Meditation – A Freeway to Finer Minds
by IMU Student, Nanda Kumar, Dubai.
Meditation has become the catchword almost everywhere today. Many meditate for relaxation and health benefits. Some do Meditation to reduce tension handed out by their day-to-day life. Few others do it with higher spiritual goals such as oneness with higher consciousness, transcending sorrow and pain etc. Regardless of the purpose, there is an overwhelming interest in Meditation across the world today.
The revival of the interest in Meditation is probably due to a latent awareness lying deep inside us, that we are not the physical body alone. Unknown to themselves, there is a faint recognition in most people that there is a non-physical component inherent to our human personality and we need to do something to take care of it. Most of us intuitively know that there is ‘something’non-physical, that enables our eyes to see, nose to smell, ears to hear, skin to feel a touch and tongue to taste. We vaguely feel that our human personality is a combination of a physical body as one aspect and a non-physical all-empowering, enabling aspect as the other, which makes the body live and conscious.
Our physical body has only matter and energy. However, neither matter nor energy is ever sentient. Matter and energy do not have the power of cognition or the power of awareness. By itself, matter and energy cannot know; they cannot sense; they cannot understand. But we humans have the power of cognition. We are able to sense, understand, react and respond. These are not the properties that belong to matter or energy. This automatically means that we have some other additional non-material, non-gross, non-physical component within us that imparts these properties to make us a wholesome human being. This non-physical component is generally spoken as MIND. A little further into mind, we can recognize the presences of ‘intelligence’, still further on we can recognize the ‘will’, and still further on we can recognize ‘ego’. But, powering all these impressive assemblages, there is this ‘power of consciousness ‘with which our mind does mentation, our intellect does intellectualizations, our ego does the willing and our body does the movements. What we generally call ‘MIND’is an aspect of this consciousness that is present in us. Mind is the access doorway to this consciousness. However, for the sake of simplicity and discussions, we can refer to this cognitive, sentient power within us as ‘mind-stuff’.
Meditation becomes relevant only because of our ‘MIND’- this cognitive, non-physical component in our personality. If we do not have this mind-stuff and if we have only a physical body, Meditation would not be relevant. Just as our physical body requires physical exercises for its upkeep and well-being, our mind too needs exercises and training for reaching its highest capabilities and maintaining its well-being. It is only through Meditation that we can gain access to our Mind. Because the Mind is not physical and non-tangible, it is very elusive too. We generally take our mind for granted. We take care of our body all too well, day in and day out. We bathe it, we dress it, we feed it, we exercise it, we beautify it; but, we do not do any of these to our mind, which is just there almost like an orphan. Meditation is, in fact, our conscious, earnest, sublime effort to change this apathy towards an important aspect of ourselves. Meditation is our conscious effort to enter into our mind and regulate its functions and ensure its co-operation and gain mastery over it in order to achieve our highest objectives, be it spiritual or material.
Relevance of Accessing the Mind
It is only by gaining access to our Mind, we can study our mental process, understand how our mind works, how to regulate our mind, cultivate our mind, and to co-create our reality through inspired and conscious guidance. Even more importantly, it is through accessing our mind that we are able to ‘merge’ with the underlying pure consciousness as spiritual goal. The first step happens when we recognize that our mind is a powerful working force within our body. In closer analysis, we can find that our Mind is the true instrument with which we experience our life. All our actions originate from our thoughts. All our thoughts originate from our minds. The terminus for the end results or impacts of all experiences is also our minds. This awareness helps focus our attention on the mind and the mental processes.
The next step is to observe the reactions of our mind. When we get to the subtle levels of our mind, we get to know how various reactions arise in the mind when it comes in contact with any object1. Our life, from birth to death, is full of coming in contact with objects. At times, the reactions these contacts bring about may be undesirable requiring much refinement. In order to bring about improvements in the quality of mind, mind requires attention and consciously guided mental exercises. With continued exercises and practice, the quality of the mind improves and we develop mastery over the mind and mastery over our thinking processes. When we gain mastery of our mind, our responses change and hence experiences change. This is the reason why we should enter our mind, understand our mind and train our mind through meditation.
Nature of Our Mind
Although we generally understand our mind as a single unit, it really has two aspects to it. There is an unconscious part to our mind. Psychologists call it sub-conscious mind. Many of our actions are out of habits. For example, when we say ‘thank you ‘to someone it an automatic habitual utterance generated by the subconscious part of our mind. We do not really mean to remain ‘thankful’ by saying that – well, most of the times it is so. This demonstrates the existence of subconscious mind as a powerful performer of our deeds in our life.
Mind is a very powerful instrument with which we interpret the world. Our body has five sensory organs, namely eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. All sensory inputs from the entire world are collected through these five organs and brought into our mind. The subconscious mind alone interprets them and formulates responses and conveys it back to the world in the form of our thoughts, words and actions. It is the consequences of these interpretations of the subconscious mind that we refer as ‘experiences’. The aftermath of all our sub conscious responses are also received solely by our subconscious mind. Then the subconscious mind classifies the aftermath into one of the three classifications – Good, Bad or Indifferent. The subconscious mind clings to those aftermaths labeled as ‘good’ while it resists and rejects those labeled as ‘bad’. The indifferent ones are totally ignored by the subconscious mind. After innumerable repetitions of this clinging and resistances, time after time, this becomes a habit for the subconscious mind.
