Devi Linda Gumahin: Swamiji, what is the purpose of meditation?
Swami Nirliptananda: Meditation is very important. It has a very high objective – to take us away from this world of suffering into the world of happiness, joy and Bliss.
It is a method, a discipline, that we have to follow very discreetly and if we follow it properly we will find that meditation helps us to discover ourselves, what we really are. As we get deeper into meditation we come nearer the Source of our Being.
We think that we are the physical body, the senses, the intellect, but when we analyse this carefully we will find that all these things have their limitations. Through such analysis we tend to come to the conclusion that there is something more profound within us which we do not know, and as we get deeper and deeper into meditation, we come nearer and nearer to that Source of our Being.
So, meditation really is that which leads us from this world of suffering into the world of joy. This distraction that we find in the world is due to the senses – they are all attractions of the senses, sense objects, and we tend to realize that the pleasure that we get out of these things is what we call happiness, but these pleasures are all temporary and they make us no better than what we are.
On the contrary, these little bits of pleasure that we get out of material things divert our attention from the real Source of pure happiness and joy. Only through the practice of meditation are we able to tap that Source of our inner Being. These distractions are there and when we get away from them we come to the Source of meditation.
In the Hindu philosophy, this Source is referred to as Sat-Chit-Ananda – absolute Consciousness, absolute Existence, absolute Bliss. These are the three characteristics of the Source of happiness and inner Being – what we really are. But when we come into this world our mind becomes so much obsessed with the material world and conditioned by the material vibrations that we tend to think we can analyse with our senses what we can see and hear, and that these are the only reality. But we will find that all these things change, that all these things are impermanent, and when we look at them carefully we find that they do not have the characteristics of happiness, because they are all inanimate objects and, therefore, cannot be the Source of happiness.
It is through such analysis that we tend to be drawn to find out how we can get to that Source of meditation. When we practise meditation for a certain period of time we tend – very gradually – to realize that Source, because our mind – rather than becoming attracted to the world – becomes detached from the world. As a result of this detachment and training in meditation, our mind begins to get deeper and deeper into a purer state of consciousness. As we get deeper into that we tend to realize peace and happiness and there is also a feeling of joy, of liberation. This liberation is what we are all searching for, this happiness and peace which the material world cannot give us.
When we sit quietly and calmly for meditation we will gradually find that the mind becomes settled, and we begin to sense peace within us. In other words, it is a Self-discovery, the discovery of who we really are – not the physical body but Sat-Chit-Ananda.
DLG: Is there any specific time to do the meditation?
SN: Unless we have a fixed time for meditation we cannot develop the discipline to meditate. A fixed time will help us get into a different frame of mind, a type of discipline that we become conscious of. Meditation is particularly important in the morning. We do not realize how the mind becomes conditioned during the period from 4am onwards. It is that time of the night when we are neither fully awake nor fully asleep when the mind becomes very vulnerable to things we experienced the day before, or perhaps we never experienced at all. But these negative vibrations are there and the mind tends to pick them up and they enter the dream state. By the time we wake up, our mind is already conditioned by these negative vibrations, and so it becomes very difficult to meditate because with a mind charged with such vibrations it is difficult to concentrate on something else.
Getting up early means that we get up with a fresh, clear, free mind. Then we are able to fill the mind with positive vibrations, positive thoughts, and through this we will find that the mind gets nourished by this positive thinking, gets strengthened by it, and it helps to keep the mind steady. Therefore, early morning mediation is very important. At 4 o’clock in the morning, before getting up, we can sit for one, two or three hours in meditation.
DLG: What is the time limit for the beginner?
SN: Beginners can meditate for 30 minutes; that is good enough. However, to meditate for only 10 to 15 minutes cannot be too helpful for meditation because by the time the mind starts to settle down we are about to get up. Then we have not given the mind enough time to settle down. Unless we give the mind enough time we cannot get the experience that is necessary in meditation. So, a specific time is very important.
Before we go to bed, the last thing we should do is, again, to meditate and to sit calmly, quietly and peacefully and allow ourselves to be absorbed in God. By so doing we will find that the mind becomes relaxed, and when we go to sleep in a relaxed state, charged with positive vibrations, our whole being becomes saturated by that vibration during sleep. When we get up the next morning we get up with a pure, fresh mind and we will be able to sit better, to meditate more comfortably, and we are not meditating with a mind that is charged negatively, with tendencies in the mind that are distracting, which we have to fight. By getting up early in the morning and meditating before we go to bed at night we will find that our whole being gradually becomes saturated by the spiritual vibrations of meditation. But this does not mean we can rest for the rest of the day; even during the rest of the time we should be self-conscious, we should be aware about the negativity coming into our mind. We should always think about positive, creative things. If we can do so, the mind is protected.
