Saturday, March 17, 2012

Meditation


Matrimandir
Matrimandir@Auroville
The capital period of my intellectual development was when I could see clearly that what the intellect said may be correct and not correct, that what the intellect justifies is true and its opposite also is true. I never admitted a truth in the mind without simultaneously keeping it open to the contrary of it. And the first result was that the prestige of the intellect was gone.
(Sri Aurobindo)

Overview

  1. Firstly, it is important to understand that All thoughts come from outside.
  2. For an overview of the various ways to stabilize the mind, see Taming the Monkey Mind.   In the same vein, see Gorakhnath’s enumeration of contemplation methods
  3. There are gradations in these concentration technique as discussed in Types of Meditation and Stages of meditation.
  4. Sri Aurobindo used to recommend the method of witness consciousness to the beginners (Purani, Evening Talks, pp 40-47). This is described in How to cultivate the state of witness consciousness (Saksi Bhava), and Cultivating witness consciousness (Saksi Bhava) part 2.
  5. You can concentrate on the five elements as shown in Videha Dharana : fixing the mind outside the body and Panchatattva Dharana : Contemplation on the five elements
  6. You can fix your awareness on the sky or the lake as shown in Widen the consciousness. With progress, the awareness shifts to the inner sky(planes of the mind). SeeMeditation Techniques from the Yoga Upanishads
  7. Those who have a devotional nature can practice Concentration on Mother’s photograph
  8. To relax the mind during the day, try Walking with eyes unfocused
  9. How to develop intuition
  10. Also check out Vidyas in the Upanishads part 1 and Vidyas in the Upanishads part 2
  11. The mind does change with Yoga! See How does the mind change with Yoga?
  12. Pitfalls : Distinguishing between stilling the mind and dynamizing meditation andSurmounting the unpleasant images and negative thoughts which occur during meditation
The rest of this page covers the practice of concentrating on centers within the body.

In the words of Pavitra, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo

Select a quiet and secluded place where you will feel secure and undisturbed for at least three quarters of an hour to one hour.
Sit in a chair or an arm chair with the back resting or, if you prefer, cross-legged on a cushion or a carpet. A straight body is preferable but without strain. In fact posture is of little importance. What is important is to feel at ease so that the body can be rapidly forgotten. Recumbent position is not advisable, except in case of illness or incapacity as it induces sleep.
Always begin the meditation by an inner call or a prayer, an aspiration towards the Divine.
a) A first method consists in watching the thoughts as they swarm about in the mind. Your mind is like a public place across which thoughts move in and out. A few attract your attention and remain a longer time. Observe their play without identifying yourself with any of them. You will become aware that your consciousness-that is your mental self-stands apart like a “Silent Witness” Separate from the movements of the mental nature in you. On one side this “Witness Consciousness”, on the other the mental nature in you.
Because you refuse to identify yourself with the thoughts, their motion and insistence gradually weaken. The waves of the mental nature subside and after a time you enter into a state called “quietude” or “quiet mind”. Thoughts still occur but they are subdued and do not disturb inner perceptions.
b) Another method of mental control consists in creating a void in your mind. It is quicker and more radical than the first but also more difficult. You have to banish altogether all thoughts from the mind. As soon as one comes in, push it out or discard it right away, before it has time to settle down. Not only should all reasonings be excluded in this way but all memories and associations too. Your mind enters gradually into the peace of “quietude”.
You should know that such an attempt to forcefully control the mind results at times in an apparent increase of the mental chaotic condition. Don’t be disturbed but persevere.
It is possible to bring the mind to a state of complete “silence”. But it is a very arduous task and after all it is not indispensable, at least in Sri Aurobindo’s “Integral Yoga”, which does not aim at leaving the body in trance, but at reaching the same experiences in a perfectly conscious and wakeful state.
c) Mental control can also be brought about by concentration, that is the fixing of the mind on a single object so strongly that the mind unites, so to say, with the object. From this identification knowledge about the object arises in the mind. The best object of concentration, the most worthy of knowledge, is surely the Divine, the Supreme. It matters little whether it is the Impersonal or the Personal God or, subjectively, the One Self. An idea that will help you is “God in all, all in God and all as God”. When the mind wanders away, you have to bring it back to its object quietly bur persistently. Here also you dissociate yourself in away from your mind.
You may also use a word, a significant sentence, a prayer, the silent repetition of which will quieten the most mechanical part of your mind. Such a repetition (the name of the Beloved) is frequently resorted to by those who feel a devotion for the Divine. It is best to use these three methods concurrently according to the need and as it seems easier at the moment. In any case regular practice is necessary every day, preferably at the same hour.