Subconscious mind, therefore, habitually and compulsively cling or resist to all experiences. Habits are memory patterns held in the subconscious mind, just as computers store digital files. All experiences are instantly labeled and auto-executed either by resisting it or clinging to it. The root cause of all human suffering is due to this compulsive and habitual auto-clinging and auto-rejection. Triggered by the memory patterns held in the subconscious mind, this auto-clinging and auto-rejection happens almost instantaneously that the conscious part of our mind does not even become aware of these events. The consequence of these habitual subconscious responses is the creation of tension in our physical body which blocks the free flow of energy. Constant energy blockages results in suffering in the form of physical pains, traumas, illness and eventually acute diseases.
What is this energy and energy flow? Essentially, humans are energy beings. Meaning, underlying our physical reality or our physical body, there is a non-physical reality or non-physical body which forms the basis and substratum for our being-ness. Life force energy flows through this non-physical reality or non-physical body. This life force energy has been recognized by many cultures across the world, for eons of time. They call it by different names though, such as prana, baraka, mungo chi, ki, mana etc. When our mind engages in clinging or resisting, what really happens is the interruption and blockages in the free flow of this energy through our non-physical body. These blockages in the energy flow results in pains and aches of the body in the beginning. If this is not corrected in good time, eventually, life-threatening medical situations develop.
Through meditation when we regulate and train our mental functions, the automatic problem inducing memory based responses are stopped from the sub conscious mind. Hence the energy blockages are not generated through physical tension in the first place. Already existing historic energy blockages can also be removed through physical exercises/protocols and through breathing exercises specially intended for the generation of excess life-force-energy. Correct thinking, correct speaking and correct attitudes will also help in the healing process.
There are some interesting aspects to this life-force-energy and Mind. Mind and life-force energy exists together. They are inseparable. Life-force energy is the principle of movement. Mind is the principle of intelligence.
For every movement in our physical body, this life force energy is required. Life Force energy is produced by our sub conscious mind, when sugar is burnt in the presence of oxygen that we breath in. For this reason, correct breathing is extremely important for our physical and mental well being. The basis of Pranayama ( Breathing exercises in Ashtanga Yoga ) is this knowledge.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the life-force energy and pure consciousness. It is because of thought, life-force energy is able to move in Consciousness. It is because of life-force energy that thought is able to move in Consciousness.
Mind and Consciousness are not the same. Mind is that of which the Consciousness is aware.
When the energy flow is increased and energy blockages no longer occur, the health and well-being is at the peak. Many advanced systems of meditational practices also incorporate additional techniques for increasing the flow of life force energy. The ancient Indian Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali and equally ancient Polynesian Huna System are examples for this. Age old Chinese Acupuncture and acupressure and the most recent Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are other example where the blockages in energy flow are recognized as the cause for all physical and emotional ailments.
Meditation is nothing but the application of our Conscious mind to oversee the functions of the subconscious mind so that it can break the pattern of its memory driven auto responses which eventually lead to suffering. Thoughts are produced by the memory patterns held in the subconscious mind. Sub conscious mind is a hugely powerful and important mechanism responsible for all bodily functions. Hence subconscious mind has to be handled very carefully with love, tact and dexterity. Developing this love, tact and dexterity is one of the objectives of Meditation.
Chronology of Thoughts in Mind
It is interesting to note that scientific studies have been conducted in the field of human mind. Great discoveries have resulted from these studies. Benjamin Libet’s researches are particularly important in this field. Libet (1916 – 2007) was an American neurophysiologist, who made far reaching contributions to our understanding on how human mind is thinking its thoughts. His findings were widely accepted and equally debated too. In 2004, he published his book “Mind Time”, summarizing his views.
According to Libet’s studies, thoughts are “given” to us. They are, in one sense, bubbling up from the depths of our subconscious mind and our conscious mind is capturing these bubbles of thoughts and ignorantly owning it up by saying “my thoughts” or “I think”.
Through experimental evidence Benjamin Libet established that our brain activities start some 500 milli seconds before we initiate a physical action triggered by a conscious decision. (1 second = 1000 milli seconds ). Meaning, if I stop this typing and get up from the chair to go to the kitchen to take a bar of chocolate, a “readiness potential”is first formed in my brain some 550 milli seconds before the actual time I got up from the chair. Some 200 milli seconds before I get up from my chair, my conscious mind “decides”to eat chocolate. Actually, 300 milli seconds before this desire is captured by my poor conscious mind, my brain has already decided and initiated the process to execute the desire. “We” are not even aware that the decision is already taken. We feel everything is happening instantaneously and remain under the illusion that we have decided and acted on our decision.
From Libets studies it can be noted that our subconscious mind is ruling the roost. Our conscious mind is taken for a ride for most of the time, even though the rightful role of our conscious mind is to guide and direct our subconscious mind all the time. Mastery of the mind is achieved when our conscious mind asserts itself and takes control of our thoughts, emotions, words and deeds in our life. It is this mastery that meditation promises.
The Great Discovery Within
Apart from the mastery of mind through Meditation, with its resultant innumerable life-changing knowledge and health benefits that it brings, there is the prospect of a great discovery – the discovery of our pure ‘subjectivity’ within us – the very fulcrum and substratum for our being. When we study our mind (the term ‘mind’ denotes the combined mind – both subconscious and conscious aspects of it), we can see that our mind produces a number of thoughts. It is not a flow of thoughts. Mind is a production unit for ‘thoughts’. One thought appears and drops. Then another one appears and drops. There is a narrow gap between one thought and the next, however small that gap may be. This gap gives the opportunity for deeper meditation. Eventually, Meditation is nothing but expanding this gap of ‘no thought’ state that is there between one thought and the next thought. In other words, if thoughts can be compared to the raindrops, meditation is walking in between the raindrops without getting wet, by expanding the gap between the raindrops. Through practice it is possible to do that. Another metaphor is to consider thoughts as clouds that keep traveling in the sky which is our mind. When the time gap between one thought and the next thought expands, in that state no ‘objects’ exist in the mind. What exists there is only the pure subjectivity, the pure ‘experiencer’ factor in us. It is the same nothingness from which everything sprang up in the universe at the time of creation. Meditation familiarizes us with this Subject-Self with in us, the God Principle, the Higher Self, the core of our being. Meditation brings us to this possibility ever closer than before.
