Category Archives: meditation

Can reading of spiritual books become counter-productive ?

People who read too many spiritual books can go off-track. They waste their time intellectually resolving some messy conundrums. For example, Sri Aurobindo says A, Ramana Maharshi says B, Paramahansa Yogananda says C : lets intellectually figure out who is correct. The purpose of the spiritual text is to elevate the consciousness; its hidden meaning is unlocked through spiritual experiences.

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A contemplation exercise before going to sleep

Day and night are interconnected in Integral Yoga.  The greater equanimity you maintain during the day, the more conscious you become in your dreams at night and conversely, the better you sleep, the more self-aware you are able to become during the day.  While this is true in principle, it is quite difficult to put into practice during waking hours.  Engrossed in  quotidian social activities, we may find it demanding to monitor every thought, emotion or velleity which bubbles up and gets suppressed from moment to moment.  We barely notice the passing flicker of pride, the soupçon of jealousy, the concealed embarrassment or the shrinking revulsion that our consciousness instinctively invests in every event or person.  Unnoticed, this burden of cathectic bonds builds up day after day in our subconscious eventually turning us into sullen, predictable and listless creatures.

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Dharana Shakti : the capacity to sustain spiritual experiences

The sudden inflow of energy, the rapture and the sense of release that one feels after a favourable period of meditation is not easy to sustain. The mind mostly misinterprets the experience, the heart seizes and appropriates it, while the physical body feels relieved and exhausted that it has ended.  We tend to yawn and eat junk food after a period of meditation because the physical body is tamasic(dull) by nature and not accustomed to the newly attained tranquility.  Instead of yawning and dissipating the energy gained during the meditation, the body needs to be molded to become more supple and receptive; the cells of the body have to be made more and more conscious through regular exercise and refined eating habits so that it can sustain longer and greater spiritual experiences.  Sri Aurobindo denoted this power of the body as Dharana Shakti or Dharana Samarthya (retention capacity; Samarthya or Shakti = capacity, Dharana = retention).

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The equipoise required for Yoga

Napoleon once remarked that a great general must have equilibrium:  “The object most desirable is that a man’s judgment should be in equilibrium with his physical character or courage. This is what we may call  being well squared both by base and perpendicular. If courage be in the ascendency, a general will rashly undertake that which he can not execute; on the contrary, if his character or courage be inferior to his judgment, he will not venture to carry any measure into effect”[1].

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Surmounting the unpleasant images and negative thoughts which occur during meditation

Many novices to Yoga discover that once you have pacified the restless body and harmonized the breathing process before meditation, you might experience a few minutes of mental silence, but this illusory peace is quickly shattered by the sudden uprush of disturbing images and negative thoughts.  These unpleasant ideas come partly from within and partly from outside.  Within us, there are repressed parts of the personality which rebel against any imposition of harmony while on the external front, we are constantly bathing in the vibrations of the world and a desultory attempt to cut our mind off from these pervasive vibrations is bound to fail.  In an age of rapid technological change where we are being continuously bombarded by powerful and seductive audio-visual content on a wide variety of electronic devices, the frequency of this problem has probably increased rather than decreased.  These are some remarks by the Mother on this perennial botheration.

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Gorakhnath’s enumeration of contemplation methods

Goraknath was a yogi-philosopher belonging the Nath Path (Brotherhood of the Supreme) who lived around the 9th-10th century.  His Guru Matysendranath was the progenitor of this influential brotherhood of ascetics.   Gorakhnath authored several works on Yoga including the Goraksha Samhita, the Goraksha Gita, the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga Martanada, the Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga-Bija, and the Yoga Chintamani. You can read more about him on wikipedia.   This article briefly outlines the meditation methods that Gorakhnath first enumerated in his work Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati.   The material is condensed from A.K. Banerjea’s Philosophy of Gorakhnath[1].

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Stages of meditation

It is known that the restless mind cannot immediately enter into a state of thoughtlessness.  That is why meditation is practised in stages.  A 2005 paper “Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness” by Antoine Lutz and his colleagues contains a very succinct description of this graded process accompanied by a concise table, which we highlight in this post.    Continue reading

Walking with eyes unfocused

A particularly intransigent problem in the practice of Yoga is that of retention of power; the fleeting contact that one gains with the Higher Power during meditation seems to dissipate within a few minutes after meditation, after which one finds oneself uncomfortably thrust back into the ugly daily persona – an amalgam of anxiety, impatience, ambition and what not.   The way out of this dilemma is to embrace a daily regimen of  control over conversation, food, television and computer usage and other activities which “externalize” the consciousness.  The exercise discussed in this article “walking with eyes unfocused” can also extend the retention of consciousness.

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Distinguishing between stilling the mind and dynamizing meditation

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.

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How does the mind change with Yoga?

The ordinary human mind interfaces with the phenomenal world through abstractions; with the aid of the senses, it builds a representation of the world in the human memory which it manipulates with the reasoning process, rejecting and accepting ideas based on the ego’s subjective inclinations.  The nature of the thought process changes as the mind becomes electrified with progress in Yoga.   The practice of mental silence heightens the vibratory pitch of the brain and the awakening of the Kundalini kindles subtle centers in the brain.   The mind expands into the cosmic planes of the Mind and acquires new powers of consciousness.  In such a mind, the memory of the past is purged, the reasoning process is replaced by spontaneous intuition, and the abstractions within are substituted by a more intimate knowledge acquired by direct contact of subject consciousness with object consciousness.

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Meditation techniques from the Yoga Upanishads

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.

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Videha Dharana : fixing the mind outside the body

As discussed in the post Taming the Monkey Mind, the mind in contemplation can focus its awareness on many different objects – be they gross or subtle, within the body or without.  In this post, we will cover one more method called Videha Dharana(fixing the awareness outside the body) which has been briefly mentioned in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and elaborated by Sri Anirvan in his book Inner Yoga.  As we see below, what is noteworthy is that Sri Anirvan’s description of the transformation bears resemblance to some changes in body consciousness that were noted in exchanges between Sri Aurobindo and his disciples.

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Taming the monkey mind

As anyone who practises meditation will attest, it is not easy to suspend the thought process.   Even if thoughts regarding the external objects are switched off,  our internal memory (Chitta) keeps feeding past events to our mind and this cycle does not die down easily.   Any attempt to control or force the mind to stop always ends in failure.   What is required are some supports on which the mind can rest before it glides off into effortless flight.  These are observations on a few aids which might help in quieting the thought process.

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Types of meditation

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:

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How to develop intuition

This article is related to the previous article “Four Powers of Intuition

The source of all Knowledge is the Superconscient; it is the reservoir of all creativity – the source of all inventions, paintings,  musical compositions.   In contrast, the source of all Ignorance is our limited consciousness which is only aware of  its identity as the physical body in the physical world.   Every problem we face is the result of a deformation of some underlying Truth and the Intuition required to solve a problem can be found by bridging this gap between Ignorance and Knowledge, by ascending and widening our consciousness so we can become aware of our larger Self.   When we ascend into this wider consciousness, we also find ourselves crowned with the power of Intuition.

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Four Powers of Intuition

Many of us have at times felt those influences and inspirations which express themselves through us as scientific breakthroughs, poetic verses, stirring musical compositions or great works of art. According to Sri Aurobindo, these moments of inspiration are actually the secret workings of the four powers called Revelation, Inspiration, Intuition and Discrimination. These powers can be consciously cultivated through the practice of Integral Yoga. This post describes these four powers.

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