Three centres on which one can concentrate during meditation

One can concentrate in any of the three centres which is easiest to the sadhak(aspirant) or gives most result.
The power of the concentration in the heart-centre is to open that centre and by the power of aspiration, love, bhakti, surrender remove the veil which covers and conceals the soul and bring forward the soul or psychic being to govern the mind, life and body and turn and open them all fully to the Divine, removing all that is opposed to that turning and opening. This is what is called in this yoga the psychic transformation(On a side note, the techique of concentration on the heart is called Dahara Vidya in the Upanishads )
The power of concentration above the head is to bring peace, silence, liberation from the body sense, the identification with mind and life and open the way for the lower (mental, vital, physical) consciousness to rise up to meet the higher consciousness above and for the powers of the higher (spiritual nature) consciousness to descend into mind, life and body. This is what is called in this yoga the spiritual transformation. If one begins with this movement then the Power from above has in its descent to open all the centres(including the lowest centre) and to bring out the psychic being; for until that is done there is likely to be much difficulty and struggle of the lower consciousness obstructing, mixing with or even refusing the Divine Action from above. If the psychic being is once active this struggle and these difficulties can be greatly minimised.
The power of concentration between the eyebrows is to open the centre there, liberate the inner mind and vision and the inner or yogic consciousness and its experiences and powers. From here also one can open upwards and act also in the lower centres; but the danger of this process is that one may get shut up in one’s mental spiritual formations and not come out of them into the free and integral spiritual experience and knowledge and integral change of the being and nature. If one concentrates on a thought or a word, one has to dwell on the essential idea contained in the word with the aspiration to feel the thing which it expresses.
[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Sadhana through Meditation]

Pavitra discussing his meditation with Sri Aurobindo

Pavitra: In meditation the entire mind is quiet. The faculty of forming images disappears and also that of reasoning, of putting out ideas. And I remain immobile, incapable of any inner movement. There is no change in the consciousness, only in the instruments of this conscious­ness. What should I do in meditation? Should this new state be brought into the ordinary life?
Sri Aurobindo: In the first analysis, the mind is divided into two parts : one, whose movements are aroused by Nature ; the other which shares the nature of the Purusha and remains immobile. It is now necessary to extend the power of this immobile part to remain the witness of the changes of the other. Thought will seem to occur in front of it, and it will become aware that it is universal Nature which raises the play of thoughts. One must go towards this universalisation. Thoughts will come from outside and you will see them taking shape in you. You will also experience that you have power over them: you will be able to make a choice, refuse a movement, etc. This is the beginning of mastery. The part of the immobile mind will also have to be seen as the reflection of a vaster, more universal Purusha above you. From both sides you must free yourself from the self. You must relax the pressure you have put on the mind to succeed in mastering thought and being free from it. Insist on the wit­ness attitude. When a thought comes, examine it, see from where it comes, follow it.
The two parts which you are thus separating will have to be later united once again.
Pavitra: Are there not two methods? One consists in looking at the thoughts as they cross the field of the mind. The other in losing consciousness of them by concentrating upon the inner movement?
Sri Aurobindo: I think you can now enter the second movement. And you must keep in mind that the more you can overcome the idea of working by yourself, the quicker you will go. Allow things to be done for you.
[Pavitra, Conversations with Sri Aurobindo, March 10, 1926]

Another presentation by the Moscow Integral Yoga group

Introductory Books

Click on the book to go to the SABDA catalog
dhyana
How do I begin
How do I proceed
yoga for the modern man
yoga for the modern man
Pitfalls in Sadhana
Pitfalls in Sadhana
Meditation background and process
M.P. Pandit Meditation background and process