Pure Subjectivity – The Ultimate Goal
The ultimate and highest objective of all meditations is recognizing and ‘merging’ with this pure subjectivity that is present within all of us. ‘Merging’ is probably a wrong expression to use, since such a merging is only a concept because the one that attempts merging is also the one thing that it tries to merge with. It is like a dog that chases its own tail! This is rather a challenging concept for most students of Meditation to grasp at least in the beginning. Perhaps, the highest understanding is the understanding that we are the very essence that we are seeking and hoping to ‘merge’ with. Because of this difficulty in comprehending the principle, many meditational objectives fall short of reaching this highest goal. Meditation, consequently, gets relegated to lesser goals such as relaxation, mind control, reality-creation etc.
To understand this idea, we can examine the subject-object relationships that exist in all ‘knowing’ processes. Let us take, for example, the act of seeing a pencil on the table. The pencil is the object, because it is the one that is being seen. The act of seeing denotes the relationship that exists between the object and the subject. Who is the subject in this act of seeing the pencil? Who sees the pencil? The eyes capture the image of the pencil as light and shade and then conduct it to the brain through optic nerves. It is not the brain that sees the pencils. If it is the brain that sees, even a dead body should be able to see, which obviously it does not. It is the ‘Consciousness’ present in the physical body that sees the pencil and hence it is the Consciousness that is real subject. Seeing is possible only when this subject-object relationship is possible. In fact, all knowing is possible only when this relationship exists. When we try to merge with the Consciousness, it is the consciousness that is trying to merge with itself. There is no subject – object relationship here and no merging is possible; there is only this understanding of the great oneness that reveals itself. We come to know this fact, first hand through meditation.
The End Game in Meditation
People often wonder how does meditation change us after years of practice. In other words, ‘After Meditation, what? ’ There is no doubt that there are benefits galore such as relaxation, improved physical and mental health, a balanced mind so on and so forth. However, all these are minor gains compared to the final expansion of awareness and understanding that one can achieve through the direct contact with pure consciousness, in the ultimate thoughtless state. Through observation and contemplation, we understand the nature of our thoughts and content of our mind. We recognize the unchanging nature of pure subjectivity of the thinker, which is consciousness. We realize that in a thoughtless state, we are pure subjectivity – the “I” element. We realize that thoughts are mere temporary transformations of the very same consciousness and no thought can affect the consciousness. This illusionary nature of thoughts are like the same sea becoming waves and then back to sea. Just as the waves cannot affect the sea, the consciousness itself is unchanged and untouched in spite of the myriad thoughts it creates out of itself. This understanding takes us to even higher understanding that we are far superior to the thoughts and thoughts have no power to torment us. We also realize that it is the same consciousness that exists in every one and in every mineral, plant or animal. This direct understanding takes us to the realization of oneness of creations. It is not a mere intellectual understanding but it becomes a direct knowledge through meditation. This knowledge changes our attitude and our behavior. When our attitude and behavior changes, our experience changes.
Purpose and Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is intended to purify the mind-stuff by regulating the memory driven compulsive behaviors of subconscious mind. Meditation also purifies the misdirected motivations of conscious mind. Obviously, consciously chosen unethical and harmful decisions are also possible. Meditation cleans the entire thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred and jealousy, which keep us chained-up in emotional bondage. Meditation brings the mind to a state of tranquility and awareness, a state of concentration and insight. The Purpose of Meditation is Personal Transformation. Meditation sharpens our concentration and thinking power. Our intuition sharpens, the precision of our thought increases, and gradually direct knowledge of things as they really are is dawned upon us without illusion and prejudices.
Meditation has immense physical, mental, emotional benefits. At the minimum level of possibility, it helps in relaxation and stress management. At the medium level of possibilities, health and healing occurs. Intuitive and psychic abilities too develop as a result of meditation. At the highest level of possibility it brings in the spiritual awakening. The possibilities are truly limitless. The only limitation is our own intent and desire.
There are immense possibilities in Integrating Meditations not only with other conventional fields such as Holistic Heath, Mind Body Medicine, Addiction Recovery, Weight Loss, Psychic Experiences but also with non-conventional fields of extraterrestrial contacts.
Although the relaxation effects of Meditation are a welcome goal for meditation, it is an instance of gross under application of a powerful tool. It is like ‘bringing a crane to pick a needle from the floor’, to quote Ramchandra, the exponent of Sahaj Marg meditation. Usually the meditation systems that teach methods such as keeping attention on a sound or a music or a feeling or a material object etc are merely aiming at relaxation and nothing beyond. True meditation involves and results in an expansion of awareness, skill, knowledge and experience. Relaxation is an excellent prelude to meditation but it is not meditation itself.
Fundamentals of Meditation
Although there are hundreds of types of meditations today, all of them can be broadly classified into either of these just two categories. (1) Passive Meditation (2) Active Meditation.
A lot of confusion exists today, due to these two widely varying categories. Most popular category is the Passive Meditations as widely practiced in the Indian Yogic Tradition and the Buddhist Tradition, where the mind is wiped clean of all thoughts in order to achieve union with the Universal Cosmic Mind or Pure Consciousness as represented by the pure subjectivity in us. This leads to a blissful Samadhi or Satori state, automatically cascading enlightening knowledge with equanimity and mindfulness.
