The Stages of Samadhi
by Swami Krishnananda

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There is the path of devotion, known as bhakti marga. The feelings are the faculties that actually operate in the devotional path to God – the intellect and reason are not supposed to be interfering with one’s feelings – whereas in the system of Patanjali, it is a rational volition that is primarily active. Your brain has to be very strong. It does not mean that your feelings are absent, but they act as a kind of cooperative appendage to the reason and the will, which are primarily concerned with the act of communion with Reality as prescribed in the system of yoga by Sage Patanjali.

In bhakti marga you can conceive God from the deepest recesses of your heart. Rightly or wrongly, it doesn’t matter, because what you think about God is God for you, and He will respond to your needs and your calls. You may have any kind of idea about God, provided you regard that God of yours as a complete being, and not one among many gods. Even in bhakti marga, this great prescription is very imperative: That God, whom you are considering as your great Ideal, is the only God before you. It may be the God of the Israelites, the God of the Muslims, the God of the Zoroastrians, the God of the Hindus, the God of anybody; which God it is, is not important. The point is, is it the only God? If there are other gods external to this particular God, contending with this God, then this God is not the only God; He is not Absolute God. It does not matter what concept you have about God Almighty in your feelings. Your love can be poured on any notion of the Almighty Lord, but the condition is, it is the only thing that is in front of you. There is nothing else that you can think.

In Patanjali’s system, there is a little difference. He primarily takes you through the cosmological categories – the process of the decent and the ascent, as can be noticed in the process of evolution according to the Sankhya philosophy. This is a very important point that you should know – how Patanjali’s system differs in its foundational outlook of the Great Ideal from other systems, whether bhakti yoga or jnana yoga.

I was referring to the art of communion with reality last time. You can commune yourself with any type of reality or notion of reality. It may be a little thing, it may be a bigger thing, it may be a nice thing, it may be a not nice thing, it may be even just a concept; you can commune yourself with the ideal that your concept places before you. Now, though this is so, the main purpose of Sage Patanjali’s intention is that the whole physical cosmos should be considered as the object of meditation. The reason is that you consider this world as real before you. Let anybody say it is not there, but for you it is there. It can control you, decide your fate, and determine your actions every day in your life. In order that this world may not be a termagant, a kind of troublemaker, you come in union with the whole world, and you stand as a world individual.

It is difficult to conceive what is a world individual. It is the whole world assuming a consciousness of individuality of itself. When you commune yourself with the whole cosmos of physicality, who is concentrating? The consciousness that is immanent in the entire physical cosmos is contemplating itself. Here, in the act of samapatti or samadhi, someone is not thinking of somebody else. There is no somebody else there, and no someone. I have already described to you the method of transforming the consciousness from the subjective side and the objective side to a transcendental observational position, for which purpose I gave you illustrations from philosophical schools where the position of a thing is supposed to be always connected with an opposition – the thesis and the antithesis, and the synthesis of it – all which I am not going to repeat now. So, with this principle of the transcendental consciousness operating between the meditating subject and the universal object, the meditating subject ceases to exist. You – this person, that person, this lady, this man, this child – do not exist there. It is a unit of consciousness. Every one of you is a unit of consciousness. You should not think of yourself as a person, an individual, a son, daughter, and so on. They are not that.

This unit of individuality which is any one of you is, unfortunately, prone to segregation of itself from its real identity with the entire cosmos – of which it is a child, from where it has come, and without which it cannot exist. Union here means that consciousness which compels you to feel that you are an individual body, enters into the whole physical universe. Then the whole physical universe rises up like a giant, feeling that ‘it is’. This is called cosmic consciousness. And in that cosmicality of the physical universe, the so-called ‘yourself’ also has gone inside. You do not anymore exist as the contemplator of the universe of physicality because it is already known to you that the universe includes yourself.

It is very hard to abolish your existence in the interest of a larger inclusiveness of yourself in a greater reality. When you are told that you should drown yourself in the ocean of nectar, you would like to have the ocean of nectar but cannot tolerate the word ‘drowning’. You do not want to be drowned and completely abolished. The ego, the personality-consciousness, is so adamant, so flint-like, it says, “I will not submit to anybody, even to the cosmic will. I am what I am.” When it says, “I am what I am”, it is the body speaking.

With great difficulty, with great effort of purification of the rajasic and tamasic impulses in the mind, the sattva should predominate in you so that it permits you to enter into the cosmical setup of things. When you think, you think as the whole physical universe. You do not ‘think’ the universe, remember that. The universe is ‘thinking itself’, and you are gone into it. Wonderful! You are blessed. This is savitarka samadhisavitarka samapatti – the lowest kind of samadhi.

