The Bhagavad Gita is the pinnacle of Indian philosophy and yoga. This small book, consisting of only seven hundred verses of four lines each, covers every aspect of dynamic spiritual life. It is a lifetime study, imparting life-giving knowledge, including instruction in meditation.
First, the yogi sits in an upright posture. “Let him firmly hold his body, head and neck erect and perfectly still.” (Bhagavad Gita 6:13)
His eyes should be turned downward “as though gazing toward the tip of his nose,” (Bhagavad Gita ) and then closed.
Next, he breathes through his nose–not his mouth–in a completely natural and spontaneous manner, in this way “equalizing the outgoing and incoming breaths moving within the nostrils,” (Bhagavad Gita ) easily calming and refining the breath.
Then he fixes his awareness in the center of his head, intoning Om once when he inhales and once when he exhales, feeling as though he is breathing and intoning at that point.
Then, “having fixed the life-breath in the head, engaged in the practice of concentration, uttering the monosyllable Om—the Brahman—remembering Me always,” (Bhagavad Gita -13) the yogi meditates upon the Supreme. For Krishna, the embodiment of that Supreme, tells us: “I am the syllable Om.” (Bhagavad Gita 7:8) “I am the Sacred Monosyllable [Om].” (Bhagavad Gita 9:17) And: “Among words I am the monosyllable Om.” (Bhagavad Gita 10:25) Further, in this last verse he continues: “Among sacrifices I am the sacrifice of japa,” indicating how Om is to be employed by the yogi.
And the ultimate result he also tells. ““With the senses, the mind and the intellect always controlled, having liberation as his supreme goal, free from desire, fear and anger—the sage is verily liberated for ever.” (Bhagavad Gita 5:28) “Thus, always keeping the mind balanced, the Yogi, with the mind controlled, attains to the peace abiding in Me, which culminates in liberation.” (Bhagavad Gita 6:15)
Finally he gives the rationale and affirmation of this: “Whosoever, leaving the body, goes forth remembering Me alone at the time of death, he attains My Being; there is no doubt about this. Whosoever at the end leaves the body, thinking of any being, to that being only does he go, because of his constant thought of that being! Therefore, at all times remember Me…. With mind and intellect fixed (or absorbed) in Me, thou shalt doubtless come to Me alone.” (Bhagavad Gita 8:5-7)
“At the time of death, with unshaken mind, endowed with devotion and by the power of Yoga,…he reaches that resplendent Supreme Person.…Uttering the monosyllable Om—the Brahman—remembering Me always, he who departs thus, leaving the body, attains to the supreme goal.
“I am easily attainable by that ever-steadfast Yogi who constantly and daily remembers Me, not thinking of anything else [with a single or one-pointed mind]! Having attained Me these great souls do not again take birth [here], which is the place of pain and is non-eternal; they have reached the highest perfection.” (Bhagavad Gita 8:10, 13-15)
More about the Chidakasha
The Jewel in the Lotus, the Jewel in the Serpent’s Head, the Chidakasha: all these are symbolic expressions for the primary center of spiritual consciousness located in the midst of our brain–midway between the medulla at the back and the point between the eyebrows at the front, and directly beneath the crown of the head. This is the hub of our personal existence, the tying-in center of all the bodies and elements that go to comprise “us.” It is the center of ultimate integration, the gateway of divine descent and ascent. Taoists call it “the original cavity of the spirit,” saying it “is the center between heaven and earth in the human body.” Lao Tzu referred to it as “the gateway to heaven and earth,” and said that it should be concentrated on to produce the consciousness of the Oneness of all things.
To cultivate awareness of this area is to awaken and develop the highest spiritual consciousness and also mastery of all the levels of our being. Through the “jewel” the subtle energies of the higher planes flow into the brain and body, making it the origin and seat of all supernatural experiences and abilities and is the point of communication with higher planes and higher consciousness.
It was said in ancient India that the cobra has a jewel in its head which confers immortality, so the ignorant went around killing cobras and looking in their heads for the jewel that would make them immortal. Of course, they found no such thing, since the jewel in the head of the cobra is the Chidakasha which we enter by the practice of meditation. The extended hood of the cobra representing the two lobes of the brain, in the midst of which is the brain core.
In the esoteric writings of both Hinduism and Buddhism we find references to “the jewel in the lotus” that is the awakened and activated core of the “thousand-petaled lotus” of the brain. (We are actually speaking of the astral and causal counterparts of the brain.) The process of meditation should take place within the Chidakasha which is the seat of the spirit.
