Meditation is a common path to attain liberation. People following various paths to liberation like karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga has to finally merge on this path called meditation. There are different methods to practice meditation. One can choose the method according to one’s mentality. Meditation is nothing but disciplining of the mind so that it gives way to realize the true nature. Mind is the only barrier which does not allow us to realize the Self. When it merges in infinity we realize that Supreme state. At present, we assume ourselves to be someone else because of the imaginations of the mind. We will realize our true nature through meditation. When meditation is disturbed by intruding thoughts, then we may fail to realize the Truth.
External disturbances do not disturb the meditation much, even if so, it is under our control. Somehow we may manage to find a serene atmosphere to meditate. Even then the powerful thoughts in us continue to disturb meditation very badly. When meditation is disturbed by thoughts, we will not have a satisfying feeling and we may conclude that meditation is a waste of time. The intrusion of thoughts can be made weak by constant practice of meditation. Meditation becomes perfect only by practice. Meditation is the final step towards liberation. It is neither easy nor impossible to meditate. Meditation is a disciplined, continuous dedicated practice.
When the meditation intensifies one can experience a deep silence. It is not just the absence of sound. It is a divine silence which cannot be explained. This silence is the doorway to liberation. This silence further intensifies and one will not be aware of the mind at all, instead aware of the Self, the Brahman. Diversity is completely vanished at this stage. It is not merely an experience, but an awakening. Only by undisturbed meditation for a period of time, one is able to feel these advanced stages. In the modern world, meditation is used for many purposes like to calm the mind, to relax, to gain concentration, as a stress relief method, and so on. However, the real purpose of meditation is to attain liberation. Meditation is a powerful tool, why should one waste it for smaller gains.
The moment one sits for meditation a hoard of thoughts flush in to the mind. Thoughts of distant past to imaginations and future plans all rush in to the mind and divert our attention from meditation. The reason is it is difficult for the mind to remain without thoughts. In Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Krishna says “…the mind is difficult to control and restless; but by practice and by dispassion it may be restrained” Verse 6,35. “Little by little let him attain quietude by intellect held firmly; having made the mind establish itself in the Self, let him not think of anything” Verse 6,25. The whole process of meditation is to ignore the mind so that one may explore and realize that which is beyond the mind. Mundaka Upanisad says the Self pervades the mind, sense organs and the gross body. One has to purify the mind and extract the Self, which is omnipresent. Just like the swan separating the water out of milk, one has to extract the Self through meditation.
When the meditation deepens, thoughts at various levels disturb meditation. Thoughts at the deeper layer come to the surface. One has to ignore the thoughts by not responding to it. If we give importance for any thought then the mind will drag the Self towards it. The mind, a group of thoughts by nature is inert. When the Self identifies with the mind, the mind becomes conscious. The mind to grasp attention performs all the tricks so that the Self identify with it. If the Self do not identify with the mind, the mind becomes weak. When the Self identify with the mind, the Self is called “experiencer”. In the sense of Vedanta, when the Self identify with the body, mind, and intellect, the Self gets the idea of doership and enjoyership, which further manifests into desire, anger, greed and so on. When the Self witnesses the mind, the Self is called the “observer”. The vagaries of the mind do not disturb the Self, when it is the observer. The mind just passes on without disturbing the Self. In due course of time, the mind loses its power to disturb and the Self remains in itself. Only then one can explore the Reality.
The depth of thoughts
If the thoughts are so powerful, one may wonder that where do these thoughts arise from? Thoughts are the very cause of our birth. The impressions (vasanas) of the thoughts of our past births are the only reason for our present birth. Vasanas are the latent tendencies deep in us. Vasanas decide an individual’s temperament, personality and nature. Vasanas fashion the desires and thoughts that arise in the mind (manas) and govern the decision taken by the intellect (buddhi). According to Vedanta an individual has three bodies. They are the outside visible gross body (sthula sarira), the subtle body (sukshma sarira) and the causal body (karana sarira). The five kosas are present in the three bodies. Annamaya kosa is present in the sthula sarira. Pranamaya kosa , manomaya kosa and vijnanamaya kosa are present in the sukshma sarira. Anandamaya kosa is present in the karana sarira, which is the inner most kosa. Vasanas are present in the innermost kosa, the anandamaya kosa or the karana sarira. Anandamaya kosa is the bliss sheath; it has the reflected bliss of the Self. Impressions or vasanas of the karana sarira is the cause for the sukshma sarira and the sthula sarira. One has the physical body and thoughts according to the cumulative vasanas in the karana sarira. Thoughts appearing on the mind are at the surface level. Its roots are in the vasanas at the karana sarira. Thoughts cannot be easily suppressed because it is deep rooted. Vasanas are at the causal level, thoughts are at the subtle level and actions are at the gross level. According to the thoughts one performs the actions. When one performs an action, again an impression (vasana) is created at the karana sarira (causal body). This again creates thoughts and again prompts one to perform actions. This cycle goes on forever. Vasanas are unmanifest thoughts. They manifest at the subtle and gross bodies. The thoughts are so deep and it has to be properly dealt with at each and every stage to proceed in meditation.
When a person meditates, he has to first ignore the thoughts about the body. Then has to concentrate on prana and slowly shift the concentration from the prana towards the mind. One should witness the mind. Do not identify with the thoughts. Just remain as a spectator of thoughts. The thoughts will become thin. It will gradually lose importance. The thoughts have to be ignored and one should concentrate on silence. These stages should be practiced without any break. When the thought subsides completely, one has entered the karana sarira. Karana sarira is full of latent impressions and ignorance of the Self. It is beyond the realm of the mind. When the Self identifies with this layer there will be no thoughts (nirvikalpa). There will be deep silence. One should not mistake the deep silence as Brahman. It is the silence of bliss ignorance. It is the final barrier before realization. One has to pierce this layer of ignorance to realize the Truth. The bliss of the karana sarira is the bliss of the reflection of Brahman. Anandamaya kosa is not the Self; it is only the reflection of the Self. Many proceed till this stage and return back thinking the deep silence as Brahman. Only through tremendous effort one can reach atleast to this stage. When one keeps on ignoring the thoughts at various levels, the entrance to the karana sarira is attained easily. One has to pass this stage to attain liberation.
By practicing meditation, one gets hope, confidence and the ways to tackle the mind. Therefore even a little progress in meditation is highly appreciated. Whatever the path be towards liberation, the thoughts intrude and disturb meditation. By constant effort one can surpass these thoughts. Vedanta says that the vasanas and thoughts exists in the Self, they are not the very existence itself. One needs the vasanas and its manifestation to interact with this world, but to realize the Self one has to detach from them. This can be realized from the deep sleep itself. In deep sleep one is not aware even of the gross body. Once when we wake up, we immediately connect with the three bodies. Thoughts are anatma. The ahankara (ego) identifies with the body, mind, and intellect. The Self identifies with the ahankara and by this it identifies with the body, mind and intellect. Due to this wrong identification, the Self feels that it is under bondage. The whole process of meditation is to not-identify with this complex and the Self to remain in itself and shine in its pristine glory. Meditation makes one realize that a being is Atma and not anatma.