We hear of ṛṣis being in a state of deep meditation (samādhi) for hours, days, months and years on end. For us this is an impossibility or wishful thinking. How does one achieve such a state? How can we go beyond time, place and circumstances? How can we transcend the mind to realise the Truth?
निर्विकारतया वृत्त्या ब्रह्माकारतया पुनः। वृत्तिविस्मरणं सम्यक्समाधिर्ज्ञानसञ्ज्ञकः ॥ १२४ ॥nirvikāratayā vṛttyā brahmākāratayā punaḥ, vrtti-vismaraṇam samyak-samadhir-jñāna-sanjňakaḥ. (124)
निर्विकारतया – through changelessness; वृत्त्या- of thought; ब्रह्माकारतया – through identification with Brahman; पुनः -again, वृत्तिविस्मरणम् – forgetfulness of all mental activity; (इति -this); सम्यक् -complete; समाधिः – samadhi; (उच्यते – is called): (अयम् – this); ज्ञानसञ्ज्ञकः – called
The complete forgetfulness of all thought by first making it changeless and then identifying it with Brahman is called samadhi, known also as Knowledge.
In dhyana there exists the duality of the meditator and that which is meditated upon. As one progresses in one’s practice, the meditator becomes secondary and the object of meditation, Truth or God becomes dominant. The continuous flow of thoughts directed towards Truth or God results in a state where the meditator (individuality) is as though forgotten and the Truth or God alone remains. That is called samādhi. Ṛṣi Patañjali defines yoga (samādhi) as a state where all thoughts end and one remains in one’s own nature. This is the culmination of the practice of Haṭha Yoga. In samādhi one experiences absolute and infinite Bliss. There remains no concept of time or place as there are no thoughts. With practice, one can go into this state spontaneously and effortlessly and remain in this state for any length of time. All the physiological functions like breathing become extremely subtle in this state. A practitioner of Haṭha Yoga used to go into samādhi once in a while for a short time. Once, his samādhi continued for hours. His wife, being ignorant and unfamiliar with his practices, got scared as she could not feel his breath or pulse. The village doctor was called. He too could not feel the pulse or heart beats and hence he declared him dead. The wife started sobbing loudly, the neighbours rushed in and the relatives were sent for. In the midst of all that commotion, the yogi got up from his samādhi. The startled wife said, “But you are supposed to be dead!” The yogi smiled and said, “Can’t you see, I am very much alive.” The wife retorted, “So you think you know more than the doctor!” The samādhi concept of Vedānta is now explained. The root cause of sorrow is the false notion, ‘I am the body’, ‘I am finite’ and so on. This thought of ignorance (ajñāna vṛtti) can only be destroyed by knowledge of one’s true nature in the form of the thought ‘I am the infinite Truth’ (jñānavṛtti). Since the Haṭhayogi’s basic ignorance (mūla avidyā) has not been destroyed, he comes out of samādhi with the notion ‘I am the body’. Such a samādhi is called jaḍa samādhi. However, in the seat of meditation, when all worldly thoughts disappear and through deep enquiry and contemplation the knowledge of one’s true nature arises as the thought ‘I am the infinite Truth’ (jñāna vṛtti), it destroys the ignorance, the individuality and the thought itself disappears (vṛtti vismaraṇam). There remains the pure Self or Truth alone. This is the state of pure Bliss called variously as sākṣātkāra, nirvāṇa, mokṣa, aparokṣānubhūti, jñāna, or samādhi. Thereafter, even when one perceives the world, the notion ‘I am the body’ remains falsified and the Knowledge‘ I am the infinite Truth’ is never lost. When a saint was explaining the nature of the Truth as ‘I am Infinite’, a novice objected saying, “That is boastful and one should not say so.” The saint replied, “I do not want to say so, but what to do? It is the Truth!”