The Chidakasha is symbolized in Indian scriptures as the Manasarovar–the Lake of the Mind–which physically is in the vicinity of MountKailash, the abode of Shiva, and in which pilgrims to Kailash always bathe. It is believed that by looking into it, spiritual revelations can be received. (The present Dalai Lama was found through visions seen in the Lake.) But the real Manasarovar is the Chidakasha located beneath the crown of the head which itself is considered the real Kailash. By keeping the awareness there our spiritual sight can be opened.
Physiologists have concluded that the middle area of the brain, exactly corresponding to what the yogis (especially Paramhansa Nityananda) call the “Chidakasha,” is the “original brain” in human beings, that this brain core is the source of all faculties and functions in the human being, even though in subsequent development they may have been shifted to other area of the brain. The Chidakasha area of the brain contains the pineal gland. For centuries Western medicine thought the pineal gland, a small organ (about the size of a grain of rice) shaped like a pine cone located in the midst of the brain, had no practical function, but now it is being increasingly recognized as the supreme regulator of all the life processes of both body and mind. However, spiritual science has from time immemorial regarded it as the seat of spirit-consciousness, the point in which the spirit is tied into–incarnate in–the body. It works in cooperation with the other glands in the brain to control the entire body and its functions.
To cultivate constant awareness of the Chidakasha is to awaken and develop the highest spiritual consciousness and also mastery of all the levels of our being and the energies of which they are composed. For this reason there is no need in Om Yoga to specifically work with the subordinate centers or chakras, or with the various energies of the human complex, including the kundalini. From your enlivened Chidakasha the sacred light and power of Om will flow into every cell of every level of your being.
Since Om is so all-embracing and so effective, why do we put our awareness in the Chidakasha and hear and feel It sounding and vibrating there? Yes, Om is effective, but just as a key is placed in the keyhole and dynamite is placed just where it will be the most effective, so we center our inner activity in the Chidakasha, for that is the center of everything, inner and outer.
The gears of the mind
In meditation stay away from the gears of the mind! They will draw you into the mental machinery and whirl you around and confuse and misguide you as they have for this life and all your previous births beyond number. Stay away.
“So stay with Om–with God–and forget everything else.”
It is the nature–because it is the purpose–of the mind to dance around producing thoughts, impressions, memories, etc. What else could it do? Therefore we do not at all care what distractions may arise during meditation. We ignore them. And if we ignore them they are no longer distractions. When you are on the stormy sea you do not try to still the waves, you enter the safety of the harbor. So it is with meditation. Forget the choppy waves of the mind and thoughts and by means of meditation enter the peace of the spirit that lies just beyond the mind. So stay with Om–with God–and forget everything else. Then all will be yours. Even holy thoughts and impressions are unholy if they disrupt the process of meditation. Therefore we must ever keep before us the true goal of our meditation practice: Consciousness Itself.
Of course the mind can be expected to throw up an unending stream of negative thoughts, impulses, and desires as well as arguments against spiritual life and discipline. On the other hand it can also present the silliest and paltriest memories, impressions, and impulses for us to examine and get caught up in. The mind also assails us with thoughts of all the “urgent” and “necessary” things we need to do; and if that does not work then it begins tossing up all the crises in the world and society that “need looking after”–or at least feeling concerned or indignant about. Sometimes the mind plays music, too.
A major difficulty in meditation practice is in learning to care nothing for the supposedly “good” thoughts or ideas that occur in meditation. This means not engaging the mind-gears with long prayers, affirmations, and suchlike during meditation and not letting the mind entice you into its lair with promises of insight and inspiration or knowledge. Profound philosophical insights, brilliant plots for books, and outlines for inspiring spiritual talks (especially on meditation) are often presented by the mind. According to Shankara the practice of yoga “has right vision alone for its goal, and glories of [external] knowledge and power are not its purpose.”
Never come out of meditation to note or write out any kinds of inspirations or insights, however important they may seem to you. This is just a temptation–and a very real and perilous one. If the inspiration, insight, or idea is really from your higher self or from God it will come back to you outside of meditation. I can assure you of this, for it is my experience. Even while writing this book I had some very crucial points occur to me in meditation that I had forgotten to write out for you. I also realized a better way of expressing some things I had already written. Since this book is so important–the most important writing of my life–I naturally wanted it to be as helpful as possible for you, and as complete and comprehensible as I could make it. So the temptation was great. But I am glad to say that spirit won out over ego and I continued meditating. And afterward I recalled every single nuance–and even improved on what had come to me in meditation.
