Summary: Here I describe the ten types of samadhi listed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and how they are related, according to I.K. Taimni’s descriptions in his book The Science of Yoga.
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|A collection of all my articles on yogic methods and samadhi, including this article about the 10 types of samadhi.||An overview of the methods and philosophy of yoga and how it links to modern science and Western philosophy.|
In What is Science? I did not describe in a systematic way the various types of samadhi. Had I gone into too much detail it would have made that a different essay. A comment from Durga Ma has prompted me to write this summary on the ten types of samadhi.
It must be emphasized that all the types of samadhi are altered states of consciousness. They are outside the experience of normal people who do not practice yoga. And even for those who practice real yoga – Raja yoga – the various types of samadhi are quantum levels apart, probably quite literally so, with respect to attainability. Non- practitioners of yoga can get a small glimmer of insight into the types of samadhi by reflecting on the differences between their waking and dream experiences, which are two major forms of consciousness accessible to everybody.
Ten Types of Samadhi
In the Yoga Sutras different adjectives are added to the word “samadhi”, such as “sabija”, “asamprajnata” etc. I.K Taimni, In The Science of Yoga, identifies ten types of samadhi in the Yoga Sutras. All ten types of samadhi share in common the absorption of the yogi in the state of extreme concentration of the mind. What distinguished the ten types is that each occurs at a different level of consciousness. To understand the levels of consciousness, one must be aware of cosmologies that include the nonphysical worlds.
As a theosophist, Taimni was well-aware of the theosophical septenary scheme of the nonphysical planes. As a scholar and translator of ancient Indian texts, he was aware of other maps of the nonphysical worlds, including the 4-fold scheme used in the Yoga Sutras (described in part 9 of What is Science?). As we show below, Taimni mapped the different forms of samadhi to both the 7-fold theosophical scheme and the 4-fold classical Vedanta scheme of the nonphysical worlds.
It is taught particularly in theosophy that one interacts with the nonphysical planes via nonphysical “bodies” or “vehicles”. The physical body is an instrument allowing the mind to interact with the physical universe. The nonphysical bodies allow the mind to interact with the nonphysical planes, and have names such as the “astral body”, “mental body”, etc. However, it is immaterial whether we think of the different levels of consciousness as occurring via nonphysical bodies, or just think of them as different global states of consciousness. The effect is the same for all practical purposes.
Some of the methods of Raja Yoga serve to train the mind to operate at the different levels of consciousness. Other methods train the mind to transfer consciousness amongst the various levels. Therefore, four types of samadhi are distinguished by the level of consciousness at which samadhi is performed. Four types of samadhi are transition states between adjacent levels of consciousness. The remaining two types of samadhi are very special states of consciousness.
Diving into the Depths of Consciousness
After the eight limbs (yama, niyama, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi) are mastered, samadhi is the means used to dive through consciousness. Learning samadhi is not the end of yoga, it is the beginning. This is very important to understand. The ten types of samadhi form a sequence whereby consciousness descends from its superficial into its deeper layers, one after another.
It must be recalled that the goal of yoga is to “join”. To join with what? To join with the infinite. In the Yoga Sutras the joining with infinity is called “Kaivalya”, which means “alone” or “isolated”. This is a concept the Western mind calls “absolute infinite” and occurs in the intellectual context of Georg Cantor’s transfinite mathematics. To the Western mind these are mere intellectual ideas. In yoga, the experience of the infinite is the coveted reality. It is called “Brahman” in Hinduism, but sometimes Parabrahman, sometimes Parashiva, sometimes Parameshwara. Whatever it is called, it is the experience of everything. That is why Patanjali called it “Kaivalya”, “alone”. There is nothing beyond, beside, or outside of it. It is all that is, was or ever will be.
The ten types of samadhi are the sequential stages one must pass through in moving from the relative existence of our waking consciousness to the state of infinity, or Kaivalya.
Let me say that again so it is crystal clear: yoga is the protocol, method, steps, by which we can directly experience the infinite. The steps from the relative to the Absolute are the ten types of samadhi.
Let us first name and organize the ten types, then return back to how they cause this sequential passage from the waking world of relative-ness to the state of infinity or Kaivalya.
