Yogic meditation is not a practice intended merely for the East or only for monks, nor does it teach a negation of the world. Its purpose is the fullest enrichment of the outer life through the progressive unfoldment of the inner life. And it is applicable to every man where he stands now.
Many think of it as something vague and dreamy, but on the contrary it is a science, the product of great minds, universal minds, and it has been perfected only after intense investigation and experiment, study of human psychology, and the discovery of higher laws governing the mind. It is a paradox that it is often dismissed out of hand as a selfish preoccupation, because those who are perfected in it are able to make far- reaching contributions to society. In no other human endeavour is so much insistence laid on universality. The would- be meditator is warned that he will not make progress unless he also makes serious efforts to expand his sympathy to others and root out hatred, intolerance and narrow self-interest from his heart.
He is also taught that the efforts he makes and the benefits he receives are not for himself alone but for all. No being in the universe is isolated—even our bodies are not separate from the whole, the food that we eat or the air we breathe, what to say of our minds. We know too well that fear, gloom and suspicion are contagious, and conversely, when one mind is enriched with inner peace and spiritual strength, others around begin to catch the fragrance and unfold those qualities also.
The teaching of Yoga is that man is not the finite, mortal, suffering individual that he takes himself to be, and the world around him is far, far greater than he knows. If we adopt a purely materialistic view of the universe, there are some things which will ever remain unexplained. The beauty of nature and human character, the sublime courage which ordinary men and women are capable of under insuperable difficulties, are clear indications of hidden greatness.
But our minds cannot grasp the full significance of these things— their vision is limited. All will agree that our experience of life depends to a great extent on the state of our mind. If we had the mind of one of the lower animals, how much poorer in content our experience would be! On the other hand, if we had the mind of a poet or an artist, how much richer! What then is the highest limit of experience? It is that state in which all the heart-aching problems that have ever perplexed mankind are solved, all the deepest longings are fulfilled, and all fear vanishes forever; this state is called in Sanskrit Jivanmukti, Liberation in Life, and it comes to one with an illumined mind.
Notice this expression ‘illumined mind’. It indicates that there is light in the mind, that the amount of light varies, and that our experience varies accordingly. We know that this is so. In deep sleep there is no light in the mind, and so we
see nothing. When the mind is blocked with prejudices or agitated by passion, the weak and flickering light distorts what we see, while when it is serene and expanded with goodwill we are able to see things much more in perspective. Everything depends then on the amount of light in the mind.
The Sages of the Upanishads pondered deeply on this mysterious light, which we cannot see but which gives us the power to see. They reflected that without it the whole universe would be dark, unknown. Surely then it must be great, greater than all else. Their intuition told them that here was the key to the mystery of life. They had long been contemplating on the unity and harmony in the outer world and asking: “Where does it come from? Who is the Supreme Intelligence who controls it?” Now they asked the same questions about their own inner world, the mental world. But here was something near at hand, they could seek the answer within. So they focused their attention inwards, to try to trace back the light of consciousness to its source.
There came a point when their purified minds, which had been stretched to the utmost limits of thought, soared even beyond the boundaries of thought, and the light was revealed as their own divine Self, Atman—and yet not only within but without also—in front, behind, to the north, to the south, everywhere the one Supreme Lord, supporting everything as its very essence. The only way they can describe the experience at all adequately is to say that it is like waking from a dream.
In one of his poems Dr. Shastri says: “All the objects of the world become like glass pillars reflecting the passing light of Brahman”. Differences, death, suffering, the changing body and mind, are recognised to be only shadows of that one eternal reality. To see this is to find immortality in this life, now.
Many are tempted to say: “This is one great delusion. Those who make such claims are mad”. But the unprejudiced investigate the lives of such people—this is the acid test. They come to the conclusion that the great achievements of these men, their fearlessness and their widespread influence for good, could never be the offspring of delusion; and they begin to listen to what the great Teachers have to say.
They tell us that our mind is at present slumbering in ignorance, and we have bad dreams: “This is my friend, this is my enemy, I am old, I shall die”, but a dim memory of truth which is present in every heart causes us to hope and to long for we know not what. Various experiences which come to us in life shake us, and we begin to stir a little. But above all, what has the greatest power to stir us is the words of the enlightened ones ; that is why the Scriptures of the world have a special charm which is never lost but increases the more they are read.
They touch a very deep chord within us, which begins to rouse us. We are told that in fact it lies within the power of those who are themselves spiritually awake to awaken others also. But they know that this revelation is so tremendous that the ordinary unpurified mind could not stand it at once.
In one of the Upanishads it is said: “This Atman of whom the high Yogis speak, very hard to know, has to be realised step by step, and not by sudden violence”.
So they give the method, the practice of meditation, by which light can be gradually brought into the mind, until the point comes when the final revelation can be made. In most cases this will not be for some time, but remember, light is delight, the spirit in man is bliss and also wisdom and fearlessness, and from the moment that the meditations are begun in earnest life becomes richer in every way.
In meditation certain texts or images are given by the enlightened ones, which have a high awakening power. One cannot make up one’s own meditation, it has to come from enlightened ones, because they know the effect it will have. When it is planted deeply in the stilled and concentrated mind, gradually the whole inner being begins to stir and, to speak metaphorically, throw off the bed-clothes in which it is muffled. One by one deep-seated errors which the meditator has harboured for years are detected and thrown out, and there is the sense of the lightening of a great burden. This is made possible because the highest faculty in the mind, known in Sanskrit as the Buddhi, the faculty of spiritual insight, is brought into operation, and this it is which brings fight into the mind. It is a process of discovery, or gradual unveiling of the spirit within; and as it begins to reveal itself, an inner peace and delight are experienced which are independent of outer circumstances.