Yoga Meditation for Cultivating the Samadhi of Infinite Space

Usually I talk about meditation techniques to cultivate Form Realm samadhi states. However, there are also absorptions for the Formless Realm that involve cultivating any of the four formless realm samadhi absorptions. These are the samadhi of

1.  Infinite Space
2.  Infinite Consciousness
3.  Nothingness
4.  Neither Thought nor No-thought (the Peak of Cyclic Existence)

The easiest of theser to cultivate is the samadhi of infinite space.

How do you cultivate this?

Zen master Tung-shan achieved this formless samadhi, and poetically wrote of this experiential realm as "far away, separate from me." When Zen master Ling-yuan became enlightened in the famous story of his seeing a peach blossom, this "enlightenment" was actually his accomplishment of finally reaching the samadhi of infinite space due to his cultivation work. Hence his story cannot be considered a true instance of the enlightenment of self-realization, but is simply an indication that he had achieved one of the formless samadhi, namely the samadhi of infinite space.

In the Commentary on the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha  taught how we should meditate in order to eventually be able to attain this particular samadhi. Buddha said that anyone who wishes to attain this samadhi should contemplate space within the body, and always contemplate the body as being void like an empty cage or like a receptacle for steam cooking. But most of all, one should let their mind be like space without forming or clinging to a mental image of space; the mind should be like space without having any notions of space.  In this way, using this meditation technique, a person will eventually access the experience of the infinite space visaya.

The Vijnanabhairava Tantra of Kashmir Shaivism also suggests as a meditative practice, "One should cast his gaze on a region in which there are no trees, [while] on [a] mountain, [or] on [a] high defensive wall. His mental state being without any support will then dissolve and the fluctuations of his mind will cease."

The great Tibetan master Tsong Khapa also used to tell his students to imagine their body was like an empty bag because this practice would cultivate their chi and mai, and if you mastered this practice and perfected the resulting emptiness scenario to an extreme, you could also reach the infinite space visaya. But this method is only effective if you cultivate in a special environment, such as a high mountain top, where you can see the vastness of empty space in all directions. 

Interestingly enough, as soon as you reach the state of ching-an, you can start making inroads into this sort of meditation practice.

When you practice the pure form of this type of meditation technique, as the physical body becomes like infinite space then so does all other external form. Thus in imagining empty space, practitioners of the infinite space samadhi can eventually transcend form and eliminate the view of the body.

To successfully practice this transcendental samadhi, many people go into the high mountains or to the open plains to cultivate since a suitable environment is necessary, and in this way they can meditate with an unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. This is yet another means of practice for achieving the emptiness samadhi of infinite space.


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