Yoga is Samadhi, but Not Just Any Samadhi…
The point of yogic practice is the absorption called samadhi.
Yoga means union, and samadhi means, literally, “to place together”..
Real yoga begins with samadhi, continues through Realization of the nature of your own mind, and residing within that nature. Postures, breathing, concentration, meditations, rituals, or tantric lovemaking — these are just preludes to and supports for samadhi, as you move towards towards Realization.
But what if I told you that you already experience absorption (samadhi) hundreds of times a day? Confused?
Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) gives a beautifully lucid explanation of the forms of samadhi in his Ayurveda and the Mind. His explanation is so lucid, and so important to understanding the pitfalls and goals of yoga and tantra, that I’ve taken a sizable excerpt from his very practical book. If his explanation helps your understanding, please show your appreciation to Dr. Frawley by purchasing a copy of Ayurveda and the Mind from Amazon.com and digesting it thoroughly. Here begins the excerpt:
Lesser and Greater Samadhi, from Ayurveda and the Mind
We are all pursuing samadhi or absorption in one form or another.
There are not only the higher yogic Samadhis but ordinary Samadhis.
We are only happy when we are so engrossed in something that we forget
ourselves because the separate self is sorrow. Samadhis are peak
experiences in which we become lost in the object of our perception.
Being inspired, enwrapped in music, engrossed in a movie, or lost in a
sexual experience are all lesser Samadhis.
Yoga teaches that there are five different levels of consciousness
1) deluded (mudha)
2) distracted (kshipta)
3) imaginative (vishipta)
4) focused or one-pointed (ekagra)
5) calmed (nirodha)
Samadhis exist on all five levels of consciousness, but Yoga as a
spiritual discipline is only concerned with Samadhis of the last two
levels, which are purely Sattvic (spiritual) in nature.
These are arrived at through the development of our higher awareness
and are under the control of our deeper intelligence. They are the
greater or the yogic Samadhis.
Samadhis of the one-pointed mind involve the use of an idea or
support, from contemplating an object in nature to reflecting on the
nature of ultimate Reality. They are focused on a particular object
that may be external or internal.
Here the mind consciously gets concentrated in the object and its
underlying cosmic truth is revealed.
Yogis use this type of Samadhi to unconver the secrets of the cosmos
and the psyche. These are an extension of the methods of Pratyahara,
Dharana, and Dhyana that we have already discussed.
Samadhi of the calmed mind is beyond all objects and thoughts and
involves stilling or silencing our consciousness on all levels. This
type of Samadhi is necessary for transcending the outer world and for
Generally one must develop the Samadhis of the one-pointed mind in
order to develop those of the calmed or silent mind.
The lesser or non-yogic Samadhis are transient in nature and cannot
permanently bring peace to the mental field. They occur when the
unpurified mind comes under the temporary domination of one of the
three gunas and through this merges back into its core (Chitta), which
is the level of the gunas.
When one guna prevails there is an absorption in that guna. but in
time the other gunas must assert themselves and the Samadhi comes to
an end. These lesser Samadhis are outside the control of our awareness
and depend upon circumstances.
Such lesser Samadhis are the main cause of mental disturbances because
they breed attachement and cause addiction to them.
Samadhis of the Deluded Mind, from Ayurveda and the Mind
Samadhis of the deluded mind include sleep, comas, and states induced
by alcohol or drugs in which the quality of Tamas or dullness
prevails. Here the mind is absorbed in a blank state in which
consciousness of the body is obscured or even lost. One loses control
of one’s mind and gets absorbed in a mindless or non-feeling state, or
one gets absorbed in a sensation in which there is no movement, like a
drunk lost in a drunken stupor lying half-conscious on the floor.
Samadhis of the Distracted Mind, from Ayurveda and the Mind
Samadhis of the distracted mind occur when the mind is so engrossed in
an activity or external sensation that it forgets itself. Here the
quality of Rajas or energetic movement prevails.
This type of absorption occurs in sexual activity, in sports — like
the enjoyment of running fast — or in watching a movie (which has an
element of Tamas, however, being mainly a passive sensory enjoyment).
The mind is calmed by the weight or intensity of sensory stimulation.
It occurs when we are engrossed in our work, which is why overwork can
be an addiction.
We get so lost in what we are doing that we forget ourselves. This
state of mind is behind most of the ordinary achievements of life, in
which we imagine a goal for ourselves and then pursue it. The
attainment of such goals like wealth or fame is a kind of Samadhi
experience, the absorption of success.
