GEMS FROM THE OCEAN OF HINDU THOUGHT VISION AND PRACTICE
BEACH 11: LIVE HAPPILY, THE
Wave 4: THE CONSUMMATION OF MEDITATION
We talked about the ethical preparation for meditation and meditation itself. The preparation in terms of yama and niyama of the Patanjali definition or the 26 qualities enunciated in the Gita – all of this is a life-long effort.If all this has to precede the effort at meditation, then meditation can probably never begin. What really happens is each is a motivation for the other. It is like an electronic feedback system. Though we may discuss the two in an orderly fashion one after the other, in practice they overlap in a devotee’s life. Practice reinforces theory which in turn reinforces further practice. In order to do meditation properly one leads an ethical life and observes the yama-niyama prescriptions. But this observance or in other words, the better conduct of an ethical life itself becomes a consequence of proper practice of meditation.
So let us now start with a wonderful description, by the Lord Himself, of the peak of a yogic meditation:
yathA dIpo nivAtastho nengate sopamA smRtA /
yogino yatacittasya yunjato yogam-AtmanaH // (VI – 19)
A lamp placed in a windless spot does not flicker, it is motionless – that is the analogy for the yogi of controlled mind, practising yoga in the Self. The lamp burns calmly and steadily, illuminating all that surrounds it. Though the non-flickering flame of the lamp seems to be inert and still it is intensely active because of the process of combustion. So also the yogi’s steady mind is not dull or inert, it is full of blossoming insight. Because, thus stilled, the mind stays there in the Atman. In this silence and peace the Light of the Self ‘shows up’. But who is seeing this Light? Not the mind, because it has rested in the Atman. So here is an unusual feat of the Atman watching itself. It is the natural state. Not that it is a state that is arrived at by some transformation of an earlier state. It is the state per se that is there always. We have been missing it because of our extraneous occupations. When we put the mind in its place, namely, when we make it rest in the Self, then there is no more obstacle and the Light of the Self lights up everything. Once we reach this stage there is nothing more to do. This is called the samAdhi stage. But there is a marked difference between the samAdhi of Patanjali yoga sutra and this samAdhi that Vedanta talks about. The samAdhi of Patanjali yoga is an end-in-itself. But the samAdhi of Vedanta is not the end, though it is only one step short of the advaitic realisation of oneness with Brahman-cum-Atman.
Question: Maybe one in a million gets to this samAdhi stage in meditation. But what about us, for whom the monkey mind wanders here and there restlessly. What is the way out of this?
Lord Krishna himself must have anticipated this question about the wandering mind. So He begins again a second time, in the same sixth chapter from VI-24 onwards, to take us step by step from scratch. But now He takes us deeper into the subject. The sankalpa vRtti (also called icchA), which is the fourteenth channel of the mind in our listing, is to blame. It is ‘sankalpa’ that decides ‘this is wanted’, ‘this is not wanted’ and thus desires and dislikes arise in our mind. ‘sankalpa-prabhavAn kAmAn’ says the Lord starting Shloka 24. These desires and dislikes have to be totally eradicated. The ganging of the senses under the banner of the gang of thirteen has to be curtailed by the mind.
‘manasaiva indriya-grAmaM viniyamya samantataH’.
‘indriya-grAmaM’ is a significant word. It means the conglomerate of all the senses. They have to be controlled, monitored and curtailed by the mind. This curtailing has to be done on all sides. While doing this, says the Lord, little by little, let him attain to stillness by the intellect held firmly by the will power.
‘shanai-shanaiH uparamet buddhyA dhRti-gRhItayA’.
gradually, little by little, -- this is important. It has to be a
slow process but steady. Actually
‘Atma-samstham manaH kRtvA na kimcid-api cintayet’. This is the recipe, the final recipe, the only recipe, for Dhyana yoga.
The recipe has already been given by the Lord Himself. Only we have to follow it, and practise it with faith, consistently and continuously. There is no other way. After attending all the courses on meditation and yoga across the world, we have finally to come back only to this recipe: ‘shanaIs-shanaI-ruparamet buddhyA dhRti-gRhItayA’. ‘Atma-samstham manaH kRtvA’: This should be the goal. We have to get the mind rest in the Self in peace. Happiness will be regained automatically.
The mind has to wage a battle with itself in vanquishing the ganging of the senses that persistently draws it away. With a tight control on this ganging, the mind has to be turned inward now. The Self-Existent Lord made the senses turn outward, says Kathopanishad
“parAnchi khAni vyatRNat-svayambhUH tasmAt parAng pashyati nAntarAtman”
That is why man always looks towards what is outside and sees not what is within. Incidentally the verb that the Upanishad uses here for ‘made’ is ‘vyatRNat’ which means also ‘punished’ . Thus there arises a beautiful meaning that the senses were punished not to be able to look inward! And that is why, turning the mind inward, away from the influence of the ganging of the senses, is so difficult. Slowly and slowly, gradually, the outer mind has to be brought under the clutches of the intellect. And one should then, as The Mother says, be watching the moving thoughts as if we are watching some fun in the street.
