Nirvikalpa (Sanskrit : निर्विकल्प) is a Sanskrit adjective with the general sense of "not wavering," "admitting no doubt," "free from change or differences." In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali it refers to meditation without an object.
Nirvikalpa (Sanskrit : निर्विकल्प) is a Sanskrit adjective with the general sense of "not admitting an alternative", "not wavering," "admitting no doubt," "free from change or differences." It is formed by applying the contra-existential prepositional prefix निः ni ("away, without, not") to the term विकल्प vikalpa ("alternative, variant thought or conception").
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, nirvikalpa samadhi is a synonym for Asamprajnata Samadhi, the highest stage of samadhi.[web 1] Samadhi is of two kinds,[web 1] with and without support of an object of meditation:[web 2]
- Samprajnata Samadhi, also called savikalpa samadhi and Sabija Samadhi[web 3] ("samadhi with seed),[note 1] meditation with support of an object.[web 2][note 2]
Samprajata samadhi is associated with deliberation, reflection, bliss, and I-am-ness.[note 3]
- The first two associations, deliberation and reflection, form the basis of the various types of samapatti:
- Savitarka, "deliberative":[note 4] The citta is concentrated upon a gross object of meditation,[web 2] an object with a manifest appearance that is perceptible to our senses, such as a flame of a lamp, the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity. Conceptualization (vikalpa) still takes place, in the form of perception, the word and the knowledge of the object of meditation. When the deliberation is ended this is called nirvitaka samadhi.[note 5]
- Savichara, "reflective": the citta is concentrated upon a subtle object of meditation,[web 2] which is not perceptible to the senses, but arrived at through interference, such as the senses, the process of cognition, the mind, the I-am-ness,[note 6] the chakras, the inner-breath (prana), the nadis, the intellect (buddhi). The stilling of reflection is called nirvichara samapatti.[note 7]
- The last two associations, sananda samadhi and sasmita, are respectively a state of meditation, and an object of savichara samadhi:
- Asamprajnata Samadhi, also called Nirvikalpa Samadhi[web 1] and Nirbija Samadhi[web 1] ("samadhi without seed),:[note 9] meditation without an object,[web 2] which leads to knowledge of purusha or consciousness, the subtlest element.[note 10] Heinrich Zimmer in his book distinguishes Nirvikalpa Samadhi from other states as follows:
Nirvikalpa samādhi, on the other hand, absorption without self-consciousness, is a mergence of the mental activity (cittavṛtti) in the Self, to such a degree, or in such a way, that the distinction (vikalpa) of knower, act of knowing, and object known becomes dissolved — as waves vanish in water, and as foam vanishes into the sea.
Swami Sivananda Nirbija Samadhi, "without seeds," as follows:[web 1]
"Without seeds or Samskaras [...] All the seeds or impressions are burnt by the fire of knowledge [...] all the Samskaras and Vasanas which bring on rebirths are totally freed up. All Vrittis or mental modifications that arise from the mind-lake come under restraint. The five afflictions, viz., Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-dvesha (love and hatred) and Abhinivesha (clinging to life) are destroyed and the bonds of Karma are annihilated [...] It gives Moksha (deliverance from the wheel of births and deaths). With the advent of the knowledge of the Self, ignorance vanishes. With the disappearance of the root-cause, viz., ignorance, egoism, etc., also disappear."[web 1]
Nirvikalpaka yoga is a technical term in the philosophical system of Shaivism, in which there is a complete identification of the "I" and Shiva, in which the very concepts of name and form disappear and Shiva alone is experienced as the real Self. In that system, this experience occurs when there is complete cessation of all thought-constructs.
While Patanjali was influenced by Buddhism, and incorporated Buddhist thought and terminology, the term "nirvikalpa samadhi" is unusual in a Buddhist context, though some authors have equated nirvikalpa samadhi with the formless jhanas and/or nirodha samapatti. Yet, according to Jianxin Li, it is asamprajnata samadhi, c.q. savikalpa samadhi and sabija samadhi, Patanjali's first stage of meditation with a (subtle) object, that may be compared to the arupa jhanas of Buddhism, and to Nirodha-Samapatti. Crangle also notes that sabija-asamprajnata samadhi resembles the four formless jhanas. According to Crangle, the fourth arupa jhana is the stage of transition to Patanjali's "consciousness without seed," c.q. nirvikalpa samadhi. Crangle further notes that the first jhana also resembles sabija-asamprajnata samadhi. According to Gombrich and Wynne the first and second jhana represent concentration, whereas the third and fourth jhana combine concentration with mindfulness.
In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word "jhāna" is never explicitly used to denote the four formless jhānas; they are instead referred to as āyatana. However, they are sometimes mentioned in sequence after the first four jhānas (other texts. e.g. MN 121 treat them as a distinct set of attainments) and thus came to be treated by later exegetes as jhānas. The immaterial attainments have more to do with expanding, while the Jhanas (1–4) focus on concentration.
The relation between dhyāna and insight is a core problem in the study of early Buddhism. According to tradition, the Buddha had mastered several forms of formless meditation states, without attaining liberation, or the cessation of suffering and rebirth. This was attained when he recalled his past lives, gained insight into the cycle of rebirth, and gained direct insight into the four noble truths. Yet, according to Schmithausen, the four noble truths as "liberating insight" may be a later addition to texts such as Majjhima Nikaya 36, and liberating insight and samadhi are alternately accnetuated as the highest means to salvation throughout the Buddhist traditions.[note 11]
The technical Yogacara term nirvikalpa-jñāna is translated by Edward Conze as "undifferentiated cognition". Conze notes that, in Yogacara, only the actual experience of nirvikalpa-jñāna can prove the reports given of it in scriptures. He describes the term as used in the Yogacara context as follows:
The "undiscriminate cognition" knows first the unreality of all objects, then realizes that without them also the knowledge itself falls to the ground, and finally directly intuits the supreme reality. Great efforts are made to maintain the paradoxical nature of this gnosis. Though without concepts, judgements and discrimination, it is nevertheless not just mere thoughtlessness. It is neither a cognition nor a non-cognition; its basis is neither thought nor non-thought.... There is here no duality of subject and object. The cognition is not different from that which is cognized, but completely identical with it.[note 12]
A different sense in Buddhist usage occurs in the Sanskrit expression nirvikalpayati (Pali: nibbikappa) that means "makes free from uncertainty (or false discrimination)" = distinguishes, considers carefully.[note 13]
- The seeds or samskaras are not destroyed.[web 3]
- According to Jianxin Li Samprajnata Samadhi may be compared to the rupa jhanas of Buddhism. This interpretation may conflict with Gombrich and Wynne, according to whom the first and second jhana represent concentration, whereas the third and fourth jhana combine concentration with mindfulness. According to Eddie Crangle, the first jhana resembles Patnajali's Samprajnata Samadhi, which both share the application of vitarka and vicara.
- Yoga Sutra 1.17: "Objective samadhi (samprajnata) is associated with deliberation, reflection, bliss, and I-am-ness (asmita).
- Yoga Sutra 1.42: "Deliberative (savitarka) samapatti is that samadhi in which words, objects, and knowledge are commingled through conceptualization."
- Yoga Sutra 1.43: "When memory is purified, the mind appears to be emptied of its own nature and only the object shines forth. This is superdeliberative (nirvitaka) samapatti."
- Following Yoga Sutra 1.17, meditation on the sense of "I-am-ness" is also grouped, in other descriptions, as "sasmita samapatti"
- Yoga Sutra 1.44: "In this way, reflective (savichara) and super-reflective (nirvichara) samapatti, which are based on subtle objects, are also explained."
- See also Pīti
- Without seeds or Samskaras[web 1] According to Swami Sivananda, "All the seeds or impressions are burnt by the fire of knowledge [...] all the Samskaras and Vasanas which bring on rebirths are totally fried up. All Vrittis or mental modifications that arise form the mind-lake come under restraint. The five afflictions, viz., Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-dvesha (love and hatred) and Abhinivesha (clinging to life) are destroyed and the bonds of Karma are annihilated [...] It gives Moksha (deliverance form the wheel of births and deaths). With the advent of the knowledge of the Self, ignorance vanishes. With the disappearance of the root-cause, viz., ignorance, egoism, etc., also disappear."[web 1]
- According to Jianxin Li, Asamprajnata Samadhi may be compared to the arupa jhanas of Buddhism, and to Nirodha-Samapatti. Crangle also notes that sabija-asamprajnata samadhi resembles the four formless jhanas. According to Crangle, the fourth arupa jhana is the stage of transition to Patanjali's "consciousness without seed".
- Bronkhorst and Vetter note that the earliest teachings may have emphasized a path culminating into samadhi, and that the postulation of insight into the four truths as the liberating factor contains practical inconsistencies. The four truths emphasize that liberation is attained by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path; yet, in Majjhima Nikaya 36 liberation is attained by gaining insight into the four truths, including the need to practice the eightfold path; yet, this eightfold path does not state that insight alone suffices. Vetter: "[T]hey do not teach that one is released by knowing the four noble truths, but by practising the fourth noble truth, the eightfold path, which culminates in right samadhi."
- Routledge 2013 edition: note 854
- 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.
- spokensanskrit.org, nirvikalpa
- Apte, p.555; Monier-Williams, p.542
- Usharbudh Arya translates it as "non-discursive" when applied to the subject of thought.Arya 1986, p. 111.
- Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 377.
- Yogapedia, Nirbija Samadhi
- Jianxin Li & year unknown.
- Wynne 2007, p. 106; 140, note 58.
- Crangle 1984, p. 191.
- Maehle 2007, p. 177.
- Maehle 2007, p. 156.
- Whicher 1998, p. 254.
- Maehle 2007, p. 179.
- Maehle 2007, p. 178.
- Crangle 1984, p. 194.
- Zimmer 1951, pp. 436–437.
- Singh 1979, p. xxxiii.
- Werner 1994, p. 26.
- White 2014, p. 10, 19.
- Robert Thurman, The Central Philosophy of Tibet. Princeton University Press, 1984, page 34.
- Partial transcript from the workshop entitled “Self-Discovery through Buddhist Meditation”, presented by John Myrdhin Reynolds at Phoenix, Arizona, on October 20, 2001, http://www.vajranatha.com/articles/what-is-meditation.html?showall=1
- Donald Jay Rothberg, Sean M. Kelly (1998), Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers
- Candradhara Śarmā (1996), The Advaita Tradition in Indian Philosophy: A Study of Advaita in Buddhism, Vedānta and Kāshmīra Shaivism, Motilal Banarsidass, p.139: "In the Buddhist works, both in Pale and in Sanskrit, the words used for nirvikalpa-samadhi are samnja-vedayita-nirodha and nirodha-samapatti."
- Vetter 1988.
- Bronkhorst 1993.
- Gombrich 1997.
- Sutta 36 of the Majjhima Nikkaya - Mahā Saccaka Sutta, Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN36.html
- Sutta 2 of the Digha Nikkaya - Samaññaphala Sutta, Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.02.0.than.html
- Schmithausen 1981.
- Bronkhorst 1993, pp. 77–78, Section 8.4.3.
- Vetter 1988, p. 5.
- Conze 1962, p. 253.
- Conze 1962, p. 253, footnote ‡.
- Edgerton 1953, p. 304, volume 2.
- Arya, Usharbudh (1986), Yoga-Sūtras of Patañjali (Volume 1 ed.), Honesdale, Pennsylvania: The Himalayan International Institute, ISBN 0-89389-092-8
- Bronkhorst, Johannes (1993), The Two Traditions Of Meditation In Ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
- 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
- Crangle, Eddie (1984), "A Comparison of Hindu and Buddhist Techniques of Attaining Samādhi", in Hutch, R.A.; Fenner, P.G. (eds.), Under The Shade of the Coolibah Tree: Australian Studies in Consciousness (PDF), University Press of America
- Crangle, Edward Fitzpatrick (1994), The Origin and Development of Early Indian Contemplative Practices, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag
- Edgerton, Franklin (1953), Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary (Reprint, Two-volume ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0997-1
- Gombrich, Richard F. (1997), How Buddhism Began, Munshiram Manoharlal
- Jianxin Li (n.d.), A Comparative Study between Yoga and Indian Buddhism, asianscholarship.org, archived from the original on 4 March 2016
- Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D. (2006), Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Infobase Publishing
- Maehle, Gregor (2007), Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy, New World Library
- Singh, Jaideva (1979), Śiva Sūtras (Reprint ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0407-4
- Vetter, Tilmann (1988), The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism, BRILL
- Werner, Karel (1994), The Yogi and the Mystic, Routledge, ISBN 978-0700702725
- Wynne, Alexander (2007), The Origin of Buddhist Meditation (PDF), Routledge
- Zimmer, Heinrich (1951), Philosophies of India (Ninth Bollingen Paperback, 1989 ed.), Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-01758-1
- Comans, Michael. "The Question of the Importance of Samadhi in Modern and Classical Advaita Vedanta- Notes: 19", realization.org, 1993
- The Method of Early Advaita Vedanta p. 141-4 on Nirvikalpa Samadhi