Scholars have been unable to agree on the details of Patanjali’s life story and much that has been written is intertwined with myths. It is however, known that Patanjali is the son of Atri and Anusuya; both were masters of Ashtanga yoga. According to myth, Patanjali wished to teach yoga to the world. It is said that he voluntarily fell (pat-) in the form of a little snake from heaven into the open palms (anjali-) of his mother.
Primarily, Patanjali is known as the compiler of the 195 Yoga Sutras, one of the most well-known yogic works that contains aphorisms on the philosophical aspects of mind and consciousness. He is also reputed to have written a commentary on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi as well as a number of aryuvedic texts and was said to be revered as a great Natya dancer. However, there are many who dispute this and say that these accomplishments were achieved by many different men, possibly all with the same name of Patanjali.
Although Patanjali has been called the Founder of Yoga and the Father of Yoga, most historians agree that Patanjali was a relatively minor (albeit nowadays much talked about) figure in yogic history. Many historians guess that he was more than likely a humble physician and writer. The Yoga Sutras are said to have been written between 200 and 280 BCE and are built on the Samkhya school of Indian thought and the Bhagavad-Gita, a classic Hindu scripture. Essentially, they are concise admonitions or instructions as to how the practitioner can live a moral, spiritually enriching life. The Yoga Sutras teach us that Yoga is about much more than practicing a series of postures and enjoying the health benefits of deep breathing.
Patanjali’s Eightfold Path
At the heart of Patanjali’s teaching is the eightfold path of yoga. It has also been called the eight limbs of yoga because they intertwine like the branches of a tree in the forest and when followed with diligence, are a process by which we can obtain enlightenment.
The First Limb: Yamas
Yamas concern social behaviour, how we treat those around us and involves restraints and ethical observations. These are sometimes called the “don’ts” or the “thou shalt not’s”. Patanjali suggests that we follow five Yamas:
Ahmisa or Non-Violence
The main tenant of this Yama is to avoid harmful behaviour of any kind. This means that we must first take care to do no harm to ourselves. This includes respecting our bodies, whenever possible avoiding pain and illness, avoiding self denigrating thoughts and criticisms. In our high-pressure, fast-paced culture, it is important to explain and remind our yoga students of this Yama. A very appropriate way to begin an introductory yoga class is to explain the concept of ahimsa in regard to practicing yoga competitively or trying to move through painful sensations.
Of course, ahimsa also applies to our relationship with others, including animals, insects, plants and the environment. Although most people are able to avoid physically harming or murdering other human beings, something that can be more challenging is to avoid judging, criticizing or harming each other through words and even thoughts. Through the diligent practice of ahimsa, our compassion grows and we are reminded of our connection to all things.
Mahatma Gandhi was once asked what he would do if he was faced with the option of killing a cobra to protect a child or retaining his vow of ahimsa. Gandhi claimed he would not kill the cobra.
Reflect on non-violence:
- What do you think about his moral choice?
- Why do you think people are tempted to speak in a negative manner about each other?
- Do you remember any time in your life when being judgmental brought about a positive result?
- Can you think of any harmful things that you sometimes say to yourself?
- What are you trying to accomplish with this self-criticism?
- What would happen if you decided to regularly go over things that you like about yourself on a daily basis?
- Do you think anything positive could come out of it?
Saya or Truth
Do not tell lies. This is a tricky one. How do we avoid telling white lies and avoid harming others at the same time? According to the Mahabharata, “truth should be told when agreeable… and truth should not be said that does harm, however, never lie to give pleasure”. Essentially, this means that we must use our discretion and sometimes just be silent if it seems that the time or place is not right for the naked truth.
It is also important to be mindful that our truth may just be one perspective. A very helpful technique in practicing Satya is to be quiet and listen. We may change our minds before we need to voice a harmful opinion.
Satya also implies that we must do our absolute best not to lie to ourselves. Practicing yoga and meditation and other practices that enhance self-understanding can be helpful in allowing us to avoid lying to ourselves.
Reflect on truth:
- What kind of physical and emotional experiences do you have when you speak the truth?
- Do you gravitate to people who allow you to be yourself?
- Why are we sometimes tempted to lie, present façades or embellish the truth?
- Can you think of any instance where you told a lie and there was a positive outcome?
- Can you think of an instance where you told the truth and there was a positive outcome?
- During what kind of mood or in what kind of situation do you feel tempted to lie or embellish? Why do you think this is the case?
