There are various forms of meditation. One form of meditation is the mantra form introduced by Shri Mahesh Yogi. This form of mediation can be attained only under the supervision of a proper guru or master. It takes three days to learn and involves repeating the mantra Om or any other mantra suggested by the guru. A normal mind is cluttered by thoughts and repeating Om reduces the number of thoughts to one for the time one is meditating. After some time the brain becomes completely thoughtless just like that of a child. The transcendental meditation program has gone through rigors of scientific testing and is an effective program to reduce stress and improve one’s spiritual intelligence
There are other forms of meditation like music form of meditation and, dance form of meditation, Vipasana Yoga by SN Goenka, Sudarshana Kriya by Pandit Ravishankar. Broadly speaking there are two types of meditation
• Concentrative Meditation
• Mindfulness Meditation
Concentrative meditation focuses the attention on the breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow our focus to a selected field. For instance the simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus on ones’ breath As you focus your awareness on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more tranquil and aware. Concentrative meditation means concentrating on some single point or sound or image. Initially it is difficult to focus on this single image or point or sound but after some time it becomes simple but self realization would mean even the image does not remain and there is simply nothing left to contemplate, it is as if when you close your eyes the mind is completely thoughtless and calm. Personally I have tried transcendental meditation for many years and have for brief moments experienced this calmness. It when the mind becomes completely calm the kundalini energy begins to raise and starts flowing upwards. It requires efforts initially and then becomes totally effortless, one is meditating all the time, while walking or sitting or relaxing, it is really a great experience.
Mindfulness Meditation- involves opening the attention to become aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them." The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear, and non-reactive state of mind. Mindfulness meditation can be likened to a wide-angle lens. Instead of narrowing your sight to a selected field as in concentrative meditation, here you will be aware of the entire field. Here one just observes the thoughts without reacting to it, there could be a number of thoughts, some could be good some could be disturbing , one has to try this to experience , slowly thoughts simply go off and the mind becomes thoughtless . So essentially both lead to the same goal of making the mind calm and relaxed
One might wonder whether a person would lose all sense and stability if the mind becomes thoughtless and there is nothing left to contemplate. It is not like that rather it is other way around , only when the mind becomes completely thoughtless does the infinite energy inside you raise up and you start connecting to the supreme consciousness . Initially there could be some difficulty in Kundalini awakening and I find so many books like Ill effects of raising Kundalini or Don’t do all this rubbish and so on , but believe me once Kundalini awakening happens the possibilities are fabulous , there is no end to one’s capability , you become a multiple genius . For instance I was not very good in writing and had no idea of singing but after practicing meditation for quite some time , I am able to really write lot of things, link up unusual things , my creativity has really opened up and I am able to sing so many good songs without having any training in classical or Hindustani or any kind of music . I don’t know if my kundalini is fully awakened and I am approaching any goal of self actualization but meditation both mindfulness and concentrative especially transcendental meditation has helped me to see so many potential inside me which I was not even aware of . I was an average guy in school and college rather innocently average, I don’t even remember writing anything before that, but after I started meditation from 1996 everything has changed , I have become creative , I can sing as good as any singer , I have made some good inventions , my full thanks to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his team of teachers.
Questions on Meditation
Meditation is the first step towards self realization and a lot of questions about meditation are addressed here. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross says “There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub”. Fritjof Capra a famous physicist says “During periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight. There is enough evidence to support this argument and many discoveries and inventions are said to happen suddenly after many years of deliberation and research. Who can forget how Newton suddenly discovered gravity while sitting relaxed under a tree. It requires more than skill to draw a Mona Lisa and such things are beyond intelligence. Can everyone acquire this state of mind? Buddhists argue that every one is a Buddha and it is just that we are cut off from the cosmic consciousness and once this connection is established through opening of various charkas anyone can attain the Buddha mind. This section addresses various queries on meditation in form of simple question and answers.
What are the various stages of mediation and self realization?
