Part IV – Experiencing advaita and samadhi
Advaita and samadhi are ineffable and it is difficult to separate advaita from the lower forms of samadhi. The following section is a blend of advaita and the lower forms of samadhi, but that is clumsy to repeat, so the term advaita will be used to encompass both states.
Advaita is available to everyone in an instant, they simply have to realise it (which is why everyone laughs heartily when they first get the cosmic joke; it really is that simple!).
However, if actively searched for, knowing what is involved, then that simple switch is a huge and scary jump into a different world. The state of advaita was once described to me as ‘deliciously alien’. Non-duality is alien, and it is accompanied by bliss (ananda), which really does make for a ‘delicious’ awareness. Swami Satyanada defines a yogi as a madman who can handle his experiences and not end up in a lunatic asylum
Realising advaita is the first major jump in awareness, it is the ‘passing through a veil’, what the Zen Buddhists call satori. You cannot mistake this sense of awareness. As one Zen author described: ‘satori is the release from one’s habitual state of tenseness, the clinging to the false ideas of possessions, a sense of boundless freedom and not the slightest doubt as to the completeness of one’s release’.
The following are all facets of advaita. They all occur spontaneously and instantly once the state is realised, once you ‘pass through the veil, step into non-duality.
(i) Advaita (non-duality)
Non-duality is an automatic state of mind when advaita-samadhi is realised. There is no good or bad, or even any notion of good and bad. There is no judgement whatsoever; things are what they are, not what you want them to be or think they are. Your mind does not place any mental qualifiers on any situation, and it is impossible to be ‘offended’.
Whilst non-duality usually refers to objects or situations it also applies to time. You are simply in the moment, not separated from the present moment by your monkey-mind imagining a past, future or imaginary scenario. You simply live without projecting any mental constructs.
(ii) Asmita (egotism)
In advaita there is the notion of ‘self’, the ‘I-am’ ego (ahem) is present. Although you connect differently to other people there is still the sense that you are a separate being. In advaita there is no sense of egotism (asmita) in the sense of ‘I want’, or ‘I need’. Things are the way they are, perfectly so. This sounds like utopian idealism, but in non-duality, with no ego, that is exactly how it feels, especially as the state is accompanied by bliss (ananda).
There is no concept of ‘my’ anything. I might be wearing clothes but they are not mine, they are simply clothes. If they are not there in the morning, there is no sense of loss.
This non-attachment extends to people; there is no ‘my son’, ‘my wife’ etc. They are simply human beings. You don’t lose your mind or become senile (in fact the opposite is true, mental acumen increases), you don’t forget your past, or your biological relationships, you simply don’t recognise ‘ownership’ of people or places.
(iii) Ananda (bliss)
Advaita is accompanied by bliss (ananda), it is an automatic reaction. Bliss is above anything experienced as happiness or sensual pleasure.
Time as a mental construct simply disappears; you are present in the now, not in a mentally constructed future or past scenario. When this happens fear disappears immediately. Fear is always a mental projection. You are anxious about what might (or will) happen in the future or worried about events that happened in the past. Fear simply does not exist in the present moment.
It is an incredible feeling to be free from fear, even though the fear is not normally a conscious feeling. The fear of death, for example, is carried by most people in their subconscious.
The release from fear in itself may result in bliss, but the experience of ananda goes deeper than this. There is a connection to the planet, becoming part of it rather than just walking on top of it, in a way not felt in duality. The ‘I-am’ ego (ahem) persists, but the notion of being separate from the earth is removed. There is also a heightened sense of wonder at the beauty of the planet. Maybe it is just seeing with eyes free of the usual mentally imposed impairments.
The loss of egotism is also part of ananda. The ‘I-want’, or ‘I don’t want’ egotism (asmita) is lost. There is no concept of what other people may think about you. There is no attachment to any particular outcome of your actions, things are simply perfect the way they are.
In advaita the monkey-mind is switched off, the constant mind chatter is absent. The mind becomes a tool, available when needed and at rest when not needed.
It is possible to think deeply in advaita and it is easier to discern when egotism does not influence your thinking.
There is no monkey-mind chatter about what you will do in an imaginary future, no craving or desire, no aversion; you are simply in the moment, experiencing life without a running commentary and the constant goading of monkey-mind.
To use the horse and cart as a metaphor, in our normal dualistic mind-set the monkey-mind is the horse, driving the cart. In advaita the monkey-mind is the cart following your free will; it is a tool to be used when needed.
In advaita there is no attachment to places, people, thoughts, in fact to anything! This mind-set is instant and automatic and comprehensive once you achieve advaita.
When you come down from advaita, back into duality, a strong sense of this non-attachment continues, especially with respect to material objects.
