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This article is about the concept in Hinduism. For use in Buddhism, see Samadhi (Buddhism). For other uses, see Samadhi (disambiguation).
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  • Patañjali.

It has been described as a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object,[1] and in which the mind becomes still, one-pointed or concentrated[2] while the person remains conscious. In Buddhism, it can also refer to an abiding in which mind becomes very still but does not merge with the object of attention, and is thus able to observe and gain insight into the changing flow of experience.[3]

In Hinduism, samādhi can also refer to videha mukti or the complete absorption of the individual consciousness in the self at the time of death - usually referred to as mahasamādhi.

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

Samadhi (समाधि samādhi, Hindi pronunciation: [səˈmaːd̪ʱi]) is the state of consciousness induced by complete meditation. The term's etymology involves "sam" (together or integrated), "ā" (towards), and "dhā" (to get, to hold). Thus the result might be seen to be "to acquire integration or wholeness, or truth" (samāpatti). Another possible etymological analysis of "samādhi" is "samā" (even) and "dhi" (intellect), a state of total equilibrium ("samā") of a detached intellect ("dhi").

Rhys Davis[4] holds that the first attested usage of the term samādhi in Sanskrit literature was in the Maitri Upanishad.[5]


Samādhi is the main subject of the first part of the Yoga Sūtras called Samādhi-pada. Vyāsa, a major figure in Hinduism and one of the traditional authors of the Mahābharata, says in his commentary on verse 1.1 of the Yoga Sūtras that "yoga is samādhi."[6] This is generally interpreted to mean that samādhi is a state of complete control (samadhana) over the functions and distractions of consciousness.

Samādhi is described in different ways within Hinduism such as the state of being aware of one’s existence without thinking, in a state of undifferentiated “beingness" or as an altered state of consciousness that is characterized by bliss (ānanda) and joy (sukha). Nisargadatta Maharaj describes the state in the following manner:

When you say you sit for meditation, the first thing to be done is understand that it is not this body identification that is sitting for meditation, but this knowledge ‘I am’, this consciousness, which is sitting in meditation and is meditating on itself. When this is finally understood, then it becomes easy. When this consciousness, this conscious presence, merges in itself, the state of ‘Samadhi’ ensues. It is the conceptual feeling that I exist that disappears and merges into the beingness itself. So this conscious presence also gets merged into that knowledge, that beingness – that is ‘Samadhi’.

The initial experience of it is enlightenment and it is the beginning of the process of meditating to attain self-realization (tapas). "There is a difference between the enlightenment of samādhi and self-realization. When a person achieves enlightenment, that person starts doing tapas to realize the self."[8]

According to Patañjali[9] samādhi has three different categories:

  1. Savikalpa - This is an interface of trans meditation and higher awareness state, asamprajñata. The state is so named because mind retains its consciousness, which is why in savikalpa samādhi one can experience guessing (vitarka), thought (vicāra), bliss (ānanda) and self-awareness (asmita).[9] In Sanskrit, "kalpa" means "imagination". Vikalpa (an etymological derivation of which could be 'विशेषः कल्पः विकल्पः।') connotes imagination. Patañjali in the Yoga Sūtras defines "vikalpa" saying: 'शब्द-ज्ञानानुपाति वस्तु-शून्यो-विकल्पः।'. "Sa" is a prefix which means "with". So "savikalpa" means "with vikalpa" or "with imagination". Ramana Maharshi defines "savikalpa samādhi" as, "holding on to reality with effort".[10]
  2. Asamprajñata is a step forward from savikalpa. According to Patañjali,[9] asamprajñata is a higher awareness state with absence of gross awareness.[11]
  3. Nirvikalpa or sanjeevan - This is the highest transcendent state of consciousness. In this state there is no longer mind, duality, a subject-object relationship or experience.[12] Upon entering nirvikalpa samādhi, the differences we saw before have faded and we can see everything as one. In this condition nothing but pure awareness remains and nothing detracts from wholeness and perfection.

