In Sanskrit It's Samadhi; But What Does It Mean?

the Wanderling

Excerpted in part from a much longer article by:


"No samadhi is equivalent to Enlightenment because samadhis are only states of mind or no mind, no mind being a state of mind. Nirvikapa Samadhi is non-dual but unfortunately it is a state that can easily be destroyed. And there is no one there in that state, so when it ends one’s ignorance about the nature of one’s self is not removed and one experiences limitation once more."(source)

The word Samadhi seems to show up regularly in things related to Zen and Buddhism, but what does it mean, what role does it play, major or otherwise, in either or both? Before we get too deep into such a discussion, it should be clarified somewhat what Samadhi IS in the firstplace, where it came from, and how it became, or is an integral part of the "path."

Zen or Ch'an Buddhism is a movement within the Buddhist religion that stresses the practice of meditation as the means to Enlightenment. Zen and Ch'an are, respectively, Japanese and Chinese attempts to render the Sanskrit term for meditation: Dhyana. (i.e. See NOTE)

Zen's roots may be traced to India, but it was in East Asia, that is, China and eventually Japan, that the movement became distinct and flourished. Like other Chinese Buddhist orders, Ch'an first established itself as a Lineage of Masters emphasizing the teachings of a particular text, in this case the Lankavatara Sutra. Bodhidharma, the first Ch'an Patriarch in China, who is said to have arrived there from India c. 470 AD, was a master of this text. He also emphasized the practice of contemplative sitting (that is, Samadhi), and legend has it that he himself spent nine years in meditation facing a wall.(source)

However, it is from those early roots in India, where Bodhidharma was from, that the word Samadhi first appears --- showing up for the first time in the Hindu scriptures in the Maitrayni Upanishad (6.18, 34), a text which does not belong to the strata of the early Upanishads. The word also occurs in some of the Yoga and Sannyasa Upanishads of the Atharvaveda. Samadhi would thus seem to be a part of yogic practice which has entered into the later Upanishadic literature through such texts as the Yoga Upanishads as a result of "the constant osmosis between the Upanishadic and yogic milieus."

There are a number of recognized named varieties and types of Samadhi. The three primary types are actually levels, states, or stages and usually designated as: Samprajana Samadhi [Access Concentration (upacara samadhi)], Asamprajata Samadhi [Absorption Concentration (appana samadhi)] (also known as Nirvikalpa Samadhi) and Khanika Samadhi [Sequential Momentary Deep Concentration]. Some of the other Samadhis that show up, and sometimes just different names for some of the above and/or varying degrees or cultural or religious designations of each other or the above, are Savitarka Samadhi, Savichara Samadhi and Asmita Samadhi. For example, the two stages of Samadhi found in the yoga philosophy of Patanjali, Samprajnata Samadhi and Asamprajnata Samadhi, are virtually if not totally indistinguishable from Savikalpa Samadhi and Nirvikalpa Samadhi as found in Vedanta. As well, most pundits pretty much agree that the like-level Samadhis Asamprajnata and Nirvikalpa are the same as Nirbija Samadhi.

According to the the rather extensive writings of the venerated Indian philosopher and holy man Patanjali (circa 250 BCE?), Samprajnata Samadhi breaks down into four stages. They are distinguished by the philosopher as: argumentative, with gross thoughts (savitarka); nonargumentative, without gross thoughts (nirvitarka); reflective, with subtle thoughts (savicara); super-reflective, without subtle thoughts (nirvicara). Patanjali also employs another set of terms: vitarka, vicara, ananda, asmita which correspond roughly with the first four Jhana states (also known is some circles as: vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha). But, as Vijnanabhikshu (circa 1550-1600), remarks about the four stages, "the terms are purely technical, they are applied conventionally to different forms of realization." He goes on to say the four forms or stages of Samprajnata Samadhi represent an ascent. However, in certain cases the grace of God 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.

Beyond the top three (as well as the others) is Sahaja Samadhi. Sahaja Samadhi encompasses the other Samadhis, going beyond the beyond.

