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A Comparison of Hindu and Buddhist Techniques of Attaining Samdhi

Eddie Crangle

Under The Shade of the Coolibah Tree: Australian Studies in Consciousness (R.A. Hutch
& P.G. Fenner editors) University Press of America (1984)
A COMPARISON OF HINDU AND BUDDHIST
TECHNIQUES OF ATTAINING SAMADHI

Eddie Crangle

citta"i';'tti,-nlrodya'l:l
'Yoga is the cessation of mind- movement.!
Thus wrote Patafijali at the beginning of his y1ga-
sutra, relating to his technique of attaining fina
emancipation (moksa). Both Yogic and Buddhist schools
of thought share fundamental presuppositions about yoga.
Included, among others, are: a.) the equation; exist-
ence equals suffering, and b.) the doctrine of the
possibility of obtaining transcendental knowledge
In addition, both schools stress a
form of sel -discipline for obtaining release. The
growing preoccupation of contemporary western studies
in religion and the therapies etc., with the nature of
consciousness, the essential characteristics of human
suffering. and the freedom from such, leads invariably
to the examination and theoretical consideration of the
individual's. efforts to master consciousness.
Our editors, in the Introduction, understand such
expertise to encompass' ... a greater capacity to deploy
various forms of attention in a host of ways towards any
particular objects, thoughts, and feelings which make
up the whole of our sensory environments" Yogic
practices, however, aim also to reduce those aspects of
the consciousness flow which are viewed as hindrances
to attaining the ... ideal of perceptual and cognitive
freedom', i.e. the final emancipation of highest
!aml1dhi. It my intention, in this essay, to compare
Hindu and Buddhist techniques of achieving saml1dhi and
thus to contribute, hopefully, a little to the clarif-
ication of some consciousness studies in Eastern trad-
itions of philosophy, psychology, and religion.
In particular, I will examine the method relating
to the samidhi of Patanjali's Yoga-sutra and to that of
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the Buddhist P.Rupa and Arupa In these cases a sense of 'I'.
technique refers to the gradual removal of hindrances,'
to the refinement of consciousness, until the psychic 'Nir' forms are those without deliberation and
flux is arrested and the experience of complete fusion reflection: the mind does not interfere and so there
of the subject and object of meditation ensues: then, is no 'I' sense.
' ... the true nature of the object shines not
distracted by the mind of the perceiver ... ' Both types are 'seeded' (sabija); that is, they are
' ... in relation with a 'substratum' (support) and
In Patanjali's system of yoga there are eight steps produce tendencies that are 7ike 'seeds' for the future