The Active Meditation is largely found in the Judeao-Christian traditions. Here, instead of sweeping the mind clean of all thoughts, the mind is actively filled with the specific qualities or events (images and feelings) that the meditator wants to manifest in life. Many proponents of positive-thinking, practitioners of hypnosis and teachers of various mind control techniques adopt active forms of meditations.
The Indian Yogic System of meditation categories the meditations into (1) Non-differentiated Meditation (2) Differentiated Meditation, corresponding to passive and active meditations respectively. The idea of this categorization is similar to what is explained above; however, in the Yogic tradition, it is defined in terms of the object of meditation. Here the central idea is the object of meditation. If ideas of any material objects such as a mantra or a flower or a desirable scene are chosen as the object of meditation, they are still material-oriented objects and hence they are no different from what the mind regularly produces in scores on its own accord. In other words, in Differentiated Meditation, the object of mediation is object oriented ideas and hence not considered helpful to discipline the mind. In non-differentiated meditation, the object of meditation is pure, unchanging subjectivity inside and hence considered superior. The choice of the category depends on the purpose of the meditational endeavor as well as on the personality of the meditator.
Although some variations can be found in the details from one system of meditation to another, all meditations follow a generic process. The fundamentals of the meditational process are the same, irrespective of the detailed methodology adopted in various systems of meditations. The generic processes are as follows:
- Sit in a comfortable posture. One can be seated on a chair or on a floor, always with the back straight. The posture should be comfortable so that nothing would distract the meditator from meditation but the seating should not be too comfortable so as to fall into sleep. There is no specific dress code and any comfortable dress is good enough. However, synthetic dress materials are generally discouraged, since it can discharge energy flow during meditation. Some sort of support to the back is desirable especially is the meditation is for a longer duration.
- Any place is good for meditation. However, as far as possible select a fixed place which provides calmness and privacy, where one will not be disturbed during meditation. Constant use of a congenial and comfortable place for meditation will automatically ennoble the place due to the build-up energy in that place; one can slip into meditation very easily in such places.
- Any time of the day is also good for meditation. However, early mornings before the day break and twilight evenings (immediately after sunset) are particularly beneficial, since these are the times when everything in the Nature is perfectly balanced.
- Keeping a fixed place and time for meditations will make meditations easy, since our subconscious mind will accept such repetitive actions and covert the practice into a habit.
- Close the eyes. Draw the attention inwards. We will immediately find the chaotic state of our mind where thoughts surge incessantly and our mind wanders in all directions. It is from this chaotic state of mind that we have to create orderliness and mastery and eventually a no-thought-state where only pure awareness/subjectivity exists. There are different methods in use to bring about this gradual orderliness and mastery. One of them is to replace the several thoughts that pop up in the mind with one single optional thought. This optional thought can be a ‘mantra’or an image like a flower ( typically in popular systems, but not necessarily so) to begin with. When other thoughts rush in, which they would, ignore them and bring back the mind to the chosen optional thought. When mind wanders, bring back the mind to the optional thought. Through practice this is doable. Another method for steadying the mind is by giving attention to the breathing rhythm, which can be another optional thought for the mind. In principle, once we achieve a degree of success in retaining the optional thought, we start practicing the dropping of even this optional thought, so that there are no thoughts and only pure subjectivity/awareness remains. It is like walking with a walking-stick first and then dropping the walking stick and learning to walk without it. The optional thought is akin to a walking-stick. There are other superior methods where no optional thoughts are used at all; instead, the meditator sits with eyes closed in a very supplicant mood with the thought that divine light is present in the heart. The difference is in the extremely subtle nature of optional object for mind to hold ( in comparison to the relatively grosser nature of optional thoughts such as a flower or a mantra ) which is in tune with the shapeless formless and attribute-less nature of infinite Consciousness, the pure subjectivity that we discussed earlier. Why is this method superior? The optional thought here is not another object oriented thought, which the mind does anyway regularly; it is a subject oriented thought, which is opposite to the object oriented thought.
- How long one can meditate? Minimum half hour. Ideally one hour – but not ore than one year at a time. Balance of every endeavor is the essence of life.
Intricacies of Meditation and its Management
Meditation is not an easy endeavor. It is full of challenges, especially when the meditator freshly embarks on it. These challenges are also generic in nature and hence applicable to all kinds of meditational attempts, regardless of the system of meditation employed. The following are some of the very common challenges and some suggestions for its management.
- Choosing the right purpose for Meditation: People take up meditation for a variety of peripheral reasons and seldom are they taken up with a clear well-thought-out and well informed purpose. In fact, any purpose is a good purpose, because at least some meditation is always better than no meditation. However, higher the purpose and goal in view, the greater will be the benefit and the lesser will be the chances to become a meditation-drop-out. Acquiring full knowledge on what we do is the only remedy for this malady. Imparting of right knowledge and right level of inspiration is of paramount importance on the part of those who initiate people into meditation.
- Selecting the Right Object for Meditation: To discipline the subconscious mind, we cannot use force. We need to deploy tact and compassion. Hence the choice of object for meditation really depends on the state and personality of the aspirant. In the personal experience of this writer, going straight into a subtle concept like giving the idea of a gentle light in the heart works equally well as giving the image of a material object like a flower or a mantra to ruminate in the mind. If a grosser object is given, this will need to be replaced sometime in the future to bring about the no-form-no-thought state. Then why bother about the introduction of a material idea in the first place and then struggle to replace it? However, in some extreme gross states, it may be worth the effort.