When the term Samadhi is used to indicate Samprajana Samadhi or Asamprajata Samadhi or other lower Samadhis, then it means trance which is a technique and a practice. When one reaches the level of Asamprajnata Samadhi or Nirvikalpa Samadhi sometimes the meditator continues practicing in that state until he becomes so established in that state that even when he comes back into the waking state, down from the deep inward state --- where he is not aware of the body or the time or the surroundings --- into the normal state, his awareness continues to be qualified by the same state of non-duality. In other words, he is so much established in that state of spiritual consciousness or awareness that even while he is moving and acting, he still remains in that state of inner awareness. They call this the state of Sahaja Samadhi.[1]

Thus said, Samprajana Samadhi refers to the early stage. Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the end result, the whole soteriology based on the suppression of mental fluctuations so as to pass firstly into Samprajnata Samadhi and from there, through the complete suppression of all mental fluctuations, into Asamprajnata Samadhi. During the early stages there is a taste of bliss and Beingness, but with a continuing strong problem with identification with the body as well as numerous worldly attractions. Entering Samadhi in the beginning takes effort. Holding on to it takes even more effort. Beginning stages of Samadhi are only temporary.

Traditionally, when the Five Hindrances are overcome it is called Samprajana Samadhi (upacara samadhi), also known as neighborhood concentration or neighborhood samadhi, where you are right NEXT to jhanas but not fully in them.

Upon entering Asamprajnata Samadhi (nirvikalpa samadhi) the differences have faded and nothing but pure Awareness remains. Nothing is missing to take away from Wholeness and Perfection. Samadhi becomes the only stable Reality, everything else is changing and does not bring everlasting peace or happiness.

For a fairly accurate break-down chart that lists the various Jhana states and where and how they fall in comparison to the different levels of Samadhi and where and how the different levels of Samadhis fall in comparison with each other see Energy Reality.

The word Samadhi became a part of the vocabulary of a number of Western intellectuals toward the end of the 1930s and from there filtered down into the general lexicon. Two well-known writers, Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood, were impressed by Eastern and specifically by Indian thought. They did not find Indian spirituality by journeying to India, however--rather it was India which found them; and the variety of Indian spirituality with which these Englishmen came into contact in California in the late 1930s was that of the Vedanta Society, founded by Swami Vivekananda and his followers, who were monks of the Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Order of India.

In the 1920's a woman living in South Pasadena named Carrie Mead Wyckoff became acquainted with a young monk sent to America by the Order. In 1929 he established the Vedanta Society of Southern California in a house in the Hollywood hills given to the Order as a gift by Mrs. Wyckoff. By the 1940's the Society had attracted a number of noted writers and intellectuals that had been showing up in the general Hollywood area about that time, of which Huxley and Isherwood were two.(2) It should be noted that British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham, who wrote the novel The Razor's Edge about a young man in search of Spiritual Awakening, was peripheral to the group as well, although he had actual Travels in India and had met the Enlightened sage of Arunachala, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi personally.

A woman by the name of Mercedes De Acosta, who was intertwined with Maugham on and off in relation to Sri Ramana visited the Bhagavan in 1938. That visit was her first experience with Samadhi. A fellow American who was visiting the ashram at the time by the name of Guy Hague, and who has in the past, often been suggested as the role model for Larry Darrell in Maugham's novel, was the first to give a name to what she was experiencing. In 1960 she wrote a book titled Here Lies the Heart in which she writes about that experience AND, in her own words attempts to describe Samadhi:

As he (i.e., Sri Ramana) sat there he seemed like a statue, and yet something extraordinary emanated from him. I had a feeling that on some invisible level I was receiving spiritual shock from him although his gaze was not directed toward me. He did not seem to be looking at anything, and yet I felt he could see and was conscious of the whole world.

"Bhagavan is in Samadhi," Guy Hague said.

