Insight On MeditationQuestion & Answer with Yogi Hari
Can the state of meditation be reached only through the practice of Raja Yoga, while sitting down in an erect posture? Can it also be experienced through the practice of the different systems of Yoga, such as Hatha or Nada Yoga, while doing Asana, breathing exercises, chanting etc.?Yogi Hari –
To understand this, you must first have a clear view in your mind as to what the word Yoga really means.
Yoga is that state where you experience that you are the spirit, Soul or Atman, which is Divinity or fullness itself.
The Atman, which is also referred to as the Self, is functioning through the vehicles of body, mind, senses, intellect and ego to experience this world of objects, emotions and thoughts. The Self is pure, complete and full and does not need to be developed. It is only the vehicles through which it functions that need to be refined, purified and maintained in a state of balance, so that the light of the Self can shine forth in all its divine splendor.
In that state of Yoga, one experiences the Divine Self without any conditioning or limitation. That experience takes place when all the vehicles are refined, purified and maintained in a state of balance. When the Yogi sits for meditation, his mind becomes steady, calm and peaceful and as a result, he identifies with his Divine Self.
In his exposition on Raja Yoga, Maharishi Patanjali defined Yoga as “the control of the thought waves in the mind”. In other words, when the mind is completely peaceful, still and steady, then that state of Yoga is experienced.
Peace of mind is relative to the absence of thoughts. The less the thoughts, the more peaceful the mind becomes.
The main cause of agitation in the mind is the lower emotions of lust, greed, hatred, jealousy, envy and fear. When these emotions are substituted with higher emotions such as love, compassion, generosity, tolerance, forgiveness etc., the mind becomes purified and peaceful. To the extent that the mind is purified, free from those lower emotions, that is the extent that it will become peaceful.
The very foundation for all the different systems of Yoga is moral and ethical vows and disciplines, which help in the purification process of the mind.
There are 6 main systems of Yoga which are: Hatha, Raja, Karma, Bhakti, Gyan, and Nada Yoga. Each of these systems is a complete step-by-step path that is designed to suit people of different conditions and personalities. These paths offer different tools to gain control of the mind, bringing it to that highest state of tranquility where the state of Yoga is experienced.
The idea that Raja Yoga is the highest form of Yoga is wrong, as any one of these systems will take you to the same goal.
For example, Hatha Yoga involves Asana practice, breathing exercises, proper diet, cultivation of a purified mind, and proper relaxation. Incorporation of these principles in your daily life brings about that state of peace within you.
In Nada Yoga, one is involved in divine vibration, which can take the form of chanting Mantras or different hymns and songs, which help to elevate the mind and lift it out of depression, anxiety and restlessness.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and Devotion. Through prayer, chanting and rituals, the lower emotions are channeled towards God, purifying and transforming them. Higher emotions like unconditional love, peace and joy are developed and experienced through this process.
In Gyan Yoga, we analyze through right inquiry the nature of our existence until we understand what is the reality. Such an analysis helps to purify the mind and takes you step by step from the physical identification to higher and higher levels of identification, until you experience “Who am I?” that you are Divine.
Through Karma Yoga, the path of action, our duties, whatever they may be, are performed in such a way that helps us to evolve by freeing us from selfishness and greed, taking the mind to higher levels of peace.
To gain control of the mind, one first has to study it. This is what Raja Yoga (the Yoga of meditation) involves. Once you know how the mind functions you will be able to adopt means to gain control of it.
The whole process of transformation as outlined in Raja Yoga can be summarized in these eight limbs:
1. Yama – These are vows of truthfulness, non-violence, non-stealing, non-coveting and sexual purity.
2. Niyama – These are practices of purity, contentment, study, austerity and dedicating the fruits of your actions to God. These practices help one up-keep the vows that have been taken.
3. Asana – To be able to sit in a comfortable, steady and erect posture for meditation, without the body being a distraction. To reach that state, one needs to be involved in a practice such as Hatha Yoga to help purify the body and release tension and stress.
4. Pranayama – To be able to control and direct Prana. This demands a purified body and control over the breath.
These first four limbs are not limited to Raja Yoga. They are basic practices that should be incorporated into one’s daily life to cultivate purity of body and mind.
When one is established in these first limbs, the next will follow naturally:
5. Pratyahara – The ability to withdraw the senses from objects and the mind from the senses.
6. Dharana (concentration) – The ability to focus the mind on your ideal without any distraction.
7. Dhyana (meditation) – As you continue with this process of concentration it will lead you to meditation.
To get a better understanding of the state of meditation you can analyze the process of falling asleep. You will only fall asleep when the conditions are ready. You won’t even know that you fell asleep. You may consciously do all the preparations, like bathing, making your bed nice and comfortable, taking a sleeping tablet, listening to soft relaxing music etc… But when you fall asleep you are not even aware of it.
In the same way, meditation is a state that you naturally fall into when the conditions in the mind are ready. When the mind is refined and purified, it becomes calm and peaceful, which brings about the state of meditation. In that state, you lose awareness of time and space, and come closer to the experience of your Divinity.
There is much confusion these days about the concept of meditation. This is because no matter how many explanations are given it will never express what it really is. Yoga is an experiential science; one has to experience it to understand it fully. We can only give indications that will help to guide one to the experience.
Yoga offers us many tools to prepare the mind for meditation, but meditation is not a state of activity. While you are doing Asana, Pranayama or involved in other activities such as divine music, selfless work or worship, you may experience a high state of peace and bliss, but it will not be that state of meditation. When you fall asleep, you naturally collapse or lay down. In the same way, for you to fall into the state of meditation, you have to be sitting in a steady, comfortable and erect posture.
The state of meditation can be experienced through the practice of the different disciplines of Yoga, as all of them bring about that state of Shantih to the mind. You will find that when you reach advanced levels of Hatha or Nada Yoga for example, your mind becomes so steady and peaceful that all you want to do is just sit and go deeper into that experience.
8. Samadhi – As this experience of meditation continues for an extended period of time, you will naturally reach the state of Samadhi, which is the eighth limb in Raja Yoga. In that state you wake up to the fourth state of consciousness, and identify with your Divine Self.
The whole process of Yoga is gaining control of the mind by freeing it of agitation. If you understand this process, you will see how this classification of different systems is just for academic or teaching purposes.
Gaining control over the breath for example is not exclusive to Hatha Yoga. When you are chanting, sitting for meditation or working, you are using your breathing mechanism as well; Asana practice, or cultivating a strong, purified and healthy body, is something that will contribute to the practice of any aspect of Yoga.
Regardless of which system of Yoga you are drawn to, Devotion is still of paramount importance, because it helps in the emotional purification process.
Whatever discipline you are involved in, not only in Gyan Yoga, you should have a clear understanding of what you are doing and where it is taking you. The intellectual and discriminative aspects of your personality should be awakened so that you do not blindly, fanatically and slavishly follow some random discipline.
In the beginning stages of your practice you may be involved in any of these seemingly separate systems, but as you go on doing your Sadhana – making conscious effort to elevate and transform yourself, you will see how these systems are really not separate, but how they are a part of each other, making each system complete and full.
You are a physical being, as well as an emotional, mental and intellectual being. All these aspects of the personality should be transformed and harmonized to bring about that state of balance, Satvva, within the individual. That state reflects the true nature of the Self as beauty and sweetness. This is why one should be involved in an intelligent and versatile system, such as Sampoorna Yoga™, which incorporates all the different aspects of Yoga as tools to accelerate this process of refinement and purification.