In our recent yoga sutra studies, we’ve been contemplating the sutras on samadhi.
Sutras I’ve struggled with ever since I first began reading them. What does samadhi actually mean and what are all these different types and levels about? Sutras on samadhi that in my humble opinion are obscure, daunting and hard to understand to say the least.
So what is samadhi? It’s hard to explain because the word doesn’t have a Sanskrit to English translation or any other way to reference it. It is a process where through consistent practice and letting go of the attachment to the results of that practice, we are able to deepen our meditation from the gross levels to more subtle levels, until we move beyond our sense of self to an awakening experience that just can’t be put into words. We find the ground of our being- what lays beyond all the thoughts and emotions- our true nature.
We’ve discussed that in some of the stages of samadhi, we are able to receive the “cosmic download”- wisdom that just comes to us, often in ways we can’t or don’t understand. I used to think that the cosmic download and the more subtle states only occur while in seated meditation. But ever since I have delved deeper into the sutras, my understanding has also deepened, and I realized that there have been experiences throughout my life that indicate that this may not always be the case.
For instance, I remember an incident a long time ago early into to my yoga days, before cell phones and GPS, before I had even heard of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. I was driving in an unknown area, uncertain of where I was going and ended up on a dead end road. I pulled into a driveway to turn around and in the brief instant of shifting from drive to reverse, I experienced this horrible, sick feeling unlike I ever had felt before (and never want to feel again). It was like pure evil filling me from head to toe; everything stilled and it felt like time stopped for a moment, and some voice in my head, (I credited my intuition at the time,) screamed “Get outta here, and get out fast!” And I did. But it was a quite a while before I could shake that awful feeling. Especially after I later found that something unspeakably horrendous had happened at that exact place, at the exact time that I was there. As much as I wanted to forget about it, I have thought about that experience from time to time, and often wondered, what the heck was that? My grandmother would have said that was my guardian angels looking out for me. Now, I think, if that wasn’t me receiving a “cosmic download,” I don’t know what else would be.
Maybe some of the different levels of samadhi explained in these sutras that seem so beyond my level of comprehension are possible to experience and understand. Maybe “cosmic downloads” can and do actually happen in one’s life. Maybe we just don’t have any reference for them. Maybe, I can look back now and say, “Huh, so that‘s what that was.”