What exactly is Meditation?
On what does one meditate?
What are the details of the practice of Meditation?
What life style supports practice of Meditation?
What is the ultimate achieved by meditation?
The flow of the same kind of thoughts – all related to the Supreme Truth – uninterrupted by contrary or different thoughts is Meditation.
dhyAnena Atmani pashyanti kechit AtmAnam AtmanA
anye sAnkhyena yogena karmayogena cha apare ||13.24||
“Some, by meditation, behold the Self in the Self by the Self; others by the “YOGA-of-Knowledge” (by SANKHYA-YOGA); and others by KARMA-YOGA.”
When the intellect is redeemed from its wasteful habits of wrong imaginations, then the equipments are ready for Higher flights through the “Path-of-Meditation.”
BY MEDITATION SOME BEHOLD THE SELF – Meditation (According to Sri Sankara Bhagawatpada) consists in “WITHDRAWING, BY CONCENTRATION, ALL THE SENSE ORGANS AWAY FROM THEIR RESPECTIVE SENSE OBJECTS INTO THE MIND, AND THEN WITHDRAWING THE MIND INTO THE INNER INTELLIGENCE, AND THEN CONTEMPLATING UPON THE HIGHEST.”It is a continuous and unbroken thoughtflow, like a stream of flowing oil. In order to pursue this path, naturally, the individual must have a dynamic head and heart–both least disturbed by their own subjective defects. ||11.1||
The highest form of meditation consists of steady contemplation on the nature of the SELF, the Atman. Other forms of meditation do exist in the vast variety of spiritual practices where one meditate on a form, a sound etc.
shanaih shanaih uparamet buddhyA dhrtigrheetayA
Atmasamstham manah krtwA na kinchit api chintayet ||6.25||
“Little by little, let him attain quietude by his intellect,held firm; having made the mind established in the Self, let him not think of anything.”
Patiently, with the intellect the mind is to be controlled, and rested in the contemplation of the self. The seeker is advised to bring back the mind that has rushed out into dissimilar channels of thinking. This withdrawal of the mind by sheer will-power may be successful to a degree, but as soon as it is brought back, it will, and it should, rush out again into another fanciful line of thinking. Very rarely do the Sadhakas realise that the mind means the flow-of-thought. A steady, motionless mind is no mind at all! therefore, in the technique of meditation, when the mind is withdrawn from the sense-objects, this very process of withdrawal is to be completed by a conscious effort on the part of the meditator, in applying the same mind, at once, in the contemplation of the Self. This idea has been remarkably well brought out when the Lord complements his instruction by the term BRINGING IT UNDER THE SWAY OF THE SELF ALONE. ||11.2||
The Lord gives several instructions related to choice of place,right sitting posture, the way to tackle the mind etc.
yogee yunjeeta satatam AtmAnam rahasi sthitah
ekAkee yatachittAtmA nirAsheeh aparigrahah ||6.10||
“Let the YOGI try constantly to keep the mind steady, remaining in solitude, alone, with the mind and body controlled, free from hope and greed.”
shuchau deshe pratishthApya sthiram Asanam Atmanah
na atyuchchritam na atineecham chailAjinakushottaram ||6.11||
“Having, in a clean spot, established a firm seat of his own, neither too high nor too low, made of a cloth, a skin and KUSA-grass, one over the other,…”
tatra ekAgram manah krtwA yatachittendriyakriyah
upawishya Asane yunjyAt yogam Atmawishuddhaye ||6.12||
“There, having made the mind one-pointed, with the actions of the mind and the senses controlled, let him, seated on the seat, practise YOGA, for the purification of the self.”
samam kAyashirogreewam dhArayan achalam sthirah
samprekshya nAsikAgram swam dishah cha anawalokayan ||6.13||
“Let him firmly hold his body, head and neck erect and still, gazing at the tip of his nose, without looking around.”
Details of how the meditation is to be conducted are given here. “SITTING IN SOLITUDE,” one should practise meditation. This word has been, unnecessarily, so overstretched in recent times in India that the term “meditation” brings a sense of horror and fear into the minds of the early seekers. It does not mean that meditation can be practised only in the jungles and in the solitude of caves. It only means that the seeker should try to withdraw himself from his mental and physical preoccupations and should retire to a corner in his house, for the purpose of early meditation.
Solitude can be gained only when there is a mental withdrawal from the world outside. One who is full of desires and constantly meditating upon the sense-objects, cannot hope to gain any solitude even in a virgin forest. Again, the word solitude (Rahasi) suggests a meaning of secretiveness, indicating that religion should not be a broadcast of self-advertisement, but must be a set of true values of life, secretly practised within the heart, ordering our way of thinking and encouraging our pursuit of the nobler values in life.
PHYSICALLY ALONE (Ekaki) – For the purpose of meditation, when one strives, his success in inward quietude will be directly proportional to the amount of self-control he is practising in his daily life. Selfcontrol is not possible unless we know how to free ourselves from the “eagerness to possess” and the “anxiety to hoard.” To renounce our preoccupations with our endless plans for possessing more is indicated here by the term “free from hope” (Nirasihi). And the term “free from possessions” (Aparigraha) indicates all our anxieties in saving, hoarding and protecting what we possess.
