samadhi


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samadhi

(səmä`dē), a state of deep absorption in the object of meditation, and the goal of many kinds of yogayoga
[Skt.,=union], general term for spiritual disciplines in Hinduism, Buddhism, and throughout S Asia that are directed toward attaining higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance, suffering, and rebirth.
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. In Buddhism the term refers to any state of one-pointed concentration. In Hinduism it signifies the highest levels of mystical contemplation, in which the individual consciousness becomes identified with the Godhead.
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Samadhi

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In modern-day Hinduism, Samadhi, which is essentially the goal of all yogic activity, has taken on a variety of connotations relative to sainthood. The term became established in Hindu thought through the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (second century BCE). Patanjali described an eight-step process by which a practitioner can detach him- or herself from the mundane world and attain enlightenment. These steps include abstinence from the harming of others, as well as from lying, stealing, sex, and greed (yama); the practice of cleanliness, contentment, asceticism, study and meditation (niyama); the practice of the yoga postures (asana); breath control (anga); mastering the senses (pratyahara); concentration (dharana); and meditation (dhyana). These seven steps lead to the last step, the experience of the mystical oneness called samadhi. Samadhi is analogous to the higher mystical states found in most religions.

Many revered religious leaders in India are believed by followers to have entered into samadhi and to more or less permanently reside there. In attaining samadhi, most people have initial and sporadic experiences of unity that may become extended; this is followed, finally, by a permanent alteration of consciousness. The fact that they have entered this highest state of consciousness is a major source of their authority to act as gurus (teachers).

Since its entrance into the larger milieu of Indian religions, samadhi’s meaning has been expanded. For example, the sanyasin, a popular Indian religious figure, has taken a vow of renunciation from worldly pursuits, possessions, and attachments to concentrate on personal religious pursuits. The act of taking the vows to become a sanyas in is seen as a kind of death. Thus, when a sanyasin ends his mortal life, since he has already died he is now seen as entering samadhi. The tomb of the deceased sanyasin may also be referred to as his samadhi. Such tombs may also become places of pilgrimage. The idea of entering samadhi has been extended to also mean the burial site of many people considered saints or holy people (whether or not they have taken their renouncing vows).

Sources:

Feuerstein, Georg. The Philosophy of Classical Yoga. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1996.
Jackson, Robert, and Dermot Killingley. Approaches to Hinduism. London: John Murray, 1988.
Organ, Troy Wilson. Hinduism: Its Historical Development. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s Educational System, 1974.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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