- How long to Meditate: In the fast pace of our present day world, time is hard to find, which is a sad commentary of our contemporary life! It will take at least 20 – 25 minutes before most people can really settle down in meditation. Hence, 30 minutes of meditation should be the minimum to start with and should be extended to one full hour gradually, in order to make it fully effective. Ideally one hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening is excellent. It is time worth spent, because the consequential changes that it brings about are phenomenal and cannot be taken away even by death.
- Regularity and Discipline in Meditation: It needs commitment and discipline to stick to such a regime of practice. Most people fail because they have not realized the value of it and most people do not use the power of their ‘will’ and do not even know how to apply their willpower. There will be numerous excuses to skip a meditation. Each time one skips it, he/she is weakening his/her willpower. Similarly, each time one resists the temptation to skip and really does the meditation, he/she is strengthening his/her willpower. After a month, it becomes a compulsive habit, because our subconscious mind is such a faithful companion, it will change its programming to match the new regime. One should have the wisdom and resolve to exercise ones will. That is all it takes!!
- Preserving the Singularity of Attention: Our mind is too fond of multiplicity of thoughts, because, it is its habitual way. Thoughts always keep bubbling up in our minds. Anchoring our mind to one singular thought is an uphill task, where most people fall flat. When we sit for meditation, all thoughts rush in. They virtually invade us like an army. We must understand that it is our attention to these thoughts that empowers and strengthens the invading thoughts. We need to ignore them as “uninvited guests”. The invading thoughts will, then, invariably fall and wither. Firmness of our mind to entertain only our chosen optional thought or idea as the object of our attention, will harvest several folds.
- Concentration versus Alert Awareness: Many people mistake Meditation as concentration. Meditation is not concentration. Imagine we are sitting in a beach and looking at the blue sky with moving clouds. If we are seeing only one cloud, it is concentration. If you are seeing the sea, the shore, the numerous clouds, the people and events that happen there at the same time, including all peripheral sights, it is awareness. Just be a non-participant witness to everything that happens – but not locked up to any specific event in particular. Everything is in your awareness but nothing is in specific concentration. This alertful awareness is the nearest description of a meditative mind.
- Lack of Persistence: People give us so easily. Most people are lazy. Most people want instant results in the fast food tradition. There are metaphysical reasons for this attitude, which is outside the scope of this article. Know that persistence is the key, which is for our highest good. Just do not give up. Develop that firm mindedness, resolution and the unwavering will, which is our birth right!
- Attachments to Meditational Experiences: People listen to stories narrated by other meditators and expectantly wait for its re-creation in their own meditational experience. It is a fallacy of the highest order. Universe arranges experiences tailor made for us. No two people are the same. People have different curriculums. It is perfectly okay to listen to their stories and appreciate them. Appreciating others and their stories will really be beneficial. We may be in a different class with a different curriculum. It is, therefore, not really helpful to expect their curriculums, (their experiences) to reoccur to us. Even our own experiences in meditations may not be repeated. Understand that whatever happens or does not happen is for our highest good. Understand that we do not have the necessary wisdom yet to know what is good for us and what is not good for us in the long run. Develop the attitude of doing meditations without expectations, without value judgments and without pre-concepts. What is required is an open mind to absorb whatever is given to us in meditation.
- Drowsiness or Stupor: Many people slip into slumber or stupor during meditations. Meditations are not convenient sleep-sessions. Our meditational position, therefore, should not be too comfortable. We should be agile and alert. Be watchful and alert and in full bloom.
- Ignorance: Many people are not keeping their vigil and alertness during meditation and they cannot even make out what is happening. Be aware. Prepare and develop yourselves by acquiring more and more knowledge about what we are doing. Ignorance and knowledge are like darkness and light. Bring in knowledge, ignorance will flee.
- Distractions: There will be physical, mental and emotional distractions to the meditator. Physical pains, mental torments and other compelling attractions are of common occurrences to most meditators. Treat them as the test for your own resoluteness. Are you so fickle-minded that you can be so easily distracted from the most important endeavor of your life on planet earth? The answer is your own choice and be responsible for your choices.
- Feeling of Blankness: Many meditators often report ‘blankness’ at the height of their meditational experience. Nothing is really blank. If thoughts are absent, they are simply absent and what remains is pure subjectivity or pure consciousness that had previously become a thought or many thoughts. Thoughts are like waves in a sea. It is the sea that becomes waves. When waves subside, the sea is still there. Developing this understanding through observation, absorption and contemplation
Methods and Techniques
Following is a discussion on three typical systems of mediations, its methods, techniques, similarities and differences. Two eastern and one western types of meditations are considered here for discussions in order to give a wider perceptive for Meditation.
Raja Yoga Meditation
It was largely through the ancient Indian system of Raja Yoga that Meditation became popular all over the world. The root word Yoga means, “union “or “to unite”and Raja means ‘king’. Raja Yoga is considered as the Royal Path for Union with God.
Raja Yoga Meditation is the sixth step in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga which is an eightfold process for the ultimate merger with the God principle. Patanjali lived three hundred years before the birth of Jesus the Christ. The word Ashtanga means, “eightfold.” There are eight steps to reach the ultimate state, according to Ashtanga Yoga. To quote Yogi Ramacharaka from his book “The Philosophies and Religions of India”, Sage Patanjali “devoted his attention principally to building up a Raja Yoga system of methods or practices, whereby a man might be able to unfold certain latent forces within himself and to raise himself by such unfoldment to a higher perception of universal laws and principles, to the end that he might escape the thralldom of material life and rise to a higher state and then on to the ultimate Union with God.2 “
In Ashtanga Yoga, mediation is not straight away attempted. There are a series of preparatory steps that need to be undertaken and accomplished before one can take up actual meditation in Ashtanga Yoga. These preparatory steps are there for good reasons. They are intended to develop the required attitude, appropriate ethical behavior, commitment and the required physical and mental health together with enough level of life-force-energy build up, correct type of breathing etc. in the aspirant.
