Different Stages of Samadhi According to Yoga Sutras

The meeting of Atman with the Paramatma, in simple terms, is Samadhi. It is a joyous state of Yoga and is often considered the precursor of enlightenment.

Each of us is a part of the universe. No matter what, we begin as we end up in the oneness, the void, or the unconsciousness. Samadhi is said to be achieved by using one of the various types of meditation techniques.

When the mind is fixed for understanding the self, it is said to be in Samādhi. According to Paramahansa Yogananda, Samadhi is a soundless state of breathlessness. 

The word can be broken down as sam, “together” or “integrated”; ā, “towards”; dhā, “to get, to hold”: “to acquire integration or wholeness, or truth” A blissful super consciousness state in which a yogi perceives the identity of the individualized Soul and Cosmic Spirit.

Hindus and Buddhists have their own versions of attaining Samadhi, while yoga has its own path. Patanjali lists Samadhi as the eighth and final step on the path of yoga.

Samadhi is often achieved through meditation. In this state, the three aspects of meditation — meditator, an act of meditation, and the object of meditation known as God — are finally united.

Samadhi is regarded as the climax of all spiritual and intellectual activity. The power to attain Samadhi is a precondition of attaining release from the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara). Hence, death of the physical body of a person with this power is also considered a samadhi.

Maharishi Patanjali has elaborated eight limbs of yoga in his book Yoga Sutras:

  1. Yam (Observances)
  2. Niyama (Abstinences)
  3. Asana (Postures)
  4. Pranayam (Breath controlling)
  5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of senses)
  6. Dharana (Determination)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Self-realization or Nirvana per Buddhist philosophy).
But what is Super Consciousness?

It is a state in which the soul realizes that it is much more than the conditioned body. Different types of higher states of consciousness can arise individually or in various combinations.

The list of known types of higher states of consciousness:

  • modified states of consciousness, achieved with the help of meditative psychotechnics;
  • optimal experience and the “flow” state;
  • the euphoria of a runner;
  • lucid dreaming;
  • out-of-body experience;
  • near-death experience;
  • mystical experience (sometimes regarded as the highest of all higher states of consciousness)

Stages of Samadhi

Indian Yogi on Samadhi
Image source – YouTube

Samprajnata Samadhi (Savikalpa)

The first level of samadhi is where you are in meditation, peaceful, or in silence, but you are available to the outside world. In this state, you are sitting quietly, consciously getting rid of disturbances of your mind and meditating. If some stimulus happens, you use your prajna (knowledge) to respond; that is the Samprajnata Samadhi.

Samprajnata, or Savikalpa samadhi, is a state of conditioned oneness. The meditator experiences merging his soul with universal consciousness; however, he cannot preserve the experience outside of meditation. It is simply an experience of meditativeness. In a way, this experience is incompatible with the mind’s experience.

Maharshi Patanjali says that, for a short period of time, you lose all human consciousness. In this state, the concepts of time and space are different than in material nature. You experience universal consciousness for a short period of time, which cannot fit into the individual consciousness.

However, this is not a permanent state, and everybody must return to ordinary consciousness. Patanjali describes the four stages of Savikalpa Samadhi are possible.

1. Savitarka Samadhi

This means “thought transformation on an object with the help of words.” Perhaps it is because so much of the everyday mind’s processes, including words, remain intact in this level of samadhi that many meditators do not recognize that they have, in fact, experienced Samadhi.

It’s the stage of gaining knowledge or Jnana. “Knowledge,” in spiritual terms, always carries a sense of distinguishing the real from the unreal. In this stage, our thoughts transform into an object with the help of words and start a dialogue which is called Tarka.

In the state of Savitarka Samadhi, the mind evaluates things consciously and decides whether they are worth discussing.

2. Sa-Asmita Samadhi

In the final Stage of Savitarka Samadhi, Yogi becomes one with the object of one-pointed concentration. He becomes established in a single thought, and his mind gets purified and gains strength to penetrate deeper.

Even the ahankara or sense of “I” or “I am” is only a Vritti, a single thought that vanishes all other thoughts. This vritti can also be suppressed, and when this happens, the yogi can directly perceive the source of the ahankara: the mahat.

