Meditation is an exclusive effort – an exclusive pursuit and application of the mind. Sitting in front of a deity and chanting God’s name need not be meditation. Meditator sits in a comfortable pose of stillness and the effort is made by the mind and mind alone. The effort is to make the mind clear and still.
What happens to the mind when the body is completely still? Mind continues to generate ripples and vibrations – thoughts and emotions. A particular thought may produce fear, another, intolerance. All these are emotional evolutes of the thought process. A thought generally implies a word, letter or an idea.
Mind can also do figurative imagination. When we meditate upon the figure of Lord Vishnu, the mind becomes that figure. The figure can be substituted by a letter or a word as the object of meditation; figure or word, the common factor is the application of the mind in an exclusive manner.
Observation and regulation
The first factor the meditator discovers is that his mind is not under his control. He is unable to employ his mind with the mastery and control with which he would hold a pen in his hand and write on a paper. Just as one writes the words of his choice, the mind must be employed to produce thoughts of one’s choice. This efficacy is called meditation.
The mind, unlike the objects of the world, the physical body or the senses, is non-physical and intangible and is therefore an elusive entity. So initially the seeker has to recognize the mind to be a powerful working force within the body. This awareness helps focus our attention on the mind and mental processes. Intense introspection provides an insight into the manner in which thoughts are generated, and gradually into the whole complexity of the mind’s functioning.
The next step is to observe the reactions of the mind. One has to get to the subtle levels to know how various reactions arise in the mind when it comes in contact with an object. The reactions may sometimes be undesirable, calling for refinement. To bring about improvement in the quality of the mind, mind needs exercise. Continual exercise and practice thus will improve the quality of as well as the control over the mind. In other words, one gradually gets mastery over the thinking process. One gets into the mind process as it were and directs it.
Mantra – an efficient aid
For this purpose a mantra comes to the saadhaka’s aid. Mantra is defined as: mananaat traayate iti mantrah– Mantra is that which by virtue of its repeated mention, rumination and contemplation, protects. The Guru initiates one to this mantra for attaining salvation and gaining mental purity.
Mantra is a thought – a chosen thought. Normally, mind produces a succession of thoughts one after the other. The Mediator has to interfere with this uncontrolled generation of thoughts. Suppose there is a line of people and you want to get into the queue. Get into the queue somehow and move along with the others. In the same manner, one has to get into the train of thoughts. Mantra is an effective aid in this exercise. Mantra is a suggestion, an idea or a chosen optional thought. As this optional thought gets into the thought process, retain it there for as long as possible. The retention establishes control over the mind, while non-optional thoughts get suspended.
Preservation of the mantra is the next important step. Hold the mantra in your mind as tenderly as a mother would her baby in her arms, and allow it to permeate your entire being. There should be no tension, no disharmony. Just as no two things can occupy the same spot at the same time, when the mantra fills the mind other thoughts get naturally eliminated.
Whenever you propose to meditate, sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take up the repeated chanting of the mantra. In the beginning to gain control over the mind, chant the mantra in the same speed with which thoughts emerge in your mind. The mantra is handled in the mental sky like the flying of a kite. Repeated chanting ensures that the optional thought exclusively permeates your mind. Gradually reduce the speed of chanting, make it slow, slower, feeble … feebler. Consider the case of running man who wishes to stop running. His speed reduces gradually and at a point you find him walking; ultimately his legs cease walking altogether. In the same way, mind also slows down and reaches a state of complete calmness.
The great discovery within
When the thinking ceases and all thoughts stand dissolved, what is left is the thinking substance or the thinker. When all objects are eliminated, the Subject alone is present. Most people are unable to perceive the distinction between thought and the thinking substance. That core in your being from which all thoughts and perceptions arise, is the Subject. It is the original singular substance from which multiple object processes evolve. Meditation familiarizes you with this Subject – the Self within.
It may be argued that the self-absorption and resultant experiences are induced by self-hypnosis. In hypnotism one comes under the control of someone else. It is laya (stupor-like state) produced by the spell of a suggestion. An act of induction.
In Goudapaada’s words: “laye sambodhayet cittam vikshiptam samayet punah”. In meditation when physical activity and thoughts are stilled, we may tend to enter the state of sleep. We must, with all alertness, awareness, attention and control, dissuade sleep. Through a subtle process of absorption and conscious effort, we have to take the mind above and away from distractive multiple thoughts and stupor to the state of serene supreme awakening. In this state, keenness and attention are never lost. This state of awareness, attained by efficient application of the mind on mind itself, is therefore not a hypnotic state.
In this spiritual introspection through meditation, one comes close to something which constitutes the core of our being. This core undergoes a constant interactional process. Just as the hand is used for writing various words and letters, the being by its process of thinking produces a number of thoughts and emotions and also reasons with intelligence. As a result, our whole consciousness gets confused partly by emotions, partly by thinking, partly by reasoning, partly by understanding, partly by comparison and partly by distortion.
This whole gamut of interactions and their outcome are woven as a complex into the consciousness through the mental and intellectual process. In meditation, the effort is to unwind this whole complex and become one with the core of our being. All the tensions produced by reason and understanding, thoughts and emotions, are simply removed. Suppose our body is covered in 10 layers of cloth. Just as we remove the layers one by one to uncover the body, in meditation we remove interactional knots one by one till the Self reveals Itself in its pristine, purity.
In the initial stages of meditation, we come to know of an entity called the mind which is the cause of everything. Once the focus is on the mind we try to gain control over it.
Adopting a mantra – an optional thought – aids us in the effort to gain control over the mind. Using the mantra we enter into the thought process and keep away other thoughts. After preserving the optional thought alone for a length of time – say 15 minutes – we slowly reduce the speed of chanting the mantra. We ultimately bring the mind to a state where even the exclusive optional thought ceases to be. When thus everything else ceases and stands eliminated, the last ‘thing’ that survives is the Indestructible Self:
Yaavat sarvam na santyaktam taavadaatmaa na labhyate |
Sarvavastu-parityaage sesha aatmeti kathyate ||
Until all is not renounced, the Self cannot be accomplished.
When everything is renounced what survives as the residue is the Self.
There is no alternative, no substitute. You may choose to do twelve thousand years of austerity – “I will not see, I will not sleep, I will constantly torture my body…”; but all these are physical controls exerted on the body. What we need is an exercise and analysis applied to the mind, to the subtle working of the mind. Liberation is of the mind; so the practice needed is also of the mind.
So, get rid of all tensions; become relaxed, as light as possible. In the ultimate state of lightness and freedom, the Subjective Essence shines forth:
Yathaa deepo nivaatastho nengate sopamaa smrtaa |
Yogino yatacittasya yunjato yogamaatmanah ||
Like an unwavering flame, the consciousness in you shines forth. The Self reveals Its “brilliance”. Whenever we use words like flame, brilliance, lustre, etc., our association instantly goes to sun, lamp or fire. But these are all visual brilliance; we are not referring to any visual brilliance here. The luster of the Self is that ‘light’ in which we ‘know’ everything. The Self alone reveals everything, and reveals Itself too.
Author: Poojya Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha