by Swami Krishnananda
Bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ, anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat (Gita 6.6). These two verses in the beginning of the Sixth Chapter are crucial in their meaning. Bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ: The Self is the friend of the self of that person who has overcome the lower self by the higher Self. The Self is the enemy of the self of that person who has not been able to overcome the lower self by the higher. Here is a concentrated, very valuable instruction for spiritual seekers in the art of meditation, put in a little capsule.
The Gita goes further into the art of practical meditation, telling you that you are to be seated in a particular posture. Śucau deśe pratiṣṭhāpya sthiram āsanam ātmanaḥ, nātyucchritaṁ nātinīcaṁ cailājinakuśottaram (Gita 6.11), etc. These are all in the scriptures. It is not that you should go away somewhere for the purpose of meditation. You can be in your room if that is convenient. Otherwise, for atmospheres of this kind you can sit in a forest, under a tree where it is cool, not in the hot sun, etc. Wherever it is, as is convenient, well ventilated by a breeze and not suffocating, be seated calmly and read these verses of the Gita, and see to what extent you can raise yourself to a higher consciousness.
The philosophy of the Sankhya evolution that you have studied earlier will, to some extent, help you in transferring your lower consciousness to a higher one, which is the transcendent adhideva. You will find it difficult, no doubt. That is, you have to be something other than yourself in meditation. You cannot continue to be what you are, and then be successful in meditating. There is a little bit of otherness of yourself in a transcendent sense. If you are looking at some object, transfer your consciousness to that state which is neither you nor that object. This is also suggested in a single sutra of Patanjali where he says you become maha videha, or the larger self, by transferring your consciousness to another which is not yourself. The suggestion is that if you meditate on a tree, for instance, it is not enough if you consider the tree as something outside you and are looking at it with your sense organs. That is sensory perception. It cannot be regarded as meditation on the tree. Your consciousness has to get transferred to the very existence of that object; you have to think, as it were, as the tree thinks; and, much more than that, you have to think in terms of that which is between you and the tree, so that there is a simultaneous consciousness of what you are and what the object outside is. This is suggested in the doctrine of the evolution of the universe in terms of the adhideva connecting subject and object, and also in the sutra of Patanjali.
The Gita’s instruction in regard to meditation is that you may be seated on some asana which is neither on the ground, nor too high from the ground: nātyucchritaṁ nātinīcaṁ. Perhaps the reason is that on the ground itself some insects may crawl and trouble you. If it is too high, you may fall off the seat – so, neither too high nor too low. Something which is supposed to be a non-conductor of electricity is spread on the ground. In earlier days, we used to have a tiger skin or deerskin, but you can have grass – kusa grass, a grass mat. It is generally used for meditation. On that you have a soft cloth: cailājinakuśottaram. Caila is a cloth. Over that you sit.
That is, all the preparations should be such that they do not cause any kind of difficulty for you. They should not be painful or distressing in any way. Certain positions that you assume in asana, such as padmasana, etc., may be painful. You should not struggle to maintain it if you cannot sit in that pose for a long time. Whatever is convenient, that is the proper pose. Yathābhimata dhyānāt vā (Y.S. 1.39), as the Patanjali sutra tells us: As is convenient to you, so is the posture that you have. The only thing is, the position that you maintain in meditation, though comfortable of course, should not cause sleepiness or any kind of pain in the joints, etc.; then use any other convenient posture.
What will you contemplate? What will you think? How will the mind operate in this effort at meditation? Usually, in the strictly religious sense, it will commence with a prayer to God, a prayer to the universe, the Great Father, the Supreme Being – whatever be your concept of the Supreme Being or the Almighty. In your own language, in your own style, offer prayers to this great master of creation. “This universe must have been created by something; so large is this universe, incomparably vast is this creation. How vast the Creator should be! He is everywhere in this universe, and also above this universe. What glory, what power, what knowledge! Oh, such a Being is looking at me, because omniscient is the eye of God. That which is immanent in all things, that which is all-pervading, is also all-knowing. I am blessed because I am in the presence of this all-knowing, powerful Being.”
