Does one always need a technique for meditation? There are so many kinds of meditations. How does one decide which one is right? —Dr Sunita Sawla
There are a thousand forms of meditation. It depends what you are meditating for. Every meditation will have a structure and it is the structure that is called a technique. Are you meditating to handle certain psychological issues? Are you meditating to centre on yourself? Are you meditating to gain certain powers of intuition? It all depends on what you are meditating for. There is nothing like a right or wrong meditation, you should choose a meditation to suit your goal. In that sense, meditation will be a mental activity. If you look at it in the light of Vedanta, there are two broad categories: one is `Preparatory meditation’, for calming the mind, handling certain psychological issues, centring on what I am. The other is `Owning up meditation’; what one learns in class one owns up in the state of meditation. In a very fulfilled manner, one gathers up the essence of the teaching. The second one has no technique. To sum up, you decide your goal and then choose the meditation.
If your goal is to quieten your mind, then you would take up a meditation that would require you to focus on your breath. Pay attention to your breath, quieten your breath, breathe as lightly as possible. There are certain variations too where one uses certain mudras etc. Then there’s chanting to quieten your mind because your mind has a hundred and one thoughts running through it and they are unpredictable in nature….Like all of you reading this post—do you know what your next thought is going to be? I’m going to say something that is going to determine your next thought….I’m going to say `Camel’…I’m sure none of you thought that the next thought in your mind is going to be `Camel’…So depending on the stimulus, a thought might come…So if I want to gain some hold over that and quieten my mind, etc then I would use a chant because it’s a predictive thought, a repetitive thought to go beyond thinking into the state of silence that I am. Like this, there are a lot of methods and what I choose will depend on what I have as my goal in meditation…
`Moksha’ is about going from limitedness to limitlessness, from unfulfilment to feeling fulfilled. How does the feeling of limitlessness translate into one’s day-to-day living?—Mahesh R
Finally, it’s all about what I do and how I live…First and foremost, this recognition is cognitive, I have to see myself as this limitless consciousness. One may have an insight in the class but one doesn’t retain it. We spoke about this in an earlier post where we spoke about `owning up’ what we have learnt. It takes some amount of learning and some amount of meditation, and once one has made this knowledge a fact of one’s life one can refer to earlier posts on who the wise person is (end of second chapter)…It is the state of `stithapragnya’ that Krishna talks about…I am full and complete, I have a sense of fullness, I don’t need anything to make me happy and nothing can make me unhappy… I may roar with laughter at a good joke or empathize with someone’s sorrow but inside I am nothing but the limitless self. So, translating into my day-to-day life, I feel a sense of peace, a sense of harmony with everything around me, total acceptance of situations, combined with pro-activity to change whatever has to be changed. To sum up, a wise person accepts everything, rejects nothing, keeps nothing. There may be storms in the surface of the ocean but the depths are all peaceful and quiet or as one of my teachers used to describe it, `I am the calm centre in the storm of activity’.
Isnt `shabd pramana’, the sixth means of knowledge, a matter of faith and, therefore, very subjective in its understanding and interpretation– Sudhir Jain
Yes and No. More than faith, etc it’s how one looks at the means of knowledge because the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The pramana validates itself. Take the example of a person who’s undergone an eye surgery after being blind for years. With surgery, the doctors are hoping to restore his sight. The operation has been carried out, the healing has been good, the doctors open his bandages and tell him, `Open your eyes and tell us if you can see or not.’ Suppose at that point the patient tells the doctor, `Please convince me that I will see and only then will I open my eyes…I cannot stand another disappointment…Therefore, prove to me that I will see and then I will open my eyes…’ There is no way the doctor can prove this to him. The doctor, at the most, can reassure him and say, `Hey, everything has gone well, there has been no infection, and there is no reason you should not see..’ Can the doctor prove this? Only the patient can know whether he can see or not by opening his eyes…So would you call that trust? Would you call it faith? Or something more than that?…The patient has to validate the means of knowledge himself. The pramana or perception has to be validated by him. The same applies to `shabd pramana’ (Gita as a means of knowledge). It has to be validated itself when it comes to `shabda’ as a `pramana’….Because it is external to me, there is an element of trust coming in. No one can prove whether the shabda pramana will work or not work. Eventually it has to be proved by each one of us and see whether it worked or not.
For shabd pramana to work, there are certain conditions: `Who can we learn from?’, `What should the learners’ mind be like?’ All these conditions are mentioned so that the pramana can work. Everything works only under a certain set of conditions. Given those conditions, each student has to validate the pramana called shabda. There is an element of trust or confidence coming in. You should look at the pramana the way you look at your eyes; you should have the same amount of trust and confidence in the pramana as you have in your eyes. E.g If I asked you, `Do you have change for a hundred rupees in your wallet?, you would reply, `Swamiji, I don’t know, but I will check and let you know…’ You don’t know whether you have the change or not but you are dead sure that if you look you will know. Similarly, you don’t know what the self is about but if you look into the shastras and you hear it being unfolded by a traditional teacher, you will know. If you have that much of trust and confidence then it can work for you. Really speaking, the pramana has to prove itself.
What is the role of `bhakti’ in the pursuit of moksha?—Mahesh R
Bhakti can be explained in a twofold manner. One is called `Sadhana bhakti’ and the other is called `Parama bhakti’. `Sadhana bhakti’ is associated with certain acts of worship, bhajan-singing, devotional activity, `Parama bhakti’ is in terms of total love for the lord. The more you love somebody, the more there is identification. Total love means total identification. You cannot love someone you don’t know. Therefore, `Parama bhakti’ would require that you know what God is about. Therefore, in one sense, knowledge and bhakti are one and the same, but that bhakti doesn’t come out of an emotion. Instead, it is an emotional response to knowing the truth, a sense of identification.
Even for `Sadhana bhakti’, we need a relative concept of God. That is why there are so many stories and descriptions. Depending on my psychological state, I will relate to some idea of God, and the emotional response to that idea of God (love, respect, awe, etc) is called `Sadhana bhakti’. This emotion (bhakti) is my means of feeling connected to God.
Sometimes, in spite of having an idea of God, we may not have an emotional response. So one does actions associated with bhakti (like puja, seva, etc.) to get one’s emotions flowing.
`Sadhana bhakti’ is the bhakti of a seeker of the truth, `Parama bhakti’ of a wise person.
Atheism vs. Theism…They are two sides of the same coin…In fact, I think both are believers. Is it correct? How can this be explained?—Mohan S
Yes, it is true …In the general sense of the word, one could say I’m a theist if I believe in the existence of God. Of course, God is defined or explained in various ways in various religions, in most as all-powerful, all-knowing, all-pervading, etc. But this would be called theism in short. An atheist is a person who does not believe in God and an agnostic leaves the question open. Whether there is a God or not an agnostic is not bothered, he keeps his mind open…..You are right in the sense that both are beliefs because it is common to take God as something that one believes in… I would like to add here that in Vedanta, God is not a matter of belief but is a matter of understanding. I would say God is as real as you and me. Therefore, it is something to be understood, not something to be merely believed.
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