or stages: two, namely moral restraints functions of consciousness.'
(yama and disciplines of the body and psyche (niyama),
are considered to be necessary preliminaries to the Sa-vitarka samadhi, then, is enstasis when the mind
remainder: three are accessary to mind control by has a gross (sthula) aspect of the object of concen-
governing the disciplining of body (asana), vital tration as its base, while being accompanied by
force (pranayama) and senses and the final deliberation and reflection. It is a direct perception
three stages are the process by the experience of of the object that extends into the past and future.
unification occurs. These are concentration Nir-vitarka samadhi is the moment when the object is
meditation (samadhi), descrrDea as empty of name and meaning: when the mind ceases link-
stasis and conJunction. three steps are known ing verbal and logical associations with it and the
as 'samrama'. The eighth stage, enstasis, is the final object is' ... grasped directly ... as a concrete and
phase 0 the unification process. irreducible datum. '8
Dharana is '... holding the mind in a motionless Sa-vicara samadhi is the level of knowing the subtle
fixing it to some mental or external object or inner aspect of the object of concentration
by repeated effort. Eventually, an even current of accompanied with deliberation and reflection. However,
thought (dhyana), undisturbed by other thoughts, is in nir-vicara samAdhi, when absorption deepens and
directed towards the object, thus allowing the yogin supramental reflection ceases' ... thought then becomes
' ... to intercept the flux of ordinary mental activity,' one with these infinitesimal nucleuses of energy which
(citta-v!tti)4 which gradually diminishes as the constitute the true foundation of the physical uni-
absorption-deepens. The result is samadhi. verse. '9
When samadhi is obtained with the aid of an object At this same point of enstasis are found two other
of concentration, this is called 'samErajnata-samadhi'; forms of contemplation; Ananda-samadhi, associated
the lower form of samadhi which is 't e accurate know- with supreme joy - unspeakable bliss. This becomes
ing of distinguishables'.5 In samprajnati-samadhi the object of concentration, and all perception,
are eight ontological levels of the contemplated object including that of the subtle aspect, is abandoned.
and degrees of fusion attained. Each level has its This leads to asmita samadhi: the stage at which the
own mode of function or logic. It may be that the self becomes the sole object of reflection and' ... the
I states are not discrete but are differences discerned reaches his true self and understands 'I am
on a continuum. These are: a. vitarka, b. vicara, other than my body". '10
c. ananda and d. asmita, each of which have two forms:
'sa'forms and 'nir' forms. 'Sa' forms are 'propertied' This level of knowing is also called 'dharma-megha-
when the object-oI meditation IS associated with samadhi': the 'cloud of dharma' in which the yogin
deliberation and reflection: the mind names the object ' ... feels that he is saturated (with virtues) and ...
(sabda), gives it significance (artha) and' ... prop- has a feeling of 'Enough' in respect to all knowledge
erties by comparison with some on and all consciousness ... ' and so precipitates the
the basis of remembered past experience. '6 They have subject orientated enstasy - asamprajnata-samadhi. ll
* Sanskrit has been used throughout except in cases Asamprajnata samadhi, procurJ'ed by supreme detach-
where the Pali seemed appropriate. These are marked with ment or abandonment (para-vairagya) of all worldy ob-
the letter 'P.'.
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188
jects, still remains seeded with subconscious impress- five psychological factors, previously mentioned arise
ions but these are burnt up with repeated in him. The object reflection is taken up
practise until the yogin attains the nirbija considered at length. This me, to be
(without seed) state of Kaivalya - ' ... the enstasis similar to the 'sa' forms of sampra nati samadhi in
of total emptiness, without sensary content or
intellectua structure .. in which the yogin is actually
1
which the object of concentration,n its gross and
t3
all Being. ' Emancipation I
subtle aspects, is considered in similar light.
However, as concentration and bliss intensifies
The samadhi of Buddhism is to be the second D.jhana is entered and the obstacles of
similar to that of the Yo 9a-sutra 4 and the meditation- applied and dLscursive thinking are dispensed with. 17
al techniques bear some sLmilarity, as I hope to show. The 'nir' forms of nir-vitarka and nir-vicara samadhi
In this instance, I will examine, mainly, the different bear a resemblance to this state in the sense that the
Buddhist Raptures in relation to samprAjnata gross and subtle aspects of that meditation are
and asamprAjnata sama 1. experienced without reflection.
The Noble Eight-fold Path of the Buddha, like When the third p.jhafia is entered, zest is
Patanjali's is concerned also with moral, dispensed with, leaving appiness and one pointedness
bodily,and mental discipline. The last three members of mind. In this state ' ... the sense of self is
of the Path are directly related to the unification still further diminished ... there superveneisa
process. These are: a. 'right exertion' (P.samma- clear, unruffled, perfectly conscious bliss ... '
vayama), which, by controlling the emotive reactions Ananda samadhi resembles this experience because of
to external activity, wards off mental supreme joy being its object of concentration.How-
activity; b. 'right mindfulness' (P.samma-sati),which ever, the satisfying happiness (P.ptii)
is the cultivation of awareness in order to keep the of the third p.{hana gives way to the subtle joy 0
mental contents under constant control and to produce tranquil mindfu ness 19 which probably bears a greater
relaxation of body and mind. This is done by choos- resemblance to the towards asmita samadhi.
ing a certain body function, such as breathing, and
following it with the mind,_and . the development of The last stage of the P.Rupa Jhanas is reached
, unification' (P.samma-samadhi) which comprises when any kind of emotion is stopped and all that re-
of eight meditative phases named P. 'jhana'. mains of the five psychological factors is onepointed-
ness of mind; consciousness of is trans-
These phases of consciousness are progressively cended creating perfect equanimityZO and consciousness
refined until all false ideas of life, matter and the passes beyond to the first of the P.Arupa Jhanas;
hindrance of thought are dispersed. Like the levels the formless attainments. I am reminded, here, of the
of samadhi in the Yoga-Sutra, these are divided into renunciation of dharma-megha-samadhi and entry_to
two main types: the P.Rnpa Jhanas which are attained the subject orientated enstasy of asamprajnata samadhi
by concentration and meditation on a mental or external by supreme detachment and abandonment of all worldy
form and b. the P.Arupa Jhanas: the 'formless attain- objects.
ments. '
It is at this point of the essay that I would like
The four P.Rnpa Jhanas, the practise of mind-object to draw attention, again, to seeded consciousness and
contemplation, possess five psychological elements consciousness without seed. When it is seeded,
which are reduced as the concentration of mind consciousness is affected by suppressed ideas and feel-
intensifies. These are: 1. investigation (vitarka, ings which remain as tendencies within the mind: these
P.vitakka), 2. reasoning (vicara), 3. zest (P.piti), tendencies lose their to germinate in the higher
4. happiness (P.plti-sukha) and 5. one-pointedness of realms of consciousness.
mind (P.ekaggatacitta).15
I feel that the
Jhanas resemble the sabija-
The first P.jhana is the state of mind in which the whic is seeded, at least, due to
meditation is disassociated from sense desires and the the 1nc ination to sustain this samadhi. The formless
attainments are seeded to the degree that they owe their
190 191
HINDU BUDDHIST
SAMPRAJNATA - Subject-Object Orientated. 4 RUPA JHANAS (P.) - Subject-Object Orientated.
'seeded' 'seeded'

