Samadhi are human speculations about a variety of experiences attained through meditation.
The Hindu and Buddhist yoga and meditation texts and traditions, when compared side-by-side, reveal many contradictions about so-called samadhi.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the classical texts, and oral traditions of yoga and meditation, are as much characterized by doctrine and ritual as by contemplation or meditation.1
Stuart Ray Sarbacker in Samadhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga (2005) gives a useful model for understanding the many interpretations of samadhi. He explores two dimensions of samadhi and contrasts meditative perceptions that leads to the attainment of divine, or numinous, power, and to the complete escape, or cessation, from worldly existence.
Sarbacker’s Numinous and Cessative dimensions of samadhi and meditative experience:
Numinous, embodied divine power
- The numinous, or experiential or “going” dimension of samadhi, supposedly embodies the power of divinity in this world.
- This-worldly attainments (samapattis) of Patanjalian, Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu traditions, as well as the “supernatural enjoyments” (rddhis) or “omnipresencings” (vibhutis), and the visionary ascent and enhanced powers of perception.2
- Classical yoga traditions, and traditional yogis such as those described in Autobiography of a Yogi (1945) by Paramahansa Yogananda, emphasize the numinous.
Cessative, escape from worldly existence
- The cessative, or speculative or “knowing” dimension of meditative experience, purports liberation from world-encompassing existence.
- Cessative refers directly to the concept of nirodha in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2 (“Yoga is the cessation [nirodha] of the changing states of mind”), as well as to the allied Buddhist and Jain meditation traditions.3
- The bulk of modern day yoga meditation teachers and scholars emphasize the cessative aspect, that is, the suppression of the mind and the senses as a means to an end of one’s this-worldly existence and suffering.4
In a nutshell: The cessative emphasizes separation from phenomenal experience and attempts to end this-world existence. Whereas the numinous dimension is embodiment of divinity and supernatural experiences in this-world.
Numinous versus Cessative meditative perception in Hindu-Buddhist Yoga
The Hindu-Buddhist yoga and meditation texts and traditions, when examined using Sarbacker’s numinous and cessative types, and compared side-by-side, reveal a variety of interpretations, contradictions, and speculations about samadhi.
Here’s a table contrasting and comparing Hindu-Budddhist samadhi and meditative perception using Sarbacker’s numinous and cessative dimensions:
|Experiential, “going”||Speculative, “knowing”|
|siddhas (supernatural powers or enjoyments)||renunciation|
|self-experiencing||self-destruction (Buddhist), self-transcendence (HIndu)|
|inward discovery||nirodha (cessation of thought)|
|soul- or self-realization (Hindu)||nirvana (Buddhist)|
Present-day, Western meditation advocates de-emphasize the numinous, or embodied divine power, and instead emphasize the cessative, the escape from worldly existence.
Conclusion: Samadhi apparently is a product of the imagination of the believer
Samadhi is a term used for human speculations of a variety of meditative experiences. The Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali, the text and oral traditions of yoga and meditation, are shaped as much by doctrine and rituals as they are by contemplation or meditation. Classical yoga traditions and texts have emphasized the numinous: the this-world attainment of powers and supernatural enjoyments. But, modern day yoga advocates have shifted the focus to the cessative: the detachment from this-world for the attainment of other-world, devoid of a self.
Questions for readers: Do you have any evidence that Samadhi is an actual, objective human experience? Or, anything that contradicts the fact that samadhi is human speculation (eg. made up interpretations or adopted doctrines within the imaginations of the believers)?
1 Stuart Ray Sarbacker, Samadhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga, State University of New York Press, 2005. Paperback. p2
2 David Gordon White, Sinister Yogis, University of Chicago Press. 2009. Paperback. p45