Let that thought be anything. It may be the argument which you had with a relative four days earlier; it may be the loan amount that you have to recover from the neighbour; or it may be the gossip that came into your ears in the office the previous day; it may be the dilemma that your back pain has placed you in, whether you have to go to the doctor or not; it may be the research problem that you are engaged in your profession and the latest spark of an idea that hit you last night in bed; it may be the cell phone that is ringing and you have the immediate urge to look at the id of the caller; it may be the worry caused by the deficit in next month’s home budget. Whatever it be, just watch the thought.
Do not probe into the question how or why that thought came. Do not analyse the positives and negatives of the subject matter of the thought lest that process generate new thoughts. Don’t get into this chain reaction of thoughts. Don’t also try to make a mental note of all the thoughts that pass through your mind now. Just watch the thoughts come and go. Just be a watcher. Don’t get attached to any of the thoughts. Don’t take possession of the thoughts. That is where you fall into the prey of the ego. Don’t ever get into the content of any of the thoughts. Just keep watching. Think not that you are watching. Just be. One by one thoughts will come and also disappear like waves which rise and then fall. One thought after another, it will keep coming ... and going. The next thought may delay a bit to appear. Don’t expect it when it delays. Don’t be ready to recognise it when it comes. Automatically the thoughts will become more and more feeble. Don’t think about anything. Stop thinking.
“na kimcid-api cintayet” says the Lord (VI-25). It means ‘Don’t think about anything’. Recall the vedic passage ‘yasmAt paraM naaparam-asti kimcit’; and recall the words of the Gita: ‘mattaH para-taraM nAnyat kimcid-asti dhananjaya’.
kimcid-api cintayet” does not mean that you think about the void. It appears therefore that one has to think about
the Atman. But it does
sense to say ‘Think about the Atman’; for ‘Atman’ is not an object to be
thought about. The purport is to say
that the thinking process should stop. You be what you are. You are different
from your thoughts. Don’t be your thoughts. Be yourself.
That is the meaning of ‘na kimcid-api cintayet’. If you are sufficiently patient and just keep
watching the thoughts come by and disappear one by one, and if you are careful
not to get involved in any of those thoughts, that is what is meant by the
usual Vedantic expression: ‘Be a witness only of your
thoughts’. This path-breaking
Question: Still the concept of ‘Not thinking about anything’ seems to be an impossibility. How would it ever occur?
That is where the artifice of a mantra-japa comes in. It is japa that anchors the mind. It is japa that can prevent the mind from wandering. All ascetics recommend mantra japa as a means because it is a sure way of bringing the mind in one direction, focussed at one point, namely the object of meditation. The most fundamental faith of Hindu religion is the power of the mantra. Get a mantra from a guru. Don’t ever raise the question of whether your Guru is the right one or not. If only you have faith (shraddhA) in your guru and in the mantra that he formally initiated you in, then you are sure to succeed. More than the Guru it is the shraddhA and bhakti in the Guru that is important. Now the mantra is your only support. If you have grasped the meaning or the purport of the mantra, turn your mind on that meaning or purport. If you have not understood the meaning, then turn your attention to the words of the mantra. For some time vocalise it by actually pronouncing the words or aksharas. Gradually learn to just do the necessary lip movements without causing any emerging sound. In due time this practice will lead you to go through the recitation of the mantra mentally. This is the stage of mauna japa. In the serenity of this silence one is led to an experience of transcendence, as it were.
Your question again is : What to do even now if the mind suddenly lets go of the mantra or the silence and jumps to something extraneous?
This is the million dollar question. Krishna’s trouble-shooting recipe comes now in no uncertain terms, simultaneously indicating His total concern for all of us.
(VI-26) : “yato yato nishcharati manash-canchalam-asthiraM
tatas-tato niyam-yaitad-Atmany-eva vashaM nayet.”
Certainly mind is unsteady. It will wander. But every time it wanders, in whatever manner it wanders, wherever it wanders, bring it back with an effort, from wherever it is, back to the anchor of the Atman from where it has strayed.
This is the trouble-shooting recipe. The Lord Himself has given this recipe and has closed the topic there. By that He means there is no other way. This is the way. Maybe the mind wanders. Wander it will. But bring it back every time. Mind has always two weaknesses. One, it will be inconsistent and so it may jump from one idea to a contradictory idea. This is the chanchala aspect of the mind. Secondly it will be fickle and so it never stays steady with one thought. This is the asthira aspect of the mind. So every time either of this happens, one has to bring it back to the same mantra with which it started the japa.
‘abhyAsena tu kaunteya vairAgyeNa ca gRhyate’ says the Lord in answer to a similar question by Arjuna on the fickleness of the mind. Only by constant practice and determined dispassion can we succeed, says the Lord. Dispassion is not something to be frowned at. Dispassion is a determined effort made with a conviction born of wisdom.. The wisdom consists in recognising that the truant mind has to be dragged back to the source every time it plays truant. It appears that almost the last words of Ramana Maharishi to his disciples, when they asked him what they should do, were ‘Practise, Practise, Practise!’.
