by Swami Krishnananda
That which causes a cessation of one's restlessness, satisfies one's whole being and not merely one's sentiment, is one's devata or deity. And it is most lovable: obviously one cannot have love for anything else under the circumstances. An ishta-devata is a chosen Deity over which one pours one's emotion and love and affection. Now, what connection has this ishta-devata with God, the Creator, the Almighty?
Everything has a connection with everything else. There is nothing which is not internally related to the Almighty, the Supreme Being. Every atom is so related, and every atom can be a teacher under given conditions. We can touch God through every speck of space, because there is no such thing as a universe outside God. God is in everything that is experienced here as the world, or the universe, pervading and permeating all things, so that one cannot touch anything without touching God in some way. There should not be any misconception that the deities, even the images, the so-called idols that the people worship, are all just nonsense or insignificant nothings; these are necessary prescriptions for the illness of the spirit in the stages of its evolution.
We see people changing their aims constantly. They cannot stick to any particular scripture, ideal or teacher. They cannot stick to a mantra, cannot stick to a method, cannot stick to a place, cannot stick to anything. There is a perfunctory external touch with the ideal of life and not a going deep into it. The choice of the object of meditation is a final act and once we make this choice, we have to adhere to it, and there should be no misgivings. There should be no doubt in the mind if a wrong choice has been made. The choice is to be considered as correct when it has been made by a teacher. Secondly, any object can take one to anything, because of the connection it has with all things. What is required is deep concentration. We can dig the earth at any place and we will find water, provided we go deep enough. We have to go to the oceanic level at the bottom.
Thus a concentration on the chosen ideal or the given object, whole-heartedly, continuously and regularly for a lifetime, is essential. It would be a wonder to hear stories of great saints and sages who are supposed to have spoken even to idols, to inanimate matter, a bronze idol, or a stone image. How can matter speak? It speaks because of its getting charged with the spirit of the consciousness of concentration. Nothing non-material exists in the world, finally. Matter is sleeping consciousness. What we call the inanimate is the slumbering Absolute, and it can be awakened by a deep concentration of consciousness. The awakening takes place when the consciousness gets communed, but the object appears as a material thing as long as it is outside consciousness in space and time. So one should not be too much fidgeting about the propriety in the choice of the object of meditation.
Once the choice has been made, it has to be adhered to, and the student will succeed. The object has to be such as would satisfy the emotions. It should satisfy even the intellect and reason. There should not be a resentment from any side of our nature. Sometimes it may so happen that the emotions may like the choice but the intellect does not agree, and when the intellect agrees the emotions do not. It is necessary that there must be a blend of these aspects of our inner being; the emotion and the reason should accept the propriety of one's having made this choice. "Yes, this is the thing meant for me, and for such and such a reason." The intellect always seeks a rational justification, a confirming logic. The head and the heart have to be in unison. Then there is a coming together of the understanding and the feelings, and meditation is nothing but this union of the understanding and the feelings in respect of the object that is chosen as the finale of one's life. Mere intellectual deliberation is not meditation. Thinking of some object intellectually cannot be called meditation. In meditation there is a total at-one-ment of the whole of being with the object that is chosen as the great aim. Whatever we are made of or constituted of has to take part in this concentrated effort. There should be a wholesale conscription, as it were, of all the parts of the personality, and every part is involved in this universal cause.
There should be no reluctance on the side of any part of our being in this act of concentration. There should be no difficulty felt in this whole-souled attention on the object. The reluctance arises on account of a mistaken choice, when some part of the personality has felt the need for the object and the others have not felt that it is so essential. We have to bring our forces round, by some method which is apt under the circumstances.