Character formation is considered an important pre-requisite for Raja Yoga meditation. If someone with very low moral and ethical commitments takes up meditation, his undesirable character traits will become even more pronounced. This is because energy flows where attention goes. Meditation is all about giving attention.
Given in the next page is a summary chart showing the eight steps in Ashtanga Yoga as well as the meaning of the terms used and their corresponding range of application in life. Apart from ethical and moral discipline, meditational practices also require good physical and mental health. The physical culture of Yoga Asans (Yogic Postures ) are developed for this purpose. Breathing exercises are devised to develop the mind control and also for the generation of adequate life force – Prana.
It can be seen that mastering steps 1 to 5, by itself, will be a lifelong pursuit for majority of the Ashtanga Yoga students. Hardly will there be any willingness for most people for devoting that kind of time and effort in the context of present day life. If one has to master the lengthy 5 steps before taking up meditation, none would be able to meditate today.
Fortunately, over the last seventy years, new systems of meditation have been evolved with effective and comprehensive adaptations to the lengthy process involved in Ashtanga Yoga. Sahaj Marg System of meditation is one such simplified system, which is equally efficient as Ashtanga Yoga and is worthy of attention by meditation enthusiasts.
Sahaj Marg Meditation
“Sahaj Marg” means Natural Path. It is a simplified Raja Yoga meditation system based on the ancient Indian system of meditation and pranic transmission for rapid spiritual progress.
Sahaj Marg is the ancient Raja Yoga modified and simplified to suit the lifestyles of modern times. In Sahaj Marg an aspirant is inducted into meditation directly, bypassing the preliminary stages mentioned earlier. Help and assistance of an accomplished living teacher (called ‘master ‘or “Guru”) is also available for all practitioners. Master does the pranic transmission during group meditations as well as in individual one to one sittings, after carrying out a general energy cleaning to remove impurities from the practitioners. Pranic transmission is an ancient system of spiritual energy transfer from one person to another for inner purification purposes. Sahaj Marg System revived the pranic transmission and integrated it with meditational practices to cut down the time required for first two steps in Ashtanga Yoga.
Briefly, Sahaj Marg system (http://www.sahajmarg.org) incorporates the following practices.
Sit in meditation for an hour thinking that the Divine Light is present in our heart 4. Do it in a quite simple and natural way without forcing our mind. Never mind if we do not see the Light there. Start with a mere assumption and sit meditating in one posture with our attention turned towards the heart in a natural way without any effort to concentrate. Try to be unmindful of thoughts arising at that time. This is the actual non-differentiated or passive meditation part of the system.
Sit for half an hour with a suggestion to ourselves that all complexities and impurities including grossness, darkness, etc., are going out of the whole system through the back in the form of smoke or vapor, and that in their place the sacred current of the Divine is entering our heart from the Master’s heart. Do not meditate on those things which we want to get rid of. Simply brush them off. The principles of willpower, consciously directed pranic energy and the power of intention are employed here to purify the mind. As a result, good character formation begins to develop. Additionally, there will be group meditations to attend once a week, where the Guru or a trained and experienced preceptor does general cleaning ( inner purification ) through pranic transmission. Sahaj Marg preceptors are available in many countries and in most places, who will assist and support the new entrants and practitioners alike by giving individual cleaning sessions and transmission sessions.
Sahaj Marg System has just one prayer, which is used like a switch to get connected with divinity. The following is the prayer.
Thou art the real goal of human life.
We are yet but slaves of wishes putting bar to our advancement.
Thou art the only God and power to bring us up to that stage.
Just before going to bed at night, offer the above prayer. The proper and the most effective method of prayer is to sit in a supplicant’s mood and repeat the same mentally twice or thrice. Then begin to meditate over the true meaning of the prayer and try to get absorbed in it.
The following are the ten codes of conduct for the practitioners. All practitioners endeavor to practice them in their everyday life. This is again to augment the first two stages of Ashtanga Yoga.
- Rise before dawn. Offer your prayer and puja (meditation) at a fixed hour, preferably before sunrise, sitting in one and the same pose. Have a separate place and seat for worship. Purity of mind and body should be specially adhered to.
- Begin your puja (meditation) with a prayer for spiritual elevation, with a heart full of love and devotion.
- Fix up your goal, which should be complete oneness with God. Rest not till the ideal is achieved.
- Be plain and simple to be identical with Nature.
- Be truthful. Take miseries as divine blessings for your own good and be thankful.
- Know all people as thy brethren and treat them as such.
- Be not revengeful for the wrongs done by others. Take them with gratitude as heavenly gifts.
- Be happy to eat in constant divine thought whatever you get, with due regard to honest and pious earnings.
- Mold your living so as to arouse a feeling of love and piety in others.
- At bedtime, feeling the presence of God, repent for the wrongs committed. Beg forgiveness in a supplicant mood, resolving not to allow repetition of the same.