When the lowest kind of samadhi is so difficult to imagine, what about the higher ones? Why is it very low in the category of the enumeration of samapattis? Because, even when you feel that you are the whole universe standing, animated by a pervading consciousness, you are likely to think like Newton – that the whole universe is inside space. Newton was a great man, but whatever his greatness be, he thought the entire physical universe is contained inside the cup or the vessel of space-time, and space-time is outside. This is the difficulty that anybody will face. You cannot think that the universe includes space-time, because if that takes place, your mind will stop thinking. Nobody can think beyond space and time.

The categories of space and time introduce themselves so powerfully into the mental structure that when you think, it is spatial and temporal. Immanuel Kant laid much emphasis on this in his book – that unconditional thinking is not possible, all thinking is spatiotemporal, and there are many other conditions, which makes the mind incapable of penetrating through the reality as such. But this effort must be undertaken. Even if you have to stand on your head, you must see that this great ideal is achieved.

For the time being, let the universe be conceived as inside the cup of space and time. The whole universe is there, and it contains so many beautiful things – so many stars, and so many galaxies, the sun, moon, and stars, so many countries, so many people. Let them be there. This concept of the universal physicality in terms of its variegated contents being inside space and time is a conditional union where the mind starts arguing about the finality of this achievement. There is an argumentation taking place, not in the ordinary sense of classroom logic, but an internal mystical argument of the soul itself takes place when there is concentration of the meditating consciousness on the whole universe as relevant to the entire variety that it contains, but as contained within space and time. This is a great achievement. You have become the whole universe. But still, it is inside space and time. So, you have some condition there. Space and time condition you. They have something to tell you, and they say that your samapatti is not complete because space and time are still above you.

But can you, with an effort of consciousness, bring the space and time aspect also into this structural pattern of the whole universe? Here, we are on the level of Albert Einstein, not Newton. In the earlier stage, it was Newton. Now Einstein comes: Space and time are not standing outside the physical universe. It is very difficult, a mind-boggling concept. Nobody knows what you are talking about. Space and time are included in the concept of the whole universe. That means they are within you also; you are a stuff of space and time. You are not made up of earth, water, fire, air and ether. You are made up of space-time. “Oh! How is it possible? Space-time? It is something abstract. What is space? It looks like emptiness. And what is time? I am a solid individual, and the whole physical universe is sufficiently hard. How can you say a so-called vacuous space and an indetermined time can be the source of the manifestation of hard substances like rocks, mountains, oceans, and myself?” The mind will not agree to this meditation. It will turn back immediately.

The mind will say, “No! I cannot go further.” Like a horse which refuses to pull the cart further and moves back, throwing all the passengers down into the road because it is hungry and tired, the mind says, “No, this is no good. Do not tell me all these things. Don’t trouble me unnecessarily. I will simply do something to you.” And, sometimes, it really does something. You may wonder what it will do. The mind says, “You are troubling me like this? See what I do. Beware!” Buddha had this experience.

One day, many years back, a swami who incidentally belonged to the Ramakrishna mission met me – an elderly person, about forty-five to fifty years of age. He was doing like this [shaking his head in all directions].

“What has happened to you?” I asked him.

He replied, “I have come only for that purpose, to tell you I have this difficulty.”

“What is it? How is it? Do you have spondilitis or some kind of nervous disorder?”

“No, I tried a meditation which has put me into this state.”

“What is the meditation?”

“I began to deeply concentrate that the stuff of everything, including myself, is consciousness, and I intensely felt that consciousness ocean is contemplating on consciousness ocean. There is no ‘me’ and ‘you’ or ‘it’ and the ‘world’. I went on doing this, Swamiji, and the result is this. I cannot sleep now, and my head is moving like this.”

I told him, “Swamiji, your aspiration is very good. You are a holy man that you trying to probe into this kind of deepest reality of the universe, but your mind is not prepared for it. You are compelling an unwilling mind to do a work which it cannot do.”

Even you yourself – you are working in factories and offices. Suppose a burden of files is thrown to you and the boss says, “Tomorrow, everything must be done”, you will immediately go mad. You will like to leave the place and go away. The mind says, “No! This kind of work I cannot do.” This is what happens if you go too far without proper purification of your mind.

