'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.6th
We are now studying Aatmabodha. As always, with each week, you are encouraged to review the previous teachings and spend some time in contemplation of the meanings as the affect your life. Please do consider purchasing the text. Remember, also, to recite the mangala charana before each study and review the lessons before each new one.
At the end of last week's post, a question was asked… (you are remembering to review each week, are you not?!) The verse under discussion had stated clearly that dedicated practice of jnaan-abhyaasa would bring the saadhaka to the ultimate pinnacle, Union with Self as Brahman. How then is the student to proceed?
iviv´deze AasInae ivragae ivijteiNÔy>,
Viviktadeshe aasiinao biraago vijitendriyaH,
Bhaavayedekam-aatmaanam tamanantam-ananyadhiiH ||38||
Sitting in a solitary place, freeing the mind from desires and controlling the senses, meditate upon the Aatman, which is One Without Second, with unswerving attention.
The one constant factor in any spiritual practice of any sort is the focus which must be placed from the seeker to that which is sought. The term used here is 'bhaavayet'. Bhaava is another of those Sanskrit words with apparently endless nuance and much dependant upon context. There are some 74 English descriptions for it in the dictionary! All are centred around the four key parts of emotion, manner, sentiment and spirit.
Why then translate this as 'meditate upon'? The conjugation to bhaavaYET gives the emphasis that one must have a sustained effort in 'bhaav' - it is implied that the Love, the devotion, the 'emotion' one feels for the Higher can be given our fullest attention. This is reinforced with the 'ananyadiiH' - unswerving attention. Thus, when seeking to truly connect with the Higher Spirit of Being, there must be no interruption, no distraction, no stray thoughts. Focus, focus, focus.
Whilst advanced and very experienced meditators will say that they can enter this state no matter where they are, even in the centre of a teeming crowd, the plain fact is that majority cannot. Therefore, the teacher also instructs that one ought to attempt this only where the environment is conducive. That is to say, out of the public eye and preferably where there is also no sound to interrupt the flow.
That said, our own internal environment must also be addressed. If we are full of 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' and daydreams and angsts, we will find it very difficult indeed to enter any decent from of contemplation, never mind full meditation.
This is where active saadhana comes in. The saadhana chatushtaya provides the practical means for tempering ourselves for the spiritual pursuit.
There are many who will tell you that the intellectual process is all that is required and that 'the goal' is purely intellectual also. Certainly one can fly very high indeed on intellect alone. None of the true mahatmas will limit you to this though. All will say that there must also be elements of 'bhava' - the trust, the emotion, the ability to Love… there has to be a 'feeling' behind the reach to the Higher Spirit which dry intellectualism cannot provide.
Another trap is to read such verses as this and mistake the process as being a simple sitting down and creating thoughts of God.
If you have been following AV-blog, and have attempted the saadhana exercises and the meditation advice, you will know all too well that this is far from simple! There are many traps lying in wait for the unsuspecting saadhaka. Not least all the vaasanas which appear like whispering ghosts. We will say, "where did that thought come from?!", sometimes quite shocked at ourselves, because these things can become quite murky. It is important to remember that these are echos of all our lives lived and even if the things which come up are not true of us now, they were true at some stage and require to be 'burned out'. The burning is simply the allowing of the presence of these things, inviting them to come forth and then to leave again. Once seen, they can no longer present risk to spiritual progress. Part of this process may be that we have to forgive ourselves too. Don't fight your nature, but acknowledge it and release what is no longer required. All these restless agitations are part of the process of purifying.
Beware sleep also. It is a big hazard, even for advanced meditators! Meditation requires stamina and freedom from fatigue. This is why it is commonly said to practice on rising, rather during the day or at bedtime, where there is greater risk of the body taking over.
Even in advancing well through meditation practice, do not become complacent. There will come times of 'rasaasvada', moments of such exquisite sweetness that we can be lured into thinking that we have found Bliss and that itself becomes a distraction. You've heard it, have you not? "Oh the colour of light was amaaaazing!!!'… "the door felt like it beckoned me…" All such phenomena are still part and parcel of the vaasana field and whilst valid to the individual are not part of the True Self.
Then there is the 'kashaaya' - the veil of darkness. St John of the Cross experienced this as 'the dark night of the soul'. For experienced saadhakas, there will come, eventually, a point where everything does indeed become still and isolated within - however it also becomes dark and apparently empty. It can take as long again in years and effort to pass through this phase. Even here, at this late stage, some will become disheartened and fall back to earth, as it were.
No. Sitting in meditation is not for the faint of heart or the weak-minded!