Buddhist Meditation – Vipassana
Another popular tradition in meditation is that of Buddhism and dates back to a period 2500 years ago. Vipassana is a very deep form of meditation in Buddhist tradition. In Pali language, the word Vipassana means ‘looking into something with clarity and precision’. It can be roughly translated as ‘insight ‘As evidenced from Gautama Buddha’s original discourse Satipatthana Sutta, Vipassana takes its roots from the days of Gautama Buddha.
The meditational objectives in Vipassana is fivefold. They are:
- Purification of mind
- Overcoming sorrow and lamentation
- Overcoming pain and grief
- Treading the right path (“Dhamma”in Pali) leading to the attainment of eternal peace
- Attaining happiness by following the path.
Vipassana Meditation, as taught by the famous Vipassana Exponent S N Goenka ( http://www.dhamma.org), has two aspects. (1) Meditation by turning ones conscious attention to breathing to delve deep into our own minds ( Note: there are many variations to the choice of object for attention. In the classical Buddhist tradition, it is the breath that is chosen as our object for attention.) (2) A code of personal conduct founded on the following principles.
- to abstain from killing any being;
- to abstain from stealing;
- to abstain from all sexual activity;
- to abstain from telling lies;
- to abstain from all intoxicants.
The code of conduct has the same objectives to the first two steps in Ashtanga Yoga, namely Yama and Niyama
Vipassana meditation is essentially self-observation leading to self-transformation. A Vipassana meditator focuses and directly experiences the deep nature of body-mind interconnectedness through direct and disciplined attention to the physical sensations that arise in the body; using this direct experience the Vipassana meditator continuously interconnect and condition the life of his/her mind.
It is this direct observation and direct experience of the bodily sensations that takes the Vipassana meditator to the common root of mind-body interconnectedness and dissolves all mental impurities. The result is a balanced mindfulness, love and compassion to all objects and beings.
Thus the natural laws that govern one’s thoughts, feelings, judgments and sensations become clear to the meditator. Through this direct experience, the meditator learns the mechanism of mental growth and mental regression. This direct understanding liberates him/her from suffering
Increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace is the result.
Meditation in Huna
“Huna”system of spiritual practices is, perhaps, one of the most ancient spiritual systems on our planet. It is believed to have existed in Hawaii and in other Polynesian islands for at least 14,000 years, according to the archaeological evidences available. Another view on the subject indicates that Hunan practices are at least 35,000 years old and believed to have stemmed from the times of Mu and Atlantis Civilizations ; it is, no doubt, one of the most original human practices for healing and spiritual development on planet earth. Remnants of Hunan knowledge unmistakably exist in several cultures across the globe today, indicating the wide reach of this system.
Meditation is widely practiced in Huna System too. Huna System also have two types of Meditations – Active Meditation and Passive Meditation, the choice of which depends on the specific purpose of the meditation and on the personality of the meditator5. Exponents of Huna System ( usually called “Kahuna”) use both Active and Passive categories of meditations. They refer to Passive Meditations as “nalu “and to Active Meditations a “no’ono’o “. The process steps for both are the same. Both categories of meditations have a four step process.
- Step 1 is called “Ike”, where the meditator directs his/her awareness to the object of meditation. This is akin to the “Dharana “stage in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, where this is the fifth step of the total eight steps.
- Step 2 is called “Kala “where the meditator eliminates all that distracts him/her from the object of meditation such as doubts, muscular or emotional tensions etc. This corresponds to the first four preparatory steps in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, which include Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama, all of which was discussed in detail in the earlier section.
- Step 3 is called “makia “where the meditator applies highly focused attention to the object of meditation, This is similar to the sixth step “Dhyanam “in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, which in other words, is the actual meditation.
- Step 4 is called “manawa “, where the meditator continues to hold the focus on the object of meditation, until the purpose of meditation is achieved. This is broadly similar to the “samadhi “state in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.
It is interesting to note that there is a striking similarity in the meditational processes of Huna Meditation and the Meditation in Ashtanga Yoga. Both recognizes the need to eliminate the mental and physical afflictions as a necessary precursor for the successful union with the object of meditation. Yoga does it through yama, niyama, asana and pranayama before attempting to meditate while Huna does it through kala before the commencement of the meditation. It can be seen that both these systems are ancient systems but thrived in two widely separated geographical locations on earth. It is reasonable to assume that both these systems perhaps had a common origin, which indicates the validity of the processes used by them.
Just as they have similarities, there also remain some differences, the main difference being the pre-eminence given to the passive nature of meditation in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga and the pre-eminence given to the active nature of meditation in Huna system. The other notable difference in Huna system is in the end purpose of the meditation. Yoga system aims the union of the individual mind ( jivaatma or Individual Mind ) with the universal infinite mind ( Paramatma or Higher Self or Higher Mind ), which is what the eighth stage of samadhi achieves. There is no other purpose for meditation in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. This ultimate state of “samadhi “in Yogic meditation is the end objective which is metaphorically called as “homecoming”or “Union”.
Huna system of meditation also aims the union and integration of the ‘Self’ with Higher Self, where the term ‘self’ refers to Sub Conscious mind and Conscious Mind collectively. In Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, the concept is that of jivaatma uniting with Paramatma. In Huna, the concept is that of the Subconscious mind or Lower Mind (in Hawaiian language it is called “Ku “or “Unihipili”) and the Conscious Mind (in Hawaiian language it is called “Lono”or “Uhane”) uniting with the Super Conscious Mind (in Hawaiian language it is called “Kane”or “Amakua”). In Huna, the subconscious mind is helped by the conscious mind in the process.
It can be seen that the spiritual integration of individual mind and universal mind is the ultimate objective of Huna System. It has, however, gone greater depths into the nature of individual minds by explaining the role and functions of Sub Conscious mind and Conscious mind. Huna understanding will, therefore, immensely help the meditational efforts. With the greater insights that Huna provides, harnessing and developing the subconscious mind under the direction of the conscious mind becomes far easier for the initiates.
