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Vedanta Sandesh

..The Free Monthly Newsletter of Vedanta Mission



The increasing inquisitiveness for Meditation :

Suddenly in last few years the word Meditation is on everyone's lips, and it is indeed nice to see that it has become something very desirable too. Whether it is bringing about peace of mind, manifesting of various latent potentials, increasing concentration, invoking grace of God, increasing devotion, contemplating on your Self, or even awakening to the blissful experience of the transcendental reality, the unanimous choice of means appears to have become - Meditation. Along with this development have cropped up dozens of kinds of Meditation. Regarding its process, the spectrum ranges from regulating your pranas, chanting meaningless words, meaningful words, contemplating on some mantra or even not thinking at all. The postures range from sitting, standing, lying down or even in action - by yourself or even along with someone else. All are said to be in meditation or rather in the process of gliding into the divine state of samadhi. When the demand has produced such a myriad of supply it has become necessary to see what our scriptures have to say in this matter before jumping in anyone of the aforesaid bandwagons to redemption.

Different facets of Meditation :

Meditation means Dhyana. Grammatically, the word Dhyana is created from the root 'Dhyae' which means to think deeply. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras (which is the most authoritative text on the study of mind) says that 'Dhyana is the ability of the mind to flow towards an object without any interruption' (Yoga Su.3/2), not merely to bring about its awareness but its deeper understanding. In concentration we simply turn our attention to something, while in dhyana there is also a process of understanding. Half of our questions get answered when we merely see such fundamental definitions from authoritative sources. People who had coined the word and also used it technically definitely did not imply the various connotations which are prevalent today. Most of the people are using or rather misusing the word to communicate their own concepts & fancies, and not what has been coming down to us from ages. With due respect to the divine experiences of all we should first like to understand what the scriptures like Gita & Upanishads have to say in this context. Various questions come up in the mind of someone who wants to practice Meditation. Apart from What is Meditation ? other important questions are : What all is possible by Meditation ? What is the role of Meditation in our Spiritual unfoldment ? and of course, What is the process of Meditation ? We should all definitely try to understand these things first before going for just anything served in the name of Dhyana.

Meditation a must :

If Meditation implies bringing about a mind ideal for understanding any thing properly and the ability to identify with it completely, then all achievements are possible only with the ability to meditate. Whatever be your problem or challenge it is your ability to think and come to right conclusions which really matters. Ability to meditate not only indicates existence of positive qualities but also the ability to sublimate the negative ones. It is not only the door to all success outside, but is also an important ability to help bring about the awakening within. Meditation is basically an ability, which has to be applied for some thing. The ability to meditate by itself is not opposed to ignorance. Ignorance of our real nature alone brings all misapprehensions and the subsequent bondage, and therefore knowledge alone can eliminate it. Even though the very ability to meditate is not opposed to anything it does have a very important role. All sadhakas whether they know the truth or not should meditate. There are broadly two kinds of meditation. Upasana and Nididhyasana. The first one is for people who are yet to wake to the divine state within and the other for those who are enlightened ones.

Role of Meditation :

If not knowing the real nature of Self is the cause of all problems of mankind, then in order to bring about proper knowledge all what one has to do is to undertake Sravana, Manana of Vedantic scriptures through an appropriate teacher, and then revel in the glory of your divine Self in order to assimilate the invaluable prasad of one's Guru. In both sravana and manana ability to think deeply to the exclusion of all other thoughts is a very important requisite. If deep thinking to the exclusion of all other thoughts is meditation, then meditation does have a very important role. However, there is something more to meditation than simply deep thinking. In it is involved an intense feeling towards that which is the 'object' of meditation to the extent of self-forgetfulness. Meditation with reference to Self-knowledge implies turning your entire attention to your very being. No more any reinforcement of conviction, no thinking, no requirement of pramanas, no elimination of any doubts. You know it, now with all the attention at your command you just be that, intensely, silently. Intense awareness of the truth of yourself and that of the world just helps you to glide into the state of being - the samadhi.

