INCHING TOWARDS MEDITATION
This article analysis the different stages towards meditation based on the Vedantic principles. The vasanas (impressions) in the causal body manifest as thoughts in the subtle body and actions in the gross body. In Vedanta, thoughts based on not-self (body, mind, intellect, worldly objects and so on) are called viparita-bhavana, the contrary notion. To attain liberation, one must overcome these viparita-bhavanas. One must have the knowledge about the Self. Till the knowledge fructifies in to Self realization, the viparita bhavanas are not overcome. A seeker has to study the scriptures to get established in this knowledge, so that it helps to merge the mind in infinity in due course of time. Viparita-bhavanas are very powerful because one has been entertaining them for many lives. By understanding the nature of the Self from the scriptures one has to cultivate the thought about the Reality. Thoughts about Reality are called the Brahmakara-vritti. One must listen to the scriptures (sravana) and reflect (manana) on the Vedantic texts so that the Brahmakara-vritti becomes established. This helps to bring ignorance to an end and help meditation. In worldly life, if we have pride, strong desires, anger, greed and so on, all these negative traits affect meditation terribly. The mind revolves around these negative vasanas and refuse to calm down. Knowledge about Atman is an important tool to meditation. Only this knowledge gives a clear idea about meditation itself. Otherwise meditation will be a mechanical practice and it will not help realization. Meditation on the Self needs a deep and clear understanding about the Self, Atman.
Citta-sudhi (purity of mind) and citta-ekagrata (single pointedness of the intellect) are the two pre requisites for deep meditation. When the mind is not pure, one will not be able to grasp the subtle concepts of Atman. If the mind is not single pointed one will easily slip from the path of meditation. Further, one must establish the Brahmakara-vritti as a firm vasana so that it weakens the viparita-bhavanas. The present thoughts must be formed accordingly to form deep vasanas so that it removes the viparita-bhavanas. At one stage, the viparita-bhavanas become feeble and the Self shines in its pristine glory.
Sravana (listening) – Listening to the knowledge about Atman with deep concentration is called sravana. Sravana helps to establish the thought of identity of the inner Self with Brahman, the Supreme Reality.
Manana (reflection) – The next stage is manana. One has to reflect on the concepts and ideas of Vedanta by logic and reasoning. This clears the doubts and confusion that arise during sravana.
Nididhyasana or contemplation – This is the most important stage towards meditation. Even after manana, one has desires, fear and affected by many vagaries of the mind. Complete transformation of the Self is still elusive. This is due to the strong vasanas of the past. The strong thoughts of the not-self exist in the subtle body. It disturbs the meditation at different stages. These thoughts have strong roots in the corresponding vasana at the causal body. These anatma vasanas have to be removed by strong Atma cinta. If we want to remove the weeds it have to be removed from the roots. If only the leaves and branches are removed, it will grow again. Just like that, the anatma vasana have to be removed at the causal body level by firmly manifesting the Atma cinta. By wisdom the anatma vasanas disappear. In nididhyasana, one will have only one thought, ‘I am Brahman, the Supreme Reality’, to the exclusion of all thoughts. This is an effort to undo the anatma-vasanas at the level of the causal body, so that the anatma-cinta ceases to rise once and for all. Nididhyasana is to be practiced without intermission (nirantaram) for over an extended period of time (nitya). Nididhyasana is the continuous flow of the same kind of thoughts referring to Brahman. The anatma-vasanas are to be removed by continuously practicing the Atma-bhavana or the tendency to think ‘I am the Supreme Brahman’. The conscious and focused repetition of Atma–cinta ‘I am Brahman’ or ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, to the exclusion of contrary thoughts soon creates Atma-vasana. In due course of time, the Atma-vasana gains power and annihilate the anatma-vasanas. Mechanical repetition of the Atma-cinta will not help this practice. Proper understanding of the concept using sravana and manana only help to improve better.
Nididhyasana is divided into two sub stages.
