The Theory and Principles Of Meditation
Meditation is becoming more and more popular these days amongst all different types of people. Not so many years ago it was considered something too “far out” as to be relevant for modern people in everyday western life. But the published scientific and medical evidence, as well as the experiences of many practitioners, has now given Meditation a wider public acceptance and understanding. But still, there is very much misunderstanding about exactly what Meditation is and how and why it is done. On a world tour in the 1960’s, Swami Satyananda said: “Yoga is Meditation and Meditation is Yoga – Never forget it.”
The Sanskrit word Yoga means; “to join together or to yoke.” Used with a capital Y, it describes a highly evolved state of unitive consciousness, union or oneness where the mind is free from patterns and differentiation and where the observer or the witness of the mind remains. These days, it is commonly misunderstood and often used to mean only those practices such as body postures, which are just a small part of the branch called Hatha Yoga.
The English word Meditation, coming from the Latin means; “to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the mind.” Its Sanscrit derivation is Medha meaning Wisdom. But these days it is commonly understood to mean some form of spiritual practice where one sits down with the eyes closed and empties the mind to attain inner peace, relaxation or even an experience of God. Some people use the term meditation in the context of a relaxing and absorbing activity such as “my gardening is my meditation,” or walking, or jogging or art or music. So with these many different uses of the word it is not surprising that there are some confusion and misunderstanding.
Yoga and Meditation both can be seen as both processes and goals. The state of Yoga (capital Y) is one of complete union and absorption with the cosmic reality. The science of Yoga or the yoga techniques are the means and methods to help us transform our perceptions to experiencing that pure and sublime state known as Yoga. The state of Meditation (capital M) is none other than that same experience called the state of Yoga. It is the attainment of true Wisdom (Medha) through internalized concentration, leading to contemplation, leading to absorption or Oneness/Yoga. The practice of Meditation or the meditation techniques employed is forms or branches of yoga science which are used to attain that state called Meditation. So the perceived difference between Yoga and Meditation comes not from true understanding but a simple difference in languages.
For example, many people who practice the famous T.M. or Transcendental Meditation, are in fact doing the ancient technique of Mantra Japa Yoga – the Yoga technique of continual repetition of a Mantra. It is not something that was invented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. But if you ask many of them do they practice Yoga, they will tell you “Oh no, we do not do yoga, we are meditating.” Many people have this misunderstanding that Yoga is just physical and that Meditation is mental. Another example of misconception is made by those who practice “just sitting and being.” This is actually a part of the system of Raja Yoga called Dhyana Yoga. These people believe that they should just go straight for the ultimate goal of union or absorption and shun techniques and practices. But they soon find that it is not that simple, and the mind just wanders off, spaces out, gets caught in delusions of fantasy or just falls asleep.
However, in a broader context, the Yogasanas, (when performed correctly with awareness and concentration) are in fact a meditation upon the body rather than one upon the nature of the mind or a mantra such as in T.M. Therefore, there is no difference in experience between that attained by Mantra Japa Meditation, and that gained through Hatha Yoga Asanas. This is the equality of Yoga and Meditation to which Swami Satyananda was referring.
Traditionally, in the classical yoga texts, there are described several stages that one must go through to attain the true states of Yoga and Meditation. After the necessary preparations of personal and social codes, physical position, breath control, and relaxation (or sense withdrawal) – come the more advanced stages of concentration, contemplation and then ultimately absorption. But that doesn’t mean to say that you must perfect any one stage before moving onto the next. The Integral Yoga approach is the simultaneous application of a little of all the stages together.
Commonly today, people can mean any one or more of these stages when they refer to the term Meditation. Some schools only teach concentration under the banner of Meditation. Some teach relaxation techniques, and others teach free form contemplative activities like just sitting and awaiting absorption. Others may mix a bit of each, and some schools teach all 8 steps. Some offer the “ultimate experience” and promise a taste of enlightenment in just one lesson! And of course, many of these call it Meditation without giving credence to the Yoga they are teaching, for fear of being branded “eastern.” But Yoga is not something eastern or western. As is evidenced by the international adoption of the yoga and meditation sciences, it can be concluded that it is universal in its approach and application. The fact that these ways and methods have existed for so long shows that it is truly a time-tested, systematic and scientific process of self-exploration and growth.
So in summary, we see that true Meditation (and Yoga) is the state of union, oneness, absorption or cosmic consciousness that we are aiming for, and it is through the practice of the techniques of Yoga that we can gain that experience.