The gears of the body–chakras and kundalini
Just as the mind has gears, so does the body–particularly those points of power known as chakras. Awakening or “opening” the chakras located in the spine that correspond to various nerve plexii or glands occupies a great deal of the attention of contemporary yogis. Although these centers do exist and their activation or energization may occur spontaneously during the practice of Om Yoga, we are not interested in such phenomena nor do we ever seek to produce their awakening in any way. This is for two reasons: 1) they are irrelevant to the Om Yogi, and 2) they are formed of gray matter just like that of the brain, but they are the “brains” of lower evolutionary forms. In the ancient authoritative scriptures and commentaries, including the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is no mention whatsoever of “chakras” and “kundalini.” These do exist, and for those who work with them will prove an endless source of amazement and amusement, but they will not lead to the Goal.
The chakras are various centers or energy-hubs in the body that are whorls of karmic force, energy mechanisms which maintain the entire system of karmic bondage. These centers are powerful repositories of karmic seeds, and their energization can produce the fruition of these seeds, resulting in even more karmic entanglements. Furthermore, these centers are the producers of various “states of consciousness” that are really nothing but psychic hallucinations, virulent germs and viruses that cause the multifarious diseases of samsara. To merely touch these whirlpools can result in our being drawn into them, whirled around in their confusion, and drowned in their deadly illusion: the sleep of death that we erroneously call “life.”
The moment we begin fiddling with chakras, energies, and kundalini we shall be pulled into the gears of the delusion machine and mangled beyond all recognition–just as we have been for lifetimes that cannot be numbered even in the billions or trillions. Oh, yes, we will be regaled with astounding sight, sounds, and sensations, what to say of “powers” derived from those things, but they will all be ropes of the net–ceiling, walls, floors, locks, and doors of the mayic prison. The more entertained we are, the more bound we become. We must beware the euphoric and hallucinogenic drugs of such “spiritual experiences.”
“Whatever happens in meditation, our sole occupation should be with Om.”
Always centering our awareness in Om, gradually we will gain perfect control of all the bodies and the energies of which they are composed and orient them toward higher consciousness and power. The sacred light and power of Om will flow into every cell of every level of our being, awakening all our inner faculties and forces–and all spontaneously and naturally without having to do anything special to produce it. Consequently, during meditation much phenomena can take place during the process of correction and purification that is an integral part of meditation. When the chakras are being cleansed and perfected by the subtle vibrations of Om, they may become energized, awakened, or “opened”–and that is just fine. What is not good is deliberately concentrating on those points to energize them, or letting the attention be drawn to/in them if they are awakened during meditation. Whatever happens in meditation, our sole occupation should be with Om.
Uniting with Om
All that exists is a manifestation of Om.Om is the essence of all things. Therefore Om is perpetually sounding from within the heart (core) of all things, including us. To unite our awareness into that ever-flowing Om through japa and meditation is the true “centering.” Om japa and meditation put us in touch with that inmost stream or current so we can follow it back to its Divine Source.
Every year in India thousands make pilgrimages to the source of the Ganges and other sacred rivers. Such pilgrimages are externalizations of the pilgrimage of the spirit that is accomplished by tracing the inner river of Om back to its Source through meditation. (“By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol.” Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 404)
Many more pilgrims journey to Rudra Prayag (presently known as Allahabad) to bathe in the Triveni, the confluence of three sacred rivers: Ganges, Jumna, and Saraswati. It is believed that to immerse yourself in the waters of the Triveni is to be greatly purified. But this is only an outer action reflecting the inner experience of bathing (immersing) ourselves in the inner intonings of Om in time with the breath at the Chidakasha and our experiencing of their effects. By this continual “bathing” the entire being of the yogi becomes purified and refined.
Evocation and invocation
In japa and meditation we are not employing Om as a prayer, an affirmation, or a remembrance, but as effective evocation–a calling forth–of our inherent, eternal Self-consciousness, and as an invocation–a calling into us–of the Consciousness that is the Supreme Self. That is, Om brings into our awareness the consciousness of both the individual Self (jivatman) and the Supreme Self (Paramatman) in perfect union. The japa and meditation of Om makes us one with our true Self and one with God, merging our being and consciousness with His perfect Being and Consciousness. Because this is so, we do not need to keep in mind an intellectual meaning of Om (there is not one, anyway) or cultivate an attitude or emotion during our practice. Rather, we relax, listen, and make ourselves open and receptive to Its dynamic working within us.
Entering the Silence
The expression “entering the silence” is usually misunderstood as sitting with a blank mind. One mystery of Om is its ability to produce silence through sound–sound that is essentially silence. Through our invocation of Om the state of silence is produced in our mind by enabling us to center it in the principle of the silent witnessing consciousness. Through Om the yogi leads his awareness into the silence of the spirit which is beyond the clamor of the mind and the distractions and movements of the body. For true silence is not mere absence of sound, but a profound condition of awareness that prevails at all times–even during the “noise” of our daily life.
