Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi
The Divine Mother has identified Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi as the level of enlightenment the vast majority of people reach upon Ascension (some go higher) so let’s now look at that stage of attainment.
Sri Ramama calls Sahaja our “original state” (1) and our “natural state of absorption in oneself without concepts” (2) On another occasion, he adds the stipulation that “remaining permanently in the primal state without effort is Sahaja.” (3)
Sri Ramana tells us that the difference between Kevalya and Sahaja is that in the former the state is reached because of a temporary opening of the heart and in the latter the state is reached because of a permanent opening of the heart.
“[The] Heart is the seat of Jnanam as well as of the granthi (knot of ignorance). It is represented in the physical body by a hole smaller than the smallest pin-point, which is always shut. When the mind drops down in Kevalya Nirvikalpa [Samadhi], it opens but shuts again after it. When Sahaja [Nirvikalpa Samadhi] is attained it opens for good.” (4)
So Sahaja is (a) our original or natural state (b) attained as a result of a permanent heart opening (c) of effortlessly (d) and permanently (e) residing in a state of absorption into the Self (f) without concept or any other movement of the mind.
Annamalei Swami tells us that for most people it takes long and continued practice to reach the state of Sahaja and that as long as there are breaks in our awareness of the Self we haven’t achieved it:
“If there are breaks in your Self-awareness, it means that you are not a jnani [enlightened sage] yet. Before one becomes established in the Self without any breaks, without any changes, one has to contact and enjoy the Self many times. By steady meditation and the continued practice of self-inquiry, one will finally become permanently established in the Self, without any breaks.” (5)
Sri Ramana was unique in that he did no spiritual practice before attaining Sahaja. As Sadhu Arunchala says:
“Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi] attained Sahaja Samadhi directly without any intermediate state. Many people consider that Nirvikalpa Samadhi is final, and once having attained it they seek no further progress.” (6)
“His Self-Realization, attained in the upstairs room of his uncle’s house in Madurai, was final, there was no more to be done.” (7)
Arthur Osborne explained that, when most people attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi the vasanas kick in and cloud the mind of the seeker, causing him or her to lose the connection with the Self. But not in the case of Sri Ramana. He went directly to Sahaja without ever needing to pass though Kevaklya, making it almost unique in spiritual history.
“Such an experience of Identity does not always, or even normally, result in Liberation. It comes to a seeker but the inherent tendencies of the ego [ie., vasanas] cloud it over again. … The miracle was that in the Maharshi’s case there was no clouding over, no relapse into ignorance: he remained thenceforward in constant awareness of identity with the One Self.” (8)
Here is Sri Ramana’s entry into Sahaja:
“It was about six weeks before I left Madura for good that the great change in my life took place. It was quite sudden. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle’s house … [and] I just felt ‘I am going to die.’ …
“The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inward and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ … But with the death of this body, am I dead? Is the body I? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it.
“’So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.’
“All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that ‘I.’
“From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued.” (9)
Sri Ramana agrees with Annamalei Swami that “he alone is ‘liberated while alive’ (jivan mukta) whose wisdom is firm.” (10) “The state in which awareness is firm and one-pointed, even when objects are sensed, is called Sahaja,” Sri Ramana says. (11)
In Kevalya the state is not firm. Objects being sensed or vasanas arising, the seeker loses his or her absorption in the Self.
Thus it’s the permanence of Sahaja, or “firmness” and “one-pointedness” of absorption in the Self, that results in Mukti or liberation from the wheel of birth and rebirth. Sri Ramana says:
“Finding the Heart will be experienced as being the Heart. When this experience becomes permanent through constant practice, the much-desired Self-Realisation or Mukti is said at long last to have been achieved – the ‘I-am-the-body’ illusion has broken for ever.” (12)
On another occasion he tells us that “Sahaja Nirvikalpa is permanent and in it lies liberation from rebirths.” (13)
When I was a young man, Brahmajnana or Kevalya Nirvikalpa Samadhi was considered the ultimate state. Sadhu Arunachala identifies Sahjaja as the ultimate state.
But we now know that Sahaja is only Fifth-Dimensional enlightenment and that there are many, many states of enlightenment above it.
Sadhu Arunachala describes the situation as he sees it.
“Many people consider that [Kevalya] Nirvikalpa Samadhi is final, and once having attained it seek to progress no further.
“Sahaja Samadhi is the final and most blessed state, the goal of all Yogis. In this state the individual has become completely merged in the Supreme Self. His identity which became lost in Nirvikalpa Samadhi has become enlarged and is now the Supreme Self and knows itself as such.
“Trances are no longer necessary, a person can still carry on with the ordinary day to day business but he no longer identifies himself with the activities, but watches them like a dreamer watching a dream.
“There is no more to do, and no more to be attained. This is the Supreme State of Absolute Bliss. But in the words of Bhagavan, it is the SELF and it can be realized by one and all by Self-enquiry.” (14)
“His identity which became lost in Nirvikalpa Samadhi has become enlarged and is now the Supreme Self and knows itself as such.” In Kevalya, our identity is lost and we become aware of a second more real “identity”: that we are God. In Sahaja that new “identity” expands until we see that everything is God.
