Meditation Sessions
A seeker in Vedanta is expected to carry out daring intellectual flights to the Unknown through a process of deep study, vigorous reflections and tireless meditations. So here, when it is said that, according to Shastraas, he must be a “he-man”, it must necessarily mean that he should have a special quality of the head and heart.
As the tongue of the temple bell strikes the bell-cup, there is a harsh metallic sound. But as we listen to it, it warbles out a lingering melody before it slowly dies out into the very silence in which it was born. Similarly, the words of the scriptures have a harsh sound but a lingering ringing music. The harsh sounds are caught in a web of language and preserved in text-books; but the warbling notes are to be produced in the secret cave of the seeker’s heart through the process called meditation.
When a seed is allowed to grow into a tree, the tree will produce millions of seeds. A thriving tree will yearly bring forth a huge crop of seeds. If the tree is destroyed, there will be no crop of seeds emerging from it. Stop the “effect”, and the “cause” also ends. If the “effect” increases, the “cause” also increases. The “results” come to manifest because of vasanas. The “results” are egocentric “thoughts”, and sensuous “actions”. Thus, “cause” and “effect” are interchangeable. The “cause” can become an “effect” and this “effect” becomes the next “cause”.
This cause-effect chain is never-ending. But with the steady practice of Meditation, one could end this cycle. Similarly, wind and fire are nature’s powers of annihilation. Wind dries up things and destroys them. Fire destroys them by burning them. The conviction that ‘I am the body’, this ignorance, can neither be dried up nor can it be burnt down. Thus the mind alone causes bondage and it is the mind again that liberates the individual. This play is called Maya, which is, in fact, our own avidya (ignorance), our non-comprehension of Reality.
The mind is the cause for all the sense-objects. Since the objects constantly change, the mind too must constantly change to become the objects. The effects are nothing else but the cause in another form. The mind cannot be the Atman because the Atman is neither the cause nor the effect of anything. It is divine changeless substratum for all changes.
A Vedantin who practices meditation intelligently reaches the state of Godhood here and now, and not after death somewhere. Perfection is not a post-mortem state. It is here and now. This is the birthright of every living man. The time limit of its achievement is only directly proportional to the amount of sincere effort and correct application put forth by the seeker. Regularity, sincerity and right understanding are the three key-stones in the Castle of Perfection. It is a paradox, though true, to say that a seeker anxious to reach his goal remembers everything but, generally forgets to use or to exert his common sense! This is what has made religion impotent.
One should not think that old philosophers of India were impotent men who could not plan material world of success. This has been a copy belief of hasty critics of India, especially in our generation, when we are neither fed with the best in our culture nor with the best in the Western civilization! Fed as we are, mentally and intellectually with the rubbish and refuse of the world’s cultural transactions, we have grown up to be a generation lacking in breed as well as in health but suffering physically, mentally and intellectually from cultural diseases. But in Vedanta, we find deeper diagnosis of human unhappiness. It offers democracy of happiness.
Our ulcerated personalities provide us with an age of sick hearts and lacerated intellects. If properly applied, Vedanta serve as a golden key to let the suffering world out into the ampler fields of a joyous and peaceful existence. We must know the values of life to be developed through practice and also we must know how to unwind the knotty Vasanaas in our mind through deliberate self-application. “The things to be avoided” are the three planes of consciousness identifying with which we develop our sense of ego; “the object to be realized”.
The human personality is determined and defined by the quality and texture of one’s mind and intellect. Religion helps to bring about a revolution in the individual’s personality by chastening the mind and educating the intellect. By bringing about this change, man improves the state of his mind and develops subtler discrimination, thereby enabling him to enjoy a happier and more harmonious relationship with the ever-changing phenomena of the external world of beings and happenings.
