Let me tell you why I lost my patience with Vedanta some decades ago.
To Vedanta, the state of realization of essential unity of atman and brahman, the first-person realization of the true nature of Self as one with brahman, is the fundamental metric of emancipation and spiritual success.
This state is acknowledged as identical to the state described in Patanjali’s Yoga as samadhi, union of the observed, observer and the process of observation. Samadhi exists as savikalpa and nirvikalpa, which are usually described as partial and full attainment of Self-realization. When nothing remains outside the “I Am” realization, samadhi is nirvikalpa, without remainder.
The problem is how to differentiate between a hippy who entered samadhi on LSD and was drastically changed by the experience, and a yogi who entered a samadhi as a result of a process of spiritual transformation. If the end result is the same, it’s the same, right? Also, the problem is that the experience of samadhi doesn’t necessarily produce an enlightened personality. I’ve seen genuinely insane people who had an experience of samadhi. The experience itself was authentic. According to Shankaracharya, this is not supposed to happen. Such an experience is knowledge that erases ignorance. All seeds of past karma are roasted in the heat of knowledge. The clouds have been blown away and the sun shines in all its glory. This is the ultimate end-result of all spirituality, all there is, non plus ultra.
Except that it isn’t.
The various schools of yoga came up with an inflation of terms that are supposed to deal with the obvious perceived difference in spiritual attainment between people who have had a first-person experience of brahman. First it was savikalpa and nirvikalpa. Then it was nitya nirvikalpa, the authentic nirvikalpa samadhi, no fucking around there. Then it was kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. Then it was sahaja samadhi. No, really, this is the real thing, the stuff before was not really it, but this is, we’re not shitting you.
One interesting thing I figured out when I entered samadhi in 1994 was that staying in that state would not suffice to make my spiritual position closer to that of Babaji or some similar spiritual superpower. Something else needed to happen, some kind of transformation that doesn’t exist in the metric of Vedanta, and which I therefore couldn’t put into words. Not knowing what that was, I put my faith into higher guidance which led me thus far.
I had a significant breakthrough when I was reading Bhagavata-purana, the part where the Kumaras are visiting Vaikuntha loka in order to see Krishna. The Kumaras are constantly in the state of samadhi, they are basically the end-result of all aspirations of yoga and advaita-Vedanta. However, when they actually see Krishna, they are so overwhelmed by the immense spiritual differential that they start crying and understand that there is more than samadhi, more than atma-brahma-advaita, more than the “I Am That”. Similarly, you have Shiva, the all-powerful Lord of all yoga, embodiment of supreme transcendence, possessor of ultimate power over all Creation, the sole being who could swallow the poison of Maya without being harmed, as he walks with his wife Sati and encounters Vishnu, and tells her, “this is my Guru, he is way greater than me”.
How is that possible? On what metric, by what criteria?
It took me a while to chew on this. The result, however, is unexpected. The result is that Vedanta simply doesn’t provide a valid metric for spiritual progress or evolution, that it lacks proper understanding of human makeup, it lacks proper understanding of the world and it provides almost no guidance. The single most obvious claim to veracity that Vedanta possesses stems from the fact that various beings, yogis et al., enter the state of self-realization of brahman. If not for that, it would have absolutely no merit, because every other claim that it makes can be quite simply falsified by evidence. Karma doesn’t follow predictions of Vedanta. The gunas don’t exist in any way other than as useful high-level behavioral approximations; they are obviously an impromptu invention that was supposed to supplant the Buddhist theory of elements (which BTW is confirmed by observational evidence in the advanced practice of yoga). The structure of soul doesn’t follow Vedanta‘s predictions, because the difference between the less and more evolved beings is not that the less evolved beings have more bad karma; they have barely any karma, which is why they are unevolved. The more karma a soul has, the more evolved it is; exactly opposite to the claims of Vedanta, but exactly following the Buddhist theory of kalapas and elements. Essentially, Vedanta is wrong on so many essential counts, it is useless for all practical purposes.
And here goes my radical statement: what if Vedanta is also wrong about samadhi? What if it’s not what Vedanta claims? What if Vedanta only provided a close-enough explanation of the phenomenon that everyone parrots the same cliches, and the reality is in fact something entirely different?
Let me provide an alternative explanation for samadhi. In samadhi, the limiting effect of the physical brain stops being the primary filter of reality onto consciousness, and that role is taken by the astral substance, which is inherently self-aware, it is of the nature of asmita, self-ness. In the astral mahat-tattva, God-presence and God-awareness are inherent in every kalapa, and you have to really work in order to mess with that, it’s that obvious. Beyond the astral, there exist the increasingly higher substances, whose kalapas carry a more essential quality of God, not just joy, awareness, clarity, consciousness and bliss, but deep, hard reality that’s different from the astral plane in ways similar to those in which a black hole is different from water vapor. If you concentrate an enormous number of astral kalapas, condense their essence, the way you would condense hydrogen in order to produce a star, and then collapse the star into a point in order to produce singularity, well, that point of singularity is of the quality of vajra, and its spiritual gravity is immense, it’s the difference between soul-stuff and God-stuff. There are also kalapas of increasingly higher order, and they make the spiritual essence of the Gods. So yeah, there’s your explanation of the difference between a hippy on LSD and Vivekananda, and difference between Vivekananda and Ramakrishna, difference between a disciple who had an experience of samadhi and a guru who could grant those experiences to others. There’s the difference between the Kumaras and Krishna. It’s not about how deep an experience of samadhi one had, or how long did it last, or how much without remainder it was; those concepts are merely attempts to fix a rotten boat by applying increasingly bigger layers of duct tape to the increasingly larger holes. The problem isn’t fixed by inventing increasingly “better” kinds of samadhi; the problem is fixed by abandoning Vedanta and adopting a better explanation of spiritual realities.