Samyama – part 3
ASHTANGA YOGA SERIES
What if someone told you there was a simple set of practices that could help you manage every aspect of your daily life, and at the same time take you to a level of human potential beyond your wildest imagination? Would you be interested? Most people would at least be curious.
That is in fact an accurate explanation of the practices of Yoga, but most people don’t realize it. Yoga includes a holistic set of practices for overall self-development and the well-being of the body, mind and soul. A few thousand years back, the great sage Patanjali compiled the current yogic practices of that time into a simple framework consisting of eight parts or limbs, and that framework is still used today. It is known as Ashtanga Yoga.
But the practices of Yoga have evolved since Patanjali was alive, in response to the needs of the time and especially during the last 150 years. So in this series DAAJI explores each limb of Yoga in the light of the modern day yogic practices of Heartfulness. He shows us how to integrate inner spiritual practices with living in the world and refining our personality, so as to create that true state of Yoga – skill in action and integration of the spiritual and worldly aspects of life.
SAMYAMA – part 3
Dharana • Dhyana • Samadhi
Dhyana, often translated as meditation, is the centerpiece of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, and through the inner spiritual journey it leads us to Samadhi, the original state. In this article, DAAJI focuses on the practice of meditation and how it leads us into Samadhi.
Meditation is a state of intense inner wakefulness.
There are two very common images we see of people meditating. The first is that of a practitioner sitting completely erect in one of the traditional cross-legged sitting Asanas, mindful, witnessing thoughts, and very alert.
The second is of a practitioner in an absorbed state of Samadhi, unconscious of everything around, sometimes in a stone-like state. Again, he or she usually sits in one of the traditional cross-legged Asanas but often the head has fallen forward, sometimes even to the ground.
These seem like totally different approaches to meditation – one fully conscious and aware, and the other fully unconscious and absorbed in something that resembles deep sleep. In fact, these are different stages of the meditative process that need to be understood within the overall context of consciousness. What actually happens to our consciousness in meditation? That depends on many factors, some of which we will explore here.
One of those factors is preparation. How do you prepare for meditation? In the last article of this series, we discussed the importance of preparing the night before for morning meditation. Now let’s look at the morning meditation process in more detail. First it is important to get settled physically, going to your chosen place of meditation, finding a comfortable posture, relaxing the body, and becoming quiet. Patanjali recommended relaxation as a prerequisite to meditation or Dhyana, because unless your body is relaxed your attention will move from one part of your body to another, as you try to get comfortable. To meditate well, you need to be able to gently close your eyes and passively let things unfold. Arriving at effortlessness combined with a steady and comfortable posture prepares you to plunge into meditation, because you have created the field. If you don’t first prepare in this way, if you are rushing or disturbed, how effective will your meditation be? So the first thing is to settle.
What next? The first step of meditation is often defined as thinking about one thing continuously, so usually you would start by gently focusing on the object of your meditation. This is actually the aspect of Ashtanga Yoga we know as Dharana – focusing attention, holding and nurturing an idea. Whatever suggestion you make in meditation becomes your goal, your purpose for meditating, and it defines what you will become.
But we often get stuck with this definition of meditation and lose sight of the real purpose of Dhyana. In Yoga, meditation is the process of revelation, where the true nature of the object upon which we are meditating is gradually uncovered. Such revelation comes not as thought but as feeling. In meditation we shift from thinking to feeling; from thinking about the Divine to feeling the Divine Presence and then eventually to becoming one with that Presence. It is a journey from the complexity of the mind to the simplicity of the heart and through the heart to the very Center of our being.