There has been remarkable and extensive developments in the field of neurology and now neurologists have classified brain wave patterns into four types viz beta waves that vibrate between 14 to 20 Hz and is typical of a normal brain and represent our performance in alert levels or when we are awake, alpha wave cycles ranging from 8 to13 Hz enabling us to have heightened awareness and calm, theta waves 4 to 7 Hz inducing a period of creativity, meditation or sleep and delta waves which range from 0.5 to 3 Hz that guarantee a deep sleep or meditative state akin to Samadhi or total self realization. Meditation when practiced regularly can change brain wave patterns from beta wave style to theta or delta waves. A Buddha mind probably has minimal wave patterns and is completely gelled with the nature.
The Delta or zero state of mind is what is said to have been described as self actualization by Maslow. He deliberately put a triangle to represent his hierarchy of needs representing fewer and fewer people would be actually able to traverse and attain self actualization. Maslow has been discussed extensively in the chapter behavioral sciences and spiritualism.
What are the various forms of meditation?
The primary purpose of various forms of meditation is to increase the power of mind, improve memory, help concentration and develop the capacity of one pointed ness. Meditation can be broadly categorized into concentrative or mindfulness form of meditation. The concentrative type of meditation attention is focused on a sound or an image while in mindfulness meditation the attention is paid to various thoughts that pass across the mind and the person is expected to be fully present. To develop concentrative form of meditation the person may choose any of the following fixing techniques widely used in Hindu occult practices. Several methods of mind fixing has been prescribed like staring at a minute object such as a mustard seed or a speck on the wall, turning eyeballs upwards and attempting to look at a spot between the brows, fixing the eyes on a distant object like a star or a cloud, fixing the attention on the center of the forehead. Transcendental meditation techniques introduced by Shri Mahesh Yogi involves mentally repeating a mantra specifically given by the guru like “Om “ or “ Grim” and repeating this mantra till the mind becomes totally calm. Meditation is bridging the gap between the conscious and the less conscious parts of our minds. Meditation is all about making the mind go beyond all boundaries. Just like the universe is infinite the capacity of our mind is also infinite and can be realized through meditation. It is just that we have set boundaries through our unconscious mind and have been living always in a beta state of mind. Buddhist teachings say that our mind is often thinking about one thing while our body is doing the other, as long as mind and body are not together we get lost and cannot really say that we are here. There are many allied forms of meditation like walking form of meditation where attention is focused on one’s walk, music form of meditation where soothing tones are said to bring about alpha or even theta state of mind, yantra form of meditation where attention is focused on a particular yantra etc. Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages and may suit depending on the person. Personally I think concentrative form of meditation works better especially focusing attention on particular mantra like “Om”.
How to begin and start meditating?
Shakyamuni Buddha said “The essence of Dharma is taming the mind, start in a quiet solitary place on a comfortable meditation mat and cushion. You should sit in proper meditation posture with back erect, maintaining the correct position of body and start engaging in practice of meditation. Hinduism defines the essential elements of meditation as persistence, practice, application and determination. The other elements include convergence of attention and one pointed ness or exclusive attention to the subject of one’s thought. One has to choose the meditation setting and clothing with great care. Loose comfortable clothing and removal of shoes are essential, it is essential that the weather conditions be conducive and one should avoid heavy clothing and itchy or scratchy fabric. The meditation spot also has to be chosen carefully and one should turn off the television, radio and keep children away. Though there are a number of postures recommended I would advice to start with the chair position where in you simply sit on a chair with spine erect and then start meditating. As already indicated there are two types of forms of meditation one is concentrative which would mean concentrating on mantra or picture or any other thing another form is mindfulness where in you pay attention to your thoughts. It is better to start with concentrative form of meditation especially concentrating on some mantra like “ Om”. Repeat the mantra in your mind and allow the mind to get cleared of all thoughts. This would take time and requires practice. I would also not recommend using any alarm clocks or timers and initially one should meditate for as much as possible which could last a few minutes. Slowly with practice one gets the ability of one pointed ness or ability to focus attention. It takes time to take the mind from its beta stage to alpha and other higher stages. One should practice regularly for few minutes initially and then take the sessions longer. A Buddhist saying describes “ One has to taste oneself and find out if the thing is genuine, or helpful but before discarding it one has to go a little bit further , so that one gets at least a first hand experience of the preliminary stage” .
