30 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
What questions arise when I focus on “samadhi” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
Patanjali’s yoga sutras teach us that when we still the fluctuations of the mind, consciousness abides in its own nature. This is the goal of yoga, to abide in pure consciousness. It’s not easy to get there even with years of practice and strict adherence to the eight limbs. The yogi likes her cave because she can easily remain absorbed in pure consciousness (in nirvikalpa samadhi: absorption without an object). Evolved sages like to spend time in meditation, absorbed in this state.
One such sage was Swami Vivekananda, whose name was Narendra when he was a boy. Once upon a time, young Narendra was traveling with his family, and he saw a giant bee hive high up on a wall of a cliff. He wondered over how old that bee hive must be, and that wonder sent him into a state of super-consciousness, where his whole being was lost in wonder and awe at the Divine. Another time, he was meditating in Cossipore gardens and sensed a powerful light around his head. He entered deep samadhi, and when he came out of it, he did not feel that he had a body. He walked around for a few days after in a very uneasy feeling like he had no body.
Nirvikalpa Samadhi is a state of consciousness in which the relative reality dissolves into the Absolute. Patanjali’s yoga sutras teach that only after a yogi has stilled the fluctuations of the mind, then consciousness abides in its own nature, and this is the goal of yoga. Vedanta says that consciousness is always abiding in its nature and the only problem is to remove one’s ignorance of that ever-present, ever-pervading pure consciousness. A yogi in a cave who experiences hours and hours in deep samadhi may think that a swami who spends hours and hours reading books and doing philosophy is missing the experience. But that swami abides in consciousness through a philosophical understanding that Brahma is never separate from material reality. Instead, material reality is not as much with us as someone like William Wordswoth may have expressed in his poem “The World is Too Much With Us.” That’s Vedanta. The material world is not with us nearly as much as Brahma is with us. Pure consciousness, pure being, and pure bliss are the most real experiences in every moment, whether we are deep in meditation or deep in study or deep in ritual or deep in prayer or deep in service or deeply in love or dreaming or fast asleep. Brahma is most real in every experience. Once Sri Ramakrishna saw an umbrella open and close and it sent him into samadhi because it reminded him of the creation and dissolution of the universe. It can be as simple as that, and it happens to us all the time.
Meditating on samadhi, a Jnana yogi might ask: “Vedanta says once we remove ignorance, it is easy to always realize we are immortal consciousness. Can social media help us see immortal consciousness? Keep wondering, daughter: for whom does scrolling and liking posts inspire nirvikalpa samdhi?”
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