MEDITATION: WHAT, WHY AND HOW?
Buddha was asked, what have you gained from meditation?
He replied, nothing! However, let me tell you what I lost: Anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.
Yoga in India is based on Meditation is variously interpreted as contemplation, concentration, visualization etc and there are different schools of meditation and a variety of meditation practices and techniques taught today. Though meditation is widely practiced in the world today yet, hardly anybody seems to know or understand what meditation really is. People meditate for various reasons; for some, meditation is a means to relax or calm the mind, for some – it is a means to achieve focus, clarity, for some – it is a way to know god, and for some – it is a means for enlightenment.
While all these may be true, there is more to meditation. Meditation is both a process as well as the goal. When meditation is seen as a process there are many forms of meditation that are taught and practiced today. One may choose a method that best suits one’s personality and need. One can meditate on an object or form, on a word or mantra, on a thought, ideology and philosophy or, on the formless aspect of existence.
When the mind is serving the body, happiness is lost. To regain it, it seeks pleasure. The urge to be happy is right, but the means of securing it are misleading, unreliable and destructive of true happiness. ~ NISARGADATTA MAHARAJ.
Yoga sutras is considered the bible for the practitioners of yoga, an ancient system and discipline; the goal of yoga being union with the self – Samadhi. According to yoga sutras, Samadhi is a state in which the mental modifications have ceased and the mind has achieved a perfect balance and become tranquil. To achieve this, one has to know what the mind is, what the mental modifications are and how it influences the functioning of the individual.
In the background of what has been said so far, let us now ask ourselves, why meditate? To answer this, we have to understand life in the present context. Life today has become a race and people worship power, success; in its pursuit, we sacrifice our health, mental peace, relationships and eventually life itself.
In our pursuit of material wealth, we overlook our spiritual well being. We fail to realize that happiness is a state of mind and it can be achieved by paying attention to our thought process, changing thought patterns that aren’t conducive for our happiness. It requires us to spend quality time with ourselves, understanding the nature of the mind and to know what makes us happy or unhappy.
To meditate is to be still and to be still means to be quiet, thoughtless. To achieve this, one has to find out where we stand and begin from where we are.
It is only when the mind is free from old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Peace can be achieved only by rising above the dualities of likes & dislikes, pain & pleasure, loss & gain, success & failure, blame & praise, happiness & unhappiness; the one is invariably followed by the other.
To know this, one has to have a mind which is clear, focused, balanced and free from all conditioning and the process or method which helps us free our mind from all conditioning is called meditation.
The eight limbs of yoga called astanga yoga is a scientific and systematic process which when practiced with the right understanding could lead to Samadhi or union with one’s self, which is the goal of yoga.
The eight limbs of yoga being: yama – self restraint, niyama – observances, asana – yogic postures leading to integration of body & mind, Pranayama – regulation of breath leading to integration of body, mind & spirit, prathyahara – withdrawal of the (senses of perception) mind from the objects, dharana – one pointedness of mind , dhayana – meditation, and Samadhi – the state of total absorption where one realizes unity, oneness with the whole of creation.