I read a large book by Thomas Hill Green called Prolegomena to Ethics about the goodness of a person, the morality, and the ethicality. Who, which person do you call moral? Who is a moral a person? If you see a person, can you know whether or not he is moral? Now I put another question. What are the qualities that you want to see in a person in order that you may regard that person as moral? You cannot answer these questions. None of you will answer. You will not be able to say which qualities should be present to regard that person as ethical and moral. The mind will refuse to answer that also. “Don’t trouble me like that.” There is a point where the mind refuses to go further. “It is not possible! You should not think!” Here Kant gives a warning: Do not break your mind unnecessarily; you cannot go beyond space and time, so do not go further. Kant was a great man. He said you should not go mad by thinking like this. How will you think independent of space and time? It is not possible. The entire huge volume which he wrote is a warning: Space and time condition you, and nobody can go beyond. And the mind says, “I am a disciple of Kant. You stupid man, don’t bring any philosophy behind me. I will make you crazy!”

I will tell you one thing. Never try this kind of meditation unless you have a competent Guru. That swami I mentioned earlier had no Guru. He simply read some books on philosophy, such as the Yoga Vasishtha, and started meditating, and it affected his head. If you have any difficulty in meditation, some agony in the heart, some pain or anything disturbing, you must immediately go to your tutor. “I am upset. I am doing meditation as you have instructed, but my mind is not able to concentrate. Not only that, I am feeling worse than before. I cannot eat. I have no sleep.” Then, it is the duty of the teacher or the Guru to find out why it has happened. The physical and psychophysical structure of the individual is not prepared to overstep its own limitations and allow the whole sea of a new thought to enter into itself. It does not want to break the boundaries of space and time – because you are breaking yourself only, actually speaking. It is like a person who has climbed a tree and is sitting on a branch cuts the root of the tree. You know what will happen to him; he will go down with the branch.

Certain things should not even be uttered. I am not supposed to speak too much on this subject, but as this is a subject that is prescribed here in this academy, I am giving you a broad outline of what it is. It should not become something very agonising in your mind and make you suffer. Nobody can be so perfect in the psychical and the physical makeup as to tolerate this kind of onslaught of a super-spatial and super-temporal entry into the Whole. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to give an illustration: Do you know what happens when the Absolute enters you? It is like a mad elephant in rut entering a thatched hut. It will simply break the hut into pieces, and there will not be even one little piece left. It will simply throw and trample everything, and nothing will be left. This is what will happen if the Absolute enters you. The whole body will break into pieces, and the mind will go crazy, that’s all.

So, do not call the Absolute when you are unfit even to take its name. You cannot take its name falsely. It is said by religious people that the name of God should not be taken falsely or as a joke. In Jewish circles, there is a tradition that the name of God should not be uttered at all. If you take God’s name, they will say, “Oh! Blasphemy! Blasphemy! You are taking the name of God in the Hebrew language? This is not supposed to be done. No! No! How dare you? You should not take God’s name. It is so holy, so mighty and so great that it will break the tongue of puny individuals. Don’t utter it!” There are some schools which prohibit the utterance of the name of God in its pure perfection. It is not possible for the mind.

This kind of meditation where the idea of space and time is also overcome, and a non-spatial, super-spatial, super-temporal inclusiveness of cosmos is contemplated by itself only, is the second samaptti, called nirvitarka samapatti. No logical argumentation will be there. The mind will not work at all.

Am I troubling your mind, or do you understand what I say? If you think I am unnecessarily harassing you, I will not speak further. Or do you think that it is very good? What do you say? Am I torturing your mind by saying all this? I must be very careful. When you are given too much charity, you will have no place to keep it. You can accept millions and millions if it is given to you, but you won’t know where to keep it. You want little salary; but if whole infinite salary is given to you, where will you keep it? You will say there is something wrong somewhere, that’s all. Even when you want a thing, you cannot ask for the infinite. You want finite things only. Now we are entering into the infinitude of experience and possession. You are possessing the Infinite. Do you want it? You are a little man with two hands and a small brain. How will you contain it? However, here is nirvitarka samapatti.

But Patanjali is not going to leave you. He is like Shylock who wants the last drop of your blood, and he will not leave you like that. “Ah! I’ll see. I’ll punish you still more,” says Patanjali. “You have been punished sufficiently, but I’ll punish you still more.” What is that? There is something more than the physical universe. Even if you are able – somehow, by some miracle – to include space-time as an integral component of the whole cosmos, that is not sufficient, because the world is not made up of physical matter. It is made up of forces, as all students of physics know. There is no solidity in the universe, really. Forces act and react, and operate in their own wonderful, indescribable manner, making certain points of stress of force appear like hard substances.

