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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How does present day meditation that's taught differ from ancient meditation taught thousands of years ago in India?

How does present day meditation that's taught differ from ancient meditation taught thousands of years ago in India?

Swami Nikhilanand, disciple of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj and sanyasi pracharak of his mission, Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat -

Although there are an abundance of different styles of meditation, yet it is unlikely that there is any meditation being taught today which did not have its roots in ancient India. Someone may add their own personal twist to give a different flavor to any particular form of meditation, but the main categories of meditation remain the same as they have always been. The reason is that our mind has two main facets: the intellectual mind and the emotional mind. These are two facets of the same mind. Thus, there are two main categories into which all forms of meditation are divided: intellectual and emotional. Intellectual meditation is done from the brain area; the activity of the mind is focused in the 'head' or 'brain' of the meditator. Emotional meditation is done from the heart area; the activity of the mind is focused in the 'heart' of the meditator.

These two main categories can be further subdivided into more specific kinds of meditation. Intellectual meditation is mainly of three kinds: 1) non-dual meditation (gyan); 2) psychic elevation techniques (includes psychic relaxation techniques, psychic refinement techniques, psychic strengthening exercises, psychic concentration techniques, and psychic unity with a spirit or a celestial being); and 3) yogic techniques (includes hath yog, kundalini yog, raj yog, and seeing the inner light and listening to the inner musical sound). Emotional meditation is divided into two main categories: 1) loving remembrance of the world; and 2) loving remembrance of God. Loving remembrance of anything requires a form to meditate on, because no one can love a formless energy. So emotional meditation on the world means loving remembrance of any worldly person or thing; and emotional meditation on God means the loving remembrance of the personal form of God. Emotional meditation on the personal form of God is further subdivided into those who remember God with any worldly desire that they wish to fulfill, and those who remember God without any worldly desire. Both of these are further subdivided according to the particular form of God upon which the person is meditating.

To understand how intellectual and emotional meditation affect the mind, we have to understand that the mind is a very subtle material energy. It is not the brain, because the brain is just a physical organ of the body. The mind is much more subtle than the brain or even any electrical transmission between neurons. The mind is so subtle that it cannot be studied or detected with material science, because science can only study the electrical impulses of the brain. So although the mind functions through the organ of the physical brain, yet it is more subtle than the brain. When our soul leaves our body and goes to another body (reincarnates), the mind goes with it. The brain, of course, stays behind with the body, but the soul and mind together go to the next birth. All the characteristics of a person's personality are preserved in the mind and transferred along with the mind to his next life, although the individual memories of his past lives are not accessible to his conscious mind. Another amazing fact about our mind is that it is never static. The mind always remains active, and as long as it is active, it is having thoughts. All of our thoughts are categorized according to their quality (good, bad or neutral in intention). If we think of the mind as a cloth which can be made clean or dirty, then we can understand how the mind can accumulate impurities and also be made clean. The mind preserves an imprint of every thought in a subtle form called a sanskar. Bad thoughts create bad sanskars and add impurity to the mind. Good thoughts create good sanskars and purify the mind somewhat. Neutral thoughts (like, "I'm hungry. I should eat something.") neither purify the mind or make it impure. A thought is considered 'bad' if it has an emotional charge to it and is motivated by a bad intention (like, "I don't like that co-worker. I'd like it if they got fired."). A thought is considered 'good' if it has a good motivation behind it (like, "That person was rude to me, but I'm not going to retaliate, because that will only make the situation worse."). In this way, with every thought, our mind is moving along the spectrum of purity/impurity, and either becoming more pure or more impure. Now let's see what kind of 'thought' meditation is.

Intellectual meditation is a neutral thought, because it is done without any emotional charge and the motivation behind it is neither to harm another, nor to help another; so it is neutral. So when the mind is being 'intellectual', it is in a neutral state, where it is neither becoming more pure nor impure. However, emotional meditation can be considered either good, bad or neutral, depending on the object of meditation and on the motivation of the meditator. When the mind is emotionally remembering any person or thing, then the mind has an 'adoptive' quality. It means that the mind is affected by the qualities of the person or thing which it emotionally remembers. In other words, the mind takes on, or adopts, the qualities of whatever it emotionally remembers. If a person is lovingly remembering another person, then they will slowly and gradually begin to adopt the qualities of that person's mind into their mind. This even happens with pets, which can be observed when the pet owner's mannerisms sometimes begin to reflect the personality of his pet. We do not usually think of lovingly remembering the world as being a form of meditation, but in fact it is. We all do it so naturally that we don't think it could be meditation, but in fact deeply remembering anything is meditation. And whatever we deeply remember enters into our heart and stays there (for better or for worse). Thus, we are naturally meditating throughout the day on whatever we are emotionally attached to, and our mind becomes more pure or impure according to the quality of the object of remembrance. This emotional meditation can be taken to another level entirely when the object of meditation is God.

Meditating emotionally on God, or lovingly remembering a personal form of God, has a powerful purifying effect on the mind. Two of God's qualities are that He is omnipresent and He is Divine (He is better than 'good', or 'pure'. He is ultimate good and absolute purity). Since He is omnipresent, the moment you think of Him, there is an instant connection between Him and your mind; and since He is Divine, when that connection is made, you begin to adopt His Divine qualities into your mind. This is the fastest way to purify the mind, even faster than through normal good thoughts. Please note that just saying, "I love God" will not purify your mind. You have to actually lovingly remember Him in His personal form, only then will your mind be purified. Also keep in mind that meditating on God and asking Him to fulfill a worldly desire means that your mind is attached to the world, not to God, so it will not have a purifying effect. If one desires the full effect of emotional meditation on God, then they should lovingly remember God without any worldly demand, only with a desire to attain Him. As mentioned above, this type of meditation is further subdivided according to the form of God upon which a person chooses to meditate. When a person's mind is fully purified, then that person can attain the Divine vision of that specific form of God upon Whom he was meditating. This Divine attainment is not the outcome of one's meditation alone, because the process also requires surrendering to that form of God to receive His Grace. The Grace reveals the Divine vision of God, whereas the emotional meditation on God purified the mind and made it a fit receptacle to receive the power of Grace (called kripa shakti in Sanskrit).

Thus, we see that while intellectual meditation can improve certain abilities or powers of the mind, and can also give certain psychic experiences, it cannot change the inherent quality of the mind; it cannot affect the purity of the mind. Emotional meditation has the power to change the quality of a person's mind, and if the object of meditation is God Himself, then the mind purifies very quickly and the ultimate result can be God realization. This process of emotional meditation on God is also called bhakti or bhakti yog, which has been practiced in India for more than thousands of years. The intellectual techniques described above all fall under the general titles of yog or gyan, which have also been practiced in India for more than thousands of years. Thus, we see that the ways of meditation being taught around the globe today are all related to the techniques that were being practiced in ancient India thousands of years ago.

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