Six golden rules for meditation
Six Golden Rules
“Before the commencement of any arduous task, much time and effort is saved, if, after deep contemplation, the rules of the game are set and agreed to in the beginning itself.”
Do or Die
This is a do or die situation for all of us. If we do, we do not die; if we do not do, we die!
Yes, one day or the other, all of us are to give up the body—this is what is normally called death. But, if we understand that mere giving up of the body is not dying and actually, there is nothing called death—it is a mere mental formation—we stand to gain the kingdom of immortality.
Try to understand the gravity of the situation. Die we must—today or tomorrow. Are we prepared for that moment? If today itself we have to go—who can deny the possibility or resist the pull—are we prepared? If we are scared, we are not prepared. Our fears only tell us how entangled our mind is. The task is gigantic. In order to conquer death, the mind has to be brought under control. Death is a mere conditioning, mere phantom, with no real existence. A conditioned mind fears it out of the belief that everything is going to be lost with death. Is it really so? The masters tell us that when the false beliefs, conditionings, incompleteness and desires are given up by right understanding, the mind experiences its own subtle, immortal base. The Self is luminous, eternal and blissful. It is the Reality behind everything that is apparent. Controlling the mind is as difficult as controlling a storm itself. Lukewarm approaches, soft steps are not going to help. An all pronged attack has to be planned and executed. All aspects of the mind need to be taken into consideration. All functions of the mind—perception, volition, intelligence, emotion, mental formation and ego—need to be made best use of. Inactivity has to be sublimated into activity, and activity into unactivity. So, mere mechanical concentration is not going to help. Meditation is not concentration. Development of unactivity is impossible to attain without clear understanding, clear intention, clear will and clear planning & its execution. Till the time the mind is transcended, it has to be made best use of.
Time is short. It is running away with incredible speed. Only yesterday we were children. Are we making best use of the time we have got? Is it a life with a direction or a haphazard and meaningless life that we are living? Are we satisfied with the way we are passing our days? Are we really living without regrets? And if not, do we have the time to think whether any direction can be given to our life; whether life with satisfaction and without regrets is a possibility?
Satisfaction is possible only when the contemplative faculties are invoked. This requires tremendous scavenging capabilities. Giving up the junk is a prerequisite. Clean the dust from the mirror, the reflection is spontaneous.
We need to give the hardest blows to the wasteful wanderings of the mind. Looking at the current requirements of man, these strong blows have been formulated in the form of six laws. If we make them the base of our thinking process, there is no power on earth that can stop us from unfolding the divine possibilities hidden in us.
No proof, no belief
Nothing needs to be accepted without scientific substantiation. Krishnas and Buddhas and Christs need to be tested analytically and then experientially. All of us belong to the age of science, the age of testing everything at the altar of experience. We cannot afford to ignore scientific temper in this age of ours.
A physicist goes to his lab, conducts experiments with certain instruments, over certain objects and writes down his observations over a period of time. Then, he tries to find out the hidden schemes of nature in what is so apparent. He calls these schemes of nature the natural laws. Having proved these laws himself in his lab, he then proclaims it to the whole world. He has discovered the laws and anybody, anywhere, anytime can go to his lab and put them to test. Others following his instructions, conduct the experiments in their own labs and testify the truth or falsity of the assertions of the discoverer. The discoverer, if he is really scientific, is always open to objective suggestions and queries.
What has happened here? The subject—the discoverer scientist—goes to his lab—the place most congenial to the experiments. He passes the object—the thing to be scrutinized—through the observation of his instruments—the most appropriate way of making observations. Then he scans the observations objectively, dispassionately and intently. Subjectivity, bias or prejudice have no place in his observation, scanning and analysis because he is a scientist. The Earth moves clockwise or anti clockwise around the Sun or the Sun oscillates around the Earth, he only observes. He has nothing personal to gain from his observations. The moment any personal gain or bias comes into picture, the scientist does not remain a scientist.
