Disciple: When we met last time, you told me that you will talk about liberation. Before that I would like to know about other five types of samādhi-s viz. Savitarkā Samādhi, Nirvitarkā Samādhi, Savicāra Samādhi,  Nirvicāra Samādhi and Sabīja samādhi.

Guru: Yes, I have forgotten that. I think we need to discuss more about samādhi. In the first place, never be under the impression that samādhi cannot be attained easily by everyone. It is a wrong notion. For entering into the infantine stages of samādhi, what we need is only three aspects – mind, parāṇa and consciousness.

Savitarkā and Nirvitarkā are related to nāma, rūpa and bheda jñāna (sound, its meaning and the resultant knowledge about differentiations). Both these stages of samādhi depend upon the word takra, which means reasoning, speculation and inquiry. Kaṭha Upaniṣad discusses about tarka (I.ii.9). It says that knowledge about Brahman cannot be attained through tarka.

Disciple: Can you explain tarka more, as it causes confusion?

Guru: There is no confusion. Tarka is a Sanskrit word, which means arguments and counter arguments. It is also related to philosophical system. Kaṭha Upaniṣad says that knowledge about Brahman cannot be attained through tarka. The Supreme knowledge can be attained from someone who has realized the Self already. Path to Self-realization and the ultimate liberation can be taught only after experiencing the same. A person who teaches Self-realization and liberation should be a Self-realized person. Only such a person can be called as Guru. If tarka is not the path to realization, then what is the path available to us? It can be attained only through impartation of spiritual knowledge be a realized person. Such a Guru will not lead someone to the path of liberation for the sake monetary considerations. Further, such a person will interact with his student one to one and not in groups.

Disciple: Do you mean to say that Self cannot be realized if we enter into arguments with regard to Brahman?

Guru: Yes. When you indulge in argument, it means that you do not have a firm mind. Kṛṣṇa says, if a person has a determined mind about the presence of Self within, he is known as sthitaprajña, which means firm in judgment and wisdom, calm and contented.

Let us first understand savitarkā samādhi. This samādhi is related to contemplation of a form. We have just now discussed about nāma, rūpa and bheda jñāna. For example you are initiated into Bālā Mantra Japa. You have the dhyāna verse describing Her thus: “Bālā Devi is clad in red garments whose forehead is decorated with a crescent moon, who has three eyes, whose brilliance is like that of the rising sun, who is seated on a red lotus and who holds in Her four bands a sacred book, rosary, abhaya and varada mudras.” Bālā Devi is the nāma, Her above description is rūpa and when you hear about Bālā Devi, you are able to contemplate Her effectively and this is known as bheda jñāna. Why it is bheda jñāna? Because form of Bālā Devi is different from all other forms about which you are already aware of. When someone says apple through nāma (name as apple), rūpa (its appearance) and bheda jñāna (apple is distinct from other fruits), you are able to understand about apple. Therefore savitarkā samādhi is more to do with knowledge rather than experience. Patañjali in his Yoga Sūtra-s takes us step by step towards the path of realization.

Disciple: This means that one has to have knowledge about the Divine, before proceeding to sādhana. Am I right?

Guru: Yes. Without knowledge, what is the purpose of sādhana? You should first know what is your goal. Without setting the goal, how can you achieve the goal? If someone asks you the purpose of your sādhana, what can you say? Therefore, sādhana is a tool to achieve your goal. If your work sincerely, it is also sādhana and this sādhana is for the purpose of your professional elevation.  Sādhana is not a merely spiritual term, but also used to mean all-round accomplishments.

Unless we have knowledge about something, how we can attain that through sādhana? First thing in spiritual life is to affirm that the Self is within. Later, with this peremptory knowledge and after having affirmed that the Self is within, the state of sthitaprajña, you make efforts to locate Him within, which is the goal of your life and this is known as sādhana. During sādhana, your mind undergoes various types of cleansing processes. Mind can be cleansed only with the help of your consciousness and prāṇa. When you are able to synchronize your mind, consciousness and prāṇa, you have attained the goal of your life. Therefore, savitarkā samādhi is the state, where you need three aspects to focus your mind, whereas in nirvitarkā samādhi, these three aspects which we have discussed earlier are dissolved totally.

