Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Vienna, Austria, September 6, 1968
Blessed Spiritual Seekers,
Hari Om Tat Sat
The topic is meditation and the question which comes to my mind is meditation for what? There are people who feel and have been proclaiming that meditation is a way to self-realization and for fusion of individual awareness with the highest awareness. But in my humble opinion I feel that this aim for meditation is too high and I think that this is an outcome of a psychological error in human minds.
Meditation is for self-realization but I think very few people can teach, and very few people can learn and even less can practice it. Until the mind is sane and healthy, the subliminal inhibitions, the errors of personality are completely remedied; it is not at all advisable for one to take to the practices for the expansion of individual consciousness to cosmic consciousness. Otherwise, it tends to what I should call self-hypnotism and it is here that there is a difference between yoga and self-hypnotism.
When I discuss yoga or meditation it is in relation to individual welfare, the human welfare. Spiritual awareness may be the summum bonum of life but it is too early to think about that because we are not keeping healthy, our minds are ill, we are suffering from chronic illnesses; and not only from physical diseases but from mental ones as well. There are people in our unfortunate world who are suffering from physical maladies. At the same time there are people in our so called fortunate world, our so called prosperous and advanced world who are also suffering from chronic mental illnesses about which they are as ignorant as the people of the poor countries. We are not aware of what the psychological errors are, what the deep rooted tensions and afflictions are, which are guiding our destiny and which are guiding what we call human behavior.
The individual afflictions, the tortures and the pains, the subliminal pains that are in our life, are guiding the destiny of the world. The restlessness throughout the world is an outcome of the sickness in man’s mind. In order to cure this sickness there should be some way. In order to develop a healthy environment in society, the community, the family and also in the mind of the individual, there should be some method. Religion shave failed, the economic programs have also failed to give peace to mankind and to solve the problems of the individual, the community and the society; because the problem starts with the individual and the problems can be solved with the individual. The individual is the nucleus of most of the problems that are before us so it is with this in mind that we consider meditation.
Meditation is a science of mind and not a science of God. Meditation is a system for the re-orientation of human personality as a whole and not a metaphysics; and meditation is a system through which one can root out the individual pains, the unseen afflictions, the tensions that are all around us, in the muscular body, mental body and the emotional body.
Our behavior, our thinking, our actions and our reactions are guided by the soul, by the consciousness, and this consciousness is not pure, it works in association with the atmosphere, the environmental conditions and so on. As a result, tensions pile up in the different spheres of our personality which we do not know about, but which result in suffering from insomnia, inhibitions, juvenile delinquency, sexual anarchy, hatred, restlessness, anxiety, worry and so forth. So we look for tranquility and for peace but the peace does not come from outside and the tranquility cannot be introduced. It is an unfoldment but we do not know the real unfoldment.
Meditation is a system by which we are able to get rid of the tensions and at the same time we are able to analyze the deep rooted psychological errors by different processes.
I am sorry to say that after surveying the movement of meditation throughout the world, most people do not know what meditation is. People think that concentration of mind on a particular point is meditation, it is not. People feel that to develop the awareness inward is meditation, it is not that.
Whole Meditation Process Divided into Two: Negation and Expansion
Classically and scientifically meditation is classified into two parts. Meditation has got everything to do with consciousness, the consciousness that is empirical and the consciousness that is internal, the consciousness that perceives the world and the consciousness that is unable to perceive the world. This consciousness in man is the subject of meditation.
If meditation is to be achieved, the first process in meditation is relaxation. Remember that meditation begins with relaxation. But this relaxation again is not the relaxation where you lie down quietly, close your eyes and feel that you are becoming lighter and happier and so on, not this method of auto-suggestion, this is the hypnotic method. Find out the method of yoga that is called relaxation.
In yoga a process of withdrawal is the process of relaxation. What Patanjali calls pratyahara or an act of withdrawal of external consciousness, or an act of disassociation of consciousness from the objects outside, is relaxation. But this relaxation cannot be complete until you have relaxation in the whole system.
Tensions are Muscular, Mental and Emotional
Before we proceed with the topic of meditation, let us discuss what we mean by tensions. They are physical, mental and at the same time they are emotional. Faulty secretions in the endocrinal system can cause tensions and not necessarily the psychological problems of your society and family, not necessarily the economic pressure, not necessarily the emotional mal-adjustment in your family. There can be nervous disorders; there can be problems in your body due to a faulty endocrinal system, and those faulty endocrinal secretions are caused by faulty living, faulty breathing, faulty eating habits and so on.
