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SAMADHI: The Natural State
Commentary on thirty-six verses from Vasistha Samhita Yoga Kanda
SAMADHI: The Natural State
What do we think of when we hear the Sanskrit term samadhi? Can we objectify it to something we can understand? How would we know if someone is in samadhi; or even if we are in samadhi? This is certainly a semantic perplexity even if we already know some definition such as, “Union with the divine; the final stage of meditation.” Does this really tell us what it is? And even if we find an acceptable definition, how is samadhi different, or the same as, nirvana, or kaivalya? Let us start at the beginning. In ancient times there lived a wise rishi called Vasistha who was a Vedic scholar and prolific writer on philosophical and mystical topics. Some of his writings have been preserved in a volume now called the Vasistha Samhita Yoga Kanda. Vasistha frames the work as a dialogue between himself and his son Yogi Shakti, which is common in this genre of literature. Within this volume is a section on samadhi that is definitive on the topic. Of 417 verses in this Samhita, thirty-six refer to the attainment of samadhi. It is this small selection that is excerpted for the current inquiry. Of course we already know that saying the word samadhi is not the experience of it, nor can any reference to an object give any insight whatever into the knower of an object. It is this unchanging knower, the Self, the impartial witness, that when distilled from the mind, will reflect upon its own nature. It is this daily practice of meditative Selfreflection that leads us to effortless transcendence. Vasistha’s original Sanskrit verses have been carefully translated by research staff at the Kaivalydhama Institute in Pune, Maharashtra, India. A revised edition was published in 2005. We are so fortunate to have translation of this ancient wisdom. In the body text the Devanagari and the romanized script are included. Any errors in the commentary, are mine. ~Dennis Hill
SAMADHI: The Natural State
59. Samadhi is the state of identification between the individual self and the supreme-self, the identity of the individual-self with the supreme-self is also called Samadhi. This verse is an essential summary of the Vedic Upanishads which proclaim in four mahavakyas (great teachings) that the local self is not different from the Universal Self. So Vasistha says at the beginning that the final outcome of the study of the Vedas and practice of meditation, is that we will become fully identified with Universal Consciousness, that is, we live as the Peaceful Presence all the time. This is samadhi.
60. As he goes on meditating on the self, so he attains Samadhi. By meditating only, one should settle the self in the supreme-self so that it could never be separated. With essential clarity, Vasistha tells us that the practice of meditation is the path to samadhi. Not only is the state of samadhi attained through meditation, but this merging into the Self is irrevocable. We never again suffer the tyranny of the mind… bliss, ananda, is our steady state.
61. Meditating in the Self, the Brahman, which is attributed as bliss, truth, knowledge, infinite and exclusive of gunas; here (in this stage) only he attains Samadhi. It is odd indeed that the conscious Self, subject void of object, is assigned attributes. How does the formless eternal have attributes? Beginning meditation we first attain to the emptiness when the mind has become still; the nothingness is so peaceful. However, through practice we become established in the inner stillness and discover the inner landscape has become the fullness of the emptiness. It is this fullness that is rich in bliss, the sweetness of just being. We know truth by direct knowing, transcendent to the mind. Consciousness is infinite and eternal, thus we, the conscious indweller, are likewise infinite. In this state of divine clarity, the gunas of rajas and tamas dissolve into sattva, and sattva merges into perfect balance leaving no individual quality; only satchitananda: existence, consciousness, and bliss absolute. This is samadhi.
62. Meditating on the self, the embodied supreme-self, Lord Vasudeva within the lotus of the heart, here only he attains Samadhi. In 4th century India, Vasudeva was a very popular deity, characterized by the attributes named in the previous verse (bliss, truth, knowledge, limitlessness, and purity). The name Vasudeva is from the Sanskrit roots vasu, meaning good, and deva, meaning divine being. In the verse, hrtpadme comes from the Sanskrit root hrydaya meaning heart, and padme, meaning lotus. The significance of this is that consciousness itself abides in the heart center. As Lord Vasudeva, we meditate upon the lotus of the heart and attain samadhi.
63. Meditating on the lord in the form of fire merged in the flames, dwelling in the middle of the lotus of the heart, there he attains samadhi. Referring again to Lord Vasudeva it is a natural association with fire worship. According to legend, it was Agni (god of fire) who recited the Agni Purana to sage Vasistha. The esoteric meaning of fire is the light of awareness, or consciousness. We know the center of consciousness is in the heart chakra, so it is a natural association to meditate on the Self in the form of fire (light of awareness) in the heart center.
