Samadhi and Yoga: Moving Beyond the False Self Toward Enlightenment


As the end of the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali attempts to describe samadhi, a complete state of oneness that is the goal of yoga. The individual practices that comprise yoga lead to samadhi. In short, we practice letting go of the mind and ego, and what remains is a blissful state of complete connection.

Patanjali describes samadhi as a state in which there is no differentiation between the knower (person), what he or she can know (the knowable), and knowledge. There is a progression through several types, or levels, of samadhi. It’s a journey that continues to expand.

Samadhi: The Journey to Oneness

According to Pandit Rajmani Tigunait of Yoga International, once you’ve moved into samadhi through the practice of meditation, “the process of concentration, the object of concentration, and the mind that is trying to concentrate or meditate all have become one.”

Patanjali described this as savitarka samadhi. In this state, we have an intuitive understanding of something derived from simply observing and connecting with it. Once we reach savitarka samadhi, we can move to the next level, in which the mind dissolves and only the object remains. In other words, we give up our identity for the sake of union with the object of our focus. We move from insight to a state beyond insight where only being exists.

The Ego Will Pull You Back

Make no mistake. The ego’s influence is strong, and it will always try to pull us back into the false self. But if we persevere and continue the practice, our true self will come through again. So samadhi is not a permanent state of bliss, at least not for most mortals. As we become more adept, though, we can reach a state of self-reflection that isn’t clouded by the distortions of the mind. We can gain more of the wisdom we need to see truth.

And we don’t stop there! The final step in experience of samadhi is to move beyond truth.

What could possibly be beyond—and better than—a clear perception of truth?

The answer, Patanjali tells us, is oneness. The goal of yoga is to become one with God. We can think of this as being truth or being creation (or even being love) rather than merely having knowledge of it.

The highest level of samadhi for yogis is a state in which the self and the universe dissolve. Now, all that remains is the experience of oneness, a state of simply being that recognizes everything else—birth, life, death, careers, relationships, suffering, achievement, status, etc.—as an illusion that was never real.

Is Samadhi Attainable?

It’s natural to wonder if samadhi is attainable. It can seem like a pipe dream we hold on to when we struggle with pain, confusion, and suffering. Few people seem to attain it, after all. And that’s okay. As Patanjali tells us, our human minds are not capable of understanding the experience of samadhi. That doesn’t mean there’s no value in striving for it, though. This is where faith comes in, as it does with any type of spiritual practice.

While most of us struggle to stay on the path, we also seem wired with an “inner knowing” that something more is out there. If you practice with devotion, you’ll become comfortable with the realization that the journey never ends. The further you travel, the more you realize—and embrace—the awesome truth that being is infinite and possibilities continue to expand.

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Maria Kuzmiak

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