unedited version of Raman Maharishi on Samadhi.
Question: What is samadhi?
Ramana Maharshi: The state in which the unbroken experience of existence-consciousness is attained by the still mind is samadhi… When the mind is in communion with the Self in darkness, it is called sleep… Immersion in a conscious or wakeful state is called samadhi. Samadhi is continuous inherence in the Self in a waking state. Sleep is also inherence in the Self, but in an unconscious state.
In TM, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that wakefulness during sleep was a test for self realization untroubled by the biased mind. That is, you cannot fake it. Having this established was a hallmark of Cosmic Consciousness. In a recent conversation with a friend I mentioned that by objective criteria I might conclude that my experience is what Maharishi called Cosmic Consciousness. My point was to explain that recently I was laughing to myself, “How very disappointing.” I can laugh now. But for a while, the disappointment was quite sincere. Why? Because the mind still holds so many beliefs and troubling thoughts that I am really still quite a Bozo. Adyashanti has a nice talk he gives about Buddha seeing his reflection as a clown.
Here’s a version of this feeling from Ed Musaki:
Nirvakalpa samadhi, [is] a temporary unicity state of mind where the thinking mind does not function, and no longer imposes an artificial order on the perceived universe… However, after experiencing this state literally thousands of times, I was deeply disappointed that I was still the same person after meditation was over. I was not transformed. I did not have any great knowledge. I did not feel any smarter. I did not feel enlightened. In fact, I felt like a failure because I had experienced all these Samadhis, but they had not convinced me…
My friend, Joel’s, comment was wise:
Yes, CC is a disappointment. It's dualistic. But it is really a first step. Don't get hung up on mechanics. It happens spontaneously, effortlessly. Just look in a restfully quiet way. There is no witness! Only experience. The witness must and will disappear. Then there is only life. Drop all your concepts and just look.
Ramana’s next comments speak to this situation nicely.
Question: What are kevala nirvikalpa samadhi and sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi?
Ramana Maharshi: The immersion of the mind in the Self, but without its destruction, is kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. In this state one is not free from vasanas and so one does not therefore attain mukti. Only after the vasanas have been destroyed can one attain liberation.
So maybe, what MMY called Cosmic Consciousness can be equated with kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. Those beliefs and troubling thoughts, those lingering conditions keep the mind “up and running.” To say that Duality remains is to say the ego remains with a sense of separateness. Vasanas keep activiating ego. There is the phrase, “the mind silences.” Yes, I’m awaiting that, for the vasanas to dissolve. I’m awaiting Liberation which is a non-duality.
There is a new site that I like called Liberation Unleashed. Their premise is that awakening can be achieved quickly through direct inquiry into seeing “no self.” However, post this liberation they have a support system for clearing out the troubling thoughts, the vasanas. They suggest Byron Katie’s The Work. This is great, all fine and good. But, it is muddying the terminology.
Question: When can one practise sahaja samadhi?
Ramana Maharshi: Even from the beginning. Even though one practices kevala nirvikalpa samadhi for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas one will not attain liberation.
Kevala nirvikalpa samadhi at first seemed to be a state, or at least a noun. Now, it is spoken of as a practice or a verb! Well, nouns make me think of objects and consciousness is not an object. Verbs make me think of the ever changing Relative and impermanence. That seems very fitting also. Maybe it’s that the Relative is actually a gerund –both a noun and a verb. In fact, conceiving the Relative/Life as noun-verb seems to be just another way of stating the classic:
Emptiness is Form. Form is Emptiness.
There’s a similar condensing of state and practice in two definitions I came across the other day. The first term has Hindu roots. The second is from Zen.
Turiya: the experience of pure consciousness. It is the background that underlies and transcends the three common states of consciousness: the state of waking consciousness, the state of dreaming, and dreamless sleep.Wikipedia
Dzogchen: the natural, primordial state of the mind, and a body of teachings and meditation practices aimed at realizing that condition.Wikipedia
Soon, I will be seeing my Taoist Teacher, Wong Loh Sin See. I was going over a question he asked me at our last visit: “Are you meditating?” Back then, I was doing qigong, more exercise than meditation. He encouraged me to actually sit. I did that for awhile and then slipped back into qigong. More recently, after experiencing a rather intense collapse of the witness, I realized I was always “meditating.” If indeed meditation is the activity of soaking in pure consciousness, then that was happening at all times. Sitting was not required. Looking closer, to my surprise I discovered that all of Life, all Creation, was always, and simply, only the act of meditation.
Meditation is all that’s going on! Meditation is Creation rising and falling. The state is indeed the practice. At least, that’s how it appeared to me for that afternoon. Realizations come and realizations go. What do they come and go in? The Self, and I am meditation.