Therefore in the scheme of yoga, asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques) come first, in order to get rid of muscular and physical tensions, to eliminated the toxins from your body and at the same time to neutralize the faulty secretions that take place. For instance, you could be suffering from hypo-thyroids, or hyper-thyroids, or over secretion of the pituitary or deficiency in the pancreatic gland and all of these have a great influence on your behavior and your thinking. As such, this muscular tension which causes a lot of trouble, which bars the experience of peace in our day to day life, can be greatly solved by the practice of asanas, pranayama and Hatha Yoga.
Here again people think that asanas and pranayama, the yogic exercises are just exercises. They are not exercises and they should not be practiced as exercises and they should be practiced with great care.
Scientific investigations that have been carried out in different parts of the world, in Russia, Poland, India, France and also in Germany have proved that during the practice of asanas the whole endocrinal system is greatly influenced and as a result toxins are eliminated, the energy blocks cleared, so the practice of asanas and pranayama removes muscular tensions. Then onto mental tensions which are the greatest tensions that we have to take into consideration. Over thinking, wrong thinking and vicious thinking which we have to do in our day to day life causes these mental tensions. The practice of relaxation in which we withdraw our consciousness is for these mental tensions.
When the withdrawal of consciousness takes place, when the negation of consciousness has taken place, then starts what is called expansion of consciousness. So the whole thing is divided into two, negation and expansion. In the process of negation, you have different techniques which withdraw or which calm down the tensions created by the ocular system, the auditory system, the nervous system and tensions created by internal functional deficiencies. All these systems are affected during the practice of relaxation. Some of the most important techniques of yoga are practices of relaxation.
When we practice meditation or when we start the practice of relaxation, first of all we must have a method, we must have a technique. Every technique is not useful for everybody but at the same time there are practices which can be taken up without any difficulty, without any risk. The easiest one is what we know as Ajapa Japa, spontaneous awareness.
In this spontaneous awareness, you concentrate on the breath and while concentrating on breath you try to formulate an ascending and descending process. Then the consciousness is diminished, the area of experience is eliminated, the consciousness functions in a limited area. Thereafter, you start with a symbol. You have an image, you have a center and you try to develop a clear cut psychic, internal, non-sensuous, mental awareness of that symbol and that symbol must become clear to you. You should be able to see it consciously because it is necessary in order to effect a complete relaxation.
It is not enough to be able to visualize your subconscious mind. Yoga teaches, and in meditation it is a science, that you should be able to see your conscious mind, you should be able to see your subconscious mind, and you should be able to see your unconscious mind, which is very difficult. The moment the experience of the perception of unconscious personality takes place, complete relaxation comes to man. Therefore, you will find that there are moments in an individual’s life when he becomes aware of unconscious during deep sleep and after that he feels that he was completely relaxed.
In the technique of meditation, in the technique of yoga it is believed that when the consciousness is detached from the conscious, from the subconscious and also from the unconscious, and when the awareness functions independently of these three dimensions of consciousness, relaxation takes place and meditation begins. Meditation can never begin before relaxation and the greatest thing and most difficult is relaxation. You may think that meditation is difficult, but it is not. Meditation is accomplished spontaneously. Meditation comes to you and it does not take time. But in order to develop meditation it is necessary that the whole process of relaxation has been gone through.
In yoga it is called pratyahara and dharana. Pratyahara means withdrawal of consciousness and dharana means conception of consciousness in a particular way. You see your consciousness, you see your awareness but it is internal perception. It may be a round stone, it may be a triangle, it may be a flower, and it may be anything but you should be able to see it. That which you see inside is not imagination, but that which you see inside is a form of your consciousness.
If you see a flower inside you see your own consciousness in the pattern of a flower. If you see a triangle, you do not see a triangle as in imagination. It is your consciousness that you perceive in the form of a triangle and the triangle which you see inside is made up of you consciousness. Your consciousness through which you perceive the world, your consciousness through which you are understand me. It is the same consciousness through which I am able to explain something about yoga to you, and it is the same consciousness through which you know right and wrong. It is the same consciousness through which your intelligence or intellect functions. It is the same consciousness which manifests in day to day life in the form of the memory principle and the same consciousness through which you understand hatred and through which you understand love.
