Offering the flower of love to the Lord
Meditation is a process that takes place beyond the senses. Between the concentration at the sensory level and meditation that is above the senses there is a border line where chintana (contemplation) takes place. Contemplation is the second half of chit (intellect), whose other function is discrimination between right and wrong.
An illustration will make this clear. There is a rose plant, with branches, leaves, flowers and thorns. Locating the place where there is a flower calls for concentration. At this stage, we are concerned only with locating the flower. But the flower has to be plucked without touching the thorns. Love is the flower. Lust is the thorn. There is no rose without a thorn. How to get at the flower of Love without touching the thorn of lust is the problem. This is where contemplation is needed. Having plucked the flower, how shall we use it? By offering it to the Divine.
Meditation means offering the flower of love to the Divine. In the rose plant of our body, there is the rose of pure and sacred Love emitting the fragrance of good qualities. Below the rose, however, there are thorns in the form of sensual desires. The purpose of meditation is to separate the rose of selfless love from the senses and offer it to the Lord. [SSS 17.6: 11-03-1984]
Concentration, contemplation and meditation
Concentration is below senses; meditation is beyond senses. We must travel from below senses to beyond senses. So, when we set out from what is below senses through concentration, we reach the stage of contemplation. And when we cross the boundaries of contemplation, we reach the area of meditation. So there are three stages, concentration, contemplation and meditation. Concentration can be compared to the state of “One you think you are”. “One others think you are” is contemplation. Meditation enables us to recognize the state of “One you really are”. [Sathya Sai Baba excerpts from discourse: 05-25-1979]
Forgetting the feeling of body identification
Supposing you sit for meditation, closing your eyes. However, the mind goes on wandering everywhere. You try to bring it back to the starting point. It is all a practice. It is only when the wavering mind is stilled that meditation is possible. This process of making the mind steady is called concentration. Meditation is possible only after concentration. The proper order is concentration, contemplation and meditation. If someone claims that he is meditating the moment he sits, it should not be believed. That is an artificial exercise, not meditation. Real meditation is forgetting oneself totally. It is forgetting dehātma bhāva (the feeling of identification with the body) completely. One has to totally give up attachment to the senses. Then only the mind will be steady. [SSS 42.9: 6-7-2009]
Experience of Oneness with God
In meditation, there are three aspects: the one who is doing the meditation (i.e. the subject), the object of meditation (i.e. God), and the act or process (i.e. the rapport that the subject is trying to establish with the object). Proper meditation or the culmination of meditation occurs when the three factors --meditator, object of meditation, and act of meditation-- coalesce and merge into one. In the state of meditation, the meditator, the object of his meditation and the process of meditation have fallen away and there is only One, and that One is God. All that may change has fallen away, and That Thou Art (“Tat Twaṃ Asi”) is the state that exists. It is an experience of unity (without the meditator being conscious of himself). [Conversations with Sathya Sai Baba: by Dr.John Hislop]
Can anyone teach meditation?
Can anyone train another in meditation? Or claim to train? It may be possible to teach a person the posture, the pose, the position of the legs, feet, or hands, neck, head or back, the style of breathing, or its speed. But meditation is a function of the inner man; it involves deep subjective quiet, the emptying of the mind and filling oneself with the Light that emerges from the divine Spark within. This is a discipline that no text book can teach and no class can communicate. [SSS 10.34: 22-11-1970]
Pray for guidance from within
You need not rely on another for success in mediation and soft repetition of the name (dhyāna and japa) and await contact with some sage in order to get from him a mantra for recitation. Pray to the God within, and you will receive guidance.[SSS 10.30: 11-10-1970]
Schedule for Meditation
Regular, sincere and steady practice
Train yourself to waken when Brāhma-muhūrta begins---that is to say, at 3.00 a.m. You may require an alarm clock at first for the job; but soon, the urge for meditation (dhyāna) will rouse you. Do not take a bath before you sit for meditation, for the ritual of the bath will arouse the senses and you will be too full of pulls in different directions for the process of meditation to succeed. Regularity, sincerity, steadiness--these will reward you with success. [SSS 7.4: 22-1-1967]
Half hour in the morning, and half hour in the evening
Brāhma-muhūrta means early morning, between 3 - 6 a.m. It means that the senses are quiet, not yet agitated by the day and mind is quiet from sleep. But the hour should not be taken and changed around, taking one time today and another time tomorrow. A half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening is enough for sitting meditation. [Conversations with Sathya Sai Baba –by Dr.John Hislop]
[Editor: However, it is not something that one does by sitting for a couple of minutes or hours. Contemplation of the Lord should be always at all places. Sri Ramana Maharshi was once asked, "How long should one practice meditation? 15 or 30 or 45 minutes or an hour?' His reply was, 'You should continue doing it till you forget that you are meditating. As long as you are conscious (physically aware) that you are meditating, it is no meditation at all." The consciousness of body and mind and the thought of yourself should become totally extinct. The experience of only the object of your meditation should subsist, i.e. nothing else but the presence of divinity. The state of meditation is experiencing but without the consciousness that you are experiencing.]