Since man’s personality derives its essence from the structure of his mind and intellect, all schemes and plans envisaged by religion for personality rehabilitation are meant to promote development and perfection of this subtle equipment in him. Before attempting to rehabilitate ourselves, therefore, it becomes primarily necessary for us to study and understand the nature, location and functions of the inner equipment in the human system. The mind is the seat of impulses and feelings and it is common to all living creatures. Man alone, being the roof and crown of creation, has the capacity to discriminate and analyze his feelings as and when they arise and allow his actions to be guided and directed by his power of discrimination instead of being driven and carried away by momentary impulses and feelings.
The mind is like the receiving clerk in an office. Though the clerk receives the mail, he does not take action on them, but puts them unto the officer-in-charge for his direction and advice for disposal. But if the clerk chooses to take action directly, without consulting the officer, there is bound to be confusion and chaos in the organization. This, in short, is the sad state of affairs about the human system of the modern age. Our minds receive impulses from the external world and we respond directly without the guidance or control of the intellect which is the officer-in-charge within our body politic. Consequently, there is confusion and chaos within, leading naturally to dissatisfaction and discontentment in life.
The mind is defined as a flow of thoughts just as a river is a flow of water. The banks of the river guide and direct its flow and when the banks are not firm, the water runs amok. So, too, when the intellect of a man is not firm and determined the mind functions as it wants and man is tossed hither and thither by the vicissitudes of his environment and circumstances. To keep the intellect firm and determined and to be constantly guided by the dictates of such an intellect is the training imparted by religion.
When our physical body is discarded at the time of death, our mind continues to function in and through our other higher bodies successively during our after-death sojourn in the ‘Many Mansions’ or planes of existence referred to in the Bible and all other religion literature, until our individualized consciousness or soul or Jivatma reincarnates in a new physical body to complete its round of Samsara. But if one probes very deeply into oneself, in the course of meditation or otherwise, during one’s physical lifetime with full and unwavering dedication to ‘Know Thyself’, then self-realization occurs and one is liberated from rebirth and the cycle of Samsara, it is said.
Human being is neither the body nor the senses rather these are instruments of varied expressions and actions associated with temporal world of Atman—the divine self. It is on realizing the Atman—our true self—we become aware that we are essentially a fragmented part of the Universal Soul.
Spiritual wisdom always focuses on the subject part of the human personality. It frees the mind, intelligence and ego of all unwelcome constrictions and strains, to imbue them with far greater expanse, elevation and strength. The secret of success behind all men of achievements lies in the faculty of applying their intellect in all their activities without being misled by any surging emotions or feelings. Religion offers the technique of development of this faculty and leaves the choice to man to make or mar himself and his progress. If you think you can, you can. And if you think you cannot, you are right.
In every age, people are being exploited in the name of ideology or the other. In the present, science and technology are the instruments to deaden the inner being in mankind. Technology is intended to be servant of humanity and should never make humanity its slave. Three thousand million years of life in the planet, three million years of man like creatures, some ten thousand years of civilization and then a mere two hundred years of industrial revolution have brought us to the bank of extinction of our species and species of animals and birds. We are rapidly creating a situation from which we will have increasing difficulties to extricate ourselves. If there are too many clever machines we will have too many stupid people. Wrong people are placed at right jobs from politics to police. There are no devils in hell, they all are her.
The millions of known cases of mental disorder, in spite of the crimes committed by some of them, are not a menace to the race in the 21st century. The danger comes from the crowds of smart, highly efficient people whose instincts are not balanced and whom lack the moral counterpoise to offset the enlarged ego, boundless ambition and immoderate greed of the highly intelligent mind directed on a wrong path. Keeping in view the picture of this mental disproportion, count the number abnormals occupying the highest seats of power among the nations of the world.
The only possible way to save the world from this grave danger is to gain knowledge of the evolutionary mechanism and the conditions that are needed for its healthy operations to create the harmonious personalities that can bring peace. The leading personalities of our day are far in advance in quick-thinking political acumen and temporal knowledge of the greatest thinkers of the past. But many of them are pygmies compared to the spiritual giants of those times.
