Re: samadhi and nirvana - the same?

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Posted by Zolla ( on October 18, 2000 at 22:10:30:

In Reply to: samadhi and nirvana - the same? posted by curtis on October 18, 2000 at 15:37:10:

I am sure the answer can be by many and is very clear: samadhi and nirvana are two different things.

Samadhi is very deep state of concentration. Practitioners of other forms of meditations are said to be also to reach Samadhi.

Buddhism teaches that Samadhi is not liberation. But since it is useful, in the older records of teachings of the Buddha, he also taught the methods that enable us to develop concentration to reach Samadhi, such as watching the breathing, the ten Kasina meditations...and so on. These exercises are called Samatha.

Some of these exercises can produce psychic powers. For example, the ten Kasina meditations.

One of the traps one may encounter when developing concentration is, I borrow this from the Theravada Abhidhamma, one can fall unknowingly into bhavanga--bhavanga is the life continnum that is related to unconsciousness in modern psychology, in the Abhidhamma, it is a very very subtle mind in between birth (rebirth) and death, and since it is so subtle, meditators who experience bhavanga may feel that everything stops and thus think that it is nirvana. In fact, there are still arising and ceasing of the five aggregates, so they are still subject to samsara. And such feeling is not even Samadhi. It is a state that can occur before one actually reaches the first level of Samadhi.

Another thing that can happen when one is developing concentration is that the projection of the mind can at times seem very real, so the yogi can get the idea that they have some kinds of supernatural experiences such as their "souls" leave their bodies, or they reach certain heaven or see such and such higher-level beings...and so on.

The Buddha taught the methods to reach Samadhi, but he also taught that it is not Samadhi that produces wisdom, which can be attained by going on to another path which is called insight (Vipassana/Vipashyana).

Samatha-vipassana is really the basics of all kinds of Buddhist meditations--of all three "Yanas", because, even tho' we do use the classical approaches such as paying attention to the breathing to develop concentration, we are actually doing samatha practice when we visualize an image.

We need to always bear into mind what is the purpose of the Noble path because if we forget that the main objective of the Buddhadharma is to end suffering, we probably will get attached to all different kinds of "supernatural" things such as psychic powers, inordinary experiences and so on. There were practitioners who practised with the aim of achieving this kind of things as a result they went off balance. So it is always adviced that be really careful when looking for a school/teacher especially nowaday there are teachers who teach some seemingly very tantric level of Dharma and become very successful and popular. We should always check with different sources and really investigate when deciding which teacher to follow.

As a general thing to consider, always stick with the basic teachings of the Buddha, things like impermenance, suffering, the end of suffering...and so on. I think if we stick with the basics, we can go a long way. At the time of the Buddha, there were students who never achieved any psyhic power or any djhanic state (Samadhi) but they reached the goal of the Noble Path which is the cessation of suffering. So we better keep this in mind.

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