Samadhi – Meaning, Types, Effects, Views

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Samadhi is the 8th branch among the  Ashtanga Yoga, enlisted by master Patanjali. Samadhi means oneness. When we blend with our inner self we would have achieved a state of Samadhi. It is also called as Samapatti in Buddhism.
Read – Yoga Darshana: Introduction, History, Definition, Shat Karma, Benefits

Meaning, Etymology

Meaning and dimensions of Samadhi
To attain this stage one needs to go through all the previous 7 stages of ashtanga yoga. This is a stage where we become totally detached from all the miseries, pleasures of our life and find ourselves free and liberated.
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Etymology of Samadhi
Various interpretations of the term Samadhi with different root meanings are given below.

All meanings of Samadhi lead to the concept of oneness and knowing self to the core, self-realization and eternal bliss.
Sam (together) + a (toward), stem of dadhati, ‘puts, places’ = ‘putting or joining together’
Sam (together) + a (towards) + dha (to get, to hold) = to acquire integration / truth.
Sam (uniformly / totally) + adhi (to get established) = a state wherein one establishes himself to the fullest extent in the supreme consciousness.
Sama (equanimous) + dhi (intellect) = state in which the intellect is balanced / state of total equilibrium of a detached intellect.
Sam (complete, perfect) + dhi (consciousness) = a state of being where all the distinctions between the person who is a subjective meditator, the act of meditation and the object of meditation merges into oneness.
Read – Yama – Meaning, Classification, Benefits


Definitions of Samadhi
Samadhi is a deep state of meditation wherein the practitioner forgets about himself and is unaware of the surroundings. In meditation, the subject of dhyana and the act of dhyana are separate. In Samadhi, the act is one with object (dhyana) itself.

When all three i.e. dharana, dhyana and Samadhi are practiced together, it is called Samyama.

Samadhi is a meditational absorption or trance attained by the practice of meditation. It is said to lead to the development of a luminous mind. (Sarbacker)

Samadhi is a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object. (Diener, Erhard and Fischer-Schreiber)
Samadhi is a state of breathlessness, a blissful super consciousness state in which a yogi perceives the identity of the individualized soul and cosmic spirit. (Paramahansa Yogananda)
Read – Niyama – Types, Meaning, Classification, Benefits


Types of Samadhi
Samprajnata Samadhi (Savikalpa Samadhi, Sabija Samadhi) – Object centered oneness – It is an object centered oneness.

When the practitioner attains Samadhi, subsequently he attains knowledge of self i.e. atma sakshatkara. Here all the chittavrittis i.e. thought process is lost and the mind becomes attentive and concentrated. We called such mind as ekagra manas. This is a state of Samprajnata Samadi i.e. distinguished / discerned oneness. It has four stages. They are –

Vitarkanugata / Savitarka (deliberative) – Here the concentration is over physical gross items like idol or God etc. The mind concentrates upon a gross object of meditation. The practitioner becomes unaware of everything. Here, the conceptualization is in the form of perception and the knowledge of object of meditation. When the deliberation ends, it is called Nirvitarka Samadhi.

Vicharanugata / Savichara (Reflective) – After good thought about the gross materials, one starts to concentrate on subtle aspects like tanmatra, mantra etc. This type of concentration is not materialistic. Here, the mind instead of concentrating on an object, concentrates upon an abstract object of meditation which is not perceptible to the senses but arrived at through inference. The object of meditation (which is not actually there but inferred) can be inferred from the senses, the process of cognition, the mind or intellect. The stilling of reflection is called Nirvichara Samadhi. Anandanugata– Here, the practitioner concentrates on subtler aspects of the mind.
Asmitanugata – Here, the subject of thought is only asmita or ahankara, the I-am-ness.
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Asamprajnata Samadhi (Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Nirbija Samadhi) – Objectless centered oneness – Asamprajnata means unconscious.

This is a state achieved when the meditation is without the help of an object or support. In this condition, all the thought process of the mind is completely blocked. There exists no desire for any worldly pleasures, only Samskara remains in the mind. The mind is totally focused, undisturbed and un-perplexed.

Michael Washburn tells that both these types of Samadhi leads to progressively more bright and poised state of ‘powerful, pure, sattvic’ state of blissful self. This will ultimately lead to the knowledge of purusha / Atman / Brahman (soul).
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Gregor Maehle states that Samadhi is a state wherein the Yogi realizes that ‘the Atman in you is the Atman in everyone’ leading to the realization of self.

