Constitution of the humans: Human beings have the faculty of thinking, reasoning, judging, and deciding. This is called the INTELLECT. This faculty is used by the humans to deal with situations that arise in day to day life while dealing with various situations in life. Any one who uses this faculty successfully is called an ‘intelligent person.’ This kind of intellect in humans is termed the ‘gross intellect’. The humans also have a ‘Subtle Intellect’. This intellect is used in conceiving the transcendental. This subtle intellect helps in distinguishing the REAL from the UNREAL – Eternal from ephemeral. It is this intellect which used in Meditation to attain Spiritual Enlightenment. No other being possesses this faculty.
WHY MEDITATION?The human mind is a continuous flow of thoughts. In today’s world all thoughts are running towards material wealth and comforts, little realizing that these are temporary in nature (Unreal) as different from the REAL wealth which is the understanding light of Consciousness alone. When hunting for material wealth, the mind is constantly agitated. This is because of one’s experiences of the past and concerns of the future. An agitated mind is unable to concentrate. Without concentration, you do not act in a sane manner. Your life is a disaster and you are always in sorrow. You need a mechanism to correct this, and help you in concentrating and be Objective in your actions. This Mechanism is MEDITATION. In our day to day life, we see a lot of material things which attract us. A new Mobile, TV, car, Movies etc; you are tempted to collect these items and start enjoying them. But after a while you get “bored” with them. Why? Because, all these are unreal and temporary in nature. Further, your mind seeks for more ‘pleasurable’ things of the world and you find ways and means to get them. This causes anxiety and agitation.
WHAT IS MEDITATION? Meditation is the art of maintaining the mind in focus upon a chosen thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts. The key words to note is focus of the mind on one thought. This is very difficult to achieve. This is because; the mind is a continuous flow of thoughts. The light of inner consciousness projects and creates a solid, substantial world. Humans are born with many unmanifest thoughts. These thoughts need to be ‘exhausted’ if one were to feel peaceful. Meditation is the technique to exhaust your unmanifest thoughts and expose you to the supreme Self (Godhead) within.
The agitated mind finds it difficult to focus. Here the mind needs the direction of the intellect. The intellect has to supervise the mind to bring your thoughts in focus when it strays away. This is the essence of meditation as per the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta. It prescribes detachment from the world as a pre-requisite for Meditation. ‘Detachment’ is essentially an attitude of looking at the world in a dispassionate manner without fear or favour. Train your mind to take happiness and sorrow with same attitude. Over a period of time, you would become a ‘witness’ to the worldly happenings and pleasures. To reach this stage you have to move from a selfish person to unselfish one and finally become selfless. At this state of mind, your focus moves away from yourself and your friends and relatives and thinks about the whole world as your ‘family’. This feeling makes your mind calm, peaceful and take shocks of life with ease. You have to experience it to understand it.
THE PROCEDURE: There are various methods of practicing meditation. Select a location to meditate. It should be free of noise, external disturbances such as a phone, TV etc; before you start your meditation, it would be a good idea to do the yogic breathing exercise of pranayama. It raises your energy level as more oxygen flows in your body. Choose a chant (mantra) to meditate... It could be anything which you like. It could be a favorite symbol, name or the chant of Aum. This is suggested, as it is believed that it represents your inner consciousness (Atman or Brahman) which is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. It is indestructible and has no beginning and no end. It is present in every human, animal, plant and inanimate objects of the world. Hence it is The Reality. I found an interesting and informative website which gives more details. The link is www.meditationiseasy.com. More about mantras is also available in this site.
To approach to learning meditation to the uninitiated, one could choose an idol which could be anything which allows you to focus. It could be a Cross, a crescent, a statue of Buddha, a favorite star or anything. You chant the name repeatedly with closed eyes sitting in a comfortable position, relaxed fully. After constant practice, try to chant the mantra continuously sitting in a silent room where external noises do not disturb you. You can chant in any language, any god’s name. It does not matter. What matters is the concentrated chant continuously. You can choose Aum. Some people use beads to help them concentrate. This is fine. As you progress in your meditation, the chant slowly becomes a mental whisper to finally end in silence. Try not to fall asleep. All the time the intellect is aware of what is going on. Start with 1 or 2 minutes and then slowly increase the time of meditation. For best results, meditate in the early hours of morning when there is quiet and silence around. (4 AM to 6AM).
