Samādhi is the state of Yogic Absorption which is the culmination of the practice of Yoga. In the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali it is seen as analogous with the state of Yoga itself. It is a state of meditation where the mind is free of fluctuation to the point of seeming devoid even of its own nature. This can seem like a rather difficult thing to grasp, but Patañjali spends quite a few verses detailing the distinctions between different types of Samādhi. Aside from being able to document them properly if they do arise, they are useful to understand to gain insights into deeper aspects of how our minds function and how this functioning can be “hacked” in order to foster our spiritual development, achieve liberation, or even unlock the abilities of the mind to comprehend and influence the world around us.
Following the lead from Patañjali, we can say that there are 8 types of Samādhi. They are:
1. Savitarka – Conceptual gross level of awareness
2. Nirvitarka – Non-conceptual gross level of awareness
3. Savicāra – Conceptual subtle level of awareness
4. Nirvicāra – Non-conceptual subtle level of awareness
5. Sānanda – Bliss level of awareness
6. Sāsmita – Pure I-sense level of awareness
7. Asaṃprajñāta/Nirbīja – “Seedless” or Completely absent of Fluctuations/Vṛttis
8. Dharmamegha – “Cloud Raining Virtue”
There are two main subtypes of Samādhi. They are Saṃprajñāta and Asaṃprajñāta.
The first 6 types of Samādhi listed above are all types of Saṃprajñāta Samādhi.
Asaṃprajñāta Samādhi is a deeper state than Saṃprajñāta.
The final type of Samādhi, Dharmamegha Samādhi, is beyond even Asaṃprajñāta Samādhi.
Saṃprajñāta Samādhi is Samādhi “with Discernment,” also called Samādhi “with Seed” (Sabīja Samādhi). This is when Samādhi is achieved through one-pointed focus on an object. It is considered to be “with Discernment” because it is accompanied by a kind of accurate knowing that provides us with wisdom. When we focus our mind in a still way onto a single object, then we are able to ascertain deeper truths about that object. The development of this discernment is said to proceed gradually, in stages.
It is said to be “with seed” for two different reasons. The first is that it requires an object, a kind of thought pattern, or vṛtti, to coalesce around. Vyāsa also calls this an ālambana, or “support,” for the mind. So, it could be said that it requires a “seed” to “grow.”
It can also be understand that it is “with seed” in that it still produces new karmic impressions. Likely these will be beneficial impressions, but they still keep us on the ongoing wheel of karma. It is also notable that the creation of certain beneficial karmas is usually seen as a necessary precondition to eventually escaping the wheel. Sometimes this is likened to using soap to clean clothing. The soap is necessary to remove the dirt, but then the clothes still have a residue on them. They need to be rinsed after that to lose the residue of the soap itself.
There are different types of Saṃprajñāta Samādhi depending on how the mind perceives the object that it is focused on. These proceed into subtler and subtler aspects of how our mind can perceive objects. They are:
1. Vitarka – Gross level awareness
2. Vicāra – Subtle level of awareness
3. Ānanda – The bliss level of awareness
4. Asmita – The pure I-sense level of awareness.
This is further subdivided depending on whether the frame of mind is “conceptual” when it is perceiving. Conceptual awareness refers to when there is still the intermixing of the object with its name and meaning as well as the knowledge and imagination of the practitioner. “Non-conceptual” awareness is defined as when the memory is purified until the mind seems empty of its own nature and the object alone is shining forth.
A gross level of awareness refers to the physical aspects of reality. Samādhi with a gross level of awareness that is conceptual is called Savitarka and when it is non-conceptual, as understood above, it is called Nirvitarka.
The subtle level of awareness refers to the underpinnings of the physical reality that we experience. Here we can look to Sāṃkhya Philosophy for guidance. The most apparent aspect of subtle reality is the Tanmātras, the germs of sensory perception that allow us to encounter physical objects. These are Sound, Touch, Form, Taste, and Smell. We might want to notice here that, according to this system, “subtle reality” begins with the phenomenological. It is not some distant otherworldly thing, but, being tied to the senses, is something closer to how we actually encounter objects within our awareness. Subtle reality would extend from there to the operations of the qualities of Nature. It can become progressively more subtle to include the inner Intelligence and the possible subtlety extends all the way to primordial unmanifest Nature itself.
Similar to gross level awareness, subtle level awareness can be conceptual or non-conceptual. This is referred to as Savicāra and Nirvicāra respectively.