SA VITARKA SAMAoHI 1st JHANA (P.) - 5 Psychological Factors Present


'With Deliberation & Reflection', 1, Investigation/Application of Thought
'Gross Object of concentration is 'Propertied' (VITARKA,P.VITAKKA)
SA VICARA SAMADHI 2. Reasoning/Discursive Thought (VICARA)
'With Deliberation & Reflection' 3. Zest
'Inner' Aspect of Object of is 4. Happiness
'Propertied', .. 5. One-Pointedness of Mind.
SA ANANDA SAMADHI
'With Deliberation & Reflection'
Bliss as Object of concentration is 'Propertied'
SA ASMITA SAMADHI
'With Deliberation & Re1ection'
Self as Object of Concentration is 'Propertied'

NIR VITARKA SAMADHI


NOT 'lUth Deliberation & Re1ection' 2nd JHANA (P.) - 3 Psychological Factors Present
Gross object of concentration is NOT 'Propertied' 1. Zest
NIR VICARA SAMADHI 2. Happiness
NOT 'With Deliberation & Reflection' 3. One-Pointedness of Mind
'Inner' Aspect of Object of Concentration is NOT
'Propertied' Feeling of Bliss Intensified

NIR ANANDA SAMADHI


Bliss as Object of Concentration
NOT 'Propertied'

NIR ASMITA SAMADHI


] [ 3rd JHANA (P.) - 2 Psychological Factors Present
1. Happiness
2. One-Pointedness of Mind

(P.) - 1 Psychological Factor Present


'Self' as Object of Concentration
NOT 'Propertied' 1. One-Pointedness of Mind
[

] [
JRANAS (P.) - Subject Orientated
ASAMPRAJNATA - Subject Oriented 'seeded' JoB!.. rormless Attainment "Seeded"
Burning up subconsciousness impressions 2nd It If tf