Simplicity and subtlety of practice
The simpler and more easeful the yoga practice, the more deeply effective it is. This is a universal principle in the realm of inner development and experience–and therefore is a general principle of yoga itself. How is this? In the inner world of meditation things are often just the opposite to the way they are in the outer world. Whereas in the outer world a strong aggressive force is most effective in producing a change, in the inner world it is subtle, almost minimal force or movement that is most effectual–even supremely powerful. In meditation and japa the lightest “touch” is usually the most efficient. This being so, the simple subtle intonations of Om are the strongest and most effective form of mantric invocation.
An incident that took place during one of the crusades illustrates this. At a meeting between the leaders of the European forces and Saladin, commander of the Arab armies, one of the Europeans tried to impress and intimidate Saladin by having one of his soldiers cleave a heavy wooden chair in half with a single downstroke of his broadsword. In response, Saladin ordered someone to toss a silk scarf as light and delicate as a spider’s web into the air. As it descended, he simply held his scimitar beneath it with the sharp edge upward, unmoving. When the scarf touched the edge, it sheared in half and fell on either side of the blade without even a whisper as he held it completely still. This is the power of the subtle and simple practice of Om Yoga meditation.
It is important, then, to keep in mind that often when things seem “stuck” in meditation and not moving as they should, or when the mind does not calm down, it is often because we are not relaxed sufficiently and are not allowing our inner intonations of Om to become as subtle as they should be. For the subtler the intonations, the more effective and on target they are.
Even so, I do not mean to give you the impression that your inner intonations of Om should become feeble or weak in the sense of becoming tenuous–only barely within your mental grasp, and liable to slip away and leave you blank. Not at all. The inner sound of the intonations may become subtler and subtler, but they do not at all become weaker–only gentler and more profound.
There are no “higher techniques” of Om Yoga, but through regular and prolonged practice of Om Yoga there are higher experiences and effects that will open up for the meditator. As time goes on the efficiency of the practice and the resulting depth of inner experience will greatly increase, transforming the practice into something undreamed-of by the beginning meditator–for the change really takes place in the yogi’s consciousness. Practice, practice, practice is the key.
I also wish to assure you that in this book I have given absolutely everything needed for you to attain perfection in Om Yoga. Further, I tell you truthfully that what is written in these pages is exactly what I myself do. I employ no meditation practices outside what I have set down here.
It is true that I could have presented you with quite a number of exotic ways to fiddle around with Om like a yogic toy, all of which would have produced entertaining and even amazing effects that in time would evaporate and leave you right where you started. There is no value in turning Om into a yogic gimmick. Believe me, I have experimented in the interior laboratory through the years and can say with absolute confidence that the simple japa and meditation of Om as I have described here truly is, as Patanjali said thousands of years ago: The Way.
Simplicity of experience
We have earlier noted Shankara’s statement that the practice of yoga “has right vision alone for its goal, and glories of [external] knowledge and power are not its purpose.” Because of the misconceptions that are so current about yoga, it is believed that meditation should produce astounding experiences and the acquisition of amazing powers. But that which is not spirit is not…spirit! And spirit-consciousness alone is true and real.
The upanishadic seers indicate that the path of liberation is a very simple path–the japa and meditation of Om–and that the result is simple: realization of one’s own self (atma) and ultimately of the Supreme Self (Paramatma). First there is the establishment in the pure consciousness that is our essential being as individuals, and then establishment in the Infinite Consciousness that is the Essential Being of all beings: God. Only consciousness pervades and prevails.
The Katha Upanishad makes this very clear. First it speaks of what God (Brahman) really is, saying: “Brahman [is] the all-pervading spirit, the unconditioned, knowing whom one attains to freedom and achieves immortality. None beholds him with the eyes, for he is without visible form. Yet in the heart is he revealed, through self-control and meditation. Those who know him become immortal.” (Katha Upanishad 2:3:8, 9)
Brahman is pure spirit, beyond all phenomena, beyond all relative existence or relative experience (objective consciousness). Brahman is not perceived by the inner subtle senses (“none beholds him with the eyes”), yet He is revealed in the core of the yogi’s being in meditation. “Those who know him become immortal” because they experience their identity with the immortal Brahman.
Next the upanishad describes the nature of meditation in which Brahman is realized. “When all the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not–then, say the wise, is reached the highest state. This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga. He who attains it is freed from delusion.” (Katha Upanishad 2:3:10, 11)
So here are the characteristics of meditation which the upanishad calls “the highest state”: 1) the senses are stilled, 2) the mind is at rest, 3) the intellect wavers not. Then the idea is really driven home by the upanishad: “This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga.” This state is also called sthirattwa by the yogis. “He who attains it is freed from delusion.”