In the beginning, feel that energy is flowing through you from this Great Lord of the universe. When you sit in the Sun, the energy of the Sun enters into you. So is the impression that you have to create in your mind. “I am slowly drawing strength and energy and prana from the cosmos. The cosmic prana is entering into me. Through the nostrils it is entering, through every pore of the body it is entering. As a magnet pulls things that are near, this Great Being is attracting me and pulling me towards it. I am inundated by the power that is flowing into me from that Great Being. I am stronger today, healthier now, better in every way. I have no difficulty, because I am in the presence of this all-compassionate, all-powerful, all-knowing God.” This is one way in which you can offer your prayers in Sanskrit, English, Latin, or in any language. And then place yourself mentally, psychologically in the presence of this Great Being.
But you should not think that this is only a kind of concoction of your thought. It is not so. This is not an imagination; it is a factual and actual operation that is taking place. You are not as disconnected from the world as you imagine. You are also not as far away from God as you may think. There is no distance between you and God, no distance at all. The idea of distance arises because of the conception of space and time. They are illusions, finally. Remove this idea of externality. Your prayers to God will certainly reach Him if you believe that God is not even one inch distant from you. Thus, picture before yourself your concept of God in whatever way your religion, your understanding, prescribes it.
In the earlier stages, it is very hard to even carry on this concept of concentration. Have a concrete picture of God before you. There are people who keep a picture of Christ, Mohammed, Lord Krishna, Devi or Durga, Narayana, Vishnu, or Siva. There are people who meditate on the Cosmic Being as represented in these forms because there is no way to adjust the mind to a total abstraction in the beginning itself. Hence, there is a portrait of this Great Master. Here is the Great Being portrayed in a particular form as an incarnation at least, though not in that Absolute form. That incarnation is the pathway for you to enter into that which is above the incarnation.
You will find it difficult even to think it for a long time. Even a picture of Krishna, Siva, Devi – how long will you go on thinking it? The mind jumps here and there, thinking twenty things. So the suggestion is that you have a puja room, an altar of worship, and a portrait in front of you. Why not open your eyes, gaze at this majestic portrait which is painted in such a way that it will please you aesthetically, and give you great satisfaction? How beautiful it is, how majestic, how powerful, how complete, how satisfying! I am one with it, so I become fully satisfied. I become completely perfect. I become beautiful. I become everything, as that on which I am concentrating is everything. Go on looking at it, and at the same time keep these ideas of self-fulfilment in the mind. After gazing for a few minutes, close the eyes and feel the presence of this portrait, this form, in your mind only, without opening the eyes. If you feel tired of contemplating like this, open your eyes once again and look at the picture. If you feel pain in the legs because you have already sat for half an hour, straighten your legs or just walk about for a few minutes. Then take a deep breath, wash you face with cold water, and sit again. The pain will go.
So this process, this practice of meditating with open eyes on a portrait – a form that is concretely there as an image such as a statue, a sculptured piece, or a painted picture – and then contemplating the same thing with closed eyes, may continue. Let it continue like this for one, two or three months; then you will find that you no longer require any portrait. No picture is necessary. You can close your eyes and feel its presence anywhere you want. Wherever you sit, you can see that it is this form. Contemplate it. The power of your concentration will charge this form to such an extent that, after some years of practice, perhaps, you will feel the presence of this divinity everywhere, as if the whole world is filled with it. If you gaze at the sun for a long time and then look this way and that way, you will see the sun everywhere because of the power of the sun on your eyes; everywhere you will see the orb of the sun. In the same way, you will begin to see the form of this divinity everywhere on account of the concentration which you have been practicing for a long time on this particular form.
As I mentioned sometime back, you must be careful to note that this meditation is satisfying, and it should not be unsatisfying in any manner. The god whom you have chosen for your meditation is all-complete, and you do not want anything else in this world. “This god that I am meditating upon is all things, and everything will come to me from that god.” Faith is necessary. Do not doubt. If there is mere concentration through the will with lack of faith – with doubt that it may come or it may not come – then no, nothing will happen. Let this faith be there that it will certainly come.
