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The Universality of Being
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 6: The Seven Stages of Samadhi

There are supposed to be seven stages of the attainment of samadhi, and what I described yesterday is the lowest type, though even that initial stage might have appeared to you as very hard indeed. However, to the extent you have understood what was said, you have taken a very bold step in the right direction. These stages mentioned are just the processes of the disentanglement of consciousness from involvement in the various levels of the manifestation of the universe. In deep meditation, bordering upon samadhi, you are contemplating the whole universe in front of you.

The accepted categories of the descent of consciousness in the process of evolution and involution are elaborately described both in the Sankhya and the Vedanta doctrines. The lowest manifestation in the process of creation, or evolution, is earthly existence. We are now in the lowest category of life, involved in material associations. Not merely that, but things are utterly differentiated from one another. Diversification goes to the utmost extent when we reach the earth plane. Nothing has any connection with anything else; everything stands by itself. You can see for yourself that in this world, nothing seems to have any connection with anything else. “Each one for oneself and let the devil take the hindmost” is the kind of doctrine that prevails in the lowest category of manifestation. We call it worldly existence, earthly existence.

There are cosmic levels corresponding to the levels in our own psychophysical personality because the individual and the universe are co-relatives of each other, and act and react in a comprehensive manner. We may say an individual is a cross section of the whole universe. We will find in each individual entity a miniature universe. In traditional language, these stages, or levels of manifestation, are called Bhuloka, the earthly level, and beyond that is Bhuvarloka, the astral world, which is somewhat comparable to our vital layer of individual personality. These levels cannot be seen with the eyes, just as we cannot see our own subtle body. They are higher levels, one above the other. There is another level, which is more subtle, called Svarloka. In the Puranas it is regarded as the heaven of the gods, the abode of resplendent beings with shining bodies of fire who are not materially encumbered in any way. The gods are supposed to be capable of penetrating even hard rock because their bodies are the fine substance of the fire principle. These are the heavens of the religious scriptures.

Higher than that is Maharloka, a level where even the fire-like individuality gradually tends to evaporate into a larger and wider comprehensiveness. In the Puranas there are fantastic descriptions of the residents, or the denizens, of this realm. They tend to touch each other just as flames of fire can touch each other, wherein we cannot know whether there are two flames or they are actually commingling into a single flame. A complete merger does not take place, but the flame of the rarefied personality has a tendency to move towards immersing itself in another flame that is also like itself. Inconceivable are all these to our minds. Beyond Maharloka is Janaloka, another subtle realm where only Masters live, and not ordinary mortals. Great potentials of cosmic power are imbedded in every denizen of that wonderful, magnificent realm which is unthinkable, inexpressible, and totally transcendent to our understanding.

These names may be difficult to comprehend, and only indicate the subtlety of the manifestation of being—so subtle that the winds of individual existence blow into the location, as it were, of individuals of a similar type. Winds blow over winds, we may say. When winds blow, we do not know what is blowing. Winds blow from all sides and collide from one side to another. A gale can rush from one direction and come in contact with a similar gale from another direction. Wonderful! That is the only word we can use to describe this state.

Beyond Janaloka is Tapoloka, where the austerity of individuality reaches such a pinnacle that the consciousness of individual selfhood tends towards evaporating, like burnt camphor. When camphor is inflamed with heat, it melts into a vaporous ubiquitous substance, and it is said that such is the experience of these Masters, these austere individuals. We need not call them individuals at all. They are super-individuals; we cannot use a better word. They are the meeting point of the cosmic and the subtle individual substance, one shaking hands with the other.

An illustration of this kind of experience is mentioned in the Chhandogya Upanishad. When the seeking consciousness rises gradually in the process of the samadhis mentioned, it reaches a particular stage where it has no individual or personal motive. In the lower levels, there is motivation. The seeker feels that something has to be done; meditation is to be carried on, and concentration is to be directed in this fashion. But that is only up to a level where there is self-consciousness of the seeking spirit. A stage is reached where it is about to reach the sea of existence. When the river moves towards the waves of the ocean, we cannot say whether the river exists or does not exist. It is both there and not there.

