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Saturday, June 30, 2012

What is Samadhi?

According to the Yoga Sutras the ultimate goal in yoga is to reach a state called samadhi.  So, the question is, What is samadhi?  To find the answer all we have to do is pick up a copy of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, read it, and find out.  But it's not that easy because the original Yoga Sutras is written in Sanskrit.  If you can't read Sanskrit, like me, then the next best thing is to find a translation. 

I personally know three people who are experts at translating Sanskrit into English and who have written books on the Yoga Sutras.  They are Michael Beloved, TKV Desikachar, and Mukunda Stiles.

The last verse (34) of the last chapter (IV) of the Yoga Sutras basically sums up what samadhi is.  Let's take a look at these three people's translations of that final section.

Separation of the spirit from the mento-emotional energy (kaivalyam) occurs when there is neutrality in respect to the influence of material nature, when the yogi's psyche becomes devoid of the general aims of a human being.  Thus at last, the spirit is established in its own form as the force empowering the mento-emotional energy.  Michael Beloved

When the highest purpose of life is achieved, the three basic qualities do not excite responses in the mind.  That is freedom.  In other words, the Perceiver is no longer coloured by the mind.  TKV Desikachar
Absolute freedom results when the primal natural forces, having no further purpose to serve, become re-absorbed to the source of all, or when the power of pure consciousness becomes established in its own essential nature.  Mukunda Stiles

You might ask, "How can three experts in Sanskrit translate the same verse differently?"  Because a translation from one language to another, especially Sanskrit, is never exact.  Even in the simplest situations it can be only an approximation.  This is because different translators will, most likely, differ in cultural heritage.  Therefore their translations of Sanskrit to English, in this case, will only approximate the original form.  Also, many key words may have several unrelated interpretations.  It's not easy translating exactly what the original writer intended.

However, by taking a closer look at these three translations we can see that there are similarities.  They all mention the mind   ("mento-emotional" - "consciousness"- "psyche") and they express the importance of becoming free from it ("at last its own form" - "no longer coloured by the mind" -"becomes established in its own essential nature").

In essence what all of these translations are saying is, total freedom is achieved only when you are free from the mind.  All problems stem from the thinking mind and you are not free until you (the spirit - the true Self) are separate from it.


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