The word samadhi has been largely misunderstood. People think samadhi means some death-like situation. The word samadhi literally means samaand dhi – sama meaning equanimity and dhi meaning buddhi or the intellect. If you reach an equanimous state of intellect, it is known as samadhi.
The fundamental nature of the intellect is to discriminate – you are able to discriminate between a person and a tree only because your intellect is functioning. This discriminatory quality is very important for survival. If you want to break a stone, you have to discriminate between the stone and your finger otherwise you will break your finger. So discrimination is an instrument which supports and executes the instinct of survival present in every cell of the body.
If you transcend the intellect you become equanimous. This does not mean you lose the ability to discriminate. If you lose the discriminatory intellect, you will become insane. In a samadhi state, your discriminatory intellect is perfectly in shape but at the same time you have transcended it. You are not making a distinction – you are simply here, seeing life in its true working. The moment you drop or transcend the intellect, discrimination cannot exist. Everything becomes one whole, which is the reality. A state like this gives you an experience of the oneness of the existence, the unification of everything that is. In this state there is no time or space. Time and space is a creation of your mind. Once you transcend the mind as a limitation, time and space doesn’t exist for you. What is here is there, what is now is then. There is no past or future for you. Everything is here in this moment.
The whole aspect of spirituality is to go beyond that discrimination, beyond the survival instincts, which is for the physical. Samadhi is a certain state of equanimity where the intellect goes beyond its normal function of discrimination. This in turn, loosens one from his physical body or there is a space between what is you and your body.
The eight kinds of samadhis
Samadhis are of different varieties. When you are living in the body there are eight samadhis available to a human being. Of these eight, they have been broadly categorized as savikalpa: samadhis with attributes or qualities – samadhis that are very pleasant, blissful, and ecstatic – and nirvikalpa: samadhis that are beyond pleasant and unpleasant, they are without attributes or qualities. Those who go into nirvikalpa samadhi states are always kept in protected states because their contact with the body becomes very minimal. The smallest disturbance, like a sound or a pinprick, would dislodge them from their body. These states are maintained for certain periods to establish the distinction between you and the body. It is a significant step in one’s spiritual evolution, but still not the Ultimate. The samadhis by themselves have no great significance in terms of realization.
Many of Gautama the Buddha’s disciples went into very long meditations. They did not come out for years. But Gautama himself never did so because he saw it is not necessary. He practiced and experienced all the eight kinds of samadhis before his enlightenment and discarded them. He said, “This is not it.” This is not going to take you any closer to realization. It is just moving into a higher level of experience and you could get more caught up because it is more beautiful than the current reality.
If the goal is set, if you have made realization the top priority in your life, then every thing else which doesn’t take you one step closer is meaningless. Let us say you are climbing Mount Everest. You will not take one step sideways because every ounce of energy is needed. If you have to transcend your own consciousness, you need every ounce of what you have and even then it is not enough. So, any action that we perform, we don’t want it to be a “sidewinder.”
As long as you are in the body, whatever liberation you attain, the body is a limitation. It is not complete liberation. When someone leaves their body in full awareness, then we call this Mahasamadhi because he or she has shed the body.
Mahasamadhi is a dimension where you transcend discrimination – not just experientially but also existentially. There is no such thing as you and the other. Right now, there is you and the other; it is a certain level of reality. In a samadhi state, you go beyond that discrimination and in your experience you are able to see the oneness of the existence.
Mahasamadhi means you not only see it that way, you have become that way totally – discrimination is finished. That means individual existence is finished. Who you are does not exist anymore. The life that is functioning as an individual life right now becomes absolutely universal or cosmic or boundless. To put it in traditional terms, you become one with God or one with everything.
When I say one with God, it does not mean going and joining someone somewhere. It is just that your individual bubble is over. To use an analogy, right now your existence is like a bubble. A bubble that is floating around is very real but if you burst it, where does the air inside the bubble go? It just becomes one with everything, isn’t it? It is completely dissolved. When we say one with everything, this is what it means. Nothing will be there. You will not be there. When we say mukti, it means you are free from existence. When I say you are free from existence, I am not talking about existence as a quantity which you are free from. You are free from your own existence – your existence is finished.
When we say mukti or nirvana or moksha, this is what it means – freedom from the very burden of existence. That’s ultimate freedom because as long as you exist, you are bound in one way or another. If you exist in a physical way, it is one kind of bondage. If you leave the physical body and exist in some other way, there is still another kind of bondage. Everything that exists is ruled by some law. Mukti means you have broken all laws and all laws can be broken only when you cease to exist.
Nirvana is a more appropriate word because nirvana means non-existence. When there is no existence, you are even free from freedom because freedom is also a certain bondage. So you are free from your very existence. All discrimination between what is you and what is not you is finished.
For someone to be able to do this – taking this life and throwing it out without injuring the body – it needs tremendous energy. Mahasamadhi is a state where one willfully drops the body. The cycle is over. There is no question of rebirth, it is complete dissolution. You can say this person is truly no more.
Life just shifts from one level to another. In reality there is no such thing as death. Death exists only to one who has no awareness about life. There is only life, life and life alone. But Mahasamadhi means the real end. This is the goal of every spiritual seeker. Ultimately, he wants to go beyond existence.