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the Wanderling


Zen master Tai-yung, passing by the retreat of another Zen master named Chih-huang, stopped and during his visit respectfully asked, "I am told that you frequently enter into Samadhi. At the time of such entrances, does your consciousness continue or are you in a state of unconsciousness? If your consciousness continues, all sentient beings are endowed with consciousness and can enter into Samadhi like yourself. If, on the other hand, you are in a state of unconsciousness, plants and rocks can enter into Samadhi." Huang replied, "When I enter into a Samadhi, I am not conscious of either condition." Yung said, "If you are not conscious of either condition, this is abiding in Eternal Samadhi, and there can be neither entering into a Samadhi nor rising out of it." (source)

Passing from 'concentration' to 'meditation' does not require the application of any new technique. Similarly, no supplementary exercise is needed to realize Samadhi, once the ascetic has succeeded in 'concentrating' and 'meditating.' Samadhi, 'enstasis,' is the final result of the ascetic's spiritual efforts and exercises.

The meanings of the term Samadhi are union, totality; absorption in, complete concentration of mind; conjunction. The usual translation is 'concentration,' but this embarks the risk of confusion with dharana. Hence, the preferred translation is 'entasis,' 'stasis,' and conjunction.

Patanjali and his commentators distinguish several kinds or stages of supreme concentration. When Samadhi is obtained with the help of an object or idea (that is, by fixing one's thought on a point in space or on an idea), the stasis is called samprajnata samadhi ('enstasis WITH support,' or 'differentiated enstasis'). When Samadhi is obtained apart from any 'relation' (whether external or mental) that is, when one obtains a 'conjunction' into which no otherness' enters, but which is simply a full comprehension of being one has realized asamprajnata-samadhi ('enstasis WITHOUT support,' or 'undifferentiated stasis'). It should be noted that in Vendanta circles asamprajnata-samadhi is sometimes refered to as nirvikalpa-samadhi. Vijnanabhikshu adds that samprajnata samadhi is a means of liberation in so far as it makes possible the comprehension of truth and ends every kind of suffering. But asamprajnata samadhi destroys the 'impressions [samskara] of all antecedent mental functions' and even succeeds in arresting the karmic forces already set in motion by the yogin's past activity. During 'differentiated stasis,' Vijnanabhikshu continues, all the mental functions are 'arrested' ('inhibited'), except that which 'meditates on the object'; whereas in asampranata samadhi all 'consciousness' vanishes, the entire series of mental functions are blocked. 'During this stasis, there is no other trace of the mind [citta] save the impressions [samskara] left behind (by its past functioning). If these impressions were not present, there would be no possibility of returning to consciousness.'

We are, then, confronted with two sharply differentiated classes of states.' The first class is acquired through the yogic technique of concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana), the second class comprises only a single 'state'-that is, unprovoked enstasis, 'raptus.' No doubt, even this asamprajnata samadhi is always owing to prolonged efforts on the yogin's part. It is not a gift or a state of grace. One can hardly reach it before having sufficiently experienced the kinds of Samadhi included in the first class. It is the crown of the innumerable 'concentrations' and 'meditations' that have preceded it. But it comes without being summoned, without being provoked, without special preparation for it. That is why it can be called a 'raptus.'

Obviously, 'differentiated enstasis,' samprajnata-samadhi, comprises several stages. This is because it is perfectible and does not realize an absolute and irreducible 'state.' Four stages or kinds are generally distinguished: 'argumentative' (savitarka), 'nonargumentative' (nirvitarka), reflective' (savicara), 'super-reflective' (nirvicara). Patanjali also employs another set of terms: vitarka, vicara, ananda, asmita which correspond roughly with the first four Jhana states. (Y-S-, I, 17). But, as Vijnanabhikshu, who reproduces this list, remarks, 'the four terms are purely technical, they are applied conventionally to different forms of realization.' These four forms or stages of samprajnata samadhi, he continues, represent an ascent; in certain cases the grace of God (ishvara) permits direct attainment of the higher states, and in such cases the yogin need not go back and realize the preliminary states. But when this divine grace does not intervene, he must realize the four states gradually, always adhering to the same object of meditation (for example, Vishnu). These four grades or stages are also known as samapattis, 'coalescences.' (Y.S., I, 41-)