For many ‘seekers of a higher awareness’ in their ‘normal’ dualistic mind-set, ‘losing’ attachment is something that can be worked on and is essentially a three stage process. The first and easiest step is to lose attachment to ‘material things’, possessions. The next stage is to lose attachment to people, especially family and loved ones. The hardest and final stage is to lose attachment to the self, ‘your’ ideas (monkey-mind), egotism and the sense / fear of death.
(vi) Ahimsa (non-violence)
There is respect all things animate and non-animate.
In its highest sense, true lack of violence is love. Love in a yogic sense is a form of prana, emanating from a properly functioning heart (manipura) chakra. It is a real and tangible energy that is separate from head or sexual energies. It is not the love of romantic fiction, which is a mixture of love (not always), needs, desires and other mental constructs.
Love energy can be felt and some folk have the ability to project it. Amma (the hugging mother), who has her ashram in Kerala, India, has the ability to project heart energy.
Heart energy is part of a mother’s love for her offspring, with some still-born babies being revived when placed over their mother’s heart, sometimes hours after being proclaimed dead.
Love energy has nothing to do with sexual energy; separate centres are involved, though obviously these centres do not work in isolation.
(vii) Satya (truth)
Truth is automatic in advaita, what reason is there to lie? There is no egotism and therefore no need to hide yourself or your actions or your thoughts from anyone.
There is not the slightest concern about what people think about you, there is no judging, but equally there are no defences, you answer truthfully, why wouldn’t you?
Imagine for a moment a world in which no lies are told, the implications are immense.
(viii) Asteya (non-stealing)
Non-stealing and non-coveting are automatic in advaita. There is no egotism to want anything other than what you have and you don’t see material items as possessions.
There is no notion of other folk ‘owning’ anything either, no-one ‘owns’ the planet, nature, etc.
It is common to associate brahmacharya with celibacy but it is clear that these instructions owe everything to social morality and nothing to the experience of advaita.
In advaita you would not have inappropriate sex, you wouldn’t force yourself on anyone, but there is no reason why two consenting adults would not partake in sex.
However, in advaita there is no concept of ownership either, so concepts of ‘my’ or ‘your’ wife do not apply either! Adultery is punishable by death in many societies on earth today and taboo in many others. Advaita and modern society are not compatible. You understand the concept of marriage, but the notions implied now seem ‘alien’.
(x) Aparigraha (non-greed)
In advaita there is no concept of ownership, everything you need you already have. Greed is not possible in advaita.
(xi) Santosha (contentment satisfaction)
In advaita contentment is automatic. You already have all you need; there is no desire.
(xii) Svadhyaya (study of scripture)
The state of advaita-samadhi is above and beyond books and scriptures. Even the vedas say that scriptures are a means to an end; they are a road map, and when you achieve the destination they are no longer required.
The irony is, of course, a highly structured teaching like yoga is actually counter-productive to samadhi. You don’t need the teachings (everything you need you already have) and there are a lot of teachings! Discipline and routine are reinforced in yoga teachings, but these are not qualities of advaita.
The yogis also recognise that ‘the mind is the great enemy and must be defeated in battle’ and that using the mind to defeat the mind is a difficult task.
However there is merit in having a disciplined mind when you reach advaita and yoga practices and guidelines do provide good training in this regard. It is easy to be over-exuberant when you reach the blissful state of advaita.
(xiii) Ishvara pranidhana or Atamivedana (surrender)
In advaita-samadhi self-surrender is absolute; you surrender to the moment. Surrender to a deity becomes impossible, you would look to nothing outside of yourself.
You can achieve advaita through surrender to a god or a guru (bhakti yoga) but ‘god’ is just a ‘tool’, a means to achieving the end (advaita). Once the end is realised then the non-dualistic mind operates under different ‘rules’. You don’t need anything outside of yourself and the surrender is now absolute, to the moment, not a deity or guru.
(xiv) Dhyana (meditation)
As Buddha said, “I point to the truth and you analyse my finger.” Meditation is a means to an end and not the end itself.
If you are actively seeking a higher awareness then meditation can actually be a dangerous cul-de-sac. Metaphorically, imagine your mind as a book case full of books. The bookcase is the framework, the dualistic mind-set. The books represent thoughts. Through meditation practice you can reduce the books (thoughts) and even empty the bookcase. This is quite an achievement, which takes dedicated practice. However, the bookcase remains, after your practice you go to your home and your family, you might even be pleased with your meditation ability (egotism). When you reach advaita the bookcase disappears instantly, taking all the books with it. Advaita is not analogous to an empty bookcase, but to no bookcase, and it doesn’t take practice to achieve, it is available in an instant.
In advaita you are alert to every moment and constantly interacting with your immediate environment; you are aware. In sitting meditation you are removing yourself from ‘the real world’ while you focus on breathing (or another technique) to achieve a state of ‘no-mind’.
