Aparokshanubhuti (6)
By Adi Shankaracharya (788-820 CE)

Practice Of Meditation Till It Has Become One's Second Nature

125. The aspirant should carefully practise this (meditation) that reveals his natural bliss until, being under his full control, it arises spontaneously, in an instant when called into action.

126. Then he, the best among Yogis having attained to perfection, becomes free from all practices. The real nature of such a man never becomes an object of the mind or speech.

* Becomes free from all practices—The various practices prescribed here and elsewhere are merely means to the realization of one's own unity with Brahman, and are no longer necessary when such realization has been accomplished. The Gita also declares, "For one who has been well established in Yoga, inaction is said to be the way " (VI.3). The real nature of such a man—The Sruti declares, "He who realizes the Supreme Brahman verily becomes Brahman" (Mund. III.ii.9). His nature also merges in that of Brahman "which is beyond mind and speech" (Taitt. II.9).

127-128. While practising Samadhi there appear unavoidably many obstacles, such as lack of inquiry, idleness, desire for sense-pleasure, sleep, dullness, distraction, tasting of joy, and the sense of blankness. One desiring the knowledge of Brahman should slowly get rid of such innumerable obstacles.

129. While thinking of an object the mind verily identifies itself with that, and while thinking of a void it really becomes blank, whereas by the thought of Brahman it attains to perfection. So one should constantly think of (Brahman to attain) perfection.

* One should constantly think of, etc.—Whatever one thinks one becomes. So one desiring to attain to perfection should leave aside all thought of duality and fix one’s mind upon the non-dual Brahman which alone is perfect.

130. Those who give up this supremely purifying thought of Brahman, live in vain and are on the same level with beasts.

* On the same level with beasts—Man has the unique opportunity of realizing Brahman and thus becoming free from the bondage of ignorance. But if he does not avail himself of this opportunity, he can hardly be called a man, as there remains nothing to distinguish him from the lower animals.

131. Blessed indeed are those virtuous persons who at first have this consciousness of Brahman and then develop it more and more. They are respected everywhere.

* Have this consciousness of Brahman, etc.—After long practice, the aspirant at first realizes, while in Samadhi, the presence of Brahman which pervades the inner and the outer world. But this is not all. He should then hold on this Brahmic consciousness until he feels his identity with Brahman at every moment and thus becomes completely free from the bonds of all duality and ignorance. This is the consummation of spiritual practice.

132. Only those in whom this consciousness (of Brahman) being ever present grows into maturity, attain to the state of ever-existent Brahman; and not others who merely deal with words.

* This consciousness—that Brahman alone is the reality pervading our whole being. Deal with words—Engage themselves in fruitless discussions about Brahman by variously interpreting texts bearing upon It.

133. Also those persons who are only clever in discussing about Brahman but have no realization, and are very much attached to worldly pleasures, are born and die again and again in consequence of their ignorance.

134. The aspirant after Brahman should not remain a single moment without the thought of Brahman, just like Brahma, Sanaka, Suka and others.

* Should not remain, etc.—To be ever immersed in the Brahmic consciousness and thus identify oneself with It is the final aim of Raja-Yoga. [With this verse ends the exposition of Raja-Yoga in the light of Vedanta. Although there is no vital difference between Raja-Yoga is expounded here and as found in the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali so far as the final realization is concerned, yet there is much difference in the practices. Patanjali has prescribed the control of the body and Prana prior to the practice of meditation, whereas the author here emphasizes the meditation of Brahman from the very beginning and thus wants to lead the aspirant straight to the goal.]

135. The nature of the cause inheres in the effect and not vice versa; so through reasoning it is found that in the absence of the effect the cause, as such, also disappears.

* In the absence of the effect, etc.—The cause and the effect are correlative; as long as there is an effect there is a cause for it. But when the effect is altogether absent, the cause, as such, can no longer exist, as there remains nothing with reference to which it may be called a cause.

136. Then that pure reality (Brahman) which is beyond speech alone remains. This should be understood again and again verily through the illustration of earth and the pot.

* The illustration of earth and the pot—The illustration runs thus: “Just as, my dear, by knowing a lump of earth everything made of earth is known—the modifications are mere names originated by speech, earth alone is the reality," etc. (Chhdnd. Up. VI.i.4). Here also the phenomenal world exists only in name, Brahman alone is the reality.