Two views on the nature of meditation–and a third
In India there is a long-standing disagreement on the nature and purpose of meditation. One school of thought considers that definite–and conscious–evolutionary change is necessary for liberation; consequently meditation must be an actively transforming process. The other view is that the only thing needed for liberation is re-entry into our true, eternal nature. That nothing need be “done” at all except to perceive the truth of ourselves. Obviously their meditation procedures are going to be completely different.
There is, however, a third perspective on the matter which combines both views. It is true that we are ever-free, ever-perfect, but we have forgotten that fact and have wandered in aimless suffering for countless incarnations. No one is so foolish as to suggest to a person suffering from amnesia that he need not regain his memory since he has not ceased to be who he really is.
“Zen Buddhists use the simile of a mirror that must be dusted every day to produce clear and accurate sight.”
The “memory block” from which we suffer is the condition of the various bodies of which we consist, especially the buddhi, the intelligence. It is also a matter of the dislocation of our consciousness from its natural center. Obviously, then, something really does have to be “done” to change this condition. A dirty window need not be changed in nature, but it needs to be cleansed of that which is not its nature for us to see through it. A mirror must be dusted every day to produce and maintain clear and accurate sight.
There is an example from nature that can help us understand this. Research has shown that the energy field around a salamander egg, and all through the stages of a young salamander’s growth, is in the shape of an adult salamander. This indicates that the etheric pattern of a full-grown salamander is inherent even in the egg and throughout the salamander’s development. It is as though the egg has only to hatch and grow around this energy matrix, to fill out or grow into the ever-present pattern. Even when there is only the egg visible to the human eye, the adult salamander is there in a very real potential form. It is the same with us. We are always the Atman, potential divinity, but that potential must be realized. And meditation is the means of our realization.
Shankara, India’s greatest non-dual philosopher, puts forth the question, “How can there be a means to obtain liberation? Liberation is not a thing which can be obtained, for it is simply cessation of bondage.” He then answers himself: “For ignorance [bondage] to cease, something has to be done, with effort, as in the breaking of a fetter. Though liberation is not a ‘thing,’ inasmuch as it is cessation of ignorance in the presence of right knowledge, it is figuratively spoken of as something to be obtained.” And he concludes: “The purpose of Yoga is the knowledge of Reality.”
Om Yoga affects our energy-bodies, not our inner consciousness–it reveals our consciousness rather than changes it. The purpose of Om Yoga is liberation, and to this end it affects the prakriti (energy complex) which is the adjunct of our purusha. Because of this, it is only natural and right that thoughts, impressions, sensations and feelings of many kinds should arise as you meditate, since your meditation is evoking them as part of the transformation process. All you need do is stay relaxed and keep on intoning Om in time with the breath.
The Om yogi is already in the self, is the self, so in Om Yoga he is looking at/into his personal prakriti in the same way God observes the evolving creation. Om Yoga purifies and evolves the bodies, including the buddhi, and realigns our consciousness with its true state, accomplishing the aims of both schools of meditational thought mentioned. “Om is Brahman. Om is all this. He who utters Om with the intention ‘I shall attain Brahman’ does verily attain Brahman.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8.1)
Om is expanding outward in waves from the core of the cosmos. The same is happening with us. From our atma Om is being impulsed outward. By coming into alignment/synchronicity with the atmic impulse through the intonations of Om, we can return to our true state of being.
Shoes and leather
Since we are talking about material things (prakriti), this might be a good place to mention that it is best to meditate without shoes, because shoes (whatever material they are made from) carry the vibration of the dirt (and worse) they contact each day.
A matter of magnetism
Prana takes on many forms, including biomagnetism, the force which maintains our body and its functions. The body itself is magnetic, and any disturbance in polarity or magnetic flow is detrimental to health.
Leather inhibits the natural flow of the life force (prana). Leather shoes block the upward flow of prana from the earth into our bodies, and leather belts interfere with the flow of prana within the body.
The use of leather–or any animal-derived substance–in any manner is a violation of the principle of ahimsa, as Yogananda points out in Autobiography of a Yogi. (“‘All we need now are canvas shoes.’ I led my companions to a shop displaying rubber-soled footwear. ‘Articles of leather, gotten only through the slaughter of animals, must be absent on this holy trip.’ I halted on the street to remove the leather cover from my Bhagavad Gita, and the leather straps from my English-made sola topee (helmet).” Meditation is a “journey” much more holy than any earthly pilgrimage. It is also an infraction of the principle of shaucha. (See Chapter Eight: The Foundations of Yoga)
It has long been my experience that sleeping with the head toward the north (the feet pointing south) can cause a magnetic conflict or disturbance in the body, adversely affecting sleep–and even causing nervousness and restlessness. This is also the experience of many yogis I have known.