When Samādhi is achieved with a subtle level of awareness that is non-conceptual, that is with a memory that is purified until the mind seems empty of its own nature and the object alone is shining forth, then the pure Self is able to be glimpsed. Achieving this Nirvicāra Samādhi is thus considered to be an important stage of development. It brings about Wisdom, knowledge that is “filled with truth.” This special kind of knowledge is totally different from that which can be gained by reasoning or study and the seeds that it plants bring about impressions that wipe out all other impressions.
When even these impressions left by wisdom stop then all impressions come to an end and this is the state of seedless Samādhi.
Ānanda & Asmitā
Ānanda and Asmitā Samādhi are never directly explained in the Sūtras. Even Vyāsa’s commentary is curiously silent on them. Vyāsa merely explains that Ānanda Samādhi is free from Vitarka and Vicāra and that Asmitā Samādhi is free even from Ānanda. He says that even in those states, however, the mind is still focused on an object.
Hariharānanda, in his commentary, states that Ānanda Samādhi begins out of the feeling of tranquility and well-being that arises from non-conceptual forms of Samādhi (Nirvitarka and Nirvicāra). He calls it a kind of Sattvic happiness and says that it has the special quality of reducing attachment to external objects of the senses because we feel our happiness radiating from within.
Asmitā Samādhi is the Samādhi that arises when the mind starts to focus on the experiencer rather than the experience. So, the “I” who is experiencing the bliss of Ānanda Samādhi becomes reflected within the mind. Because this “I” is just the experiencer, it is free even from the experience itself. Hariharānanda is quick to note that though this experience is beyond even Ānanda, or bliss, that does not imply that there is a lack of bliss in this state. This is why there is no “Nirānanda” state of Samādhi.
Why would Samādhi on the I-sense still be considered an object-based Samādhi if the I-sense is not the object but the experiencer of the object? This could be understood in two ways. First of all, the I-sense is not actually the “I” or the Self, it is merely the inner Intelligence, or Buddhi, operating within us. The second reason is that though the experiencer has become the focus of this Samādhi, achieving this state still depends upon an object that is being experienced.
This type of Samādhi is entirely free of an object and so is free even from this discernment or accurate knowing. It is cultivated by a determination to be beyond all thought. In that state, only the latent “impressions” which are the underlying cause of thoughts remain and it is these impressions, when they become activated, that would take the person back out of this kind of Samādhi and back into the ordinary state of a fluctuating mind.
It is also called “seedless” Samādhi. We must take care to be aware that, though this form of Samādhi has no object, it is entirely different from “zoning out” or being asleep because the awareness itself is still fully clear and present even if there are no thoughts.
It is usually assumed that this form of Samādhi generally only happens after the development of high levels of Wisdom arising from the experience of states of Saṃprajñāta Samādhi. Without this, the kind of supreme non-attachment towards all thoughts would not be possible, or at the very least, would only be the result of a kind of ignorance and so not lead towards liberation.
Dharmamegha Samādhi – The Cloud Raining Virtue
There is a further designation of Samādhi that refers to a kind of liberated state that an individual can reach while embodied. This happens when even the complete omniscience that can come from the full development of discernment is no longer compelling or interesting to the individual. This type of Samādhi is called Dharmamegha because it is likened to a cloud that rains virtue, or Dharma. From this Samādhi all afflictions and karmas end. The Knowledge included in the experience of Dharmamegha Samādhi possesses such a magnitude that everything else that can possibly be known seems minor.
With the rising of this Samādhi, the qualities of Nature have served their purpose and their constant transformations end. The state of Liberation is achieved and the Self abides fully in its own nature.
For the Divisions of Saṃprajñāta Samādhi, see Chapter I, Verses 17, 42-51
For Asaṃprajñāta Samādhi, see Chapter I, Verse 18
For Dharmamegha Samādhi, see Chapter IV, Verses 29-34
 See Chapter I, Verse 2
 See Chapter III, Verse 3
 See also Chapter III, Verses 5 & 6
 Śabda, Sparśa, Rūpa, Rasa, Gandha
 The Guṇas of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas
 Called Buddhi and in the Yoga Sūtras often referred to as Liṅga, or “mark,” because it is the first instance of manifestation.
 Called Prakṛti. In the Yoga Sūtras, it is sometimes referred to as Aliṅga, “without mark,” because of it pre-exists manifestation.
 “Ṛtambharā,” See Chapter I, Verses 48-50