64. Meditating on the self, the embodied person staying in the lotus of the heart, dipped in nectar, here only he attains Samadhi. Key in this verse is staying... staying in meditative awareness of the Self in the heart center. It is here in the staying, that samadhi is attained. When the watcher of the stillness persists over time then the shift in identity from the mind/ body to the Self is complete. We see through the eyes of the watcher, action follows dharma, and sweetness, ananda, saturates our being.
65. Meditating on the self, the golden tawny Lord staying in the middle of the eyebrows, here only he attains Samadhi. We get more staying in this verse, perhaps so we don’t forget; but this time we are staying in the third eye chakra, the Ajna. The Ajna represents the power of direct knowing, boundaryless consciousness, omniscience. Steadiness in meditation upon the Ajna stills the mind and awakens unbounded awareness. This is Samadhi.
66. Meditating on the self, Lord in the form of solar disk Hari with golden figure, here only he attains Samadhi. Notice that the previous seven verses begin with “Meditating on the Self...” so we really need to figure out just what this Self is. The clue in this verse is, “Hari, in the form of solar disk.” Hari, along with Vasudeva, are avatars of Krishna; so we haven’t really ventured very far from earlier verses. The solar disk, Surya, represents consciousness, or the light of awareness by which all else is known. So now we have Lord Hari, the form of consciousness, in meditation on the Self. We are Hari, meditating upon our own divine being. We are consciousness, self-reflecting through the form that is taken. It is the power of consciousness that it can know itself. We bring divine bliss back to itself, ourself.
67. O Tapodhana! Thus you have been told the most secret knowledge with eight components which is pious, meritorious and destroyer of sin. Sage Vasistha addresses his son as a renunciate and reviews the previous content of the Samhita comprising the eight limbs of yoga. In earlier chapters the eight limbs are covered in detail, and all leads up to this section on samadhi. One might think that this is similar to Patanjali’s notable Yoga Sutras; however, the similarities are quite superficial. The Sutras were composed from a perspective of Samkya Philosophy and Raja Yoga. Vasistha was a vedic scholar and composed the Yoga Kanda Samhita from a decidedly vedic point of view. After all, the limbs of yoga came to us first in the Maitriyani Upanishads extended from the Yajur Veda, a significant influence in Vasistha’s cosmology. The sticking point is this: vedic literature specifies correctness in the performance of religious and cultural duties. The Sutras and Pradipika do not address this, so Vasistha makes up for it throughout the entire Samhita.
68. When a person discharges his regular duties without attachment to fruits, together with his knowledge, salvation lies in his hand. One of the most relevant injunctions given in this volume is non-attachment to action; no expectation ever, about anything. Attachment brings fear of loss, loss brings anger, anger brings complete disruption of the steady state. We already know this of course. The other part of this verse addresses knowledge (jnana) as the essential partner with non-attachment, for full liberation. In the Sanskrit language, there are numerous words for knowledge. Vidya means mental knowledge, or right understanding. This is good, but it is not jnana. Jnana means knowledge of the Self. Notice in the first line of the verse, jnana is specified so we will not be confused.
69. He who reads this pious episode daily with stable mind, becomes free from adharma and becomes a real knower of truth. The discipline of scriptural study is called swadhyaya, and brings steadiness of mind and great merit (punya). But what does it mean to become a knower of truth? Note the word used in the second line, satyajnani. Satya (truth) means knowing things just as they are beyond any thoughts arising in the mind. Jnana, as we remember from the previous verse, is knowing the Self. So a “real knower of truth” is one in persistent inner stillness observing the reality of things seen directly in this present moment; no longer lost in the dream of the mind.
70. If a person attends to this directive daily with faith and devotion, he rids himself of unrighteousness accumulated throughout one lifetime, within a day. The day we become established in inner steadiness is the day we finish with the wheel of karma and reincarnation. No further karma is created, dharma is established, samadhi persists.
71. If a person listens to this discourse on Yoga with right understanding, he attains omniscience. Consider that omniscience (sarvajna) doesn’t necessarily mean that we can recite the taxonomy of paleopiscetology or encompass the collected works of all scholars. Omniscience means being so clear that inspiration shines the light of Truth at every moment, and we somehow just know the right action that is perfect in each circumstance. When the mind is undistracted by its own contraction, then we are totally open to the wisdom of divine omniscience. Our inner knowing is far beyond, and much greater than, the deductive processes and emotional knee jerks of the mind. The key is the clarity of the thought free state.