The same consciousness which functions in the world and is not imagination and which is not a hypothesis but which is a force, no, which is awareness or an instrument of knowledge, or a medium of understanding, or the substratum of perception. It is that consciousness that is withdrawn from the objects, which is withdrawn from intellectual knowledge, which is withdrawn from experiences and memory of the past and which is withdrawn from right knowledge and wrong opinions. When this consciousness has been disassociated from different bases of perception but when at the same time it becomes clear to you in the form of a triangle, a flower, a stone, in the form of light, or in the form of an animal, or whatever, then it means that you are seeing your own consciousness and this is the fundamental secret of yoga.
Meditation, therefore, is the process in which you see your own consciousness. Consciousness sees itself through itself without any intervening medium and without any support and without any agency. In meditation you undergo a process not of self-analysis but self-perception. It is here that meditation overcomes the psycho-analysis of modern psychology. You not only analyze yourself, you see yourself. How do you see? Do you see your consciousness in the form of triangle? No, you try to see yourself in the form of a triangle, but when you try to see yourself in the form of a triangle, the triangle vanishes, it disappears and it is replaced by the images of your psychological personality.
Visions and Images, Good and Bad Both are Manifestations of the Psychological Personality.
Images come up in the hundreds and thousands, like the film reel. You do not see the real pictures; you do not see what you have experienced. Perhaps you do not even see the people you know in this life. You will see those images which represent your instincts. You will see those images which have been causing trouble in your life and you will see those images which have been the basis of tension in your life. You will see those images which represent the cause of anger, the cause of passion, the cause of hatred, the cause of insomnia, the cause of anxiety and the cause of all sorts of psychosomatic troubles.
Then you again try to bring back the triangle but it disappears anew. Again it is replaced by deeper psychological images because in the subconscious mind there are also depths and layers. You will have to realize those subconscious layers, one after the other.
There is a moment in meditation when you will see the visions, good and bad both. Unfortunately, in the absence of this knowledge, you take them to be what you call astral traveling, as if it were objective traveling. You will think that hosts have come or you will think that angels have come.
Nothing has come from outside, everything has emerged from within and everything has exploded from inside. Nothing comes from outside, your consciousness is everything. There is nothing beyond your consciousness and anything that you see in the deeper states of meditation, is a manifestation of your personality, is a manifestation of different, complicated, unseen, unknown, invisible layers of your personality, perhaps which you will never know through any method of psycho-analysis. You might see the experiences of your life when you were a child, which you have forgotten and which are insignificant but which were causing trouble. They come up in the form of an explosion, in the form of evil pictures, in the form of divine expressions.
So these are the subliminal images, these are the samskaras as they are called in yoga, the past impressions. They come up; they exhaust themselves, one after the other. But it is possible only if you try to bring about a concentration or a consolidation or crystallization of your consciousness.
In meditation, when you concentrate on the natural breath, you not only concentrate on the natural breath but you try to realize a psychic passage for the natural breath. Breath is breath, as you know it is something physical. But the idea that `I am breathing’ is not physical, it is psychic. When I breathe, it is physical. The breath goes to the lungs and supplies oxygen, purifies the blood, well it is a scientific fact; but when you know that `I am breathing’, you create a psychic idea and this psychic idea is the gateway to meditation, it is the gateway to relaxation, it is the gateway to concentration and definitely it is the gateway to psycho-analysis. You create a passage, and in yoga there are hundreds of passages, but I will introduce only two of them.
One passage is between the navel and throat, for the beginners; and the second passage is the vertebral column, the spinal cord. The idea `I am breathing’, the consciousness `I am breathing’ should be felt in one of these two passages. Either you have to feel `I am breathing’ in the frontal passage or you have to feel it in the spinal cord. If you feel it in the spinal cord it is much better because concentration on the spinal cord takes you to the unconscious direct.
I am not talking about the frightening Kundalini Yoga, please remember, and I also do not believe that Kundalini Yoga is so frightening, because as a student of psychology and as a student of yoga I believe, Kundalini Yoga is a way to go to the unconscious and I know that to get into the unconscious is the way of perfect peace and complete power. So, I do not prohibit people from practicing Kundalini Yoga but I do not mean that Kundalini Yoga in which you break your body or break your bones. No, you take your consciousness to the spinal cord, right from the bottom up to the top where it terminates in the brain in the form of `I am breathing in, and I am breathing out’ from the top to the bottom tip of the spinal column.
