When we are advised to set apart a little time daily for the purpose of meditation, it is also essential for us to carry this mood of meditation through our day-to-day activities. While it is difficult to bring about a rapprochement between the religious and the secular, a heightened form of religious consciousness should be able to affect this harmony.
The spirit of religious worship and meditation has to saturate and seep into the secular life, if life is to become a healthy whole. Even as cloth soaked in water absorbs into its very fibre the whole of water, the apparently secular life has to become a living step to the more organised dimension of religious experience.
An elevating background of thought should be maintained, and it cannot be lost sight of even in the midst of hard labour.
In a second, one can be qualitatively roused up into an immense strength of union with God. It will take only a moment to do this feat. It is not necessarily so that the workaday occupations must be a hindrance in this practice of maintaining a high level of rejuvenating background thought. Meditation is not merely a psychological act or a physical movement, or even a social adjustment, but rather a trans-empirical attitude, of the whole of what one is. It is a perfection of outlook that one adopts because of the facts of life. Meditation leads to the gradual ascent of self by degrees of expansiveness.
In meditation, one has to be able to place oneself in an atmosphere that rises above the distinction between oneself and the objects of experience. This requires a new type of effort, which calls on the wholeness of one's being. One does not rise from meditation as the same person that went into it. One becomes a different thing altogether, with a new joy imbued and a new strength felt within. The reason behind it is that consciousness has outstripped the limitations of sense objects and the physical individuality.
Meditation is the highest form of relaxation, where one is free from tense moods, where one is not even aware that one is concentrating or doing anything at all. One is completely released of all vexations of sense. When we are in a non-subjective position, which is the position of meditation, we are friends of everyone. We become benefactors, well-wishers, philosophers and guides of all.
Like a small ball of mercury that cannot be readily held in the hand, the mind will slip out of our control when we try to meditate. However much we may struggle, it will not concentrate itself. It is like a wild bull that will gore us to death, rather than accept our admonitions or teachings. So, the Yoga student has to proceed very slowly and very cautiously.
The mind has been accustomed to imagine that there is great value in its connection with objects. The first and foremost duty of a Yoga student is to educate the mind with regard to its proper relationship with the objects.
Even after we are properly educated and we have an understanding of our situation intellectually, our instincts will have their own say once again. This is because the instincts are more vitally connected with the stuff of the mind than the rational faculty.
The ideal chosen for the purpose of practising meditation should be such that it will draw our attention wholly, and invoke our devotion and love. The love that is stirred up in our heart by our ideal is the power that will drive us towards that ideal.
Concentration on any idea or ideal, external or internal, breaks this knot of the mind, and then we automatically know what is behind the mind. The purpose of concentration is to break through the bubble of the mind that covers the inner eye.
A name designates a form, and a name of God should have some similarity to the nature of God Himself. God is omnipresence and all-pervading completeness. One has to be able to appreciate the deep meaning hidden behind the symbol of "Om" in order that one may utilise it successfully in meditation, because this name designates that form. We may safely say that Om is a complete symbol, a super-linguistic symbol that does not belong to any language. The completeness that characterises the production of this impersonal sound is what makes it the most appropriate designation of God.
The mind can be concentrated on that object which we adore as the most divine of things. When we think of great beings like Krishna, Rama, Jesus or Buddha, our mind is transported into a mood of intense spirituality and holiness.
There is something superb and transcendent and beyond this world, on which we have to concentrate in order to wake up from this world-dream. We are still sleeping, compared to another waking which is cosmic or universal in its nature.
The five senses and the intellect, together with the mind, stand steady, the intellect does not oscillate, and there is an integrated fixity of the total psyche, like the flame of a lamp that does not flicker in a windless place. Such is the nature of this great achievement called pratyahara. (withdrawal of the mind from objects).
Meditation is not an experiment that we make with things. It is an inrush of the soul towards that about which one is fully convinced. There is no necessity to conduct any kind of experimentation in regard to it.
The false idea that meditation is an individual effort has to be removed from the mind. There is no such thing as individual meditation also. Meditation is a cosmic activity and not an individual effort.
When an individual starts concentrating with a proper understanding of the meaning of concentration, the whole universe concentrates. What a joy, what a satisfaction and what energy will come, and how happy the person will be at that time! In a proper mood, with a sober mind, with no other occupation in the mind, no other engagements calling for attention, one should be seated in a posture, and one should try to concentrate the mind.
That which we have to reject in meditation is not the thoughts themselves, but the way in which the thoughts function. As the meditator advances he becomes more concentrated, because then he enters into greater insights.
Japa of a Name of God, concentration on the meaning of the Mantra, or the formula containing the Name, is regarded as perhaps the best method to bring the mind to the point of deep concentration. Mantras are like fire-great forces of directive intelligence. We all are emotionally connected to things. These emotional connections have to be brought into right relation, directly or indirectly, with the purpose of our meditation.
Communion with Reality is samadhi. That is the goal, and that is Yoga proper. But every stage of conscious experience may be regarded as a tentative reality with which one has to establish a communion-right from the early stages of yama and niyama and later through the various graduated evolutionary stages in the course of the ascent of the individual soul. When we come to the climax of deep meditation, according to Patanjali's system, we confront Reality in its true colours and not as it appeared previously to the empirical individual. `When you sit for meditation, there should be no preconceived background of obligations of any kind. It would be advisable for every person who is doing the practice of meditation to see that immediate obligations are fulfilled before sitting for meditation.
It is not the time spent in meditation, but the need for it that is important. If the mind does not feel the need for meditation, a mere prescription of place and time will not be of much benefit. The mind is a trickster. It always deceives us from moment to moment because it does not have a continuity of moods. The mind is absolutely steady, when it is in the presence of that which it likes immensely, hence the importance of the choosing of the ideal of meditation. The all-pervading nature of God excludes nothing from its purview and inclusiveness, and that which we regard as the best thing in our life may be regarded as our object of meditation. Anything can be a suitable object. The purpose of meditation is to break through the fort of the mind that has guarded itself very securely in the prison-house of this body. When you practic meditation, you are clearing the debris of your personality. It is as if you are sweeping your room that has not been dusted for years. Those who are capable of tuning their minds in an undivided manner to the All-inclusive Almighty Being-they lack nothing. A whole-souled absorption of all thought in God, to the exclusion of any other idea, is the highest spiritual practice.
If continuous contemplation of God is found to be impracticable, try your best to sit for meditation every day in a tenacious effort to fix the attention of the mind on God-notwithstanding that an entire absorption is not possible.
Whoever has attained any kind of greatness in life has achieved it only through the power of concentration. If we start thinking of a hundred things, we will achieve nothing. We should apply ourselves to one thing only at a time, apply our heart and soul to it and then we shall succeed.
We have to meditate that everything comes from That, everything is sustained in That and everything returns to That. That which is the origination, the sustenance and the dissolution of all things is this Brahman. "This Brahman is what I am." Thus should we meditate. The moment we get up in the morning, this thought should come to mind. The progress of our life in spirituality can be judged from the first thought that occurs to the mind in the early morning when we get up.
Meditation should be a continued practice. How long should we continue the meditation? We must continue until we attain Self-realisation or until we die, whichever is earlier.
Fickleness is the nature of the mind. The body does not finally know what it wants; that is to say, the mind, so-called, does not know what it wants. This is so because there is a contradiction between the affirmation of individuality through the physical body, and the infinite longings that seem to be there lying at the back of the personality.
This is what the mind is telling us: "I will not listen to you. You may say anything, but I have some other way." How will you deal with it? A direct attack is not always going to be a success even in military operations. Great wisdom is to be exercised. We have to retreat, we have to move forward, and we have to become invisible for some time, if necessary.
The mind goes everywhere, roaming throughout the world, wanting anything and rejecting anything. Put a "fence" around it and within this limit only it must operate. Give it whatever it wants within the limitation; do not deny everything. But, you cannot entertain little petty desires and then sit for meditation.
The world opposes you in the beginning stages of meditation. When you churn the mind for the sake of treasures that you seek, the treasure will not come. It is the potentiality of attachment still persisting.
Even in the initial stage of meditation, you will see that you rise up from mediation as a new individual, as if something has entered you or has been injected into you.
You should not sit for meditation with a brooding, despondent mood. "It may be or may not be." Anything in the world is good enough as the object of meditation; and if that is the case, any place in the world is also good enough for sitting.
Only the individual who is completely satisfied in his own self is capable of ascending the grand levels of meditation. The prerequisites for this are self-restraint, self-discipline, reasoning, non-attachment, moral virtues and a longing for liberation. We should cleanse the foundation before the meditation commences.
In meditation the mind should be entirely free. The length of time you take in meditation is not so important as the intensity of your feeling during the meditation.
If it is not at all possible for the mind to concentrate during the period of meditation because of some distraction, take up a scripture that is to your liking. After that you can withdraw you mind from study, and directly do your contemplation.
The object of meditation is a concentrated focus of the entire structure of the universe. To give the same example, if you touch any part of my body, you have touched my entire body, though it is only a touching of the toe.
Go on with your meditations for three months, six months, with earnestness and intensity of concentration, carried on at fixed hours of the day, every day. Then the whole personality that has been ignored earlier will rise up to action.