CONCLUSION: Meditation helps in your spiritual growth. It leads you towards your final Goal of Self realization.
You realize that you are a drop in the ocean of the entire Universe. You realize the ultimate truth about the Universe and the purpose of your life. At that point in time, you have exhausted all desires (both manifest and unmanifest) of the world. Nothing happening in the unreal world affects you. You look at the world as a witness to all the happenings around you, but not affected by them. Birth, Death, Disease or Old age happening around you, do not bother you. In fact at this point in time, your Mind and Intellect cease to exist. The thought flow ceases. Mind becomes extinct. The individual self merges with the Supreme Self. You become enlightened. The purpose of your birth in this world is achieved. This is the Vedantic approach to Meditation.
Pranayama: What is Pranayama? It is essentially, a breathing exercise. Proper Controlled breathing is conducive to mental equanimity. Normally, when people are mentally stressed, they take deep breaths. Athletes after strenuous exercise, do deep breathing exercise to allow more oxygen to flow into the lungs and throw out the Carbon-di-oxide from the lungs. Further this also brings peace of mind after the physical exercise. For example, the long distance runners find it difficult to keep the mind at peace after a race. Similarly, after doing a long stretch of work in office which involves a lot of mental exercise, the mind remains in an agitated state. You normally would like to ‘unwind’’ yourself. At this juncture either you listen to music, keeping your eyes closed so that your mind calms down. It will be a good idea to close your eyes and take deep breaths. Exactly in the same way, before you start meditation, calm your mind with the deep breathing exercise called Pranayama. Any Yogic practice includes pranayama as one of the essential elements in the process. Role of Pranayama before starting to meditate: For meditation to be effective it is necessary to keep your mind at peace. Pranayama helps in this. It is also found useful before you start any kind of mental and physical tasks. It energises the system and makes you efficient. Physical fitness and mental equanimity are essential for meditation. The mind is constantly thinking of many things. If you do not have the peace of mind, meditation does not serve its purpose.
Pranayama, the technique of breathing:
Step 1: Extend your little and ring finger of your right palm and the other two folded, press the thumb against your right nostril.
Step 2: Now, inhale slowly through your left nostril.
Step 3: When you have inhaled fully, with the two smaller fingers, close the left nostril.
Step 4: Now, with both the nostrils closed and your lung is full, hold your breath for a count of say 20.
Step 5: After holding your breath, keeping your left nostril closed, release the thumb and exhale completely through your right nostril.
Step 6: After exhalation, keep both the nostril open to keep the air out.
Thus this forms the first half of pranayama. That is, inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling and keeping the breath outside. In the second part, replicate the process, like above described 6 steps but using your left palm and fingers. In step 1 with similar arrangement of fingers, close the left nostril with the left thumb and inhale through the right nostril. After inhaling, close both the nostrils and hold your breath to the count of 20. As in step5, exhale slowly through the left nostril. Step 6 is the same.
Contrary to general belief, controlling of breath does not control your mind. It is the other way around. It is the mind which remains calm that controls the breath. That is why, Vedanta recommends keeping the mind under the control of your intellect constantly. Take in emotional inputs but act only under the instructions of the intellect. You would soon find meditation an easier process, bringing the real Self (GOD) in you.
Krishnamoorthi, born on 12 Oct. 1941, grew up in a spiritually oriented Hindu family. He graduated as an electrical engineer from the University of Kerala, India. For 20 years he was in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and served as a Communications Officer. Next, he became an Information systems consultant, helping many organizations in setting up MIS, which he does today, along with training pupils in Computers and systems.
Because of the early spiritual connections, he was attracted towards the study of philosophy of all religions and continues the pursuit of real knowledge. He is particularly inspired by the lectures and writings of Swami Parthasarathy, who runs a 3-year graduate program in the study of Hindu Philosophy of Vedanta.
Visit Krishnamoorthi’s educational website http://vedantalearning.com which is full of articles, photos, videos, and audios about various philosophies of the world. He is interested in addressing problems in the world causing mental stress and why good people get bad treatment in the world. These and many other questions are presented for the reader seeking answers. He invites all learned thinkers, philosophers, psychiatrists, and preachers of various religions to guide him and the world further on the quest of understanding life and living high ideals. He believes learning is an ongoing, dynamic process with no end to it and that knowledge shows the path to the ultimate truth.