We know how one has to work in order to reconcile people. There are variegated types of personalities in this world. How will one reconcile them? One person does not agree with the other, but if one has to live a peaceful existence in this world of human societies, some sort of arrangement for reconciliation of opposites has to be made, and it has to be done in an intelligent manner, for the good of all. This technique of a reconciliation of differences among the aspects of a thing has to be adopted. If we take time to do this, there is no harm. It does not mean that, today itself, everything has to be done. We may take one month to come to a conclusion as to what that suitable object is. But once the object is chosen properly, the mind will certainly rush towards it, because it is the thing it needs. Sometimes, it may be difficult to find one single object which can satisfy every part of our nature, even as we cannot have only one article of diet which can satisfy hunger, thirst and every requirement of the body. In the earlier stages, it may be necessary to resort to different kinds of concentration with the intention of reconciling them and bringing them together. The programme of our daily Sadhana may have to be spread out to some extent in some manner which will fulfil the various needs of the self.
One may have many other requirements of this nature, such as a desire for study and learning, a desire to go on pilgrimage to holy places or to see a great saint or a sage. Now, all these urges have to be fulfilled in an organised manner. They become essentials on account of their pressing nature. They have to be paid their dues. Thus, in the beginning, it need not necessarily be a single object, literally, but there can be a group of various aspects – we need not call them various objects – which are really aspects of a single intention that is behind the mind, all which may commingle later on into a single object. It is necessary, in the earlier stages, to go slowly and have three, four or five items for the purpose of practice, such as japa, or chanting of a mantra, a formula, which has been given by the Guru, or which occurs in a scripture.
Japa can be of a single word, or a group of words or letters, which is called a mantra or a formula. This practice is necessary because it is difficult to keep the mind elevated always in a high vision of thought. It often comes down to lower levels. To stir it up to a consciousness of the higher levels of being, one requires constant instruction and habituation to one thought. If one does not have a personal Guru to instruct constantly, one has to resort to the secondary method of studying. One takes to a concentrated study of scriptures which will inspire the mind at once. This will prepare the attention for japa, or recitation of the sacred formula or mantra.
Svadhyaya is sacred study. This does not mean study of books from libraries. One generally sees the catalogue and whatever appeals to the sentiments is picked up and one starts reading a novel or an encyclopaedia. But svadhyaya is a religious, dedicated study. It is not just a gathering of information from several tomes. It is not a historical survey that we are making of doctrines, religions and philosophies. It is rather a meditation by itself. Only it is a little spread-out type of meditation, not so much concentrated as the purely technical absorption.
These spread-out types are more diversified forms of meditation, and they are the studies that we make. In a book that we so study, there are various ideas which entertain the mind and do not bore it with one thought on a monotony. The vastly spread ideas which are expressed in the scriptures are meant to tend towards one point, in the end.
Though many things are told us in the scriptures, they are told for a single purpose. The mind gradually converges upon a single point of attention. When we read the Bhagavadgita, for instance, with all the details throughout the chapters, we will find there one ringing note into which we are introduced finally, at the end. But the crucial point cannot be revealed immediately, because we want variety. So, people take to bhajans, kirtans, singing, etc., in the methods of bhakti-yoga especially. While these provide us with an entertainment by way of a diversity, they have a very pious and spiritual motive behind, of allowing the mind to concentrate on a single object. The japa of the formula or a mantra, the study of a scripture, sequestration and holy company, attending satsangas of great souls wherever it is possible, are all to be regarded as parts of our meditation, because they are needed by certain aspects of our personality.
Our personality is very complex. It is constituted of different items of creation and they all ask for satisfaction of one type or the other. We have to move gradually, stage by stage, to transcend ourselves. The practice should not be any sudden assertive renunciation in the form of rejection of values, but it should be a growth of the personality into a wholeness which has overcome the lower, not rejected the lower. This is important to remember. We do not reject things but overcome them by understanding, by fulfilment and an increase of comprehension. Spiritual life is not a rejection of values but a fulfilment of values, a fulfilment for the purpose of the transcendence of values. This is a healthy method, and most positive, to which we have to resort as an aid to meditation.