The process is not so simple in the case of subtle spiritual experiments. The physicist, his instruments and the objects under observation are all different entities. They have their existence independent of each other. In the case of mental scientists—the meditators—the mind is the subject, the mind is the object and the mind is the instrument as well ! When the mind turns its light upon itself, all the vagaries, whims and unnecessary clingings are made naked. The whole thought structure is found to be based on very impermanent settings. The source of one’s dearest attachments is found to be just some illusions, some whims. The pillars of this house of cards are themselves made of cards. How can anybody so attached to the thoughts of objects take them to be mere impermanent, imaginary whims? The attachment, the clinging to objects, individuals, environment, situation, work, fruits of work, time, place, all seem to lose their importance. Even the ego—that I am this body-mind-complex-is also peeled like an onion and nothing is found in it. The moment you become objective with the mind, its colorful imaginations begin to fade away. The whiteness, the purity is not appreciated initially. The mind may refuse to bend. Why should it? “Meditation is different from my personal life. Why to combine them?”; “I did not start doing meditation to give up my personality.”; “Without ego with me, who will protect me?”—These are some of the blabberings of a turbulent mind.
It is like a stormy revolution of beliefs. The old definitions crumble. The new ones are not strong yet. The utilitarian benefits don’t present themselves in the beginning itself. The complete unfoldment of Reality takes a lot of time, practice and patience. It is difficult. It is difficult to remain scientific when one’s own mind is involved.Only one in a million is fit to be a scientific meditator. All other puny minds keep getting tossed about by the turbulent waves of nature, both internal and external. If you want to know your Self—don’t ask for any other material benefit because knowledge cannot be made secondary to any materialistic idea—you need to get up and get going. This life is too short to be wasted in futile pursuits. Gird up your loins and be on the march. Put every single thought that occurs in the mind to test—the test of Reality and unreality, the test of Truth and falsity. Are you ready to give up all sophistry arising in the mind? Are you ready to accept science as a way for your mind also?
Shadows to be avoided at all costs
There are various schools teaching different methods for the control of the mind. They give emphasis on the development of one or the other function of the mind to the exclusion of the others. Developing love, mindfulness or the ability of clear dissection of thoughts are all good methods for the dissolution of the mind, but they have their own limitations and in most of the cases, they tend to develop a shadow personality of the individual. A lover of God may become too sentimental; a follower of pure reason may develop an unbreakable sense of superiority and one following only mindfulness may very soon run away from the practice as there is no grease of love, unity and intelligence in his system. In our view, the best method should include all the major functions of the mind—Love, Intelligence, Concentration, Mindfulness. It is also to be seen that the propensity of the mind towards any function should be encouraged at the same time—the others playing their significant role as junior partners.
Intelligence, emotions and volition have to be made best use of. They must serve each other. They must keep a watch over each other. The possibility of the development of a shadow personality should be checked in the beginning itself. There should remain no room for the mind to develop into a monster. Whichever combination of whichever degree one follows, one must know that without complete digestion of the concepts, concentration is not possible. Meditation is permanent residence in the Truth. Unless one is clear about the meaning of the Truth, how is dwelling in it possible? How will one dissolve the false grabbings of ignorance into purity of the Truth if one does not know what the latter is. Firstly, one needs to learn about Reality from a competent master who is following it in his own life. Then one needs to reflect over its nature deeply so that all doubts about its being Real and everything else being unreal are uprooted completely. Lastly, one has to make it one with one’s life. Only Reality remains then. Everything else—all thoughts, all emotions, ego, volition—is made one with it.
Dry knowledge can also become a hindrance as it can be quite boring. One requires love. Love for oneself; love for the whole world. Love for what one is doing; love for the Truth. Love for those who have already conquered the Mount Everest of life; love for the fellow travelers. Love for those who do not want to move; love for those who want to, but can’t.
Further, knowledge and love are not possible without concentration. The deeper the concentration becomes, the deeper one moves towards understanding the knowledge and expanding in love. A vacillating mind is good for nothing. If one cannot be one pointed, how will one evolve in knowledge and love. The mind will keep on running in circles around futilities and will never be able to dwell in Reality.