In advaita you already have all you need, there is nothing outside of your current being that you desire or need. There is no search for a mentally constructed future where you have improved yourself through any practice.
(xv) Mental capacity
In advaita-samadhi my mental capacity was increased greatly, it would have been possible to have several conversations to a group of people about different subjects, at the same time and remain coherent to all. My mind worked very fast, often too fast to effectively communicate via the slow process of speech.
My mind was capable of constructing huge theoretical models, which I am convinced were sound. As an analogy, imagine constructing the Eiffel tower piece by piece in your mind, out of ‘aether’ as it were. The structure would be sound and coherent, all the pieces would fit together and then could be translated to a real construction.
This isn’t as far-fetched as it might appear; there are parallels with historical figures. Nikola Tesla is reported to have had a mind that worked like this all the time! He constructed all his instruments in his mind, saw how they would work and then constructed them out of real physical components.
(xvi) Choice versus free will
In advaita you are living in the present moment, your mind does not look to a mentally constructed future, you have no desire to be somewhere else or be something else. So, if the future doesn’t exist in your mind, how can you make a choice, make a decision? Well, you can’t! You always have free will, but no choice. This is a concept that many people struggle with for a number of reasons.
Choice implies a mentally constructed future where you have a desire (or avoidance) of a certain outcome. In advaita the monkey-mind is not active, you are always in the present moment, free to do what you want, but with no choice. The future doesn’t exist.
This concept is well described in Zen Buddhist writings, which say “you can’t make a decision without first making a decision to make a decision, and therefore without making a decision to make a decision to make a decision” etc. The notion of choice requires a dualistic mind-set.
Advaita-samadhi can be summarised thus: ‘everything you need you already have’. If you look outside of yourself for anything then you are outside of advaita-samadhi. You are perfectly ‘in the moment’, and continually so.
There is no egotism whatsoever, no desire to be anywhere other than where you are and no desire to be anybody but who you are you. There is no projection into a mentally created future or remembered past. There are no teachings or practices you must learn. Everything you need you have in the ‘now’, you just need to switch off the monkey-mind and realise it. This state of mind has popularised by Ekhart Tolle’s writing, e.g. ‘The power of now’.
This isn’t quieting the monkey-mind, as can be achieved in meditation, this is switching monkey-mind off completely. It’s a paradigm shift.
The truth is you are permanently in a state of samadhi, except your mental constructs keep your mind too busy to realise it. Achieving advaita-samadhi is not a process; it is the passing through an ‘invisible gate’ in an instant into the present moment, the so called ‘passing through the veil’.
In this state every step in any direction is equally wonderful and equally valid, so where would you go? There is no concept of ‘my’ home or ‘my things’. In actuality you find yourself following your free will, perhaps interacting with a person you have met or perhaps following a beautiful butterfly. You sleep when tired and eat when hungry. You do not lose your mind, or your mental faculties, you know how society works, even if their concepts now seem alien to you. You maintain respect for all things but you lose your society-imposed morality. You can only be true to yourself and your environment, you have nothing to hide and would not consider harming yourself or another or the environment around you.
When describing this state to a friend she said it sounded like her mother who had senile dementia, and was always wandering off and getting lost. In advaita you are not lost because you are exactly where you should be all the time, there is no notion of some better place to be, choice requires a dualistic mind-set. You do retain all of your mental faculties, you just lose a sense of attachment to anything.
You leave everything behind as you pass. You do not think of the past or the future; you are simply (and wonderfully) in the present moment. In non-duality you have complete free will and you would simply do what you want, with all the shackles removed, though with respect for everything around you.
So how do you achieve advaita-samadhi? Do you even want to reach this state of awareness? Chogyam Trungpa’s advice to those interested in following this mystical path is “don’t even start!” (“Once you are on this path you can’t step off so easily.”)
I can only conceive of complete surrender and loss of all attachment as a means of entering this state of awareness. The first time I entered the state I wasn’t searching for it, I was simply walking away from a failed marriage with no possessions other than the clothes I was wearing. Ekhart Tolle describes a suicidal state that brought his realisation, but mine was more a sense of overwhelming freedom from a number of stressful situations.
The second time I entered advaita-samadhi was eight years later, and I was actively looking to return to the state. It was a scary experience until I actually managed to achieve it, and then all fear and worry simply disappeared, as I knew they would. On the second occasion I tried to re-enact my first experience, I simply ‘walked into the world’ leaving all ‘my’ possessions behind me. It was a huge leap of faith, it is quite scary to contemplate, but you are aware that if you can achieve this state you will be fine.
Samadhi is not the end of the journey, but merely the start of the ‘next level’. From this state, with guidance, it also possible to work towards the states of supra-consciousness called siddhis, but this path is outside of my own experience.
Last edited by Vidya Moksha on Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:54 am; edited 1 time in total