By Parama Pujya Swami Nityananda Giri

Meditation is a Science. Though this practice is simultaneous along with the creation, human civilization is yet to tap the vast potential of meditation. This practice leads to a peaceful life overcoming anxieties and hankerings, so that one can live a healthy life free from stress and psychosomatic diseases which are a present day trend. Meditation keeps mind concentrated which in turn ensures success in every field of activity. . Moreover, for seekers there is higher the goal of wisdom that is achieved through this practice, and this leads to eradication of sufferings. Here each practitioner is a scientist experimenting with his/her ‘mind stuff’. This mind stuff is known as citta in scriptures. The nature of citta is to remain in motion and in normal humans most of the times it is in disquiet. By the process of meditation this can be made still. This is a science to deal with our mind stuff. For that one has to follow a set of rules and regulations or scientific procedures, as we follow in experimentation in physical sciences, to achieve the aim and objectives. In meditation, the object of our experiment, the ‘mind stuff’ being a subtle one, the procedures followed are also subtle. The ancient rishis (seers) of India had followed this path and have recorded the procedures to be followed, made observations, discussed the results and drawn the inferences for the benefit of human civilization. All these could now be read from scriptures. This process has been going on through all the ages of human civilization. But that knowledge from scriptures benefits a person only intellectually. To imbibe that to one’s own life and to be established in that knowledge, one has to travel the path.

In Upanishads the knowledge and the meditation are described as, abhedadarshanam jnanam dhyanam nirvisayam manah (Maitreyyupanishad: 2-2); this means to see ‘no difference’ is the knowledge and a mind free from the objects is the meditation. Our mind is always with some objects, since it is always in motion it jumps from one object to another. The object can be anything; it may be a material, a person, an event, a position acquired or to be acquired, a virtue or a vice, a super natural and/or imaginary being, a thing or event, say it may be a god, heaven or enjoyment in heaven; it may be of past, present or future. In other words we can say mind is always with thoughts, hankerings or aversions. At the centre of all these thoughts there lies the “I thought” known as ego. This ‘ego’ is the faculty of ‘mind stuff’ that is responsible for identification of Self with the body-mind complex. This gives us the feeling of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. In a state of meditation we silence all these applications of mind, and the mind is free from objects or thoughts. This practice in the long run leads to a state called ‘Samadhi’ when this ‘I thought’ is finished. That leads to knowledge that we are not a body-mind complex; we are the Consciousness Principle. This Consciousness Principle (cit) is named God or Supreme Being. In that state of Consciousness, one sees ‘no difference’; all the differences cease to exist. Now all things and all beings are only one principle. This Knowledge is the knowledge of the Self or God. This knowledge brings wisdom in our life, now we are not perturbed by the anxieties due to mental occupation with the objects. Peace descends into the life. In actuality our own nature is peace and we now experience that. So we all must practice meditation to reduce sufferings by reducing all the different desires and thought waves of the mind and finally to reflect the Self.

Meditation (Dhyana) is the seventh limb of Yoga. Yoga is defined by Rishi Patanjali as, citta vritti nirodhah (Yogasutras: 1-2), yoga is cessation of all the activities of mind. This finally happens in ‘Samadhi’ or in a transcendental state. For this a scientific process of going through yama (righteousness), niyama (observances), asana (posture), pranayama (breathing practice), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) is prescribed to reach Samadhi (transcendental state). Normally people use meditation term for the threes, dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (transcendental state). These three cannot be separated completely. One begins with dharana or concentration and subsequently other two states are achieved. These three are internal (antaranga) practices of Yoga while the previous fives are external (bahiranga) to these three. Dharana (concentration) comes after the withdrawal of senses from all other objects and only the knowledge of the place or object of concentration remains. Dharana (concentration) is defined as, deshabandhacittasya dharana (Yogasutras: 3-1), when mind holds or binds to a particular place or region (Desha) that is named as concentration. This place can be energy centers within the body as fontanel, medulla centre, cervical centre, dorsal centre, lumbar centre and so on. In some concentration techniques, the object of focus could be outside the body such as the sun, the moon, a candle light, an image, a mystic drawing or a sound; a sound can also be internal. However kriya-yoga tradition only follows concentration within the body in energy centers and/or internal sounds since this is a natural process of concentration within the body after a breath practice or kriya leading to withdrawal of senses from outside objects. Pranayama or Kriya is most essential for practice of concentration since this only leads to the withdrawal of senses by merging the mind into the breath and finally fixing it to an energy center in the body. Even here in this system dharana is started along with the breath. In Kriya-yoga practice kutastha or medulla center is the most important place for fixation of mind. Normal understanding and practice of people about meditation is concentration while in a true sense meditation is the second step of concentration. We cannot separately practice meditation and this is the sequel of concentration practice.