A mantra helps to protect the mind as well. If we repeat a mantra and concentrate on its sound and vibrations we will find that nothing else will get a chance to enter the mind while we are repeating it. When we chant the mantra OM, we can sound it loud when we are alone – we will find that this is very helpful. However, after a few times it must become a mental process. Then the mantra will start to come from within us, from our inner Self. Our mind will become contemplative on that sound and through that we will become withdrawn from the world. In this way the mind becomes purified.
So, during the morning and evening we sit for meditation at fixed times and we must be self-conscious for the rest of the day. If we keep a watch or clock in front of us and we time ourselves to meditate a bit longer, not getting up as soon as we feel a little uncomfortable, we could increase the time progressively and, very gradually, we will be able to sit more comfortably. That will help us, no doubt, as we go along. It is very important to increase the time as we go along. When we feel too uncomfortable, we could get up and walk a little, stretching our legs. Then we can sit for meditation once more and we will find that in this way our meditation period will develop; we will be able to sit longer. Some people do not have much time, but since meditation is such an important thing we should find time for it, because it is only through meditation that we will find joy in life. There are temptations which keep us very busy, but they do not bring peace, happiness or joy, so we must find time for meditation.
DLG: Can you, please, explain the proper method?
SN: It is best to meditate while sitting in a particular posture, which means to sit comfortably. We tend to think that a cushion will be comfortable, but sometimes it may be very uncomfortable to sit on, especially when it is soft – it tends to tilt us in a particular direction. It is best to sit upright. One could have a folded blanket to sit on. It is not necessary to sit cross-legged, with one leg on top of the other, but to sit in a comfortable upright position. Then we sit calmly, quietly and stable, with the body still, without twisting and turning any part of the body, and we make sure that we remain in that position for at least 15 minutes. If we can do that – being conscious of sitting in that posture – we will find that there is an inner development, an inner strength, an inner power, gradually developing within us.
Because when we sit for meditation with self-determination, with the body fixed in a particular posture, and we maintain that posture without shaking a limb, being conscious of it, that consciousness we apply and are aware of helps to develop that inner strength. When that is developed within us, we will be able to sit for longer periods in a relaxed state. Once we get our posture right, it is recommended to do some pranayam – control of the breath for there is a connection between our rhythm of breathing and our mind.
While maintaining an upright posture, we breathe into the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed with a finger, and we breathe out through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed with a finger. Then we breathe into the right nostril and out through the left side. And we continue like this: into the left, out through the right; into the right, out through the left. We do the breathing in counts, breathing in for four counts, taking a good deep breath, and we retain the breath for 16 counts while keeping both nostrils closed, and we exhale, very slowly, for eight counts. Doing both sides is one round and we do it for five rounds. As we go along, we can increase the time, but we have to be careful not to overdo it. As we go on doing that, we will find that our mind gradually becomes harmonized.
After the pranayam, we wait for a few minutes before we start with the relaxation exercise. Then, we first of all relax our left foot, beginning with the big toe; then we relax the other toes one by one, the top of the foot, the sole, the ankle, then all the muscles up to the knee. We relax very slowly all the tensions that are there. And so we work our way up to the hip. Then we relax the right leg in a similar fashion, then the abdomen, navel, chest, shoulders, neck, left hand starting with the fingers, the back of the hand, the wrist, from the wrist up to the shoulder, and then the right arm likewise. Then we relax the whole body up to the neck, and we relax the chin, the lips, the nose and around it, the cheeks, around the eyes, the forehead, and the top of the head. We relax the lower part of the spine up to the sides of the back, up to the back of our neck and head, and then the top of our head again. We relax the whole body and look at it as a glow of light with pure vibrations while we maintain the consciousness, the concentration of relaxation all the time; we relax whatever tension is there.
In this way, maintaining an awareness of relaxation without shaking any limbs, we sit in meditation. Then we can repeat our mantra and it is most important to try and maintain the state of relaxation. The combination of the two will help to detach from the world and, ultimately, to detach from our body as well. When we repeat our mantra, consciousness develops and from that consciousness meditation comes. Meditation happens when we are not attached to the world nor to the body. Then we can fix our mind for meditation. The mind itself becomes meditative. Then the mind no longer functions at the physical level, but at a higher state of consciousness, a pure state of consciousness and we begin to sense the pure vibrations, joy, freedom and peace. Once we can be absorbed, we can be in that state for a long time. When we finish we stay for another five to 10 minutes, and allow the pure vibrations to come into every aspect of our being – then we should observe silence to keep in that state of consciousness of meditation while we are doing our work and other things. In this way we will find that meditation becomes something that lives with us, remains with us, and that when we go out our mind does not become distracted by the world. Om Tat Sat Hari Om.
The Purpose Of Meditation Reprinted with the kind permission of Share International Magazine.
Authors Details: Devi Linda Gumahin interviews Swami Nirliptananda
Swami Nirlipananda is a senior Swami in one of the temples of the Asian community in London, deeply acquainted with the teachings of Maitreya.