As you may know, there are eight limbs of classical yoga. The first seven help prepare yogis for the final limb: union with a higher power, or samadhi. Samadhi can also be called union with all that is or union with God.
Whatever you call it, the goal is the same. Reaching samadhi means shedding the false self—the ego or “small self” that keeps us stuck—so we can be our true selves.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali introduces samadhi in verse 3.3. In some translations, samadhi is called realization. It is the state of deep meditation when the mind drops away and the meditator experiences complete union with the divine.
That same meditation when there is only consciousness of the object of meditation and not of the mind is realization. (Sutra 3.3)
When practiced together, the sixth, seventh, and eight limbs—dharana, dhyana, and samadhi—are called samyama. As Reverend Jaganath Carrera describes it, the practice of samyama is the key to wisdom.
By mastery of samyama, knowledge born of true insight shines forth. (Sutra 3.5)
You Won’t Reach Enlightenment Overnight
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that yogis may practice for years, decades, and even lifetimes before reaching samayama. The sutras tell us there are stages of practice and progress. The deep meditative practices require us to go within, while the earlier limbs are more external.
When we practice the yamas, niyamas, asana, and pranayama, we are preparing our bodies and minds. When we practice dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, we are moving beyond the mind. But even these practices are not the end of the journey, because our subconscious minds may still be at work.
Now, Patanjali takes us to a place we really cannot comprehend through words or thoughts. He tells us how to reach self-realization by tapping into the source of consciousness. Simple, right?
Of course, this is not simple, but it is profound.
Way back in the second sutra (right after we “took our seat” in sutra 1.1), we learned that yoga is about the cessation of the “mind stuff” that blocks our path to truth. This cessation is also known as nirodha. Nirodha is both a process and a state of being. It is the process of becoming still as well as the stillness itself. The longer we practice yoga, the more we are able to put nirodha to use and the closer we get to enlightenment.
The practice of nirodha is a shift that begins with turning away from external distractions and ends with complete connection with the source of consciousness. It takes a lot of practice to do this! In fact, it’s not really something we can do, only something we hope to experience once we’ve mastered other yogic practices.
The greatest obstacle to nirodha is distraction. So,again, we’ve returned to an understanding of the purpose of yoga: We practice to still the monkey mind so we can find out who we truly are.