Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain, Founder & Spiritual Director
"Let me tell you something. There are three kinds of joy: the joy of worldly enjoyment, the joy of worship and the Joy of Brahman. The joy of worldly enjoyment is the joy of [lust] and gold, which people always love. The joy of worship one feels while chanting God's name and glories. And the Joy of Brahman is the joy of God-vision. After experiencing the joy of God-vision the [sages] of olden times went beyond all rules and conventions." -- Sri Ramakrishna (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Abridged Edition, 1974, p. 311)
Now, to begin with we must not confuse Brahman, to which Sri Ramakrishna refers here, with Brahma. The latter is an aspect of the Hindu trinity, usually represented with four faces and four arms, holding many symbols such as a rosary. However, Brahman is entirely different; it is the indefinable, impersonal Absolute Existence, the all-pervading Transcendental Reality of God-Without-Form, and as such is virtually identical to the concept of Ayn Sof in Judaism and Kabbalah.
It is this disembodied Brahman that the Hindu mystic experiences in Samadhi -- just as the Jewish mystic experiences the disembodied Ayn Sof in what he calls Devekut. It is a moment -- often lasting no longer than a few seconds -- in which time collapses in upon itself and there is the abrupt experience of nothingness, or No-thing-ness, which is precisely what Ayn Sof means in Hebrew. There is neither up nor down; forward nor backward; here nor there; this nor that. Even the heart seems to stop beating but, as I say, only for an instant -- but an instant that seems like eternity. After this, as Ramakrishna says, one no longer is bound by the "rules and conventions" of ordinary religion. The match has lighted the fire and is no longer needed; it can be discarded. As the 18th century Jewish Avatar, Jacob (Yakov Leib) Frank, said:
"Everything that has been till this day has been done so the seed of the Jews be maintained and the name of Israel not be forgotten. But now there is no more need for Commandments and prayers, but only to listen and do and go on until we come to a certain hidden place." (From Sayings of Yakov Frank, trans by Harris Lenowitz, Tree Publications, 1978, p. 20)
The Vedantist calls this "certain hidden place" Samadhi, the Kabbalist calls it Devekut, and the Zen Buddhist calls it Satori -- the effects of which the latter describes as, "Before Satori, chop wood carry water; after Satori, chop wood carry water." Sri Ramakrishna put it this way:
"What is Samadhi? It is the complete merging of the mind in God-Consciousness....In [the Samadhi attained through devotion] there remains the consciousness of 'I'.....God keeps a little of the 'I' in his devotee even after giving him Knowledge of Brahman."(op. cit., p. 312)
This "consciousness of the I," its absolute necessity according to Sri Ramakrishna both during and after enlightenment, is what the 18th century Jewish mystic, the Ba'al Shem Tov, alludes to when he declares, "A perverted sense of humility separates one from service to God." The experience of Samadhi, Devekut, Satori -- or whatever else you choose to call it -- does not destroy the ego so much as ripen it -- an experience out of which one emerges essentially no different than he was before, except between the times of "chopping wood" and "carrying water" -- both of which chores he carries out in exactly the same ways as he did before.......or at least to the eye of the casual beholder.