Nirvikalpa Samadhi – Final Step on the Path of Yoga

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is a second level of achieving the highest level of Samadhi. The samadhis are primarily categorized as,

  • Savikalpa Samadhi: Transcend of Mental Activity or Access Concentration.
  • Nirvikalpa Samadhi: A higher state of Awareness where only Conscious remains.
  • Dharmamega Samadhi: Even the will to know and embrace god disappears.

There has been a debate about Sahaja Samadhi being the highest level of attaining spirituality, but some claim it lies between Nirvikalpa and Dharmamega. It has yet to be proven by as known, or proof givers have yet to reach such a level of spiritual superiority.

Swami Vivekananda, who himself has exceeded the state of Savikalpa Samadhi to reach Nirvikalpa Samadhi, expressed his experience as a free physical body and mind detached from all exterior activities melting his inner self and providing an essence of infinite knowledge.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Understanding the Concept of Samadhi

As Ramana Maharshi states, Samadhi is a state of spiritual consciousness, an unbroken experience of existence consciousness. This one-pointed concentration can be roughly described with words like joy, peace, and bliss. This is by no means an idle state of a mummy or fossil, as some people far from spirituality think. This is the experience of reality as it is, in complete unity and integrity.

In Samadhi, the gap between the viewer and the visible ceases: this is yoga. Vedic knowledge says that this state of consciousness is indescribable; to understand it, you must experience samadhi yourself. The difference between sleep and yoga samadhi is that when a person comes out of samadhi, he has transcendental wisdom.

Samadhi is the last step in the path of Ashtanga Yoga. This is a careful contemplation in which the idea of one’s personality disappears. It is achieved with long-term meditation, merging the individual consciousness with the absolute.

Some take a conscious joy (ananda) as the Vicara stage, where the mind attains sustained thinking. This is not exactly a separate stage of Samadhi, but it does lie inside the Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Also known as Asamprajnata Samadhi, it is the highest state of samadhi, where super concentration with mindfulness is manifested. The other stages of Samadhi allow for immersion in bliss but do not entirely break the subjective and objective connection.

Instead, they are preparatory stages for enlightenment. However, in Nirikalpa Samadhi, all processes of understanding stop, and the temporal, causal, and spatial structure ceases to exist. It is believed that in this state, the unification of the subject and the Cosmic Consciousness takes place. One can see the true nature of the universe far away from subtle objects. 

The practitioner (yogi) ultimately merged with the Absolute, and his consciousness ceases to be separate from the Supreme. The absolute and the yogi become one. This is truly the state when a person discovers the Atman in himself. He not only understood this but also realized and manifested the Atman while still being in the subtle body.

What is Nirvikalpa Samadhi?

From the word itself, we can understand that there is an end to the movement of thoughts. Instead of Vikalpa comes Nirvikalpa, characterized by a complete absence of reflections, Sunya, divine, Nothing, and complete union with the Absolute, when inner and outer thoughts are stopped.

This is the state of delight, which in Yoga is called Ananda, but it is not identical to the joy that we already know in the earthly life. This new type of spiritual ecstasy cannot be expressed in words.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi experience

The state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi itself can be even less expressed through verbal communication. Although to somehow present this nature of experience to the reader as a spiritual and philosophical concept simultaneously, we have no other means except to use words.

But in general, no state of samadhi can be fully conveyed by building a chain of verbal logical discourse. This state can be understood and realized only in the process of direct living through the level of experience of being in samadhi.

When immersed in Nirvikalpa Samadhi, a person’s thoughts disappear regarding external activity, and his consciousness becomes crystal clear. However, to achieve such a state is given only to a few – to those who gave all their energy and strength and refused a lot to accomplish this. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, one feels his heart has become genuinely boundless, like a winged bird.

A yogi can stay in this state for several hours to several days. When he returns to the physical world, he may forget who he is, and performing his usual daily duties will cause him great difficulties. After a while, the state of mind returns to normal, and the person can continue living a worldly life. With continued practice, over time, coming down from Nirvikalpa Samadhi and immediately returning to normal functioning is not difficult.

