What is Meditation, Again?
Nowadays, quite often, we hear and learn about meditation in every walk of life. In earlier times, only spiritually-minded people spoke and preached about meditation. But today, all international companies ask their employees to undergo a meditation course to overcome stress. Even doctors, when approached for consultation, advise that our blood pressure, heartbeat and all else would come under control if we meditate! So the term ‘meditation’ is now very popular among people all over the world. This is the proper time to explain what is meant by real meditation. How to do it? What is its purpose? What benefit can we earn from it?
Meditation is nothing but attention or concentration. Everything has its own nature. So what is the nature of the human mind? We should first know that.
The nature of the human mind is to oscillate. It is continuously oscillating. It takes hold of one subject and no sooner does it take hold of it than it drops that one and catches hold of another subject. This is again dropped only to take hold of a third topic, and so on. That is the first characteristic of the human mind.
Next, the mind is always thinking of what to eat, what to do, etc.
The mind is self-centered. It desires comforts. It wants to satisfy all the senses. It acts through the senses; so the main work of the mind is to simply satisfy the senses. It moves outwards. When it works like this, it will never turn inwards or try to see its own origin, or consider profound questions such as, “Where does this thought arise from?” or “Who am I?” It never conducts an enquiry about itself but does so about all other matters and people! That is another inherent nature of the mind.
When we want to control anybody or anything, we should first understand the nature of the person or thing. Only then is it possible for us to plan how to bring the person or thing under our control. Therefore, if you want to control the mind it is indeed necessary to understand its nature. Only then can we do something about it.
Now we know clearly that the mind will never, on its own accord, try to see the Self – the origin. It is always oscillating and always obeying the senses and trying to satisfy them. Therefore, the first step is to necessarily stop its oscillation. The way to stop a swinging pendulum is to tie an extremely heavyweight to its bottom, which will make it slowly come to rest and remain still. Else it will continue to swing. So too, you have to give a heavy object to the oscillating mind to make it still. The object given to the mind should be very strong; only then will the mind hold it.
What is the strongest object that can be given to the mind? It is the initiation from the Guru! Why do we take initiation from a Master? – because that Master has already controlled the mind: his mind is still and he knows how to bring others’ minds under control.
Thus when the Master initiates you into the eternal Name, it comes from the Master like fire and the mind will try to catch hold of it. If you practice chanting the Name incessantly, without any gap (without an interval between the chant of one Nama and the next), it will lead to the stillness of the mind. Here you should remember that this is not a day’s or a month’s job. It will take time. Let it take time. It does not matter. But definitely one day you will succeed.
Even at the time of practice, you will experience clarity of mind. You will experience inner excellence. It will be possible for you to comprehend the transformation taking place within you. You will feel the difference in everything in your life – in eating, in talking, sleeping, the way you perceive the world, your interaction, in facing happenings in your life, in your day to day life, etc. So gradually, you will find a positive transformation taking place within.
We cannot sit for meditation in a hurry or in an agitated state. Suppose someone locks you up in a room against your wishes and says the door will be opened only after two hours. You know for sure that you are stuck in the room for two hours and there is no escape before that. When all your efforts to get out of the room fail, what do you do? You search for a book to read, or if there is television you switch it on and watch, or if music is available you listen to the music, or if there is something to eat there you begin to eat. If nothing is available there, you go to sleep, don’t you?
Likewise, if you sit down and give a command to your mind, “I will not move from this posture and out of meditation for at least an hour,” what happens? The mind makes all efforts to move out. It starts saying, “Get up! Get up!” But when you do not respond, the mind keeps trying to do something as it is its habit to be constantly engaged in something. That is the nature of the mind. So at that time if you start chanting the Mahamantra, the Name, the mind will quietly obey. The mantra will help you sit in that position for quite a long time.
You may ask, “Swamiji, I wish to control my mind. To do this you advise catching hold of the Mahamantra or some Divine Name. But instead, why can’t I concentrate on a tree, a table or a chair? Why should I concentrate on an eternal Name or Form?”
You are right in asking this question. People who wish to hypnotize or mesmerize others or increase their mind power would concentrate on a mirror or a light or a black point, etc. By this, your mental strength will increase but it will not lead you to divinity, to Godliness.
Let me give you an example. In India, people recklessly stick posters on the compound walls (outdoor fences) of other people’s homes. When the owner of the house finds such posters on his wall, he naturally gets annoyed. Wishing to keep it clean, what does he do? He sticks a notice on the compound wall that says “Stick no bills” (“Do not stick posters”).
Thus to stop notices from being pasted on his compound walls, it is necessary to stick a notice! Likewise, to stop unnecessary thoughts it is necessary to have a thought that will protect you from unwanted thoughts. If you think of a chair or a tree or a table it will not protect you from unwanted thoughts. But the Divine Name, the eternal Name will prevent unnecessary thoughts from entering your mind. It will erase vasanas (latent impressions) which are the source of thoughts.
Hence meditating by constantly chanting the Divine Name is real meditation.
Excerpted from a webcast by HH Maharanyam Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji to devotees in Australia in July 2007
Illustration: Lalitha Venkattraman, Richmond VA
Click here to read another article on a similar subject that was published in Dec 2018, titled – What is Real Meditation?