Dhyaan and Samadhi … What are they ?

So you have been to India, or you practice Yoga, or Meditation, or trying to progress along your spiritual journey, You would have definitely heard these two words, “Dhyaan” (ध्यान ) and “Samadhi” (समाधी ). I have also heard some people use these words interchangeably, in wrong contexts, even understand them in a wrong way. So, I thought I would try and de-mystify these words for you.

Lets start simple, both words are NOT the same. one is a “Process” and the other is a “State/Frame”, they cannot be used interchangeably. In order to delve deep, let us first see the definition of “Samadhi” and why people try to get there. Now before we get there, a standard Disclaimer.

Disclaimer: All thoughts mentioned are my own, this is purely my understanding. You may choose to differ or agree. This post is not intended to prove anyone’s understanding right or wrong or what ever.

Now, that we have got it out of our way, Samadhi, by definition means “same state” or “state of oneness” with everything else. Again this is one of the most advanced topics in yoga. In this state the individual is connected and feels in unison with the whole universe and beyond. Now there are two important questions that need to be asked

  1. How to get into it?
  2. Why to get into it?

I am a firm believer of the fact that if the “Why” of any thing is strong enough the “How” becomes immaterial.

Now in order to explain this, I am going to digress a little. Let’s take Newton’s Law of Gravity, which states, “Every body in this universe attracts every other body with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them”. Standard physics right ? It is, please remember that this is the same law on which even the Astrology works. In astrology, we see what is the angle, the distance, etc. of what planet, and what effects does that attraction cause, hence we can kind of sketch out the past, present and future a little. The problem is this science is not small, we have to also see what other planets are there, and integrate/differentiate these effects. This is purely science and that too the ones that we don’t understand completely. It is very clearly mentioned in this, that each planet controls some physical aspects of a person, as an example sun controls the eyes, etc.

From this astrology, we know that the “Moon” is the controller of the mind, and we also know that moons gravity is also the controller of water (think High tides/low tides, etc.). Doing some simple mathematics here if a = b and b =c then a=c, by this, simple equation, we know that the mind is like water and we all know that its very difficult to control it as it keeps flowing. Now consider that the mind is a “bowl” of water. this bowl continuously being shaken by the elements like lust, anger, possessiveness, etc. in this world. The water (or mind) is continuously agitated, and hence the thoughts are not clear, and all the mental problems arise from there. Now this is a constant thing that happens to every one and every thing.

Now that you know the bowl, The state in which the bowl will no longer be disturbed is called Samadhi, and the process of that stabilization is called Dhyaan.  When the bowl is no longer shaking, the water is clear, then the Aatma (Soul) is able to look into it and see its own reflection, now we do know that the soul is a small part of the Supreme what we call God in all the religions, this is a state, where we can see the shadow or the form of the formless Supreme

I am inclined to quote from the Nirvan shatakam

Aham nirvikalpau niraakaar roopo, Vibhur vyaapya sarvatra sarvendriyaanaam
Sadaa mai samatvam na muktir na bandhah, Chidaanand roopah shivoham shivoham

This was written by Adi Shankarachrya, who gave us the “Advaita” philosophy. If, I had to describe this philosophy in one line, I would quote the above. The philosophy simply says, that every thing is one. The soul is “Shiva” itself, so by this definition the soul looking at its reflection will be looking at Shiva himself.

I am giving all of this just for the “Why Samadhi?” question. I hope, we have got the the answers, it will differ for person to person, so basically you can go to Samadhi to

  • Find God (For the Religious)
  • Find yourself (For the Curious)
  • Just to get rid of mental disturbances, (For the Scientific)

This list can be made very exhaustive, but lets stop here for a moment and look at the “How”. Samadhi can be again sub divided into two parts, Forced and Practiced.

Forced Samadhi is where you don’t have a choice but to be in Samadhi, for example at a funeral (not the Page-3 Funerals), every one at the funeral is in the same state of mind, that state of mind is the bitter truth of the world, all of us in some corner of our minds will realize the fact that the body is not immortal and what we are doing in this world would mean nothing after some time. This is a forced Samadhi, this stays for only a short period of time. If you have been to a funeral, you would see that this feeling links all of the people present at that funeral, no one is thinking if they drove down to the funeral in their shiny new Ferraris or walked down there! Those things become immaterial at the time. However this lasts only a very short time and once you are out of there, you are out of that state of mind, you are again absorbed in this world.

Practiced Samadhi, this is where you actually want to be in the state for prolonged periods of time for what ever the reason (may be one of the one mentioned above?), this one, you make a voluntary effort of getting into Samadhi. Now the question comes “How”?

The simplest of answers is “Dhyaan” or meditation. Now, what is meditation? If you have been to one of the classes that many people would conduct, they will tell you to clear your mind and concentrate on a point. Now, what this actually does, is basically mind is stuck up with a lot of things. So, Dhyaan is process of concentrating from many to one This is also the reason behind idol worship, where the devotee, can focus his thoughts, his energies, and all of his will from multiple components to one, in this case, the idol of the God. Once he is successfully able to meditate and concentrate on that one, the next step starts. (This is what is called Nirgun upaasana), from one to “none”, you heard me right none.

So basically the whole process is to be able to concentrate on the infinite. Once we can do that, that is a definite state of Samadhi, you are now concentrating on “the Infinite” the supreme, by extension, you are now connected to him in spirit, and by extension, you are connected to every atom in this universe. You now know that you are everything and everything is you, you are one with every thing. If you are one with every thing nothing will ever disturb you again. This is not achieved in a day, there are years, decades, lives of practice that is required. In order for the body to remove its concentration from some thing, people make body habitual to live without it, and that’s why people abstain from it (one of the reasons, why people fast), there are multiple steps and people on a spiritual journey are at various checkpoints of the journey.

I hope this has given you a perspective. I have tried only to use guiding examples and not hard and fast rules (that is the job of your Guru) so that people can imagine the rest. 


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