Posture for Meditation
Sitting straight is important
To sit straight is important. Between the 9th and 12th vertebrae is the life-force. If the spine is injured at this point, paralysis occurs. If the body is in a straight position, as if it were wound around a straight pole, the life force may rise up through the straight body and give the quality of intense concentration to the mind. Moreover, just as a lightning rod attached to the roof of a building attracts lightning, in like fashion, a perfectly straight body provides a conductor, so to speak, for divine power to enter the temple of your body and give you the strength to accomplish your task and reach your goal. As another example, the divine power is always here, just as radio signals are here. But to hear the radio music there must be an antenna. Further, if the tuning device is not properly adjusted, there will just be some sound but no music. In like fashion, the divine power, which is always present, may flow into you if the meditation is correct and the body straight. [Conversations with Sathya Sai Baba –by Dr.John Hislop]
One should not sit on a bare floor
You should not sit on bare ground. You should sit on either a wooden plank or on a mat or something like that. Not only that, you should not sit on a bare wooden plank. You should spread a piece of cloth over it. In the beginning, you should attempt to make a start with a wooden plank that is above the ground at least by half an inch. There are some reasons for taking a wooden plank. The reasons are that the earth has got the power of conduction and diffusion. When you sit in meditation, because through you is passing the current of divine strength on account of your Dhyana, on account of the attraction which the earth has, you should not get disturbed. Therefore you have got to have a plank. When we lay an electric wire inside a house, we also have a specially constructed wire which is called the earth wire and which is put into the earth. Like- wise, we should regard our body as our house. While thus in the house of our body we are in the process of giving rise to and estab- lishing the divine current, we should take all precautions that are necessary by insulating ourselves from the earth and by preventing the power or the strength in you from flowing away or dissipating into the earth. That is why our ancients have taught us that we should sit on a plank. [Summer Showers 1972. 10 – “Meditation”]
Practicing concentration, contemplation
Do not follow the vagaries of the mind
Let the mind run wherever it likes; just be careful not to follow it, seeking to discover where it is going! It will then wander about for some time as the fancy takes it; soon, getting tired and exhausted, it will come back to you in the end! It is like a little child that knows nothing. Since the mother is following it and calling it back, it gets courage and confidence to run forward in any direction, but if the mother does not run behind the child and instead retraces her steps quietly, the child too, of its own accord, will run back to the mother!
