Last month, we covered the seventh limb of Ashtanga yoga – Dhyana (meditation). All previous posts can be found on the YWG GRACE-MAIL archives. Now we are going to explore the eighth and final limb: Samadhi (absolute consciousness).
Just a reminder that the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path are:
- Yama (restraint)
- Niyama (observances)
- Asana (posture)
- Pranayama (breath control)
- Pratyahara (controlling the senses)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (absolute consciousness)
This month’s focus: SAMADHI
If you walked the streets and asked people what they think the purpose of yoga would be, many would suggest that yoga is about flexibility, strength, fitness and health. As much as this is true and these are definitely by-products of practicing yoga; the ultimate goal of yoga is not about touching your toes and feeling healthy. The main purpose or goal of yoga is self-realisation. Pure consciousness. Samadhi.
According to Patanjali, this eight fold path of yoga leads to a full experience of samadhi, which is the realisation of pure consciousness. It is a supreme experience where through acute sensuous perception, one has direct knowledge of an object in truth of its own nature, completely free from the distortions of our imagination. In other words, one generally distorts their sense perception based on preconceived ideas and beliefs, hence samadhi is the full experience of seeing things for what they are, not what one thinks they ought to be. This is where one uncovers the union of yoga; union between humanity, unity between human and nature and union with God. Samadhi can be seen as a state of emptiness of the human mind and language and fullness in itself.
So yoga shows the way to Samadhi. Yoga is not simply an accumulation of asana or devotional practices, but rather a transformation of body and spirit which aims for completion of the whole person. Samadhi can be described as a state of ‘enstasy’. We are all familiar with the term ‘ecstasy’ where one is in a state of outward joy or bliss. However, Enstasy is described as an inward state of joy or bliss. The term enstasy was coined by Mircea Eliade to describe the state of Samadhi as ‘standing inside oneself’ as opposed to the Western term ‘ecstasy’ which is a state of ‘standing outside oneself’. So the joy or bliss one experiences in a state of Samadhi is derived from within us, not outside or external sources. Yoga engenders an inward blissful state… a state of complete awareness…Samadhi. It is a state so complete that it is indefinable beyond speech. It is experienced.
So now that we know the purpose of yoga, how do we achieve this state? Well over the past few months, we have looked into detail at Patanjali’s eight fold path which leads to Samadhi. Quite simply though, avoid over thinking it…start with the here and now. Get on your mat, breathe, move and be mindful. Do your yoga practice and all will come!
“Practice, practice. All is coming.” Pattabhi Jois