How will the spirit move further, higher up, when there is no individual motivation? Self-effort is not possible there because the very idea of self has gone. A magnificent statement is made in the Upanishads that a divine representative of the Absolute manifests itself: Amanava Purusha—which is not human, but something quite different. A radiant force manifests from the Supreme Being and directs the seeking spirit towards the higher level. We cannot know how it takes place. Illustrations are like symbologies; they can suggest something, indicate something, but cannot actually articulate the nature of this existence. We have heard of austerity, self-restraint, but our idea of self-restraint is a kind of personal exercise that we would like to undergo. Here, in Tapoloka, it is not a personal exercise; it is a natural state of affairs. The senses melt completely, and no longer exist. At that time, these so-called sense forces, which work havoc in this world, look like streaming rivers of consciousness itself. Actually, what is called sensation operating through the sense organs is a stream of consciousness moving through them, but we cannot detect that this stream is taking place on account of the total involvement in the physicality of the sense organs. In Tapoloka, the physicality is shed completely, and the senses become divinities. They turn inward toward their source instead of moving outwardly. This is the great manifested form of one level of consciousness, Tapoloka.

The highest is Satyaloka, which is sometimes called Brahmaloka. This state can be described as Truth-consciousness. It is the universal concentration of the Absolute in the form of a creative potentiality towards the manifestation of the cosmos. Words fail here. We cannot say anything about this. Beyond that is the Absolute proper.

We have to pass through these levels in our exercise of meditation, which no more remains an act of individual concentration but takes the shape of a union at every level. The words ‘concentration' and ‘meditation' cannot be used in these levels because it is a commingling of consciousness with its counterpart. The miraculous, blissful liberation of individuality takes place. People in the world are unfit even to hear this. Such marvels exist above us.

Yesterday I mentioned one stage of samadhi, known as savitarka, where intellectual activity rarefies itself into the process of a tendency to commingle with the object. In the beginning, the concentration is on a chosen ideal because at the very outset it is not possible for the mind to comprehend a totality of things. We cannot think all things at a time. We can only think one thing at a time. That one thing which is the chosen ideal for the purpose of meditation is called the Ishta Devata, the most beloved of things that we can think of. Whatever we are concentrating upon should be the most beloved thing in the world. If it is not so, the mind will not go near it.

A total absorption of the mind takes place in the visualisation of what consciousness feels is its utter beloved, and nothing can compare with it. That is why it is called Ishta, or the most desirable, lovable divinity. Why is it called a divinity? Because it is a promise of fulfilment of whatever you are seeking and asking for. Unless the ideal of meditation is capable of fulfilling all your requirements, the mind cannot go for it. You cannot concentrate on anything continuously because there is a doubt whether that particular thing is capable of blessing you with all the things that you need. So, with effort of will you have to conceive an ideal which is capable of giving you whatever you want. Actually, this conceived ideal is a pressure point of the forces of the universe which centralise themselves in this conceived ideal and act as a kind of doorway opening to a wider force that is behind this particular point. In this sense, you may take anything in the world as a point for concentration. Just as when you touch any part of the body you are actually touching the whole body, so is the case with soul-filled concentration on the chosen ideal. But care has to be taken to see that you do not dabble with this idea of the chosen ideal. It is not an experiment that you are doing in meditation; it is a positive exercise.

As I mentioned yesterday, the characteristics involved in this particular chosen ideal are the idea of the object, the name or the nomenclature that is associated with it, and the thing as such. The thing as such is uncontactable by sensory operations or even by ordinary mental activity because it is actually behind the meditating consciousness as an undercurrent, just as at the base of two waves in the ocean is the ocean itself. The reason why a wave cannot know the ocean is because it believes that it is one crest of individuality, differentiated from other crests which are the waves. Though one wave can contact another wave, it cannot contact it at the base because if the wave subsides to the root of its origin it will touch the root of the other wave also, so that the duality between the subject and the object will coalesce and become a total of both features, widening the comprehension of consciousness.

You can imagine what it would be like if what you see is non-differentiate from the process of thinking. What you think in your mind is in one place, and you yourself are in another place; but if these two places or locations join together hand in hand, as it were, then the experience becomes widened into a collision, a coming together of both sides, the subjective and the objective, and there is a transcendent consciousness at that time. This is savitarka samadhi.

The next higher stage mentioned in the system of Patanjali's Yoga is known as nirvitarka samadhi. These technical words merely indicate the liberation of the concept from its involvement in space and time. When we concentrate, meditate, and enter into samadhi at the savitarka level, even if the whole earth and creation were to be the object of our meditation, there will be a subtle persistence of the feeling that this entire thing is in space. The world of matter, which we think is this creation, is within space. Even Newton, the great mathematician and scientist, thought that the world is inside space. It took years and years to free scientists' minds from this concept. Everybody feels that everything is inside space. The liberation of this concept of space being involved in that great widened ideal in savitarka samadhi is called nirvitarka, where the concept of space as a carrier of the object ceases and, in some way, the association of the ideal of meditation with so-called space gets diminished into a coming together of spatiality and individuality of the object. We ourselves become one with it.