Sri Ramakrishna described the situation this way. He compared the man who achieved Kevalya to a person walking up the stairs to the roof. He leaves all behind and realizes at the top that he is God. But then he goes down the stairs and:
“The vijnani [the one who attains sahaja] … realizes that the steps are made of the same materials as the roof: bricks, lime, and brick-dust. That which is realized intuitively as Brahman, through the eliminating process of ‘Not this, not this,’ is then found to have become the universe and all its living beings. The vijnani sees that the Reality which is nirguna, without attributes, is also saguna, with attributes.” (15)
So at the roof he realized the One God as formless, without attributes (nirguna), transcendental. But by the time he reaches the ground again in Sahaja he has realized that everything, with or without attributes (saguna or nirguna), is God.
Once one has attained Sahaja, it doesn’t matter whether one is aware of the world or not; the Samadhi is permanent.
“What does it the matter whether the body-consciousness is lost or retained, provided one is holding on to that Pure Consciousness? Total absence of body-consciousness has the advantage of making the Samadhi more intense, although it makes no difference in the knowledge of the Supreme.” (16)
But “in both [cases] the Self is realized in its nakedness and the essence of bliss experienced,” Sri Ramana says. (17)
In Sahaja, our effort has won us freedom from effort. Sahaja is natural and permanent and hence effortless, Sri Ramana tells us:
“By repeated practice one can become accustomed to turning inwards and finding the Self. One must always and constantly make an effort, until one has permanently realized. Once the effort ceases, the state becomes natural and the Supreme takes possession of the person with an unbroken current. Until it has become permanently natural and your habitual state, know that you have not realized the Self, only glimpsed it.” (18)
Sri Ramana held that one could not realize Sahaja until he or she was free of vasanas: “Even though one practices kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas, he will not attain salvation.” (19)
But on another occasion he said that attachment was the cause of bondage and felt that some vasanas could be experienced safely even after Sahaja if we were not attached to them.
“Vasanas which do not obstruct Self-Realization remain [after Self-Realization]. In Yoga Vasistha two classes of vasanas are distinguished: those of enjoyment and those of bondage. The former remain even after Mukti is attained, but the latter are destroyed by it. Attachment is the cause of binding vasanas, but enjoyment without attachment does not bind and continues even in Sahaja.” (20)
Sahaja being mukti, the sage is free from karma. Because the one in the Sahaja state is free from karma, Sri Ramana calls it “ultimate”:
“As karma alone is responsible for the activity or inactivity of the sages, great souls have declared the state of Sahaja Nirvikalpa (the natural state without concepts) alone to be the ultimate state.” (21)
It is the ultimate state as far as freedom from birth and death is concerned but not it’s not the final state of all beings. That comes much, much later. The Fifth Dimension is by no means the ultimate destination.
In the concluding chapter, we’ll listen to some probable assertions from practitioners of other paths of the attainment of Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi or Ascension.
(1) Ramana Maharshi in Paul Brunton and Munagala Venkataramaiah. Conscious Immortality. Conversations with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Rev. ed. 1996. , n.p. [Hereafter CI.]
(2) Ramana Maharshi, Spiritual Instruction of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Eighth Edition. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1974, Chapter 3, Question 4. [Hereafter SI.]
(3) Ramana Maharshi in S.S. Cohen, Guru Ramana. Memories and Notes. 6th edition. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1993, 89. [Hereafter GR.]
(4) Ramana Maharshi, GR, 96.
(5) Annamalei Swami in Berthold Madhukar Thompson, The Odyssey of Enlightenment. San Rafael: Wisdom Editions, 2003. 110.
(6) Sadhu Arunachala [A.W. Chadwick], A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1961, 47. [Hereafter SRRM.]
(7) Sadhu Arunachala [A.W. Chadwick] in SRRM, 17.
(8) Arthur Osborne, ed., The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi. http://www.ramana-maharshi.org . Downloaded 10 Sept. 2005, iii. Clearly Sri Ramana had done his work in other lifetimes and was here on a special mission.
(9) Ramana Maharshi in Arthur Osborne, ed., The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamali, 1979. , 1979 iii.
(10) Ramana Maharshi, Jewel Garland of Enquiry (Vichara Mani Malai). Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1996; c1977. , 20.
(11) Ramana Maharshi in Ganapathi, Vasistha, ed., Sri Ramana Gita. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanashramam, 1977, 27.
(12) Ramana Maharshi, GR, 95-6.
(13) Ramana Matarshi, GR, 88.
(14) Sadhu Arunachala [A.W. Chadwick], SRRM, 47-8.
(15) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 103-4.
(16) Ramana Maharshi, GR, 88.
(17) Loc. cit.
(18) Ramana Maharshi, CI, n.p.
(19) Sri Ramana Maharshi in Rasmananda Swarnagiri, Crumbs from His Table. http://www.ramana-maharshi.org . Downloaded 10 September 2005, n.p.
(20) Ramana Maharshi, GR, 89.
(21) Ramana Maharshi, SI, Chapter 4, Question 6.