72. To those, possessed of this knowledge who attend to their regular duties, even gods bow down. Apparently it is not enough just to have knowledge of the Self (jnana). Here we see again the Vedic injunction to duty. So what are these duties that are required as a foundation to attain jnana. All our life’s duties are iterated in the Vedas, but for the sadhana of Samadhi Vasistha is specific about two duties. There are three verses in Chapter 1 that give us clarity on this:
19. There is a two-fold path of actions, which are ordained by the Vedas to be known and adopted by all persons. Both the ways consist of two actions, namely Pravartaka (motivating) and Nirvatarka (liberating). 20. The performance of actions by the persons of any Varna (caste) and of any Asrama (stage of life) with any desire, is called Pravartaka because it motivates a person for transmigration. 21.Whereas the same path of action, when based on knowledge (jnana) and is bereft of all desires, is called Nirvatarka (liberating) as it frees from rebirth. When we pranam, or bow down, to another it infers reverence, respect, love. Vasistha says that even the gods bow down to bestow grace on one who has attained Self-knowledge, Atmajnana.
73. One who is frightened of this world should carry the regular duties for liberation by being possessed with knowledge until one’s death. If we have fear, then we don’t know who we are. The mind has fear of many things. We are the knower of the mind, the watcher of thoughts and feelings. Until we can live as the eternal unchanging, we will have fear and will need to practice the duties given here. In this sadhana, we attain samadhi before dropping the body. Chapter V
1. Thus advised by Yogi Vasistha, the great-soul, his son Yogi Sakti, again asked the question to his revered father.
2. If a soul (atma) is transcending gunas, is immaculate, everblissful, devoid of old age, immortal, then O father, what is being born or destroyed and where does it stay after death.
3. O glorious father! How can we know the time of its final destruction. Please tell me now all that accordingly. Aren’t these amazing questions that this child is asking his father. In the fullness of our own life, haven’t we asked these very questions: who am I, what happens to me after I die, and how can I know when the body will fall away? Now is the time for us to finally get the answers to these nagging questions that we only have fairy tales about; so let’s get down to the substance of it.
4. Vasistha says: That very Atma which is ever-pure and ever blissful when enjoined with a body is called Jiva; of which there is transmigration. Vasistha starts at the beginning of what has to be experienced in order to answer all his questions. First there is Atma, eternal consciousness, subject, seer, Self. When Atma takes a body from the earth to become Jiva, the body eventually returns to earth, freeing Atma to merge again into primordial Universal Consciousness.
5. That very one Jivatma which pervades in different beings, appears as one and many like the moon’s reflection in the water. This is a common analogy where we place several clay pots filled with water before the moon. We see numerous reflections of the moon, but it is truly the same moon shining in each of the vessels. Similarly, Parambrahman (atma), universal consciousness, is reflected in all jivas. The mystery is that from the local address (ego), awareness seems local. It is only when we have distilled pure awareness out of the illusion of the mind through sadhana that we experience the universality of pure consciousness. The satchidananda (existence, consciousness, bliss absolute) that we become in the inner stillness is not just similar to the meditation of another jivatma, it is exactly the same contiguous aliveness in all jivatmas. The infinite, eternal, unchanging Seer sees through all these eyes.
6. The same atma is named jiva when enwrapped by delusion. As it is acquainted with the body (ksetra) it is recognized as a (ksetrajna) knower of the body. The atma that takes a body is not changed; it is only obfuscated by body senses along with projection and objectification of the mind—this is the jiva enwrapped by delusion. Even through the delusion of ignorance, attachment, and fear, the atma can still find samadhi in the stillness having lost interest in the contents of the mind and the stimulation of the senses.
7. This atma designated as ksetrajna enjoys both favorable and unfavorable fruits; the objects of enjoyment are internal like happiness etc. and external like pottery etc. and in the body which is the place of enjoyment, the senses are the means of enjoyment.
Vasistha continues answering his son’s questions. To the question of identity, the sage describes a person as a combination of body-form and conscious indweller brought together at birth then separated again at death. This ksetrajna undergoes pain and pleasure of life in the body; both external and internal. Following are more verses describing physical states and experiences.