Entering samādhi initially takes great training and willpower, and maintaining it takes even more will. The beginning stages of samādhi (laya and savikalpa samādhi) are only temporary. By "effort" it is not meant that the mind has to work more. Instead, it means work to control the mind and release the self. Note that normal levels of meditation (mostly the lower levels) can be held automatically, as in "being in the state of meditation" rather than overtly "meditating." The ability to obtain positive results from meditation is much more difficult than simply meditating. It is recommended to find a qualified spiritual master (guru or yogi) who can teach a meditator about the workings of the mind. As one self-realized yogi explained, "You can meditate but after some time you will get stuck at some point. That is the time you need a guru. Otherwise, without a Guru, chances are very slim."[13]

Samādhi is the only stable unchanging reality; all else is ever-changing and does not bring everlasting peace or happiness.

Staying in nirvikalpa samādhi is effortless but even from this condition one must eventually return to ego-consciousness. Otherwise this highest level of samādhi leads to nirvāṇa, which means total unity, the logical end of individual identity and also death of the body. However, it is entirely possible to stay in nirvikalpa samādhi and yet be fully functional in this world. This condition is known as sahājā nirvikalpa samādhi or sahājā samādhi. According to Ramana Maharshi, "Remaining in the primal, pure natural state without effort is sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi".[10]

Leaving the body

Yogis are said to attain the final liberation or videha mukti after leaving their bodies at the time of death. It is at this time that the soul knows a complete and unbroken union with the divine, and, being free from the limitations of the body, merges effortlessly into the transcendent Self. Mahāsamādhi (literally great samādhi) is a term often used for this final absorption into the Self at death.


Main article: Samadhi (shrine)

Samadhi mandir is also the Hindi name for a temple commemorating the dead (similar to a mausoleum), which may or may not contain the body of the deceased. Samādhi sites are often built in this way to honour people regarded as saints or gurus in Hindu religious traditions, wherein such souls are said to have passed into mahāsamādhi, (or were already in) samādhi at the time of death.

I.K. Taimni

I. K. Taimni, in The Science of Yoga,[14] Taimni's commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, provides a lucid and precise understanding of samadhi. In simple terms, Taimni defines samadhi as "knowing by becoming". Samadhi, as pointed out above, is the eighth arm of Patanjali's Ashtanga (eight limbed) yoga. The last three of the eight limbs are called Antaranga, or Internal yoga, meaning they occur solely in the mind of the yogin. The three limbs are: dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Together, the three are collectively called samyama. Dharana, dhyana and samadhi are sometimes translated as concentration, contemplation, and meditation, respectively. These translations do not shed any light on the nature of dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Dharana, dhyana and samadhi are altered states of consciousness and have no direct counterpart in normal waking experience, according to Taimni's explanation of them.

According to Taimni, dharana, dhyana and samadhi form a graded series.

Dharana. In dharana, the mind learns to focus on a single object of thought. The object of focus is called a pratyaya. In dharana, the yogi learns to prevent other thoughts from intruding on focusing awareness on the pratyaya.
Dhyana. Over time and with practice, the yogin learns to sustain awareness of only the pratyaya, thereby dharana transforms into dhyana. In dhyana, the yogin comes to realize the triplicity of perceiver (the yogin), perceived (the pratyaya) and the act of perceiving. The new element added to the practice of dhyana, that distinguish it from dharana is the yogin learns to minimize the perceiver element of this triplicity. In this fashion, dhyana is the gradual minimization of the perceiver, or the fusion of the observer with the observed (the pratyaya).
Samadhi. When the yogin can: (1) sustain focus on the pratyaya for an extended period of time, and (2) minimize his or her self-consciousness during the practice, then dhyana transforms into samadhi. In this fashion then, the yogin becomes fused with the pratyaya. Patnajali compares this to placing a transparent jewel on a colored surface: the jewel takes on the color of the surface. Similarly, in samadhi, the consciousness of the yogin fuses with the object of thought, the pratyaya. The pratyaya is like the colored surface, and the yogin's consciousness is like the transparent jewel.

Samadhi can be compared to normal thought as a laser beam can be compared to normal light. Normal light is diffuse. A laser beam is highly concentrated light. The laser beam contains power that normal light does not. Similarly, samadhi is the mind in its most concentrated state. The mind in samadhi possess power than a normal mind does not. This power is used by the yogin to reveal the essence of the pratyaya. This essence is called the artha of the pratyaya. The release of the artha of the pratyaya is similar to cracking open the shell of a seed to discover the essential elements of the seed, the genetic material, protected by the shell.