There are numerous types of meditations in Huna. One example each for active and passive meditations is outlined below.
Active Meditation in Huna
In Huna, all meditations start with a physical exercise in order to create excess of life force energy – mana, which helps to develop self confidence, increase relaxation and helps to direct our willpower more effectively to accomplish the task. This is the basic exercise forming the foundation for all Huna meditations.
- Imagine there is a point of light within us, at our navel level, which is our contact point with our Source of unlimited energy, power and love.
- Imagine this light vibrates a high frequency and slowly radiating outward in all directions through our body, until we are surrounded on all sides by a field of vibrating light.
- Imagine that each time we inhale, even more light is radiated and each time we exhale the light around us gets more intense and vibrates even more strongly.
Imagining what we want and believing that will happen either with our own efforts or with the help of some one higher than ourselves. This is an active type of meditation.
- Develop the intent. Take 10 rounds Ha breathing to create excess ‘mana’. Ha breathing is essentially inhaling through the nostrils and exhaling through the mouth with a ‘ha’ sound. The exhalation will be done very slowly, taking double the time taken for inhalation. ‘Ha’ breathing charges the energy field around us, before we commence the meditation. Imagine that a large field of white light surrounds us and we stand there basking in it.
- Mentally keep the intention and ask for establishing contact with HS
- Bring the cupped hands together in front of the naval, as if we are holding a football in our hand. Imagine the light energy building inside and overflowing through our hands in to a ball of energy, ready to be ‘programmed’
- (Think of someone who needs help or healing. Imagine his/her form in the energy ball; imagine that the intended person is happy, well and receiving the energy. Release the energy ball by raising the hand, sending it out in to the atmosphere.)
- Do this couple of times a day minimum and do it more often if you have reasons to believe it is not working.
- The same basic step can be used, if we have a personal problem that we want to resolve. This time, when we build our ball of energy, picture ourselves in it, happy and healthy, with the problem resolved. Use our imagination to make it as real as possible.
Passive Meditation in Huna
To begin with do the preparatory exercise, as described earlier, to create excess life-force energy or mana.
What follows below is an example of passive but creative type of meditation. Here you enter into a state of consciousness where the right things happen automatically without having to imagine the specific results. It requires tremendous amount of trust on our Higher Self, the God within us.
- Imagine we are surrounded by huge field of white light and we are basking in it.
- Pick the general concept of the desired condition. ( not a specific aspects of a condition. For example, instead of particular type of job, the passive meditator pick up object as just “employment “)
- Concentrate on the concept by keeping the mind on it during the whole period of the meditation ( few minutes or the whole day ) – this includes thinking about its various aspects in real life, feeling them and improving them in real life etc.
- If any doubt appears let it appear momentarily but remove them by turning our attention away from it and focusing more and more on the positive aspects of it. If required, crush negative thoughts, refuse to entertain them; believe that more focus on the positive aspects will automatically nullify the negative doubts.
- The final stage is when our thoughts and minds are so filled with the concept that all our actions are aligned to this concepts. Life start changing at this stage.
By using this kind of passive meditation, we are putting complete faith in our Higher Self, which usually turns out much better than what you would have imagined by yourself. Some meditators consider the highest form of this kind of meditation is to focus on God, God’s love, God’s abundance etc.
It can be seen that most meditations in Huna are creative meditations of active type. This is probably because the spiritual integration and inter-communication of three minds ( Sub Conscious, Conscious and Super Conscious ) is done through knowledge that existed in the Huna way of life. Huna practitioners knew how the three minds worked and perhaps special efforts were, therefore, seldom required for them to achieve spiritual integration.
In Ashtanga Yoga of Indian System, it is through experiencing the blissful Samadhi or ‘no-thoughts-state that the awareness and inner peace is gradually obtained. In Buddhist tradition it is by observing the ‘mindfulness’that the same state is gradually reached. Both are the results of meditation. Both systems give paramount importance to forming right personal character and treading a truthful path in life. It is a catch twenty two situation. It needs good character and discipline to come to meditation and meditation results in good character and disciplined life. Either way, personal character formation is the common point of importance.
The same objective is all too evident in Huna System too. Infact, Huna system is all about integrating the subconscious, conscious and super conscious minds in us. Huna wants our subconscious mind to be guided and trained by our conscious mind and our conscious mind to be inspired by our super conscious mind. The essence of character formation is nothing but this integration of three minds.
There are similarities amongst varied systems of meditations, in spite of the differences in the details. All meditations use mind and mind alone. All meditations require self-discipline and ethical codes of conduct to begin with.
Meditation is known to humankind for several thousands of years, as a means to integrate the spiritual and material aspects of human life. Different cultures have developed different meditational systems for different end goals. It is used for balancing our mind as well as for the simplest relaxation purposes. It is also used for co-creating the desired material circumstances in life as well as for the spiritual merging with the God principle. Meditation is the golden key for unlocking the human potential and put him on the evolutionary path.
- Essential Concepts in Bhagavadgita – Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha ISBN 978-81-89588-04-5
- The Philosophies and Religions of India – Yogi Ramachandraka ISBN 81-8252-157-2
- Mindfulness in Plain English – Bhante Gunaratana ISBN 978-0-86171-906-8
- Complete Works of Ram Chandra – Ramchandra ISBN 81-85177-28-7
- Mastering Your Hidden Self – Serge Kahili King ISBN 978-0-8356-0591-5