Samadhi is a very difficult state to explain. In fact I do not think anyone has ever explained it. Doctors have tried to analyze it from a medical and physical point of view, and have failed. I have heard it described as "a state of spiritual ecstasy in which consciousness leaves the body." But this is not the whole phenomenon, as the breath stops and so does the beating of the heart. But it is not a form of trance as in the trance state both of these continue. It is claimed that Samadhi is a state attained only by highly Enlightened people--people who have reached Spiritual Illumination. It is a state where the spirit temporarily leaves the body and goes into one of bliss. All the Enlightened Ones who have attained Samadhi describe it as Bliss. In the last century the great saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa often went into Samadhi. The Maharshi would go into it for hours at a time, and often for days. When I arrived at the ashram he had already been in it seven hours.

Although Buddhism and Zen Buddhism have a long history of the use and knowledge of Samadhi from their origins in the Indian tradition, nobody had heard much of or the need or use of it before Huxley or Isherwood. That doesn't mean it did not exist, only that it did not play a major or high profile role. It must be remembered that for the most part Buddhism and Zen was not well known as a general concept prior to World War II. Why did these modern Vedantins give Samadhi any such emphasis? It is certainly important to modern Vedanta, but the question can be legitimately raised as to what importance it has in the Upanishads, the very source of the Vedanta, and in the classical Advaita school of Vedanta such as in the works of Sankara, the most famous of all the Vedanta teachers.

NOTE: There are three main schools of Vedanta:

  1. Dvaita Vedanta - the dualistic approach

  2. Advaita Vedanta - the non-dualistic approach

  3. Kevala Advaita Vedanta - the pure non-dualistic school.

The main exponent of Vedanta was the great sage Adi Sankara who was an adept of the Kevala Advaita Vedanta path. In western circles it is not unusual to blend the last two together as well as interposing the words Advaita and Vedanta as having the same meaning, becoming in a sense euphemisms of themselves ("satsang" is often included as well). Generally speaking it works OK, but when fine tuning the specifics then a more indepth process is usually required. To explore deeper the differences between Vedanta and Buddhism and thus then, how either consider Samadhi in their own realm of things, go to footnote 6 in bold below by clicking here.

The first point to be noted is that the word Samadhi does not occur in the ten major Upanishads upon which Sankara has commented. This is not a matter to be lightly passed over, for if the attainment of Samadhi is central to the experiential verification of the Vedanta, as we can gather it is, judging by the statements of some modern Vedantins such as those cited above, then one would legitimately expect the term to appear in the major Upanishads which are the very source of the Vedanta. Yet the word does not occur. The closest approximation to the word Samadhi in the early Upanisads is the past passive participle samahita in the Chandogya and Brhadaranyaka Upanishads. In both texts the word samahita is not used in the technical meaning of Samadhi ,that is, in the sense of a meditative absorption or enstasis ,although the closest approximation to this sense occurs in the Brhadaranyaka. In the first reference (BU 4.2.1) , Yajnavalkya tells Janaka: "You have fully equipped your mind (samahitatma) with so many secret names [of Brahman, that is, Upanishads]." Here the word samahita should be translated as "concentrated, collected, brought together, or composed."

In the second occurrence (BU 4.4.23), Yajnavalkya tells Janaka that a knower of Brahman becomes "calm (santa), controlled (danta), withdrawn from sense pleasures (uparati), forbearing (titiksu), and collected in mind (samahita). This reference to samahita is the closest approximation in the Upanishads to the term Samadhi, which is well known in the later yoga literature. However, the two terms are not synonyms, for in the Upanishad the word samahita means "collectedness of mind," and there is no reference to a meditation practice leading to the suspension of the faculties such as we find in the literature dealing with yoga. The five mental qualities mentioned in BU 4.4.3 later formed, with the addition of faith (sraddha), a list of six qualifications required of a Vedantic student, and they are frequently to be found at the beginning of Vedantic texts. In these texts, the past participles used in the Upanishads are regularly changed into nominal forms: santa becomes sama, danta becomes dama, and samahita becomes samadhana, but not the cognate noun Samadhi. It would thus appear that, while Vedanta authors understood samahita and samadhana as equivalent terms, they did not wish to equate them with the word Samadhi; otherwise there would have been no reason why that term could not have been used instead of samadhana. But it seems to have been deliberately avoided, except in the case of the later Vedanta work, Vedantasara, to which we shall have occasion to refer. Thus we would suggest that, in the Vedanta texts, samadhana does not have the same meaning that the word Samadhi has in yoga texts. This is borne out when we look at how Vedanta authors describe the terms samahita and samadhana. Sankara, in BU 4.2.1, glosses samahitatma as samyuktama, "well equipped or connected." In BU 4.4.23, he explains the term samahita as "becoming one-pointed (aikagrya) through dissociation from the movements of the sense-organs and the mind." The term occurs again in the Katha Upanishad 1.2.24 in the negative form asamahita, which Sankara glosses as "one whose mind is not one-pointed (anekagra), whose mind is scattered." In introductory Vedanta manuals, samadhana is also explained by the term "one-pointed" (ekagra). The word samadhana can thus be understood as having the meaning of "one-pointed" (ekagra). In the Yogasutra, "one-pointed" (ekagra) is used to define concentration (dharana), which is the sixth of the eight limbs of Yoga and a preliminary discipline to dhyana and Samadhi. We may see, then, that the Vedantic samadhana means "one-pointedness" and would be equivalent to the yoga dharana, but it is not equivalent to the yoga Samadhi.

