The Crown of Life
VII. DHYAN (CONTEMPLATION OR MEDITATION)
From continued concentration, as envisaged by dharna,
there grows a continuous flow of perception, which is called dhyan or
contemplation (meditation). Dhyan or meditation is of two kinds: gross
and subtle. It is well-nigh impossible to take to subtle meditation all
at once. One has therefore to start with gross meditation in the first
instance, before taking to the practice of subtle meditation. The gross
or objective meditation consists in meditating on the personal aspect of
God, Isht, a Godman or a Guru (the living Master-saint).
In the subtle meditation, the attention is fixed on the bindu or the single eye, the still point in the body behind and between the two eyebrows. It is the intersection of time and the timeless where the Unmanifest becomes manifest. Its reflex is in the pind or the lower region of the body, i.e., the guda chakra, where lies the coiled energy in a locked up condition. After some practice at the bindu, the dark spot becomes illuminated and gradually the inner light assumes the Radiant Form of the Master. From here begins what is termed the luminous contemplation.
When in meditation, the Godman appears within,While in gross contemplation one meditates on the perceptible form (swarup) of the Isht-deva or of the Guru, in subtle contemplation one meditates on the arup (formless), or the dark point of concentration between the eyebrows, which gradually flowers into radiance.
one sees the secrets of Eternity like an open book.
Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,By deep and silent meditation, one must merge his very being in the sweet contemplation of the Beloved within and lose himself in the Great Soul of the Universe. This is the highest contemplation, and it leads to the most coveted goal of samadhi.
and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
Dhyan as a
system of yoga
(the Yoga of Contemplation)
Having considered the essentials of dhyan, we are now in a position to study dhyan as a form of yoga in itself. The mind is all-pervading. Kabir says that manas has its seat in every heart and hence occupies just a middle position in the human system. The mental current is always building its own spheres, and it does so particularly as it descends below. This central position of the mano-mai covering gives it a peculiar importance. It has two sheaths above it, the Vigyan-mai and Anand-mai, and two below it, the Pran-mai and Anna-mai. If it turns upward, it gets cognition of wisdom (enlightenment) and bliss. If it turns downward, cognition of the pranic and the physical world.
(i) Ajna Chakra, the region of the third eye, behind the two eyebrows, is associatedAll the five sheaths (koshas) are the different seats from where one can operate at different levels; the upper two being spiritual, and the lower two being sensory planes.
with the anand-mai kosh.
(ii) Kantha Chakra, the region between the third eye and the hirdey, is the center of
the vigyan-mai kosh.
(iii) Hirdey Chakra is the region of the hirdey (heart), where the pranas or the vital airs
reign supreme. It is the center of the mano-mai kosh.
(iv) Nabhi Chakra, that part of the hirdey region which extends down to the navel, is
the center of the pran-mai kosh.
(v) Indri Chakra, the region of the navel extending down to guda, is the center of the
(vi) Guda Chakra is the basal plexus or the root wherein are rooted all the subtle
tubes or nadis.
Advantages of Dhyan Yoga
The advantages of the yoga of contemplation
or dhyan are innumerable. One engaged in this form of yoga can by mere
contemplation have all his desires fulfilled. "As you think, so you become,"
is a well-known aphorism. By contemplation on the attributes of God one
can develop these attributes within one's own self and be a witness and
a testifier to Heaven's Light, while his senses acquire transcendental
powers. The mind also tastes of the bliss of vigyan, when the chit
vritis, or the mental modulations, are stilled.
This yoga rids one of all sins, and one feels an inner bliss and halcyon calm. All kinds of mental maladies like fear, shame, vacillation and self-assertiveness, disappear gradually and give place to fearlessness, confidence, firmness and happiness, and one acquires an evenness of temper in all the varying conditions of life. He is not obsessed either by attachment or detachment, and like a lotus flower, floats above and over the slime of common existence. With the knowledge of the true values of life, he grows firm in his convictions and is no longer a prey to the groundless fears and chance winds that blow over him. He has no cause for praise or blame and as such, talks little and does much; all of his acts are motivated by kindliness and good will toward all. His words arc honey-sweet and authoritative. He is not tormented by pride and prejudice, but leads a life of perfect moderation and justice. He conquers indolence and idleness; eats little and sleeps little and there is hardly any difference in his state of wakefulness and slumber. He is ever the same throughout, with a radiant and a beaming face that bespeaks his inner glory. Kabir says:
The world is but a fictitious bondage,
and Kabir centered in the Naam is forever free.
The term samadhi is derived
from two Sanskrit roots: sam with its English equivalent "syn" means
"together with," and adhi (the Primal Being) with its Hebrew equivalent
of Adon or Adonai which denotes "Lord," the two together,
plus adhi, denoting a state in which the mind is completely
absorbed in the Lord or God. It is a state in which all limiting forms
drop away and the individual, with his individuality all dissolved, experiences
the great truth--Ayam Athma Brahma --"I am Thou."
It is the last and culminating stage in the long-drawn-out process of experimental yoga, and may therefore be said to be the efflorescence of the yogic system. The dhyan itself gradually develops into samadhi when the contemplator or the meditator loses all thought of himself, and the mind becomes dhya-rupa, the very form of his thought. In this state the aspirant is not conscious of any external object save of Consciousness itself, a state of all Bliss or perfect happiness.
There are two means through which the state of samadhi may be attained. The Vedehas (or those who rise above body-consciousness), achieve it by destroying the very nature of the mind-stuff which runs after material objects all the time, by channelizing it to a one-pointed attention inward. The others develop this state by practicing in the first instance discernment and discrimination through faith, energy and memory. There are other variations of samadhi as well.
In dhyan or meditation (one-pointed attention), one retains the distinction between the contemplator and the contemplated, but in samadhi, or identification with the totality, even these disappear, for one's own individuality is, so to say, annihilated. It is this absorption into the Infinite that gives liberation from all finitizing adjuncts, for then one gets an insight into the very heart of things and has an experience of the subtle (adhi-devaka) and the abstract (adhi-atmic) aspects of all that exists.
Samadhi, or identification with the Absolute, may be accompanied with consciousness of one's individuality, in which case it is known as savikalpa, or it may not be accompanied with any such consciousness and is then known as nirvikalpa. The former was compared by Sri Ramakrishna to a cotton doll which when put in water gets saturated with it, and the latter to a doll of salt which when immersed in water dissolves and loses itself in it. Of these, nirvikalpa is clearly the higher, for savikalpa, though it greatly widens one's vision, is yet only a preliminary step toward the unconditioned state. Not all yogins can achieve nirvikalpa, and those that do attain it generally do so only once in their life. They thereby finally escape the realm of name and form and become liberated souls. Their unfructified karmas, both past and present (sanchit and kriyaman) can no longer bind them, but the momentum of their present lives (prarabdha) must be completed and must be lived to the very end. On returning from nirvikalpa, or the unconditioned state, to everyday human consciousness, they live and move as other human beings. But while engaged in worldly duties, they are forever centered in the Divine and are never separate from It. This state of normal activity on the plane of the senses but imbued with God-realization, is designated as Sehaj Samadhi or the state of Easy Union.
Whether sitting, standing or walking about,We may also mention yet another form of samadhi, called Bhava Samadhi, in which the devotee, lost in devotional music and singing, loses all thought of himself and the world around. This form of samadhi is easy to attain for those of an emotional temperament and affords momentary ecstasy and inner mental relief, but it does not give at-one-ment with the Divine or expand one's consciousness. As such, the term samadhi is only loosely applied to it, for it displays none of the central attributes of the super-conscious state, nor is it therefore of much help on the inner spiritual journey.
They ever remain in a state of eternal equipoise.
Yoga, as said elsewhere, means steadiness
of mind, born of chit-vriti-nirodha (nullification of mind or elimination
from the mind of all mental vibrations), and the term samadhi, comprising
the two Sanskrit roots sam and adhi, denotes acceptance,
absorption, steadiness in contemplation, or deep inward concentration.
Each individual comes into the world with a background of his own, which fits him for a particular type of yoga. He should therefore engage in such yogic practices as may be best suited to him. Samadhi Yoga is the highest form of yoga. Some children are naturally prone to it, and some persons can take to it directly without even going through the hard discipline usually enjoined for the general run of people. Its practice can, in such cases, be prescribed without any scruples to those ripe for it through past samskaras.
The mind gets vigyan or jnana in the plexus of the throat (Kanth Chakra), which is closely associated with the seat of consciousness in a waking state. The vigyan and the anand or consciousness of bliss dawns only in Sahasrar or Sahas-dal-Kanwal, the thousand-petaled lotus behind the two eyebrows and Samadhi Yoga aims at the realization of this state wherein one may consciously feel the inherent bliss of the soul. Samadhi then is the state of unalloyed bliss, which is the direct source of everything else: vigyan (jnana), manas (the mind stuff), pranas (the vital airs), and anna (the physical world of sense objects). Anand or bliss is the intrinsic and basic substratum of all that exists, and this is why there is an innate craving in all creatures for satiety, happiness and bliss. Not to speak of man, even the animals, the insects, and in fact all created beings, are ever in search of it in varying degrees and aspects, each according to its own nature. But its full significance or consciousness dawns only on man when in a state of samadhi. It is a gradual process of rising from one plane to another, until jnana is united with bliss at the level of samadhi and one consciously and fully realizes the blissful state. This is the sole end and aim of Samadhi Yoga.
