What is Meditation?
By Mouni Sadhu.
This is probably the best attempt by a European disciple of Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi to describe without technicalities what Meditation is about, and why Indians worship their Gurus. For several years Mouni Sadhu steeped himself in the teachings of the foremost Hindu ascetic, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Straight from the heart, he describes movingly how he mastered the technique of jnana yoga (Vichara or the ” I ” thought ) and achieved the transcendent spiritual state (samadhi). He was so completely absorbed by his Guru (Sri Ramana Maharshi) that he succeeded in communing with him in silence. (Sri Ramana Maharshi gave his initiation (diksha) almost exclusively by silence.)
What is Meditation?
Meditation can be properly performed only when the mind is cleansed of all thoughts. Almost every student knows of this condition, but few can really achieve it.
Those who belong to different mystical societies often believe that meditation consists in the effort of directing the mind into certain channels according to pre-conceived ideas. The results of such exercises – they cannot be called meditation – are generally poor, even though they may be practised over a period of years, and they do not lead to the effective purification of the mind from thought.
Usually, advanced members of such organisations are given methods and rules, which are often insufficient. There are two kinds which we can call artificial and natural means.
The first group is based on imagination or mental conceptions. Endless exercises are given, a few of the most important being:
(a) The imagining of the possession of a virtue lacking in the student. If he is of a sensual type, he must think of himself as chaste during the time appointed for the meditation.
(b) He can protect himself from invasion of thoughts from outside by the mental creation of an astral shell according to instruction.
(c) By the use of incantations or mantras he can reach the necessary concentration or acquiescence of mind, thus keeping to one idea for some considerable period of time.
In the second group (natural means) I would first mention prayer directed to what one believes to be the Supreme Being. If such prayer is utterly sincere, and if one is prepared to give enough time to regular practice, the result can be satisfactory and the mind cleared of everything but the object of meditation.
Then comes the ‘vacuum’ in the thinking process which is then filled with true light from its true source – the Self-God.
If one is blessed on his way through life by meeting a spiritual Master, then everything becomes simple and effective. Many disciples in those precious times of spiritual contact visualise him (spiritual Master) as seen, in the physical body. Such an image, living and powerful, is a deadly weapon against the strategy of the restless mind. Nothing is more effective than this when combined with the Vichara (the “I” thought ); but in order to use Self-inquiry properly, some steadiness of mind must first be attained.
Man’s emotions must also be cleansed; for this purpose the vision of a living Master has no substitute. In a mysterious way the power of such a vision is also inherent in his (the Master’s) pictures. Perhaps this is for the aid of those who were not able to see him in the physical body. Experience and practice show that almost as beneficial results can be brought about from the contemplation of such a picture.
When at last the vacuum or void in consciousness is reached and firmly established, true meditation can be approached, but not earlier. Then the consciousness of the true Self will itself fill the vacuum. No more instruction is needed, for the true Self takes over the guidance and the goal is reached. In such meditation there are no visions or feelings. Maharshi often warned against ecstatic visions, pointing out that our goal is pure awareness and nothing else.
If this awareness is attained it inevitably leads us to samadhi, and this is the true aim of meditation (the awakening from the dream-state called normal physical consciousness).
There are signs which indicate that our meditation is really leading us to samadhi, when we are free from all thought of the body and of the ‘ego’, and when thoughts and feelings are stilled. ‘Good and evil” cease to exist- we see nothing, for there is nothing to see.Yet we are not in darkness, but merged in light being ourselves this light. We cannot see It, for in this state there is no subject and no object. This can give but a veiled hint of the true state to one who has not experienced such meditation for himself, for this is the discovery of the true Self in man.
All that we recognise as objects – that is the outer world plus our visible body- is like a painting. The colours in it are the qualities of things. In these things are held all material forms, feelings, thoughts, good and evil, true and false, everything that we know as the universe.
They are like the separated colours of the white light or God-Self, broken up by the prism of the material universe, as the Maharshi told us. If you could imagine the same picture painted with only the basic white Light, unbroken by the bewitched prism – that would be Spirit, Self or God, the ultimate truth of being. That is why the Master said: “There is nothing but the Pure Being which alone exists and our sole purpose in life is to realise It for ourselves.”
Right meditation leads to the discovery of this great mystery. All other means mentioned in different Yogas such as breath control, mind control, body postures, special foods and attitudes of the mind, and so on , are only intermediary steps on the path to the goal, taken by our material nature when we step onto the Direct Path to the summit.This attainment makes these intermediary steps unnecessary. When the train reaches a certain station, one does not go back to count the milestones already passed. Thus attunement with the Self produces of its own accord the right postures, breathing, and imperviousness to influences from the outer world.
Techniques of Meditation
One of the initiations through which we pass while in the presence of the Maharshi , is true meditation, which years of study of occult literature had assured me was the key to the awakening of supra-physical consciousness. During my allegiance to Theosophy I practised different forms of meditation in accordance with their literature. From what I have since found out, the knowledge given was for beginners.