Words reach Reality most easily
Word thoughts are the most powerful thoughts. Emotions and Intelligence are best expressed through words. Concentration can certainly be had through other means like visualization, perception etc. You can concentrate on sensations like pain, heat, tingling, prickling etc. arising in your body; you can concentrate on the movement of your body; you can concentrate on running, walking, eating, drinking and talking without using any words. Also, you can concentrate on external factors like the ocean, the sky, a flame of light etc. without using words. However, such concentration cannot take anyone beyond mere one-pointedness. One-pointedness is no doubt a pre-requisite for meditation, but, it is not the end. Mechanical one—pointedness gets shattered in no time. The end is the purity of the mind. The goal is the realization of Oneness of all. The duality, incompleteness, insecurity and forgetfulness have to be demolished in the mind. It is not possible by lukewarm approaches. Words, expressing the eternal wisdom, need to be hammered again and again on the mind. The mind must contemplate and meditate on the Truth—not merely concentrate mechanically—which can be approached only with the help of the words expressing it.
How to go about concentrating on words of wisdom so that we may not only develop in concentration but our grounding in knowledge should also become deep? This is best done by repeating the words expressing the Truth. The normal tendency of an ordinary mind is to revel in inertia or sensuality. For bringing it unto unactivity, it is found most useful to make it reside in the mantras expressing the Truth. By hammering the mantra repeatedly on the mind, it gets the opportunity to reflect over its meaning and integrate it with life. Initially, when you start doing the meditation, these repetitions might look boring or sometimes preposterous. However, if you persist with them, they will be instrumental in creating new grooves of purity in the mind. Very soon—within one year, if you are doing the practice regularly and diligently—you find that you cannot live outside the Truth. You develop a deep love for the practice.
It is also true that the Absolute is beyond thought and word. Then how can we realize it using thoughts? Well, these thoughts are meant for the invocation of purity and clearing the mud from the mind. That done, thoughtlessness is realized spontaneously.
No vernacular, no understanding
Concentration on words can also be of two types:
1. Perfunctory concentration: When you concentrate on the sound of a word without understanding what it denotes.
2. Meaningful concentration: When you concentrate on the meaning of the word.
In perfunctory concentration, there is no penetration of what you are concentrating on, in your system. It remains only at the surface level. While in meaningful concentration, the penetration is deep and it helps in uprooting the old false conditionings.
Do the following exercise:
Repeat 10×3 times one of the most sacred mantras for the Hindus: ‘Om Namo Bhagvatey Vaasudevaaya’. Be careful that no involuntary thoughts should arise in your mind when you are doing the exercise. Concentrate intently on the sound of the mantra echoing in your repetitions.
What did you observe? Did you find yourself dwelling in wisdom when you were doing the exercise? Did you have involuntary thoughts? If yes, could you annihilate them with the understanding of the mantra?
Concentration on sound is different from digestion of the meaning with concentration. Now, do the second part of the exercise:
Repeat 10×3 times the mantra: Pure love is free from expectations. Concentrate intently on the meaning of the mantra. Try not to let any involuntary thoughts arise in your mind.
Now, analyze the meaning and effect with the mantra with these questions:Does it relate to your life? Do you agree with what is being suggested? How much? If you agree completely, why is it not becoming one with your life? Is there a dichotomy between your head and heart? Can you still have involuntary thoughts if you are able to make this mantra run in your blood stream? Could you still be suffering from incompleteness and insecurity if you make this mantra your life? What is it that stops you from suffusing yourself completely with the mantra?
Do you now get the difference between perfunctory concentration and meaningful concentration?
Suppose you are now told the meaning of the mantra Om Namo Bhagvatey Vaasudevaaya: ‘I surrender myself to the Love of the Truth’. Do the exercise once again. Slowly repeat this mantra and try to keep its meaning also alive. 10×3 times. What do you observe?
Whenever you are concentrating on some repetition in a foreign language, you will find the following to be true:
1. You have to do double the effort. First repeat the statement in the foreign language and then translate it for getting its meaning.
2. As it is difficult to relate to the foreign language one is not born with, the repetitions do not penetrate easily. They tend to become mechanical or perfunctory. The mind gets clouded by inertia very soon and there is every possibility that it will start dwelling on something else.
It is therefore best to do the repetitions in one’s mother tongue—the language you think in. However sacred Sanskrit or Pali or Latin might be for some, the truths the mantras express are certainly more auspicious.