The word Samadhi first appears in the Hindu scriptures in the Maitrayni Upanishad (6.18, 34), a text which does not belong to the strata of the early Upanishads and which mentions five of the eight limbs of classical Yoga. The word also occurs in some of the Yoga and Sannyasa Upanishads of the Atharvaveda. Samadhi would thus seem to be a part of yogic practice which has entered into the later Upanishadic literature through such texts as the Yoga Upanishads as a result of what Mircea Eliade calls "the constant osmosis between the Upanishadic and yogic milieus."

The attainment of Samadhi is not a sufficient cause to eradicate false knowledge, and since false knowledge is the cause of bondage, Samadhi cannot therefore be the cause of liberation.

There is a certain ambivalence toward yoga on the part of the followers of Vedanta. It can be seen in Brahmasutra 2.1.3, "Thereby the Yoga is refuted," which offers a rejection of yoga following upon the rejection of Sankhya philosophy. The problem as Sankara sees it is that yoga practices are found in the Upanishads themselves, so the question arises as to what it is about yoga that needs to be rejected. Sankara says that the refutation of yoga has to do with its claim to be a means of liberation independent from the Vedic revelation. He says, "... the sruti rejects the view that there is another means for liberation apart from the knowledge of the oneness of the Self which is revealed in the Veda." He then makes the point that "the followers of Sankhya and Yoga are dualists, they do not see the oneness of the Self." The point that "the followers of Yoga are dualists" is an interesting one, for if the yogins are dualists even while they are exponents of asamprajnata-samadhi (nirvikalpa-samadhi), then such Samadhi does not of itself give rise to the knowledge of oneness as the modern exponents of Vedanta would have us believe. For if it did, then it would not have been possible for the yogins to be considered dualists. Clearly the modern Vedantins, in their expectation that Samadhi is the key to the liberating oneness, have revalued the word and have given it a meaning which it does not bear in the yoga texts. And, we suggest, they have given it an importance which it does not possess in the classical Vedanta, as we are able to discerm it in the writings of Sankara.

From the evidence of the above we suggest the role of Samadhi is supportive--or purifying--and is preliminary to, but not necessarily identical with, the rise of the liberating knowledge. As is well known, Sankara considers that knowledge alone, the insight concerning the truth of things, is what liberates. To this end he places great emphasis upon words, specifically the words of the Upanishads, as providing the necessary and even the sufficient means to engender this liberating knowledge. Sankara repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the role of the teacher (guru/acarya) and the sacred texts (sastra) in the matter of liberation. For example the compound sastracaryopadesa, "the instruction on the part of the teacher and the scriptures," occurs seven times in his commentary on the Gita alone, along with other variations such as vedantacaryopadesa, and it regularly occurs in his other works as well. The modern Vedantin, on the other hand, has overlooked, possibly unknowingly, the importance which sacred language and instruction held in the classical Vedanta as a means of knowledge (pramana) and has had to compensate for this by increasing the importance of yogic Samadhi which is then put forward to be the necessary and sufficient condition for liberation.

