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Friday, July 24, 2020

Meditation and Mandala Brahmana Upanishad

There is no end to learning about meditation.

The Mandala Brahmana Upanishad gives an excellent definition of Meditation. It says: “Meditation is the contemplation of unity of consciousness within all bodies”. Knowing the identity of the individual self (?soul) with the universal self (universal consciousness) and therefore, of the self of all lives is the goal. Meditation is the process of knowing that connection.

In learning to meditate, we have to learn to make the connections at the physical level, the mental level and the metaphysical level. In the Buddhist tradition this connection is learnt as meditation on the five elements, namely earth, water, fire, air and space. In the Hindu tradition, it is meditation on the five sheaths of the body – of food (anna), of life (prana), of mind (mano), of knowledge or wisdom (vignana) and of Bliss.  At the mental level, it is meditation on the different states of consciousness – wakeful (jagra), dream (svapna), deep sleep (sushpti), and the background on which all of these are known (turya). At the metaphysical level, it is learning to meditate on the senses (indriya), mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), unmanifest (avyakta) and purusha (the source of being). One can take any one of these paths which often happens to depend on the teacher (guru) one encounters.

Katha Upanishad (1:iii:13) says: “merge speech and mind into the consciousness, merge consciousness into wisdom, wisdom into the Superior Intelligence of mahat and mahat into peaceful atman”.  This is the internally directed homa, as opposed to the yagnas with fire preferred in the Brahmanas.

One learns to use these steps to practice. The process of integration into higher and higher state is called yukti. In one interpretation, liberation or mukti/moksha is seeking this integration , not escape from death, which is impossible anyway.

Another point about meditation is about the word yoga. The dictionary definition is union. Upanishadic scholars tell us that yoga is the effort to attain union, not the result.

Finally, dissolution of the physical body of one individual does not terminate the universal life force.

The intensity of contemplation is the equivalent of fire in the external homa, sacrifice. This is tapas, or penance, or what Roberto Calasso calls Ardor. This, in turn, requires restraint or control  of the senses, reduction of distractions and focus on just one thing, steady and unwavering. This is what is called “laser – focus” in modern usage. This focus is what we are told in Maha Bharata Book 1, Chapters 134-15 in which Drona is testing his pupils. Drona asks them to aim at the eye of a bird (toy bird) placed on the branch of a tree. When each one comes up to take the test, he asks “What do you see?”. Each one says that he sees the tree, branches of a tree, a bird and then finally come to mention the eye they were supposed to strike. When Arjuna comes and Drona asks “What do you see?”, he says: “The bird’s eye”. That is focused attention, laser-focus. 


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