NIRVIKALPA SAMADHI- A First-Person Account


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is the last version of my rewrite of the Nirvikalpa article in Wikipedia which was essentially gutted by subsequent editing by members of the Wiki Hinduism Project who are aggresively biased as to what kind of content and references are appropriate for any topic over which they can technically claim jurisdiction. They show little tolerance for ecumenical or Neo Hindusism perspectives and the only way to inject such concepts into any article over which they have assumed executive editing privilages is to create an Analogous Concepts section which is the only refuge where there is at least a chance that views outside the perview of Hindu fundamentalism will survive. As it turned out even that section was deleted by reductionist POV editors as not being pertinent to Nirvikalpa.

For a transcript of some of the dialog that took place as I argued for my various edits- see the Wikipedia Nirvikalpa Discussion page.

Revision as of 16:53, 6 August 2007

This version includes Maya-Gaia's freewheeling and ongoing edits since then. For comparison, see the current Wikipedia Nirvikalpa article here

Nirvikalpa Samadhi, sometimes also spelled as Nirbikalpa Samadhi, is one of the highest states of samadhi in Hinduism, in which the aspirant realizes his/her total oneness with Brahman. It has been described as a state of absolute nothingness, in which the body, mind, and world fall away from one's awareness, superseded by the experience of infinite space. One is said to be in a state of Nirvikalpa samadhi "when only the knowledge of unbroken reality remains, and the mind dissolves itself in the cosmic consciousness."


---------- Etymology content here -------------

The Tradition

A sanskrit term emerging from Vedic scripture, Nirvikalpa refers to the absence of doubt or imagination in the apprehension of reality, and to the possibility of direct knowledge without the mitigation of the mind or senses. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras refer to the seedless Nirbija union with object Samadhi. Attaining the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi by the body and mind is widely believed to be the culmination of all spiritual practices, particularly the yogic practices.

The Vedic aspirant's objective is to come face to face with the ultimate reality through realisation of the Atman (the inner Self which in the nondual Vedantic traditions is believed to be synonymous with Brahman, or in dualistic traditions a transcendent individual spirit, and thus attain unification with God or The Absolute. This is endeavored to be achieved by either gaining an absolute control over senses and mind through meditation as in the Advaita experience- becoming the Buddha or Tao mind in Buddhism and Tao respectively or losing all mind as in Zen. Perhaps the clearest metaphor to convey what is experienced in Nirvikalpa Samadhi is to imagine the conscious self dissolving like a drop in a cosmic ocean of light, bliss and love.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is prescribed by some Vedantists and Buddhists as sufficient for attaining Moksha or Nirvana respectively while Advaita holds that recognition of the self has greater priority in attaining liberation.

The Perpetual Enigma

Over the last millinnium, despite constant revisions of the concept in Vedic texts by countless yogin and maharshi to establish its role in the process of enlightenment and what dharma and practices are prerequisite for its attainment- Nirvikalpa Samadhi, remains a divine enigma. Two of the most revered Vedic rishis, Adi Shankara and Ramana Maharshi were dismissive of Nirvikalpa Samadhi as unnecessary to full realization. Ramana further disparaged samadhi saying- "Unless the vāsanās [worldly illusions] are destroyed in sahaja samādhi there is no good in trance." To a questioner who continued to ask about the importance of trance, Ramana replied, "If you are so anxious for trance any narcotic will bring it about. Drug-habit will be the result and not liberation. There are vāsanās in the latent state even in trance. The vāsanās must be destroyed." He also believed that Sahaja was a higher order of Samadhi than Nirvikalpa in which all vasanas were burned away thus enabling the experiencer to return to living as a fully realized jivanmukta functioning in a state of perpetual non duality. [1] Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Tantic rishis with the highest spiritual qualifications, revealed that neither had ever experienced the ultimate state of non dual consciousness. [2] While many traditional Hindu and Buddhist spiritualities teach asceticism and renunciation of maya (the acosmic pantheistic view of reality) as prerequsite for attaining Nirvikalpa Samādhi, Tantrikas and Daoist hold that the material world is real and along with many Gurus in the West subscribe to a practice which includes engagement of full human potential including a normal social and economic life.