There was a time when all over this country there were eager souls filled with seething enthusiasm for the acquisition of knowledge of Truth and Reality. There were hungry seekers prepared to go to the very ends of the earth if need to be to find a wise teacher or master who could initiate them into the mysteries of God, the Soul and the World. Learned men thronged at the courts of kings who delighted in arranging for discussions and debates concerning Reality. Kings and emperors humbly sat at the feet of such wise sages whose company was found to be edifying and inspiring.
It was on one of such eventful occasions that Yajnawalkya Rushi, a great sage, decided to renounce all his wealth and pomp of mundane life to retire into solitude. He had won the covetable prize set apart for the best of knower of Brahman in a contest of debate organized by King Janaka of Videha, who was a royal sage greatly renowned for his interest in Vedanta. Yajnavalkya’s laurels won at that contest consisted of a thousand cows decked with gold of five padas on each of the horns. The sage had two wives Maitreyi and Katyayani. He was a great Kulapati teaching of number of students of Veda under his care. But in his estimate, contemplation on Brahman in solitude was worth more than all the wealth and comfort that worldly life could promise, and so he chose to enter the order of Paramahamsa-Parivrajakas. The Maitreyi-Brahmana depicts the episode and the dialogue between this great seer and his wife Maitreyi.
It is very interesting to find how skillfully Yajnavalkya begins with the topic of conjugal affection most familiar to the man of the world and deftly leads his wife to an analysis of the notion of the individual self which all human beings instinctively love most of all. It seems plausible; however, that he may have had the Vedic transmigratory self in his mind, when he asked Maitreyi to know the Atman in particular to attain immortality and be able to know everything else. The individual self could very well be meant here because it is well known in common life and everything else is dear to us for the sake of one’s own self.
The statement that everything becomes known by the knowledge of the Atman, may be explained away as merely figurative, since objective things may well be considered to have been known by the knowledge of their experiences to whom they are subservient. As a matter of fact we do know from Srutis and Smritis that immortality is attainable only through the knowledge of supreme Atman.
The Yoga-Sutras (aphorisms) of Patanjali & Vedanta:
I am convinced that exploration of the soul is the science of the future. The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali are like the telegraphic message. Like one word they convey rich and profound meanings. Even before the grand Karla caves were carved, before the marvelous Kailasa was materialized in rocks at Verul caves, before the Ajantha caves displayed their great paintings, Patanjali wrote this saga—‘The Yoga Sutras’ on the powers of the mind and soul. It shows the wonders and marvels of the cave that is the human body and its in-dweller—the soul. The art, even in rocks, is not ageless. But this tiny work is. It reveals centers of titanic and tremendous potentialities. Truth, told here, is stranger and stronger than fiction. No magic can match it.
Patanjali presents for application the pure Vedanta doctrine. The subsequent distortions, distentions and debasing are not there. The negative coloring given to Vedanta is a later graft. Tradition makes him an incarnation of Ananta, the thousand-hooded live snake, the mythological seat of Vishnu. It may be just a symbolic explanation. Probably, his name was Ananta. What can safely be said without any fear of contradiction is that he was a great seer of rare insight. He is a marvel of a personality, a superior one, a Vibhuti.
What is important is that he has made full use of the perennial philosophy of the Vedanta and preserved it intact. The philosophy he incorporates is an ancient one and of a standing and maturity of at least four thousand years. He towers over other persons like a peak of the Himalayas over other heights and his work is like the rise of the river Ganga. The flow from Gangotri is unfailing, purifying and nourishing. It is an overrunning source. Patanjali has put the noble Vedanta in practice and he reveals its immense potentialities. If belief in progress means, belief in the progressive developments of human potentialities, then applied Vedanta or Yoga, then is the only way to achieve them. The aphorisms are Vedanta in action. It is shown that purity begets power and that character and wisdom are one. This immortal heritage of rich lineage Patanjali presents here as a practice that may lead to perfection. He has framed these aphorisms for the aspirants. These contain in a coherent relevancy his verdicts on applied Vedanta. They are 196 in number. They may appear as mere irregular contents, but, are in reality crystals, complete and comprehensive, of this superb and sublime wisdom.