Now the idea `I am breathing in and I am breathing out’ should create an ascending and a descending order in your passage. As you breathe in, you must feel that you are ascending and as you breathe out, you must feel that you are descending. Who is ascending and who is descending? Find out. Consciousness is ascending and consciousness is descending. But why do you synchronize it with the breath? First of all it becomes possible, it becomes easier to feel the ascending and descending order but at the same time if you breathe in and breathe out you create more oxygen in the system and as a result of that relaxation takes place.
You exhale carbon dioxide and you accelerate the metabolism in the system and when the metabolism is accelerated in the system by oxygenation, then the relaxation is accelerated and speeded up.
Therefore, in Ajapa Japa, when you are feeling that you are breathing in and breathing out, it becomes necessary that you should be aware of the fact that you are breathing in and breathing out by the process of counting, so that you do not fall into deeper consciousness, so that your consciousness does not suspend.
Sometimes it happens in meditation, when concentration takes place breath stops, and when breath stops unconsciousness takes place. Now the purpose of yoga is not to become unconscious, the purpose of meditation is not to become unconscious and if you are trying to become unconscious in meditation, you are not doing the right yoga.
The purpose of meditation is to develop awareness when there is absolute unconsciousness. I am not talking about samadhi. I am not talking about cosmic awareness, I am not talking about divine experiences, please do not confuse it. I am saying that yoga or meditation is a system, a process, a method by which you can see your own unconscious mind.
At night you go to bed to sleep, you become unconscious. You go to the unconscious every night but you do not see it, you do not experience it; and what happens is that partial relaxation takes place. Complete relaxation does not take place. In yoga a method was developed by which you can go into the unconscious and you can see the unconscious, you can investigate your unconscious, you can visualize your unconscious and you can again come back. When you come back, you can come back with energy. You will come back with power; you will come back with confidence and absolute equilibrium. This is the basis of yoga.
Now this process of inhalation and exhalation, this process of ascending and descending consciousness in the spinal cord or the frontal passage is not meditation. It is an act of negation of consciousness; it is an act of withdrawal of empirical, external, objective consciousness. But there is a moment in this practice when the consciousness is negated to one point, the circle is reduced to one point and it is that moment that you have to stop relaxation. A student of yoga should know how far he should continue relaxation. If you continue your relaxation further, you will enter into unconsciousness, and you will become unconscious and you will never become aware and that is the death of yoga and that is the death of a yogi.
You must know the point where you have to stop relaxation, where you have to stop the process of negation of consciousness and it is for this reason that every student of meditation must have a symbol for himself. It can be a small green leaf, a flower, a star, a triangle, a human figure, anything for that matter but he must have it. There is no use having an abstract idea. I have practiced this for years and years. The first is called concrete meditation and the second is called abstract meditation. Abstract meditation leads one to unconsciousness and concrete meditation leads one to unconscious with consciousness.
Indications of Unconscious Mind
What is the proof that you have been able to perceive the unconscious? What is the symptom? What is the indication that you have visualized your subconscious? What is the indication that you have visualized your unconscious? I am not talking about the super conscious, I am not going beyond discussing the unconscious.
When you are able to see, when you are able to visualize the object of your meditation as clearly as you see me and you see your brethren every day, you have seen your unconscious and you will come back. It is not at all a conscious dream.
Indications of Subconscious Mind.
If the dream is a conscious dream, if you see figures moving, if you see a rose flower but at the same time you are not aware that you are seeing a rose flower, then it is the subconscious. The indication of the manifestation of the subconscious personality is that you see psychic visions, one after the other, good and bad both.
But when you go into the unconscious all the visions stop. No angels come and no hosts come. You do not see heaven and you do not see hell. You see only that particular object upon which you are trying to crystallize your consciousness. You will see the lotus flower, you will see the elephant, you will see the serpent or you will see the flame of fire. That is all you will see because that was your object of meditation, and when you see the object of your meditation internally it will be so clear, it will be so true, that sometimes when you come out there will be a doubt as to whether this is truth or whether that is truth.