3rd It " If

It It Limit of Karmic Actio


======= - Without Seed. - Without Seed P.NIBBANA

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movement, through the levels of consciousness, to karmic of defilements, uncompounded, infinite, and eternal.
momentum and that the fourth p.AruKa Jhana is the stage Both are profoundly concerned with unconditioned con-
of transition to consciousness wit out seed. As sciousness. Furthermore, some doubt exists as to
consciousness becomes increasingly purified' ... the what is implied by the 'destruction' of consciousness'
complete removal of one stage constitutes the i.e., when consciousness , stops " or ceases' on the '
attainment of the next. ' attainment of
The first formless attainment is when the meditator It is not said to be annihilated. It no longer
abandons form as his object of concentration and transmigrates. 29 What happens to it? Perhaps this is
practices space concentration 2 3 to realize the sphere the essential difference between Kaivalya and Nirvana:
of space-infinity (P.akasayatana). Even so,_he the fact that Buddhism makes no positive statement aoout
sees that his attainment is shadowed by the rupa-Jhana the final state of the released. Buddhist doctrine
(and) wishes to attain the state of infinite conscious- declares: 'In the dead man, not only are the three
ness, considering it to be even more tranquil. '24 By formations (verbal, bodily and thought formations)
continuing this practice, he passes beyond the sphere stilled but vitality is cut off, heat is cut off the
of infinite space and enters the sphere of infinite faculties are cut off. In a man who has entered the
consciousness: the second formless attainment attainment of the dissolution of perception and sen-
sation, although the (three) formations are stilled,
vitality, heat and 58e faculties are not cut off. This
This, also, is seen as an imperfection so ' ... the is the difference.' It could be that this difference
consciousness lets go of every concept ... and enters a applies equally to the achiever of Kaivalya and that
sphere where no-thing at all exists, not even the equates with the nirbija state of Kaivalya.
perception of nothingness (p.akificafifia*atana) Self-
consciousness is eliminated and' ... t e knower and In conclusion, I note that both Hindu and Buddhist
known are merged in unity. '25 yogins, after a period of moral and physical discipline,
developed proficiency at attaining a degree of enstasy
Yet, the bliss of its tranquility is felt as subtle with the object of their concentration and, by the
perception and this can only be neutralized by entering gradual removal of hindrances to consciousness, managed
the sphere of neither-perception nor non-perception to intensify the degree of enstasis; eventually,
(P.nevasannanasannayatana). Thus,' ... the limit of object-orientated enstasis was transcended and a degree
all karmic action is reached; '26 the yogin is at the of formless attainment/subject-orientated enstasis
final and transitional stage to the attainment of ensued. This however, was still liable to subtle
' ... which is the total suspension of mind, partiality but was eventually surpassed to attain
mental-properties, and the mental qualities associated liberation and '... the knowledge of the real-
with mind. '27 ity of all objects, material and phenomenal.'
There is similarity between Yogic and Buddhist
techniques of attaining samadhi but in each case the References
emancipation is thought to be different. While admitt-
ing that yogins and non-Buddhist ascetics could have 1 Isherwood & Prabhavananda, How to Know God: The
access to the eight transic states (P.jhanas),the Aphorisms of Patanjali, (N.Y.: New American
Buddhists denied the authenticity of any claim by non- 19 9), p .11.
Buddhists to the attainment of the ninth state which is
the release of the destruction of conscious-
ness and whIch was specifically a discovery 2Ibid ., p.122.
of the Buddha. 8 Whilst Buddhists (and others) would
argue that Kaivalya and are completely differ- 3Mircea Eliade, From Primitives to Zen, (London:
ent, the argument is not so clear cut. There Collins, 1967), p.500.
is a striking between Kaivalya and
in that both are thought of as pure, free of
194 195
4Georg Feuerstein, Textbook o;f Yoga,(London: Rider, l8Humphries, op.cit., p.180, quoting Bhikkhu
1975), p.l3D. Silacara.

SIan Kesacodi-Watson, Samadhi in Patafijali's 19Feuerstein, op.cit., p.58.


Sutras, (Australia: an unpublished manuscript, 1980),
p.l3. 2Mahathera Vajirananda, op.cit., pp.272279.
6Ibid ., p.1S. 21Humphries, op.cit., pp.183184.
7Mircea Eliade, YOfa: Immortality and Freedom, 22Mahathera Vajirananda, op.cit., p.332.
(N.Y.: Panthean Books, 958), p.83, quoting
Yogasara-samgraha.
23Upattissa, (The Path of Freedom)
(Colombo: Dr. Weerasuria, 1 1), p.113.
8Ibid ., pp.8l-83.

9 Ibid ., p.83.
Vajirananda, op.cit., p.459.

25Humphries, op.cit., p.182.


lD Ibid ... p. 84, quoting Yisnanabhiksu' s Yogasara-
saJ.b.graha.
26 Ibid., p.183.
llIbid., p.84.
27Mahathera Vajirananda, op.cit., p.465.
12Feuerstein, op.cit., p.132.
28Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, op.cit.,
pp.173l74.
l3Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, op.cit.,
pp.9395.
29Edward J. Thomas, The of Buddhist
(N.Y.: Barnes and Noble, 1 11, 1st. publ.,
14 Ibid., p.17D. 1933 , p.132.
3DUpatissa, op.cit., p.325.
31
Lama Thubten Zopa, The Wish Fulfilling Golden
Sun of the Mahaiana Thought Training, (an unpublished
manuscript), p. 21.

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