Near the end of the first chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describes the goal of yoga—samadhi. So, what is samadhi? You may have heard it defined in a few ways.
Samadhi is a state of oneness with all that is. It is union with the divine, connection with source, a dissolution of the ego. Each limb of yoga leads us closer to this state, though most of us never reach it. Yoga is a journey.
As we practice letting go of mind and ego, we strip away what prevents us from realizing our true nature. As one of my teachers often reminded us, your true nature is peace.
Patanjali describes samadhi as a state in which the knower (person), what he or she can know (the knowable), and knowledge are the same. The journey to samadhi is an ever-expanding journey that progresses through several levels, Patanjali tells us.
Samadhi is A Yogi’s Journey to Oneness
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait of Yoga International explains what happens when a yogi moves into samadhi through meditation. “The process of concentration, the object of concentration, and the mind that is trying to concentrate or meditate all have become one,” he says.
In Sutra 1.42, Patanjali calls this state savitarka samadhi. It’s the first level of samadhi, and it occurs when we observe and connect with something intuitively. From there, we move toward the next level, where the mind dissolves and only the object remains. We let go of our identity and move beyond insight to merge with the object we seek to understand.
The Ego Will Resist
Even when we see the potential value of dropping our egos, we know it’s not possible for to remain in a state of bliss indefinitely. Our egos are strong and will fight to pull us back into their story.
Don’t despair, though. We can glimpse samadhi and connect with our true nature at least some of the time. The more we practice yoga, the better we get at reaching a state of self-reflection unclouded by the distortions of the mind. With consistent practice, we gain more of the wisdom we need to see clearly.
And while we might think the goal is to see truth, the final level of samadhi, says Patanjali, is to move beyond truth!
What is samadhi beyond truth?
Patanjali tells us the answer is oneness, a state of egoless connection with our higher Self. We can think of this as being truth (or even being love) rather than merely having knowledge of it.
In this highest level of samadhi, the ego self and the universe dissolve. Now, all that remains is the experience of oneness, a state of simply being that recognizes everything else—birth, life, death, careers, relationships, suffering, achievement, status, etc.—as illusions that were never real.
What we mean by real is a topic for another time!
It’s natural to wonder if samadhi is attainable, especially since the self that wonders would need to dissolve to attain it. Looked at from that perspective, it’s impossible to envision samadhi.
But that’s okay. As Patanjali tells us, our minds are not capable of understanding the experience of samadhi. We can only trust the process and believe it’s attainable. There is still immense value in striving for it.
Every spiritual practice depends to some extent on faith. We can move toward samadhi with the courage to surrender to what is, not what our minds want to make of what is. Most of us struggle to stay on the path, but we sense an “inner knowing” that something more is out there.
It’s that inner knowing that keeps us going, even when we don’t understand how it all works. If we keep going, we will evolve and perhaps begin to embrace the awesome truth that being is infinite and possibilities continue to expand.