How long should one meditate and which is the best form of meditation?
As discussed earlier meditation begins as classical conditioning of mind and then slowly becomes natural and the mind becomes automatically conditioned. Initially it would be difficult to focus attention for even ten minutes and many thoughts might occur and mood changes might take place. It would require efforts to keep at bay various thoughts that pass by as one starts meditating. But after practice it becomes effortless. Once it becomes effortless all the time the mind is meditating or is at a theta or alpha stage and is calm and composed. One should not get discouraged if meditation does not produce immediate results and should be patient and determined to get full benefits. It takes time for the charkas to respond and open, but once open they continue to remain open and the mind is at totally different level and is fully merged or linked to the cosmic consciousness. It is just like learning to play baseball or learning to sing. Initially it takes efforts but soon the mind becomes conditioned and responds naturally. There is no best form of meditation. A serious seeker should try various forms and decide which one suits him the best. There is no harm in simultaneously practicing various forms of meditation and then deciding which one works best. Learning to meditate requires patience and determination. One has to be kind to oneself and keep rewarding after each successful session. Encouragement of partners or nearby relatives would also help to keep the enthusiasm up. One need not discard social and official responsibilities, in fact meditation would help in fulfilling these responsibilities better.
What are the various postures and asanas for meditation?
A asana means position or bodily posture used for meditative practice. Patanjali one of the famous Indian Gurus describes asana to be firm and agreeable and held that the posture is best in which one can remain meditating without any discomfort. Asanas in ancient days were primarily derived from postures of birds and animals and many asanas were named after them. Every living species was characterized by a particular stance which was considered as equilibrium of certain forces acting in the subtle and gross bodies. The estimate of number of asanas range from eight hundred thousand to nine hundred thousand, out of this huge number only eight four are now known and practiced. Hindu manuals describe the enormous powers and knowledge that comes with practice of these asanas. It is believed that certain thoughts develop best and certain potencies are best formed when the body is in some asana. To get full benefit each asana should be combined with hand positions, breath control, visual concentration and repetition of mantra. Some simple asanas which could be practiced are described here.
Lotus Posture – This is the classic asana advised by many gurus for practicing meditation. To a starter this position might be difficult and is not advocated if the body is not flexible enough. The lotus posture is depicted below. In this posture the left foot is placed on right thigh with the sole of the foot turned up or slightly up. The right foot is similarly placed on the left thigh. The thighs and knees should be on the floor and back should be erect and hands should be placed on the thighs or knees as depicted in the picture.
Half Lotus Posture –The half lotus posture is easier and is depicted below. The posture is like full lotus except that one foot is placed on the opposite thigh and the other foot is resting on the floor. This posture is advocated for those who are not able to go in for the full lotus position.
Kneeling Posture – This asana involves sitting on the ankles. One can use a thick cushion or low bench for support. The hands should be placed on the thigh. The hand positions often used is to interlock the fingers so that they are inside your palms and then extend the forefingers so that they are touching and place the thumbs together. This asana may be uncomfortable in the beginning but one gets used to it after some practice.
Sitting Cross Legged- It is simple form of asana where one sits cross-legged where knees are on the ground rather than on the thighs as in lotus posture. Indians often sit cross-legged while performing ceremonies or even while eating. To make it more comfortable one can use a stool or a cushion.
Chair Posture- The easiest of all postures and strongly recommended for those whose body is not flexible. Sit comfortably in a chair with legs and arms crossed. The spine should be kept erect and should not rest on the chair. You can meditate on this position whenever you are free like while taking a long flight or while relaxing in the office.
Corpse Posture- Another very easy posture where you lie like a corpse on your bed or any flat surface with legs spread out and arms resting on the bed. Then one slowly diverts attention towards breath and then repeats a mantra to get into the meditative state. This posture can be practiced before going to sleep and is a very popular position for relaxing the mind. Take care not fall asleep and the mind should be kept alert.