Their aim was to direct the mind into certain deliberately chosen channels of thought. There were meditations on different themes such as Beauty, Love, Purity, Wisdom, Devotion, God, The Creator of the universe and so on. The object was to keep these ideas in the mind as long as possible, and to imagine the working out of these virtues in the consciousness. Such ‘meditations’ can create certain currents of thought in the mind, conditioning it to a positive force which activates the thinking. Such exercises have a certain usefulness, for it is said:’a man is as he thinks’.
In other words, the manner of a man’s thinking creates his worthiness.
If he associates himself with good and positive thoughts his nature will be improved; if with negative and evil currents- he will retrograde and fall. All this is true in the relative field, but is founded on the assumption that man’s consciousness is derived from his thinking apparatus or mind.
Man can elevate his mind, as do the Yogis, and perform ‘miracles’ as have many of the saints of all religions. The mind is a power, and when controlled and directed, its force and subtlety are apparently unlimited. But only apparently, for the power of the mind is based on the false notion that there is one who thinks, and an object of thought. This is the old lie of duality, and its end cannot be brought about by the ennoblement of the instrument(mind).
The subject and object still exist. This conception hinders the realisation of the unreality of the outer world. And to count this as real is an insurmountable obstacle on the path of realisation of the true Self in man.
So long as man’s consciousness is unable to merge in the whole, there will always be the necessity for rebirths and incarnations in matter. The bewitched circle is closed.
Strangely, from the first days of my stay at the Ashram, my old mental meditations were forgotten and I could not practice them in the presence of the Master.So it still is, and for me there will be no return to those old currents of thought. Every day there is a more and more urgent inner inclination to be still, to remain without thought, to merge in the silence.
The inaudible inner voice tells me that there lies the truth.
Maharshi himself insisted on the necessity for meditation, but what did he mean by this term ‘meditation’? He calls true meditation ‘silence’, being still’, ‘stillness’. So it was the same power which drew me then and now.
While one is immersed in water one cannot see anything above the water’s surface. The world above is veiled from sight. To gain the wider horizon one has to rise out of the water, and only then will one realise how limited was one’s former vision. So long as man is merged in the world of thought – the realm of mind- his consciousness will be bounded by its limitations.
Thought must always have an object, however sublime it may be, thus there must always be two, not one.Therefore, thought and its process is a blind alley.
The Master’s power released me from all desire to follow this by-path. It was simply forgotten, as mentioned before. I am not a believer in miracles. So I cannot put the help and activity of the Master into this category. But the fact remains, and that is all that matters In this manner, I came at last to the secret of true meditation. This state when I am aware of being apart from the thinking process can be called true meditation. This Awareness is the source of all Life, of that which is my life. It is the source of everything. From It alone I draw all that makes possible what I say on these pages.
How can one enter this state of supra-mental meditation? Analysing the process in myself, I find that FIRST must come the stopping of all thoughts. The Vichara ripens in the mind so that interest in the thinking process vanishes, and the stilling of the mind, so difficult in the past, becomes easy.
SECONDLY, when the mind is still, there arises a strong urge to be united with the whole, but what this whole is, cannot yet be conceived and I feel that I could never attain it alone. The closest comparison is melting and dissolving in That which alone Is. It is different to leaving the body or ego for there is no movement. One remains where one is, but is not what one was before. Everything that could be seen or felt before is now apart from me. No more can be told.
THIRDLY, the state of unity with the whole brings an unshakable certainty that only this state is real and permanent. That it is that last refuge which one has always sought, and from which one can never more be lost.There is nothing beyond it, for – it is all.
The conception that we know as ‘death’ is obliterated, but this does not mean that we are in that state thought of as ‘life after death’. The only fact one knows is , that this life will always go on.
In this state of being there are no such false distinctions of time as past, present, and future.
It is possible to force language to convey to the mind something of that which one brings back from such a meditation, but it is likely to be of no avail, and more likely to be misunderstood. What I can express is tragically little.
There is a mysterious experience which proves the power of the Vichara. The Master insisted that we should not use it as a Mantra, that is, as words only, but soak each question with the desire to know ‘WHO AM I?’. By using the Vichara in this way, after stilling the mind, the answer comes of itself, but without words or thought- you know who you are.
What follows-is inexpressible
This is the great service which Maharshi performed for humanity-the welding of this infallible instrument of achievement, the inspired VICHARA.
“Pursue the enquiry “WHO AM I” relentlessly. Analyse your entire personality. Try to find out where the I-thought begins. Go on with your meditations. Keep turning your attention within. One day the wheel of thought will slow down and an intuition will mysteriously arise. Follow that intuition, let your thinking stop, and it will eventually lead you to the goal”.
-From Maharshi’s Teachings