Simply stated, Samadhi is achieving a union with the object of meditation.
If the object of meditation becomes the infinite universe, then samadhi will be achieving communion with it. It's obvious that, once communion is attained, there is no separation between the meditator and the object. While you live, samadhi is not seeing any separation with the external world. At the highest level of moral achievement, it is being able to see oneness with your enemy and therefore, forgiving him. When you die, it is becoming one with the energy of the universe. Going from one form of energy (as a human) to another form of energy as cosmic dust!
All this sounds quite grand!
And there is no debate on the theory because it is only a theory. If you prefer that you will ascend into heaven (or descend into hell if you don't follow certain religious tenets), then that is your delusion of choice. You can congregate on every Sunday, or Saturday, or Friday, or Tuesday with others who share the same delusion and you will be blissful.
However, for many people, heaven-hell-and-god have become passe and they seek a grander delusion - one that has the charm of being ancient and esoteric. It's in this context, that Yoga comes to the rescue. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Eightfold Path talk about samadhi as the ultimate achievement but there are several stages through which one has to pass before achieving the ultimate stage. These are as follows:
I. Sabija Samadhi: Mediation with a "seed object" as the focus of one's concentration.
II. Nirbija Samadhi: This does not use any object nor a "seed idea." Concentration happens on the flow of thoughts, emotions, and feelings. This type does not distinguish between the objects of the "flow" but the nature of flow itself. In this state, one would say, "Why am I thinking these thoughts?" and NOT, "What are these thoughts that I am thinking?"
III. Dharma Maha Samadhi: A state of consciousness that doesn't see any separation between the thinker and the thought. The easiest way to achieve this is to die: as soon as the thinking stops, the body unites with the material world and there is no separation between the body, brain, and the universe. In that sense, everyone is granted samadhi.
Another way is achieved when we experience dreamless sleep: thoughtless, dreamless... we are in a state of samadhi.
Now imagine you being able to achieve this state without sleeping or dying! Kundalini Tantra Yoga, articulates steps to achieve this state.
As we explore consciousness through these different forms of meditation, we can see a further categorization:
1. Samprajnata Samadhi (Savikalpa Samadhi): Focusing on the different aspects of the seed object:
a. Savitarka Samadhi (Vitarka): Focus on physical attributes of the object. Example: Different parts of a chair, color of the chair, etc.
b. Savicara Samadhi (Vicara): Form, function, and essence of a chair. Example: Even without arm-rests, one can have a chair; chair needn't have four legs; function of a chair can be a weapon when used to break it on a person's head!
c. Ananda: Experience that different objects share one or more aspects: a cushion can be used to comfort oneself or to smother someone. The same physical features of an object serve completely different functions. A cushion and a chair (completely different physical aspects) can used to sit upon (serving the same function).
d. Asmita: The experience of something becoming something or something else. Example: A vague object becoming a rope on closer observation. A rope turning out to be a snake (or vice versa) when one gets closer. A delicious-looking cake tasting like mud! When expectations from an object are met (climax) and when they are not met (anti-climax). This object can also be a sex object: sex with a stranger turning out to be better or worse than expectations!
2. Asamprajnata Samadhi (Nirvikalpa Samadhi): When there is no object to concentrate upon, and instead we have an idea to analyze, we experience a "sensation" between the different layers of analysis. It would be a mistake to think of this as going deeper or higher - it's more accurate to think of it as going into different dimensions! These are as follows:
1. Nirvitarka Samadhi: Vitarka to Vicara (Going from features of an object to facets of a concept)
2. Nirvicara Samadhi: Vicara to Ananda (Going from facets of a concept to similarities between different concepts. Example: Communism and Capitalism both have money as the central idea. They may have opposite ideas on the generation and distribution of money, but they both have money as the core philosophy. Contrast this to a society that focuses on happiness as the core index of social existence (Bhutan).
3. Ananda to Asmita: All social systems are identical in the sense that they are different approaches to the same goal: happiness! All religions have the same goal: assuaging the human spirit!
4. Transcending Asmita: Going from the "seed object" into Nirbija.
From Dhyana To Samadhi
As per Patanjali, the yoga sutra of Dhyana transforms into Samadhi through consistent and persistent yoga practice. This transition is at the core of every classical yoga system: you cannot achieve awakening or enlightenment merely through meditation: the physical body must be involved. This involvement of the physical body is through exertion: either by doing asanas and pranayamas or by involved in physical labor of serving your fellow creatures.
Yoga practitioners can follow the path of pure meditation or the path of Karma Yoga, but the former will not expose them to anything beyond the scriptures. That is why Zen meditation tries to reveal intuition instead of being fed by ready-made information from the scriptures.
No samadhi is possible without being exposed to life and everything it has to offer. In this sense, Tantra endorses the lifestyle of the householder yogi: one who participates in all the aspects of social and domestic life and continues his yogic contemplation. His asana may be achieved while he is cleaning his garden and his meditation may be performed while caring for a sick person. As per Karma Yoga, he is a greater yogi than those who retreat to mountains and ashrams or forsake their social responsibilities to enjoy the isolation of ascetic meditation. They may claim to follow the noble eightfold path, but there is nothing noble about it!
Meditation practice can be accommodated with the busy schedule of family life; Kriya Yoga can be practiced within the schedules or employment or running a business; and mindfulness can practiced if you have your meals without the distraction of conversation or checking the news on your smartphone!
Layers of Ignorance
The path to samadhi and samadhi itself unveil the layers of ignorance. When this happens, not only does the living being come extremely near to God but becomes God. When the Samadhi is approached, an individual awakens his intuitive wisdom and hence ends up being God. This spiritual perspective is the nectar of immortality.
In the deep recesses of the inner personality of a human being lie unlimited capacities albeit in seed form that they correspond to the powers of the whole universe. Instead of a "seed" imagine this as a coiled serpent and you have Kundalini Tantra and the Chakra System that offers techniques to achieve samadhi.
Samadhi is the ultimate realization of the ego: from the supremeness of the "I" to
the "I-ness" of the Supreme!
As we go beyond god and into the creation of the universe from within ourselves (from Isvara to Sadasiva). While Tantra identifies god at level four in the hierarchy of absolute reality, Buddhism identifies god only within oneself.
There is no guy (or gal) in sky!
The above mentioned sentences state that both the external and the inner subtle world are plentiful and boundless. The infinitesimal nature of meditative thought is as deep as the infinite facet of deep space. There is no limit to blissful feelings at both ends of the spectrum. Similarly, deep meditation is an attempt to encircle both these boundless entities within our consciousness. Here the ego plays an important role:
Someone with a healthy ego will contemplate the possibility of being as infinite as the universe and say, "I give this empty space some meaning by acknowledging it existence." However, the ego-less person - in his timid humility - will say, "How can I be as big as the universe?! I'm just a speck of dust!"
As malcontents, human beings are the ultimate creatures: never happy, never satisfied, insatiable in their greed, petty in their ambitions, and lazy in their thoughts. All religions today advocate virtues (such as humility) and rituals which lead to the this malcontent existence.
Thus, no religious person can ever attain samadhi!
The Samadhi is very much within ourselves, yet we undergo pain and grief of superficial rituals and petty passions.
What a paradox!
Samadhi takes you from ordinary consciousness to cosmic consciousness!