Asteya or Non-Stealing
The most obvious aspect of this Yama is to avoid stealing material objects. However, this Yama also encompasses more difficult moral situations such as not stealing your child’s ability to become independent or your best friend’s moment to shine.
Craving or longing to possess that which belongs to others, robs us of our peace and equanimity. Instead of giving way to this craving, we can cultivate the discipline of our minds through meditation.
Reflect on non-stealing:
- How does it feel to be jealous?
- If you could rid yourself of this emotion entirely, do you think anything positive might come out of it?
- How does it feel to share? Do you ever experience fear through sharing?
- Are you afraid that sharing will result in a loss to you or do you feel confident in the abundance of the universe?
- Has anyone ever stolen anything from you that gave you pain? If someone told you, “maybe they needed it more than you do” would you feel annoyed?
Brahmacharya or Non-Lust
Not to worry. This is not a call to celibacy. This Yama is meant to encourage awareness of our desires and respect for others. Meaningless sexual encounters are often harmful to yourself and others. As BKS Iyengar puts it “see divinity in all” and you can’t go too far wrong here. The majority of yogis through time have been married and had families of their own so there is no rule that we must avoid sexual experiences altogether. For most wise yogis and yogini’s, the goal is to find a healthy balance between the worldly and the spiritual.
Reflect on non-lust:
- Do you strive for a balance between your spiritual and worldly practices?
- If not, how do you think your life might change if you did?
Aparigraha or Non-Possessiveness
This Yama is all about liberating yourself from the excess burden of the possession of material things. How far you would like to take this Yama is entirely up to you. Perhaps you really do need a good quality bed, a massage chair and can’t take the bus because the stopping and starting hurts your back. Yogis practicing non-possessiveness strive to avoid hoarding and collecting “stuff”. Constantly hogging every conversation can also be a form of Aparigraha.
Reflect on Non-Possessiveness:
- Do you hoard and collect a lot of stuff? If so, why?
- Are you afraid that you will not have all you need sometime in the future?
- How does it feel when you get rid of something you did not need?
- Does your heart feel lighter or do you feel fear that you will need it sometime in the near future?
- During conversations, do you feel more drawn to talk than to listen?
- Do you constantly feel frustrated and upset that people are not listening to all of your thoughts?
- How can you help to alleviate your suffering in this situation without attempting to change the
- behaviour of others?
The Second Limb: Niyama
Niyama’s are a list of observances concerning our treatment of ourselves. They require discipline and resolve and are sometimes called the “dos” or “thou shalts”. These are the five Niyama’s:
Saucha or Purity
Purity is partially achieved through the practice of the five Yamas. By following the moral principles of the Yamas, you keep your energy body, mind-body, wisdom body and bliss body pure. However, this Niyama is also concerned with keeping your body, clothing, food and surroundings clean. When you hear the phrase “your body is your temple” think of this Niyama.
Reflect on purity:
- What does it mean to eat clean food?
- When you are physically dirty, do you sometimes feel cloudy in mind as well?
- What kind of routines and rituals do you practice to keep yourself clean spiritually?
- Do you think following the Yamas can help?
Santosha or Contentment
This Niyama is at the heart of what yoga is all about. By living in the moment and feeling gratitude, peace and contentment with what we have, we avoid the pitfalls of desire and aversion. By realizing that we are all just organisms who happen to be here on this planet together and that we need to embrace whatever happiness presents itself at any given moment, we can start to cultivate contentment. Life is not a goal or a competition. We are all lucky to be alive even if some of us are faced with greater challenges than others.
Tapas or Austerity
This Niyama encourages us to show a degree of discipline in body, speech and mind. We don’t need to become ascetics, but a healthy control of our desires and aversions will help us in our spiritual goals and aspirations.
Tapas can also be defined as a fiery discipline, implying a strong active force, rather than a more repetitive rote type of discipline or action. In this case, tapas can be regarded as a kind of kriya or cleansing practice. It is a pairing down of all unnecessary things, thoughts, impulses, desires and aversions etc. from one moment to the next.
“In the practice of tapas, a yogi finds his own inner flame – the fiery motivation that keeps him focused on his goals and helps him to incinerate obstacles along his path.”
– Amey Mathews
Reflect on austerity:
- Can you recall anytime in your life when you were so focused on a goal that you eliminated all distractions? What did that feel like?
- What kind of things do you think Patanjali would suggest that we purge from our lives in order to obtain spiritual awareness.
