THERE is a great curiosity in certain circles about mystical experiences. Many claim to have had extraordinary paranormal experiences that they cite as proof of their spiritual evolution.
A common word in people’s spiritual lexicon nowadays is samadhi, often seen as a certificate of mystical attainment. What exactly is samadhi? It is a certain state of equanimity in which the intellect goes beyond its normal function of discrimination. This, in turn, loosens one from the physical such that there is a space between oneself and one’s body.
Eight types of samadhi have been identified, classifiable under two broad categories: savikalpa (samadhi with attributes/ qualities, that are very blissful and ecstatic); and nirvikalpa (samadhi without attributes/ qualities). In the latter case, there is only a single-point contact with the body. The rest of the energy is loose and uninvolved with the physical. These states are often maintained for certain periods to help practitioners establish the distinction between themselves and the physical.
However, while it is a significant step on the spiritual path, samadhi is still not the ultimate. It is crucial in establishing that no external sources are required for human well-being. But it does not mean release from the cycles of existence. Some people may go into a certain level of samadhi and stay there for years because it is enjoyable. In this condition, there is no space or time and no bodily problems because the physical and psychological barriers have been broken to some extent. But this is temporary. The moment they come out of this state, all the bodily needs and mental habits return.
Generally, compared to the sober, someone who is slightly inebriated has a different level of experience and exuberance. But everyone still has to come down at some point. Samadhi is a way of getting high without any external chemicals. A new dimension does open up, but it does not leave you permanently transformed. Your level of experience is heightened, but you are not free in the ultimate sense. This is why most enlightened beings never remained in samadhi state. Gautama Buddha practised and experienced all the eight kinds of samadhi before his enlightenment, and discarded them. He knew these were not going to take him to ultimate freedom.
If self-realisation is the top priority in your life, anything that does not take you one step closer towards your freedom is meaningless. If you are climbing Mount Everest, you won’t take one step sideways because every iota of energy is needed to reach the peak. Similarly, to reach the peak of your consciousness, you need every iota of energy you can muster. And still it is not enough! So, you wouldn’t do anything that would distract you from the main purpose.
On any live spiritual path, the disease of wanting to become ‘special’ is discouraged. You are encouraged to be very ordinary – extra-ordinary, in fact. Hence the tremendous emphasis on the guru in the Indian spiritual tradition: to ensure you don’t get sidetracked by paranormal sideshows and stay focused enough to take the ultimate leap.
What is this ultimate leap? Suppose someone asked you to plunge into a bottomless abyss, you’d have to be utterly crazy, extraordinarily courageous, or absolutely trusting to do it. Almost no one has the madness or courage. For most, it takes trust. And yet, the abyss is not a terrifying pit. It is, instead, an entirely new dimension, free of all possibility of hurt and suffering, flawlessly non-repetitive, beyond comparison and context, stillness beyond bliss. This means the leap is worth it. The leap is everything. With the leap, the bottomless abyss becomes boundless freedom.