Japa Yoga:
One may wonder why a student of Yoga and Vedanta, listening and reflecting upon discourses on the Upanishads and the Gita, should care to take up any other method of sadhana other than pure meditation. It is natural for seekers, in their blind enthusiasm to come to question the importance of japa for a Yogic and Vedantic seeker. This doubt comes out of confusion in the understanding of Japa Yoga.
Japa is a training by which the ever-dancing rays of the mind are compelled to behave in some order and rhythm, and thereby bring out of their cooperative effort a single melody of repeated mantra chanting. In this practicing, the mind becomes extremely single-pointed. In fact, japa, properly done, can more effectively bring about a sustained single-pointed ness than all the hasty methods of meditation. A mind seasoned with japa is like tinned food which gets ready for consumption after a few seconds, warming up on the fire. A short period of meditation can take a japa-conditioned mind to unimaginable heights in an impossibly short time.
The Supreme Reality is experienced through meditation alone. But the boat to reach the goal, namely, meditation, is rigged with the practice of devotion through japa. In meditation one is mindless if one has not acquired a decent share of concentration-power and a perfect knowledge of how to fix one’s mind at will at a single point for some length of time. Meditation is keeping the mind hitched on to one line of thought, to be complete exclusion of all other dissimilar thought-currents. To succeed in this, we must learn to stop at will all other ‘dissimilar thought-currents’. This mental capacity is gained through japa when intelligently practiced along with a regulation of the normal life lived.
Don’t waste your time in vain on the shores of life; get into the ocean of this Bliss and be refreshed. Inner renunciation consists in the mind becoming spiritual and Godly. This brings a wholesome transformation from worldliness to Godliness—the outcome being wrought by the assessment as to what constitutes Divinity, how the world is ultimately a Godly display, the seeker, the seeker too being included in it. In this wholesome process, the intelligence plays the key role of transforming and sublimating the mind.
Since Yoga, prior to Patanjali, was originally grounded in Vedanta philosophy, we have interrupted the aphorisms throughout, from a Vedantist viewpoint. In this we differ from Patanjali himself, who was a follower of Sankhya philosophy. But these are merely technical differences and it is best not to insist on them too strongly, lest the reader become confused.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras (aphorisms) are not the original exposition of a philosophy, but a work of compilation and reformulation. References to yoga practices—spiritual disciplines and techniques of meditation which enable a man to achieve unitive knowledge of the Godhood—are to be found, already, in the Katha, Svetasvatara, Taittriya, and Maitrayani Upanishads, very many centuries earlier. Indeed, the yoga doctrine may be said to have been handed down from prehistoric times.
The simplest meaning of the word sutra is a “thread”. A sutra is, so to speak, the bare thread of an exposition, the absolute minimum that is necessary to hold it together, unadorned by a single “bead” of elaboration. Only essential words are used. Mind purification is greatly advocated in these sutras and is a full time mission by itself, in line with Vedanta. When the mind becomes pure, I feel the entire blood chemistry will also change. It may not be detected objectively. One will definitely feel expansion, loftiness and delight. A pure mind will generate placidity. Shankara states that a set of qualities begins to grace anyone whose mind becomes exceedingly pure.
The Self that animates the body, is not generally felt. When the mind becomes sufficiently pure, one will feel the inner spirit (svatmanbhutih). With that one will experience supreme peacefulness (parama prasantih). There will be abundant contentment (triptih) and exhilaration (praharsah). All these result in ceaseless bliss (sadananda-rasa). My attempt is only to dive into ourselves and reach at the pearl of wisdom in our own Self. This choice of the rishis was not merely accidental. They too did exhaustively flirt with the external world, seeking the root cause of it, and came to discover that the secret of the world-of-objects lay in the heart-world of the subject.
When we are deprived of our thoughts, there are no actions performed by us. In deep sleep not even a confirmed criminal can be accused of having done any crime, nor would a seer in his bed, sleeping soundly, perform any social service. Once the thoughts have dried up, actions stop. Desires are the volcano from which the thought-lava erupts and flows out scorching the field into activities. The quality and texture of the desires determine the thoughts in the bosom; and the thoughts, we have found, the transcribed and echoed in our actions.
