What is meditation?

What is meditation? Meditation is concentrated concentration. One of the Yogic pathways to mind power is to first create steadiness of the body, then the use of practises that lead to sense withdrawal. That is, the diminishment or ceasing of smelling, tasting, seeing, touching, and hearing. Then practises that lead from sense withdrawal to concentration, or focus on one object, sound/mantra or symbol. Then concentrated concentration, or focused focus leads to meditation. Meditation, when it continues with the focus, or concentration without any other thought or interruption to the focus, leads to samadhi or superconsciousness.

  • Sit still and steady ( asana )
  • Create body steadiness ( kaya stiritham ) by spending some time of awareness on the stillness and steadiness
  • Pranayama or any practise to withdraw the senses ( pratyahara )
  • Focus/concentrate on given object/sound/symbol ( dharana )
  • Merge with the object of focus or concentration ( dhyana )
  • Merge continuously, without any loss of the awareness of merging

( Samadhi ).  There are 6 types of Samadhi. There is a description of the difference in the states in the translation of Patanjali that follows.

How do we know if we are “meditating?”

Its important to know that most of the time we sit “for” meditation – not “in” meditation. Most of the time, most of us are in one the earlier stages. We gain a great benefit from any of the earlier stages.
I propose that only a few people, a few times in their lives, are actually in dhyana full meditation – merging with the object, sound or symbol. It seems this happens spontaneously, and mostly uninvited. We may sit for meditation every day for many years – and one day – some merging!!
It can also happen to us or someone sitting in forest, or sitting in traffic in a city, uninvited, spontaneously, whether they know about meditation, sit “for” meditation or don’t.

Value of sitting “for” meditation

It seems that its still a useful practise to put our selves into the steps that lead to Samadhi. And to just witness and accept whatever happens – our daily practise.

The mind rests and gains energy, when it is focused on one thing. And it is easier for all the pranas to merge and create mental stillness when the body is still.

So each step has a merit – a gain – especially to feed our soul, or spirit or who we are above and beyond a body, thoughts and feelings.

How to “get there”?

What a lot of people may not know is that all the practises of yoga – asana and pranayama are to prepare the body for if and when the mind galvanizes or merges when we happen to sit or find this occurring uninvited. The body is said to need to be fit and well and the central nervous system needs to be strong and clear to allow the higher energy states that come with a merging/concentrated state to continue uninterrupted.

Meditation references

Meditation has occurred when one thought or symbol or object or point of focus is in the mind for approximately two minutes and ten seconds without any other thought entering the mind. As soon as a thought enters, Meditation ceases.

Samadhi, superconsciousness is when Meditation continues for approximately three hours. The experience of superconsciousness creates a different being. All sorts of faculties and states that are dormant in most individual become available. The mind undergoes of permanent transformation.

There are a number of states of superconsciousness also, each with a different feature, and the details can be found in the Yogic scriptures. There are a number of mental, psychological outcomes after the occurrence of spontaneous Meditation also. Similar outcomes are observed with people who practise Rebirthing Breathwork.

Nature of the Mind as understood in Yoga

There are two states of the conscious, two of the subconscious and two of the unconscious and one called superconscious in the yoga teaching

From Swami Satyananda’s teachings and translation of texts – see “Meditations from the tantras” which has a translation of some of the texts also known as tantras (sacred texts)

Conscious mind:

Sthula – Gross Dimension:

Jagrit – Waking State

Surface thought and perception of outside world

Subconscious mind:

Sukshma – Subtle dimension:

Swapna -Dream State

Individual memory, Samskaras – Mental tendencies or hang ups

Unconscious mind:

Karana -causal dimension:

Sushupti-deep sleep state

Cosmic Collective Samskaras and Memory

Superconscious – Samadhi –

then divides into six states of Samadhi

Savitarka,

Nivitara,

Savichara,

Nirvichara,

Ananda,

Asmita

If you would like to have a description of the six states of Samadhi read on. Consider, however, that this information is using words to describe experiences that can hardly be described in words – superconsciousness.

Seven Stages of the Subconscious and Unconscious

according to “Meditations from the Tantras” by Swami Satyananda

1.     Inhibited Samskaras/Mental tendencies caused by individual repression.

2.     Hereditary Samskaras/Mental tendencies causing one to act in a specific manner, may be prenatal, determine actions, illnesses, talents etc.

3.     Latent and unexpressed date and memories of past events, hidden and stored in the collective unconscious.

4.     Instinctive reflexes, controlling functioning like the preprogramming of how  to digest etc.

5.     Prana. The mind is composed of prana which is the means for the mind to carry out according to the thoughts.

6.     Innate fluctuations of the mind. It is the nature of the mind to change with cosmic rhythms.

7.     Psychic powers, siddhis. Tend to take place in the domain of the collective unconscious or the cosmic mind.

Siddhis are still merely expressions within the mind, merely passing scenery.

The purpose of yoga is to bring realization of one’s own true nature.

Yoga and Meditation – Patanjali and others

The main treatises on yoga are:

1. Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatmarama,

2. Gherand Samhita by Sage Gherand and

3. Goraksha Samhita by Yogi Gorakhnath,  both written between the C6th & C15th AD

4. Yoga Sutras by Patanjali  – believed to be written 400 to 500 years BC.

Because the Sutras are short statements on complex and profound subjects, many many commentaries have been written on the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali.

