Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": SAMADHI


The passage from 'concentration' to 'meditation' does not require the application of any new technique. Similarly, no supplementary yogic exercise is needed to realize samadhi, once the yogin has succeeded in 'concentrating' and 'meditating.' Samadhi, yogic 'enstasis,'. is the final result of the crown of all the ascetic's spiritual efforts and exercises. The meanings of the term Samadhi are union, totality; absorption in, complete concentration of mind; conjunction. The usual translation is 'concentration,' but this embarks the risk of confusion with dharana. Hence we have preferred to translate it 'entasis,' 'stasis,' and conjunction.

. . . Patanjali and his commentators distinguish several kinds or stages of supreme concentration. When Samadhi is obtained with the help of an object or idea (that is, by fixing one's thought on a point in space or on an idea), the stasis is called samprajnata samadhi ('enstasis with support,' or 'differentiated enstasis'). When, on the other hand, samadhi is obtained apart from any 'relation' (whether external or mental) that is, when one obtains a 'conjunction' into which no otherness' enters, but which is simply a full comprehension of being one has realized asamprajnata-samadhi ('undifferentiated stasis'). Vijnanabhikshu adds that samprajnata samadhi is a means of liberation in so far as it makes possible the comprehension of truth and ends every kind of suffering. But asamprajnata samadhi destroys the 'impressions [samskara] of all antecedent mental functions' and even succeeds in arresting the karmic forces already set in motion by the yogin's past activity. During 'differentiated stasis,' Vijnanabhikshu continues, all the mental functions are 'arrested' ('inhibited'), except that which 'meditates on the object'; whereas in asampranata samadhi all 'consciousness' vanishes, the entire series of mental functions are blocked. 'During this stasis, there is no other trace of the mind [citta] save the impressions [samskara] left behind (by its past functioning). If these impressions were not present, there would be no possibility of returning to consciousness.'
We are, then, confronted with two sharply differentiated classes of states.' The first class is acquired through the yogic technique of concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana), the second class comprises only a single 'state'-that is, unprovoked enstasis, 'raptus.' No doubt, even this asamprajnata samadhi is always owing to prolonged efforts on the yogin's part. It is not a gift or a state of grace. One can hardly reach it before having sufficiently experienced the kinds of Samadhi included in the first class. It is the crown of the innumerable 'concentrations' and 'meditations' that have preceded it. But it comes without being summoned, without being provoked, without special preparation for it. That is why it can be called a 'raptus.'

Obviously, 'differentiated enstasis,' samprajnata-samadhi, comprises several stages. This is because it is perfectible and does not realize an absolute and irreducible 'state.' Four stages or kinds are generally distinguished: 'argumentative' (savitarka), 'nonargumentative' (nirvitarka), reflective' (savicara), 'super-reflective' (nirvicara). Patanjali also employs another set of terms: vitarka, vicara, ananda, asmita. (Y-S-, I, 17). But, as Vijnanabhikshu, who reproduces this list, remarks, 'the four terms are purely technical, they are applied conventionally to different forms of realization.' These four forms or stages of samprajnata samadhi, he continues, represent an ascent; in certain cases the grace of God (ishvara) permits direct attainment of the higher states, and in such cases the yogin need not go back and realize the preliminary states. But when this divine grace does not intervene, he must realize the four states gradually, always adhering to the same object of meditation (for example, Vishnu). These four grades or stages are also known as samapattis, 'coalescences.' (Y.S., I, 41-)

All these four stages of samprajnata samadhi are called bija samadhi ('samadhi with seed') or salambana samadhi ('with support):, for Vijnanabhikshu tells us, they are in relation with a 'substratum' (support) and produce tendencies that are like 'seeds' for the future functions of consciousness. Asamprajnata samadhi, on the contrary, is nirbija, 'without seed,' without support. By realizing the four stages of samprajnata, one obtains the 'faculty of absolute knowledge' (Y.S., 1, 48) This is already an opening towards samadhi 'without seed,' for absolute knowledge discovers the ontological completeness in which being and knowing are no longer separated. Fixed in samadhi, consciousness (citta) can now have direct revelation of the Self (purusha). Through the fact that this contemplation (which is actually a 'participation') is realized, the pain of existence is abolished.
Vyasa (ad Y.S., III, 55) summarizes the passage from samprajnata to asamprajnata samadhi as follows: through the illumination (prajna, 'wisdom') spontaneously obtained when he reaches the stage of dharma-megha-samadhi, the yogin realizes 'absolute isolation' (kaivalya)-that is, liberation of purusha from the dominance of prakriti. For his part, Vacaspatimishra says that the 'fruit' of samprajnata samadhi is asamprajnata samadhi, and the 'fruit' of the latter is kaivalya, liberation. It would be wrong to regard this mode of being of the Spirit as a simple 'trance" in which consciousness was emptied of all content. Nondifferentiated enstasis is not absolute emptiness.' The 'state' and the 'knowledge' simultaneously expressed by this term refer to a total absence of objects in consciousness, not to a consciousness absolutely empty. For, on the contrary, at such a moment consciousness is saturated with a direct and total intuition of being. As Madhava says, 'nirodha [final arrest of all psychomental experience] must not be imagined as a nonexistence, but rather as the support of a particular condition of the Spirit.' It is the enstasis of total emptiness, without sensory content or intellectual structure, an unconditioned state that is no longer 'experience' (for there is no further relation between consciousness and the world) but 'revelation.' Intellect (buddhi), having accomplished its mission, withdraws, detaching itself from the Self (purusha) and returning into prakriti. The Self remains free, autonomous: it contemplates itself. 'Human' consciousness is suppressed; that is, it no longer functions, its constituent elements being reabsorbed into the primordial substance. The yogin attains deliverance; like a dead man, he has no more relation with life; he is 'dead in life.' He is the jivan-mukta, the 'liberated in life.' He no longer lives in time and under the domination of time, but in an eternal present, in the nunc stans by which Boethius defined eternity.


M. Eliade, Yoga, OP. cit., PP. 77, 79-81, 83-4, 93-4

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