Although the importance of concentration is evident from the early Upanisads (BU 4.4.23), a form of yoga practice leading to the absorptive state of Samadhi is only in evidence in the later texts. We have seen that Sankara does speak of a type of concentration upon the Self which is akin to yoga insofar as there is the withdrawal of the mind from sense objects, but he does not advocate more than that and he does not put forward the view that we find in classical Yoga about the necessity of total thought suppression. We have seen that he has used the word Samadhi very sparingly, and when he has used it, it was not always in an unambiguously favorable context. It should be clear that Sankara does not set up nirvikalpa-samadhi as a spiritual goal. For if he had thought it to be an indispensable requirement for liberation, then he would have said so. But he has not said so. Contemplation on the Self is obviously a part of Sankara's teaching, but his contemplation is directed toward seeing the ever present Self as free from all conditionings rather than toward the attainment of nirvikalpa-samadhi. This is in significant contrast to many modern Advaitins for whom all of the Vedanta amounts to "theory" which has its experimental counterpart in yoga "practice." I suggest that their view of Vedanta is a departure from Sankara's own position. The modern Advaitins, however, are not without their forerunners, and I have tried to indicate that there has been a gradual increase in Samadhi-oriented practice in the centuries after Sankara, as we can judge from the later Advaita texts.


Zen Master Seung Sahn(4) speaks of two stories that illuminate the dangers of attaching to Samadhi:

A long time ago in China, during the time of Zen Master Lin Chi, there was a monk who was very famous for his Samadhi practicing. This monk, similar to the traditions of digambara, never wore any clothes and was known as the 'naked monk.' He had mastered many kinds of Samadhi, had lots of energy, and didn't need to wear clothes even in winter.

One day Lin Chi decided to test this monk. He called a student of his, gave him a set of beautiful clothes, and asked him to present them to the monk. The student went to the monk and said, 'Ah, you are wonderful. Your practicing is very strong. So my teacher wants to give you these beautiful clothes as a present.' The monk kicked away the clothes and said, 'I don't need these clothes. I have original clothes, from my parents! Your clothes can only be kept a short time, then they will wear out. But my original clothes are never broken. Also, if they become dirty, I just take a shower and they are clean again. I don't need your clothes!'

The student went back to Lin Chi and told him what happened. Lin Chi said, 'You must go to this monk once more and ask him a certain question.' So the student went to the monk and said, 'Great monk! I have one question for you. You said you got your original clothes from your parents.' 'Of course!' said the monk. 'Then I ask you, before you got these original clothes from your parents, what kind of clothes did you have?' Upon hearing this, the naked monk went deep into Samadhi, then into Nirvana and died.

Everyone was very surprised and sad. But when the monk's body was cremated, many Sarira appeared, so everyone thought, 'Ah, this was a great monk.' Sitting on the high rostrum, Lin Chi hit the stand with his Zen stick and said, 'Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.' He hit it again, 'No form, no emptiness.' He hit it a third time, 'Form is form, emptiness is emptiness. Which one is correct?' Nobody understood. Then the Zen Master shouted 'KATZ!' and said, 'The sky is blue, the tree is green.' If you cannot answer in one word the question about your original clothes, then, although you can get Samadhi and Nirvana, you cannot get freedom from life and death.

Then the Zen Master stared at the Sarira -- poof! -- they turned to water. This is magic! They all turned to water and disappeared. Everyone was surprised. The meaning of this is: if you do Samadhi practice deeply, then when you die many Sarira will appear. But, these Sarira will not last long because they represent ,one mind,' not 'clear mind' which is our original nature. Our original nature has no life, no death, no coming or going. When the true Dharma appears, which means form is form, emptiness is emptiness or sky is blue, tree is green- that energy -BOOM! - will appear, all the Sarira will turn to water and disappear. Our teaching is substance, truth, and correct life. Our Zen practicing means attain your true self, find the correct way, truth, and life. Any style of practice is OK -- even using a mantra. But, don't be attached to Samadhi -- you must 'pass' Samadhi. Zen means 'everyday mind,' not special states of mind. Moment to moment keeping a clear mind is what's important.