No tuning, no music
The mind gets affected by changes in the physical realm. However hard you try, you find that the moment you cross your limits, you cannot concentrate. Too much of food or too little, too much of sleep or too little, too much of work or too little, too much of recreation or too little, all these only help in making the mind too vehement. There has to be a balance in everything you do. There has to be a reason for everything you do. Do not tighten the strings of your guitar too much, lest the wires should break; also, do not loosen them too much, lest there should be no music from the instrument. Find the balance. Find the middle path in everything you do because only in perfect tuning of your life can you tune the mind perfectly.
For a sound meditation, remember this golden rule: The stomach should be soft, the head cool and the feet warm. What you eat affects your mind directly. Too much food, you feel dizzy. Too little food, you feel hungry. Exciting food, stale food and oily food also create problems for the mind. There should be a conscious effort to avoid constipating food, food that can cause indigestion or loose motions. Similarly, too much or too less sleep, you do not remain in form. The same applies to your activities also. The center of everything has to be found. Make it very clear to yourself: Meditation is not just a fifteen-minutes-a-day routine. It is a way of life.However, there is no absolute middle. It varies with individual requirements. It varies as one progresses further in the discipline of mind and body. What is middle for me might not be middle for you. You may live on a salad diet thrice a week, I may be able to do so once only. You may meditate six hours a day. If I do that, trying to emulate you, my head may become too hot to handle. I may be comfortable with eight hours of work daily. You may require only two hours—your activity might already be quite exhausted.
The possibility of changing requirements with time cannot be denied. With sincere practice, anyone can raise his middle level. Today, I feel comfortable with a certain routine; tomorrow that may very well change. In tuning oneself, one ought to go for five-to-ten-percent higher than one’s upper limit. Then, on getting comfortable with that higher limiting factor, one should increase it further by five to ten percent. Trying to stretch oneself by one hundred percent more than what one can comfortably do, may wreck the nerves and one may run away from the battlefield no sooner than later. Complacency with the present level of living may push one into a vegetating routine. One must be vigilant on both sides.
Meditation cannot be done in the fast forward mode
This rule is related to the previous one. We feel that the meditation technique should not be practiced at a stretch in a fast forward mode. It is found that most of the meditators do their practice in a routine-like manner. They have to sit, they sit. There is little enthusiasm in what they are doing. This happens because there is little grasp of the Truth and there is no understanding that the Truth needs to be integrated with one’s life. The repetitions are then done perfunctorily. Somehow, the routine must be kept up, even if one is not getting anything from it. Such meditations are bound to be futile. There is little development with regard to concentration and purity.
For avoiding this possibility, it is advisable to take periodic rests while the meditation is going on. These rest periods are called digesting periods. Repeat the mantra, stop and digest it. Then, once again do the repetition, stop and digest it. During resting time, let the mind ponder methodically over the Reality being expressed by the mantra. Let it have a firm grasp over it. Let it dissolve what is not real or what is contrary to the mantra—mostly coming in the form of involuntary thoughts—with the help of the mantra itself. After that, with a rejuvenated and purer mind, the meditation practice can be continued.
There is the possibility of a shadow side here too. You go in the digesting period and the mind may rest there for too long. It may not come back to the practice easily as it has got more turbulent now. Instead of digesting the mantra, it may get the opportunity to dwell on the sense objects and its imaginary castles. The involuntary thoughts may come with such vigor that it may not be possible for the meditator to fight against them. This is a practical difficulty. If you do the meditation for too long, it becomes mechanical. If you stop intermittently, it may lead to more chaos. There is a way out. During the digesting periods, if you continue the reflection and deliberation over what is being said in the mantra with the help of a well chalked out thinking strategy, you will find that both the above problems can be easily overcome. Meditation is not a routine job to be done unwillingly every day. It is a march towards the Truth. The Truth is also not a mere word. It is the Reality of all of us. There is no way other than meditation, to understand the Truth and accept it as a way of life. Meditation is the key for unlocking the mysteries hidden in all of us. We are all potentially divine. Do we have the courage to unfold this divinity?