The Value Of Scientific Techniques Of Meditation On The Path To God
By Sri Daya Mata (Excerpts from SRF Magazine)
Benefits of Meditation
More and more people nowadays are realizing the tremendous benefits of meditation. They may read books on this subject or listen to spiritual teachers who advise, "Practice silence; go within." But multitudes who try it find themselves asking, "What on earth does that mean?" Even though you may be sitting quietly, if your mind is filled with restless thoughts you are not truly silent. In the beginning when you sit to meditate, the mind is on a million things—you are thinking of all the work you should be doing; of the problems that have been upsetting you; of what you are going to do once you finish meditating. Merely to tell someone to "practice silence" does not give him the means to quiet the thoughts. But when he is given a definite technique of controlling the mind to practice, he begins to understand that meditation means much more than merely shutting out the sights and sounds of the outer world; it is stilling the body and mind to such a degree that the consciousness becomes like a calm, crystal-clear lake, able to reflect the blissful presence of God.
Meditation techniques are invaluable to this self-effort. Until one has full power of concentration and can take the mind within and enter at will the state of pratyahara—complete mental interiorization—the practice of pranayama techniques such as those taught in Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons is vitally necessary. That is why we stress the practice of these techniques. Most persons do not know how to still the mind.
One must take the scattered attention and with great determination, patience, and calmness center it upon one thing. A diffused light has no power. But when a magnifying glass is placed under sunlight, it can be positioned in such a way that the sun's rays become focused—intense enough to ignite a piece of paper that is placed beneath the glass. This is what happens when one practices the Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration. The mind becomes like a precise instrument, so perfectly focused that one's attention remains one-pointedly upon God. When you have practiced faithfully for many years, you find that in an instant you can attune yourself with God. That is the power of this technique.
There are various methods of meditation. However, one standard principle is applicable to everyone, regardless of what path or religion they follow: Unless and until you practice a technique that develops the powers of concentration and interiorizes the mind, you will never know God. The methods we teach in Self-Realization Fellowship—the techniques of
—are the ones that our guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, after searching throughout India, found to be most efficacious for achieving pratyahara and the higher states of Self-realization. If you practice these techniques faithfully, you will attain that goal, without fail. If you are not progressing, it means only that you are not practising them regularly, deeply, and correctly according to the rules you have been given.
This ancient science of yoga, as expounded by the sage Patanjali (the foremost ancient exponent of Yoga), is based upon eight steps.
YAMA AND NIYAMA
The first two are yama and niyama, the moral codes of right behavior. In the West these same basic laws of human conduct are embodied in the Ten Commandments. These are scientific laws—rules that apply to every human being.
Try to think and act according to the positive prescriptions of niyama—
purity of body and mind,
devotion to God and Guru
Not to do so is to put between yourself and God a dark cloud of separation. Yama and niyama are not dogma that binds us, but rather those Truth-principles of right thinking and behavior that help to liberate us from human limitations, that open up our consciousness to receive the endless blessings God is pouring upon us every moment.
Asana, the third step of Patanjali's Eightfold Yoga, is another universal scientific principle applicable to all seekers of Truth or God, whether they are following Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, or any other religion. There must be mastery of the restless body. When you meditate, sit in such a way that the spine is erect, yet the body is relaxed. If you expect to go deep you must be able to forget the body.
PRANAYAMA and PRATYAHARA
So yama, niyama, and asana are the scientific steps, based on universal laws, that support the higher practices of the spiritual path—pranayama techniques such as Hong-Sau and Kriya Yoga, by which one can scientifically withdraw the life force and consciousness from material perceptions (pratyahara). These steps must be followed in order to go deep in meditation.
DHARANA, DHYANA and SAMADHI
What does it mean to go deep in meditation? Well, what is deep within each human being? The soul. So when we say to go deep, it means to delve within and contact the soul. Take your consciousness away from this finite world, this fleshly form, and direct it within until you begin to perceive what you are, a reflection of God, made in His image of ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss, love, peace, light, and so forth. If you feel the profound peace spoken of in the Bible—"the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) — that is the first indication that your consciousness is expanding in awareness of your true nature. It produces a deep stillness within; the breathing slows and then becomes imperceptible. Gradually come the sublime experiences of divine love, joy, wisdom, and all other qualities of the soul and of God. Finally the devotee is able to melt completely in that Divine Consciousness, arriving at the ultimate state in which he realizes, as did Jesus: "I and my Father are one."
The laws are known;
depth in meditation comes from their patient,
It is like learning to play the piano. Success is unlikely through unscientific "hit-and-miss" attempts. Before you can play a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, you need to know where the right keys are, and then gradually become skilled by diligent daily practice. It is the same with meditation. It requires application of the scientific steps of yama, niyama, asana, and a continuous determination to persevere in your practice of pranayama techniques until the thoughts become completely still.
your mind and breath become perfectly synchronized;
it is as if they become forged into one razor-sharp sword
that suddenly severs the inner fetters that were binding you.
The mind becomes free and clear. You feel within yourself the presence of God just behind this physical form, behind all life. Such marvelously thrilling perceptions come when you practice the science of meditation.
Be regular, not spasmodic, with your spiritual routine. If you start up a car, then stop it, and start it up again and stop it, you are not going to get anywhere. If you start and keep going, you eventually arrive at your destination. So keep on with meditation, practising it every day, even if you sometimes have to have a shorter meditation. I never allow the habit of regular meditation to be broken, no matter what happens. If you do this, you will see how your life goes forward, spiritually and in every other way.