The world is a single organic completeness and living whole, and therefore everything is touching you everywhere. God is touching you. You are on the lap of God, as it were. Faith is very important; without it, nothing will work. Mere intellectual study is no good because there are doubts, eventually. But if the faith says it will work, let the intellect say whatever it likes, but it will certainly work. There is nothing, no wonder that faith cannot work. It is a miracle worker. Such is faith.
With this kind of practice for a long time, you will see the divinity present everywhere. You will feel divine energy flowing into you from all sides, and an immense satisfaction that you cannot feel otherwise by the possession of anything in this world.
The Bhagavadgita gives a brief instruction on how you can conduct meditation; in a few verses, it says incomparable bliss will arise from your own self. Yasmin sthito na duḥkhena guruṇāpi vicālyate (Gita 6.22): In that condition established, rooted in that satisfaction, that joy, that arises from one’s own self by non-contamination with external things, even the heaviest sorrow of the world cannot shake a person. The heaviest sorrow of things will not touch you because of the incomparable joy that you feel from yourself on account of the release of the tensions of the self and the uncontaminated Self rising to the surface of its action and flooding you so that you become the whole Self, as if the whole body has become the Self.
Now the Self looks like it is something inside the body, inside the mind, inside the intellect, inside what you are, but it will be everything afterwards. There will be scintillating light everywhere. Everything will shine. Materiality will assume spirituality, objectivity will become subjectivity, and both the subject and the object will assume a sense of universality.
Great difficulty is there. Arjuna, hearing all this great instruction, said, “Lord, it is wonderful! Is it possible to achieve this state in this life? Life is short, time is fleeting; how long are we going to live in this world? Maybe for a few years. In these few years, will I be able to attain to this supreme state of bliss that you have been describing as the consequence of this meditation on the Self?” Suppose the person dies in the middle, before achieving anything palpable in meditation. What is the state of that person in the next birth?
No problem! Great consolation comes from the Master. Even a little good effort in this world in the right direction will pay its dividend. Even a minute of thought of God correctly, properly, with faith, from the bottom of your heart, will not be a waste. You should not say it is only one minute. Let it be only one minute; that minute will come to your aid one day or the other. There is no loss of effort in this practice of Yoga. Every little thing that you do is a virtue because even a half step that you take in the direction of the achievement of this great goal is a great credit for your life.
Therefore, do not be under the impression that in case the body drops in the middle of Yoga nothing will come, that everything is gone. No. This practice will be ushered forward by the very force and the impulse and the momentum of the practice that you have carried on in your previous life. Very early in age you will suddenly rise up into the memory of the need to practice Yoga. Are there not children who, at the very early age of four or five years, are religious and good-natured? From where does this idea of goodness and religiousness arise in small children? It is the samskara of their previous performances, some karmas of good deeds they did, etc.
Hence, a Yogi who is not in a position to achieve the highest goal and departs from this world in the middle of the practice will be reborn in such conditions where it will be possible to continue the practice from the point where he left it in the previous birth. So there is no loss of effort. You may be born as the progeny of some great master, a great Yogi’s son, or you may be born with such affluence, such facility and such comfort and freedom from difficulty that you will be able to carry on your practice there without any kind of hindrance from outside. Either you will be able to carry on the practice by yourself because you have automatically been placed under suitable conditions by the fact of your birth, or you will be the son or the daughter of a great master. That is a great blessedness, very difficult to achieve: labhate paurvadehikam, yatate ca tato bhūyaḥ (Gita 6.43). Do not expect to be a child of a great master so easily like that. You must be a most blessed soul to have such a birth in the next realm. But there is no loss.
So even if the body is dropped and death takes place in the middle of the practice, there is nothing to grieve. Be happy under any circumstance. All is well in this world which is created by God. “All is well. Everything is fine, and I shall attain the goal.” With this faith, carry on the practice. God bless you.