Samadhi and Bhakti-yoga

I wrote the following a couple of days ago and would not have made it a blog, except that I am posting the story of my experience here at SRSG and these thoughts seemed relevant.

On Friday I was going to skip meditation, but the vortex of spiritual energy sucked me in like a black hole. It reminded me of times when I was a devotee living in Hare Krishna temples and mangal arati would call.

I have been living or visiting and staying in this ashram in Rishikesh for more than seven years now. And I have been noticing a definite sharp increase in the overall level of meditation sessions, especially when Swami Veda is present. It has a level of sustained intensity that I can only attribute to Swamiji's own depth of samādhi as he prepares himself for final samādhi. His five year silence was broken, you could say, but the intensity of a vow of silence has not decreased.

I would say to anyone who has affection for Swamiji and meditation practice to not miss the opportunity to be immersed in the Guru's mind-field, as it were.

To exclusive devotees I may seem a bit mixed up, yoga-miśra. I posted some remarks about this earlier today, and no doubt will have more to say about it as I complete the article on how I came to do the Yoga-taraṅgiṇī work.

As it is, I have this yogi side of me I have come to believe enhances the depth of my bhakti. I find that I am still a bit defensive about it when associating with devotees, and sometimes perhaps I even overcompensate on account of that, to prove that I am not an apostate. But on the whole I find that these practices have made me more sāttvika, and do so more effectively than vaidhī bhakti ever did.

And yet, it is simply the application of yogic techniques to those things that are already a part of vaidhī bhakti. What is japa of the Holy Name, done silently and with concentration but a joyful magic?

I came to appreciate the necessity of using yogic techniques to still and control the mind when the expectation that the natural attractions of the rāgānugā path could not overcome the wild and raging tempest of my conditioned mind. I remembered the story of a young babaji who came to Siddha Krishna Das in Govardhan lamenting that he had not been able to do his aṣṭa-kālīya bhajan because he had become lost in meditation on Radharani's feet while doing smaraṇa of her morning bath. Siddha Baba naturally told him that he had been successful in his bhajan on that day. So I thought, why am I trying to bite of more than I can chew by trying to memorize the entire aṣṭa-kāla līlā when even one single image, one single meditation from the līlā texts would be a great success.

Besides, the revelation of the līlā does not come immediately, according to Jiva Goswami, but follows in a sequence, from the name, to rūpa, guṇa and then līlā, so why not start with really focusing on the Holy Name and becoming fixed in samādhi on that?

What is samādhi? According to the Yoga-sūtra (3.3), it is defined as

tad evārtha-mātra-nirbhāsaṁ sva-rūpa-śūnyam iva samādhiḥ
When in meditation the true nature of the object shines forth, not distorted by the mind of the perceiver, it is called samādhi.
Jiva Goswami gives several definitions in Bhakti-sandarbha, which are confirmation of that found in YS:

(a) dhyānam eva dhyātṛ-dhyeya-viveka-rahitaṁ samādhiḥ |
When meditation itself comes to the state where one loses a sense of the difference between himself and the object of meditation, that is called samādhi. (BhaktiS 226) 
(b)  dhyeya-mātra-sphuraṇaṁ samādhir iti |
Samādhi is the manifestation [to the meditator] of the object of meditation alone. (BhaktiS 278) 
(c)  kvacil līlādi-yukte ca tasminn ananyā sphūrtiḥ samādhiḥ
Sometimes samādhi is the exclusive manifestation or appearance of Krishna along with his līlā and so on. (BhaktiS 279)
In this last case, the example of Narada Muni's instructions to Vyasadeva is given as the example:

atho mahā-bhāga bhavān amogha-dk
śuci-śravāḥ satya-rato dhṛta-vrataḥ |
samādhinānusmara tad-viceṣṭitam ||

O fortunate one, because you are unfailing in your vision, your reputation is flawless, you are devoted to the truth and fixed in your vow, so remember constantly the activities of the great Lord Urukrama in trance so as to liberate yourself from all bondage.(BhP 1.5.13)
It is perhaps no accident that in the famous verses of the Bhagavatam (1.7.4) describing Vyasa's vision of the Lord, received after following Narada's instructions, the word praṇihita is found, i.e, the past participle of praṇidhāna, the word used as the equivalent of devotion in Yogasutra (1.21).

Vyasa in his commentary to YS 1.1 gives his fundamental definition of the word yoga as samādhi, and Jiva Goswami also follows in BhaktiS 280 confirming this definition in his comment on the word a quoted verse: yogo’tra samādhiḥ.