What is it that we should practise? It is to recall his own words in Ullathu Narpadu:
“jaDavuDal nAnennadu, saccid-udiyAdu,
uDalaLavA nAnendrudikkum iDaiyil idu;
jIvan nutTpamey agantai iccamusAra manameN”
This inert body does not claim any proprietorship for the ‘I’-feeling; The Atman-Consciousness does no function, so it does not claim the ‘I’; In between the feeling of ‘I’ is born in the whole system consisting of the mind. It is actually a knot between Consciousness and the Inert. This knot is the bondage, the individual soul, the subtle body or sUkshhma-sharIra, egoism, samsAra and the mind.
Think about this and other spiritual declarations instead of trying not to think about anything. This process of going over in the mind through all the spiritual declarations like the mahAvAkyas is called nidhidhyAsana. Thus what starts as a mantra japa, probably mechanically, becomes a mauna japa with the involvement of the total personality, heart and soul. And gradually the mauna japa itself becomes a nidhidhyAsana. At that stage there is no more japa, no more counting. The mind is not now repeating anything.. When you reach the stage of ‘Atma-samstham manaH kRtvA na kimcid-api cintayet’, it is not thinking of nothing; The nidhidhyAsana now is being done without any effort so that the mind is now resting in the Atman, on the Atman.
Question: When you have a mental anchor like a mantra it makes sense to pull back the straying mind to the anchor. But what can one do when one is not supposed to be thinking of anything and so one does not even have the anchor of a mantra?
To this question Ramana Maharishi has a beautiful answer, which is authentic because of his own experience. But we have to go a little deeper into the process of meditation. It is when the silent japa thoroughly brings a balance in the entire system that actual meditation may be said to have really started. Thus what started apparently as a thoughtless and mindless occupation of repeating magic syllables now becomes a genuine appeal of the heart, sinks down into the inward life, and transforms into a delight natural to the soul. We now come to the real crux of meditation.
Meditation then is the art of maintaining perfect continuity between successive thought waves so that there is no gap or interval and so that there is throughout only one identical thought, no more a wave which rises and falls. 'When similar thought waves arise in succession without any gaps between them, that is when the mind becomes one-pointed' says Patanjali's sutra III - 12.
“tataH punaH ShAntoditau tulya-pratyayau cittasya aikAgratA-pariNAmaH”.
All the minor thought waves are now swallowed by one great 'flat' wave of concentration on one object and no other. The meditator keeps his attention on the knower and watches the thought waves rising and subsiding in the mind. He becomes aware that between any two thoughts there is a gap. In this gap, the triad of the knower, known and knowledge (jnAtA, jneyam, jnAnam) disappear and there is only the knower. This is pure Oneness, where no division between subject and the absence of object or between knower and known, knower and knowledge, or knowledge and known remains. The truth is realized that the knower alone exists. When the object and the power of knowing reappear, it is the knower who releases them out of himself and then enjoys his own creation. In the gap between thoughts there is only the knower. The 'flat wave of concentration' without any gaps is this state of Oneness of the knower in whom the other two parts of the triad have merged. It is then we need a total involvement of the heart and a self-abnegating cooperation of the mind. What were several waves of thought which were rising and falling, now has become one big flat wave. It is no more a wave. It neither rises nor falls. It is at the same level, one-pointed towards the object of meditation. When it is steady like this, that is when the peacefulness of meditation sinks in and becomes the bliss that is so natural to the Self.
Now we can take up the answer by Ramana Maharishi to the question: What to do if the mind slips back from that state of rest in the Self? Let us listen to the Maharishi himself:
In the beginning the mind does not realise that there is happiness in meditation. We raise a cow in our house. But what does it do? It strays into the neighbour’s lawn and grazes on the grass there. It doesn’t seem to care for the really flushy green lawn in our own house, but somehow it is attracted by the grass across the border. So we have to tie it down. Mind behaves the same way. Therefore it is necessary to discipline it and tie it down. Little by little it will get to know, ‘There is something blissful in meditation. And that bliss is far superior to the worldly bliss that material pleasures can give’. Once it realises that fact, thereafter it will not be necessary to tie it down or to ‘bring it back’ !
Supreme Bliss comes upon such a Yogi, says
“prashAntamanasam hyenaM yoginaM sukham-uttamaM /
upaiti shAntarajasaM brahma-bhUtam-akalmashhaM //”
Thus constantly engaging in the Self, this yogi now easily enjoys the infinite bliss of contact with brahman.
“sukhena brahma-samsparsham atyantaM sukham-ashnute”
These are wonderful words from the Lord. This “brahma-samsparshaM” is an unexcelled bliss, the contact with brahman.
Question: Where is this bliss coming from? All vedanta statements talk about this as if it is obvious.
We shall take this up in the next chapter.
Go to Chapter 5
Copyright © V. Krishnamurthy Dec.29, 2003