- Do you think that you can bring the practice of Tapas to your yoga mat as well as to your daily life>
- Do you think it is possible to go to extremes in the practice of Tapas so that it could have a negative effect on yourself or others?
Svadhyaya or the Study of Sacred Text
The contemplation of spirituality, particularly the study of classic and sacred texts can be a life transforming experience. As BKS Iyengar indicates, study leads to the realization that all creation is meant for bhakti (adoration) rather than Bhoga, that all creation is divine, that there is divinity within ourselves and that the same energy that moves through us is the same energy that moves through the entire universe.
Reflect on the study of sacred text:
- Why do you think so many people are inspired to educate themselves?
- Are you drawn to a specific type of literature for self-improvement and transformation?
Ishvara Pranidhana or Surrender to a Higher Source
Of all the niyamas, Ishvara pranidhana can be the most difficult one for many Westerners to comprehend and practice. Ishvara pranidhana can be translated to mean “offering the fruits of one’s actions to the Divine.” In India, there are many rituals that symbolize this attitude of surrender. One such example is the Dhuni fire ritual. Dhuni is a non-sectarian ritual and is universally practised by people of all religions.
Prior to the Dhuni ritual, people remove their shoes. Bhajans and devotional songs are sung as the Dhuni fire is lit. Participants then take a piece of sandalwood, dip it into ghee (clarified butter) and throw it into the fire. The purpose of this ritual is to facilitate the surrender of all desires and limitations to God.
Drawing rangoli or yantras (sacred diagrams) by sifting a rice through one’s fingers is another common ritual in India. Practitioners design these rangoli in the darkness just prior to the dawn. Some are very simple and some more complex. This ritual symbolizes the surrender of attachment to the outcome of one’s efforts.
Tibetan monks have a similar practice of creating elaborate mandalas out of different coloured grains of sand. The creation of these mandalas is celebrated with an opening ceremony. Musical instruments such as drums, symbols and flutes are played. A drawing of the mandala is made and then millions of grains of sand are meticulously and painstakingly placed on the design.
Once completed, these mandalas are either blown away by the wind or poured into a nearby river or stream. The idea is that the wind or the river will then carry the healing energy of the mandala out into the world.
Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means cosmogram or “world in harmony.” The act of letting go of an attachment to the outcome of one’s efforts is thought to carry a compassionate, loving vibration that has the power to heal.
Many Westerners have been culturally indoctrinated to believe that surrender is a sign of weakness. In the absence of spiritual practices and rituals to help us see the virtue in surrendering, it can be difficult to shift our focus from “me”, “my” and “I” to our ultimate connection with the universe, the Divine and all beings. We can have a difficult time knowing how to embark on our initial practice of the fifth niyama. However, it can be as simple and liberating as taking an attitude of surrender to the obstacles and challenges of daily life. This can mean anything from letting go of aversion to altercations or difficult conversations with people we love to embracing mundane tasks like cooking and cleaning with a sense of peace and acceptance.
The Third Limb: Asana
The root word of Asana is ‘to sit’. However, ‘Asana’ can refer to any posture related to yoga for the purpose of physical or spiritual self-discovery. Patanjali defined Asana as “Sthir Sukham Asanam” which means that a posture should be steady and easy. He compares the practice of yoga postures to resting like a cosmic serpent on the waters of infinity.
Although most people in our Western culture practice Asanas to keep length and strength in their muscles as part of a fitness regimen, Patanjali and other ancient yogis used Asana to prepare the body for meditation.
The Fourth Limb: Pranayama
In the Sanskrit language “prana” means life force or universal energy and “ayama” means to lengthen or extend. It would appear significant that in Sanskrit the word for breath is the same as the word for life. Through pranayama we learn to regulate our breath and this gives us increased control over our emotions and the fluctuations of the mind.
Yoga Scriptures ascertain that we take an average of 21,600 breaths per day. 21,600 is 1/5 of 108,000. The number 108 is charged with special meaning and significance in India. It is related to the fact that the distance between the Sun and the Earth is 108 times the Sun’s diameter. Since the sun is symbolic of higher levels of reality, this is like a Hindu variation of Jacob’s ladder. The symbolism is represented in the 108 beads of the mandala used by many yogis while practicing mantras. Practicing a mantra 108 times is symbolic of a journey from the earth to heaven or more literally from ordinary consciousness to higher consciousness. Of further interest, the number of breaths per day are 1/5 of 108, 000 and 5 is the number of associated with the air element. These correlations confirm for many yogis that the mind-body connection is connected to the universe at large.