When we are deprived of our thoughts, there are no actions performed by us. In deep sleep not even a confirmed criminal can be accused of having done any crime, nor would a seer in his bed, sleeping soundly, perform any social service. Once the thoughts have dried up, actions stop. Desires are the volcano from which the thought-lava erupts and flows out scorching the field into activities. The quality and texture of the desires determine the thoughts in the bosom; and the thoughts, we have found, the transcribed and echoed in our actions.
Neither did the great rishis stop their enquiries here. They delved deeper into the personality of man, searching for the source of his desires. Then they discovered that desires spring up like weeds upon the marshy lands of ignorance (avidya). However strong the delusion may be, there is, deep within ourselves, the awareness of the all-full nature of the Self. The attempt to regain this Self-hood is irresistible in all, and this attempt in the deluded is expressed in their trying to acquire, hoard and spend, procure and enjoy, court and gain, strive and win, and so on. The finite can never gain the Infinite through the acquisition of the finite world! This is the secret of the sorrows of life, and this can be cured only when the misunderstanding in us about ourselves is once and for ever rooted out in a blinding flash of the Knowledge of the Absolute. This is called the rediscovery of the Self.
All private goals are against the goal of the Universe itself. The essential man comes to know, to feel, that I am not separate for the Whole and there is no need to seek and search for any destiny on my own. Things are happening, the world is moving; in fact, these days moving at a terrific speed. There is no need for me to make any struggle, any effort; there is no need for me to fight for anything. I can relax and be with “My” self or just be. Our universe is a sea of energy—free, cleans energy. It is all out there waiting for us to set sail upon it.
The essential man is not a doer. The accidental man is a doer. The accidental man is, in anxiety, tension, stress and anguish, continuously sitting on a volcano—it can erupt any moment, because he lives in a world of uncertainty and believes as if it is certain. This creates tension in his whole being as he does not understand the Whole; he knows deep down that nothing is certain. When things are no longer important, only consciousness becomes important. When things are no longer significant, a new search, a new door opens. Then you are not rushing towards the without: you start slipping into the within, the kingdom of godliness is within.
Vedanta and Yoga Combine: Vedanta being not only a theory of perfect Life, but also being a technique of perfect living, the Hindu culture can be imparted efficiently and successfully only to those who are willing and ready to live these values. This is indicated by the demand of the worshipper that students of Brahma-vidya, who reach the halls of study, must have ample self-control in their outward life and calmness in their inward living. And for this Vedanta seeker must practice Yoga (Hatha-Yoga) to eliminate all obstacles that come in-between to seek Vedanta.
In order to become thus pure in living, the individual must gain a clean and divine heart, and the method by which one can purify oneself and keep that bright shine in the inner world is available in Ashtanga Yoga. The only way we can redeem ourselves from our past mistakes is to correct our way of thinking and rewrite the entire pattern of thought in ourselves by practicing meditation everyday. This erasing of the wrong patterns and rewriting the unhealthy lines of thinking are both accomplished by the same divine process which is prescribed in the sacred textbooks of Yoga. Sometimes the methods advised are the constant and repeated chanting and japa of the sacred mantra of Pranava, known as Omkara.
From the cowshed to the skies, from the jungle to the wide expanse of the world, from the clothes that have not been washed to the endless concept of space, and from the unfinished ploughing to the concept of the atmospheric air—embracing at once the heaven and earth ardently into its ample bosom—is indeed a glorious avenue through which the practitioner’s mind is made to expand into a thrilling freedom and exuberance by Yoga. In order to raise the attunement to the necessary pitch the methods of ‘Upasanas’ are advised in all the Yogas. Without the minimum amount of intellectual sharpness and mental tranquility, it is certainly impossible to understand the scriptures as they should be understood if our studies were to fulfill themselves in brining out the beauty that is now lying concealed within us.