Once perfected, samadhi is the main tool used by a yogin to penetrate into the deeper layers of consciousness and seek the center of the yogin's consciousness. Upon finding this center, the final act is using a variant form of samadhi, called dharma mega samadhi, to penetrate the center of consciousness and emerge through this center into Kaivalya. Kaivalya is the term used by Patanjali to designate the state of Absolute consciousness free from all fetters and limitations.

Thus it can be seen that, according to Taimni's interpretation of the Yoga Sutras, samadhi is the main tool the yogin uses to achieve the end goal of yoga, the joining of the individual self with the Universal Absolute.


Main article: Samādhi (Buddhism)

Samādhi, or concentration of the mind, is the 3rd division of the eightfold path of the Buddha's threefold training: wisdom (pañña), conduct (sīla), Samādhi (Buddhism) (samādhi) - within which it is developed by samatha meditation. Some Buddhist schools teach of 40 different object meditations, according to the Visuddhimagga, a medieval commentarial text. These objects include meditations on the breath (anapanasati), loving kindness (metta) and various colours, earth, fire, etc. (kasiṇa).

Important components of Buddhist meditation, frequently discussed by the Buddha, are the successively higher meditative states known as the four jhānas which in the language of the eight-fold path, are "right concentration". Right concentration has also been characterised in the Maha-cattarisaka Sutta as concentration arising due to the previous seven steps of the noble eightfold path.[15]

Four developments of samādhi are mentioned in the Pāli Canon:

  1. Jhāna
  2. Increased alertness
  3. Insight into the true nature of phenomena (knowledge and vision)
  4. Final liberation

Post-canonical Pali literature identifies three different types of samādhi:

  1. momentary samādhi (khaṇikasamādhi)[16]
  2. access concentration (upacārasamādhi)
  3. fixed concentration (appaṇāsamādhi)

Not all types of samādhi are recommended either. Those which focus and multiply the five hindrances are not suitable for development.[17]

The Buddhist suttas also mention that samādhi practitioners may develop supernormal powers (abhijñā, also see siddhis) and list several that the Buddha developed, but warn that these should not be allowed to distract the practitioner from the larger goal of complete freedom from suffering.

The bliss of samādhi is not the goal of Buddhism; but it remains an important tool in reaching the goal of enlightenment. Later Buddhist schools would eventually teach entirely different meditation methods for cultivating Samatha - the quality of tranquility - than for developing vipassana - the quality of insight. However, the earliest Buddhist Canons make it clear that these two qualities are developed by the same practice, namely Jhāna via the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.[18]


In Sikhism the word is used to refer to an action that one uses to remember and fix one's mind and soul on Waheguru.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib informs "Remember in meditation the Almighty Lord, every moment and every instant; meditate on God in the celestial peace of Samadhi." (p 508). So to meditate and remember the Almighty at all times in one's mind takes the person into a state of Samadhi. Also “I am attached to God in celestial Samadhi.” (p 865) tells us that by carrying out the correct practices, the mind reaches a higher plane of awareness or Samadhi. The Sikh Scriptures advises the Sikh to keep the mind aware and the consciousness focused on the Lord at all times thus: “The most worthy Samadhi is to keep the consciousness stable and focused on Him.” (p 932)

The term Samadhi refers to a state of mind rather than a physical position of the body. Although, it has to be said that you can sit in meditation and also be in a state of Samadhi. The Scriptures explain: “I am absorbed in celestial Samadhi, lovingly attached to the Lord forever. I live by singing the Glorious Praises of the Lord” (p 1232) and also “Night and day, they ravish and enjoy the Lord within their hearts; they are intuitively absorbed in Samadhi. ||2||” (p 1259). Further, the Sikh Gurus inform their followers: "Some remain absorbed in Samadhi, their minds fixed lovingly on the One Lord; they reflect only on the Word of the Shabad." (p503)

See also


External links

  • Samadhi (
  • A Honed and Heavy Axe
  • Samadhi in Puranic texts (
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