Meditation is defined as, ‘tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam’ (Yogasutras: 3-2), there the continuous flow of knowledge on that is meditation. The object of focus in dharana or concentration is named pratyaya. In concentration there is knowledge of the place or object (pratyaya) to which the mind holds but this knowledge can be a broken (khandarupa) one since other thoughts can intrude. Meditation is a further step when this knowledge goes on continuously in an unbroken way. This is a state of fixation of the mind stuff. This can be compared as flow of oil that is unbroken whereas concentration can be compared to flow of water drops. Here sustenance of awareness is only on pratyaya, and this sustenance goes on in one rhythm. When meditation becomes so deep that mind becomes one with the object of meditation, which means the separate identity that “I am meditating” does not remain, this state is named as Samadhi. Here the practitioner enters a state of forgetting the individual identity. In Samadhi the perceiver (practitioner), the act of perceiving and the perceived (pratyaya) are one. This is a non-dualistic state of consciousness where the consciousness of experiencing subject or practitioner becomes one with the experienced object. So Samadhi is a higher level of concentrated meditation. This is the state of Sabija Samadhi or Samadhi with seeds. After the Samadhi, again all the activities of mind stuff goes on as usual since all the desires are in seed form during the Samadhi. But this gives the knowledge of wisdom and the discriminating intellect becomes sharp. The mind gradually becomes capable of holding the Truth. As we have imprints of all our activities be it physical or mental in our mind stuff known as samskara(s), we also have the imprint of Samadhi. This samskara of Samadhi is responsible for blocking the manifestation of all other samskaras, ‘tajjah samskaro’nyasamskarapratibandhi ‘ (Yogasutras: 1-50). While the imprints of activities and desires in mind stuff are responsible for further activities and their enjoyment resulting in sufferings, the imprint of Samadhi being the form of knowledge is responsible for removal of sufferings by blocking the other imprints. So the mind stuff is now being obstructed to carry out its activities known as vritti(s) and accordingly these vritti(s) are reduced. In the long run due to practicing Samadhi again and again the imprint of the knowledge of Samadhi finally becomes able to erase all imprints of ignorance. Then descends the Nirbija Samadhi or Samadhi without seeds and the practitioner is finally established in wisdom.