Let us make an outline of the ten types of samadhi:
We can make a flow chart that shows the relationships between the various forms of samadhi:
States and Transition State
I my 2nd PlaneTalk post, I showed this important diagram from Taimni:
We can see that he is showing the transition between two different types of samprajnata samadhi. He is showing the “sinking through consciousness” process that samadhi allows. As I stated before, Taimni shows in this diagram the exact mechanism that allows consciousness to transfer between its different global states. This diagram applies as to the transition from the waking world to the dream state of an ordinary person as much as it applies to a yogi transferring consciousness between any of the four worlds.
It is an extraordinary diagram and one of the most important diagrams you will ever see. So much is explained by this diagram it isn’t funny. However, it’s not my intent here to dwell on the wide ranging implications, which I have done to some extent in my 2nd blog post. Here I show this diagram specifically with respect to the four types of samprajnata and four types of asamprajnata samadhi.
The Four Worlds of Things and Stuff
The above diagram is meant to be viewed with respect to the following diagram, also from The Science of Yoga, that shows in a sequential fashion the descent from the surface to the center of consciousness:
I think this diagram too is stunningly brilliant. It is completely self-explanatory. But I will walk the Reader though it anyway.
Let us begin with the column on the right. As seen at the top, he lists the precursors to samadhi: dharana and dhyana. Learning vitarka samprajnata samadhi (called savitarka samadhi) is an intermediate level of yogic skill. This is the first form of samadhi learnt. By practicing at this level, the yogi will eventually “dissolve” or “break through” the pratyaya at the vitarka level. This releases artha as was discussed extensively in “What is Science?”
The dissolution of the pratyaya and accompanying release of artha at the vitarka level will create a momentary state where there is nothing in consciousness (nirvitarka samadhi). This state is something like a vacuum. As depicted by the circles with arrows, the “direction” of consciousness moves from being outwardly directed, called paranga cetana, to inwardly directed, called pratyak cetana. This is asamprajnata samadhi at the vitarka to vicara boundary or nirvitarka samadhi.
After some practice, the yogi will be able to fully transfer consciousness from the vitarka to the vicara level, where the pratyaya now takes on a different and deeper form. Samadhi now is called savicara samadhi. The yogi now must learn to “break through” the pratyaya at the vicara level. Success leads to pratyak cetana at the vicara level, called nirvicara samadhi, which is the transition state from the vicara to the ananda level.
Analogous processes repeat at the ananda and asmita levels. At each level of consciousness – vitarka, vicara, ananda and asmita – deeper and deeper levels of meaning are discovered in the pratyaya.
In this fashion, one can, in a simple minded way, think of the pratyaya as like a rope that the yogi uses to pull his or herself deeper and deeper into consciousness.
As seen in Figure 3 on the left, Taimni maps the 4-fold yogic cosmology to those of classical Vedanta and also to the 7-fold scheme of Theosophy. It is to be noted that in each case, the lowest stage of samadhi – savitarka samadhi – occurs in the lower mental body. This again reinforces the notion that all forms of samadhi are altered states. Even in dreaming, we use the astral body, and not the mental body. So, the lowest stage of samadhi is an altered state more subtle than the dream body we all experience when we dream during sleep.
It must be noted I am describing the mechanics of these processes. The above descriptions gives no indication whatsoever of the actual contents in the consciousness of the yogi. These are very extreme and unlike anything we experience when awake. Sublime is an understatement of the highest order. But that is all I will say on this aspect since we are discussing only the mechanics.
From Relative To Absolute
At the asmita level, the yogi is now at the deepest possible level of conscious contents, the finest possible level of vrittis. There is nothing left of the pratyaya when asamprajnata samadhi is accomplished at the asmita level. A completely different effect results at this level of consciousness. The only thing present at this stage is pure, empty consciousness: only self-aware being. This is nirbija samadhi. The yogi must struggle with this completely empty state of self-aware being until it is learned how to achieve the final stage.
In the Yoga Sutras, the aphorisms pertaining to nirbija samadhi and dharma megha samadhi are abstract, obscure and almost incomprehensible. Patanjali seems to say that, in the state of nirbija samadhi, one comes to experience the (seeming) emptiness between the moments of time. One learns eventually to perform samadhi on this emptiness between the moments of time. When this is successful, one has mastered dharma mega samadhi.
One literally jumps out of time and into eternity.
I kid you not. Go read the Yoga Sutras for yourself. I recommend Taimni’s commentary because he was a scientist and put things in terms a scientifically-trained person can understand. But even if you read other, less scientifically-oriented translations, they all translate these aphorisms similarly (see here). The issue becomes: how are they interpreted? Surprisingly, there is often complementarity to the different interpretations, even if they seem superficially different.
