The Mother Divine
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By N. R. Srinivasan
Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath
(Compilation for a discourse, Nov 2014)

The amount of information available in world literature on meditation is anybody’s guess!  It is voluminous, vivid and varied bound in mystery. The word meditation is of Latin origin with the Latin root mederi meaning to heal.  Therefore Meditation is the Science of Healing from all physical and mental ailments. Hinduism talks about twenty different levels of Consciousness or mental stages. Meditation is therefore the art of making the mind still. In layman’s language meditation is the state of mind where there are no thoughts. Lord Krishna resorted to eighteen chapters and seven hundred verses of advice to Arjuna explaining different methods of meditation and paths of God-realization in Bhagavadgeetaa.

I recall your attention to an article in Reader’s digest several years back describing human heart as the most perfect pump created by God. A  renowned chemical design engineer was asked to create a perfect  pump describing heart’s routine functions without telling what it  is, telling  that it should work for at least for hundred odd years  without any shutdown  or rest or any major periodic preventive maintenance. The engineer threw up his hands saying such a pump is not possible to design. Human heart is such an efficient pump created by God he was told. We can use its effective and intelligent functioning in unison with human brain another amazing creation of God in our favor if we are conscious about it.

If we adopt strategies to calm our hearts, our whole body will calm down as well in a matter of seconds, not only will we reduce stress, we'll enhance healthy body functioning. Activities like consciously relaxing, meditating or praying nourish and calm the heart and hence, the rest of us. These activities produce what's called, the relaxation response--a physiological state that is exactly the opposite of stress, a state that reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the heart. It is worth recalling here a medical briefing column that appeared in Time magazine quoting several medical journals. Not only does this calming create feelings of peace and serenity in our minds, it creates them in our bodies as well. Meditation helps   for a moment on those kinds of thoughts and feelings that make us  feel calm, peaceful and relaxed or recall an experience in which we feel  those feelings and "go there in our head" while  breathing   relaxed and regular. This little break for meditation can actually keep us healthy as well as happy. During meditation we do not allow stress to build; the more we consciously focus positive feelings and relaxation on our heart the more we will strengthen and expand a reservoir of peace and calm within us. Heart and brain function in unison and calmness prevails.

The article in Reader’s digest also suggested that only way we can give rest to our heart is by relaxation or making it function at low speed that consumes less oxygen (estimated to be 50% approximately) as a daily routine.  The technique of transcendental meditation seems to be during meditation heart consumes less oxygen for normal functioning.  This gives the rest to the heart to function at low pace than while engaged in activity, increasing its life span or efficiency.

The art of meditation is misunderstood by many. Meditation does not need the help of religious devotion.  But religious devotion can benefit from meditation. Many yoga teachers make the control of mind as a prerequisite for meditation. On the other hand a controlled mind is the result of meditation.  Praanaayaama and Mantra chanting are indirect ways of watching and controlling the mind.  Mind is like a monkey running around the forest. We cannot fight with the mind and win. It is very powerful. We can only tame it down or domesticate it.  Maharshi Mahesh Yogi revolutionized the whole concept of meditation. He made it very simple and lovable by all.  He took meditation out of all religious dogmas and said it is scientific. Even TM is not the last word in meditation. It suits some and does not suit many too. That is why Geetaa suggests different methods of meditation and paths of God-realization.
Arjuna and Krishna discuss mind in 6-34 and 6-35 of Bhagavadgeetaa.  Arjuna says in 6-34:
Chanchalm hi manah Krishna pramaathi balavad dridham |
Tasmaat aham nigraham  manye vaayooriva sudushkaram ||

Mind is very restless, Oh Krishna!—turbulent, powerful and very stubborn. I believe it is very difficult to control it as the wind. To this Krishna’s reply was:
Asamsayam mahaabaaho manoe durnigraham  chalam
Abhyaasena tu  kaunteya vairaagyena cha grihyate ||

Undoubtedly, Oh mighty armed one (Arjuna)! The mind is restless and hard to control; yet by practice and dispassion it can be controlled.
Swami Chinmayananda says: “Meditation is the silence, energizing and fulfilling. Silence is the eloquent expression of the inexpressible. The key word here is energizing. That quiet place inside us is a source of tremendous strength. There are deeper levels of silence—outer silence, the inner silence and the inmost silence. This silence is not just the absence of sound. It is not even the absence of thought. It is the blossoming of our indomitable inner will. It is the dynamic quality which characterizes true meditation:
Beyond speech and mind
Into the river of ever-effulgent Light
My heart dives
Today thousands of doors
Closed for Millennia
Are opened wide

Meditation is not an escape exercise…The seeker who meditates is a divine warrior who faces suffering, ignorance and darkness and tries to establish the kingdom of wisdom—light.  And with perseverance, we reach the depths of our being, our true self.

How do we meditate silently? Just by not talking, just by not using words, we are not doing silent meditation. Silent meditation is totally different. When we start meditating in silence, we feel the bottom of the sea within us and without. The life of activity, movement and restlessness is on the surface, but deep below, underneath our human life, there is poise and silence. We imagine this sea of silence within us, or we feel that we are nothing but a sea of poise itself”.

Sri Chinmayananda once described the difference between prayer and meditation as follows: "When I pray, I talk and God listens. When I meditate, God talks and I listen".

“Meditation is that listening, attentively and in silence, to the voice of the Absolute within us. There is a special way to listen to the Voice of God, and that is to meditate in silence. Then there is no tomorrow, there is no such thing even as today. It is all now. The Eternal Now is the only Reality”.

Jagadguru Chandrasekharananda Saraswati says: “When a person does his job earnestly and whole-heartedly, we say that he does it “holding his breath”. Sandhyaavandana is to be performed “holding one’s breath”. If we do these all the evil forces will be destroyed. Nowadays all we do is to hold our nose with our fingers. Scriptures do not say, “naasikaam aayamaya” but “praanaan aayamaya”. It means, instead of merely holding the nose, control the vital breaths, the Praanas or the Life’s vital forces—Praana, Apaana, Vyaaana,  Udaana and Samaana. When we control our breath the mind will be still. The mind stops when it is enwrapped or absorbed in something”.

Praanaayaama is the most scientific method of controlling vital currents in the body. It has to be practiced only under the guidance of a capable Guru and is associated with Ashtaanga Yoga of Patanjali for spiritual uplift. It is not a mere physical exercise. Now-a-days it has become to call mere preliminary approach to yogasastra by physical exercise preparation as Yoga, a business or material approach.  Patanjali has spent very little on this modern practice of Yoga, may be 8 or 9 Sutras or aphorisms out of his voluminous contents.

We normally experience four states of being—Wakeful, Dream, Deep Sleep and Tureeya (inexpressible) state.  Tureeya State is the state in which we are momentarily in unison with Self. That is you are in meditation or we reach the depths our being or Self.

The Tantras are a branch of Hinduism whose literature is still kept a secret and its meanings are still a mystery.  Their scholars generally do not discuss the subject but pass on the technique to their devoted disciples.  Tantra generally means “to expand”. Tantrism believes in the enjoyment of material life though its focus is on spiritualism. Mystic Mantras are the gifts of the Tantras to Hinduism which are effectively used in meditation, the Symbols AUM and Hreem leading the rest.

Tantras mention of three important nerves Sushumna, Ida, and Pingala which start from the base of the Spinal column. Sushumna is the most important of all nerves which is subtle and invisible.  Upanishads talk a lot about these. Sushumna runs through the central channel of the spinal cord and extends to the topmost point on the head. Ida and Pingala run parallel and meet Sushumna at Ajna chakra the psychic center which is considered to be the focus point for meditation and concentration.

Tantra followers believe Kundalini power, the mighty force in all humans remains dormant throughout in one’s life time lying like a serpent in coiled form or inactive form at the base of the spinal column called Moolaadhaara Chakra. It is believed this power, about which most people are unaware of its existence, slowly rises up through Sushumna nerve while engaged in meditation or Praanaayaama and does not shoot up in a straight line. This journey of the Kundalini power passes through seven psychic centers called Chakras starting from Moolaadhaarachakra at the base of the spine. The next center called Svaadhishthaana is at the base of the genitals with six petals and controls the faculty of taste. The third center is opposite to the navel and has ten petals and is called Manipura. It controls the faculty of sight. The fourth center called Anaahuta with twelve petals is at the level of the heart. It controls the faculty of touch. The fifth center called Visuddha is at the medulla oblongata in the throat with sixteen petals. It controls the faculty of hearing. The sixth center with two petals is between the eyebrows called Ajnya Chakra control the faculty of mind.  The seventh and last psychic center called Sahasraara with one thousand petals is located at the topmost point of the Head where the Yogi attains Cosmic Consciousness or Samaadhi.

Ashtanga yoga talks about eight limbs. The fourth to eighth limb culminating in Samaadhi relate to gradual elevation of soul through meditation. The object of meditation is not to just sit in silence and think but to go beyond all thoughts into Higher consciousness.

Samaadhi in Yoga Saastras is a state where Praanas (life’s vital forces) and consciousness merge into one another where conditioned Self disappears and the mind settles in the pure void or nothingness. The illusion of individual Self disappears and the Yogi enters into the unified field of pure Consciousness. He acquires the special ability to stay in union with the super-consciousness (or what Vedanta says Brahman) as long as he likes and then descend to other levels. Everyone can pass through this exciting journey to the infinite Bliss through the seven stations in body mentioned above called Chakras or psychic centers along the route of Sushumna naadi in the spinal cord progressively by meditation. We often talk about meditation in our yoga designed with the goal of physical exercise and so we are familiar with the word meditation. But meditation in Yogasaastra still remains a mystery journey to the Supreme Consciousness which rarely few liberated people realize.

Meditation literally means to attend to thoughts with intention which gradually leads to the silence of the soul. The aspirant moves through several stages of Consciousness till reaching the stage of super consciousness where one is in perpetual communion with the transcendental Self even while engaged in the activities of daily life as we learn from the lives of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo etc. of modern times apart from Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa and others of the ancient past. It may not be too wrong to call such men as Stithaprajnyas as described in Bhagavadgeetaa about which I will talk in my next discourse.

The disciplined practice of Yoga and meditation strengthens our immune system, promotes healing ability. Modern medical science agrees to the fact that most of the physical ailments originate primarily from worries and resentments of the past. The cure for these psychosomatic sufferings is within the reach of every individual.  Our sages have recommended meditation not only for spiritual evolution but also as the cure for physical ailments to lead healthy and happy life.  Healing is not in the hands of therapists alone; we often forget our own healing and enduring ability which comes from   the intelligence of our own body.

We all know the brain generates a small amount of measurable electricity.  Modern medical research studies indicate the brain waves of a person when measured by EEG are most commonly in Beta frequency, random and incoherent, all parts of the brain showing different wave lengths.  Beta waves are the fastest with thirteen or more vibrations per second, a wave pattern associated with awakened or active condition.  When a person moves into deeper layers of consciousness in meditation this incoherent pattern changes the brain waves; they become coherent, orderly and normally in the alpha frequency (one to four cycles per second), quite characteristic  of deep relaxation, peace and harmony. The discovery of alpha waves really rocked the scientific community and resulted in the development of biofeedback system. The researchers accidentally discovered that it is possible for people to consciously put themselves into the alpha brain wave state. Yoga meditation experts say that they found this principle in people who regularly practice yoga meditation. Scientists have found that some meditates go from alpha to theta and sometimes even to delta waves during meditation. Biofeedback machine only gives a gross measurement of brain activity. It has no capability to go deeper into the why and how of the brain waves and pinpoint and relate the effects to meditation. Scientists around the world are experimenting on Yoga masters, and we can only hope that we may one day discover very valuable points about Yoga meditation. The problem is finding true Yoga meditates who are willing to undergo research studies.  All Yoga practitioners are not Yoga meditates while the reverse may be true. The philosopher Hippocrates once  said (in 400 B.C.): “People ought to know that from  the  brain and brain only  arise our  pleasures, joys, laughter and jests as well as sorrows, pain,  grief and tears”

The experience of deep rest, relaxation and inner silence perceived during meditation is far deeper than what one receives during sleep.  In general meditators are able to lock the resonant field of the brain with the resonant field of the heart to create total body coherence, total alignment of mind, body and spirit. YMCA philosophy goes in the reverse order spirit, mind and body development.  People who meditate are very relaxed, peaceful, creative and precise, and live a long and healthy life.

It is important to select a quiet and cool place and try to meditate sitting erect at the same spot. It works wonders because the particular spot of meditation become energized with positive vibrations; Vivekananda Rock is an example. It is also important to sit facing East or North while meditating. East is for enlightenment and north for stability. Besides, it brings the special benefit of alignment with the magnetism of the earth. The most beneficial time for meditation is early sunrise and sunset.  This is also the time prescribed for Sandhyaavandana daily rituals as detailed in my discourse “Prologue to Sandhyavandana Rituals of Hindus”. The glories of dawn and dust when the day and night meet have been beautifully described in Vedas. This is the time air is charged with spiritual energy, the mind is refreshed and free from activities of daily routine, ready and receptive to the guidance of the soul. It is important to start with single posture of crossed legs called Sukhaasana, move to Siddhaasana with some more practice and later move to Padmaasana, lotus posture which Yoga teachers will explain by demonstration. We have to take our mind to the   rhythm of the breath   as it moves in and out within the thoughts as they go by. Gradually breathing becomes relaxed, a specific silence is perceived between the thoughts and the meditator enters into unity with breath and later with the Supreme Self.  
In Bhagavadgeetaa Lord Krishna is figured as a Yogi. Bhaagavata mentions that Lord Krishna sat up every morning for meditation merging himself with transcendental Self. We also read in Mahabharata that Krishna was in the habit of meditating on Brahman in the early hours before sunrise. Krishna in all probability was a philosopher who harmonized Sankhya yoga with Brahmavaada of Upanishads. There is a suggestion that the Song of the Celestial was originally a Yoga Upanishad which was later Vaishnavized.  Bhagavadgeetaa has been designated as Yoga Saastra.  Each chapter of it is designated as a specific Yoga: 1) Vishaada Yoga; 2) Sankhya Yoga; 3) Karma Yoga; 4) Jnaanakarma-sannyaasa Yoga; 5) Sannyaasa Yoga; 6) Dhyaana Yoga;  7) Jnyaana-Vijnyaana Yoga; 8) Aksharaprahya Yoga; 9) Raajavidyaa-Raajaguhya Yoga; 10) Vibhooti Yoga; 11) Viswaroopadarsana Yoga; 12) Bhakti Yoga; 13) Kshetra-Kshetragnya Yoga;  14) Gunatraya-vibhaaga Yoga; 15) Purushottama Yoga; 16) Daivaasura-sampad-vibhaaga  Yoga; 17) Sraddhaa traya-Vibhaaga Yoga; and 18) Moksha-Sannyaasa Yoga.