From the above discussion we understand that meditation is the practice of Yoga to focus on one object in order to halt the different activities of mind. But a common man’s understanding of meditation is concentration on God. Even Paramahamsa Yogananda has said, “Meditation is absorption in thought of God or one of His aspects”. Rishi Patanjali also says, “Ishwara-pranidhanadva” (Yogasutras: 1-23), (activities of mind can be halted) by the practice of devotion to God; this can also be translated as ‘by knowing God’ or “by practicing God”. Ishwara or God has been defined by Rishi Patanjali as a special person (purusha vishesa) unaffected by afflictions, actions, result of actions and inherent impressions of these (Yogasutras: 1-24) whereas the individual self (purusha) is affected by these. We can say God as the Cosmic Self. Afflictions etc are attributed to the nature of citta, but due to indiscrimination between citta and Individual Purusha, the behaviors of citta are applied upon the Individual Purusha; this is the ignorance. The Special Purusha Ishwara is unaffected by these since that is the form of Wisdom, “the seed of omniscience in Him cannot be exceeded” (Yogasutras: 1-25). He is all knowing, the knowledge how vast and deep may be within a being, an element or a god, cannot exceed Him; a part cannot exceed the total. He is sum total of all the knowledge. He is the Conscious Principle and that the Truth. Here ‘Truth’ means the Pure Existence, and that is infinite and form of bliss. “The word designating Him is called Pranava” (Yogasutras: 1-27), Pranava is the mystic sound Aum. Then further it is advised to “repeat that (Aum) and contemplate the meaning” (Yogasutras: 1-28). This has been defined as Ishwara-pranidhana in Yogasutras. So here the dharana or concentration has to be on the sound Aum. One of the techniques in Kriya-yoga is Aum technique. So this dharana is to be practiced following Pranayama (breath practice or Kriya) and there by attaining the state of pratyahara (withdrawal of senses). Such a dharana on sound Aum is also automatic in Kriya-yoga after practice of Hamsa breath technique. Moreover, God is Isa, the Supreme Ruler and the Supreme Self. He is also defined as the Prana or Hiranyagarbha in Upanishads; that is the sum total of all the powers of will, all the powers of knowledge and all the powers of action. It is said, yadidam kim cha jagat sarvam prana ejati nihsritam (Kathopanishad: 2-3-2), the whole universe emerges from Prana and moves because of Prana. The same Prana is working within our body-mind complex as individual prana, and to reach to that Prana we have take resort to pranakarma or breath-practice. In Kriya-yoga a specialized breath-practice known as Kriya is practiced and this becomes the Ishwara-pranidhana finally taking the practitioner to the state of wisdom through the stages of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi. So Kriya is a meditation technique of practicing Ishwara or Ishwara-pranidhana. However for devotees those who are emotionally attached to a personal God, viz., Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Devi or others, can meditate on His image or contemplate on His activities and thereby absorb all other thoughts in the thought of the personal God. Since persons not having a sharp intellect cannot uphold the idea of a God that is transcendental and without any attributes for them it is easier to have a God with a name and form. A kriya practice also helps in that.

There are certain simple techniques one has to follow to practice meditation. One should sit upright with a straight spine; head, neck and body should be straight. “One should practice meditation by holding the body or trunk, head and neck straight and steady, remaining firm and fixing the gaze on the tip of the nose without looking in other directions” (Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita: 6-13). This is the simplest technique. Steadiness or firmness of body is to be achieved by sitting in a meditative posture like lotus posture, half-lotus posture or posture of siddhas. One can also sit in simple cross-legged posture (sukhasana). New age teachers on meditation do not lay much emphasis on the posture but a posture is required for steadiness of the body. Rishi Patanjali has described and emphasized posture; ‘sthirasukamasanam‘ (Yogasutras: 2-46), sitting steady and with ease is named as posture. So body must be firm but relaxed. Fixing the body helps in fixing the mind. The success in a sitting posture for meditation helps to overcome the feeling of pain in the body during the practice and thereby avoiding distraction. This should not create tension in any part of the body, rather sitting should be relaxed. Those who have no practice for sitting in a posture as most westerners are they can sit in a chair. But the chair should be designed and the legs should be positioned in such a way that the body remains steady and straight along with the neck and the head. The seat for meditation should neither be very high nor low. The spot for meditation should be free from dirt, bad smells, smoke and other pollutants. There should be fresh air. One should put insulating materials like a mat of dried grasses, blanket and cotton cloth on the seat. Beginners should not practice in open with strong wind or sun since these may distract their mind. The gaze must be fixed at the point between eye brows (tip of the nose). It is always better to close the eyes since our eyes are doors to outer world. Gaze fixing can be done with a closed eye, and in that case one will not be looking into other directions. Experienced practitioners can practice in open eyes when they master a technique called Sambhavi Mudra. Group meditation is helpful for beginners but experienced practitioners should sit alone to go deep into meditation. It is always better to maintain particular timings for meditation sittings. Meditation should not be practiced in full stomach.

The most important aspects for meditation are breath practices and breath-awareness. This can be a Hamsa breath or a Kriya breath. In Kriya-yoga dharana begins with the breath, the inhalation and the exhalation. One should learn these form an advanced and experienced practitioner. Nowadays many new age techniques are found which are not in conformity with the scriptures. A new learner should check the authenticity of the technique from the scriptures and also ask for the rationale for following such a technique. If one blindly follows a master he/she may get cheated if that master does not follow a proper technique and has no proper mastery. An active breath practice can be followed by breath awareness and subtle pranic manifestations. Such pranayama(s) or kriyas will lead the practitioner to the state of pratyahara and then to the meditation trio, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi.