Overview Effect and the Experience of Savikalpa Samadhi of the Astronauts


Overview effect of the astronauts is like gnosis of the self of seekers

Have you heard of the overview effect? When the astronauts first time went into the space and even though their intention was to go beyond the earth, to the moon and to the stars - yet from that outerspace when they looked back at the planet earth itself, there happened an extra ordinary thing to the observers. Looking back at the earth, experiencing this unique place created by the Mysterious Creator, there was a tremendous cognitive shift for the observers, to the astronauts which was equivalent of gnosis of self-awareness of spiritual seekers.

When these astronauts came back to the earth, something in them changed forever. Astronomers and scientists told us about the place of earth in the solar system and how it is positioned in the space, how we are hanging out there in a hostile space, how we are rotating and circling around the sun, yet knowing that and experiencing it by first hand witnessing it is an altogether different thing. One is just knowing with theoretical knowledge, the other is witnessing (shahada). And the effect of that grand witnessing on the mind and hearts of the astronaut was called the overview effect by the very astronauts themselves.
History of this term goes back to the era of Apollo 8 when we human beings were not prepared enough to land on the moon, but in 1968 we achieved going out of the earth's gravitation field and circling the moon. During that period while circling the moon, while it was transmitting images to earth, one of the astronaut turned the camera towards the earth and first time humanity collectively could see through other human beings the earth floating amidst space. It was one of the first time humanity saw the planet earth hanging in space like that against the backdrop of infinity so to speak. Many described it a profound experience for it was a new kind of self-awareness.

The term and concept were coined in 1987 by Frank White, who explored them in his book The Overview Effect - Space Exploration and Human Evolution (Houghton-Mifflin, 1987), (AIAA, 1998).

About the Film: Overview Effect

Astronauts who have seen the Earth from space have often described the ‘overview effect’ as an experience that has transformed their perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it, and enabled them to perceive it as our shared home, without boundaries between nations or species.

OVERVIEW is a short film that explores this perspective through interviews with astronauts who have experienced the overview effect. The film also feature insights from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and importance of this understanding for humanity as a whole, and especially its relevance to how we meet the tremendous challenges facing our planet at this time. It is also a film about eco-spirituality, about our awareness of oneness of the planet, of humanity and the greater reality.

“I was flying cross-country, from the East coast to the West coast in the 1970s, and I was looking out the window.  And as I was looking down at the planet, the thought came to me: anyone living in a space settlement, or living on the moon, would always have an overview. They would see things that we know, but we don’t experience. That the Earth is one system, and we’re all part of that system. And that there is a certain unity and coherence to it all. And I immediately called it the ‘Overview Effect’.” ~ Frank White

The film features:
    • EDGAR MITCHELL – Apollo 14 astronaut and founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences
    • RON GARAN – ISS astronaut and founder of humanitarian organisation Fragile Oasis
    • NICOLE STOTT – Shuttle and ISS astronaut and member of Fragile Oasis
    • JEFF HOFFMAN – Shuttle astronaut and senior lecturer at MIT
    • SHANE KIMBROUGH – Shuttle/ISS astronaut and Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army
    • FRANK WHITE – space theorist and author of the book ‘The Overview Effect’
    • DAVID LOY- philosopher and author
    • DAVID BEAVER – philosopher and co-founder of The Overview Institute

Awe is one of those words that you have a better understanding of once  you see it too... ~ Nicole Stott, Shuttle/ISS Astronaut

To have that experience of awe is at least for the moment to let go of yourself. To transcend the sense of separation. So it was not just they were experiencing something other than them, but they were at some very deep level integrating, realizing their inteconnectedness with that beautiful pale blue ball.   ~ David Loy, Philosophy

“It really does look like this really beautiful oasis out in the middle of nothingness.  And if you have a chance for your eyes to adjust, and you can actually see the stars and the milky way, it’s this oasis against the backdrop of infinity – this enormous universe behind it.” ~ Ron Garan

Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell during one of this trips in the space had a profound experience when the Apollo lunar module was coming back to earth and it was rotating. As a result, every two minute he was seeing a picture of the earth, the moon and sun and 360 panaroma of heaven appeared in the spacecraft window. And that gave him a profound experience of oneness.

After he came back and trying to understand what this experience was all about, he couldnt find anything in science literature or even religious literature that he looked at. Then he was contacted by the local library saying, “Well, in the ancient literature we found a description called ‘savikalpa samadhi’. That means that you see things as you see them with your eyes, but you experience them emotionally and viscerally, as with ecstasy, and a sense of total unity and oneness. I said thats exactly what the experience was.”

What is Samadhi and Savikalpa Samadhi

Savikalpa samadhi, the highest of spiritual states of consciousness, second only to nirvikalpa samadhi (infinite bliss). The sanskrit word Savikalpa samādhi is a state of samādhi in which one's consciousness temporarily dissolves into Brahman.