These are some basic asanas and are enough to attain an alpha state of mind. For a serious practitioner there are variants and many other asanas which one could practice. I only practice chair and corpse position in fact mainly corpse position. I mostly do meditation just before going to sleep and I started with transcendental meditation of Mahesh Yogi and devised something of my own
My style of meditation – I used to wonder how the great sages and saints of yesteryears meditated for so many years under a tree, if they were to repeat Om it would take them around one billion Om to finish their meditation of hundred years. So my conjecture, it is just a conjecture that they simply sat under the tree and trained their mind to do nothing. It is only when the mind is trained to do nothing one can attain higher state of mind , just sit or in be in corpse position and one must do nothing , one could even sleep off but after some time one really gets a lot of calm of mind and if this is practiced regularly then it is possible to attain self realization. It is my dream don’t know if it will come true, I am just a researcher into various things
How to practice breath control while meditating?
The term “ pranayama” refers to the study and practice of various techniques to control breath which forms the basic part in meditative exercises. It is an important method of conscious control of vital energies and is employed as preparatory exercise to purge the nadis and charkas, purify internal vessels and give vitality to subtle energy centers. It is said in Hindu manuals that when the central vital breath rises through the middle channel, first like an ant, slowly then like a leaping frog and finally like a bird flying upwards and enters the center of thousand petals at the top of the head. When this is achieved ‘life may be prolonged indefinitely’. Pranayama to be really effective should combine several breathing processes at the correct ratio of inhalation, exhalation and retention through one or both nostrils and must be combined with asana, mantras and hand positions or mudras. Prananyama should be learnt under the guidance of guru and cannot be learnt by reading this text. The variations of breathing techniques are considered infinite and the textbooks on pranayama give details about several hundred of them, each with its benefits. Broadly there are four breathing process viz inhalation which may be deep or shallow, retention of breath in the lungs at any point during inhalation, emptying the breath or exhalation which again can be shallow or full and holding the breath after exhalation. Breathing can be shallow or deep, heavy or light. Heavy breathing moves the chest and expands the ribs; shallow breathing on other hand is imperceptible and passages around nose and throat are relaxed and a cold draught of air is felt in the throat during exhalation. The depth of breath is felt by the distance the breath travels after exhalation, this is measured by finger units or breadth of one’s middle finger. Normal breath is said to 12 finger units away while during sleep it is around 16 finger units. The exhalation various from 12 to 36 finger units depending upon nature of activity like walking, jogging or playing some games etc.
Retention of breath is considered the key to pranayama, the final aim being complete suspension of breath following one long exhalation. In ordinary pranayama exercises retention of breath for twelve seconds is considered optimum and retention up to 108 seconds the maximum. However yogic siddhas or advanced practitioners could retain up to 1296 seconds or more.
There are almost infinite varieties of breath control and describing them is beyond the scope of this work and pranayama should essentially be taught under the close supervision of an instructor or guru. I don’t consciously practice any kind of breath control and in fact smoke quite a bit , nevertheless my style of meditation has calmed my breath quite a bit , I can really compare the way I used to breathe seven years ago and the way I breathe now the breathing is much quieter and calmer
Does personality type matter for attaining zero mind?
Personality type does not matter for attaining the Buddha mind and any body with any kind of personality disposition can attain such a state of mind. Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Rama all had different personality characteristics. On the other hand Hinduism describes various forms of goddesses some of them were sober, some very violent and dreaded like Durga or Kali. On the negative side all demons or asuras also had different personality traits but though evil had attained enough powers. Different sages found in Hindu mythology also had different personality type and disposition for instance Vishwamitra is considered as a very angry sage, while Valmiki is considered to be soft and malleable.
Hinduism believes anybody whether good, can attain a calm state of mind. Typical Hindu tales talk of the great powers and destruction carried by Asuras and how Gods took various forms to finally stop the destruction. After attaining the Buddha mind a person becomes noticed and becomes popular and this might change his/her personality trait.
Are there special mantras that could lead to self realization?
