President of the Divine Life Society, Vadodara, JAYANT B DAVE writes on the importance of meditation in enabling healing, and world peace
Swami Sivananda, who saw meditation as the penultimate state to realisation — to serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realise — also conveyed that meditation is your only duty to fulfil the supreme goal of human life. All yoga processes are nothing but preparation to take the seeker to the state of meditation.
Meditation occupies the seventh and most important part of the eightfold Ashtanga yoga path of Maharishi Patanjali. Likewise, Swami Sivananda has also prescribed eight steps to realisation as follows: purification, concentration, reflection, meditation, illumination, identification, absorption and salvation. This shows the depth of the meditation process that varies from gross to subtle, subtler to subtlest — that is, meditation on any form of deity; meditation on virtues; on peace, bliss, beauty and finally, meditation on the nameless, formless, Brahmn, respectively. One moves from karya, effect, to karana, cause, until one reaches the ultimate eternal, causeless cause.
Meditation is a process that requires withdrawing of mind from multifarious points, regulating thoughts, concentrating on one focal point and merging into intense, deep, one-pointed focus. It is an attempt to unify thoughts and hold on to one single idea. Meditation upon this transcendental, subtle, supra-mundane principle called cosmic being or eternal reality is not natural to the human mind that is generally gross, and used to perceiving objective knowledge arising from names, forms and attributes. Mind as an instrument has to be sharpened and purified to perform special process of meditation. Acute awareness arising from sattva by subduing rajas is the key to success. All ethical and spiritual practices including yogasanas help in purifying mind by increasing the content of sattva.
Obstacles to the process of meditation are many — laya, sleep; vikshepa, tossing of mind; kashaya, vasanas or subtle hidden desires; rasaswad, bliss of savikalpa samadhi; lack of brahmacharya, spiritual pride, laziness, diseases, company of worldlings, overeating, overwork, too much interaction with people and self-assertive, rajasic nature.
Aids and prerequisites to meditation are yogasana, pranayama, prolonged chanting of Aum, moderate diet, practising meditation at fixed time and place, solitude, practising concentration on trikuti, the space between eyebrows or in the heart with closed eyes. The Yoga Vasishta says that with progress in meditation, half of the mind that is usually engaged in objects of desire and enjoyment should be diverted to the philosophy of yoga.
Meditation opens knots of ignorance and imparts intuitional knowledge of the object of concentration and meditating subject. Meditation is a supreme tonic that yields peace, harmony and power that percolates in one’s physiology, psychology and radiates outside for the benefit of humanity. Meditation brings meditator into contact with one’s eternal source or supreme reality by transforming objective thoughts and physical and mental consciousness into spiritual consciousness or cosmic consciousness. A yogi practising meditation is doing great social service by benefitting entire creation by exuding vibrations of peace and harmony
Swami Chidananda holds that saguna dhyana, concrete meditation and nirguna dhyana, abstract meditation, cover, in a broad way, the entire range of meditative methods. Vedantins do not dwell upon external reality. They meditate upon their innermost Self as Eternal Reality by negating identity with body, mind, and intellect as adjuncts. “There is only one existence and whatever there is, that is what I am”. This is a nondual state where one’s identity merges with ultimate reality. Second, lesser type of abstract meditation is upon impersonal absolute sat-chit-ananda with no form and name but one retains one’s awareness as meditator just like a river moving towards the ocean.
The third type of meditation is upon a personal deity where one relates to the deity with devotion, divine love and spiritual emotion. That yoga ensures good health and helps build healthy society is being universally recognised and practised in the form of yogasanas and pranayama. But preparatory part of yoga in terms of yama-niyama, ethical purity, lays the foundation thereof. Higher steps of yoga, concentration and meditation that bring about self-evolution and world peace, are a more direct, intense and universal form of social service.
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