According to Great Master Paramahansa Yogananda: In this state, one lets go of the ego and becomes aware of Spirit beyond creation. The soul is then able to absorb the fire of Spirit-Wisdom that "roasts" or destroys the seeds of body-bound inclinations. The soul as the meditator, its state of meditation, and the Spirit as the object of meditation all become one. The separate wave of the soul meditating in the ocean of Spirit becomes merged with the Spirit. The soul does not lose its identity, but only expands into Spirit. In savikalpa samadhi the mind is conscious only of the Spirit within; it is not conscious of the exterior world. The body is in a trancelike state, but the consciousness is fully perceptive of its blissful experience within.

Describing Savikalpa Samadhi, Sri Chinmoy a Spiritual Teacher from Bengal wrote:

Samadhi is a spiritual state of consciousness. There are various kinds of samadhi. Among the minor samadhis, savikalpa samadhi happens to be the highest. Beyond savikalpa comes nirvikalpa samadhi, but there is a great gulf between these two: they are two radically different samadhis. Again, there is something even beyond nirvikalpa samadhi called sahaja samadhi.

In savikalpa samadhi, for a short period of time you lose all human consciousness. In this state the conception of time and space is altogether different. For an hour or two hours you are completely in another world. You see there that almost everything is done. Here in this world there are many desires still unfulfilled in yourself and in others. Millions of desires are not fulfilled, and millions of things remain to be done. But when you are in savikalpa samadhi, you see that practically everything is done; you have nothing to do. You are only an instrument. If you are used, well and good; otherwise, things are all done. But from savikalpa samadhi everybody has to return to ordinary consciousness.

In savikalpa samadhi there are thoughts and ideas coming from various places, but they do not affect you. While you are meditating, you remain undisturbed, and your inner being functions in a dynamic and confident manner. But when you are a little higher, when you have become one with the soul in nirvikalpa samadhi, there will be no ideas or thoughts at all.

When you enter into nirvikalpa samadhi, the first thing you feel is that your heart is larger than the universe itself. Ordinarily you see the world around you, and the universe seems infinitely larger than you are. But this is because the world and the universe are perceived by the limited mind. When you are in nirvikalpa samadhi, you see the universe as a tiny dot inside your vast heart.

In nirvikalpa samadhi there is infinite bliss. Bliss is a vague word to most people. They hear that there is something called bliss, and some people say that they have experienced it, but most individuals have no firsthand knowledge of it. When you enter into nirvikalpa samadhi, however, you not only feel bliss, but actually grow into that bliss.

The third thing you feel in nirvikalpa samadhi is power. All the power of all the occultists put together is nothing compared with the power you have in nirvikalpa samadhi. But the power that you can take from samadhi to utilise on earth is infinitesimal compared with the entirety.

Nirvikalpa samadhi is the highest samadhi that most realised spiritual Masters attain. It lasts for a few hours or a few days, and then one has to come down.


Experiencing Unity

Sub Ek - All is One

The great wisdom traditions, spiritual and religious tradition speaks of Unity and Savikalpa Samadhi that Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, experienced upon seeing the earth from space, is also sub-set of that unity experience.

What they named as the overview effect it is the same realizations of this unity, this oneness of all life, of earth, of consciousness and awareness.

In the shortfilm one of the speaker explains:
"As you go into your mind in a contemplative way, the sense of the living reality of the planet becomes obvious. You become more in tune with the natural world. This is very akin to the direct perception of the astronauts have. So its no wonder have many people have likened the overview effect to spiritual or meditation expreience, although its not exactly that. Its a cognitive shift that very often can produce a kind of meditative experience."

"I dont know how you can't have greater appreciation after you have seen it that way. .. collectively everybody has that emblazen on their memory the way the planet looks. You cant take that lightly. You realize that you are blessed by the opportunity to see that. "- Nicole Stott, Shuttle and ISS astronaut

One of the earliest spiritual experience of man was when premitive man gazed at the night sky which must have looked liked infinite vastness to his eyes. The infinite horizon is still a place turning towards which we may become contemplative again. This documentary is another fine example and testimony of that.

Click on the Image Below to Watch this Beautiful Documentary: OVERVIEW

The Most Merciful taught how to read.
Created Man and taught him eloquence.
The sun and the moon (governed) by precious calculation.
The stars and trees submit to the glory of the All Glorious.
And the Lord raised the heaven and imposed harmonious balance.

O assembly of mankind and otherkind, if you are able to pass
beyond the threshold of the heavens and the earth, then pass.
You will not pass except by authority.

So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?

~ The Quran, 55

* Overview the Movie
* Photo of Overview Effect
* Overview Institute
* Continuum: the Movie
* Cognitive Shift
* The First Photo From Space
* Guide to Samadhi
How to Attain Savikalpa Samadhi in Meditation



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Technology of the Heart: Overview Effect and the Experience of Savikalpa Samadhi of the Astronauts
Overview Effect and the Experience of Savikalpa Samadhi of the Astronauts
Technology of the Heart
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