In Bhagavata Purana Brahma tells in round figures that Krishna remained on this earth planet for 125 years: Yaduvamse avateernasya bhavatah purushottama | saracchatam vyteetaaya panchvimsaadhikam prabho || Whether we believe in Puranas or not to call them historic documents, Lord Krishna is portrayed as a regular meditator and perfect spiritual practitioner in Puranas, who took active part in life as a human being avoiding stress whenever possible while enjoying life. He did not take an active part in the Mahabharata War as he advanced to an adult and married person,   though he was a master mind behind it. He always carried his flute unlike Rama who carried his deadly weapon all the time and ever ready to fight, and often relaxed and enjoyed a romantic life.  He wielded the most powerful Sudarsana Chakra when called for without involving in stressful physical combat though he resorted to it while young when he visited his uncle. He is always shown with his flute and not Sudarsana Chakra in icons.  As age advanced he avoided too much stress.  I always felt Krishna’s life was true portrayal of human life unlike Rama who always had a stressful life ever stressful with his bows and arrows (Kodanda Rama), religiously devoted (Chanting Aadity Hridaya in distress and anxiety) and was exaggerated to have lived for 10000 years which is unthinkable for a human. To me Lord Krishna appeals as a perfect and practical yoga practitioner who upheld Laws of Dharma in totality--Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.  May be that is why he is called Poorna Avatar as he lived full span of human life designed by the Creator. Even Yoga master BGK Iyengar lived a few years past 90.  Krishna’s life is a lesson to us to involve ourselves in regular meditation and at the same time play our role as normal human beings in day to day life avoiding stress and strain to lead a healthy life enjoying it. I also wonder at Creator’s ingenuity to design human span life almost matching to that of Lord Krishna and not Rama or other avatars which are often made for the occasion. I have not heard of any one lasting for more than 125 years. If there be one it could be the way years are calculated. Vedas speak of four types of years (Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idivatsara and Idaavastara) as I mentioned some time back in my discourses on MNU. It is our own fault we shorten our lives and die early by leading a stressful life and without practicing regularly meditation and call it a Karmaphala. May be Karmaphala is the force behind such right and wrong motivations influenced by desire and greed.

Meditation is not just a religious practice. It is for sure a necessity of life.  It helps individual to live in perfect harmony with self and with others. In the description of Dhyaanayoga in Geetaa Bhagawan explains step by step the procedure for going into the state of deep meditation. Krishna suggests that the first and foremost duty of every individual is to learn to meditate and to become re-established with the indwelling divinity. The Supreme Self is not just a fantasy or a vague aspiration.  God is indeed a reality that can be experienced from within and enjoyed.

Hindu meditation involves the stoppage of all mental activities resulting from the activity of the senses in sensual objects and the bringing forth of the true Self or Atman. Atman is deluded by thousands of thoughts and by meditation one will gradually know the Self within. Jesus also said “the Kingdom is within you” meaning Atman only.  This is a gradual process in which individual ego becomes Universal ego where we realize universal oneness which Vivekananda preached. Instead of caring and loving our own children we will start loving children all over the world. It makes you get rid of possessiveness or Aham. Some Christian schools also preach their parishioners to meditate on Jesus. When the mind picks anything with name and form, it becomes restless instead of becoming calm. That is why Hindu worship on any deity is directed towards formless Brahman. But unfortunately many think that worship itself is enough without meditation.  Unless one transcends name and form, meditation is impossible.  By controlling the motion of the lungs and respiratory organs, one can indirectly control the Life’s Vital Forces called Pancha Praanaas that is vibrating inside all of us. Hindus use Sagarbha Praanaayaama which is the Praanaayaama done along with the Japa of a mantra like AUM. There are several methods of Praanaayaama. Kriyaa Yoga is the best method of Praanaayaama taught by Hindu Gurus.

Deep breathing exercises are not Praanaayaama. These need no Guru to practice. But spiritual Praanaayama needs expert guidance of a Guru. The body has to be conditioned to accept the power that is generated within it by the control of Praanas.  This also calls for proper dietary control. Taoism of Chinese religion uses breathing exercise called T-ai-si or embroyanic respiration for long life with no spiritual value.  Christianity in Genesis 2:7 (God breathed the   breath of life into his mouth and the man became a living being) and Sufis (Dhikr) also talk about breathing for spiritual enlightenment.

1) Ed Viswanathan, Am I a Hindu? Rupa & Co., New Delhi, India
2) Prabha Duneja, Bhagavadgeetaa, Govindaram Harsdhanand, Delhi, India
3) Prabhu Duneja, Hinduism, Geeta Society, Pleasnton, CA, USA
4)  Jagadguru Chandrasekharanada Saraswati, Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India
5) Alan Spence, Meaning of Meditation and its Practice, BBC, July 2010 and other Internet Sources
6) Swami Vireswarananda, Srimad Bhagavadgita, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India
7) Ramachandra Rao, S.K., Geetaa Kosha, Kalpataru Research Academy, Shankarmutt, Bengaluru