In any given day you take between 20,000 and 30,000 breaths, but unless we practice yoga most of us take our breath for granted. Just like a friendship that we neglect, our breathing patterns can also become stale and increase our levels of anxiety. By simply engaging in slower and more controlled breathing we can increase our metabolism, keep our lung tissue more elastic, increase the oxygen intake for the 50 trillion cells in our bodies, tone our abdominal area, use muscles that automatically improve our posture, strengthen our immune system and reduce our levels of tension and anxiety.
Controlled breathing has four steps: inhalation (puraka), retention (Kumbhaka), exhalation (rechaka) and retention.
Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders, improve autonomic functions, relieve symptoms of asthma and reduce oxidative stress. Scientists have discovered that the chemical basis of energy production in the body is a chemical called “adenosine triphosphate” (ATP). When something goes wrong with the production of ATP, the result is lowered vitality, disease and premature aging. Oxygen is critical to the production of ATP in our bodies. Pranayama helps us to tap into this vital nutrient.
The shallow breathing that most people have become accustomed to does not exercise the lungs sufficiently. Our lungs tend to lose vitality and function. Yoga teaches us to breathe more deeply and slowly.
Why do we tend to breathe too quick and shallow? Our lifestyles tend to be hurried and our movements and breathing patterns tend to mirror this frenzied lifestyle. We also tend to be fairly reactive to the stress in our lives. When we are under pressure from a heavy workload or difficulty in our relationships, our rate of breathing increases and our heart beats faster. Add a sedentary lifestyle into this picture and we have even greater loss of lung capacity and increased stress.
Many of the benefits of yoga are related to yogic breathing techniques. Through yoga we learn to control our breathing, coordinate our body movements with our breath and maximize our lung capacity. At the start of a beginner yoga class, it is important to give your students instructions as to how they should breathe during class and why this is important.
During the practice of asanas, the Yogi learns to engage in whole body breathing that involves the lungs, diaphragm, abdominal muscles, chest and back. Gradually, we learn how to direct the breath into whatever part of the body we feel is stretching.
Breathing through the nose is important because it allows the air to be filtered, warmed and moisturized as it enters the body and ensures carbon dioxide isn’t released too quickly. If students neglect to engage in whole body breathing through the nose during the practice of yoga postures, levels of carbon dioxide in the body will rise, the blood will flow less efficiently and with lower oxygen content. Feelings of irritation and anxiety increase with excess carbon dioxide and there is even a small risk of hyperventilation. The Overall oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in the blood is compromised and blood flow to the brain and extremities is diminished. The hairs in the nose filter out dust and dirt particles that the mouth and throat cannot.
Most people are either shallow belly breathers or shallow chest breathers. Yogic breathing is much deeper, expanding the abdomen and chest on inhalation, either from the abdomen up or the chest down. In both chest and abdominal breathing, the abdomen draws in on exhalation. From a mechanical viewpoint yogic breathing moves down the spine and works the muscles and organs of respiration which includes the diaphragm, abdominal muscles, lungs and heart. When the diaphragm contracts, it is pulled down, which creates more space for the lungs during inhalation. The chest also widens. When the diaphragm relaxes it moves back into its upward curve within the thoracic cavity.
The diaphragm is a muscle sheath that separates the lungs and heart from the stomach, kidneys, liver and other abdominal organs. It is attached to the lower border of the rib cage by powerful muscles that attach from the first to the fourth lumbar vertebrae. It is the diaphragm and the chest muscles that activate the lungs as the lungs themselves do not have muscles.
A more eastern explanation for the importance of the practice of pranayama is the ability of these techniques to balance and increase the flow of prana in the body. Yogis believe that prana exists in all things and is found in the sunlight, air, water and food. The key to understanding prana or energy is breath. A person with strong lungs and a good breathing capacity can also be expected to have abundant energy. As the mind becomes more balanced, the breath becomes more even and rhythmic.
Nasal breathing is also said to stimulate the sixth chakra or Ajna chakra, the subtle energy centre located near the sinuses in the spot between the eyebrows. This important spot is the meeting place of the left (cooling) and the right (heating) current of vital energy (prana) that acts directly on the nervous and endocrine systems. Eastern wisdom describes an energy network in the body that corresponds to the nervous system. This energy network is called the nadis. Energy is absorbed through the breath and flows throughout the nadis. The nasal passages also have more nerve endings than the mouth which is another reason for breathing through the nose during the practice of postures.
It is important to practice pranayama on an empty stomach in a quiet place with plenty of fresh air. The early-morning is traditionally considered a good time to practice pranayama when the mind and body are refreshed. A regular morning practice creates good breathing habits throughout the day and increased self-awareness on all levels. You can greatly enhance the value of your pranayama exercises by fully participating with your mind. Feel the air enter your lungs. Feel your muscles work. Feel your body as a whole. Visualize precious life energy entering your lungs and every cell of your body. Allow this life energy to rejuvenate and energize you. Closing your eyes can help you to focus internally. In some exercises, placing your hands on the part of the body you are breathing into can help you feel it expand upon inhalation.
Yogis believe that the universe is an ocean of vibrations. Nirvana is thought by some to be the experience of the continuous vibration of the universe. This is a vibration that exceeds the three dimensions of space. Some quantum physicists call this a holomovement. These people believe that the human mind and body are continually vibrating, but that this vibration is out of harmony with the vibration of the universe at large or ultimate reality. It is this disharmony that creates a sense of alienation and separation from each other and the world we inhabit. One of the goals of pranayama and yoga is to remove this vibrational disharmony so that we can return to our natural sense of joy and connection with everyone and everything.
Intellectually, we can solidify this abstract concept by considering the nature of our breath. Each breath we take contains about ten sextillion atoms (10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). With every breath we take we inhale an average of one atom from each of the ten sextillion breaths in the atmosphere. Upon isolation, you release one atom to each of these breaths. The result is that the breath you just took contains a quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) atoms breathed during the past few weeks by the other 5 billion people in the world. We quite literally share each other’s breath and life force.
In order to practice meditation effectively, it can be helpful to start with something called “pratyahara” or sense withdrawal. This is the fifth limb in Patanjali’s eightfold path. The practitioner draws inward and de-focuses on sensations such as taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. This allows us to meditate without distractions.
Advanced practitioners have been known to be able to completely turn off the electrical currents that pulsate through their nerves and even involuntary muscles. This extreme version of pratyahara is accomplished through pranayama and meditation.
Another technique that has been known to be helpful in developing the discipline of pratyahara is to concentrate on the point between the eyebrows called the “ajna chakra” or third eye. It can also be helpful to reduce physical stimuli and then concentrate on only one sense, such as the sensation of your clothes on your skin or the parts of your body that are touching the yoga mat. The mind grows tired of registering only this one sensory input and focuses inward instead.
Pratyahara can also be the first step in the practice of Nada Yoga. Nada Yoga is the yoga of deep inner listening. Nada is a Sanskrit word meaning sound. According to many practitioners of Nada yoga, most of us use our eyes far more than our ears. Bhagavan Shree Rhashneesh calls this “Kodakomania” and says 80% of your energy is devoted to the eyes. The other senses suffer very much, because there is only 20% for them. The eyes have become an Adolf Hitler. We have lost the democracy of our senses. Don’t get too interested in pictures, otherwise you will lose more and more the ability to perceive reality (ibid p141).”
The beginning stages of Nada yoga require that the yogi forcefully shuts out as many external sounds as possible. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggests the use of a hand mudra to block out external distractions by closing the eyes, ears, nose and mouth with the fingers. Earplugs and a blindfold can also be used instead.
Once you block off external sounds and look inward during meditation you will hear a sound. Then you must look for the sound within the sound and continue, just allowing this deep, inner sound to fill your consciousness until your attention merges with the sound. As you continue you may become aware of another sound and then another sound. Some of the sounds that have been reported by yogis who practice Nada Yoga include:
- the sound of a flute that is creating a slightly different sound/vibration/frequency than not heard from the flute and Orchestra
- the sound of the drum rattle
- the sound of the humming of bees
- the sound of chirping crickets/insects
- the sound of church bells
- the sound of clanging cymbals
- the sound of a kettle drum/trumpet/wind instruments/violin/ cello sitar/harp
- absorption in the universal sound Om
Essentially, the Nada Yogi listens to hear the pulse of inner self itself.
