Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa frequently spoke of ascents and descents which occur during meditation. Ramana Maharshi, when informed of these statements, firmly denied any such occurrences. Such puzzling contradictions can occur due to different vocabularies used by various sages as well as the varied transformations by which they attain Self-realization. In this article, I will endeavour to outline the resolution to this contradiction and hopefully clear the confusion.
As with every undertaking in life, so also in the practice of Yoga, some aptitude or competency is required. Some people take to meditation like fish to water, while others labor all their life to unveil the light which lies latent within. Aptitude can be developed through right living and right thinking and is carried over into future incarnations, guiding us into contact with saints and Yogis who can lead us to enlightenment. The Guru adapts his teaching based on the aptitude of the disciple since all are not capable of assimilating and realizing the Truth in identical manner. This is also the reason why different kinds of meditation techniques have developed over time. These are some selections on the subject of aptitude from various sages.
The current scientific consensus equates the mind with the brain and sees consciousness as the outcome of brain activity. In contrast, various Yogis have asserted based on their experience of self-realization that there is a greater consciousness that inhabits the body, and that the mind is distinct from and greater than the brain. When the thoughts which keep rattling in the brain have ceased, one begins to catch a glimpse into the truth behind yogic assertions that the brain is not the whole mind. In the state of self-realization, one no longer sees the brain as the seat of thought. The idea that “I am the body” (referred to in Sanskrit as “Dehatma-Buddhi“) becomes severely diminished. The consciousness is felt to be greater than the body, and one begins to ideate from Sahasradala Chakra above the head, turning the brain into a channel for communication between the greater mind and the rest of the body. This post collects some observations on the brain-mind contrast from a few seers of the modern age.
During meditation, one may lapse into brief periods of mental silence and wake up refreshed with no memory of what happened during that interval. Various sages have pointed out that this condition verges more towards unconsciousness instead of greater consciousness, and does not imply that the goal has been reached or is nearer. One has to go further by making the meditation more conscious, active and dynamic. For that to occur, the Higher Self must always remain awake during meditation even though the mental consciousness has become immobile. These are some passages collected from various sources on this topic.
The interpretation of centuries-old holy scriptures is always a challenge. Rote learning of scriptures which was undertaken in past centuries due to lack of durable recording material is no longer required; it may improve memory but doesn’t lead us much further. On the other hand, the academic pursuit of hermeneutics through critical thinking produces dry interpretations (as well as misinterpretations) because it is undertaken by those who without spiritual background. What then is the method by which one unlocks the true meaning of a holy book? It is necessarily a maieutic process, to use a Socratic term, that grows through spiritual practice and experience. When we begin to awaken to the influence of the soul within, it gradually discloses to us the secret of the scripture. The blossoming intuition which brings us closer to the Divine can also unlock the original intent of the scripture. In this post, we collect some observations by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa on how to read and interpret holy scriptures.
The progress of Science has virtually obliterated the religious mentality of the Middle Ages, replacing it with the skeptical, objective and scientific temperament which devotes it’s energies to earthly pursuits. In this process, it has brought about a capitalist world where money is the primary driver. Today, a nation’s worth is decided by it’s GDP, international relations pivot on trade partnerships and opening of new markets, the earth is valued only for it’s natural resources, and the World Economic Forum has become a prestigious annual event. All these changes shape our thinking in ways we seldom realize; they engineer what Sri Aurobindo called an “economic barbarism“.