The Yoga Sutras are possibly the most useful reading to modern practitioners of yoga in spite of the fact that they are short statements. Patanjali did not originate the Sutras, but wrote them into a text around 200 BC. Before that, yoga was handed down verbally and the yoga sutras are so brief that Patanjali is actually addressing a reader who is already aware of the practices. It is not a descriptive or teaching book for practices. But it does teach the social and personal codes, yamas and niyamas that lead in an eightfold path to meditation. He puts the yamas and niyamas first as if to say, unless your personal and social life is impeccable, then meditation leading to samadhi will not follow.

It makes sense that if an individual is disturbed about some incident or unresolved past event, or have disease and pain in their body, they will not be able to create focus for the mind in meditation.

Read on for some tips

that may help with your relationship with meditation…..

An important point I was taught is to honour the first steps stated previously – as the foundation for the possibility for meditation to occur. In other words, to spend quite a bit on time on body steadiness, to create a better foundation for sense withdrawal, and then quite a bit of time on sense withdrawal to create a better foundation for being able to focus the mind on one object/mantra/symbol

and see what the expert says as well….

These following description by Patanjali differ a little to what I was taught in relation to the steps leading to meditation. Check them out and how they relate to your spiritual practise and way of living ….

The Eight Stages according to Patanjali: that lead to Samadhi.

5 Exoteric Stages: ( External )

1.    Yama                  ( Social code )

2.    Niyama               ( Personal code )

3.    Asana                 ( Sitting pose )

4.    Pranayama        ( Control of Prana )

5.    Pratyahara         ( Sense withdrawal )

These five negate consciousness

3 Esoteric Stages: ( Internal )

6.    Dharana             ( Concentration )

7.    Dhyana              ( Meditation )

8.    Samadhi             ( Superconsciousness )

These three expand consciousness.

1.   Yamas – Social Code

  • Ahimsa – Non-violence, abandonment of hostility, absence of harmful intention
  • Satya  – Truthfulness, the actions result in fruits.
  • Asteya – Honesty, awareness of hidden wealth
  • Brahmacharya – Conservation of energy, right use of sexual energy
  • Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness, keeping essentials

2.   Niyamas – Personal Code

  • Saucha – Cleanliness
  • Santosha – Contentment
  • Tapah – Austerities, Sustained endurance
  • Swadhyaya – Self study/self-observation
  • Ishwarapranidhana – Surrender to the cosmic will

3.   Asana – Sitting Pose

Posture for meditation, literally means a method of sitting. Posture must be perfectly steady and relaxed, without any muscular or nervous tension.

4.   Pranayama – Control or direction of Prana

Is the cessation of the movement of inhalation and exhalation. ( Kumbhaka )

When breathing is controlled so as to retain the breath it is pranayama. The ultimate aim of pranayama is to retain the breath. Retention of breath brings about a certain condition in the brain, a certain change in the spinal cord as well as the physical body. Pranayama influences the nervous system, therefore the brain.

Prana – life force; Ayama – lengthening or widening through control, the distance of length of prana.  Pranayama is regulated by desha, place of practise; kala, unit of time,

( defined here by Patanjali as Matra – the time taken for two claps and one slap) and sankhya, number of rounds.

5.   Pratyahara – Sense Withdrawal

Withdrawing the mind from the objects of sense experience. The sense organs get introverted with the mind & they follow it inside. Important for getting into the depths of the mind. Forms a foundation for Meditation.

6.   Dharana – Concentration

Concentration;  Binding the mind to one place. When the mind is concentrated on a point, perception becomes intense; the mind does not move. There should not be awareness of anything except the place, desha. Concentration is not a state of forgetfulness. If awareness of one thing breaks, it is concentration. If there is no break, it is Dhyana, Meditation.

Sanskrit  – Dhri to hold firm, Concentration.

7.   Dhyana- Meditation

Sutra 2, CHAPTER 111 What is Dhyana? ( Meditation )

Uninterrupted stream of the content of consciousness is dhyana – Tatra pratayaikatanata dhyanam

Dhyana, meditation, includes 2 things:

1.  Unbroken continuous flow of consciousness of the single object.

2.  Awareness that you are practising unbroken concentration.

8.   Samadhi – Superconsciousness

Sutra 3, CHAPTER 111  What is samadhi?

That state becomes samadhi when there is only the object appearing without the consciousness of one’s own self.

Two characteristics:

1.  The object alone shines

2.  There is no awareness of the process or of the self.

To review –

Dharana – Concentration – the consciousness is broken/separate, not yet merged.

Dhyana – Meditation – the merging or consciousness is continuous.

Samadhi – Superconsciousness – the consciousness becomes one with the object of concentration.

Karma

are actions, and all action has implications.

The law of karma is that whatever you sow, you reap. In nature if you plant a carrot seed, you get a carrot. So too in the law of karma.

The most brilliant explanation of karma I have heard is that

– karma is adding meaning to an event or incident.

Consider this to be karma?

Something happens and then we create our karma in regards to what meaning we add.

For example, you say “I cannot come to dinner tonight” and I make it mean ( and I create karma) …..“You don’t like me”, when I could also make it mean – you just cannot come to dinner tonight.

What is actually happening is that you will not be there at dinner. This type of thinking does not create karma – or drama ?

Written by Alakh Analda with some translations borrowed from translations in Swami Satyananda’s books – available from Bihar School of Yoga

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