The Sixth Limb: Dharana
Dharana can be translated as “holding”, “single focus” or the “collection or concentration of the mind”. Dharana often follows pratyahara in a meditative sequence and the practitioner focuses on a particular object or thought in order to discipline the mind and increase self-awareness. We develop the control to stay focused and not allow our mind to give way to distracting and often negative thought patterns. For instance, we might focus on the flame of a candle and the connection that is formed between the candle and ourselves. This fosters a sense of non-dualism that is central to the experience of union at the heart of yoga. The focus of our contemplation may also be things like the universal vibration, a
flame, a flower, our breath or a mantra.
The Seventh Limb: Dhyana
In order to understand the difference between pratyahara, dharana and dhyana, we might think of pratyahara as a baby learning to crawl, dharana as a small child learning to walk and dhyana as finally obtaining the freedom of movement to run or even to fly. While concentration teaches the mind to focus on one point or image, binding the mind into one place, Dhyana is uninterrupted meditation without an object to focus on.
The ancient teachings describe the difference between dhrana and dhyana metaphorically:
Dharana (concentration that is interrupted) is like pouring water into a pot. Water does not pour in a steady stream, but as separate drops.
Dhyana (meditation, uninterrupted absorption) is like pouring oil into a pot. It pours as an uninterrupted stream toward its goal, the pot.
By not engaging in our thoughts, they begin to quiet down. Spaces between the thoughts begin to occur.
This is when your state of consciousness begins to shift from one of fragmentation to one of concentration. This shift is usually characterized by a peaceful feeling physically and spiritually. When this state becomes continuous, it becomes what we call Dhyana.
Remember, however, that the goal of meditation is not unconsciousness, sleep or nothingness. These are just manifestations of normal states of consciousness. In Sanskrit these states of consciousness are called:
Jagrat (waking state) — our waking state is usually characterized by thoughts of the past (memories) and anticipation about the future. Without practice, we very rarely live in the present moment. For the Yogi, the goal of the waking state is to stay in the present moment as much as possible. This allows us to perceive reality from a higher level of consciousness which is more objective and mindful.
Swapnat (dream state) — the dream state is somewhat of an extension of our waking state. We rarely dream of anything that we have not seen, experienced or felt in our waking state or in our previous lives. However, the physical laws governing the universe are sometimes suspended. We are sometimes able to walk on water, fly, read minds etc. The dream state is a manifestation of our subconscious and usually all of the subconscious personae who appear are mere extensions of ourselves. During both the waking state and the dream state we are identifying with the ego personality, not our Divine Self.
Sushupti (deep dreamless sleep) — it is during the deep sleep that our ego finally rests. If we do not meditate, this is the time when we come closest to our Divine Self. However, we remember nothing of our connection to the Divine or the universe upon waking and return to the cycle of attachment and aversion which results in avidya or ignorance of the true Self.
All of these states are experienced by living beings and usually within a 24-hour period. Dhyana is entirely different and can be defined as a heightened awareness of our oneness with the universe and connection to all things. We obtain a state that is similar to deep sleep, but while awake and aware. It can only be achieved when we have such control over the mind that we are able to direct it inward toward its Divine Source. Although few of us experience this state over prolonged periods of time and have difficulty manifesting it, it can be quite common to experience flashes of bliss when the thinking mind momentarily relaxes its attention on desires and diversions. This can happen during virtually any activity, but the most common are during activities such as the practice of yoga postures, dance, the washing of vegetables or painting.
Reflection on meditation:
- What is the difference between the sixth and Seventh Limb?
- Why Meditate?
- Have you ever had a mediation experience where you felt at one with all things?
The Eight Limb: Samadhi
Those who have achieved samadhi are enlightened and have reached the ultimate goal of the eightfold path. Yogis and yogini’s who have achieved this state describe it as a state of absolute bliss where they feel at one with the universe. By merging with the Collective Consciousness we discover that we are one with all things and all suffering comes to an end. Freedom from samskara (suffering) is achieved. It is said that one feels as though one dives into an ocean of peace and tranquility, an experience beyond words or description.
Quite often, these experiences of complete peace, tranquility and bliss occur in a transitory way, leaving us better able to handle stress. The more frequently we practice meditation, the more often these blissful experiences occur and sometimes people achieve a permanent state of nirvana, union and samadhi.
“By cultivation of feelings of friendship and fellowship toward those who are happy, by great compassion and love toward those who are unhappy and suffering, by joy and entertainment toward those who are meritorious and virtuous, by neutrality and indifference toward those who are demeritorious and evil natured, a yogin should attain undisturbed peace and happiness of mind stuff, chittam.”
– Patanjali, Yoga Sutras 1:33