Research into Meditation
Yoga is an ancient spiritual science. It is universal in its approach and universal in its application. It proposes that with regular practice of a balanced series of techniques, the energy of the body and mind can be liberated and the quality of consciousness can be expanded.
This is not just a wild subjective claim but is now being investigated by the scientists and being shown to be an empirical fact. This true story indicates an irony in that situation.
A Tibetan Lama was being monitored on a brain scan machine by a scientist wishing to test physiological functions during deep Meditation. The scientist said – “Very good Sir. The machine shows that you can go very deep in brain relaxation, and that validates your Meditation”. “No,” said the Lama. “This (pointing to his brain) validates the machine”!
Modern science doesn’t prove Meditation. It only validates its methods and directions of research in these matters. There are thousands of lay people, and thousands of years of spiritual texts to evidence the truth of the experience of Meditation. But what is most valuable and interesting from the efforts of scientists and medical practitioners practicing Meditation in their own lives, is the applications to which Yoga is being put.
The yoga and meditation techniques are being implemented in management of life-threatening diseases; in transformation of molecular and genetic structure; in reversal of mental illnesses; in accelerated learning programmes; in perceptions and communications beyond the physical; in solving problems of atomic and nuclear physics; in gaining better ecological understanding; in management of lifestyle and future world problems.
Many of the great thinkers and politicians of the next generation will be meditators. They will have a more compassionate perspective of humankind. Their revelations, although perhaps not enlightened, will certainly help to create a better environment for us to live in.
There are many texts on the research being done on Yoga and Meditation. There are now many major research foundations all over the world working specifically on these issues. Once while speaking to a group of scientists and doctors, Swami Satyananda said – “You are the scientist, your body is the laboratory, your mind is the laboratory. You experiment upon yourself, and you will discover the truth”. This is true for everyone as well that we are the self-exploring spiritual scientists.
Yoga gives us the tools to conduct our experiments within the context of our own lives, each day. When you have a sore back, do some of the recommended asanas and see what happens. When you have a cold, try the nasal cleansing several times a day and see what happens. When your mind is scattered, do the Nadi Shodhan Pranayama and see how you feel after 15 minutes. When you are tense or upset, practice Yoga Nidra and then re-assess the situation. When you want to go closer to that Oneness, repeat your Mantra for some time and see if that works. This is all the proof you will need. The wisdom you will gain will be from within yourself while the transformation from negativity to positivity will already have occurred.
Readiness for Meditation
Many people have the experience of sitting down to meditate, and their mind goes haywire, their body becomes restless, their back becomes sore, and no peace and no gain is achieved. Why is this? It is due to unrealistic expectations and lack of proper preparation.
If you think that meditating means instant peace – forget it. If you think that practicing meditation is clearing the mind and being in a solitary nothingness, you will be mistaken. Please never imagine that the state of Meditation is a warm fuzzy feeling with a mind full of loving thoughts for the whole of humanity. Or that it’s just spacing out not being aware of anything. If you hope that meditating will heal incurable diseases in several weeks, you will get a big surprise. The first thing about this process called meditation is that you should have no expectations! You just have to start doing it and see what happens.
Everyone is different. Everyone comes to a yoga and meditation class with a different set of mental and physical parameters. So when you begin, you just have to discover where you’re at and go from there. One person may be close to inner peace, another may be years from basic relaxation. And remember that there will always be good days and bad days. This will modify the quality of your experience in meditation practice. There will be great highs and lows, periods of apparent progress and periods of apparent stagnation. There will be doubts, confusions, fears, etc. And why is this? Because these things are all within us and during a meditation session, they must surface and be appreciated, and eventually transcended. But this will take time and practice and dedication.
The proper preparation recommended by Integral Yoga teachers is the balanced integration of Asanas, Yoga Nidra, and Pranayama techniques before one sits down to go entirely inwards in a formal meditation technique. This is because – to meditate is not just a mental experience. There is the body to prepare, so if your back gets sore after 2 minutes, it’s more asanas needed. There is the mental energy to prepare, so if your mind wanders off, more Pranayama needed. If there is emotional anxiety, do Yoga Nidra every day until it is resolved. All of them should be embraced simultaneously in your daily practice for the best results in each aspect and ultimately for success in Meditation.
Source: Mother As First Guru ( By Swami Gurupremananda Saraswati )