There are no special mantras for attaining self realization. It is not as if you recite a mantra and by snap of fingers you get Buddha mind. World would have been a better place if such a thing would have been possible. “Om” and its variants like “grim”, “shrim” etc are prescribed best for attaining zero mind as these were some of the sounds of universe and form a part of cosmic consciousness, one can also use mantras like “Om mani padme hum” and others depending on one’s religious disposition. It is better to keep the mantra simple so that meditation practice becomes easy and effortless.
What is Tapasya?
Tapasya is practicing meditation for very long period of time. In ancient days serious practitioners would go to the forest and do tapas for years together. It said anthills and trees would grow around them and they would remain sustained just be kunadalini energy. Finally they would attain self realization and Gods would appear and give them boons which could even involve boon of immortality. To give an example Ravana an asura practiced meditation and other serious austerities of such high order for many years that Gods granted him boon to rule over all the three worlds.
What are the different stages of trance and what is pratyaksha or illusion?
Trance is defined as a state of mental quietude in which the agitations of the spirit are stilled and the stress of existence is neutralized or becomes zero and complete equanimity is attained. One becomes free from the rigors of existence. It is considered as the highest form of ones existence and the experience of final beatitude and bliss in which one is free from death. The term trance or Samadhi has a wide connotation and embraces all mental, physical and spiritual state of mind and leads to a state of complete zero. It is not that a person at this state is not covered by Maslow hierarchy of needs and still all the needs like physiological, esteem, and other needs do matter, probably such a person fulfills such needs effortlessly. By attaining Samadhi the person becomes one with the spirit of the universe or universal consciousness and the self and only the object of one’s contemplation remains. It can be said it leads to complete emancipation of soul and final absorption of the soul in the universal consciousness. Once Samadhi is attained the soul becomes free from the cycles of birth, rebirth and death. The state of trance or Samadhi is variously described in Hindu texts as the final climax of all intellectual and spiritual activity , the last stage of yoga and meditation and is named as final union, absorption , conjunction with the infinite or universal consciousness. Hindu texts further divide Samadhi into two states, one is termed savikalpa or differentiated Samadhi or the experience of absolute in which the distinction between the worshipper and worshipped is recognized and maintained and the other which is termed “Nirvikalpa” or undifferentiated Samadhi in which the soul merges with the God or infinite or universal consciousness and there is no distinction between the worshipper and the worshipped or between the devotee and the deity. This is considered as the absolute form of trance or Samadhi and leads to emancipation of soul from cycles of birth and death.
In a state of complete Samadhi, Pratyaksha or illusion happens in which the devotee or the meditator sees an illusion of the deity or in simple terms the deity appears in front of the person. There are numerous examples of Indian sages and God men who have reported Pratyaksha or ability to see an illusion of God. Some of them include Ramakrishna Paramhansa who is said to have an illusion of Goddess Kali. Such examples should not be whisked away as mental delusion and it must be accepted that once Samadhi state of mind is attained illusion of God is possible.
How long would it take to attain zero mind?
As indicated earlier regularity, persistence and determination and belief that meditation helps is essential. Initially even to sit calm for few minutes would be tough but soon one would be able to meditate for twenty to twenty five minutes. Slowly you would observe that the brain gets cleared of all random pleasant and unpleasant thoughts and only the mantra which could be “Om” and its intonations remain while meditating. Slowly the mantra would disappear and for a brief second you will be connected to the cosmic consciousness. After practice this connection to universal consciousness or Samadhi as described earlier could be extended to few minutes and slowly all the mental blocks would disappear. One must learn to at least think unconventionally and thing things that other wise is blocked by social norms. Finally as the brain gets conditioned to remain in state of Samadhi for longer period of time. The mind becomes calm and composed it is not as if such person would not worry, is strong minded or would not get tense. There is an inner silence and everything emanates from this inner silence. The personality type remains the same. An universal energy flows through the crown chakra and gets released through various other charkas. There is continuous connection to the universal energy which forms the base of all living things. A person becomes blended in nature. Animals can quickly spot such a person and many animals including Lioness (Goddess Durga) were used as vehicles in ancient days. To put it in simple terms one has to get a hunch of what all of this is about and then attaining such a state of mind is easy. I wouldn’t specify a timeline but one should try different forms of meditation and yoga and find out what suits best. As indicated earlier practice, belief and persistence is essential.