And a second example. Once one of my students decided to practice with an Indian guru. This guru taught Samadhi practice. So my student got a Mantra, tried it all the time when he wasn't working, and went deeply into Samadhi. All the time he was having a very good feeling. Then one day while doing this Mantra, he was crossing the street. The next thing he knew, a car screeched to a halt, almost hitting him, and loudly sounded its horn. The driver shouted at him, 'Keep clear mind!' Then my student was very afraid. The next day he came to me and said, 'Dae Soen Sa Nim, I have a problem. Last night I almost died. I was practicing Samadhi, didn't pay attention and was almost hit by a car. Please teach me my mistake.'

So I explained to him, Samadhi practicing takes away your consciousness. But Zen means moment to moment keeping clear mind. What are you doing now? When you are doing something, just do it. Then this kind of accident cannot happen. So don't make Samadhi. Don't make anything! Just do it, O.K


There is a sanskrit word NIRODHA discribed usually as cessation that carries with it a more indepth meaning. In the index of the Visuddi Magga, for example, there are over twenty-five references that need to be read in context in order to cull out a fuller more concise meaning. Briefly, like Deep Samadhi, it is a very, very high degree non-meditative meditative state. During Nirodha there is no time squence whether a couple hours pass or seven days, as the immediate moment preceding and immediately following seem as though in rapid succession, start and finish compressed wafer thin. During, heartbeat and metabolism continue to slow and practically cease, sometimes continuing below the threshold of preception at a risidual level. Previosly stored body energy that would typically be consumed in a couple of hours if not replenished can last days with very little need for renewal. The Visuddhi Magga cites several instances where villagers came across a bhikkhu in such a state and built a funeral pyre for him, even to the point of lighting it. During low-level residual states the body temperature drops well below the 98.6 degree point. If suddenly jarred to consciousness body metabolism is slower to regain it's normal temperature, and inturn, that is recorded by the quicker to return cognative senses as "being cold." The non-meditative meditative state of Deep Samadhi and Nirodha are often, but not always, precursors to what is known in Zen as the Death of the Ego


The attainment of Samadhi is not a sufficient cause to eradicate false knowledge, and since false knowledge is the cause of bondage, Samadhi cannot therefore be the cause of liberation.

That statement considered and non withstanding, akin to Deep Samadhi and Nirodha BUT way beyond it and the above, there is a little known awake-state "deep meditation method," based in part from Dogen's Shikantaza, "intertwined" of sorts with both of the above, and neither entering into nor rising out of the living state of conscious continuum, being neither Mindfulness Leading to Insight nor not Mindfulness Leading to Insight; it is as well neither Concentration Leading to Absorption nor not Concentration Leading to Absorption, although unnamed, sometimes refered to as Jishu Zammi, where Ji means "self," Shu means "mastery," and Zammi means "Samadhi,"...Samadhi of Self Mastery.

Zen master Tai-yung, passing by the retreat of another Zen master named Chih-huang, stopped and during his visit respectfully asked, "I am told that you frequently enter into Samadhi. At the time of such entrances, does your consciousness continue or are you in a state of unconsciousness? If your consciousness continues, all sentient beings are endowed with consciousness and can enter into Samadhi like yourself. If, on the other hand, you are in a state of unconsciousness, plants and rocks can enter into Samadhi." Huang replied, "When I enter into a Samadhi, I am not conscious of either condition." Yung said, "If you are not conscious of either condition, this is abiding in Eternal Samadhi, and there can be neither entering into a Samadhi nor rising out of it."(source)

In a question and answer interview in the book Be As You Are by David Godman, Sri Ramana is asked to clear up the difference between Samprajnata-Samadhi and Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Ramana responds with:

"Holding on to the supreme state is Samadhi. When it is with effort due to mental disturbances, it is Samprajnata. When these disturbances are absent, it is Nirvikalpa. Remaining permanently in the primal state without effort is Sahaja."

