American Institute of Vedic Studies



Yoga as Samadhi

Yoga is defined as Samadhi in the Yoga Sutras. Yet few Yoga practitioners know what Samadhi is or how to approach it. But without understanding Samadhi one cannot understand Yoga in the true sense of the term.

Samadhi is complete coherence and composure of mind, the mind fully united with the power of seeing, so that it loses its separate nature and merges into pure consciousness and bliss. Samadhi is the highest aspect of Yoga practice as complete meditative absorption that takes us beyond body and mind, birth and death.

Samadhi in Yoga Sutras


Yoga Sutras defines Yoga as Samadhi. Yoga as Chitta Vritti Nirodha or control of the mind (YS I.2)  is a definition of Samadhi. Its ultimate result of Tada Drashtu Svarupe avasthanam or then the Seer (Purusha) abides in its own Self-nature (YS I.3), is a definition of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the highest Samadhi.


Every section of the Yoga Sutras has Samadhi as its main topic.

The first of the four sections of the text begins with Samadhi Pada, the section relating to Samadhi, which describes its nature and necessity.

Samadhi is the goal of Yoga practice or Sadhana as defined in the second section of the Yoga Sutras as Sadhana Pada which prepares us for Samadhi.

Samadhi, also called Samyama, is the basis of the yogic powers and accomplishments that form the third section or Vibhuti Pada of the text.

Samadhi in its fully developed or Nirvikalpa form, taking us beyond all thought, is the basis of Kaivalya or the natural state of the Purusha or inner Self that constitutes the fourth section and culmination of the text.


Samadhi, like many yogic terms, is difficult to translate because it has no equivalent in English or other languages. It has been loosely and wrongly defined as some sort of trance, ascetic state, mystical experience, altered consciousness, or even psychological delusion. Samadhi in truth is a state of direct awareness in pure consciousness beyond all concepts, motivations and experiences of the mind. It cannot be put into mere words, logic, information or theories.


Samadhi follows in Yoga practice after Dharana and Dhyana or concentration and meditation. These three factors of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi constitute Samyama or complete concentration, which is another definition of Samadhi. Samadhi/Samyama is the ultimate focus and concentration of our awareness, which requires the dissolution of mental consciousness, ego or any attachment to physical reality and personal identity. It is best rendered as a state of absorption or unity consciousness, but is better left untranslated and defined in itself.


Higher and Lower Samadhis


Samadhi exists on all levels of the mind (chitta-bhumis). There are lower non-yogic Samadhis, as well as higher yogic Samadhis. The lower Samadhis are of the dull (mudha), disturbed (kshipta) and distracted (vikshipta) levels of the mind, influenced by the gunas of tamas and rajas. The higher yogic samadhis are of the one-pointed mind (ekagra chitta) and the mind in its merged state (nirodha chitta). These yogic Samadhis form the main concern and practice of Yoga.


Samadhi of some type occurs whenever the mind merges itself in something and experiences happiness, bliss or Ananda. Sensory experiences from watching a fascinating movie to contemplating a beautiful sunset involve a temporary absorption of the mind into its object of perception that are lesser or fleeting Samadhis. Sleep is our natural daily Samadhi of peace and renewal but remains at a subconscious level.


Samadhi as seeking lasting unity and happiness is the very nature and motivation of the mind, which is empty and unhappy in itself. Ordinarily we seek outward-looking Samadhis that are transient in nature, based upon getting entranced in the illusory world of Maya. This is what we call the pursuit of enjoyment, happiness or achievement. When we reach our desire-based goal we gain a sense of fulfillment, happiness or accomplishment that form lower Samadhis, but these quickly disappear and leave us with yet more unfulfilled desires. The mind remains a problematical entity until we learn the yogic practice of Samadhi to resolve it altogether.


Only when we awaken inwardly to our eternal destiny as a reincarnating consciousness do we seek the enduring inner Samadhis and not just outer pleasure, intoxication and enjoyment. We certainly should seek bliss or happiness in life, but we should do so inwardly where it can be found in an enduring manner. For that purpose, we must remove the ignorance that causes us to seek our happiness on the outside, where we cannot hold it, rather than within ourselves as the core of our being.


Reaching the Higher Samadhis


The higher or yogic Samadhi is born of turning within, inner calm, stillness, peace and silence, with the mind like mirror reflecting the reality of pure consciousness and losing its separative identity. It arises by detachment from outer names and forms and giving up all external cravings. Samadhi follows a radically different approach than the highs and enjoyment of the mind, which are but its shadow. Yogic Samadhis are initially Savikalpa Samadhis, involving some degree thought or imagination, with the highest as Nirvikalpa Samadhi beyond all thought, which is the very nature of the Purusha itself


To develop yogic Samadhis, we must change our view of ourselves and the world. We are not a mere physical person seeking happiness and security in the material world during our short mortal life. We are a Divine reincarnating Jivatman or individualized Atman, which contains the energy and consciousness of the entire universe, and whose goal in life is the highest Self-realization.