In the distant past, some spiritual masters attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi and never came down. They remained in their highest samadhi and found it impossible to re-enter the world’s atmosphere and work like ordinary people. While in that state of consciousness, one cannot work in the world; it’s just impossible.

When one enters Nirvikalpa samadhi, one usually does not want to return to the world. If you stay there for eighteen or twenty-one days, there is a good chance the soul will leave your body. But there is divine providence. Suppose the Supreme [God] wants a particular soul to work here on earth, even after twenty-one or twenty-two days. In that case, the Supreme takes that person into another channel of dynamic divine consciousness and lets him return to the earthly plane to be there to act.

Types of Nirvikalpa Samadhi

There are two types of Nirvikalpa Samadhi:

  • Nirvitarka Samadhi– In one, the person who finds God through knowledge (jnana) sees the whole world within himself as a movement of thoughts, a way of being, of his existence. So, he sees Brahma, who rests in Brahman (Svarupa Visranti), and sees the universe in itself as a thought of his own (Sankalpa). The Jnana Yogi experiences the same. It is the highest state of self-realization, the state of Krishna and Dattatreya, Shri Shankara, Jnaandeva, and others. In this state, a person sees himself in all beings and all beings also in himself; whoever implies ascetic practices devotion and looks at everything indifferently. The person who has not yet achieved self-realization due to his ignorance (Avidya) sees the world as something external, different and separate.
  • Nirvichara Samadhi– In the second type of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the world dissolves, and the Jnana Yogi rests in pure Brahman without attributes (Shuddha Nirguna Brahman), as expressed in the parable of the rope and the serpent (Rajju Sarpa Nyaya). If the Raja Yogi gives up Samadhi in duality (Savikalpa), he meets in Samadhi without duality (Nirvikalpa) with the Jnana Yogi in the knowledge of Brahman (Brahmakara Vritti).

Underlying all these names and forms is a living, universal force or intelligence without condition. Meditating on them is an elementary method of meditation without forms, leading to the experience of absolute knowledge without attributes (Nirguna)and God without form (Nirakara).

How to achieve Nirvikalpa Samadhi?

Meditation exercises based on various god-realized sages of the past,

  • Sit in the lotus position (Padmasana) and concentrate on one form of energy. Air, Fire, Krishna, Shiva, Shakti, Sun, Moon, gurus, etc. This is known as Dharana.
  • When you continue this practice for many hours or days, you enter into a “Dhyana” Meditation. This way, you will experience the nameless and formless Brahman, the one living truth.
  • Meditate – another form of meditation without attributes (Nirguna) – on an infinite, sublime glow (Param, Ananta, Akhanda, Jyotish) behind all appearances that shine as brightly as the shine of many millions of suns, or concentrate and meditate on the limitless sky. This is also a form of meditation without forms (Nirakara).
  • With all these methods, the whole consciousness no longer knows any thought of certain forms but slowly begins to sink into the sea of peace to free itself from its various forms of content and become more subtle. 

What do Swamis have to say about Nirvikalpa Samadhi?

  • Sri Ramana describes Nirvikalpa Samadhi as “In Kevala Nirvikalpa samAdhi, the mind is alive but merged in light, like a bucket with rope lowered into a well, that can be drawn out again. – In Sahaja Nirvikalpa samAdhi, the mind is dead, resolved into the Self, like a river discharged into the ocean – its identity lost – and which can never be re-directed from the ocean, once discharged into it.”
  • Swami Sivananda states that the “Mind loses its own consciousness and becomes identified with the meditation object (Tatchitta, Tanmaya, Tadakara). Just as a toy made of salt melts in water, even so, the mind melts in Brahman in Nirvikalpa Samadhi.”
  • Swami Muktananda experienced the vision of a blue pearl at the sixth stage of Nirvakalpa Samadhi, which he explains as purifying even that exceeds the force of realization itself.