Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Nirvikalpa Samadhi Mean?

Nirvikalpa samadhi is the second stage of samadhi, a meditative state of total absorption and bliss. Samadhi is the eighth and final step on the path of yoga, as defined by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

The term is derived from several Sanskrit roots; sam meaning "together" or "completely" a meaning "toward" and she, meaning "put."

Direct translations vary, and interpretations range from "bliss" to "liberation" and even "enlightenment." Nirvikalpa can be translated from Sanskrit as "not wavering," highlighting the fact that this stage of samadhi is sustained and steady.

The state of nirvikalpa samadhi can only be attained by advanced practitioners, who have progressed through previous stages such as dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation).

Spiritual masters may be able to remain in this state for hours or even days, and it is believed that staying in nirvikalpa samadhi for 18 to 21 days enables higher states of samadhi, in which consciousness may permanently leave the physical body.


Yogapedia Explains Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Nirvikalpa samadhi is recognized as one of the highest states of consciousness, and the second stage of samadhi. In Hinduism and Buddhism, samadhi is regarded as the pinnacle of all spiritual and intellectual activity, in addition to being a precondition for attaining moksha (release from the cycle of death and rebirth). In yoga, Samadhi is considered to be the final limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path, a state in which individual and universal consciousness unite.

Although schools differ in their interpretation of how many levels of samadhi exist, it is agreed that the state prior to nirvikalpa samadhi is savikalpa samadhi, in which meditative absorption occurs and one’s experience of time and space alters. In savikalpa samadhi, thoughts still exist, but they do not affect the practitioner, whereas in nirvikalpa samadhi, mental activity merges with the self. As such, it is a state of total absorption, in which it is not possible to perceive any distinction between the knower, the act of knowing and the object known.

In nirvikalpa samadhi, the ego and samskaras (mental or emotional impressions) dissolve, leaving behind only pure consciousness. It is considered to be a state of being at one with the Divine, in which Atman (the individual self) and Brahman (universal consciousness) merge. It has been described as a state of oneness, limitless bliss or true ecstasy, but those who have documented it find it difficult to describe since it is a state beyond the thinking mind.

Nirvikalpa samadhi occurs spontaneously, and therefore cannot be practiced in itself. In order to reach this state, one must first practice the eight limbs as prescribed by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras:

  1. Yamas – Five social observances: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness) asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

  2. Niyamas – Five moral observances: saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), ishvarapranidhana (devotion or surrender)

  3. Asana – Yoga postures

  4. Pranayama – Breathing techniques as a means of controlling prana (vital life force energy)

  5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses

  6. Dharana – Concentration

  7. Dhyana – Meditation

  8. Samadhi – Enlightenment or bliss

Both savikalpa and nirvikalpa samadhi are temporary states, after which normal human consciousness returns. Only higher levels of samadhi such as sahaja or dharmamegha samadhi are considered to be longer-lasting or permanent, in which one is able to engage with the physical world from a state of higher consciousness. These states are highly advanced and only achieved by very few spiritual masters.

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