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Friday, September 25, 2020

Even deeper understanding of meditation

While preparing for a talk on evolution of concepts in the Vedic period, something struck me as odd. We have adequate historical evidences for what went on before the Vedic period in the Indus Valley civilization. But we have no artifacts, buildings or human and animal remains from the Vedic period. We only have words and fire sacrifices to reconstruct the era of the rishis.

Who are these rishis? Did rishis create the devas or is it the other way around? Their writing suggests that mind preceded sat, that something came out of asat which means nothing. It had desire to create something. A desire before there was a body and a mind to occupy the mind?

Then there was the consciousness as an aspect of the mind. Nothing in physical nature suggests the presence or a need for a mind. How did this mind come about? And, Consciousness needs nothing but itself! It knows and everything we know is possible because of it. As suggested in Kena Upanishad (1:6), “That which does not think with mind but through whose power the mind thinks”.

And what does the mind do? It is in the interphase between the external and internal worlds. Looking outward, it revolves in the famous Samsara. It is driven to or away from external objects out of desire, fear, and curiosity. It lives in the realm of objects of senses, sense organs, mind, intelligence, ego, awareness and rarely into the awareness of awareness itself.

To “look” outwards, it needs light. Light that shines and that illuminates things. (tameva bhantam anubhati sarvam, says the rishi)

To get to that awareness of awareness, the mind must look inwards. It has to work through distractions, ignorance, laziness and mental traps. It has to recognize the common mode that underlies wakeful state, dream state and the deep sleep state. In deep state, there is life and calmness. But one is not aware of life itself or of the awareness. One must reach a state underlying the other three states. Rishis call it the turya state. At that level, consciousness is aware and is aware of its awareness.

Just like light, consciousness illuminates and is itself illumination.

That is why rishis are always comparing light and knowledge. They move from seeing to knowing seamlessly with words and metaphors which are confusing to a casual reader. They also tell us that whatever is thought of or imagined by the mind gets accomplished. (Varaha Upanishad: मनसा चिऩता कार्याम़ मनसा ऐव सिध़यते).

All the meditation methods use one or other of these stages as a focus and teach how to go from one layer to the other. In the process they may ask us to use images such as a deva or a chakra or a sound or combinations. My concern is that many of us get stuck on the way, overinvolved with the steps. The teachers themselves are so carried away by their method, they let go of the mark. Everyone is looking at the finger pointing to the moon and not at the moon.

Looking outward, meditation asks us to see the ground of all that is, the unity in multiplicity, the Brahman. That is the order out of chaos.

Looking inward, meditation asks us to visualize the knower of all that is known at all levels of consciousness, the ultimate subject without object. We are asked to do so first with forms and sound and finally as formless. The rishi says “let go of that by which you are trying to let go”. (येन त़यजसि तत़ त़यज)


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