Samadhi is an experience of such depth, such joy, such indifference and such love, that nothing else is really like it or worthwhile in comparison, yet it gives shape, color and meaning to everything.
– Zen Master Rama
Samādhi is a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyāna. In the yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Samādhi is the only stable unchanging reality; all else is ever-changing and does not bring everlasting peace or happiness.
It has been described as a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object, and in which the mind becomes still, one-pointed or concentrated while the person remains conscious.
In Buddhism, it refers to a state in which mind becomes very still but does not merge with the object of attention, and is thus able to observe and gain insight into the changing flow of experience.
The Buddhist also mention that samādhi practitioners may develop supernormal powers, but warn that these should not be allowed to distract the practitioner from the larger goal of complete freedom from suffering.
The bliss of samādhi is not the goal of Buddhism; but it remains an important tool in reaching the goal of enlightenment. Samatha/samādhi meditation and vipassana/insight meditation are the two wheels of the chariot of the noble eightfold path and the Buddha strongly recommended developing them both.
In Hinduism, it is described in different ways such as the state of being aware of one’s existence without thinking, in a state of undifferentiated “beingness” or as an altered state of consciousness that is characterized by bliss (ānanda) and joy (sukha).
It can also refer to the complete absorption of the individual consciousness in the self at the time of death–usually referred to as mahasamādhi (great samādhi).
Levels of Samādhi
Entering samādhi initially takes great training and willpower, and maintaining it takes even more will. The beginning stages of samādhi, known as savikalpa samādhi, are only temporary. In this stage one is completely absorbed in a form, such as a mantra, but thoughts can still remain.
When you say you sit for meditation, the first thing to be done is understand that it is not this body identification that is sitting for meditation, but this knowledge ‘I am’, this consciousness, which is sitting in meditation and is meditating on itself. When this is finally understood, then it becomes easy. When this consciousness, this conscious presence, merges in itself, the state of ‘Samadhi’ ensues. It is the conceptual feeling that I exist that disappears and merges into the beingness itself. So this conscious presence also gets merged into that knowledge, that beingness – that is ‘Samadhi’.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
In this stage, one is completely absorbed in the formless, there are no thoughts, only complete stillness–an experience of emptiness that is at the same time full and blissful. It transcends time and space.
The Tantric yogi who has attained Immersion, in the post-meditative state, swaying blissfully—as if drunk—with the afterglow of the sweet taste of samādhi, sees the mass of existent things dissolving into the sky of Consciousness like wisps of autumn cloud; again and again taking the support of the turn within, reflecting on his oneness with Consciousness alone through the method of introvertive samādhi, even when missteps or egoic desires arise, he becomes one for whom samadhi is the One Taste.
Staying in nirvikalpa samādhi is effortless but even from this condition one must eventually return to ego-consciousness. Otherwise this highest level of samādhi leads to nirvāṇa, which means total unity, the logical end of individual identity and also death of the body. However, it is entirely possible to stay in nirvikalpa samādhi and yet be fully functional in this world. This condition is known as sahājā nirvikalpa samādhi or sahājā samādhi.
Remaining in the primal, pure natural state without effort is sahājā nirvikalpa samādhi.
– Ramana Maharshi