Can such the zero state of mind if attained be lost, if the person does not practice regularly?
The remarkable thing about self realization is once you attain it there is no need for further practice or meditation. You are always meditating, when you walk, when you sleep or engage in any other activity. The charkas once opened remain open and you are in a new state of mental capability and disposition. Such a state of mind is never lost and no matter what you do you cannot revert back to the old beta state of mind. The mind once attains a calm (Theta state) remains in the state forever whether you are sick or are sleeping or eating you always remain connected to the cosmic consciousness. It is difficult to kill such a person. Ancient Hindu texts shows images of Shiva with his head chopped off still the life creating energy flows through his body and he remains alive, God Ganesha was sewed up with an elephant’s head and his own head was dismembered. Metals won’t react to such a person and guns and bullets won’t work. Such a person is immortal and beyond death. The universal forces take control of such a person and help, direct and plan for him or her.
What is purpose and use of Yantra and does it help in attaining Buddha mind?
Yantras are graphic and pictorial representations that help while meditating, allow focus and helps in deepening the concentration. One of the best known Yantra is the Sri Yantra The pattern of triangles within the framework of circles and lotus petals helps to focus the eye and therefore the mind. Yantras are geometric figures that might include figures of deities. There are a number of Yantras and it is said they hold the cosmic energy within the geometric pattern and typically in any religious place the yantras are installed and the whole architecture is based on storing or holding a bit of the cosmic energy. As again cosmic energy is simply the energy of love
What is Kundalini energy, how it can be awakened and what are benefits?
To quote one of the Gurus “Kundalini means awareness and awareness is the finite relationship with the infinity. The dormant energy is in you. The awareness is sleeping in you and you only experience your capacity to a limit. But when it can be extended to infinity you remain you, anyway, but in that state there is nothing lacking “. Kundalini is a potent occult energy symbolized by a serpent and has its home in the subtle body of the human and originates from the base of the spine. In most cases the Kundalini remains dormant or at sleep for most of the humans and its existence remains unsuspected. It is said that one should not experiment with it and it should be aroused only under the supervision of a Guru. It is said when it is aroused it lets loose and rages like a vicious serpent and it is impossible to resist its force. Though there are said to be ill effects associated with its arousal but there are more benefits and it is better to arouse it under a proper guidance of a Guru. The controlled awakening of Kundalini is one of the main objects of several branches of Hindu occultism, Yoga and Tantric practices. Long training, meditation and preparation are required for its arousal, but no fixed regimen exists and methods are many and vary considerably. The general technique includes an asana or a posture, breath control or pranayama and mediation. After repeated practice of meditation you will find that the kundalini moves upwards from the base of spine and strikes the various charkas and finally gets connected to the universal consciousness through the crown charka. Once the kundalini pierces all the charkas the voice of inner silence is heard and this is from where everything emanates. In Hinduism one would find many Gods and Goddesses accompanied by a serpent. For instance Vishnu is typically depicted as sleeping on a serpent and Shiva has a serpent coiled around his neck. I think this is more indicative of the fact that they have aroused the latent serpent energy to the fullest extent and are merged with the supreme consciousness. Kundalini once aroused changes the smell of the body and a pleasant heavenly odour starts emanating. It is said only humans are blessed with this subtle energy and a birth is wasted if experiments to awaken it are not taken.
Why meditate and what are the other benefits?
Meditation leads to self realization which could be considered as the ultimate objective and purpose of meditation, nevertheless there are other scientifically proven benefits even if this activity is carried out for short period of time. There are a whole host of scientific studies done to test the efficacy of meditation. Over 500 studies have been completed on the physiological, psychological, and sociological effects of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation, making it perhaps the most intensively studied technology in the field of human development. These studies have been conducted at 210 different universities and research institutions in 27 countries, and articles have now appeared in more than 100 scientific journals. These studies go on to prove that meditation leads to whole host of benefits like improved mental ability and so on.