THE CONSCIOUSNESS SPECTRUM
This journey takes us from the surface level of limited consciousness to deeper levels where we awaken and experience more and more of the full spectrum of superconsciousness-consciousness-subconsciousness. And so we have different experiences along the way. There are times when we are very alert and aware during meditation, either in stillness or when the mind is turbulent with thoughts, emotions, expectations, desires and concerns. There are other times when we go beyond consciousness into deep sleep-like sushupti states, when we appear to be totally unconscious of what is going, because we have been taken to dimensions that are not in our conscious awareness. There are also dream-like semi-conscious states, where our subconscious is very active. Then there is the ultimate expanded state where consciousness spans the full spectrum from total absorption to total alertness.
And the journey is not linear – it is not that early on we are restless and then we become absorbed or still. In fact, at each stage or point along the way, we will feel some disturbance with the change as we enter a new realm, and then gradually we may become unconsciously absorbed until our consciousness settles in the new place and becomes familiar enough to feel comfortable there. Eventually we will ‘own’ that place, and we no longer notice anything about it – our consciousness has somehow expanded into that realm. Then it is time to move on to the next point or chakra. So the interplay of settledness and restlessness, of unconscious and conscious Samadhi, will be cyclical as we journey onwards and inwards.
Why are some of us able to dive deep into various dimensions of human experience, while others seem to float on the surface, stuck with thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations, and distracted by what is happening around? We can consider the former to be vertical expansion of consciousness into different dimensions of existence, while the latter is horizontal expansion within the same dimension of existence. Both have their place in our evolution, but it is important to know the difference because without vertical growth we do not evolve. If we only stay on the surface, we may become very adept at witnessing our thoughts and emotions, but we will be stuck in a small band of consciousness that is a minute part of our being.
THE OBJECT OF MEDITATION
Here the object of our meditation becomes very important: What do we want to become? With what do we identify? We have discussed at length in past articles about the various bodies we possess – the physical body or sthool sharir, the subtle body or sookshma sharir, also known as the mind, and the causal body or karan sharir, also known as the soul. Our bodies and minds are both vehicles for the soul, the cause of our existence, the master of our existence. The mind is the interface between the body and the soul. During meditation, or at any other time for that matter, we can direct our attention towards worldly physical life or to the soul’s existence, or we can acknowledge and integrate both, which is the path of Yoga.
Most importantly, through meditation we experience the master behind the vehicles. We discover firsthand that we are not just the vehicles of body and mind, but also the one using the vehicles. Pranahuti or Yogic transmission facilitates this experience and when that happens our meditation soars. The master within witnesses. The body and mind take their rightful natural place, so that we can identify with the master within, with Reality, with the cause of our existence.
Pranahuti or Yogic Transmission facilitates this experience
and when that happens our meditation soars.
The master within witnesses. The body and mind
take their rightful natural place, so that we can identify
with the master within, with Reality,
with the cause of our existence.
It is just like a pianist using the piano keys, strings and pedals to play music, but it is obvious that she is none of these things – they are vehicles for her to make music. Regular practice of meditation allows us to understand this difference, as our consciousness observes the mind during meditation.
THE THREE BODIES
The repercussions of this are astounding. For example, once we identify with consciousness and the soul, our perception of death changes. Does the soul die? Does consciousness die? Only the body dies, and those aspects of the mind connected directly with the body, like the senses and energy channels. When we leave the physical body it is like removing a set of clothes that no longer fit. Most aspects of the subtle body continue onwards with the soul, and these are the functions that we know as manas (contemplative mind), buddhi (intelligence) and ahankar (ego) along with chit (consciousness); in fact the subtle body departs along with our soul at the moment of death.
And once we are pure consciousness, ahankar becomes pure identity. When we witness life, the ego dissolves, whereas when we are busy ‘doing’ in the world, the ego generally strengthens. The trick is to learn to ‘do’ without doing, and that is where meditation also comes into play. When we meditate, we are gifted a meditative state. If we are able to carry the consciousness of that state with us throughout the day into worldly activities, if we let that state ooze from the Center of our being into everything we do, then we learn to ‘do’ without being the doer.