In the relevant section of the Bhakti-sandarbha, Sri Jiva Goswami gives a five-fold division of smaraṇam, the third of the nine angas of bhakti found in the Bhagavatam. These are smaraṇa, dhāraṇā, dhyāna, dhruvānusmṛti, and finally, samādhi. The word smaraṇam itself is only used as a general, basic term meaning "the slightest seeking out of the object of meditation" (yat kiñcid anusandhānaṁ). The second and third terms, dhāraṇā and dhyāna are taken from the yoga tradition, but Jiva adds dhruvānusmṛti "fixed and constant remembering" before coming to the final stage of samādhi. Dhruvānusmṛti applies when one's meditation flows uninterrupted like a stream of oil (taila-dhārāvat). The example for this stage of remembrance is taken from the Bhagavatam in one of the verses describing nirguna-bhakti:

mad-guṇa-śruti-mātreṇa mayi sarva-guhāśaye |
mano-gatir avicchinnā yathā gaṅgāmbhaso'mbudhau ||
On just hearing my glories even in passing, the devotee's mind flows towards me, who am seated in everyone's heart, in an unbroken stream just as the Ganges flows to the sea. (3.29.10)

There are other verses about samādhi in BhaktiS and the Bhagavatam, but I won't multiply these references unnecessarily. My point is simply that the culture of mind control, directing it towards the Supreme, is one of the angas of bhakti, and although it is a part of the whole of bhakti, it is definitely a part of kṛṣṇānuśīlanam.

Jiva Goswami does comment in BhaktiS 280 that asamprajñāta samādhi is different from the devotional samādhi, and this is something I will return to in a future article.

I would just like to conclude here that when one has slowed the breath and mind sufficiently that one can lengthen to focus on the kāma-gāyatri mantra on the exhalation, then it seems to draw my mind like a docile cow on a leash towards the Divine Couple, sitting patiently in their lotus throne and looking in my direction.

And as one becomes more sāttvika, one's mind and body become still, free from distractions, then one naturally becomes more receptive to sound as well as to other mediums of sensory input, whether it is meant for the intellect or for the soul. It thus enhances one's experience of other devotional practices, especially hearing and chanting kirtan. By the same token the taste of spiritual sound or silence becomes too great to tolerate intellectual blatherings for their own sake.

The capacity to be immersed is increased, for whatever purpose, but our prefered purpose is prema-samādhi, about which I will share thoughts later.


truth speaker said…
I have to disagree with the translation of 3:3 tad evArthamatranirbhasam svarupashunyam iva samadhihi="thus that, shining as the object only, as if empty of its own form, is equipoised attention."
The mind flow that has taken the state of meditation (tad) has become completely integrated (samApatti falling together)with the object of concentration, it is shining forth as the object only, and in doing so it is as if it has become empty of its own form as the mind. The mind and the object have become one. They are put together (samadhi). Compare this sutra with 1:43 "meditation (smriti see sutra 1:20 which is the panchaindryas of buddhism) well purified as if empty of its own form shining as the object only, is without deliberation." And this is samadhi, not vitarka. SamApatti is a process falling (Patti) together vitarka is the first part of the process, nirvitarka is the completion of the process and is samadhi, as defined by Patanjali in 3:3!
Jagadananda Das said…
This is Prabhavananda's translation. I just picked one that was simple. The point is that the mind of the meditator does not interfere with the absorption in the object of meditation, "the object alone remains."
dr. jaya said…
On just hearing my glories even in passing, the devotee's mind flows towards me, who am seated in everyone's heart, in an unbroken stream just as the Ganges flows to the sea. (3.29.10)
.. There was another (river-ocean) verse By Lord Krishna to devotee Uddhava about Gopis' prema Samadhi according to Upanishads. .. SB 11.12.12 ..My dear Uddhava, just as great sages in yoga trance merge into self-realization, like rivers merging into the ocean, and are thus not aware of material names and forms, similarly, the gopīs of Vṛndāvana were so completely attached to Me within their minds that they could not think of their own bodies, or of this world, or of their future lives. Their entire consciousness was simply bound up in Me...
dr. jaya said…
Heard Sri Kripaluji Maharaj saying in his discourses that the blessed Gopis acted out these sublme pastimes in the transcendental state of "Prema Samadhi," on the top most level of Maha Bhava. No ordinary soul can understand the actions done in this Divine Trance nor it can be explained in words nor can be written off as a case of 'mistaken identity'! Actually I too believe Maha-Rasa has taken place only after Gopis have 'Identified themselves as Lord Krishna in Prema Samadhi' - Only after they have reached their 'Paraa Bhakti' state - perceiving Their Divinity as none other than Lord Himself, thus fully qualified and deserved to enjoy the Supreme Bliss of the Lord. ( So later on Sri Suka too have declared that the Lord played with 'His Own Form' just like the Mirror Images by a child ...) .. reme rameso vraja-sundaribhir .. yatharbhakah? sva-pratibimba-vibhramah? .. Read more SB 10.30.2 to 24

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