“IN A CLEAN PLACE” – This is important in as much as the external conditions have a direct bearing upon the human mind. In a clean place there is more chance for the seeker to maintain a cleaner mental condition. Apart from this, commentators explain that the place should be rid of mosquitoes, house-flies, bugs, ants and such other creatures that may disturb the beginner’s mental concentration which he is trying to turn inward.
In his seat, the meditator is asked to sit steady (Sthiram). Without moving the physical body at short intervals and without swinging the body either forward and backward or sideways, the seeker is asked to get firmly established on his seat, because physical movement immensely contributes to the shattering of mental concentration and inner equipoise. This is very well realised by all of us, if we only remember our attitude when we are sincerely and seriously thinking over something. In order to get established in a firm posture it would be advisable to sit in any “comfortable seat” (Asana), with the vertebral column erect, fingers interlocked and hands thrown in front. SUBDUING THE FACULTY OF IMAGINATION AND THE ACTIVITIES OF THE SENSE-ORGANS – This is the instruction given by Krishna. Single- pointedness is the very potent nature of the mind but the mind gets stunned by its own silence, confused and even mad when it gets dynamised by either the inner forces
of its own surging imaginations or the outward pull exerted by the hallucinations of the sense-organs. If these two venues of dissipation are blocked, instantaneously the mind becomes, by its own nature, single-pointed.
The meditator should firmly hold his body in such a fashion that his vertebral column is completely erect. The head and the neck should be erect in this posture, which is geometrically perpendicular to the horizontal seat upon which the Yogi is firmly settling himself; it is pointedly indicated that he should hold his body “”firmly.”
This term should not be misunderstood as holding the body in tension. “Firmly” here means that the body should not be held stiffly but relaxed, it must be held in such a manner that there should not be any tendency to swing forward and backward or sideways from right to left. The seeker, having thus made himself ready for meditation, should “GAZE AT THE TIP OF THE NOSE.” This does not mean that an individual should, with half-opened eyes, deliberately turn his eye-balls towards the “”tip of his own nose.” ||11.3||
Moderation in food,speech and sleep
na atyashnatah tu yogah asti na cha ekAntam anashnatah
na cha atiswapnasheelasya jagratah na ewa cha arjuna ||6.16||
“Verily, YOGA is not possible for him who eats too much, nor for him who does not eat at all; nor for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who is (always) awake, O Arjuna.”
yuktAhArawihArasya yuktacheshtasya karmasu
yuktaswapnAwabodhasya yogah bhawati duhkhahA ||6.17||
“YOGA becomes the destroyer of pain for him who is moderate in eating and recreation, who is moderate in his exertion during his actions, who is moderate in sleep and wakefulness.”
Moderation in indulgence and activities at all levels of one’s personality is an imperative requisite, which alone can assure true success in meditation. Intemperance would bring discordant and riotous agitations in the various matter layers of the personality, shattering the harmonious melody of integration. Therefore, strict moderation in food, sleep and recreation is enjoined: everything should be wellmeasured and completely defined.
Yoga IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR HIM WHO EATS TOO MUCH NOR FOR HIM WHO DOES NOT EAT AT ALL – Here, the term ‘eat’ should be understood in its comprehensive meaning as including all sense enjoyments, mental feelings, and intellectual perceptions. It is not only the process of consuming things through the mouth; it includes the enjoyments gained through all the avenues of sense perceptions and inward experiences.
Neither ‘too much sleep’ – which unnecessarily dulls our faculties and renders the individual more and more gross-nor ‘no sleep at all’ is the right policy for a student in spiritual life. Intelligent moderation is the law.
Not only must we be temperate – discriminately careful in choosing the right field of activity-but we must also see that the EFFORTS that we put into that activity are moderate (cheshtasya). Having selected a divine work, if we get bound and enslaved in its programme of effort, the chances are that the work, instead of redeeming us from our existing vasanas, will create in us more and more new tendencies, and in the exhaustion created by the work, we will slowly sink into agitations and, perhaps, even into animalism. ||11.4||
Steady abidance in Self-knowledge which implies liberation
yunjan ewam sadA AtmAnam yogee wigatakalmashah
sukhena brahmasamsparsham atyantam sukham ashnute ||6.28||
“The YOGI engaging the mind thus (in the practice of YOGA), freed from sins, easily enjoys the Infinite Bliss of ‘BRAHMAN-contact’.”
Engaging himself thus in the battle for evolution and inward mastery, a meditator steadily grows out of the shadowy regions of his own spiritual ignorance and imperfections, to smile forth in luxurious extravagance into the sparkling sunshine of Knowledge. When the Meditator keeps his mind undisturbed in the roaring silence within, in the white-heat of meditation, his mind gets purified, like a piece of iron in the smithy furnace. In short, as we said earlier, and elsewhere, (Read Swamiji’s “Meditation and Life.”) the “halt-moment” is the frontier-line up to which human-effort can raise the mind. There it ends itself just as a balloon, as it goes higher and higher, blasts itself in the rarefied atmosphere of higher altitudes, and drops down, merging the balloonspace with the space outside. Similarly, the mind too, at the pinnacle of meditation, shatters itself, drops the ego down and merges with the Supreme. Just as the space in the balloon automatically merges with the space outside when it has exploded, so too, when the finite mind is ended,”WITH EASE IT ATTAINS THE INFINITE BLISS ARISING OUT OF ITS CONTACT-WITH-BRAHMAN.” ||11.5||