In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali speaks of the different stages of samadhi. The mere understanding of these different states is very little compared to the experience, but still, for the sake of understanding, Patanjali describes them. The first stage of samadhi is the one in which the mind achieves an identity with a gross object of concentration, with awareness of the object, of its name, and its quality. Patanjali calls that savitarka samadhi. In this state, the mind can still be disturbed.  

The next  stage of samadhi is called nirvitarka samadhi; the mind achieves an identity with the object, but, without any awareness of its name, or its quality. That means that the name and the qualities of the object do not come to disturb the mind. In savitarka and nirvitarka, the concentration is on a gross object. There are two other stages of samadhi where there is concentration on more subtle objects. One is savichara, where there is analysis of the subtle object and the other is nirvichara, where there is no analysis on the subtle object. Sa means with and nir means without.

Up until now, in any of those four samadhis—whether the concentration is on gross or subtle—all the objects of concentration are part of the prakriti, or nature. You are not entering a state that is beyond the nature. We should remember that the prakriti and the Purusha are the two main parts of the Yoga philosophy; there is a dualism: matter (prakriti) and the eternal spirit (Purusha). Purusha is the unmanifested, pure entity in us, and prakriti is everything else—the manifested nature. Nature is made of subtle matter. Even the most subtle idea—our thought forms—is matter, according to the Yoga system. All matter is caused by the primal cause: prakriti.  

In all these samadhis, because of the connection with the prakriti—the seed from which everything originates—remains. The mind doesn’t lose its seed. It’s the feeling of the “I,” and, then later, of “mine.” All those four samadhis are called “with seed,” or sabija. Bija means seed. Even though you go into such a samadhi, you will always come back to prakriti because you are not completely free from the prakriti. That means, you have not attained the highest goal of Yoga, which is kaivalya.

Kaivalya means, just alone. Its root is kevala. It can be compared with the Buddhist nirvana, which means complete nakedness, there is nothing to cover you; nothing to color you. When there is nothing to cover the body, we say you’re physically naked. In the same way, when you experience nirvana, you, as the pure “I,” should be completely naked, without any connection whatsoever to anything. That means  that you alone are there. I, alone. There is nothing there even to say “mine.” If one detaches oneself completely from other connections; if one doesn’t identify oneself with anything else, and if one is rooted in one’s own Self, that is nirvana—complete nakedness.

The subtlest veil that can cover the Self  would be the very subtle thoughts. During concentration in the lower samadhis, there is still a subtle thought over which you have concentrated. You are in samadhi, but the touch of prakriti is still there. Because it is there, the seed remains and has the tendency to sprout. The germ of the seed is there. When given proper opportunity, the seed will again germinate. So it is called, sabija samadhi, samadhi with seed.

But gradually, after the nirvichara samadhi, the very subtle concentration, without analysis, the mind becomes completely pure. We have spoken about purity of the mind before, but that purity is different from this purity that is obtained after the nirvichara samadhi. In that samadhi you obtain a knowledge that is called ritambhara or the one that is filled with Truth, with that special unique light. It’s called: ritambhara prajna. The knowledge that is gained from that, is something completely different from all other knowledge. For example, by studying these sutras, we gain a little knowledge of what samadhi is. But this kind of knowledge obtained through words or books, or even physical experiences, is not real knowledge compared to the ritambhara. In nirvichara samadhi you have a separate experience wherein the mind loses all its limitation and it is filled with a new light, which is called the ritambhara.

When one gets that light, or the knowledge thatis filled with Truth, then the mind is completely freed from all the samskaras, which are the past impressions—including the conscious, subconscious or unconscious. All our experiences through the ages have been recorded in the mind; nothing is missed. The sum total of mind, is completely lost in that nirvichara samadhi, and so all past impressions are completely wiped out. But when you come back, you realize that you were in a higher state so that impression is still there. When even that impression is lost, you are in nirbija samadhi. Once you go into nirbija samadhi, there is no coming back. There is not even an impression of having gone and having come back. It’s a place where you go, that’s all. In all the previous samadhis, the idea of coming back is always there. But in this seedless state of nirbija samadhi, you only go.

Many may not even want to attain this samadhi. They may think there is so much to enjoy here, why should I go and not come back? Our enjoyments here seem so real to us. We don’t want to miss them, because we don’t know what that highest experience is. Many people may ask, “What is this Yoga, this nirvana, this uniting with the Higher One? Will we still have pleasure and joy?”

