Meditation or Meditation?
by Swami Vishnudevananda
There is a great desire in all human beings for peace of mind. However yoga tells us that there is nothing in the material world which can provide such peace. If we were to ask the rich of the world if they were satisfied with their lives, most would say no. Most would admit to some dissatisfaction, some unhappiness, some emptiness. We may live in the gutter or a palace and everywhere in between, but there is nowhere in the outside world where our minds can find complete peace.
Modern Life or rush and hurry
Even if we were to extend our lives by one thousand years it would not make us happier. It is yogis who are the happiest—if anyone in the world has freedom, it is they. They have no attachments, no worry about death. It is only when we withdraw from the world and touch the silence within that we can understand the meaning of peace. We rush from experience to experience, but wherever we go our mind comes with us and the world remains the same. Only after many years of practice of withdrawing our mind from the external world, through the practice of meditation, are we able to obtain a glimpse of this inner peace, a peace which is indescribable.
However there is no easy way to attain it. It is not possible to secure it in ten easy lessons as is commonly believed in the West today. We do not understand what it means to draw the mind inwards; we connect to the external world only. We believe meditation is a waste of time. We have no idea of the immense peace and satisfaction that comes with meditation. But discipline, order and systematic practice are necessary to bring the mind under control and make headway in meditation.
Mind deceives us
In the early stages the mind will deceive us, progress will be slow and difficult. During meditation subconscious thoughts rise to the conscious level, and distract us, sapping our confidence in our ability to meditate. These disturbances however should not be suppressed, as this only creates tension, but disregarded. Turn the mind to another channel!! The mind insists we obey it—jump when it says jump, eat when it says eat. The secret is not to play along with the thought—observe it and it will disappear.
In one minute there may be sixty thoughts. However, with continual practice the chanchalata, the restless mind, will quieten and we will reduce the thoughts to fifty, then thirty a minute. Gradually, slowly we will have complete control over the mind instead of the mind having complete control over us. As a result, we develop extraordinary abilities and influence.
Swami Sivananda would say ‘An ordinary man’s mind plays with him. A yogi plays with his mind.’
A person fishing concentrates intensely on the fishing rod and line, waiting for the moment for the fish to bite. He is using the same technique as any yogi, guru, rishi or baba; so also a golfer trying to put a ball into a small hole or a surgeon using a knife for a delicate operation, or a Swiss craftsman putting a watch together, all are focussing the mental thought rays.
Practice of concentration
Imagine you are sitting in your chair at home and a cobra slithers in and disappears behind a cupboard. You will come to a standstill, even the breathing will stop as you focus on locating the cobra. This is the level of concentration which is required for meditation. To attain this degree of concentration we must have control over the prana. We slow down the breath and even completely arrest the breathing (kevala kumbhaka) and the mind stills.
Kumbhaka, retention of breath, slows down the functions of the autonomous nervous system. Blood pressure and the pulse rate lower and we become calm and peaceful. Is there any difference between one kind of meditation and another kind? Is there a difference between types of meditation? This is a little like asking a shopkeeper which brand of sugar is sweeter. If the shopkeeper has X brand of sugar and the neighbouring shopkeeper has Y brand, both will claim that their brand is better than the other’s.
Is there any difference between one or the other? Why is one brand of sugar more popular? The answer is because of advertising. The more the name of a product passes into the subconscious mind, the more the mind will accept that product. There is no difference for the mind, as long as the label says that it is particular and superior. If you go to the doctor and get a prescription for aspirin and he charges $5 and another who is more famous gives you the same aspirin but charges $100, naturally you will get the benefit from the second doctor’s aspirin because you have had to pay more!!!
Meditation or Meditation?
In the same way one guru can claim that his form of meditation or mantra or method is superior to another. In all walks of life, from doctor to doctor or drink-maker to drink-maker or from guru to guru there are different ways to sell the same product. One kind of meditation technique may appear to be more attractive because it may be well publicized or endorsed by stars or famous people. And yet it is nothing more than a brand name.
Just as politicians create various slogans or sound-bites to attract the attention of the voters like ‘law and order’, ‘peace with honour’ etc., so in the same way yogis, gurus, babas and rishis advertise their product to attract students by using various brand names, such as ‘Raja Yoga Meditation’, ‘Kundalini Meditation’, ‘Jnana Yoga Meditation’, ‘Laya Yoga Meditation’,‘Buddhist Meditation’, ‘Tantra Meditation’ or even ‘Bio-Feedback Meditation.’ It does not matter what the brand name is, in meditation the aim is the same—to keep the mind focussed on a particular object or idea.
Wherever there is intense concentration of the mind on any object there is complete peace and relaxation for the mind. Various masters have developed different types of meditation– but what object or idea should you meditate on? X Brand of meditation will tell you to focus on a sound of a syllable or a mantra; Y Brand of meditation will tell you to meditate on a dot, on a light or the form of Lord Krishna, Jesus or Buddha; Z Brand of meditation will tell you to meditate on an idea such as Soham— I am He, or Aham Brahmasmi – I am Brahman, I am That I am.
Beginners should focus the mind on sound (mantra), and more advanced students may concentrate on concepts, ideas or chakras. However there are no set rules—those who are drawn to sound should meditate on sound, visualisers should visualise. There are no secrets in meditation, only different methods. But the reader should understand the general meaning and technique of meditation before taking to any form of practice, and know that all forms of meditation will lead you to the same transcendental state, or supra-sensual state, or samadhi. This is the goal of meditation irrespective of what mantras or forms or ideas you meditate on, or what type of guru or baba you follow.