So, if the above is the case, then how does one "stay" in Samadhi and why would one want to? James Swartz, known as Ram, in an interview titled Commentary on the Teachings of Ramana Maharshi and conducted by John Howells in January 2003, at Tiruvannamalai, South India, offers the following regarding Nirvikalpa Samadhi:

"If you argue that you are aiming at nirvikalpa samadhi where there is no mind, fine, but the problem with nirvikalpa samadhi is that a fly landing on your nose can bring you out of it, not that there is anyone there to come ‘out’. And when the ‘you’ who wasn’t there does ‘come back,’ as I just mentioned, you are just as stupid as you were before… because you were not there in the samadhi to understand that you are the samadhi. If you are the samadhi you will have it all the time because you have you all the time…so there will be no anxiety about making it permanent." (source)

Chih-huang says, "If you are not conscious of either condition, this is abiding in Eternal Samadhi, and there can be neither entering into a Samadhi nor rising out of it." Ramana says, "Remaining permanently in the primal state without effort is Sahaja," meaning of course, Sahaja Samadhi. Chih-huang and Ramana seem to refering to the exact same state or level of Attainment. (see)


"Buddhism teaches that after a practitioner achieves a certain degree of realization, spiritual power develops. A person at the level of an Arhat is said to possess six supernatural powers. Furthermore, it is acknowledged as well that supernatural powers are not attainable exclusively JUST by Buddhists and Buddhists only. It is possible for anyone who has deep religious and spiritual cultivation to develop some kind of 'super-normal powers.'"

NAGARJUNA: The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom (Dharmamitra Translation)

Anyone who finds themselves pursuing a casual to serious interest in Buddhism and Zen, especially so those seeking insights into spiritual Enlightenment a la Buddha and any relationship that exists thereof, it isn't long before they come face-to-face with some of the more esoteric aspects found in both religions, such as, for example, the super-normal perceptual states known as Siddhis, the mysterious hermitage said to exist somewhere beyond time in a remote area of the Himalayas known under a variety of names such as Gyanganj, Shambhala or Shangri-La, or the ability to fly.

Even though Buddhism and Zen are found to be deeply seeped in all three concepts, those who encounter one or the other individually or all, especially seekers on the path with a strong western background, although they may like the idea, they are usually uncomfortable with a formal acceptance of any possibility of reality for any or all, and quickly relegate or disregard such ideas into areas of forced silence.

The revered Indian spiritual teacher Sri H. W. L. Poonja (1910-1997), also known as Poonjaji or Papaji, a master in his own right, is considered in religious circles as the foremost disciple, devotee, follower or advocate of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Anybody who holds themselves up to be anybody in the present day Advaita Vedanta come Enlightenment movement a la Ramana, but too young or not born in time to have studied under Ramana, had to have at one time bellied up to Poonja in some fashion or the other in order to flaunt their credibility. Regardless of his latter day followers and any credibility they may or may not radiate, Poonja himself was the real thing. The quote below is from his biography. He was not some ancient saint who somebody said somebody said they saw something, but a modern day personage that reported the following:

"In the last forty years or so I have met thousands of sadhus, swamis, gurus, etc. I have been to Kumbha Melas which millions of pilgrims attended; I have been to many of the big ashrams in India; I have toured the Himalayas, meeting many reclusive her­mits there; I have met yogis with great siddhis, men who could actually fly."

The Buddha is quite clear on the level of Attainment and criteria that MUST be met in order successfully set into motion such actions. A person cannot simply sit down meditating for a few minutes and then find themselves with the ability to fly off, for example, to someplace like the mysterious hermitage said to exist somewhere beyond time in a remote area of the Himalayas known under a variety of names such as Gyanganj, Shambhala or Shangri-La, re the following:

"The Buddha said 'If a monk should frame a wish as follows: 'Let me travel through the air like a winged bird,' then must he be perfect in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Prajna) and be frequenter to lonely places.'"

SIDDHIS: Supernormal Perceptual States

Simply put, for the practitioner to have the ability to fly he must be perfect in the precepts of Sila, Samadhi, Jhana, and Praja. If the practioner is not perfect in any one or all, no flying.

This page is on Samadhi. When you are perfect in it's precepts move on to:


The past several years has seen a proliferation of smartphone meditation apps come on the market, all designed in such a way to ease, assist, familiarize, and put into use meditation techniques for almost anybody interested in learning and implementing the various ins-and-outs of meditation, at least as the manufacturers of the apps view meditation.