All these four stages of samprajnata samadhi are called bija samadhi ('samadhi with seed') or salambana samadhi ('with support):, for Vijnanabhikshu tells us, they are in relation with a 'substratum' (support) and produce tendencies that are like 'seeds' for the future functions of consciousness. Asamprajnata samadhi, on the contrary, is nirbija samadhi, 'without seed,' without support. By realizing the four stages of samprajnata, one obtains the 'faculty of absolute knowledge' (Y.S., 1, 48) This is already an opening towards samadhi 'without seed,' for absolute knowledge discovers the ontological completeness in which being and knowing are no longer separated. Fixed in samadhi, consciousness (citta) can now have direct revelation of the Self (purusha). Through the fact that this contemplation (which is actually a 'participation') is realized, the pain of existence is abolished.

Vyasa (ad Y.S., III, 55) summarizes the passage FROM samprajnata samadhi TO asamprajnata samadhi as follows:

Through the illumination (prajna, 'wisdom') spontaneously obtained when he reaches the stage of dharma-megha-samadhi the ascetic realizes 'absolute isolation' (kaivalya) -- that is, liberation of purusha from the dominance of Prakriti.

For his part, Vacaspatimishra says that the 'fruit' of samprajnata samadhi is asamprajnata samadhi, and the 'fruit' of the latter is kaivalya, liberation. It would be wrong to regard this mode of being of the Spirit as a simple 'trance" in which consciousness was emptied of all content. Nondifferentiated enstasis is not absolute emptiness.' The 'state' and the 'knowledge' simultaneously expressed by this term refer to a total absence of objects in consciousness, not to a consciousness absolutely empty. For, on the contrary, at such a moment consciousness is saturated with a direct and total intuition of being.


Khanika Samadhi is called momentary concentration (sequential momentary deep concentration) because it occurs only at the moment of noting and, in the case of Vipassana, not on a fixed object as Samatha-Jhana meditation but on changing objects or phenomena that occur in the mind and body. But when the Vipassana meditator develops strength and skill in noting, his Khanika concentration occurs uninterruptedly in a series without a break. This concentration, when it occurs from moment to moment without a break, becomes so powerful that it can overcome The Five Hindrances, thus bringing about purification of mind (citta visuddhi) which can enable a meditator to attain all the insight knowledges up to the level of Arahat. (source)


As Madhava (1) says, Nirodha [final arrest of all psychomental experience] must not be imagined as a nonexistence, but rather as the support of a particular condition of the Spirit.' It is the enstasis of total emptiness, without sensory content or intellectual structure, an unconditioned state that is no longer 'experience' (for there is no further relation between consciousness and the world) but 'revelation.' Intellect (buddhi), having accomplished its mission, withdraws, detaching itself from the Self (purusha) and returning into prakriti. The Self remains free, autonomous: it contemplates itself. 'Human' consciousness is suppressed; that is, it no longer functions, its constituent elements being reabsorbed into the primordial substance. The yogin attains deliverance; like a dead man, he has no more relation with life; he is 'dead in life.' He is the jivan-mukta, the 'liberated in life.' He no longer lives in time and under the domination of time, but in an eternal present, in the nunc stans by which Boethius defined Eternity.

Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.







SAMADHI: In Sanskrit It's Samadhi; But What Does It Mean?



YOGA: Essay on the Origins of Indian Mysticism
PP. 77, 79-81, 83-4, 93-4



Referencing Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha ("Compendium of All Philosophies," 14th century) by Madhava Acharya, translated by E. B. Cowell and A. E. Gough. Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trubner, London, 1914. Also Sarva-darshana-samgraha and Sarvadarsana Sam Graha.

MADHAVA ACHARYA (fi. C. 1380), Hindu statesman and philosopher, lived at the court of Vijayanagar. His younger brother S~yapa (d. 1387) was associated with him in the administration and was a famous commentator on the Rig Veda. Shya~ias commentaries were influenced by and dedicated to Madhava, who is best known as the author of the Sarvadarsana Sam Graha. Madhava also wrote commentaries on the Mimalpsa Sutras. He died as abbot of the monastery of Sringeri