Due to its fundamental role in the enlightenment process, there has been a historic effort to embody Nirvikalpa Samadhi with attributes by which it and the after effects of its realization can be made more tangible- yet those efforts have yielded little more than an enduring body of claims, rumors and legends. The result is that the qualities of Nirvikalpa Samadhi essentially remain as numinous and ineffable as when it was first alluded to over eighteen centuries ago. [3] A persistent claim is that the heart beat and breath stop throughout the episode, yet there are other claims that various yogin have Nirvikalpa Samadhi that last hours, days or even weeks and that some can go in and out of the ultimate non dual state as they choose. Various siddhis "powers" that reportedly manifest both during and after the experience include control of "events" during the episode; and the ability to endure extreme ambient temperatures as well as a range of psychic and astral abilities which some experiencers say they have been imbued with. There is a long history in India of public demonstrations by yogin designed to confirm their miraculous siddhis powers but evidence that there is any connection between these "powers" and a Nirvikalpa Samadhi realization is open to question.

Analogous concepts

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is often used in a generic sense in reference to the highest states of non-dual consciousness conceived over a broad range of spiritual practices including the turiya[8] of the Upanishads, the bodhi and Tathagata of Buddhism, the satori[9] of Zen, the Supreme State of Being of Daoism, the fana fillah[10] of Sufism, the Unio Mystica of mysticism, the Gate of Distance[11] of the Zulu shaman, the gnosis of Christianity and the charism of Christian mysticism. [4]

In 1901, psychologist Richard M. Bucke described a transpersonal concept of conscious awareness of the universal mind and one's unity with it- ascribing the name Cosmic Consciousness. [5] In his pioneering classic on the philosophy of mysticism, William James used superconsciousness as a synonym for samadhi and dhyana-like mystical states referred to in the traditions of all the major religions.[14] Later, a founder of the humanistic psychology movement, Abraham Maslow, applied the term peak experience which along with Bucke's cosmic consciousness has become synonymous with mystical experience and the transcendent state.[15] Contemporary postmodern hypothesies relating to the nature of Nirvikalpa Samadhi and its effect on those who experience it are undergoing intense debate within the transpersonal psychology and integral spiritual communities where neologisms like boomeritis, Spiral Dynamics, lattices and memes and quales flourish in the ongoing process of expanding the model of conscious reality founded in the non dual religious and metaphysical traditions and its realization. [6]

The advent of the Internet has resulted in bringing to light thousands of ordinary people whose anecdotal accounts describe a spectrum of spontaneous mystical experiences that occurred with no religious or spiritual agenda- some of which although rare, appear to rise to the level of Nirvikalpa Samadhi [7] These episodes, although usually triggered by emotionally-charged peak experiences, have also occurred in individuals under the most ordinary circumstances including sleeping. Such extraordinary episodes manifesting so unconditionally and inexplicably suggest that the advent of Nirvikalpa Samadhi may have less to do with qualifying through meditation and various proprietary spiritual practice and more to do with receiving unqualified grace as in the concepts of the anugraha of Vedanta,[17] anupaya of Hindu Saivism[18] or the charism of Christian mysticism.[19] These spontaneous secular samadhi raise questions regarding the position of many Hindu sages who held that samadhi is always owing to prolonged efforts on the yogin's part- that it is not a gift or a state of grace and that one can hardly reach it before having sufficiently risen through what they perceived as a hierarchy of Samadhi. [8]

See also

Further reading

  • The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, translated by Swami Nakhilananda
    Published: 1942 Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, New York)
  • A Journey Within The Self: A Diary of Yogic Experiences
    by Deepa Kodikal(Publisher: Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Mumbai)


