Namaste Yogis and Yoginis,
I once spent some time in a Buddhist monastery, and I got to know a few of the nuns quite well. I was amused that they were all addicted to Tim Tams. Their reasoning was simple – that every experience of bliss, no matter how small, accumulated towards and prepared the mind for the ultimate bliss of liberation. In keeping their minds directed towards bliss, they were deepening the pathway there. They may have been teasing me, I don't know – but the tantric path takes every experience, no matter how banal, and uses it as fuel for the journey to liberation. More classical teachings on that state of bliss (samadhi in yoga terms) observe there is a long path, and at the end, four preparatory stages of attainment. The first, once one has prepared the mind to be focused – is meditation upon a gross external object and the sense of being one with that object, but with awareness of the name and form of that object. This is savitarka samadhi. The second is meditation leading to merging with the object without a sense of its name and form – simply the being-ness of the object and your awareness merging. This is nirvitarka samadhi. When the meditation is upon a subtle object or sensation, the two kinds of samadhi called savichara and nirvichara may also be distinguished (ie with knowledge of name and quality, or without). All of these samadhis are considered seeded samadhi as they are all still part of Prakriti (the natural phenomena). Being seeded, the possibility of desire or attachment remains, even though the mind is perfectly concentrated. Although unlikely for a yogi who has come so far, the possibility to fall back into bondage is possible. To understand the difference between the Samadhis, Sri Ramakrishna used to tell this beautiful parable:
“A disciple once came to a teacher to learn to meditate on God. The teacher gave him instructions, but the disciple soon returned and said that he could not carry them out – every time he tried to meditate, he found himself thinking about his pet buffalo. “Well then,” said the teacher, “ you mediate on that buffalo you're so fond of.” The disciple shut himself up in a room and began to concentrate on the buffalo. After some days, the teacher knocked at his door and the diciple answered: “Sir, I am sorry I can't come out to greet you. This door is too small, my horns will be in the way.” Then the teacher smiled and said” Splendid!!! You have become identified with the object of your concentration. No fix that concentration upon God and you will easily succeed.”
(In a more secular sense – what you fix your attention on, you will become.)
The final Samadhi lies beyond that, beyond all seeds, the mind is not only concentrated but purified, and the merging is with the supreme consciousness/awareness (Brahman). At this stage, one is considered to be liberated. A lofty goal indeed, one that can both inspire and dishearten. We begin to understand that the journey is not one straight upward trajectory but a series of climbing up, and falling back down – of successes and failures. The Gita reminds us when this happens – stay steady. (siddhya siddhyo samobhutva – yoga sametwam ucyate – in success or failure, yoga is equilibrium). Steadiness helps us to stay detached, so our desires and attachments (to achieve and to what we have to leave behind) are minimised and we are able to continue. When you feel overwhelmed, remember the nun's approach – all bliss prepares you, and have a Tim Tam (or organic chocolate!). At very least this will let you laugh, enjoy, and let go of the stories accumulating around your inability or difficulty, and you will be able to step back on the path rejuvenated and ready for more.