8 Responses to Meditation

  1. Mohan Krishna says:
    Various methods of concentration are advised by Sri Aurobindo and Mother. Is it best to select just one technique?
    • Sandeep says:
      When the Guru gives initiation, he also provides the method which is suited to the aspirant’s character and temperament. In the absence of a Guru, it may not be easy to decide a specific method. I cannot recommend one either since I am not yet reached the stage of being a Guru :-)
      Sri Aurobindo used to ask beginners who were NOT ready for Yoga to practice the method of witness consciousness discussed here in part1and here in part2 .
      There are a variety of techniques invented by the ancients which I have listed in this post.
      Ultimately, you have to find out what is easy for you. You could begin with any one of these.
      a) concentrate on a centre (heart, eyebrows) in the body.
      b) stand back and let the thoughts in mind subside.
      c) watch the flow of breath until the thoughts subside.
      d) chant a Mantra to enter into a contemplative state.
      e) concentrate on a form of God – anyone you like.
  2. Ten Nebula says:
    Peace and light, Sandeep
    I enjoy your blog site.
    I hope all is unfolding in your life in ease, joy, harmony, and abundance!!!
    Have a great 2011!!!
    Bright blessings,
  3. ipsa says:
    Sri Aurobindo to Nirodbaran on Meditation:
    Nirodbaran:These statements would obviously mean that meditation is not indispensable, for sincere workers, I mean.
    Sri Aurobindo: I do not mind if you find inconsistencies in my statements. What people call consistency is usually a rigid or narrow-minded inability to see more than one side of the truth or more than their own narrow personal view or experience of things. Truth has many aspects and unless you look on all with a calm and equal eye, you will never have the real or the integral knowledge.
    Nirodda: But when I wrote to you that I didn’t feel like meditating, you replied, “I don’t see how you can change your lower consciousness without it”; and when I got back the urge to meditate you again said, “That is the only thing to do.”
    Sri Aurobindo: Perhaps there was a stress on the “you”.
    Nirodda:I have hardly any time for meditation because till 9.30 p.m. I am simply cramped with work, classes, etc. After that I read a little or jump straight into bed and fall into a state of “Sachchidananda”, as Barinbabu terms it. Now how to reconcile the two?
    Sri Aurobindo:Half an hour’s meditation in the day ought to be possible – if only to bring a concentrated habit into the consciousness which will help it, first to be less outward in work and, secondly, to develop a receptive tendency which can bear its fruits even in the work.
  4. ipi says:
    The Role of Awareness
    What does this mean for us? The fact that much of this processing is unconscious means that the way we feel in our daily lives is often subject to the whim of our memories. But we can better manage this powerful influence on our lives by increasing our ability to be aware of our internal state of being by becoming more in touch with what all is going on. The practices of meditation and mindfulness help to bring our perceptions into our consciousness.
    …………………
    We are all bowled over by our associative memories from time to time. Mindfulness practices, like meditation or even psychotherapy, can strengthen our ability to tune into these unconscious memories, expanding our awareness. What’s incredible is that neuroimaging has shown us how mindfulness actually changes our brains. It encourages neuronal integration and enhancement of activity in brain regions associated with interpersonal and emotional attunement including the limbic system and prefrontal cortex. There is, in fact, growth in specific brain areas that occurs over time as a result of sustained mindfulness practice. So an expanded and deepened conscious awareness has been shown to correlate with enhanced brain function- more brain activity, increased neuronal interconnectedness, improved left-right brain coordination, and even, further growth of brain tissue. Pretty amazing.
  5. ipi says:
    Meditation and Purification
    Disciple: In an article Krishnaprem says that meditation can’t be fruitful for those who have not achieved a high degree of inner development and purification.
    Sri Aurobindo: I do not know what Krishnaprem said or in which article, I do not have it with me. But if the statement is that nobody can have a successful meditation or realise anything till he is pure and perfect, I fail to follow it; it contradicts my own experience. I have always had realisation by meditation first and the purification started afterwards as a result. I have seen many get important, even fundamental realisations by meditation who could not be said to have a great inner development. Are all Yogis who have meditated to effect and had great realisations in their inner consciousness perfect in their nature? It does not look like it to me. I am unable to believe in absolute generalisations in this field, because the development of spiritual consciousness is an exceedingly vast and complex affair in which all sorts of things can happen and one might almost say that for each man. It is different according to his nature and that the one thing that is essential is the inner call and aspiration and the perseverance to follow always after it no matter how long it takes or what are the difficulties or impediments — because nothing else will satisfy the soul within us.
    (Sri Aurobindo. CWSA vol. 35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, p 230, 17 May 1936)
    Sandeep: Krishnaprem(1898-1965) was the monastic name of Ronald Henry Nixon. See Mirtola
  6. Sandeep says:
    Evidence Builds That Meditation Strengthens the Brain
    Earlier evidence out of UCLA suggested that meditating for years thickens the brain (in a good way) and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Now a further report by UCLA researchers suggests yet another benefit.
    Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate
    [...]
    Of the 49 recruited subjects, the researchers took MRI scans of 23 meditators and compared them to 16 control subjects matched for age, handedness and sex. (Ten participants dropped out.) The scans for the controls were obtained from an existing MRI database, while the meditators were recruited from various meditation venues. The meditators had practiced their craft on average for 20 years using a variety of meditation types — Samatha, Vipassana, Zen and more.