The “workings” of Om
Patanjali defines yoga as the stopping (nirodhah) of the modifications (vritti) of the mind (chitta). Superficially considered, this seems to mean merely being blank, without thoughts. If this were so, dreamless sleep would be yoga, and the more we slept the more enlightened we would become! Still, most yogis tend to think that in meditation no thoughts or impressions should arise–that if they do, the meditation is imperfect and reduced in value. But Om is a transforming-transmuting force, and that implies change. And change is a process.
Meditation, then, is not just sinking down into silence and stasis, though that does happen in some meditation periods, but is a spontaneous, extremely active state. As you meditate, on the subtle levels you may (will) see, hear, feel, and be aware of a great many things–thoughts, visual impressions, memories, inner sensations, and suchlike. All of this is evoked by your practice, and nothing will be a distraction if you simply observe it in a calm and objective manner, keeping your awareness in the Chidakasha area, breathing and intoning there.
Your interest should be in your intonations of Om, yet you should be aware of what is going on because Om literally is your guru and will be showing and telling you a great deal. Most things you should just let fly by on their own, but occasionally you will receive marked intuitive impressions. Your higher intelligence (buddhi) usually works through intuition/conceptualization, but at times your spiritual mind will literally talk to you. I am aware that a lot of people let their mind babble on and think God is talking to them, but that is no reason not to tell you the truth: Om is your Master Teacher, and will teach you in many ways while truly changing you at the same time. The key is to remain a calm observer and able to distinguish between the worthless antics of the lower mind and that which is being produced directly by Om for your betterment. At other times you will simply sit in happy and peaceful silence, intent on the sound of your subtle intonations of Om. Both are equally beneficial, for Om knows what It is doing, and both may occur in the same meditation. Om is truly the Pranava, the Life-Giver, and will live in you as you, for It is you.
Inner psychic sounds
It may be that sometimes you will hear various inner sounds such as a gong, bell, harp, flute, bee, waterfall, vina, bagpipes, and suchlike. These are often mistaken for genuinely spiritual phenomena when in reality they are only the astral sounds of the bodily functions. For example, the bee sound is the astral sound of cellular division, the flute sound is the astral sound of the lymphatic circulation, the bell sound is the astral sound of the cardio-pulmonary functions, and so forth. They are–in the astral sense–purely physical and have no yogic value whatsoever.
The so-called “Cosmic Om” or “Cosmic Motor” sound heard by some yogis who plug their ears and listen for it is only the astral sound of the cosmic fire element from which the body and the material plane emerge and into which they are dissolved. That this is so is shown by the following upanishadic statement: “This fire which is within a man and digests food that is eaten is Vaisvanara. Its sound is that which one hears by stopping the ears.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.9.1) It is psychic not spiritual.
In short, all such astral sounds should be ignored. Stay with your intonations of Om.
Sound arises from ether, the most subtle element that in its higher levels merges with consciousness itself. Throughout meditation the other elements will be there in their subtle forms as well. Hence during meditation we may experience psychic smells (earth), tastes (water), visions (fire), and touch/sensations (air) as well. They are not negative and need not be rejected or resisted, but they should be ignored while we calmly keep intent on the sound of Om.
Let us be honest: most “visions” seen in meditation occur because the meditator has fallen asleep and is dreaming. Yet there are genuine visions, actual psychic experiences, that occur in meditation. I say “genuine,” but Ramana Maharshi gives the true facts about all visions when he says: “Visions do occur. To know how you look you must look into a mirror, but do not take that reflection to be yourself. What is perceived by our senses and the mind is never the truth. [He means this in the ultimate sense. Even hallucinations are “real” mental phenomena.] All visions are mere mental creations, and if you believe in them, your progress ceases. Enquire to whom the visions occur. Find out who is their witness. Stay in pure awareness, free from all thoughts. Do not move out of that state.” (The Power of the Presence, vol. 3, p. 249)
The purpose of meditation is the development of deep inner awareness. The Yoga Vashishtha, a classical treatise on yoga, speaks of the state “when the consciousness reaches the deep sleep state” (Yoga Vashishtha 5:78) known in Sanskrit as sushupti. The sage Shandilya in his treatise on yoga also speaks of “the right realization of the true nature of the sound which is at the extreme end of the pronunciation of the syllable Om, when sushupti is rightly cognized [experienced] while conscious.”
