October 27, 2013

3 Insights into the Word ‘Samadhi.’ ~ Gabriel Azoulay

If you find yourself on the yoga mat, you are bound to hear a variety of odd-sounding words….

From the final bow namaste to the commonly heard suffix asana—while the latter refers to the word ‘pose,’ the earlier has a reference to the experience of unity our teachers often hope to leave us with, a tangible sense that ancient yoga philosophy calls samadhi.

As we explore these two Sanskrit words, you will discover the magic that lies when you start weaving breath into every aspect of your life, not just when you are on the yoga at doing asanas.

The word samadhi first appears in an ancient text called Maitrayani Upanishad, more than 2,000 years ago. Unlike the English language where every word has a direct meaning, Sanskrit is a poetic language where sounds express concepts rather than singular connotations. Reflecting on the two primary sounds that comprise our word of choice we can get our first insight into this beautiful concept: samadhi can be divided into the two sounds sama and dhi.

The sound sama has the following meanings: ‘same,’ ‘equal,’ ‘even,’ ‘neutral.’ The sound dhi is a root sound for the English verb ‘to see.’ Samadhi can thus be considered to mean ‘neutral vision.’

In a poem written about a thousand years ago, the poet Jelluladin Rumi provides us with a second insight into the concept of ‘neutral vision’:

“Beyond ideas of Right doing or Wrong doing
There is a field.
One day I will meet you there.”
~ Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

‘Neutral vision’ is thus an ability to rise above judgment, which causes conflict, and experience the connection that exists. ‘Neutral vision’ allows us to build communities, relate to others and connect with our own fragmented sense of self. ‘Neutral vision’ gives us a clearer idea of the meaning behind the word yoga which means ‘union.’

‘Neutral vision’ is an action, which we can participate in. An action that is reflected both on and off the mat. Am I judging my posture as good or bad? Am I judging the moment as positive or negative? Do I hate the traffic jam or do I simply accept the situation and enjoy the magic of being alive, despite the slow-moving commute?

Outside the philosophical perspective, yoga is a tangible reality. Connecting to your own breath changes your posture, enhances your presence, establishes a sense of confidence and transforms the way others relate to you.

Let us look at the rest of Rumi’s poem as we conclude with our third insight and the connection between the words samadhi and namaste.

“Beyond ideas of Right doing or Wrong doing
There is a field.
One day I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
The world will become too small to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other”
Will make sense no more.”
~ Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Rumi’s poem concludes with a sense of unification beyond the daily sense of separation most people feel on a daily basis. One of yoga‘s strengths is in bridging this human dimension, with something as simple as the word utilized at the end of classes: Namaste.

Where samadhi is a call to action, namaste is a reflection of the result achieved through practicing ‘neutral vision.’

Namaste has a simple message, yet requires a full English paragraph to translate:

‘There is a place of light, love, peace and truth (recall Rumi talking about a field beyond judgment). When you are in that place in yourself (Rumi will meet you there), and I am in that place in myself, then there is only one of us (Rumi’s echo again: “even the phrase ‘each other’ will make sense no more”).’

In Patanjali’s Classical Sutras, samadhi sits as the final rung on his eight-step ladder. While this can seem like a difficult process to follow, Patanjali often refers to the idea of samadhi as being constantly available and easily accessible.

With our first insight into ‘neutral vision’, the second insight sharing a practice of letting go of judgments, and a culmination in the third insight of seeing the connection that lies all around us:

…step out into your day and get fully aware of your inhale and exhale.

…feel the ground beneath your feet, the air surrounding your head.

…allow these insights to guide your daily experience.

You will be surprised at the shifts you encounter.





Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

Assistant Ed: Jamie Khoo/Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo via Chris Mare on Pixoto}

Read 5 Comments and Reply

Read 5 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Gabriel Azoulay