That kind of clinging is found in the lower samadhis. But even when you go into the samadhi with seed, you still get a glimpse of the higher bliss. And that will always tempt you to go back. It’s something like when we go to a restaurant and eat some delicious food, then whatever the difficultly or the distance, our mind pulls us again to that restaurant because we liked it so much. We are not satisfied with any other restaurant. The same way, even in the higher bliss, or experience of joy, once you get the glimpse, though you come back, you are tempted to go again. That’s why many people who have really experienced it, do not bother much about the world; they want to always drink that nectar and live in that ecstasy. Of course, others will say that they are good for nothing; they just sit by themselves, doing nothing and they don’t even know how to enjoy things. We call them the madcaps. But, if by any chance they think of us, they feel sad, because they wonder what possible joy can others, who have not experienced the bliss, possibly have in their lives. 

A saint once compared this worldly joy with that of a dog that he was watching. The dog went outside, smelled a bone, and slowly started digging. Finally, it found a very old bone. A bone to a dog is really a boon! He pulled it out of the hole and started biting and sucking at it. After some time, blood started coming from the bone and the dog was so happy. He continued chewing the bone and licking the blood. After a while, the dog became weaker and weaker, and he couldn’t understand why. It stopped biting the bone, wondering what was happening. He thought he should be getting stronger from drinking the blood. As he concentrated on his pain and weakness, he noticed that his jaw was bleeding and his whole mouth was burning. Why should this be happening? Then he realized how foolish he had been. After all, how could blood be coming from a very old bone? It was his lips that were bleeding. They had gotten stuck between his teeth and the bone as he was chewing. The saint thought, “Are we not doing the same thing? We say we are getting joy and happiness from so many things in this world, but is that where the joy is coming from? If I am happy with a warm overcoat, now, I should still be happy with it in mid-summer. But, even though it brings me happiness now, it refuses to bring the same happiness in summer. A delicious piece of food that makes me so happy, will bring me pain if I eat too much. So where is the happiness and joy coming from?

When you analyze this you will understand that happiness does not come from outside things. It is always, your own. You were happy before. All of a sudden for some reason you created a want in your system. The minute you throw the want into the calm lake of your mind, then the effort comes to satisfy the desire, and the mind is no longer calm. You work hard, you satisfy the want and you feel happy. Your desire is fulfilled. In yogic terms, the desire or the want creates a depression in the mind. When you get what you wanted, the depression is fulfilled and you are happy again. You were happy, you lost it, and now you’re happy again. So whose happiness is that? Each one of us may feel that something will give us happiness—it could be money, the company of someone, a job, clothing, anything that you feel is giving you happiness or joy. Analyze that. Is it really giving you continuous happiness? How were you before you had the desire? You will always come to the conclusion that the happiness is your own. That’s why, when all the desires are controlled, there are no more depressions.

There are certain desires that need not bring a depression to you. All such desires are selfless desires, such as the desire to help others, without any personal motive. You just want to help somebody because the need is there, and you have the capacity, that’s all. Then by any chance, if any such desire is not fulfilled, you will not become depressed. You will just say, All right, I thought I could help, but it didn’t turn out that way. You just leave it, ignore it. Selfless actions, whatever the results, will not bring depression in the mind. But the selfish desires and actions will certainly cause depressions, and such depressions disturb our peace.

Once that is fully understood, you are in samadhi. You are always in peace because there is nothing to disturb that peace. Let us not think that samadhi means going into a corner and sitting in a special posture with your eyes closed, forgetting yourself and sitting like a rock! No. Peace is in the mental attitude. If the mind has seen the inner peace, if it is rooted in that inner peace, and if that peace is not going to get disturbed by anything in the world, you are in samadhi.

The name for that is sahaja samadhi. Sahaja means: in the day to day life. You can live in that samadhi state in your daily life, without losing your balance, without losing your happiness. You can become involved in the world. You can acquire wealth, you can do business, do anything you want, that is sahaja samadhi. Such people are called jivanmuktas. They are liberated while living. Liberation is not a state that is achieved after our death. Lord Buddha attained nirvana, and then began to teach. He became enlightened. He understood his own peace, became established in that, and then he went into the world as a jivanmukta.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda