Read two or three pages of a book. Then close the book. Now attend to what you have read. Abandon all distracting thoughts. Focus your attention carefully. Allow the mind to associate, classify, group, combine and compare. You will get now a fund of knowledge and information on the subject. Mere skipping over pages inadvertently is of no use.
Sit in your favourite meditative pose about one foot from a watch. Concentrate on the tick-tick sound slowly, whenever the mind runs, again and again try to hear the sound. Just see how long the mind can be fixed continuously on the sound.
Keep a candle flame in front of you and try to concentrate on the flame. When you are tied of doing this, close you eyes and try to visualize the flame. Do it for half a minute and increase the time to five or ten minutes according to your taste, temperament and capacity.
In a lying posture, concentrate on the moon. Whenever the mind runs, again and again bring it back to the image of the moon. In the above manner, you can concentrate on any star you may single out from the millions of stars shining above your head.
Lie on your bed in the open air and concentrate upon the blue expansive sky above. Your mind will expand immediately. You will be elevated. The blue sky will remind you of the infinite nature of the Self.
Sit in a comfortable posture and concentrate on any one of the numerous abstract virtues such as mercy. Dwell upon this virtue as long as you can.
Exercises in Meditation
Place the Picture of Lord Vishnu in front of you. Sit in your meditative posture. Concentrate gently on the picture till you shed tears. Rotate the mind on His feet, legs, yellow silk robe, golden garland set with diamonds, Kaustubha gem etc., on the chest, earrings, then the face, the crown of the head, the disc on the right upper hand, the conch on the left upper hand, the mace on the right lower hand, and the lotus flower on the left lower hand. Then close your eyes and try to visualize the picture. Repeat the same process again and again.
Place the Picture of Lord Krishna with flute in hands, in front of you. Sit in your meditative pose and gently concentrate on the picture till you shed tears. Think of His feet adorned with anklets, yellow garment, various ornaments round His neck, the necklace, the long garland of beautiful flowers of various colours, earrings, crown set with precious jewels of priceless value, dark and long hair, sparkling eyes, the Tilaka on the forehead, the magnetic aura round His head, long hands adorned with bracelets and armlets, and the flute in the hands ready to be played upon. Then close your eyes and visualize the picture. Repeat the same process again and again.
Place the Picture of Lord Jesus in front of you. Sit in your meditative pose and gently concentrate gently with open eyes on the picture till tears trickle down your cheeks. Rotate the mind on the cross on the chest, long hair, beautiful beard, round eyes and the various other limbs of His body and fine spiritual aura emanating from His head, and so on. Think of His interesting life and the miracles He performed and the various extraordinary powers He possessed. Then close the eyes and try to visualize the picture. Repeat the same process again and again.
Sit in your meditative Asana in your meditation room. Close your eyes. Meditate upon the effulgence of the sun, or the splendour in the moon or the glory in the stars.
Meditate on the magnanimity of the ocean and its infinite nature. Then compare the ocean to the infinite Brahman, and the waves, foams and ice-bergs to the various names and forms. Identify yourself with the ocean. Become silent, Expand. Expand.
This is another kind of meditation. Meditate on the Himalayas. Imaging that the Ganga takes its origin in the icy regions of Gangotri near Uttarkashi, flows through Rishikesh, Hardwar, Varanasi, and then enters into the Bay of Bengal near Gangasagar. Himalayas, Ganga and the sea-these three thoughts only should occupy your mind. First, take your mind to the icy regions of Gangotri, then along the Ganga and finally to the sea. Rotate the mind in this manner for 10 minutes.
There is a living universal Power that underlies all these names and forms. Meditate on this Power which is formless. This will terminate in the realisation of the Absolute, Nirguna, Nirakara (formless) Consciousness eventually.
Sit in your meditative pose. Close your eyes. Gaze steadily on the formless air only. Concentrate on the air. Meditate on the all pervading nature of the air. This leads to the realisation of the nameless formless Brahman, the One living Truth.
Sit in your meditative pose, close your eyes. Imagine that there is a Supreme, Infinite Effulgence hidden behind all these names and forms, which is tantamount to the effulgence of crores of suns put together. This is another form of Nirguna meditation.
Concentrate and meditate on the expansive blue sky. This is another kind of Nirguna Meditation. By the previous methods of concentration, the mind will cease thinking of finite forms. It will slowly begin to melt in the ocean of Peace, as it is deprived of its contents. The mind will become subtler and subtler.
Have the picture of OM in front of you. Concentrate gently on this picture with open eyes till tears flow profusely. Associate the ideas of eternity, infinity, immortality, etc. when you think of OM. The humming of bees, the sweet notes of the nightingale, the seven tunes in music, and all sounds are emanations from OM only. OM is the essence of the Vedas. Imagine that OM is the bow, the mind is the arrow and Brahman (God) is the target. Aim at the target with great care and just as the arrow becomes one with the target, you will become one with Brahman. The short accent of OM burns all sins, the long accent gives Moksha and the elongated accent bestows all psychic powers (Siddhis). scriptures of the world.
Sit in your meditation room. Watch the flow of breath. You will hear the sound 'Soham'. 'So' during inhalation and Ham during exhalation. SOHAM means 'I AM HE'. The breath is reminding you of your identity with the Supreme Soul. you are unconsciously repeating Soham 21,600 times daily at the rate of 15 Soham per minute. Associate the idea of purity, peace, perfection, love, etc. along with Soham. Negate the body while repeating the Mantra and identify yourself with the Mantra, the Atman or the Supreme Soul.
Meditation and Work
He who meditates is not able to work. He who works is not able to meditate. This is not balance. This is not equanimity. The two principles, meditation and action, must be well balanced. If you are ready to follow the divine injunction, you must be able to take up whatever work you are given-even a stupendous work-and leave it the next day, with the same quietness with which you took it up and without feeling that the responsibility is yours. You must be able to work hard in the world with tremendous force, and when the work is over you must be able to shut yourself up as an absolute recluse for a long time with great peace of mind. That is balance. That is real strength. Then only you have gone beyond the qualities. When you have a disinclination for work and a desire for meditation only, you can lead a life of complete seclusion, living on milk and fruits alone. You will have good spiritual progress. When there is an inclination for work, when the meditative mood vanishes, take up work again. Thus, by gradual practice, the mind should be moulded.
Meditation Will Give Real Rest
Fatigue of the Indriyas demands rest. Hence, sleep supervenes at night rhythmically. Motion and rest are rhythmical processes in life. The mind moves about in the avenues of the senses through the force of the Vasanas. Strictly speaking, Dridha Sushupti or the deep sleep state is very, very rare. There is subtle working of the mind in sleep also. Hence you do not get good rest in sleep. Real rest is secured in meditation, and in meditation only. It is only Dhyana Yogins who practice meditation that can feel real rest in Asana. The mind is fully concentrated during meditation, is far away from objects, and nearer the Atman. There are no Raga Dvesha currents during meditation woing to the absence of objects. Consequently, there is the manifestation of solid, lasting, real spiritual Ananda with complete, genuine rest. You may not enjoy the rest fully in the beginning of your practice. Because, at the outset, there is a good deal of wrestling between the will and Svabhava, the old Samskaras and the new Samskaras, old habits and new habits, Purushartha and old conduct. The mind revolts. When the mind is thinned out, you will enjoy meditation.
Place for Meditation
The world will not suit you for meditation. There are many disturbing causes. The environments are not elevating. Your friends are your worst enemies. They take away all your time through vain talks. It is in-evitable. You are puzzled. You are worried. Then you try to get out of the environments. You can hardly get a place that can satisfy you from all viewpoints. It is impossibility. You must not shift when you get some inconvenience. You must put up with it. There is no use in frequent wanderings. It is only those who have preponderating Vishaya Samskaras that flutter about from Brindavan to Benares, from Benares to Jagannath Puri, like the wild butterfly. Do not compare one place with another. Maya tempts you in various ways. Use your Viveka and reason. Mussorie will appear to you most charming when you are at Shimla. Shimla will appear more delightful when you are at Mussorie. Everything is relative in this world. Do not believe the mind and senses any more. Enough, enough of their tricks. No more. No more. Be on the watch to guard yourself from sense deceptions and temptations.
As the will-power in many persons has become very weak, as they have had no discipline or training in schools and colleges when they were young, as they are under the sway of materialistic influences, it is necessary for them to practise rigorous Japa and undisturbed meditation. If the senses are turbulent, if you have not got the power to withdraw the senses, you will have no peace of mind even in a solitary cave in the Himalayas. A disciplined Yogi who has controlled his senses and the mind can enjoy peace of mind in a solitary cave. A passionate man who has not controlled the senses and the mind will be only building castles in the air if he lives in a solitary cave in the mountains. You may be living in a solitary cave in the Himalayas. You may be practicing meditation. If the memory of your past experiences in the plains comes, if you allow the mind to dwell on it again and again, you are actually living in the plains only, though your abode is in the solitary retreats of the Himalayas. Thought is the real action.
The real snug, well-furnished, marvelous, awe-inspiring cave is in your heart. Abide there, withdrawing the outgoing senses and mind. Drink the nectar of immortality there and remain ever blissful. May you all dwell in this mysterious, magnificent cave in the heart alone in communion with your inner Self, the secondless Brahman or the Absolute, the Godl, the Sole Refuge of all.
The Meditation Room
Have a separate meditation room under lock and key. Do not allow anyone to enter the room. Or convert by means of screens, a corner of a room into a meditation chamber. Spread a fourfold blanket and over this spread a piece of soft white cloth. Face east or north. Keep the head, neck and back in one straight line. Sit on padma/siddha/swastika or any such asana. Burn incense there in the morning and evening.
Covert a Room into a Forest
Everyone of you should have a separate room for meditation. Or convert by means of screens, a corner of a room into a meditation chamber. Place your Ishta Devata in the room in front of the Asana. Keep in the room a few philosophical books such ass the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasishtha, the 12 classical UPANISHADS and Viveka Chudamani. Keep the room under lock and key. Keep it holy. Do not allow anybody to enter the room You also should enter the room only after a bath. Burn incense and camphor as offering to the Ishta Devata twice daily, morning and evening. Practise meditation in the room regularly and systematically.
Wherever you feel depressed, enter the room. Study the books for half an hour. Silence the thoughts. Still the mind. Think of the auspicious qualities of God-Shantam, Sivam Subham, Sundaram, Kantam. Repeat the Mantra "Om Shanti" several times. You will be doubtlessly immediately invigorated. Practice. Try. Feel. Experience. Do much. Talk little. Make it a point to sit at least for half an hour daily although you have pressure of work. Where there is a will, there is a way. If you have this kind of practice systematically, you will find a better Mussorie. Ooty, Darjeeling or Shimla in your meditation room. You need not go in for a change. Do not waste the time. Avoid all idle talks. Do not waste even a single second.
When you repeat the Mantra or the Name of the Lord, the powerful vibrations will be lodged in the ether of the meditation room. In six months` time you will feel peace and purity in the atmosphere of the room. Whenever your mind is much disturbed by worldly influence, sit in the room and repeat the Name of the Lord of half an hour; then you will find an entire change in the mind immediately. Practise and feel the soothing spiritual influence yourself. Nothing is like spiritual Sadhan.
The meditation room should be regarded as a temple of God. Talks of profane nature should never be indulged in the room. No vicious thoughts of rancorous jealousy and avarice are to be entertained there. Admittance should ever be sought in it with a pious and a reverent mind. For, what we do, what we think and what we speak leave their impressions on the ether of the room, and if no care is taken to avoid them, they will exert their influence on the aspirant's mind, and rendering his mind perverse and restive, make him incapable of attending to the devotion. The words uttered, the thoughts cherished, the deeds done are not lost; they are always reflected in the subtle layers of ether encircling the room where they are done and affect the mind invariably. As much as possible, effort should be made to overcome them. This is to be done for a few moths only; when the habit is changed, everything will be all right. If you are a very busy man and if you lead a traveling life always, you need not have a special room and a special time for meditation. Do 'Soham' Japa and Dhyana along with the breath. Then every breath will become a prayer and a meditation. Remember 'Soham' . Feel His presence everywhere. This will suffice.
The Best Time for Meditation
Early morning is very favourable for meditation. The mind is quite refreshed after good sleep. It is quite calm and serene. It is like a blank sheet of paper and comparatively free from worldly samskaras or mental impressions. It can be moulded very easily at this time. There is a preponderance of Sattava in the system. In the atmosphere also, Sattva predominates at this hour. There is spiritual influence and a mysterious silence in the early morning hours. All saints and Yogis practise meditation at this period and send their spiritual vibrations to the whole world. You will be highly benefited by their vibrations if you start your prayer, Japa and meditation at this period. You need not exert. The meditative state of mind will come by itself. Even if you are not in the habit of getting up early, have an alarm timepiece. Once the habit is established, there is no difficulty. The subconscious mind or Chitta becomes a willing servant of the will.
For your meditation always choose the part of the day or night when your mind is clear and when you are least likely to be disturbed. You can have a sitting just before retiring to bed. The mind will be calm at that time. Meditate at night. A second sitting is necessary. If you have not got sufficient leisure, you can meditate even for a few minutes, say 10 to 15 minutes, at night. The divine thoughts will be carried during sleep also. The good impressions will be there. You will have no bad dreams at night. Evening Sandhya time or dusk also is favourable for meditation. During Brahmamuhurta and dusk, the Sushumna Nadi flows readily. You will enter into deep meditation without much effort when the Sushumna Nadi flows. That is the reason why Rishis, Yogis and scriptures speak very highly of these two periods of time. When the breath flows through both the nostrils, know that the Sushumna is working. Whenever the Sushumna functions, sit for meditation and enjoy the inner peace of the Atman or the Soul. You can have good meditation on Sundays, because Sunday being a holiday, the mind will be free. Do vigorous meditation on Sundays. You can have good meditation when you live on milk and fruits alone or when you fast. Use your common sense always and try to bring out a good outturn in meditation.
Winter is very congenial for vigorous meditation. You will not get tired even if you meditate for hours together at a stretch. But in the morning hours, laziness tries its level best to overpower you. If you cover yourself with one or two warm blankets, you feel quite comfortable. You do not want to get up in the early morning even though the repeated alarm wakes you up again and again. You decide now, "Let me sleep for fifteen minutes more and then let me start my meditation". Then you begin to cover nicely with the blanket certain exposed parts of the feet. You feel quite pleasant now. What is the net result? You begin to snore nicely and get up only after the sun has arisen. Days, weeks and months will roll on like this. Every winter also will pass away in this manner. Just at that time which is quite favourable for meditation, mind deceives you and overpowers you by sleep. Mind is a master-magician. He knows several tricks and illusions. Maya operates through the mind. Mysterious is Maya. Be on your alert. Be vigilant. You can control mind and Maya. Throw away the blanket as soon as you hear the alarm. Sit on Vajra Asan. Do 20 pranayamas. Drowsiness will disappear.
O friends, wake up ! Sleep no more. Meditate. Open the gate of the temple of the Lord in your heart with the key of love. Hear the music of the Soul. Sing the song of Prem to your Beloved. Play the melody of the Infinite. Melt your mind in His contemplation. Unite with Him. Immerse yourself in the ocean of Love and Bliss.
How Long to Meditate
To start with, you can meditate for half an hour in the morning and for half an hour at night. After two months, increase the period to one hour each time. After a year, increase the time to 1 1/2 hours in the morning and 1 1/2 at night. In the third year, two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening; in the fourth year, three hours in the mo0rning and three hours at night. This is for the vast majority of persons.
At the commencement, have two sittings only. After six month or one year, according to your mental caliber, you can have three sittings, with a third sitting in the afternoon. You can increase the period of concentration gradually at each sitting.
In summer, it is rather irksome and difficult owing to perspiration. So, have only two sittings during summer. The loss can be made up in winter. Winter is very favourable for meditation. Winter and the early part of spring are the best seasons for beginners to commence meditation. In winter, the mind is not tired at all. You can meditate even for 24 hours without the least exhaustion. The period of meditation should be gradually increased with caution.
The meditation should not be by fits and starts. It should be well regulated and steady. You must use always your common sense and reason all throughout the Sadhana period. You should ascend the summit of Yoga gradually, slowly, stage by stage, step by step. You must not give up the practice even for a few days.
In the Yoga Vasistha, Sri Vasishtha saya: 'O Rama, give 1/4 mind for meditation in the beginning; 1/4 mind for recreation; 1/4 mind for study; 1/4 mind for service to Guru. Then 3/8 mind for meditation; 1/8 mind for recreation; 3/8 mind for study; 1/8 mind for service to Guru.' (Here recreation means acts like washing and cleaning. It does not mean golf play or Rugby). This recreation is meant for relaxation of mind or diversion of mind after concentration and meditation. Otherwise, the mind feels tired and refuses to work. When you have progressed sufficiently, give 1/2 mind for meditation; 1/2 mind for study. Increase the time of meditation gradually.
If there is much strain in meditation, reduce the number of hours for a few days. Do light meditation only. When you have regained the normal tone, again increase the period. Use your common sense all throughout Sadhana. I always reiterate this point. An earnest Sadhak with strong vitality and subtle intellect can meditate for six hours in the first year of his Sadhana. You must study congenial books as the Upanishads, Yoga Vasistha, Gita, Vivekachudamani and Avadhuta Gita along with meditation. Such study is elevating. Six hours` study and six hours` meditation is very beneficial. This will eventually push you on to Nididhyasana for twenty -four hours. If you can give up idle talks and gossiping, and idle curiosity to hear rumours and news of others, and if you do not meddle in the affairs of others, you will have ample time to do meditation.
Another important point is that the Brahmic feeling must be kept up all the twenty-four hours. There must be an unceasing and continuous flow of consciousness. You must not forget the idea of "Aham Brahma Asmi" or the Divine Presence even for a single second. Forgetfulness of God is genuine death. It is real suicide. It is Atmadroha. This is the highest sin.
It is comparatively easy to meditate on 'Aham Brahma Asmi' when you are seated in a steady posture in a solitary, closed room. But it is very, very difficult to keep up this idea amidst crowded surroundings while the body moves. If you meditate for one hour and feel that you are the Atman and if you feel for a remaining twenty-three hours that you are the body, the Sadhana is perfectly useless and will not produce the desired result. So, at all times you must try to keep up the idea that you are Brahman. This is very, very important. You must keep the mind fully occupied with this one thought. A worldly mind needs thorough overhauling and a complete, psychological transformation. This kind of practice bring sbout the construction of a new mind with a new mode of thinking. Contemplative life is diametrically opposite to worldly life. It is an entire change altogether. Old Vishaya Samskaras, impressions of sense-objects, have to be thoroughly annihilated through constant and intense practices carried on with zeal for a long time and new spiritual Samskaras have to be newly constructed.