One of the techniques Sri Aurobindo and the Mother recommended for meditation was contemplating on Akasha or Space. This has been discussed in the section on Widening of consciousness. The source of this technique lies in the Yoga Upanishads. Out of the 108 Upanishads, there are 21 which are known as the Yoga Upanishads. These contain various methods of Dharana (i.e. one-pointed concentration). This post contains a brief overview of these techniques as given in the book Dharana Darshan by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga.
The Upanishads say that when the mind dwells on limitless space, it becomes conscious of the ocean, which is the Infinite. The Yoga Upanishads describe three increasing levels of absorption in dharana: external, intermediate and internal.
The external level is when the mind learns to steadily focus on external objects. This can be done in two ways: bhoochari mudra and akashi mudra.
The intermediate level occurs when the mind dwells on three regions of space within the body:
- chidakasha: space of chitta (mind) experienced in the region between the head and the throat.
- hridayakasha: space of the heart (referred to as ‘vital’ by Sri Aurobindo).
- daharakasha: space of the psychic worlds.
The last level which is the internal level begins when the mind successfully withdraws from the intermediate spaces and begins to dwell on the innermost spaces. According to the Upanishads, the consciousness of the spiritual aspirant will experience five such spaces (vyoma panchaka) and these are called guna rahita akasha (attributeless space), paramakasha (space of void), mahakasha (great space), tattwakasha (space of elements of creation) and suryakasha (solar space). With the gradual inward growth in contemplation, one experiences various sounds and lights which are indications of progress and these are discussed in the book. [On a side note, it is not known how these five spaces correspond to Sri Aurobindo’s division of consciousness into the the higher triple worlds of Sachchidananda followed by Supermind discussed under Cosmology. ]
The techniques are intricate and will not be described here! The book Dharana Darshan (436 pp) is highly readable and offers valuable details on meditation techniques which can be incorporated into daily practice. Those interested can buy it. I have taken the liberty of attaching the Table of Contents to this post since that is not currently available on Amazon.com.