The essential quality of bliss is the characteristic of the soul or atman. It is the veil of vigyan or jnana that covers their blissful condition. The moment this veil is removed and one rises above the higher level of the intellect (self-consciousness), one realizes true happiness and the blissful sea of the atman spreading in and around him to measureless depths and to immeasurable heights. All the intermediary four koshas: anna, prana, manas, and vigyan, are but wayside halts on the spiritual journey for working out step by step, the yogic sadhna to its full efflorescence or jnana, and provide nourishment to consciousness as it descends lower. But when it once becomes steady and contacts the spiritual bliss, it becomes aware of the true and highest values of life, ceases to interest itself in the passing and shadowy pleasures of the world, and seeks absorption in Absolute Bliss. This is the culminating point in the spiritual sadhna or practice and when it is achieved, there remains nothing else to be done. But the trouble with most of us is that we often come to regard jnana or gyan as the goal of all human endeavors and therefore do not attempt to pierce through its veil and go beyond into the consciousness of the self and taste of the blissful fountainhead of the soul that lies ahead. The result is that without contact with, and a foretaste of, the awareness of bliss, we become vachak gyanis or gyanis only in name, ever a prey to groundless fears and depressing states of mind, doubts and distress, which may assail us in the work-a-day life in the world. It is therefore rightly said that:
"A real jnani is one who communes with the Word."Vigyan is, after all, a state below that of anand or Real Bliss. As worshipers of the physical body remain entangled in the web of anna-mai kosha, those of the sensuous pleasures in the network of pran-mai kosha and the mind-ridden in the mano-mai kosha, so do many so-called jnanis or gyanis remain caught in the quagmire of vigyan-mai kosha, without realizing that there is still a stage beyond and above it, and of far greater importance. The four enshrouding sheaths are thick and heavy, folds within folds, and cover up the crest jewel of perfect bliss (anand). The great jeweller, God, has kept anand hidden in the innermost and enchanting casket of vigyan which, with its colorful witchery, keeps even the so-called jnani bound to body-consciousness.
3. Ashtang Yoga and Modern Man
This then is the long and the short
of the yoga system as originally propounded by Hiranyagarbha, and expounded
to the world by Gaudapada and Patanjali, the well-known philosophers and
thinkers. In these few pages, an attempt has been made to give a brief
account of the yoga philosophy as it has come down to us from the hoary
past, and which is still considered the keystone of the ancient wisdom
The yoga system is a discipline involving intense and solitary meditation coupled with physical exercises and postures to discipline and control the mind and the pranas, so as to make them run in a particular manner that may help in subduing the senses. As such, it is meant for the purification of the body and mind, and prepares the way for the beatific vision. Devotion to God or Ishwara also plays an important part in the yogic realization. The personal God of the yoga philosophy stands apart in the yoga system because the final goal for some of the yogins is the separation of atman from the mind and not union with God. This system, therefore, always works in the domain of dualism. Its principal aim is the separation of the layered jiva from the embodied state so as to become atman, freed from the conditioned state of mind and matter. Both the understanding will and the oscillating mind then stop their individual working and become stilled, thus liberating the soul to shine in its own true and native light.
The yogic exercises generally yield health, strength and longevity, and help to a certain extent in defying disease, decay and early death. One may also acquire psychic and supernatural powers by controlling Nature and Nature's laws. By the heightened power of the senses, the yogins can hear from and see at long distances, penetrate into the past and the present and even into the future, transmit thoughts and perform miracles.
