Example of a Transformative Samadhi Experience

From “On Meditation” by Ajahn Chah

Most meditators are not aware of what is happening when they go into deep Samadhi. However, in the example below, Ajahn Chah was conscious of what was happening during Samadhi and was able to describe his experience in deep detail.

When I first read this, I thought that it must be an experience of enlightenment but realised later on that it was not because in his autobiography (Stillness Flowing), he mentioned that he still had mental defilements after this experience. Enlightened beings are free from mental defilements.


I once stayed in a forest monastery that was half a mile from a village. One night the villagers were celebrating with a loud party as I was doing walking meditation. It must have been after 11:00 and I was feeling a bit peculiar. I’d been feeling strange like this since midday. My mind was quiet. There were hardly any thoughts. I felt very relaxed and at ease. I did walking meditation until I was tired and then went to sit in my grass roofed hut.

As I sat down I barely had time to cross my legs before, amazingly, my mind just wanted to delve into a profound state of peace. It happened all by itself. As soon as I sat down, the mind became truly peaceful. It was rock solid. It wasn’t as if I couldn’t hear the noise of the villagers singing and dancing – I still could – but I could also shut the sound out entirely.

Strange. When I didn’t pay attention to the sound, it was perfectly quiet – I didn’t hear a thing. But if I wanted to hear, I could, without it being a disturbance. It was like there were two objects in my mind that were placed side by side but not touching. I could see that the mind and its object of awareness were separate and distinct, just like this spittoon and water kettle here. Then I understood: when the mind unifies in Samādhi, if you direct your attention outward you can hear, but if you let it dwell in its emptiness then it’s perfectly silent.

When sound was perceived, I could see that the knowing and the sound were distinctly different. I contemplated: ‘If this isn’t the way it is, how else could it be?’ That’s the way it was. These two things were totally separate.

I continued investigating like this until my understanding deepened even further: ‘Ah, this is important. When the perceived continuity of phenomena is cut, the result is peace.’ The previous illusion of continuity (santati) transformed into peace of mind (shanti). So I continued to sit, putting effort into the meditation. The mind at that time was focused solely on the meditation, indifferent to everything else. Had I stopped meditating at this point it would have been merely because it was complete. I could have taken it easy, but it wouldn’t have been because of laziness, tiredness, or feeling annoyed. Not at all. These were absent from the heart. There was only perfect inner balance and equipoise – just right.

Eventually I did take a break, but it was only the posture of sitting that changed. My heart remained constant, unwavering and unflagging. I pulled a pillow over, intending to take a rest. As I reclined, the mind remained just as peaceful as it had been before. Then, just before my head hit the pillow, the mind’s awareness began flowing inwards, I didn’t know where it was headed, but it kept flowing deeper and deeper within. It was like a current of electricity flowing down a cable to a switch.

When it hit the switch my body exploded with a deafening bang. The knowing during that time was extremely lucid and subtle. Once past that point the mind was released to penetrate deeply inside. It went inside to the point where there wasn’t anything at all. Absolutely nothing from the outside world could come into that place. Nothing at all could reach it. Having dwelt internally for some time, the mind then retreated to flow back out. However, when I say it retreated, I don’t mean to imply that I made it flow back out. I was simply an observer, only knowing and witnessing. The mind came out more and more until it finally returned to normal.

Once my normal state of consciousness returned, the question arose, ‘What was that?!’ The answer came immediately, ‘These things happen of their own accord. You don’t have to search for an explanation.’ This answer was enough to satisfy my mind.

After a short time, my mind again began flowing inwards. I wasn’t making any conscious effort to direct the mind. It took off by itself. As it moved deeper and deeper inside, it again hit that same switch. This time my body shattered into the most minute particles and fragments. Again the mind was released to penetrate deeply inside itself. Utter silence. It was even more profound than the first time. Absolutely nothing external could reach it. The mind abided here for some time, for as long as it wished, and then retreated to flow outwards. At that time, it was following at its own momentum and happening all by itself. I wasn’t influencing or directing my mind to be in any particular way, to flow inwards or retreat outwards. I was merely the one knowing and watching.

sky space milky way stars

My mind again returned to its normal state of consciousness, and I didn’t wonder or speculate about what was happening. As I meditated, the mind once again inclined inwards. This time the entire cosmos shattered and disintegrated into minute particles. The earth, ground, mountains, fields and forests – the whole world – disintegrated into the space element. People had vanished. Everything had disappeared. On this third time absolutely nothing remained.

The mind, having inclined inwards, settled down there for as long as it wished. I can’t say I understand exactly how it remained there. It’s difficult to describe what happened. There’s nothing I can compare it to. No simile is apt. This time the mind remained inside far longer than it had previously, and only after some time did it come out of that state. When I say it came out, I don’t mean to imply that I made it come out or that I was controlling what was happening. The mind did it all by itself. I was merely an observer. Eventually it again returned to its normal state of consciousness. How could you put a name on what happened during these three times? Who knows? What term are you going to use to label it?

When your practice reaches the stage that I’ve been describing, afterwards the whole world is turned upside down. Your understanding of reality is completely different. Your view is utterly transformed. If someone saw you at that moment, they might think you were insane. If this experience happened to someone who didn’t have a thorough grip on themselves they might actually go crazy, because nothing is the same as it was before. The people of the world appear differently from how they used to. But you’re the only one who sees this.

Absolutely everything changes. Your thoughts are transmuted: other people now think in one way, while you think in another. They speak about things in one way, while you speak in another. They’re descending one path while you’re climbing another. You’re no longer the same as other human beings. This way of experiencing things doesn’t deteriorate. It persists and carries on. Give it a try. If it really is as I describe, you won’t have to go searching very far. Just look into your own heart. This heart is staunchly courageous, unshakably bold. This is the heart’s power, its source of strength and energy. The heart has this potential strength. This is the power and force of Samādhi.

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