Patanjali describes this concept in his Sutras:
4.18: Sada jnatah chitta vrittayah tat prabhu
The activities of the mind are always
known by pure consciousness,
because that pure consciousness is superior to,
supports and is the master over the mind.
Rather, consciousness operates through the mind.
The Lord of the mind is unchangeable.
4.19: Na tat svabhasam drishyatvat
Mind is not self-illuminating,
as it is the object of knowledge and
perception by pure consciousness.
The mind is like the moon that needs the sun to illuminate it. In meditation, when we connect with the Source, pure universal consciousness illuminates the mind, and with Yogic Transmission the mind is very quickly illuminated. As a result, we also become aware when we are not centered, and so we can adjust and recalibrate ourselves. Once we are centered, the master within disciplines and guides our lives.
In the Heartfulness practice, from the beginning we establish a connection with this inner master so that our focus goes directly to the Center of our being, to the Source. It is the same Source as the Source of all things, which is also called the Ultimate, Infinite, Absolute and God. This is the way we bring about vertical expansion in our consciousness during meditation – our focus is on the Center not on the periphery. While we are meditating we are not interested in analyzing our thoughts and how we can do better during the day-to-day happenings of life; we keep that for another time and practice. No, meditation is for diving deeper, as at that time we are interested in expanded consciousness, pure consciousness, dynamic consciousness. For this reason it is also hard to write about the states of meditation, because the language of describing things is of duality and we are going beyond the duality of the mind, beyond mind, beyond even consciousness, to what is behind all of those things – that which transcends duality.
It is through this inner connection that we are able to dive deep in meditation and journey a little further each time, becoming absorbed in various levels of Samadhi. Samadhi is highly sought after in Yoga. It is the eighth and culminating stage in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. In the Sutras, Patanjali describes the first level of Samadhi as a stone-like consciousness where we are oblivious to what is happening. This is because we have journeyed into those parts of our mind beyond awareness. In the second state we are in a dreamlike subconscious Samadhi, and in the third we are fully aware and absorbed simultaneously, which is known as Sahaj Samadhi. In Heartfulness, quite quickly we are able to experience the lighter, more evolved states of Samadhi.
Sahaj Samadhi is a condition where we are deeply absorbed in meditation, and at the same time fully conscious of everything else that is going on. In the Yoga Shastras, this is known as the Turiya condition or the fourth state.
Everything is in our view – we are aware of outside noises, the thoughts in our head, and the deepest inner connection with the Source. It is all integrated within us, so that everything becomes an expression of the deepest part of our being. Our consciousness is whole and complete.
We can also take this state out into our day, while we are busy doing other things. We are simultaneously able to focus on work, on the surroundings, on the TV, on something happening outside, and still remain in communion with our inner being. We can also simultaneously witness the Transmission flowing, and any thoughts that arise, and we are able to decide the next step we should be taking. We remain peaceful with all these things happening at the same time. This is known as the Turiyateet state in Yoga. It is a state where we have full spectrum consciousness with eyes open. There is no need to focus on any particular thing. The moment we focus on any particular thing, it is no longer meditative but concentration.
THE SCIENCE OF MEDITATION
This is not all there is to meditation, as there is a vast science and underlying philosophy behind it, which can best be studied practically. Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur has written:
“People may ask why it is necessary to proceed with meditation at the first stage of Raja Yoga. The answer is quite plain and simple. We are now gathering ourselves at one point so that our individual mind may leave its habit of wandering about. By this practice we set our individual mind on the right path because it is now metamorphosing its habit. When this is done, our thoughts naturally do not go astray.”
“Meditation is the only thing that can lead you to the end. There is no other means of approaching the Center. We have seen that the one thought arising out of the Center created so big a universe. We have got within us the same central force, though marred by our wrong doings. We utilize the same power, which is automatic in us. We take work from the same force through meditation. This is how we proceed naturally and with Nature’s force.”
Article by KAMLESH PATEL (DAAJI)
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