8. There are five substances and not any sixth one viz : (i) the enjoyer, (ii) the object enjoyable, (iii) the enjoyment, (iv) the place of enjoyment (body), (v) the senses (sense organs).
9. Similarly, there are four states : (i) Waking, (ii) Dreaming, (iii) Deep sleep. The fourth state is denominated (as) Turiya (after its number). There is no fifth state.
10. In the dream also enjoyment is experienced by the enjoyer though there is no external object.
11. Susupti (deep sleep) is a state wherein the atma (soul) stays in its own real form devoid of any activity. In the state of Turiya the atma frees itself from the worldly existence. Now that the pain and pleasure of the body is seen, we turn to atma and it’s place in the ksetrajna. Atma is the subject, not an object; thus atma commits no action, thinks no thoughts, has no emotions. It is independent of the body, yet it is tied to the body by a karmic thread that carries vasanas and parabdha karma from lifetime to lifetime. Once we know the Self (atmajnana), and lose interest in the suffering of the world (vairagya), karma burns away and atma is free of samsara (transmigration).
12. After destruction of the body this soul is limited by the subtle and causal body and resides in air or fire. Now we are to the question of what happens to us after we die. It’s a little complicated, because it really depends on what happens with the ksetrajna during the lifetime. If we miss the clues along the way, most likely we will take another body. After the final breath the body returns to earth, the mind dissolves, atma merges into Brahman, now Vasistha tells us that we have a subtle and causal body that takes us to our next incarnation. It is the subtle body that is the carrier of the personal essence, and the causal body is generally regarded as the bliss body. Between incarnations the Vedas tell us that there are numer-
ous lokas or planes of existence. It seems that every system of philosophy has a different organization of lokas between lifetimes, none of which is verifiable. So we will not need to go into any detail. If, however, the jiva has completed the prescribed sadhana, has burned away parabdha karma, and is steady in dispassion, then there is just the rush into bliss; no lokas, no reincarnation, no further suffering. It is finished.
13. The soul with the linga sarira exists everywhere and bears the name of jiva and owing to its (own) beneficial and harmful karmas it resumes the journey to another gross body. Let’s look a little closer at the term linga sarira, which has been mentioned in several verses. The translation given is “subtle body.” Linga means ‘indicator’ and sarira is the ‘perishable body’. So the linga sarira is the indicator of that which is perishable; not a real object as we commonly think about it. Vasistha says that this subtle indicator exists everywhere when the kshetra (body) falls away. This is hard to imagine, but remember that the first thing to happen after leaving the form is a great rush into boundaryless bliss in which we remember nothing. It might be that linga sarira is everywhere, or nowhere, that is, not related to spacetime dimensions. Physical objects have dimension and exist in spacetime. Physicists consider that spacetime is a special case, and beyond that is non-locality; therefore there is existence beyond our familiar dimensions, in a state that is no place. Verify this in your own experience... after dropping the body, you will be aware of being in no place, just boundaryless bliss. From this boundaryless bliss, the jiva and it’s karmic thread (linga sarira) resumes the journey.
14. In this way only the jiva moves (in different bodies) until it realizes the complete cessation of its action. After the cessation of action the soul attains purification and thus the purified soul realizes its own-self. After many incarnations we begin to pick up clues about what actions cause suffering and which bring benefit. As we turn inward in our sadhana we effortlessly practice restraint in outer action. This gradually bring relief from the karmic burden of desires. As parabdha karma is shed we come to the end of needing a body. That aspect of ourselves that is Self-aware in the stillness of meditation, is the same as that jivatma who drops the body and enters a Selfaware state that is no place.
15. Liberation is attained only by dhyana yoga (meditation), not otherwise, and from the time indicators the time of destruction of the Ksetra (body) is guessed. “... only by dhyana...” This is a pretty bold statement. So here we have it; the highest human attainment comes through sitting quietly every day to touch the stillness. Samadhi arises in the quiet when the mind is out of the way; it is so simple—samadhi is the natural state. This doesn’t happen all by itself, it is a gradual process that is cultivated turning inward with steady practice and right understanding. With the mind out of the way, direct knowing is awakened. The time of leaving the body is just known without figuring it out. We all have these experiences of direct knowing.
16. By understanding through the internal and external signs of time (death), one should act accordingly. One should perform all the duties and worth doing acts whilst one is endowed with the body.