3. Savichara Samadhi

Patanjali in Yoga Sutras 1:44 and 45 talks about Vichara samadhi (Savichara and Nirvichara). Vichara Samadhi is the state of samadhi concerned with subtle objects that extends up to Prakriti, the source of all manifestation.

As Savichara samadhi deepens, the yogi may begin to understand the true nature of time and space by understanding the nature of Prakriti or Maya. Meditators may also experience a universal or cosmic mind. The mind experiences and explores the subtler level of the object through individual and universal aspects.

After some practice, the yogi can fully transfer consciousness from the Vitarka to the Vicara level. Savichara Samadhi is a state of silence for the individual mind, but thinking is available to the universal or cosmic Mind.

4. Sa-Ananda Samadhi

Here the mind transcends from the objective world; you move beyond the intellect. The mind is at peace and there is no reflection or reasoning.

The pure (sattvic) mind can only achieve awareness and transcend. The focus is on the inner self and within the mind itself. It’s known as a “blissful” Samadhi filled with joyful peace.

Asamprajnata Samadhi (Nirvikalpa)

The second level of Samadhi is when you go inward, away from the external world, you will be unaffected if some stimulus occurs. This is Asamprajnata or Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In Mahabharata, Arjuna is said to have practiced his archery with such a concentration

At this stage, all that is present is pure, auspicious, empty, and self only. This is Nirvikalpa or Nirbija samadhi. The mind of the yogi who attains this state takes on some of the omniscient and omnipotent qualities of the cosmos.

The yogi who can master this stage eventually attains wisdom and purity of mind and surrenders all attachments.

The Nirbija samadhi is also referred to as Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Yukteswar Giri, and Swami Vivekananda are said to have experienced the state of Nirvikalpa and reached Nirbija Samadhi.

1. Nirvitarka Samadhi

It refers to the state where the mental alternations of shabda, artha, and jnana are suspended. The less-real components, shabda and jnana, fall away completely, while the mind is absorbed in only artha, or form, and loses its awareness of being the knower.

It’s where we have greater control over the mind, ideas, intellect, and dialogues. The memory about the nature of the object (its identifying sound and the accumulated knowledge) are temporarily transcended during Nirvitarka samadhi.

2. Nirvichara Samadhi

It is one of the two Vichara Samadhi mentioned in Yoga Sutra 1.45.

For the first time, true one-pointed concentration becomes possible. This is the state of No-thought or Silence. Yogi transcends beyond the limitation of time and space; this state is called Nirvichara Samadhi.

3. Kaivalya Samadhi

The final stage is to reach Kaivalya Samadhi: complete, final, and eternal union with the real, eternal form.

Step by Step process into Samadhi

  • The first step, Dharana, is loosely translated as “concentration.” The Yoga Sutra defines this word: “to fix the mind in a well-defined space.” Space is boundless. So, to fix the mind in space, you must first isolate it from the rest of the space by creating a boundary around it.
  • Sage Vyasa, who is the most notable commentator on the Yoga Sutra, recommends that you bring your mind to a space that is well defined. This could be the area around your navel center, the heart center, the space between your eyebrows, or a particular external point, such as a flame or a certain image.
  • You must then select an object to occupy that space, be it an image of Ganesha, a yantra, or a mantra. Based on your nature and preference, you can choose any object or tool so that it will be easy for you to maintain discipline.
  • When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present moment and focus on the object of concentration. Distraction is a common habit that can make it challenging to maintain discipline. Concentration and distraction flow side by side. The only difference is that one stream—the concentration stream—is stronger, heavier, and fuller than the other.
  • As concentration matures, it turns into meditation or dhyana. This is the second step. So dhyana is a continuation of Dharana; your meditation is a more mature state of your concentration.
  • Enlightened sages and yogis say that if your mind remains focused on one object for at least 12 breaths, you have achieved a state of meditation. If, within that 12-breath period, your mind shifts from one object to another object, you are still at the stage of concentration.

Samadhi dawns when your mind becomes completely absorbed in the object occupying the space to which you have confined it. In samadhi, the process of concentration, the object of concentration, and the mind trying to concentrate or meditate have become one. In samadhi, you only know the essence and not the details.