India is a land with a long tradition of great masters and great yogis. And there are countless stories depicting their amazing lives and teachings. One such story is about a yogi from Maharashtra (in central India) called Changdev Maharaj. He entered a state of samadhi and stayed in that state for almost three hundred years. When he came out of samadhi, his age was almost four hundred years. Emerging from the cave, he asked the locals what year and month it was.

His devotees and followers updated him with all the latest happenings. They told him about a young boy called Gyaneshwar whose father was a sannyasi. Although married, the father had yearned for a spiritual life and one day he left for Varanasi where he met his guru who gave him sannyasa. But soon after, the guru came to know that the disciple he had ordained into sannyasa, was a married man. Infuriated by his lie, the guru asked him to return to his wife. But people didn’t accept him back either as he had already taken sannyasa, and they believed it wasn’t appropriate for a sannyasi to lead a householder’s life.

So, the villagers ostracised the couple and they started living on the outskirts of the village as an outcast. As time passed, the couple bore four children: three boys; the oldest being Nivruttinath, then Gyaneshwar followed by Sopan and one daughter, Muktabai. The villagers said to Changdev Maharaj, ‘Master, these four children are really amazing. They look like yogis. They recite the Bhagavad Gita, sing kirtans, chant all day long and fascinated by their accomplishments at such a tender age; people have become their followers.’

Changdev Maharaj replied, ‘Hmm, let me see for myself. I will meet these children.’ Now, he was a yogi who had mastered some mystical powers. So, he summoned a lion and sat on it. Holding a cobra in his hand and another wrapped around his neck; he commanded the lion to walk in the direction where the four siblings resided.

People watching this spectacle were aghast at the sight of the yogi sitting majestically on a lion, holding a cobra, going to meet the young boy Gyaneshwar. So, they started following him in a procession, blowing conches, ringing bells and chanting ‘Hail the great yogi’. Meanwhile, Gyaneshwar and his brothers and sister were sitting peacefully on a wall, chewing on a twig of neem. Hearing all the commotion, they wondered what was happening.

Everybody knew that there was a yogi in a cave who was in samadhi for the last three hundred years. So Gyaneshwar said, ‘The yogi must have emerged from samadhi. Let us go and greet the great yogi.’ His sister was about to jump down from the wall but he said, ‘No need to get down dear sister.’ And then Gyaneshwar simply ordered the wall to move! And it is said that the wall started moving. The astonished yogi saw the wall moving with four children sitting atop.

Changdev Maharaj released the cobra from his hand, left the seat of the lion, folded his hands and humbly prostrated to Saint Gyaneshwar and said, ‘Even after hundreds of years of being in samadhi, my ego was still intact and today you have shattered my ego. I prostrate and surrender to you, O Master, please accept me as your disciple.’

Saint Gyaneshwar said, ‘I accept you. And I will give you that pure knowledge which will give you the right understanding about the truth, about God, about your pure Self, the Atman. And this knowledge will liberate you eternally unlike the state of samadhi which comes and goes.’

When we talk about samadhi, know that it happens in the third and fourth sheath of the subtle body viz manomaya and vigyanamaya kosha; meaning the mind and the intellect. When we say the mind, the subconscious is also included and when we say the intellect then the ego, ahamkara, the sense of ‘I am’ is also included. In the state of samadhi; mind and intellect dissolve; but the ahamkara, the ego still exists. That is why when the samadhi ends the person says ‘I was in samadhi’. This ‘I’ which experiences the waking state, dream state and deep sleep; the same ‘I’ also witnesses the state of samadhi.

See, I am in no way undermining the importance of samadhi, I am not saying that one should not work in that direction. Many people misunderstand this. Samadhi is an incomparable and very important experience. For it enables comprehension of the highest knowledge. The quietude is necessary. Equipoise of the mind has to be attained; one pointed concentration has to be achieved. You cannot forego the importance of doing dhyana, meditation.

However, what happens is that in the name of meditation often people close their eyes but their mind is either jumping around everywhere or it goes into slumber. Slumber means a state of semi sleep and it seems great to many people because there are no thoughts. This is not meditation though; it is a state of inertia which is known as ‘tundra’ in Sanskrit. So, the body may well be sitting as beautifully as a yogi; but the mind is asleep. So, either the mind is carried away by a torrent of thoughts or it enters a sleep like state.

Then there is a third state which can become a great obstacle. The mind gets somewhat focussed and in whichever sensory channel that concentration gets attached to; the heightened sensitivities of that particular sense begin to arise. It means that you can have beautiful visions of lights, beautiful experiences of various sounds or smells or some strong sensations occurring in the body.

Paramahansa Yogananda, in his Autobiography of a Yogi, says that, ‘Like billions of suns have arisen in my mind, that much light I am seeing at the moment, the best fireworks possible I am witnessing, I don’t wish to even come out of that experience.’ These experiences happen because of the state of mind and the association with a particular sense gives rise to some mystical experiences. In Vedanta we call them a very big obstruction because one starts enjoying this realm so much that one loses sight of the objective. The goal was to realise one’s real Self. But the ‘rasa’ (nectar) of dhyana can be very intoxicating and very difficult to leave aside.

It is very easy to leave external things, say alcohol or a woman, but the joy that you will experience in the state of dhyana can be so mesmerizing, that you will not wish to leave it. And this is one of the biggest obstacles. So, Vedanta says, ‘Be warned!’ Yes, you do need to experience dhyana and samadhi but you are not meant to get stuck in it. Some people will say, ‘Well, if we have to leave this nectar why work hard on getting it?’ But that is not a wise thought. It just shows that you are a lazy fellow who doesn’t want to take any efforts.

You do need a boat to go across a river but once you go ashore you do have to leave the boat behind. So, if somebody says, ‘Well, if I have to leave the boat, why board it in the first place?’ Is it wise? No. You get on a boat, you use the pedals to go across the river, but once you reach there, you leave the boat. The boat of meditation is just like that. You use it to come to the point where your mind attains total stillness. It is very important to experience this stillness but meditation alone will not do the work, one has to move on. Meditation and samadhi alone will not get you to the goal of self-realisation. To become enlightened, the only way is ‘brahmajnana’ - knowledge of Brahman, the absolute truth, and nothing else.

Taken from videos and writings of revered master Anandmurti Gurumaa