Vyasa, in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, defines five planes of the mind (i.e. Chitta Bhumi)
- Kshipta: Disturbed and restless mind due to the predominance of Rajas (kineticism).
- Mudha: Dull and forgetful mind due to the predominance of Tamas(inertia).
- Vikshipta: Occasionally steady mind which gets easily distracted by impulses. In this state, neither Sattva (illumination), Rajas or Tamas is dominant.
- Ekagra: One-pointed concentration of thought is possible.
- Niruddha: Complete mastery over the thought process.
The following is an excerpt from an article by Nolini Kanta Gupta, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, on the progressive stages of meditation as one leads the mind to the last stage of Niruddha or Complete Mastery described above:
The first is to think on one subject in a continuous logical order. When, for example, you have to find the solution of a problem, you go step by step from one operation to another in a chain till you finally arrive at the conclusion. The thought is withdrawn from all other objects and is canalised along a single line. This is a kind of meditation, although it may not be usually known by that name. It marks a progress in the make-up of the human consciousness. For normally the mind moves at random, thoughts run about on many subjects, various, contrary and contradictory, from moment to moment. There is neither direction, consistency nor organisation: it is a confused mass of incomplete, inchoate thoughts. The control and organisation of this mass, to start with, in a limited sphere and in a definite direction, the rejection of the unnecessary and the irrelevant and the marshalling and ordering of the required elements form the first exercise towards mental growth. All high intelligence, all effective wielding of thought power needs this discipline. Under the present circumstances of the world, the school-life gives the best opportunity for this development. This is a meditation that should be obligatory and universal.
The next type we may call concentration, instead of meditation. Here we do not pursue a thought-line, but fix the thought upon one object unmoved. It means a further process of withdrawing the consciousness from its habitual outgoing and dispersive movement. The thought is held at a point and attention is focussed upon it: it is continuous and unbroken attention, for example, upon an idea, a phrase (mantra) or an image. One can concentrate also upon a physical point, say, fixing the gaze upon the tip of one’s nose, or on a luminous point outside etc. In this discipline the whole mind is gathered together and focussed: or, everything else is shut out leaving only one thing upon which all the light of the consciousness is directed. It is a standstill consciousness, like a flame erect and immobile in a windless place.
There is a third grade when the mind becomes a void, all thoughts being driven out, all vibrations tranquillised. It is a wide silence suffused with a still luminosity. The operation is difficult. For it means a kind of continuous and methodical drainage or rarefication which takes more or less a very long time. First you throw out well-formed ideas and notions, processes and products of reasoning and judgment – the bigger waves, as it were; as soon as these subside you find there are smaller waves below or behind – half-formed thoughts, budding ideas, fugitive notions and so on; when these too are quieted down, you come across still another layer of smaller ripples of thought, close to sensations, nervous reactions, vibrations of the brain-mind, rudimentary precepts, etc., etc. One may go on like that if not ad infinitum, at least, to a considerable length. One arrives in the end at what is practically a vacuum, to all intents and purposes a silent mind. Even then it is a difficult and arduous process and may not be as absolute as one may expect. There are other surer and even perhaps easier processes to attain the same end. Thus instead of striving and struggling and forcing your will upon the restless waves, you simply relax yourself, bypass them as it were, await and aspire and open yourself towards the Silence that is above: call for the silence with trust and reliance and it comes not unoften as a massive inundation, a glacial sweep and automatically overwhelms you, drowning and filling you from top to toe. There is also another way: to contact, to enter into the Mother’s Presence. Mother’s Presence means all the realisations to which we aspire concretised, brought down, near to us, within our human reach. We have not to travel far and wide, mount to inaccessible heights, labour and strain – with blood and sweat and tears – to get what we want: all the gettings are ready-made there in our atmosphere, we have only to know and perceive, open something in us for them to flow in. That is perhaps the action of Grace: silence, absolute silence, not only in the mind, but in the whole being, can come this way too.
The last process gives us the clue to the fourth type of meditation – the type, in fact, which is recommended for us, both because it is the easiest – following as it does the line of least resistance, also because it gives the fullness of the result demanded. Instead of trying to manipulate the mental force with one’s personal will and effort, instead of seeking to control and command the consciousness, the best thing to do would be to remain quiet as far as it is normally possible for one without struggle and then turn the gaze to the other side, deep inward or high upward, become more conscious of the light, the Will that brought you to this Path, to be alive with the secret delight, the flaming aspiration that is there within you behind all the turbid turmoil of the surface life and consciousness. This Presence and Guidance will of itself place before you the elements and movements that are to be rejected and those that are to be accepted and given your sincere assent those that help you in doing the necessary gesture. Indeed, if you do not resist too much, it will throw out what is to be thrown out and bring in what is to be brought in. That is how the instrument will be cleansed and refined. Silence will be put in, for that is the basis; but not silence alone, for it will be unified with a new dynamism expressing the Divine’s Will-personal choice there will be none, neither for absolute quietude nor for mere activity.
For more on this subject, see the page on Meditation