Do not care for the vagaries of the mind. Carry on remembrance and meditation of the name and form that you like best, in the manner you are accustomed to. In this way, you will acquire one-pointedness (ekāgrata); you will realise your heart’s desire. [Dhyana Vahini: Chapter 8]
Watch the breathing process with “So” and “Ham”
- When we give work to mind that keeps it ever busy, then, the mind doesn’t trouble us. Sometime people catch a monkey which has a tendency of going up and down, up and down and so on, a tree. If we keep the monkey in one place, it keeps performing such monkey tricks. Therefore the monkey trainer who goes to beg in front of every house and commands the monkey to go up and down the pole. In the same manner mind is like a monkey. Therefore this “monkey” must be entrusted with some absorbing work. If we sit in the meditation as a first step, this monkey mind will not be in our control. So, we must sit in meditation and give the duty of a watchman, who watches who is going in and who is going out, to this monkey mind. If we entrust the duty of a watchman to the mind, and this “monkey” sits there at the tip of the nose, and goes on watching the breath, “So” as we inhale, and “Ham” as we exhale, this process goes on and the monkey is kept busy watching the breath going in and coming out. [Sathya Sai Baba – Excerpts from discourse on: 05-25-1979]
- Keep eyes half opened, and focused on the tip of the nose. Inhale through the left nostril, closing the right nostril with the right thumb. As the breath goes in, it utters “So” (meaning 'He'); then exhale through the right nostril, closing the left nostril. As the breath goes out, it utters “Ham” (meaning 'I'). Inhale and exhale slowly and deliberately, conscious of the identity of He and I (yourself), which it asserts, until the breathing and the awareness grow into an unnoticed process. Keep the mind as a watchman to note the incoming and outgoing breaths, to listen with the inner ear to the “Soham” that the breath whispers and to witness the assertion of your being the Divine, which is the core of the Universe. [SSS 10.34: 22-11-1970]
Meditation based on Recitation (Japa-sahit dhyāna)
- First, when you sit for meditation, recite a few verses on the glory of God, so that the agitated mind may be calmed. Then gradually, while repeating the Lord's name, draw before the mind's eye the form that that name represents. When your mind wanders away from the recital of the name, lead it onto the picture of the form. When it wanders from the form, lead it onto the name. Let it dwell either on one sweetness or the other. Treated thus, it can be easily tamed. The imaginary picture that you have drawn will get transmuted into the emotional picture, dear to the heart and fixed in the memory. Gradually, it will become the sākshātkāra-chitra (coming face to face with the Lord) when the Lord assumes that form in order to fulfill your desire. This spiritual discipline is called (Name-and-form meditation (japa-sahita dhyāna). I advise you all to take it up, for it is the best form of meditation for beginners." [SSS 14.41: 21-11-1979]
- One should construe three types of pictures: imaginary, mental, and one based on feeling and actualization. When this “Soham” meditation has stabilized itself, you may start stabilizing in your mind the form of the Lord of your choice. Picture the form from head to foot, taking at least 15 to 20 minutes for it, dwelling on each part of the body and imprinting it clearly on the heart, and then proceed from foot to head in similar way. This will help to fix the form in the altar of the heart. Then, you will see in everyone that Form only; in all beings, you will find Him only. You will realize the One manifold as Many. I am He, Only He is (“Shivoham, Soham”). [SSS 10.34: 22-11-1970]
- Meditation is not merging the form in your mind. It is merging your mind with the form, so that the mind doesn’t exist. There are three stages in this process – The ūha (imagining the form), bhāva (experiencing the Divine) and finally sākshātkāra (Self realization). In the initial stages, the devotee imagines one’s favourite Divine form, as they have seen before. Over time, the image vanishes in the mind and they begin experiencing the form. This process takes longer and slowly, the devotee starts experiencing the Lord from the toe to the head. The impressions last longer and grow deeper and gradually, the image of the Lord that is firmly implanted becomes an inner reality. While the imagining stage gives only momentary joy, the experiencing stage results in complete identification of the seeker with the Lord. Thus, over time, awareness of the Divine results in oneness with the Divine (“Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati”). [“My Dear Students”, Vol 2, Chapter 5, Mar 11, 1984.]
Jyoti (Light) Meditation
Flame that kindles and flames kindled are identical
- During Festival of lights (Deepawali), we keep a row of candles and with one candle, we light all others. With one flame, we are able to kindle myriad others. The flame that kindles is called Para-brahma jyoti (The eternal, universal flame) and the flame that are kindled are called Jivan jyoti (individual, particular flame). In the end, the flame that kindles and the flames kindled are identical. Ultimately, these two flames are recognized to be identical; it is said that the one who knows Brahman will ultimately become Brahman Himself (“Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati”). Therefore, the Jyoti Meditation (Meditation using the flame) is the highest type of meditation. [Sathya Sai Baba – Excerpts from discourse on: 05-25-1979]
- This body goes on changing, but the flame does not undergo any changes. A small example to show this – You have a tub full of water. If one keeps taking a tumbler full of water from this tub, there will be a time when there will not be any water in the tub. At one place we have dumped a truck-load full of sand. If each person carries away a basket full of sand, eventually, there will not be any sand. But, out of one single flame, one can light a million flame and still the original flame will remain. So this supreme Jyoti (flame) does not go through dilution or destruction. There will not be “kshine punye martya-lokam visanti” (after one's enjoyment due to pious activities is finished, one must return to this planet). So concentrating on such flame, if you have any form you like, any form you have taken to heart, you keep that form in the flame and meditate. It is the best form of meditation to think that, the form that I adore is in Jyoti (flame) and that flame is in all. [Sathya Sai Baba – Excerpts from discourse on: 05-25-1979]
Jyoti (Light) meditation practice
As regards the technique of meditation, different teachers and trainers give different forms of advice. But I shall give you now the most universal and the most effective form. This is the very first step in spiritual discipline. At first, set a few minutes every day for meditation, and extend the time as you feel the bliss that you get.