137. In this way alone there arises in the pure-minded a state of awareness (of Brahman), which is afterwards merged into Brahman.

* In this way alone, etc.—By constant practice of contemplation and discrimination there dawns on the mind of the aspirant the knowledge that Brahman alone is, and nothing else exists. Thus the ignorance which has so long deluded him by projecting the world of duality, comes to an end. Thereafter the mind also, which by destroying ignorance has brought the aspirant so close to Brahman, vanishes like the fire which after consuming its fuel is itself extinguished, then Brahman alone shines in Its own glory.

138. One should first look for the cause by the negative method and then find it by the positive method, as ever inherent in the effect.

* One should, etc.—The cause can be inferred either from a positive or from a negative proposition. The positive proposition is: “Where there is an effect, there must be a cause and the negative one is: “Where there is no cause, there is no effect.” From either proposition we come to the conclusion that there is Brahman which is the cause of the world-phenomenon. For, if there were no Brahman (cause), there would be no world at all; again, there is the world (effect), therefore there is Brahman (cause).

139. One should verily see the cause in the effect, and then dismiss the effect altogether. What then remains, the sage himself becomes.

* What then remains, etc.—When both cause and effect have thus disappeared one may naturally conclude that only Sunya, a void, is left behind. But it is not so. For absolute negation is an impossibility. One may negate everything but cannot negate one's own Self. So when causality has been negated, what is beyond all negation is the very Self of the enquirer, which is the ultimate reality.

140. A person who meditates upon a thing with great assiduity and firm conviction, becomes that very thing. This may be understood from the illustration of the wasp and the worm.

* This may be understood, etc.—It is a popular belief that when a wasp brings into its hole a particular kind of insect, the latter, out of fear, constantly thinks of its assailant till it is transformed into a wasp. So also if a person meditates upon Brahman with all his mind, he will become Brahman in course of time.

141. The wise should always think with great care of the invisible, the visible and everything else, as his own Self which is consciousness itself.

142. Having reduced the visible to the invisible, the wise should think of the universe as one with Brahman. Thus alone will he abide in eternal felicity with the mind full of consciousness and bliss.

* Having reduced the visible, etc.—A person may at first take some external thing as an object of his meditation, but he should afterwards think of it as existing only in the form of the mind; and lastly the mind also should be reduced to Brahman which is pure consciousness. Then alone one is said to have reached the highest goal.

143. Thus has been described Raja-Yoga consisting of these steps (mentioned above). With this is to be combined Hatha-Yoga for (the benefit of) those whose worldly desires are partially attenuated.

* These steps—The fifteen steps mentioned in verses 100-134.

1. Yama ** – don'ts: noninury to others, truthfulness, non-stealing...
2. Niyama ** – dos: purity of mind, self-discipline, self-study, devotion...
3. Tyaga – renunciation
4. Mauna – silence
5. Desha – auspicious place
6. Kala – auspicious time
7. Asana ** – posture
8. Mulabandha – restraining root
9. Dehasmya – straightening of the body, balance of the body
10. Drik Sthitchi – fixing of the gaze
11. Pranayama ** – control of prana (energy)
12. Pratyahara ** – the withdrawal of the mind
13. Dharana ** – focus on the object of meditation
14. Dhyana ** – meditation
15. Samadhi ** – Oneness
–– ( ** = the eight steps of Patanjali)

With this is to be combined Hatha-Yoga, etc.—This Raja-Yoga, which is purely psychological in its character, is extremely difficult to be practised by those who have not yet overcome the physical disabilities and banished the carnal appetites from the mind and thus made it pure. To them, therefore, Hatha-Yoga, or the Yoga that teaches physical control together with a little concentration, is at first very helpful. For, they may thereby get control over their external and internal nature and thus may in course of time become fit for the practice of this Raja-Yoga.

144. For those whose mind is completely purified this (Raja-Yoga) alone is productive of perfection. Purity of the mind, again, is speedily accessible to those who are devoted to the teacher and the Deity.

* Those who are devoted, etc.—Those who have implicit faith in the words of the Guru and have unflinching devotion to their chosen Deity, become free from all doubts and thus easily acquire concentration which directly leads them to the realization of the highest truth.


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* Translated & Commentary by Swami Vimuktananda