In deep meditation we enter into the “silent witness” state fully, experiencing the state of dreamless sleep while fully conscious and aware. When approaching this state the beginner may actually fall asleep. This is not to be worried about, for such is quite natural, and after a while will not occur. From birth we have been habituated to falling asleep when the mind reached a certain inner point. Now through meditation we will take another turn–into the state of deep inner awareness. Although I said it is “dreamless sleep” it is of course much, much more, for there is a deepening of consciousness in this state that does not occur in ordinary dreamless sleep.
So when you have this “asleep while awake” state occur, know that you are on the right track–when it is imageless and thoughtless except for your intonations of Om (for those should never stop). “Astral dreaming” during meditation is only that: dreaming illusion. Not that visions cannot occur during meditation, but it is easy to mistake dreams for visions. Therefore it is wise to value only the conscious sushupti experience in meditation, within which Om continues to be the focus of our awareness. This is the true samadhi.
We have talked about mental distractions, but what about physical ones? Simple: scratch when you itch, yawn when tired, shift or stretch when you have a muscle cramp, and if you feel uncomfortable, shift your position. We are meditating, not torturing or coercing the body. Such distractions are normal and not to be concerned about. If we give them undue attention by being annoyed or disgusted with them, or trying to force our attention away from them, we will only be concentrating on them, and will compound their distracting power. In time most of these little annoyances stop occurring. Until then, just be calm and scratch and rub and move a little, while keeping your awareness where it belongs.
What about noises? Accept them. Do not wish they would stop, and do not try to “not hear” them. Just accept the noise as part of your present situation. Neither like nor dislike it.
Care only for your meditation, confident that a few itchings, cramping, noises, thoughts, or memories will not ruin your meditation. “Greater is he [the spirit] that is in you, than he [the body] that is in the world.” (I John 4:4) It is your attention to them, either in rejection or acceptance, that will spoil your meditation. You must guard against that, and relaxation and indifference to them is the way.
“The self resides within the lotus of the heart. Knowing this, devoted to the self, the sage enters daily that holy sanctuary.” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:3:3)
Meditation should be done daily, and if possible it should be done twice daily–morning and evening, or before and after work, whichever is more convenient. (Those who are retired or whose schedule permits may prefer to meditate for a long time only once a day.)
When your period of meditation is over, do your utmost to maintain the flow of the japa of Om in time with your breathing no matter what you are doing. In all your activities, let the inner repetition of Om continue, lighting up your mind. For those who diligently and continually apply themselves, attainment is inevitable.
When you find yourself with some time–even a few minutes–during the day, sit and do a little meditation. Every little bit certainly does help.
Length of meditation
How long at a time should you meditate? The more you meditate the more benefit you will receive, but you should not push or strain yourself. Start with a modest time–fifteen or twenty minutes–and gradually work up to an hour or an hour and a half, perhaps once a week meditating longer if that is practical. But do not force or burn yourself out. It is a common trick of the mind to have you meditate for a very long time and then skip some days or weeks and then overdo it again. It is better to do the minimum time every day without fail. Remember the tortoise and the hare. Also, if you go about it the right way and live in the manner which makes you supremely responsive, one hour’s meditation can equal hours of “ordinary” meditation.
The place for meditation
It will be most helpful to your practice if you have a special place exclusively for your practice of meditation. Your mind will begin to associate that place with meditation and will more easily enter a quiet and peaceful state when you sit there. If you can set aside an entire room for practicing meditation, or even a large well-ventilated closet, that is good, but just an area in a room is adequate. The important thing is that the area be devoted exclusively to your meditation.
Your meditation place should be as quiet as possible. As a rule earplugs are not recommended for the practice of meditation since you can become distracted by the sensation of pressure in the ears, or the chirping, cricket-like noises that go on all the time in the ears, or the sound of your heartbeat. But if you need them, use them. Your place of meditation should ideally be a place where you can most easily forget outer distractions, but if it is not, you can still manage to practice meditation successfully.
It should be softly or dimly lighted. (Full darkness might tend to make you go to sleep.) It is also good to turn off any electric lights, as their pulsation–even though not perceived by the eyes–affects the brain waves and subtly agitates the mind. (Halogen lights do not pulsate, so they are no problem if they do not glare.) If you like having a candle or wick lamp burning when you meditate, they should be a kind that does not flicker. Even a very dim electric light somewhere in the room out of the range of your sight is better than a flickering candle or lamp in front of you.
The room should be moderate in temperature and free from drafts, both cold and hot. It is also important that it be well ventilated so you do not get sleepy from lack of oxygen in the air.
Some meditators like to burn incense when they meditate. This is a good practice if the smoke does not irritate their lungs or noses. Unfortunately, most incense, including that from India, contains artificial, toxic ingredients that are unhealthy. The two best kinds of incenses to use are genuine sandalwood or frankincense. Sandal is considered the highest vibratory fragrance. Frankincense and rose also possess a very high vibration. There are several brands of incense that are genuine, but the Auroshikha brand made at the Aurobindo Ashram in India is the most trustworthy.