When the unconscious is perceived, the distinction between conscious experience and unconscious experience is dissolved. The experience of the object in the unconscious is as real as the experience of the object on the conscious plane. If you happen to see me in the unconscious, you will see me as you see me when we are face to face with eyes open. It is only when you withdraw yourself from the unconscious and come back to the conscious plane that you will know, ‘Oh, yes, I saw Swamiji as real as life.’
This particular state of experience is known in yoga philosophy as darshan. Darshan means unconscious visualization or perception of the object in all its dimensions. When your consciousness has become completely free from limitations, when it has become free from sense consciousness, intellectual consciousness and all other modes of empirical consciousness, then the peace is achieved. It is at this moment that you become a yogi. They say that it is at this moment that the tensions, the afflictions, the troubles, the shocks, the after effects, the reactions of day to day life are completely resolved.
Meditation is not at all difficult as you will see for yourself after some practice. The practice should be divided into two parts:
• First will be negation
• Second will be expansion of awareness
In this process many experiences will come, also a lot of mental turmoil. The subconscious will come in front of you and all the past memories will be known to you and of course, if you believe in reincarnation, you may even go back further. Of course it is not possible for all.
We Must Qualify Ourselves for Samadhi – Superconscious
This is how, through yoga and through meditation, you go to different rooms of your life and try to clean them one by one. Once you have cleaned yourself you should take to the path of spiritual life. Then you should go to a Guru and ask him `give me initiation!’ Perhaps, at that moment, if he touches your forehead or if he touches your head you might get into samadhi. I do not say that samadhi is not there. There is a spiritual state also; there is super-consciousness as well. One can attain samadhi, one can attain higher experiences than experience of the subconscious and unconscious dimensions of personality, but for that we must qualify yourselves and in order to qualify ourselves we have to practice yoga.
Yoga is not the end, it is the means. Yoga is a process, as it is said in ancient texts, an act or a method of purification of the self. By medicine you cure the diseases, by food you purify the body, but by yoga you purify the body, you purify the mind in all its dimensions: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. All the three stages of personality, all the three rooms are cleared.
Then, when everything is calm and quiet, when the samskaras, or as you say in the West, the karma has been exhausted, afflictions are no more, then you should go on to the higher spiritual path and not before that, never before that; although the aim of your life should be to have spiritual realization. But you should never seek for that higher spiritual path unless the mental health has been attained and the trammels, the errors, the confusions and the pandemonium in the personality have been completely calmed down. It is for this that the practices of Dhyana Yoga or meditation are prescribed.
Need for Integral Yoga
Coming to the point once again, meditation by itself does not help entirely because through meditation you clean your body, you clean your mind, you clean your consciousness but again your karmas accumulate impressions. Your emotional personality gets confused again and your method of thinking again becomes erroneous. It is something like cleaning the room and then again putting the dirt back into the room.
In the same manner you are trying to clear up your personality of the dross, of avidya, of errors, of tensions, of afflictions. But at the same time what is happening to the karmas? On one side you are clearing up the tensions and from the other side the tensions are coming in. On one side you are trying to exhaust your karmas, samskaras but from the other side the samskaras are being introduced and again you are in the same state.
It is for this reason that a yogi who practices meditation must practice Karma Yoga, must practice Bhakti Yoga and must practice Jnana Yoga also. Because it is through Karma Yoga that you stop the samskaras, you stop the effect of karma going into the deepest cores of your personality. You stop them and there is an art to do this and the art is in the Bhagavad Gita. Go through it.
Then comes the practice of Jnana. You have to understand that `I am consciousness! The light is in me! I am not this body! I am not the senses!’ This kind of understanding, right thinking should be there so that the mind does not get attached to things from time to time. Thus you try to nip the samskaras in the bud by correct thinking. This way the emotional tensions, the tensions born of karma, the tensions born of wrong thinking should be stopped side by side with the practice of meditation.
You will find there are hundreds and thousands of people throughout the world who are practicing meditation but who are not happy because they think that meditation itself is going to help them. It does, there is no doubt about it, and it is a great thing. However, please remember that my personal opinion is this; side by side with meditation the other methods of yoga should be practiced. You should never think that I wish to teach meditation only; that I do not discuss Vedanta, or Bhakti, or Karma Yoga. I completely agree that these things are very necessary to understand and practice but because the subject is meditation, I have limited my main discourse to meditation. However, I feel that meditation should be practiced not discussed.
Hari Om Tat Sat