Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
You have been promised some further, practical, exercises for meditation. They shall indeed come. The text being referenced for the next few weeks is "The Art Of Contemplation"; a text attributed to Gurudev, as it is a transcript of his words from a workshop run in Singapore in the early 1990s. The effort of the publication is that of some of the devotees who attended the workshop and who put the words into practice and found benefit, therefore felt the need to 'spread the word'. We are grateful to them for this effort.
Prior to the exercises proper, however, there is, as may be expected, an introduction on the nature of contemplation. It is lengthy, but an attempt will be made to summarise it in two parts here. As always, you are encouraged to source the publication for yourselves from Chinmaya Publications.
CONTEMPLATION (summary part one)
Our daily life is generally spent looking outwards to the world. It is a habit of evolution necessary for survival. The animal world is united in this factor. The human creature, however, developed sufficiently, that a more inward looking habit could also form, permitting the rise of the arts, the sciences, literature and so forth. These are all still of the mind. What began to happen was that the intellect then turned ever deeper, searching for what is beyond (or behind) mind.
When we sit to meditate, we are attempting the reversal of the mind's instinct from outer-attention to inner-attention. The point of this is to locate the point of power called 'life'. All who begin this particular research will, at some point, declare how difficult it is!
This is true. Think on this however; if you begin any sport, in the early sessions the body fights and complains at the pains and strains of it, but we override the objections because there is a goal we have set our sights upon. The body eventually catches up and then actively seeks the activity. Mind controls matter to bring it into line. The next step is to bring the mind into line with the intellect and set the goal of understanding what it is that enlivens it. The mind, albeit subtle, is still of the field of matter. It is a 'muscle' which will strain at the pain of this change of habit being forced upon it. Why would we do this? Well, just as in sport we are likely to have seen a role model (Usain Bolt, for example, or Sachin Tandulkar) who inspires us and who have proven that dedication and practice can bring one to the pinnacle of the sport, so it is that those students of the spiritual 'sport' have the role models of the saints and sages who have all reported that the pinnacle of meditation is achievable and that it brings the most incredible freedom of spirit.
The goal of 'Self-discovery' is what we are about in meditation. To come to the Realisation of our True Nature, we must turn the mind to the inner world and leave the outer to itself. One of the great pointers we are given by the Masters is that the True State is always, in fact, with us - we just have to 'Realise' it. In fact, in terms of the philosophy of Vedanta, our current 'waking' state, which we take to be real is actually nothing more than a dream-like state called as the grand illusion - Maya. To reach the Higher State of Self, we simply have to 'wake up'.
For as long as we are turned to the outer world, we shall not be able to see this fact. We must turn inwards. There are two words oft used in the texts; seeking and searching. At quick glance we might mistake these for being one and the same thing. The distinction, however, is that in seeking, we do not necessarily know what we are looking for or what will be found; whilst for searching, we must necessarily know what is being sought. For example, we lose our key. We know what it looks like and what it's purpose is but it is temporarily not within sight. We go in search of it, through our pockets, in drawers, or bags and so on. On the other hand, we might go looking about a street with no goal in mind. Someone asks what we are looking for and we can say honestly that we don't know, but have a certainty that when we find it, we shall know it. This is called as seeking. In the seat of meditation, when we turn inward, we are doing so because we have been told clearly by those who have been there before us that there is a specific item to be found - ie The Self - and they have provided lots of clues as to how we might reconnect with that misplaced item; all that is required is that we commence searching.
In a small way we do this every day - or, rather, every night. We know that in deep sleep there is a sense of bliss. Not because we experience the bliss within the sleep itself, for at that point consciousness is suspended; it is when we awake and recall that for some time we did not have the burden of the world upon us, that we think on it as having experienced a 'blissful sleep'. We therefore hanker for that experience to be repeated and each night settle and 'search' for deep sleep by going through the rigmarole of settling properly in position of bed, shutting eyes, breathing cleanly, drifting down through layers of initially fast thinking, to less thoughts, to random meanderings, to - finally - the place of no thoughts.
Deep sleep is the place of no thoughts - but it is also without being conscious of the no-thought state until after the fact. The art of contemplation is to attain the place of no thoughts with consciousness remaining intact. There is awareness, but there is no mind (remembering that mind is defined as a flow of thoughts). As we have to surrender the merriments of each day in order to drop into deep sleep, so it is that we must surrender the external world in order to reach the depths and tranquillity of the inner world, in search of our core being.
There are those who view this as a Utopian premise, decrying the practice as a waste of time and effort. Generally speaking, such decryers A) have never tried it and, like someone who has never tasted ice cream, think all the 'hype' is pointless, or B) fear the surrender which is required and mistrust those who are capable of this submission of their egos.
Then there are those who definitely wish to follow 'the dream' but for various reasons complain they cannot; maybe justifying that they have not the time, there is too much interruption, their mind can't be tamed… but all the Gurus of history shout out NONSENSE - apply the logical steps with an appropriate degree of dedication and you cannot fail! Start with control of the body. Work on it. Tame it. Make it vegetarian, make it less restless, make it less demanding, apply it to correct conducts and thinking. The Bhagavad Gita is the ultimate guide for this! When satisfied that the body is more or less under you complete command, then turn attention to the mind. A quietened body will already carry within it a more steady and peaceful mind, the work merely has to be completed.