Keep it inside
Do not dissipate the calmness and centering gained through meditation by talking about it to others. Experiences in meditation are not only subtle, they are fragile, as delicate as spun glass, and speaking about them can shatter their beneficial effects. Bragging, eulogizing, and swapping notes about meditation experiences is a very harmful activity–even with other people who meditate. Avoid it.
Do not satisfy any curiosity about your personal yogic experiences or benefits except in the most general terms. Naturally you can tell people that meditation helps you, but do so in only a general way unless you really feel intuitively that you should be more specific. When people seem truly interested in spiritual life and serious about it, give them a copy of this book, or of Introduction to Om Yoga, and discuss the general and practical aspects freely.
“In meditation not just the body, but the mind must be relaxed.”
Although in this book you will find the word “concentration,” it is not used in the sense of forcing or tensing the mind. Rather, we are wanting to become aware–that is attentive–to the fullest degree. And this is accomplished in Om Yoga by relaxation in body, mind, and attitude. Our attention on Om is always gentle, though determined. It is not a spike we are driving into our mind. We are floating in Om, not crashing into it.
In meditation not just the body, but the mind must be relaxed. This relaxation is what most readily facilitates meditation. Think of the mind as a sponge, absolutely full of water. If you hold it in your hand, fully relaxed, all will be well. But if you grip it or squeeze it tightly, water will spray out in all directions. This is exactly how it is with the mind. If you “hold” it in a state of calm relaxation, very few distractions in the form of memories and thoughts will arise. But if you try to force the mind and tense it, then a multitude of distractions will arise.
Learning to continually do japa of Om
By keeping up the inner repetition of Om all the time, whatever you may be doing, you will be perpetually cultivating supreme awareness itself. A good way to get yourself habituated to the constant japa of Om is to do japa while you are reading–simply looking at or scanning the page rather than verbalizing in your mind. (This is the secret of “speed reading.”) Once you learn to do that, since reading demands so much attention, you will pretty well be able to keep the japa going in other activities. Eventually you will able to do japa of Om even when speaking with others.
If we lie down for meditation we will likely go to sleep. Yet, for those with back problems or some other situation interfering with their sitting upright, or who have trouble sitting upright for a long time, it is possible to meditate in a reclining position at a forty-five-degree angle. This is a practice of some yogis in India when they want to meditate unbrokenly for a very long time. (I was told of two yogis who meditated throughout the entire day this way.) There may still be a tendency to sleep, but we do what we can when we can. Here is the procedure:
Using a foam wedge with a forty-five-degree angle–or enough pillows to lie at that angle, or in a bed that raises up to that angle–lie on your back with your arms at your side, or across your stomach if that is more comfortable. Then engage in the meditation process just as you would if sitting upright.
When you are ill or for some reason unable to sit upright you can meditate in this way.
Alternating positions in meditation
Those not yet accustomed to sitting still for a long time, or those who want to meditate an especially long time, can alternate their meditation positions. After sitting as long as is comfortable, they can do some reclining meditation and then sit for some more time–according to their inclination.
It is most helpful to practice what is known as Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep), for this aids in the development of inner awareness during the waking time and in meditation. It is sometimes called Conscious Sleep because it enables the yogi to become aware during the dream state that he is dreaming and to reduce the time spent in the dream state and increase the time spent in dreamless sleep with full consciousness. Here is the procedure: 1) When you lie down to sleep or rest, lie flat on your back with your arms at your side, palms downward, and your legs out straight but relaxed, in the so-called Corpse Pose (Savasana). The feet need not be held straight up. 2) Relax completely, with closed eyes. 3) Do the normal process of meditation until you fall asleep. If you awaken during the sleep period, do Yoga Nidra until you fall sleep again. It is also helpful to do Yoga Nidra when you are ill, as it can aid the healing process. If you find that lying on your back i
At the present moment we are blinded by the fog of illusion. We don't know where we've come from. We don't know who we are or what is the origin of or purpose of our existence. We don't know what is our destination nor how to reach it. In short, we're a mess. We're in bad shape philosophically and psychologically. But the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Who is the origin of our existence. is very merciful upon us. He appears to us in the form of His brilliant sun-like holy names (HARI OM) so that by chanting them we can dissolve the fog of illusion and fully situated in our original glory. This is the great blessing of Swami Swarupananda's appearance in this world some 110 years ago. He came to deliver to us the sweet, pure holy names so that we can burn away the fog of illusion.
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