The idea of space arises because of the location of things outside us. Space is nothing but outsideness—externality. The identification of the meditating consciousness with the very substance of this ideal of savitarka samadhi is said to liberate the consciousness from the concept of space and time. The whole thing becomes oneself. This is difficult to conceive. How can all things become oneself ? As such a thing is considered impracticable due to the intervention of the separating medium of space, our function here is to obviate the problem of the meditating ideal with space. This is very difficult because however much we may think, our mind thinks in space only, and it cannot think anything else. Explanations or descriptions cannot make us understand what it actually means. If we want to know what sugar tastes like, we have to eat it, because nobody can explain to us what sweetness is. The proof of the pudding is in its eating. These stages of practice are actual experiences. They are not interpretations, they are not investigations, and they cannot even be called mental activity. It is a superb surging of the soul in one of its aspirations towards its own widened existence: the lower self moving towards the higher Self.

There are levels of self. One kind of self is the foisted self, which we see in an object that we like very much. The love that we pour upon something outside draws the consciousness in respect of that particular thing, and for the time being the person who has such a liking for the thing finds himself in that object. The person who has intense liking or longing for something is, for the time being, not in his own self. The self has been transferred to the location of that which is considered as a desirable object. This kind of self that is foisted, artificially created, is called the secondary self, not the primary self.

There is another kind of self, which is our bodily existence, our physical self. We feel that this body is the self. “I am here” means the body is here. There is no distinction between you and the body. This is a false association because, by analysis, you must have come to the conclusion that you cannot say that the material body is the Self.

The third self is the primary Self. It is the ocean of consciousness that is at the back of the secondary self and the physical self. This Self is only one and not many, but it can manifest itself in different levels, which are designated as the lower self and the higher Self. “Raise the self by the Self,” says the Bhagavadgita: uddharet atmana atmanam (Gita 6.5). Which self is raising which self here? The self that is contented with its location in a body and its social relations is to be raised by a larger Self which comprehends not only the individual self but also its relations outside. With great intensity of concentration, the relations of individual selfhood with the outer atmosphere should be brought together into a wider comprehension of larger selfhood. Thus, we may say these levels of manifestation of Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Svargaloka, etc., are levels of selfhood only. It is the lower wholeness of selfhood rising to the higher level of wholeness. All advance is from wholeness to wholeness. There are no movements from finitude to infinitude; it is the lesser infinite that is moving to the higher infinite.

Every cell in the body is a little human being, and contains all our characteristics in its DNA. The whole history of a human being is in one cell, but these cells are joined together in a comprehensiveness of cohesion so that they look like one individual, this particular person. Though millions of cells join together to constitute this so-called individual personality, we never feel that we are made up of several bricks heaped one over the other because the cohesive force of consciousness at the back of these cells permits not this division of consciousness, but one integrality. Every little thing is a whole. An atom is a complete being by itself; it is not a part. Anything we can conceive in this world is a self-sustaining completeness. No individual of any category feels that it is only a part, that it is not a whole. Even an insect is a whole; it moves as a complete being by itself. Thus, there are levels of wholeness. We move from perfection to perfection; rather, we move from joy to greater joy. Anandadd hy eva khalv imani bhutani jayante (Tait. Up. 3.6.1): Bliss is the source of creation. It moves towards that great Bliss, and operates through the activity of the Self.

The levels of Self mentioned are identical with the consciousness of the levels of these various planes—Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Svargaloka, etc. These are actually the objects of meditation. The various stages of samadhi are actually attempts at commingling oneself with different levels of experience, all which are wholes by themselves.

A child is a whole, an adolescent is a whole, an adult is a whole, and an elderly person is a whole. Nobody can say that a baby is a partial human being; it is an entire human being. Even a little embryo in the womb is an entire being, not a part. There are no fractions anywhere. The idea of fraction is a misconception because nothing that is finite, so-called, will imagine that it is finite. Do you think you are a finite little nothing? You are complete in yourself. You are full, you are a total, and you are filled with perfection. That is the feeling of every individual, whether it is a man, a superman or even a subhuman being.