Just for the heck of it, let’s show the aphorism pertaining to dharma megha samadhi and Kaivalya. They are a trip. Even if you don’t believe one iota of this stuff, these ideas make modern science fiction look totally lame.
Spoiler Alert: This is the End of the Yoga Sutras
Aphorism 4.29 defines dharma mega samadhi:
“29. In the case of one, who is able to maintain a constant state of Vairagya even towards the most exalted state of enlightenment and to exercise the highest kind of discrimination, follows Dharma-Megha-Samadhi.”
This is basically saying that the yogi is able to achieve nirbija samadhi at the asmita level and does not get trapped in the temptation of being omnipotent and omniscient in the worlds of relative becoming. The big fish rejects the little pond.
After this stage, the yogi encounters the basic unit of change in Nature:
“33. The process, corresponding to moments which become apprehensible at the final end of transformation (of the Gunas), is Kramah.”
Aphorism 4.33 should be of particular interest to those with an interest in physics, neuroscience, the philosophy of mind, or Kant’s transcendental idealism. It is interesting this was written at least as early as 250 AD, if not much earlier; no one knows for certain when the Yoga Sutras were created. Here Patanjali describes the quantum nature of time, and describes how to utilize this fact to escape from relative-ness.
At this point, everything gets so weird that it is worth repeating a good chunk of Taimni’s commentary on aphorism 4.33:
“According to Yogic philosophy the seemingly continuous phenomena which we cognize through the instrumentality of the mind are not really continuous and like the cinematographic picture on the screen consist of a series, of discontinuous states. Each successive change in the phenomenal world which is separate and distinct produces a corresponding impression upon the mind but these impressions succeed one another with such rapidity that we get the impression of continuity. The interval of time corresponding to each of these successive states is called a Ksana. So Ksana may be called the smallest unit of time which cannot be broken up further.”
“The next word to be considered is Kramah. We have seen just now that the impression of continuous phenomena in our mind is produced by a succession of discontinuous changes in Prakriti around us. Kramah stands for this process consisting of a relentless succession of discontinuous changes underlying all kinds of phenomena. This process is ultimately based upon the unit of time, Ksana, as the projection of the cinematographic picture is based upon each opening and closing of aperture. As Ksana succeeds Ksana the whole manifested world passes from one distinct state to another distinct state, but the succession is so rapid that we are not conscious of the discontinuity.”
“It will be seen, therefore, that according to the Yogic philosophy not only is the whole basis of manifestation material—using the word material in its widest sense— but also that the changes which take place in Prakriti and which produce all kinds of phenomena are essentially mechanical, that is, based on a hidden, essentially mechanical process. The whole manifested Universe and everything in it changes from moment to moment by a relentless law which is inherent, in the very nature of manifestation. If we have grasped the nature of the process indicated by the two words Ksana and Kramah it should not be difficult to understand the meaning of the Sutra under discussion. It means simply that the Yogi can become aware of the Ultimate Reality only when his consciousness is liberated from the limitations of this process which produces Time, by performing Samyama on this process as indicated in III-53. As long as his consciousness is involved in the process he cannot know his Real nature. It is only when he steps out of the world of the unreal into the Light of Reality that he realizes not only the true nature of Reality but also of the Relative world of Time and Space which he has left behind.”
Literally stepping out of time and into eternity. WTF???
Anyway, the above is why nirbija samadhi and dharma mega samadhi are special.
Just to close this all out, here is the last aphorism of the Yoga Sutras where we see the world “kaivalyam” used, as well as the term “svarupa”, the real essence of…
Aphorism 4.34 (the final aphorism of the book):
“34. Kaivalya is the state (of Enlightenment) following reemergence of the Gunas because of their becoming devoid of the object of the Purusa. In this state the Purusa is established in his Real nature which is pure Consciousness. Finis.”
So, it got a little kooky at the end there. It can’t be helped. I didn’t write the Yoga Sutras. I’m just reporting on what they say.
Hopefully the above at least explicates the ten types of samadhi, and shows the sequential progression from the surface to the inner most depths of consciousness via samprajnata and asamprajnata samadhi leading to the empty state of nirbija samadhi, and finally to Kaivalya via dharma mega samadhi.
Like the Grateful Dead said: “What a long strange trip its been”.