17. Who will be capable of doing anything at all after destruction of the body (ksetra). For, the embodiment (ksetrayoga) is quite difficult to attain. One of the things we have to get figured out as we follow this path less traveled by, is what do we want. Do we want to appreciate the literature of yoga philosophy and understand its tenets? Do we want to learn meditation and find inner peace? Do we want to become established in samadhi and finish with this cycle of karma and reincarnation? If you are reading this, you can attain the highest and finish in this lifetime.
56. In the centre of the lotus of heart, in this region of Brahma, one should remember Lord Narayana completely merging himself therein. Narayana, in the zoo of deities in the Indian pantheon, is considered to be another of the avatars of Krishna. Krishna is prominent in Vasistha’s cosmology so Narayana comes to his mind easily as he talks about the importance of devotion in this meditative sadhana. The outer deity merely represents our inner Self. Merging into the outer deity is the same as merging into the purity of our inner Self. In this surrender, we leave behind ignorance, ego, desires, attachments, and fears. What we gain is simple happiness of just being. Our life may change (or not), but we see with new eyes.
57. O son, in this prescribed manner one becomes conqueror of death.
58. Or else one may get rid of the approached death by practicing Samadhi. In Chapter VI Vasistha summarizes the various methods of transcending death in answering his son’s final question. These methods comprise the eight limbs of yoga. Samadhi, we know as the eighth and final limb reaching to transcendence.
59. Samadhi is proclaimed as voidness devoid of all desires. Samadhi is the state of equality of the individual soul and the supreme soul. A contemporary siddha master observed, “When the mind sheds its desires, it feels the sweetness of peace and bliss.” So here we have the key given in all mystical schools: release desire for pleasure and pain, embrace the bliss of the Self. Three things bring us suffering in life; greed (kama), anger (krodha), and ignorance (avidya). These poisons turn us away from the inner Self. Meditation draws us close to voidness of all desires in a very natural way. No need to fight and struggle with the poisons; meditation every day will naturally draw us into persistent happiness and away from the appetites of the mind. Try it, you will see. What we teach ourselves in the practice of meditation is to simply refocus the attention from the dream of the mind to the sweetness of mantra japa, pranayama, or whatever practice brings equanimity, inner stillness. Samadhi is a shift in identity from the ephemeral corporeal self to the conscious indweller, thus bringing a state of equality of the individual and supreme consciousness. When “that which is looking” sees the appearance, it appears in its true nature (svarupa) undistorted by thought, feeling, or personal history. The shift to the witnessing Self is persistent; avidya, ego, attachment, aversion and fear have burned away in sadhana. Samadhi does not mean withdrawing from the world; it only means that we see clearly that which is, without distortion from the mind. Because of the inner fulfillment in the blissful state we are no longer needy of things from the world—materially, emotionally or spiritually. We are finished with the wheel of karma as all our actions are performed without motive. We are happy and content, just being.
60. That is samadhi known to be voidness which is bereft of Dhyana (Meditation). One must always practice vacuity devoid of all desires. Meditation is commonly defined as focus on some object, real or virtual, that is, an objectification of the mind has been made to recognize some object. True, this is the essential practice to taste samadhi. But once the momentum of inner stillness is sufficient, focus in meditation has reached a point of diminishing return and can be left behind. Curiously, Vasistha says, meditation is the way, but not all the way. Samadhi is all the way.
61. One who transcends, through Samadhi, both the states of existence and non existence, he too, indeed, becomes the conqueror of death. The path of Samadhi is a path of transcendence. There is so much to transcend: ego, attachment, aversion, fear... ultimately we transcend the whole of our physical life on the planet. Most never know of this. After shifting our gaze away from our karmic existence we peek inward to the bliss of the Self. Such a wonder of discovery, setting aside the suffering and welcoming the bliss of just being; accepting everything just as it is. Finally we ease from awareness of being, to simple awareness of just awareness, that transcends not only existence but non existence as well. Like everything on this path, we get glimpses of future states when we are not expecting it. We have all had the experience sitting in the stillness, of not remembering being in the body. We come back to ordinary consciousness and think, “It’s been an hour; it seems like just a few minutes, I don’t even remember being in my body.” This is our glimpse of transcendence. More and more we go beyond the beyond. If we are not the body, how can there be death? Consciousness was not created, therefore it has always existed; thus it is primordially transcendent to form and thought.
/ ¢ tata¥ sata¥ /
OM Tat Sat
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