Dhyana or Meditation
by Swami Sivananda
1. WHAT IS DHYANA
A continuous flow of perception (or thought) is Dhyana (meditation).
There is a continuous current in the mind of one object like the flow of water in a river (Pravaha). There is only one Vritti in the mind. It is Ekarupa-Vritti Pravaha. The meditation should be done at the appointed time daily. Then the meditative mood will come by itself without any effort. Sit also in the same place daily for meditation. Meditation on God must become habitual. First meditate on Lord Vishnu with all sorts of ornaments. Then meditate on Him without any ornament.
In the Isvara Gita you will find: Concentration lasts as long as 12 Pranayamas; Dhyana lasts as long as 12 concentrations; and Samadhi lasts as long as 12 such Dhyanas.
Various objects of contemplation and meditation are given in the Chapters Dharana and Samyama. And so, repetition is avoided here. Major portion of the exercises and definitions given in the Chapters Dharana, Samyama and Samadhi, belong to this Chapter on 'Dhyana.' As I expressed previously, these Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi cannot be separated. They form, as it were, one subject. The beginning portion of Dhyana is Dharana and the advanced portion is Samadhi. Since I have dealt with Dharana, Samyama and Samadhi in detail, now I will close this Chapter with a few more instructions on Dhyana.
2. INSTRUCTIONS ON DHYANA
I. Meditation is doubtless difficult. It will be very difficult, nay indeed impossible for a beginner to take to subtle meditation all at once. There must be graduated practices and the mind must be rendered very subtle for higher practices of concentration and meditation. Just as the archer first aims at gross things, target, etc., and then takes to subtle points, so also the student of Yoga should do gross concentration to start with and then take to subtle concentration practices. There must be a gradual ascent in the successive stages of Yoga. But, Yoga Brashtas like Jnana Deva, Sadasiva Brahman, Trailinga Swami and others can at once take to higher stages. Such persons are very, very rare indeed.
II. The object of meditation in the beginning must be Personal God, the body of Virat, or the four-armed Maha Vishnu, or the flute-bearer Lord Krishna or Rama or any other object. Later on, meditation can be practised on Impersonal God. In Savitarka meditation you will have a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the objects, their excellences and defects, all the features, present, past and future, and also those near and remote, even those unheard of or unthought of. The whole knowledge of the objects and elements will be revealed to you. The name Samapatti is given to the four experiences collectively, Savitarka, Savichara, Sananda and Asmita. Sasmita Samadhi culminates in Dharmamegha Samadhi. Then comes absolute dispassion for him. This brings him Asamprajnata Samadhi.
III. Why do you read many books? It is of no use. The great book is within your heart. Open the pages of this inexhaustible book, the Source for all knowledge. You will know everything. What is that knowledge of Brahman or the Source or Self? Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Merge deep in the Supreme Soul, the Light of lights, the Sun of suns. Complete knowledge will be revealed to you. You will have direct intuitional knowledge and divine wisdom by direct perception. All doubts will vanish now. All mental torments will disappear. All hot discussions, heated debates will terminate now. Peace and Jnana alone will remain.
IV. Forget the body. Forget the surroundings. Forget friends and relatives. Forgetting these is the highest Sadhana. It helps meditation a great deal. By remembering God you can forget all these things. Merge within by practising deep, silent meditation. Taste the spiritual consciousness by withdrawing the mind from the sensual objects and fixing it on the object of meditation. This will lead you to Samadhi, the highest goal of Yogis.
V. You will have to note carefully whether you remain stationary in the spiritual path even after many years of meditation or whether you are progressing. Sometimes you may even retrograde or fall downwards also if you are not vigilant and careful, if your Vairagya wanes and if you are slack in meditation. Reaction may set in. Some practise meditation for a period of 15 years and yet they have not made any spiritual progress. Why? This is due to the lack of earnestness, Vairagya, keen longing for liberation and intense constant Sadhana. Just as water leaks out into the rat holes in the agricultural fields, so also energy is wasted in wrong channels through Raga and undercurrents, lurking, subtle desires. Suppressed desires also will manifest and harass you. Unconsciously you will become a victim to those desires.
VI. When you advance in the spiritual practice, it will be very difficult for you to do both meditation and office work at the same time daily because the mind will undergo a double strain. It works in different grooves and channels with different Samskaras during Dhyana. It finds it difficult to adjust itself to different kinds of uncongenial activity, as soon as it comes down from a higher plane of sublime thinking. The mind has to move in diametrically opposite direction. It gropes in the darkness. It gets bewildered, confused and puzzled. You might have noticed how the mind gets puzzled even in ordinary daily affairs of life when you go to a new place in matters of food, bath, rest and answering the calls of nature.
VII. When you again sit for meditation in the evening you will have to struggle hard to wipe out the new worldly Samskaras you have gathered during the course of the day, and to get a calm, one-pointed mind again. This struggle, sometimes, brings on headache. The Prana which moves inwards in different grooves and channels and which is subtle during meditation has to move now in new different channels during worldly activities. It becomes very gross during work. During meditation the Prana is taken up to the head.
VIII. It would seem, therefore, that advanced Grihastha Yogic students will have to stop all worldly activities for some time as they advance in meditation, if they desire to advance further. They themselves will be forced to give up all works if they are really sincere. Work is a hindrance in meditation for advanced Yogic students. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in the Gita: For a sage who is seeking Yoga, action is called the means, for the same sage when he is enthroned in Yoga serenity is called the means. Then work and meditation become incompatibles like acid and alkalis or fire and water or light and darkness.