meditation, frequently discussed by the Buddha, are the successively higher meditative states known as the four jhanas which in the language of the eight-fold path, is "right concentration". Right concentration has also been defined as concentration arising due to the previous seven steps of the noble eightfold path in the Maha-cattarisaka Sutta.[7]

Four developments of samadhi are mentioned in the Pali Canon:

  1. Jhana
  2. Increased alertness
  3. Insight into the true nature of phenomena (knowledge and vision)
  4. Final liberation

Post-canonical Pali literature identifies three different types of samadhi:

  1. momentary samadhi (khaṇikasamādhi)[8]
  2. access concentration (upacārasamādhi)
  3. fixed concentration (appaṇāsamādhi)

Not all types of samadhi are recommended either. Those which focus and multiply the Five Hindrances are not suitable for development.[9]

The Buddhist suttas also mention that samadhi practitioners may develop supernormal powers (abhijna, and list several that the Buddha developed, but warn that these should not be allowed to distract the practitioner from the larger goal of complete freedom from suffering.

The bliss of Samadhi is not the goal of Buddhism; but it remains an important tool in reaching the goal of enlightenment. It has been said that Samatha/samadhi meditation and vipassana/insight meditation are the two wheels of the chariot of the noble eightfold path and the Buddha strongly recommended developing them both.[10]

Analogous concepts

According to the book God Speaks by Meher Baba, the Sufi words fana-fillah and baqa-billah are analogous to nirvikalpa samadhi and sahaj samadhi respectively.[11]

States of consciousness with some of the features of Samadhi are experienced by individuals with no religious or spiritual preparation or disposition. Such episodes occur spontaneously and appear to be triggered by physically or emotionally charged peak experiences] such as in runner's high or orgasmic ecstasy, however even mundane activities such as reveling in a sunset, dancing or a hard day's work have, in rare instances, induced the entire range of Samadhi from Laja to Nirvikalpa.

The only distinction in these spontaneous secular samadhi from Hindu and Buddhist descriptions is that in the state of non-duality equivalent to Nirvikalpa, there is no record of any supernormal physical effects as purported in the literature such as the breath and heart-beat stopping or any degree of conscious control during the event. Also absent are siddhis-like special powers as an aftermath although virtually all experiencers report they became imbued with a holistic and compassionate worldview and no longer feared death.

See also


  1. Diener Michael S. ,Erhard Franz-Karl and Fischer-Schreiber Ingrid, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, ISBN 0-87773-520-4
  2. (links directly to samadhi definition)
  3. T.W.Rhys Davis (n.d.). 'Introduction to the Subha Sutta'. Source: [1] (accessed: Thursday December 24, 2009)
  4. The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion, Shambhala Boston,1994, pg.251
  5. 'This Movement Appeals Directly To The Soul' Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture (1971)
  6. 'Center Society on Spiritual Profit' Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture (1968)
  7. ("The Great Forty," MN 117)
  8. Buddhaghosa, Bhadantācariya & Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (tr.) (1999). The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga. Seattle, WA: Buddhist Publication Society, Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-00-2; and, Visuddhacara (n.d.).
  9. "Gopaka Moggallana Sutta". Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  10. "Samadhi Sutta". Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  11. "God Speaks" by Meher Baba, Dodd Meade, 1955, 2nd ed. p.316

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Samadhi. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.