Thus, meditation in this line of samadhis is a movement of a whole consciousness from its lower level to the whole consciousness of its higher level. That is to say, when we think, when we meditate, when we are conscious of anything, there must be a wholeness attached to this concept of the object of meditation. It is not that the meditating principle is somewhere and the object is somewhere else. The meditation is not concentrating itself on something outside the process of meditation; it is the lower concentrating itself on the higher. It is not the internal that is concentrating itself on the external. This idea should go. It is the lower whole concentrating itself on its own higher level. Here you have to exercise your mind a little bit in a very subtle manner, so that the usual, ordinary, prosaic thinking about things in the world seems to be totally in disparity with the new vision that we are trying to entertain in our own selves.

Suffice it to say that the next stage of samadhi, called nirvitarka, is a non-spatial, non-temporal concept of the whole physical universe, while savitarka, the earlier stage, is a spatiotemporal involvement of the whole of creation. The next higher stage is called savichara samapatti, which is characterised by the unification of consciousness with forces rather than things. The union that is attempted here is not with any particular object or thing, but with a force that is manifested through the so-called located something.

Energy is the substance of the universe. It is a fluid movement, as it were, of a wave of indistinguishable content which, in different points of stress and pressure, appears as localised individualities. Here, the concept is of force rather than of an object or a thing. We are all centres of force, not physical entities made of flesh and blood. There is a centralisation of all-pervading force in everything, whether human or otherwise—a concretisation of this all-pervading force in a particular manner by action and reaction within itself. To cite the illustration of the waves in the ocean, it is like one wave dashing against another wave in order that it may become the ocean itself.

In savichara samapatti you are not a person; you are a centre of fluid force, and that which you are aiming at is also a counterpart of this fluid force. Energy contemplates on energy, force concentrates on force, so that it is something like the dance of particulars around a cosmic centre. In the language of the Puranas, it is called the Rasa Lila of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. This can be compared to how electrons in an atom roam, dance and move with great velocity around a nucleus which determines their movements, from which they are not different and yet are not identical. Such an experience takes place here, where everything moves around yourself not as something totally outside, but as a part of your own ubiquitous existence, as if your higher dimension dashes against your own self and calls you, summons you. The Infinite that is everywhere summons the Infinite that is inside you. Purnamadah purnamidam is the illustration here that the whole comes from the whole; and the whole that comes from the whole is also whole; and if you deduct the whole from the whole, there is no fraction; the whole alone remains.

Towards this end the mind moves in a highly rarefied form. Here the mind is not an ordinary, sensory mind. It is not the mind that simply okays the reports of the sense organs. It is a super reason—or, we may say, supra reason, which acts as an ambassador of the Supreme Absolute. We have a lower reason and a higher reason. The lower reason is what we are accustomed to—namely, just interpreting the complex sensations coming from outside. The lower reason is mere psychological activity. But there is a super reason in us which makes us restless always, and which points to the existence of a super being, and makes us aspire for that which is beyond the understanding itself.

Emanuel Kant, a German philosopher, prohibited the very idea of contacting reality because reason as we know it, the intellect, is within the phenomena of perception. Space-time are controlling even the operations of mental activity, reason, and there is no such thing as contact with reality. It is impossible. That was his dictum. This is a preliminary view of a great man's thought, which is potential with a great solution behind it, and the conclusion drawn is capable of directing the very same reason to a higher potential, though it looks as if it is impossible to achieve anything by itself.

Our higher reason, which is called the great buddhi, operates on two levels. On the lower level it has only one work to do, namely, judging the validity of sense perception. There is a higher reason about which Kant does not seem to be clearly aware, which points to the fact of there being something beyond the phenomena. His idea of there being such a thing called the ‘thing in itself' is a contradiction of his own doctrine of nothing being possible in the realm of phenomena to contact a thing in itself. How does a thing in itself, which is not contactable, arise? Who is the person, and what is the faculty that provides us with the knowledge of there being something transcendent?

Actually, what we call the ‘thing in itself' is the transcendent, but if we surmise that nothing that is available to us in the phenomenal world is capable of contacting it, the very idea of it cannot arise. This is why I said that the higher reason acts as an ambassador of the possibility of a transcendence of its own self. Therefore, yoga is the answer to the criticism of Emanuel Kant. Otherwise, nobody can reach God with this kind of premise.

However, now I am coming to the point that in this savichara samadhi, forces are considered as objects of meditation. They are forces, and not objects at all. They are all little pressures of one large ocean of moving power. Savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara. There is something more which will frighten you, about which I shall speak another time.