Sutra 3.3: tad eva artha matra nirbhasam svarupa shunyam iva samadhih
When the field of observation and the observing intelligence merge as if their own form is abolished and the total intelligence shines as the sole substance or reality, there is pure choiceless awareness without the divided identity of the observer and the observed – that is illumination. Translation and interpretation by Swami Venkatesananda
Samadhi is defined as meditative absorption (Feuerstein), illumination through pure choiceless awareness (Venkatesananda), and enlightenment (Busia), among other terms.
The Yoga Sutras describe stages of samadhi, and because of the more intense stages and fanciful descriptions, some believe it to be a mystic experience out of the reach of the average practice. In truth, samadhi is accessible to everyone – and, I am told, many of us experience it spontaneously without necessarily calling it thus.
In samadhi, your brain waves are in delta, the same state as in deep, dreamless sleep. It’s a state of apparent quiet in the brain, and because of this, the body grows impeccably still and the breath slows to an almost imperceptible quiet. Awake, conscious, but in stillness – that’s samadhi. Pure bliss without cause or reason, without beginning or end.
It requires a focus of your subtle energy, or prana, into a single point of focus – a clearing of non-movement in the midst of the usual flurry of your thoughts and mental diversions. To do this requires, for most of us, a strong initial mental focus, conscious, effortful direction of concentration (dharana). With practice, it takes less effort to achieve the same concentration, and eventually intentional focus becomes effortless and spontaneous (dhyana).
The first step is the only one you can practice; other yoga practices can help prepare you by teaching you how to tune your awareness to ever subtler movements of energy – just like you can sense jitters in your toes when you are nervous, you can sense the flow of electricity along your spine. This is a starting point to dharana.
Samadhi is not the end of your yoga journey, but just another experience that comes with the practice. Experience it every day; it is part of who you are.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.