Many modern scholars, more so those with Western modes of thought, have, when first confronted by yoga, tended to dismiss it as no more than an elaborate means of self-hypnotism. Such an attitude is quite unscientific even though it often parades under the garb of science. It is generally the result of prejudice born of ignorance or a superficial knowledge of the subject. It is natural for us to attempt to relegate to the realm of superstition, phenomena with which we are unfamiliar and which defy our habitual way of thought about life, for to study them, to understand them, to test and accept them, would require effort and perseverance of which most of us are incapable. It is not unlikely that some so-called yogins may justify the label of "self-hypnotists." But those few who genuinely merit the name of yogins are too humble to court publicity and have nothing about them to suggest the neurotic escapist. They invariably display a remarkably sensitive awareness to life in all its complexity ant variety, and this awareness coupled with their humility make: all talk of self-delusion quite inapt, irrelevant and even ridiculous. For, to seek the Unchanging behind the changing the Real behind the phenomenal, is certainly not to "hypnotize" oneself. If anything, it displays a spirit of enquiry that is exceptional in its honesty and integrity, that is content with nothing less than the absolute truth, and the kind of renunciation it demands is most difficult to practice. Hence it is, that as time passes, as knowledge is gradually undermining ignorance, the former philistinism is steadily wearing away. The new developments of the physical sciences have had no small share in furthering this process, for by revealing that everything in this physical universe is relative and that matter is not matter per se but ultimately a form of energy, it has confirmed, at the lower level of the yogic concept at least, the conception of the world inherent in the yogic system, giving it a scientific validity which was earlier doubted.
Nevertheless, even if one accepts the basis of Ashtang Yoga as it has come down to us from Patanjali, one must confess that it is far from easy to practice. Even Gaudapada admitted that to pursue it was like attempting to empty the sea drop by drop with the aid of a blade of grass. Hence it was that even when it was first developed it demanded a highly rigorous discipline of life, and the ideal of the four ashramas was the inevitable consequence. If one was to achieve anything substantial, one had to begin from infancy itself. The first twenty-five years of brahmcharya were to be utilized in the proper development of one's body and mind, in building up physical and spiritual health capable of withstanding life's rigors. The next twenty-five years, grehastya, were to be lived as a householder, as the head of a family, a prop to the old, a supporter to the wife, and a sound teacher to the children. Obligations to society performed, death drawing nearer, and life tasted to the full, one was free to seek its inner meaning and ripe for its understanding. And so, the succeeding twenty-five years were to be spent in vanprasth, in the solitude of mountain and forest, until through various sadhnas and strenuous meditation one had gained enlightenment. Now at last one was fit to be called a sanyasin and able to devote the last quarter of the century-span as envisaged in the perfect life, to the task of assisting one's fellow men in their search for spiritual freedom.
Even in olden days, the ideal of the four ashramas was not an easy one. Little wonder then that yoga was restricted to the chosen few and was not propagated as a course to be followed by the common people, continuing only as a mystery school whose torch was passed on from guru to chela (sadhak) in a restricted line. If anything, modern conditions have rendered its pursuit in this form even more difficult and well-nigh impossible. As life has become more complex and the various professions more specialized, men no longer find it possible to devote the first twenty-five years of their life solely to the cultivation of body and mind in preparation for the final quest. They must spend them in schools, colleges and institutes, which employ most of their resources in training them for a career. Nor, with the ever-growing population, is it feasible to expect one-fourth of the members of society--grehastis--to provide the means of physical sustenance for the remaining three-quarters, as was once perhaps possible.
As if this were not enough, the integrated eightfold yoga of Patanjali seems to have grown more specialized and complicated with the passage of time. Each of its branches has developed to a point where it almost seems a complete subject in itself. Little wonder then that man, practicing in their various details the various yamas and niyamas, or mastering the different asanas or learning to control the pranic or mansic (mental) energies, begins to imagine that his particular field of specialization is not, as Patanjali envisaged, just a rung in the ladder of the integrated yoga, but yoga itself. No doubt, he derives some benefit or other from whatever he practices, often acquiring uncanny psychic or physical powers; but these very gifts, by distracting his attention from the ultimate goal, become a positive hindrance to real progress instead of being aids to it. Only a very few men of exceptional physical endurance, long life and an extraordinary capacity for not forgetting the distant goal, can, in our time, pursue Patanjali's Ashtang Yoga to its logical conclusion, its highest purpose: at-one-ment with Brahman. For the rest, it must remain either too difficult to practice, or a process that, by encouraging them to mistake the intermediate for the final, the means for the end, defeats its own purpose.
If spirituality must entail a slow ascension through all the rungs of this intricate and involved ladder of yoga, then it cannot choose but remain a closed secret to mankind at large. If, however, it is to become a free gift of Nature like the sun, the air and the water, then it must make itself accessible through a technique which places it within the reach of all, the child no less than the adult, the weak no less than the strong, the householder no less than the sanyasin. It is of such a technique that Kabir and Nanak gave us hope and will be dealt with later.