If an electrical fan moves with tremendous velocity, it will look like nothing is moving. You will see only a bare abstract circle; there is no substance there. You see only a Euclidean circle, an abstract circular motion. Even the motion cannot be seen, only an enigmatic circle. But if you want to know if there is anything really there, put your finger; then you will know. However, the solidity, the substantiality, the spatiality, the temporality, the externality of this universe is a joke, I should say, played by the forces which constitute the entire so-called substantiality of things.

It is difficult to conceive force. You may say it is a kind of energy – like electricity, for instance. You know what electricity is, but you do not know what it is made of. What is the substance out of which electricity is made? You can know how it operates, but you cannot know why it operates in the manner it does. It is, again, something beyond human conception.

You have seen energies in the ordinary physical sense, but this is a super energy which is not at some place. Quantum energy is ubiquitous, all-pervading. The entire universe, so-called, including what is called space and time, is a huge sea of unimaginable all-pervading liquefied energy, we may say, and any pressure point in it looks like some bubble – a quantum molecule, a substance, a reality – capable of being contacted by the sense organs. These sense organs which are seeing the world of physicality are also made up of energy only. It does not mean energy is standing outside, moving. Your whole body – your mind, brain, and the sense organs – are also congealed spatiotemporal forms of this unimaginable, ubiquitous, liquefied energy quantum. The less said about it, the better for us.

We are flowing everywhere. Every one of you is everywhere. A drop of water in the sea is not in one place. There is no such thing as a drop of water in the sea. There are no drops in the sea. There is only sea, and any point in the ocean is everywhere. We are told by ancient scriptures such as the Yoga Vasishtha, and even by modern physical discoveries, that the so-called ‘you’ sitting here is not only here. You are also in another place simultaneously. Just as the water of the sea is not in one place, it is everywhere, you are a little apparent droplet of the sea of force. You, yourself, are everywhere.

Can the mind imagine this possibility that you are simultaneously present in every point of space? Everywhere you see yourself. And who is seeing you, when the seer is gone? It is an indescribable multiple phenomena seeing itself as a spread out universality. Everything is everywhere at all times. Because time has gone, you should not say it is somewhere – yesterday, tomorrow, and so on; and because space has gone, it is everywhere. Everything – yourself, myself – is everywhere at all times. This concept comes further on in a samapatti, a samadhi called savichara samapatti. These are all technical Sanskrit names. You may forget these names; it is enough if you know the meaning of these designations. It is non-centralised, non-spatial and non-temporal energy contemplating itself as all-consciousness.

If you want to use Sanskrit terms, the potentials of physicality are called tanmatras, which are droplets of universal energy that condense themselves into spatial earth, water, fire, air and ether. These droplets of the sea of ubiquitous energy are called tanmatras in Sanskrit. Here, again, you may omit the Sanskrit word; it is enough if you know the connotation of this description. The entire sea is dancing within its own bosom. The world is a beautiful presentation of a dramatic opera taking place, where the Supreme Absolute is the director, and the director Himself has become all these actors, and the theatre also is Himself only, and the audience also is He only.

The Absolute is the theatre, the Absolute is the actor, the Absolute is the director, the Absolute is the audience. Can you imagine what is this? Here, you are in a still higher level of superconsciousness. Some people such as Aurobindo Ghosh call it supra-consciousness because the word ‘super’ is inefficient and inadequate. ‘Supra’ is the word. Let it be, and let the meaning be anything; you can expect something wonderful. Whatever be the difficulties you feel in entertaining these thoughts, you must be happy that a great wonder is awaiting you. A great miracle is to take place. The Kingdom of God is at hand. “Repent ye! The Kingdom of God is at hand,” said the great Christ. So, I am telling you: Repent ye, from the bottom of your heart. Cry for this great immanence that is awaiting, and wanting you, and flooding you, and wanting to make you its own.

Even to listen to these things is a great pleasure, I should say, to the soul of a person. It is like music of the heavens being sung to the ears of consciousness itself. Wonderful! Wonderful! Ascharyam is the word used in our scriptures. Wonderful is the teacher who speaks like this; wonderful is the student who can know what it is; wonderful is the experience that follows; and wonderful is the result that is the final goal of it. The whole thing is a wonder! We cannot describe this Reality by any word except ‘wonder’. You simply open your mouth and gaze at this wonder, and your breath stops, and the mind ceases to think. You melt into the great artistic beauty of this manifestation of the wondrous grandeur of the Absolute.