Types of Meditation - Upasana & Nididhyasana :

Broadly there are two kinds of meditation, they are Upasana and Nididhyasana. One is for the ignorant one and other for an enlightened sadhaka. Someone said that 'If you dont know the Truth on what are you going to meditate, and if you already know the truth then why meditate.' No, meditation does have a role to play in both the cases. In case a person does not know the truth, then just out of faith towards our scriptures & guru, we take some thing which represents the ultimate and then we turn our attention on it and meditate. Such a meditation is called Upasana, and it has innumerable benefits, ranging from re-inforcement of our faith, bringing about devotion for God and also manifesting various latent qualities. Upasana is based on faith and ultimately it reinforces this very faith, and in the process brings various other benefits. Such is the place of upasana that it forms an important part of the daily routine of a faithful person. Every important work was undertaken only after doing some upasana. Japa or chanting the name of God is also a kind of upasana. The scriptures enjoin that karma & upasana should be done daily with equal degree of importance. Ignoring one is said to bring about various negative consequences. If however, the meaning of scriptures has been revealed to you, if you directly know the truth of yourself, if you now know Brahman first hand, then turning your entire attention to the truth of yourself so as to bring about its intense awareness (gyana-vritti) and reveling in that is called Nididhyasana. Nididhyasana facilitates complete assimilation of this new knowledge about ourself, it helps to eliminate all wrong notions which had trickled pretty deep into our unconscious minds. So before knowledge one should do upasana, and after the dawn of understanding do Nididhyasana. Once you have assimilated the knowledge then there are no injunctions or prohibitions for you. Do whatever you feel like doing. You may meditate or may not meditate, you are indeed totally free. Meditation cannot give you anything more. It has no role for you. You have achieved all that has to be achieved.

The Process of Meditation :

The process of meditation involves resorting to steps which facilitate introvertedness and quititude of mind. Whatever factors influence our minds to either disturb its quititude or make it extroverted have to be taken into consideration and become part of our sadhana. Even though what influences the mind of one may not necessarily influence the other, yet the scripture being a complete treatise deals with all possible factors and then leaves it to the discretion of the individual concerned to chart his own specific course.

The following steps are recommended for anyone taking up meditation :

1. Choose a time when physically and mentally you are fresh and relaxed. When externally there are least disturbances. When the ambiance around is positive and elevating. All such criteria are fulfilled if, after a good night sleep one gets up early in the morning for a session of meditation. Meditation at such time doesn't bring about sleep for the simple reason that one has already had a good sleep.

2. Choose a clean, nicely ventilated place, free from mosquito's etc. Take a semi-soft, steady and clean asana to sit down. Direction is not very important, but if it is brahma-muhurt then prefer facing east, the direction of sun rise. Sit down with legs folded, back straight, and head in line with back. Hands should hang loosely and fingers should be held together in front. The posture has to be such that even if we dis-identify with the body then also it doesn't fall. It may take some time to get into this habit of sitting properly.

3. Closing the eyes softly do some deep breathing or few pranayams. Then let the normal breathing follow. Sit completely still. Feel relaxed. Make it a point not to move at all, sit like a statue.

4. Charge your mind with emotion of bhakti. With heartfelt gratitude & devotion remember the ever flowing grace of God on you. Starting from this human life, to the opportunity to work for spiritual unfoldment, it is all his blessing. Let the feeling of blessedness overtake you. Once such a state is brought about, then just quietly sit in that blissful state, thoughtlessly. Let it overwhelm you. With this the mind keeps aside all rajo & tamo guna and there comes about predominance of sattva guna.

5. It is only after such initial preparation that inquiry into self-knowledge should be undertaken. Taking some mantra of Upanishad or other such Vedantic statement, whose meaning has been revealed to you by your teacher, think deeply about it in order to directly SEE its meaning. As the basic purport of all vedantic scriptures is to reveal the self which is complete and the ultimate, so having seen this fact, just be that. Let its significance trickle down deep into your mind. Let this knowledge have its own effect. Don't let even the thought of your old identity surface.

6. Even when the true meaning of scriptures is being seen the mind will progressively become more & more quiet & contended. Attainment of quititude by becoming aware of the true meaning of scriptures is called Savikalpa Samadhi, while being charged with this awareness to such an extent that you just be that and thereafter all awareness also drops, or rather the effort to retain the awareness is not necessary any more, then such a state is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

This is the kind of meditation as revealed in the Vedantic scriptures. An upasaka should first limit him or herself to the first four steps properly. Once the ability of this is accomplished then slowly try the fifth step. Don't hurry. Take all the time in the world, but SEE the meaning of scriptures. There alone lies your redemption.

Back to Vedanta Sandesh - Oct 98 (NF)

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