^ Arya 1986, p. 111.
^ For quotation regarding distinction as a type of samadhi, see: Zimmer 1951, pp. 436-437.
^ For definition of Nirvikalpaka yoga as used in Kashmir Advaita usage, see: Singh 1979, p. xxxiii.
^ For nirvikalpa-jnana as "undifferentiated cognition", see: Conze 1962, p. 253.
^ For quotation including the translation "undiscriminate cognition" see: Conze 1962, p. 253.
^ For Buddhist usage as "makes free from uncertainty (or false discrimination) = distinguishes, considers carefully, and note that the term means "free from vikalpa", and Pali equivalent nibbikappa, see: Edgerton 1953, p. 304, volume 2.
^ Mother 1978.
^ For reference to turiya see: [1]
^ For reference to bodhi and satori see: Suzuki 1948
^ For reference to fana fillah see: Meher Baba 1955
^ For reference to Gate of Distance see: Tansley 1977
^ Maltby 2002 for reference to via unitiva online [2]
^ Bucke 1901 for online edition see: [3]
^ James 1902 for online edition see: [4]
^ Maslow 1964
^ [5]
^ Hacker 1995 for reference to anugraha online: [6]
^ Lawrence 1999 for reference to anupaya online: [7]
^ Richardson 1983 for reference to charism online: [8]
^ [9]


  • Bucke, Richard M.,Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind, 1901, Innes & Sons, Penguin Books 1991 edition: ISBN 0140193375, 1905 edition online (37 MB PDF file)
  • Tansley, David V.,Subtle Body- Essence and Shadow, 1977, Thames and Hudson, London, ISBN 0500810141

Extended references
Arya, Usharbudh (1986), Yoga-Sutras of Pata?jali (Volume 1 ed.), Honesdale, Pennsylvania: The Himilayan International Institute, ISBN 0-89389-092-8
Baba, Meher (1955), God Speaks (2nd p.316 ed.), New York City: Dodd Meade, ISBN 978-0-915828-02-9
Bucke, Richard M (1901), Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (Penguin Books 1991 ed.), Philadelphia: Innes & Sons, ISBN 0140193375
Comans, Michael. "The Question of the Importance of Samadhi in Modern and Classical Advaita Vedanta- Notes: 19",, 1993
Conze, Edward (1962), Buddhist Thought In India (First Ann Arbor Edition, The University of Michigan Press 1967 ed.), George Allen & Unwin Ltd., ISBN 0-472-06129-1
Edgerton, Franklin (1953), Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary (Reprint, Two-volume ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0997-1
Friesen, John Glenn. "Abhishiktananda's Non-Monistic Advaitic Experience", Part 1, p. 212, 2002
Hacker, Paul (1995), Philology and Confrontation (page 92 ed.), SUNY Press, ISBN 0791425819
James, William (1902), The Varieties of Religious Experience (2004 ed.), Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 1419186612
Lawrence, David Peter (1999), Rediscovering God With Transcendental Argument (page 58 ed.), SUNY Press, ISBN 0791440575
Maltby, Paul (2002), The Visionary Moment (page 19 ed.), SUNY Press, ISBN 0791454134
Maslow, Abraham Harold (1964), Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences (1994 ed.), London: Penguin, ISBN 0140194878
Mother, The (1978), Collected Works of the Mother (Pondicherry Centenary Edition ed.), Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Volume 8, Questions and Answers, pp=275-6
Richardson, Alan (1983), The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (p549 ed.), John Knox Press, ISBN 0664227481
Singh, Jaideva (1979), Siva Sutras (Reprint ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0407-4
Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro (1991), An Introduction to Zen Buddhism (first ed.), New York City: Grove Press, ISBN 0802130550
Tansley, David V (1977), Subtle Body- Essence and Shadow (first ed.), London: Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0500810141
Wilber, Ken. "The Relation of States of Consciousness and Stages of Consciousness", Shambala Publications, 2005
Zimmer, Heinrich (1951), Philosophies of India (Ninth Bollingen Paperback, 1989 ed.), Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-01758-1

External links

Retrieved from "" 16:53, 6 August 2007 but is an updateded archival version incorporating maya-gaia's ongoing edits since then .
  • Article>
  • Discussion>
  • History
Personal tools
  • Mayagaia
  • My talk