Dharana – The initial stage is called dharana, wherein concentration is occasioned with a lot of effort. In dharana, one holds his mind with a lot of effort to the thought, ‘I am Brahman’. As he continue to hold his mind consciously to this thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts, he proceeds to the next stage, where in his concentration and focus attain a greater degree of steadiness with ease.
Dhyana – In dhyana, thoughts are less though not completely absent, one experiences the uninterrupted flow of the thought, ‘I am Brahman’. In this stage, concentration is sustained with minimal effort. Many people take dhyana to be meditation. It is only a step towards meditation.
By nididhyasana, the doubtless knowledge-thought, ‘I am Brahman’ is sustained for an ample duration of time, it becomes stronger and gets assimilated into the innermost depths of one’s personality and becomes transfigured into ‘Atma-vasana’. Only then the thought takes the root at the causal level, else it remains superficial and at the thought level only. One may have noble thoughts by reading or hearing satsangs, but the deep rooted vasanas will be of anatma, because of this an inner transformation will not happen. Only by nididhyasana the vasanas will change. Nididhyasana slowly and steadily leads to Atma-vasana. The mind that became single pointed by nididhyasana gradually slips into depths of greater absorption in meditation.
Meditation or Samadhi
The sustained practice of dhyana leads to the attained of ‘samadhi’. It is a common belief that samadhi is death. Samadhi is a state where a person is completely detached from the three bodies and the Self remains in itself. It is a perfect state of liberation and it is called samadhi or meditation. Some Rishis when they attain this state, they decide to remain in that state itself and so they discard the body and enter in to samadhi permanently. However, it is an advanced state and it is the choice of the individual to discard the body. An ignorant mind is always scared of deep silence and so it refuse to meditate due to fear. Normally, what people practice for ten to thirty minutes is not deep meditation. It can be compared with darana or dhyana. Samadhi or meditation is an advanced state. The mind that is focused on the single thought, ‘I am Brahman’, in due course becomes very subtle and thin and disappears from the radar of one’s awareness. In the state of samadhi, even the thought ‘I am Brahman’ fades away. All that remains is the thoughtless state of pure Consciousness, the Supreme Reality. This is described by Vedanta as aparoksanubhudhi – direct experience.
There are two stages of samadhi.
Savikalpa samadhi – the absorption or meditation which is characterized by the perception of division (vikalpa) is called savikalpa samadhi. Even though, the meditator has withdrawn his mind from all thoughts, maintains effortlessly a continuous flow of a single thought ‘I am Brahman’, he still continues to perceive the threefold distinction of himself as the meditator, Brahman as the meditated and is well aware that he is engaged in the act of meditation. However, he sees everything as Brahman alone. For example, in an ocean, one sees varied water form such as waves, bubbles, foam and so on. The knowledge that they are all nothing but water falsifies the individual names and forms. Likewise, a seeker engaged in savikalpa samadhi knows them all as Brahman alone and falsifies them by the strength of the thought, ‘I am the all-pervading Brahman’, the very knowledge he is meditating upon.
Nirvikalpa samadhi – nirvikalpa samadhi means it has no division. The meditator, the meditated and the act of meditation all merge to become one. The seeker remains in complete absorption without even the thought ‘I am Brahman’. The triad of meditator, meditated and the act of meditation vanishes. For example, when an artist paints, he first shuts off extraneous thoughts, and before long becomes one with the painting. There is no more the triad of ‘I am the painter’, ‘this is the painting’, and ‘I am engaged in the act of painting’. Likewise, in nirvikalpa samadhi, the thought that ‘I am Brahman’ remains unperceived. Nirvikalpa samadhi puts an end to ignorance.
These are the different stages one has to undergo to attain liberation. At the final stage one merges with infinity. The individuality is completely dissolved and that remains is Brahman alone – chitananda rupah shivoham shivoham.
This article is based on the course material provided by Chinmaya International Foundation, www.chinfo.org