Samadhis of the distracted mind can occur on a negative level when the
mind becomes engrossed in great fear or pain. Any intense emotion,
including violence, creates a drama in which the mind becomes
concentrated, a kind of Samadhi.
Samadhis of the Imaginative Mind, from Ayurveda and the Mind
Samadhis of the imaginative mind occur when the mind is so absorbed in
its own projections that it forgets itself. This occurs mainly when
the quality of Sattva prevails. These are the Samadhis of the
inspired mind or genius. Such are the visions of artists, the musings
of philosophers, and the great discoveries of scientists. They
include many transient spontaneous religious or mystical experiences.
While Sattva prevails in this Samadhi, Tamas and Rajas have not been
eliminated and so assert themselves after a period of time. In this
regard, Yoga does not look up to these creative or intellectual
Samadhis as the ultimate, which is the tendency of Western
intellectual culture to glorify genius as the highest human type.
Yoga is based on higher Samadhis and, while honoring these Samadhis of
the inspired mind, realizes that these are not sufficient to purify
the mind, particularly the subconscious. They cannot overcome the
other gunas of Rajas and Tamans that will again bring the mind down
and cause it pain.
Such inspired Samadhis are like a window on the higher Samadhis but
cannot take us there. This requires more than cultivation of the
intellect; it requires a yogic type training. It requires not
imagination but realization.
Samadhis of a Mixed Nature, from Ayurveda and the Mind
Samadhis of a mixed nature exist in which the three lower Samadhis
combine because the three gunas behind these states are ever
fluctuating. Generally, Samadhis of the distracted mind lead us to a
Tamasic state, when we are exhausted by them, just like the joy of
running a race leads to the pleasure of deep sleep.
Lesser Samadhis include all the powerful experiences of life to which
we get addicted and cause us sorrow. The mind gets trapped in the
influence of such peak experiences or moments of intensity and these
serve to color and distort it.
Whatever experiences most impress the mind give us the greatest sense
of absorption or self-loss, determine our background state of mind and
the external conditions that we will create for ourselves.
For example, the mind, dominated by the pleasure of sex, will promote
a consciousness and way of life seeking sex. A mind dominated by the
joy of artistic inspiration will seek that. Severe mental disorders
involve more powerful lesser Samadhis.
Schizophrenia, from Ayurveda and the Mind
Schizophrenia is a Samadhi of an inferior nature, generally dominated
by Tamas or delusion. The person may go into a trance, see
hallucinations, hear voices or other delusionary sensory phenomena in
which darkness covers the mind. The insane person is absorbed in his
or her own fantasies that no one else perceives.
All these are not merely aberrations in the brain. They may include
psychic abilities or psychic sensitivities but are beyond the control
of the person. The person may connect up to the astral plane and lose
contact with physical realities,
In these cases, the mind goes into an
absorption of the dull or blank type and sometimes an astral entity
comes in to use the mind. All sever mental derangement involves such
possessions by influences or entities, in which we lose conscious
control of the mind.
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Spiritual and Non-Spiritual Samadhis, from Ayurveda and the Mind
There can be a combination of higher and lower Samadhis. These
include powerful or enduring mystical experiences that are mixed with
egoism. The person has a legitimate deep experience but the ego
colors it. We feel that we are the avatar, Jesus Christ or some oter
great holy person, or that God is giving a special revelation through
Some of the religious cults that have caused trouble in the world are
based upon such mystical experiences which were authentic but of a
mixed nature. Being exposed to a person in such a mixed Samadhi can
be very deranging, particularly for the naive or the unprepared. The
authenticity of their Samadhi causes one to believe their ego
Lower Samadhis are externally directed and based upon desire. The
higher samadhis are produced by the mind itself when it transcends
desire. Some intermediate Samadhis exist in that there is desire but
of a more subtle nature, such as can be expereienced in astral travel,
in which we may find subtle forms of enjoyment in worlds beyond the
physical. These also come under the Samadhis of the one-pointed mind
but can be mixed in nature.
Yogic Samadhis, from Ayurveda and the Mind
Yogic Samadhis require a special energization of the Prana (vital
force) to achieve them and occur when the mind and Prana are united
consciously. For this reason PRanayama is very important in creating
yogic Samadhis. Without developing an increased energy of Prana, it
is very difficult to reach these yogic Samadhis. Prana and Chitta,
the vital force and our deeper consciousness, are connected, as we hav
already noted in our discussion of Chitta. One should not forget the
role of Prana in Samadhi, either of a higher or lower nature.
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All excerpts on Samadhi form Dr. David Frawley’s Ayurveda and the Mind