Types as per Buddha Ghosha

Types of Samadhi according to Buddhaghosha
According to Buddhaghosa, the Theravada Pali texts mention four types of Samadhi. They are –

Khanika Samadhi – momentary concentration, it is a state of mental stabilization which arises during vipassana (insight into the true nature of reality).
Parikamma Samadhi – preliminary concentration, it is a state which arises out of the practitioner’s initial attempts made to focus on the object of meditation.
Upachara Samadhi – access concentration, is a state which arises when the five hindrances are dispelled, when jhana is present and with the appearance of the counterpart sign.
Appana Samadhi – absorption concentration is a state of total immersion of the mind on its meditation of object and stabilization of all four jhanas.

According to Buddhaghosha, Samadhi is the proximate cause to the obtainment of wisdom. His treatise Visuddhimagga describes 40 different objects for meditation.
Read – Meditation By Watching Mind: Stages, Method, Benefits

Note – In Buddhism Jhana is equivalent to Dhyana.

How to attain Samadhi?

How does a yoga practitioner obtain the stage of Samadhi?

  • After having followed the external yoga limbs i.e. yama, niyama, asana and pranayama, the practitioner withdraws his senses from the sense objects and diverts them inwards. This is called pratyahara. Pratyahara is a bridge through which the practitioner crosses from external yoga and travels towards achieving the greater purposes of inner yogas.
  • During prathyara, the practitioner constructs a point of focus and tries hard to concentrate on the point and to know the dimensions of the point of focus. The point of focus may be a material or thought, a mantra or chakra. When he masters the art of concentration, the mind and senses are under control, this is when he has obtained the 6th stage of ashtanga yoga i.e. dharana.
  • Dharana helps him to progress to the next stage, the penultimate stage wherein he meditates on the point of focus where his concentration lies. This stage is called dhyana i.e. meditation. Meditation is an extended part of concentration wherein the practitioner doesn’t appreciate the variants of the point of focus on which he meditates. It is a type of deep concentration.
  •  When the practitioner masters the art of meditation, he will enter into the next stage and obtain Samadhi i.e. he will find oneness with his inner self. This is the ultimate goal of the eight limbs of yoga, to obtain spiritual liberation.
  • Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are successive and deeper stages of dharana i.e. concentration, deeper and powerful than their previous stages. They are also preparatory stages.
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Dharana prepares the practitioner for Dhyana, Dhyana prepares him for attaining Samadhi.

They are also sequential steps. One cannot do meditation without concentration and one cannot find oneness without concentration and meditation. When these three limbs are practiced together, it is called as Samyama.

Ultimately we can see that the eight limbs of yoga are not separate entities. Though they have individual importance, they are a sequence ultimately leading to Samadhi.

‘When one has so intensified the power of dhyana as to be able to reject the external part of perception and remain meditating only on the internal part, the meaning, that state is called Samadhi’ – Swami Vivekananda.

‘Master Patanjali distinguishes between dharana which is effortful focusing of attention, dhyana an easy continuous one-pointedness and Samadhi which is absorption, ecstasy, contemplation’ – Michael Washburn.
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Origion of Samadhi

Origin and Backdrop of Samadhi
The term Samadhi was first used in Maitri Upanishad (Rhys Davids).

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – According to Patanjali, Samadhi means oneness with self. Many scholars and experts opine that Buddhism and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali had mutual influence on each other.

In Buddhism the term Samadhi means ‘to collect’ or ‘to bring together’. Thus Samadhi translates to concentration or unification of mind. The term Samadhi is associated with another term ‘Samatha’ which means ‘calm abiding’. It is also defined as ekaggata (one-pointedness of the mind), same as ekagrata chitta (unperturbed mind).
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Buddhagosa defines Samadhi as – ‘the centering of consciousness and conscious concomitants evenly and rightly on a single object’.

In Sikhism – Samadhi is used to refer to an action that one uses to remember and fix one’s mind and soul on Waheguru.

Effects of Samadhi
Just like the swan flies in the sky breaking the bonds, the jiva i.e. life element breaks its bond from the body without any doubt and unites with the universe, just as the wick in the lamp gets burnt at the end of burning, in the same way, all the previous deeds of a practitioner of yoga gets destroyed at the time of nirvana i.e. liberation. This liberation is obtained through Samadhi preceded by mastery over all 7 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. (read)
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