We must awaken our inner purpose to achieve the highest Samadhi, and embark on a dedicated and enduring Sadhana to achieve it. The teachings of Yoga and Vedanta guide us along this ultimate path to bliss, particularly the practice of Self-inquiry that takes us beyond the mind. There are many aids  including all aspects of Yoga as Jnana, Bhakti, Kriya and Karma, innumerable mantras and methods. We must develop an inner power of concentration, surrender and Self-knowledge in which we can transcend our outer ego, its karmas and  attachments.


Do not forget the Samadhi in your Yoga practice which is its true goal and highest bliss. For this immerse yourself completely in your immortal Inner Being and forget the external world which is but your shadow. Samadhi is your true nature and inmost state of awareness that pervades the entire universe as the supreme light. Reclaim the bliss that is your immortal Self.


David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)


Latest Articles

Embodied Mind and Transcendent Consciousness

We human beings are embodied creatures defined by our birth in a particular physical body as indicating our real identity and the focus of our lives. Our minds are not only located in the body but ruled by an entire set of bodily needs, imperatives, appearances and actions and their daily functions. Our physical body is our personal image, starting with our face and form and the clothes we put around the body. We see ourselves as a bodily intelligence operating through the brain, senses and motor organs. This is the basis of our survival, development and happiness in life.

Read More »

Kali as the Yuga Shakti: the Power to Create a New World Age

By Yogini Shambhavi   As the great power of time, Kali’s Shakti creates the different Yugas or world ages that humanity passes through during the long cycles of cosmic evolution. Kali is the Goddess of eternity watching over all our temporal changes and facilitating those which promote our inner growth. More specifically, Kali is the Yuga Shakti or the power of time that takes humanity from one world age to another. She works to sustain the spiritual energy of the planet through both the ages of light and darkness.   The awakening to the Divine Mother and the Great Goddess

Read More »

Comparison and the Incomparable Self

Your inner Self (Atman) and true nature cannot be compared to anything. It has no name, form or action, no shape, size or color. It is beyond all elements and qualities of nature. It is beyond body and mind, time and appearance altogether. It dwells within everything yet is not limited to anything. At most we can compare it to space and light. Your inner Self is what it is, which is the Being of all. The Self ever abides in its own fullness, peace and ananda. That Self is what you really are, not what you think you are

Read More »

Shiva Ayurveda – The Yogic Power of Healing and Transformation

Most Ayurvedic practitioners look upon Lord Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, as the deity of Ayurveda and ideal doctor. Certainly that is an important tradition worthy of following based on profound Puranic stories and symbolism. Yet in the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, and Shruti or book of mantric vision of the Rishis, the primary doctor and healer is Rudra, the main Vedic name for Shiva. Rudra is lauded in the Rigveda as the supreme doctor  (bhishaktamam tva bhishajam shrinomi). In the famous Rudram chant of the Yajurveda, in which the mantra Namah Shivaya first occurs, Rudra is the

Read More »

Winter Solstice, Galactic Center and New Time of Troubles

I have been writing for some years about 2020 as indicating the beginning of a “New Time of Troubles” for humanity, dangerous from 2020-2028, but continuing long beyond that. This relates astronomically to the Winter Solstice point transiting the Galactic Center in the constellation of Sagittarius. It is difficult to determine exactly owing to large gas clouds around the Galactic Center, and as it is slowly moving its effects may last for decades. 2020-2021 marked the transit of Ketu, the South Node of the Moon or Tail of the Serpent, one of the two eclipse points, over this same region

Read More »

The Ancient Yoga of the Sun

For the Winter Solstice December 21, which marks the rebirth of the Sun and Agni What if the most powerful force for energizing all Yoga practices were as obvious and visible as the Sun? The fact is that it is. The Sun, properly understood not merely as an outer but as an inner energy source, reflects the supreme light of Yoga both in our own hearts and in the world of nature around us.   If we look at traditional and ancient cultures from throughout world, we discover a strong awareness of the Sun as a spiritual force, and as

Read More »

Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is a recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan award, the third highest civilian award granted by the government of India, “for distinguished service of a higher order to the nation,” honoring his work and writings as a Vedic teacher, which he received in January 2015.