Regarding the suggestion that nirvikalpa samAdhi and j~nAna are synonyms:
Is it possible that different people, texts and sages use terminology in slightly different ways? So we might be cautious when pitting one view against another.
Sri Ramana Maharshi puts it in the following way:
(1) Holding on to Reality is samAdhi.
(2) Holding on to Reality with effort is savikalpa samAdhi.
(3) Merging in Reality and remaining unaware of the world is nirvikalpa samAdhi.
(4) Merging in Ignorance and remaining unaware of the world is sleep.
(5) Remaining in the primal, pure natural state without effort is sahaja nirvikalpa samAdhi.
(from "Talk 391")
He further explains what He means by the difference between (3) and (5) in another talk:
Even if one is immersed in nirvikalpa samAdhi for years together, when he emerges from it he will find himself in the environment which he is bound to have. That is the reason for the AchArya emphasising sahaja samAdhi in preference to nirvikalpa samAdhi in his excellent work vivekachUDAmaNi. One should be in spontaneous samAdhi - that is, in one's pristine state - in the midst of every environment. (Talk 54)
and again in Talk 187, Sri Ramana explains both (3) and (5) as nirvikalpa samAdhi, but the sahaja type alone is permanent:
In sleep the mind is alive but merged in oblivion (see (4) above). - In kevala nirvikalpa samAdhi, the mind is alive but merged in light, like a bucket with rope lowered into a well, that can be drawn out again. - In sahaja nirvikalpa samAdhi, the mind is dead , resolved into the Self, like a river discharged into the ocean - its identity lost - and which can never be re-directed from the ocean, once discharged into it.
A similar explanation is given in Talk 465, wherein Sri Bhagavan says:
(1) Meditation should remain unbroken as a current. If unbroken it is called samAdhi or Kundalini shakti.
(2) The mind may be latent and merge in the Self; it must necessarily rise up again; after it rises up one finds oneself only as ever before. For in this state the mental predispositions are present there in latent form to remanifest under favourable conditions.
(3) Again the mind activities can be completely destroyed. This differs from the former mind, for here the attachment is lost, never to reappear. Even though the man sees the world after he has been in the samAdhi state, the world will be taken only at its worth, that is to say it is the phenomenon of the One Reality. The True Being can be realised only in samAdhi; what was then is also now. Otherwise it cannot be Reality or Ever-present Being. What was in samAdhi is here and now too. Hold it and it is your natural condition of Being. Samadhi practice must lead to it. Otherwise how can nirvikalpa samAdhi be of any use in which a man remains as a log of wood? He must necessarily rise up from it sometime or other and face the world. But in sahaja samAdhi he remains unaffected by the world. So many pictures pass over the cinema screen: fire burns away everything; water drenches all; but the screen remains unaffected. The scenes are only phenomena which pass away leaving the screen as it was. Similarly the world phenomena simply pass on before the j~nAnI, leaving him unaffected. You may say that people find pain or pleasure in worldly phenomena. It is owing to superimposition. This must not happen. With this end in view practice is made. Practice lies in one of the two courses: devotion or knowledge. Even these are not the goals. Samadhi must be gained; it must be continuously practised until sahaja samAdhi results. Then there remains nothing more to do.
From the previous passages it would seem that "2" above (the mind latent and merged in the Self) refers to kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The important distinction between this and "3", Sahaja Samadhi, is that in the latter "the mind is dead". This is the natural state of the j~nAnI who can move in the world (or, at least appear to us to do so) and remain unaffected by it.
Is Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi a synonym of j~nAna? It would seem, not quite, if I have understood correctly. Whereas Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi is j~nAna.
Loss of body consciousness in samAdhi is not the same as 'dead mind', destruction of ego. Thus when the disciple asks, "Is loss of body-consciousness a perquisite to the attainment of sahaja samAdhi?" Sri Ramana replies:
What is body-consciousness? Analyse it. There must be a body and consciousness limited to it which together make up body-consciousness. These must lie in another Consciousness which is absolute and unaffected. Hold it. That is samAdhi. It exists when there is no body-consciousness because it transcends the latter, it also exists when there is the body-consciousness. So it is always there. What does it matter whether body-consciousness is lost or retained? When lost it is internal samAdhi: when retained, it is external samAdhi. That is all. A person must remain in any of the six samAdhi-s so that sahaja samAdhi may be easy for him.
Below, Sri Ramana refers to samAdhi, not as a state to be gained, as in some of the many different types but as our natural state. He also points out the importance of the waking state, which I believe was a query in another thread:
Samadhi is one's natural state. It is the under-current in all the three states. This - that is, 'I' - is not in those states, but these states are in It. If we get samAdhi in our waking state that will persist in deep sleep also. The distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness belongs to the realm of mind, which is transcended by the state of the Real Self.
By shravaNa, Knowledge dawns. That is the flame. By manana, the Knowledge is not allowed to vanish. Just as the flame is protected by a wind-screen, so the other thoughts are not allowed to overwhelm the right knowledge. By nididhyAsana, the flame is kept up to burn bright by trimming the wick. Whenever other thoughts arise, the mind is turned inward to the light of true knowledge. When this becomes natural, it is samAdhi. The enquiry "Who am I?" is the shravaNa. The ascertainment of the true import of 'I' is the manana. The practical application on each occasion is nididhyAsana. Being as 'I' is samAdhi.
Eternal, unbroken, natural state is j~nAna."
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