Let it be in the hours before dawn. This is preferable because the body is refreshed after sleep, and the dealings of daytime will not yet have impinged on you. Have a lamp or a candle before you with an open, steady, and straight flame. Sit in front of the candle in the lotus posture or any other comfortable sitting position. Look on the flame steadily for some time, and closing your eyes try to feel the flame inside you between your eyebrows.
Let it slide down into the lotus of your heart, illuminating the path. When it enters the heart, imagine that the petals of the lotus open out by one, bathing every thought, feeling, and emotion in the light and so removing darkness from them. There is no space for darkness to hide. The light of the flame becomes wider and brighter.
Let it pervade your limbs. Now those limbs can never indulge in dark, suspicious, and wicked activities; they have become instruments of light and love.
As the light reaches up to the tongue, falsehood vanishes from it.
Let it rise up to the eyes and the ears and destroy all the dark desires that infest them and which lead you to perverse sights and childish conversation.
Let your head be surcharged with light and all wicked thoughts will flee therefrom. Imagine that the light is in you more and more intensely. Let it shine all around you and let it spread from you in ever widening circles, taking in your loved ones, your kith and kin, your friends and companions, your enemies and rivals, strangers, all living beings, the entire world.
Since the light illumines all the senses every day so deeply and so systematically, a time will soon come when you can no more relish dark and evil sights, yearn for dark and sinister tales, crave for base, harmful, deadening toxic food and drink, handle dirty demeaning things, approach places of ill-fame and injury, or frame evil designs against anyone at any time. Stay on in that thrill of witnessing the light everywhere.
If you are adoring God in any form now, try to visualize that form in the all-pervasive light. For Light is God; God is Light.
Practice this meditation as I have advised regularly every day. At other times repeat the name of God (any Name fragrant with any of His many Majesties), always taking care to be conscious of His might, mercy, and munificence. [SSS 14.41: 21-11-1979]
Universality of Jyoti (Light) Meditation
The light is first moved into the heart which is conceived as a lotus, the petals of which will open. The light is then moved to other body parts. There is no particular sequence. But important is the final body station, which is the head. There the light becomes a crown enshrining and covering the head. The light is then moved outside, from the particular to the universal. Move the light into relatives, friends, enemies, trees, animals, birds until the entire world and all its forms are seen to have the same light at their centre as has been found to be within oneself.
The idea of moving the light into the universal phase, the idea of universality is that the same divine light is present in everyone and everywhere. To impress this universality on the mind, we do the spreading of the light outside one's own body. One should understand that what comes about in meditation as one moves deeply into it, is not the thinking of the light, but the forgetting of the body and thereby the direct experience that the body is not oneself.
This is the stage of contemplation when the body is totally forgotten. It cannot be forced. It comes about by itself and is the stage that naturally follows correct concentration. Vivekananda said that in meditation he was unable to find his body; where was this body? He could not find it.
Seeing the light and moving the light here and there is to give work to the mind, to keep the mind occupied in the right direction so that the mind will not be thinking of this and that and thus interfering with the process of becoming more and more quiet. Spreading the light into its universal phase, sending the light into every other body, and when one is so concentrated in it that he is no longer conscious of his body, is the stage of contemplation. As contemplation deepens, the stage of meditation comes about of its own volition. It cannot be forced. If the meditator remains conscious of himself that he is engaged in meditation, then he is not meditating but is still in the preliminary stage, at the beginning of concentration. [Conversations with Sathya Sai Baba – by John Hislop]