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Samadhi refers to a highly evolved level of meditation. Yoga schools call this Dhyana.
Etymologically, Samadhi is divided into three parts. ‘Sam’ means holistic, ‘a’ is going towards and ‘dha’ is achievement. Together, Sam-a-dhi translates as the attainment of wholeness. Samadhi is generally associated with complete control of the mind.
The Yoga Sutras classify Samadhi into four stages. Laya Samadhi begins in intense meditation and manifests as a wellspring of joy akin to that experienced during dancing or singing.
In Savikalpa Samadhi, the meditator briefly experiences space and time in a different way. His/her imagination (kalpa) remains active and hence he/she ‘sees’ the myriad desires that remain unfulfilled in his/her life. In this Samadhi however, the realization comes that he/she is but an instrument in their completion. Ideas flood in, but are observed detachedly.
In the third stage – Nirvikalpa Samadhi – such attachments and the actions that give rise to them (karma) dissolve. The heart ceases to beat. The meditator is filled with infinite bliss and becomes both the object of joy and the one who rejoices. There is a sense of tremendous power accompanied by the sensation of containing the universe within. This may endure for a few hours or several days and is achieved only by a few spiritual masters. Emerging from Nirvikalpa Samadhi, one may not recall his/her name or communicate normally and may experience reluctance to return to functioning like an ordinary human being.
Sahaja Samadhi Is the supreme level of meditation where the meditator attains the highest levels of consciousness yet is able to function effectively in the material world. Such an individual has conquered reality, a rare feat. To experience Sahaja Samadhi, it is necessary to become one with the divine.
Mahasamadhi is the term used to describe a spiritual master’s deliberate leaving of his body to unite with divine.