Beyond the manufacturers advertisement and promotions, for every page that shows up on the internet or elsewhere in support of using the apps, there is an equal number of pages knocking their use. What the knocking their use people are selling varies, but the in support folk seem to be in line with the app builders and promoters because if nothing else, the apps sell --- and sell big time, especially so the two top brands, Headspace and Calm.

People use all kinds of things to enhance or increase their ability to accomplish things. They wear glasses to improve the clarity of their physical vision. Some use dental implants and dentures to chew, eat, or look better. The same for the use of prosthetics, crutches, canes, or wheelchairs. They help people get things done and walk or move about who otherwise might not be able to. But, if glasses to read or see aren't needed, or implants or dentures, or canes, crutches, or wheelchairs, why use them? Initially, with meditation, other than a coming to know what meditation is and what it can do if you do it, nothing much than the desire to do so and then doing it is required Painting legs on a snake doesn't make it walk any better. Electronically painting photon-pushing meditation legs to swath your synapses with trompe l'oeil may be for some, better than nothing. However, and this is one of the biggest however's ever, it is that better than nothing that makes it not, not nothing, the goal of meditation.



Let Me Travel Through the Air Like a Winged Bird
(please click image)



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.






COMANS: The Question of the Importance of Samadhi In Modern and Classical Advaita Vedanta


[2] THE RAZOR'S EDGE: W. Somerset Maugham, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guy Hauge, and Zen

[3] Copyright © The Kwan Um School of Zen

[4] Samadhi and Zen

See also:

  1. ENLIGHTENMENT AND KARMA: Their Role in the Awakening Experience


  3. RESOLVING THE MIND: Buddha's Enlightenment

  4. ALL IS ILLUSION? A Chinese-Indian Dichotomy In Advaita and Zen


  6. VEDANTA AND BUDDHISM: A Comparative Study


DHYANA, the Definition:

The Sanskrit word dhyana, derived from the verbal root dhyai ("to contemplate, meditate, think"), is the most common designation both for the meditative state of consciousness and the yogic techniques by which it is induced. The Vedanta tradition also employs the terms nididhyasana, which stems from the same verbal root, upasana (literally "dwelling upon"), and bhavana (literally "cultivating").

The term dhyana is widely used to refer to the contemplative process that prepares the ground for the ecstatic state Samadhi, though occasionally the term is also employed to signify THAT superlative state of consciousness.

In Buddhism, the meditative stages of samatha (or shamatha: tranquillity), Samadhi (specifically, Access Concentration: upacara-samadhi), and jhana [Pali] or dhyana [Sanskrit] correspond roughly to Patanjali's dharana, dhyana, Samadhi, respectively.

In Buddhism, it is usually 'jhana' or 'dhyana', but sometimes also 'Samadhi', that is used for absorption. Samadhi, understood as means of access to absorption, is usually considered a precondition of absorption (jhana/dhyana). See: Shikantaza


Also know as asamprajata-samadhi.

Nirvikalpa samadhi: (Sanskrit) "Enstasy without form or seed." The realization of the Self, Parasiva, a state of oneness beyond all change or diversity; beyond time, form and space. Nir means "without." Vi means "to change, make different." Kalpa means "order, arrangement; a period of time."

Enstasy: A difficult term that embraces both ecstasy and profound attainment of wisdom, the state of enstasy is, in fact, that state of Nirvana when one recognizes The Void, the absolute reality that everything is nothing.

Kalpa: (as a period of time) A Maha Yuga is 4.32 million years, ten times as long as Kali Yuga. Twenty seven Maha Yugas is one Pralaya. Seven Pralayas is one Manvantara. Finally, six Manvantaras is a Kalpa. That is, one Kalpa is 27x7x6 = 1,134 Maha Yugas. This works out to 1134 x 4.3 million = 4.876 billion years. (back)

For more on Nirvikalpa Samadhi click HERE.

Commentary on the Teachings of Ramana Maharshi

An interview with Ram (James Swartz) conducted by John Howells
in January 2003, at Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, South India