Samadhi: The Highest State of Wisdom, Vol. I

Samadhi: The Highest State of Wisdom, Vol. I

By Swami Rama
Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 2002. Paperback, 242 pages.

Just how hard is it to attain samadhi or "enlightenment?" In Samadhi: The Highest State of Wisdom, volume one in a series of three, Swami Rama has encouraging news: You can learn to live peacefully in this world, attaining your goal of life in this lifetime, in a few years' time, in a few months' time, in a few days' time, even in a second's time if you understand the philosophy of vairagya, or nonattachment (192).

So what is standing in the way? Swami Rama's answer is vrittis, or "negative mental modifications." In current American parlance, these "negative mental modifications" could be called "pessimistic tape loops" that constantly dog our consciousness. Some examples of such tape loops are "I'll never make it," and "Who cares?"

Sharing the credit with vrittis as an impediment to enlightenment is moha, or attachment. Attachment exists when we think of ourselves in terms of what we own or want to own, rather than who we are or want to be. One can become attached to physical possessions but also to other people and to the persona that we project to the world.

Samadhi is a collection of 18 lectures given by Swami Rama in 1977 at the headquarters of the Himalayan Institute of Yogic Science and Philosophy in Glenview, Illinois. The book is designed for the "advanced beginner," i.e., for one who aspires to enlightenment but is unfamiliar with some of the Sanskrit terms and techniques in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain thought.

The reader may be pleased to learn that this is a secularly oriented book. Unlike some other yogis, Swami Rama stresses that it is not necessary to quit one's job, desert one's family, and go live in the jungle in order to reach the higher stages of consciousness. In fact, he hints that becoming an indigent beggar can become just as habitual as working a steady job.

One pearl of wisdom I found particularly useful is the author's Zen-like question, "In which language will you think when you have nothing to think?" (25) I am not sure of the answer, but contemplating this question has gotten me through a lot of long red lights without becoming impatient. Also worthy of contemplation is this passage:

So many thoughts come, and you call it the thinking process. There is a space between two thoughts. But if there is no space between two thoughts, then what will happen to time? Time will not exist. If there is only one thought, what will be the condition of space? There will be no space at all (14).

Swami Rama emphasizes that total mental and physical equilibrium—also called serenity--is the sine qua non of enlightenment.

Only at the very end of the book does Swami Rama allude to the magnificent fate that awaits those who make samadhi their life's goal: "Blessed are those who want to attain samadhi ... Such persons live like kings of the world ... All others live like fools" (226).


January/February 2004