Disciple: Is nirvitarkā samādhi a higher state that savitarkā samādhi?

Guru: Yes. This can be explained with the prefixes used with tarka. The first prefix is savi and the next prefix is nir and you recall the same prefixes were used while discussing savikalpa and nirvikalpa samādhi-s. Prefix savi means admitting differentiations and the prefix nir means not admitting differentiations (differentiations are dissolved). In savitarkā samādhi, we discussed three aspects to realize. In nirvitarkā samādhi, these three aspects nāma, rūpa and bheda jñāna are dissolved. In savitarkā samādhi you can meditate only with nāma, rūpa and bheda jñāna and in nirvitarkā samādhi, nāma, rūpa and bheda jñāna are not required for your meditation. Your first spiritual evolution happens here.

Disciple: Now, I understand. In the initial stages of my mantra japa, you insisted on reciting dhyāna verse and doing nyāsa-s and pañcapūjā. On observing my evolution, you said that I should discontinue dhyāna verse, nyāsa-s and pañcapūjā. Is your advice based on my mindset?

Guru: Yes. We have discussed this aspect many times before. Mantra japa is not something that is going to transform you as a spiritual being. The effect of mantra japa is based on your sādhana. First you begin your mantra japa by using a japa mālā. While you progress, you tend to discontinue your counting. If you use a japa mālā, your attention will be only your counting and not on nāma, rūpa and bheda jñāna (contemplation with a form). When you stop using japa mālā, you tend to concentrate on the form of Devata, whose mantra japa you recite. When you discontinue your japa mālā, you experience savitarkā samādhi, where you are still associated with a name and form and the resultant knowledge. Your focus shifts from counting the number of recitations to the form of the deity concerned.

Then you have to meditate without name and form with which you were associated earlier and if you are able to meditate perfectly, you experience the infantile blissful state, which is nirvitarkā samādhi. Now you are called sthitaprajña. Previously, you were a practitioner and now you have moved into the state of sthitaprajña. Have you not evolved over a period of time?

Disciple: Yes, I know for sure that I have evolved with time. But, still I feel that spiritual evolution can be decided by one’s Guru?

Guru: More than who decides about spiritual evolution, one’s Guru should take his student step by step towards liberation. If you are initiated into multiple mantras, you can never advance spiritually. Spiritual evolution can happen only with one mantra, with which you have aligned your breath. When you are able to align your mantra with breath, you are mentally reciting mantra all the time.

Disciple: Yes, I am able to feel that. When I am so deeply involved in my work, I never notice the mantra in my mind. While relaxing for a minute or two, I distinctly feel that my mind is reciting the mantra. Is this right?

Guru: This is perfect. You are breathing all the time. While at work, have you ever noticed that you are breathing? Surely you would not have noticed. But, when there is no work for you, you observe that you are breathing. Similarly, as you have aligned the mantra with your breath, you will observe the repetition of the mantra while you are observing your breath. Your breath and mantra are not different now.

Disciple: Does a student evolve on his own or his Guru makes him to progress?

Guru: In the first place, Guru-disciple relationship is a highly sacred relationship. Typically speaking there is no difference between one’s father, mother and teacher. As far as a spiritual teacher is concerned, he assumes the forms of father and mother apart from being his or her Guru. There has to be absolute confidence, mutual trust and love between Guru and his disciple. In Āditya Hṛdayam, Sage Agastya addresses Śrī Rāma as his child. He says, “he rāma he vatsa” which means “O Rāma! My dear child!” Sage Agastya expresses his love for Rāma so deeply and hence, he uses ‘he rāma’ twice.

As far as spiritual evolution is concerned both Guru and his student should work together by establishing one to one conversation. Without one to one interaction with Guru, a student cannot spiritually evolve. You must always remember the following verse of Kaṭha Upaniṣad (II.iii.9) which says, “Brahman is not an object of biological vision. It reveals Itself in the heart, when the mind is pure and constantly thinks about It. Having realised It, he becomes immortal.” This is the basic precept of spiritual evolution through sādhana and samādhi.

We will discuss about other stages of samādhi soon