1. In all man’s struggles and attempts at achieving any desired end, there is in reality no necessity at all for him to go in quest of external forces to aid him. Man contains within himself vast resources, inherent power, lying untapped or else only partially made use of.
2. It is because he has allowed his faculties to get scattered on a hundred different things that he fails to achieve anything great despite his inherent potentialities. If he intelligently regulates and applies them, quick and concrete results will accrue.
3. To learn to rationally and effectively use the existing forces, man need not wait for any striking new methods, etc., to be invented, to guide him. Since the dawn of creation, nature herself abounds in instructive examples and lessons to aid man in every walk of his life. Observation will tell us that every force in nature, when allowed to flow loosely over a wide area, moves slowly and with comparatively less power than it would do if gathered together in one mass and directed through a single restricted outlet.
4. This gathering together of the scattered rays and bringing this force to bear upon a given point,-any object, idea or action – forms the process.
5. As examples of the power generated by a concentration of force are cited (1) the sluggish and leisurely flow of a river, damned and accumulated, rushes out with an amazing force through the sluice, (2) the phenomenon of ton-loads of cargo in heavy wagons being hauled or propelled by the power of steam concentrated in the boiler of the engine, (3) the most common domestic sight, the clattering and displacement of the covering lid of a cauldron when the latter commences to boil very much, (4) the normally warm sun-rays become suddenly so hot as to burn up objects when centralised and brought into focus through the lens. And the simple and commonest of action, where one unconsciously uses this principle, is noticed when a man wishing to hail another a good distance away, automatically cups his palms and shouts through them.
6. This law is equally applicable to man in all branches of his life’s activities. With the utmost concentrated and careful attention, the surgeon executes minute operations. The deepest absorption marks the state of the technician, the engineer, architect or the expert painter, engaged in drawing the minute details of a plan, chart or sketch, where accuracy is of paramount importance. A like concentration is displayed by the skilled Swiss workmen that fashion the delicate parts of watches and other scientific instruments.Thus in every art and science.
7. This is specially so in the spiritual line where the aspirant has to deal with forces internal. The powers of the mind are always scattered and resist attempts at concentration. This oscillatory tendency is an innate characteristic of the mind-stuff. Of the various methods employed to curtail and arrest this tossing of the mind, those using the medium of sound and sight, stand prominent, because these two have a peculiar knack of catching the attention of and stilling the mind. It is seen how a hypnotist gently subdues the mind of the ’subject’ by making the latter gaze steadily into his (the hypnotist’s) eyes and listen to the monotonous repetition of his steady, deliberate suggestions. We have still another clue to this when we note the mother gently croons the little child into slumber. Also the school masters sharp, ”Now then, boys look here,” whenever he desires them to pay special attention to what he is saying, is significant. He feels that by getting them to fix their gaze on him, he will draw the attention of their minds as well to his teaching.
Therefore in the course of spiritual discipline too, the methods of developing concentration take the form of gazing steadily at a dot, or at the symbol of the Pranava, or the Mantra or the figure of the favourite chosen deity. With some others it is done by the audible repetition of the Mantra or the Lord’s name, or OM, or some select Kirtan tunes with regular rhythm and intonation. By these means the mind gradually gets indrawn and focussed. As this state deepens, the person slowly loses awareness of his surroundings. The concentration, when continued, leads to the state of Dhyana or meditation, when the practitioner tends to forget even that physical frame. Meditation, when persisted in and perfected, brings about the experience of superconsciousness or Samadhi, the ultimate state of Self-awareness or Realisation.
Excerpts from “Concentration and Meditation” by Sri Swami Sivananda
Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses from their respective objects. It is the abstraction of the senses. Real, spiritual or inner life begins when the Yogic student is established in Pratyahara.
Pratyahara checks the outgoing tendencies of the senses. The practice demands considerable patience and perseverance. It is a trying discipline of the senses. If you can disconnect the mind from the senses, there will be abstraction of the senses automatically. Control of the senses is absolute one-pointedness of the mind.
HOW TO PRACTISE PRATYAHARA
Just as a turbulent storm tosses a ship, so also the hidden desires toss the roving senses and the mind vehemently. Therefore, beware! Be on the alert. Be eternally vigilant. Annihilate all desires with the sword of dispassion and the axe of discrimination. This is the true secret of self-restraint. If you have intense dispassion, you can practise Pratyahara easily. Dispassion is the enemy of the senses and the friend of Pratyahara. Discrimination between the Real and the unreal helps a great deal in attaining success in Pratyahara.
No amount of human effort alone can give perfect success. Therefore, persevere and pray. Divine Grace is needed.
Pratyahara becomes easy after the practice of Pranayama. Pratyahara follows the practice of Pranayama automatically. Practice of Pranayama thins out the senses and prepares the Yogic student for the practice of Pratyahara.
Observance of silence, moderation in diet, steadiness in pose, dispassion, regularity in the practice of Pranayama, patience, contentment, perseverance, tenacity, celibacy, seclusion, are all aids to Pratyahara.
Withdraw the mind, the Prana and the senses. This is triple withdrawal. This is very powerful.
Success in Pratyahara depends upon the strength and force of past Yogic impressions. He who has practised Pranayama and Pratyahara in his previous birth to some extent will have success in Pratyahara within a short time in this birth.
He who is well-established in Pratyahara can meditate calmly even in a noisy place. Pratyahara develops will-power and inner spiritual strength. Nothing can distract the mind of one who is established in Pratyahara.
He who is eflicient in Pratyahara can enter into deep sleep the moment he lies down on his bed. Napoleon and Gandhiji could do this.
OBSTACLES TO PRATYAHARA
Unsteady Asana, too much talking, too much mixing with worldly people, too much activity, too much food, too much walking, too much curiosity in other people’s affairs, are all obstacles in the practice of Pratyahara.
If dispassion wanes and if there is slackness in the practice, the senses become turbulent.
A Bhakta or a devotee does not practise Pratyahara. He beholds his Lord in all objects.
A Jnana Yogi also does not practise Pratyahara. He tries to identify himself with the hidden Self in all objects by negating the names and forms.
A Raja Yogi alone practises Pratyahara deliberately.
That Yogic student who jumps at once to the practice of meditation without Pratyahara will not have success in meditation.
It is diffrcult to say where Pratyahara ends and Dharana or concentration begins.
SIXTH STEP – DHARANA (CONCENTRATION)
Dharana is fixing the mind on an external object or an intemal point. Concentration is purely a mental process. It needs an inward turning of the mind.
Concentration is fixing the mind; meditation is allowing one idea to flow continuously. A serene mind is fit for concentration. Keep the mind serene.
Celibacy, Pranayama, reduction of wants and activities, dispassion, silence, seclusion, discipline of the senses, Japa, control of anger, giving up reading novels, newspapers and visiting cinemas, are all aids to concentration. Give up TV watching.
Japa (recitation of Lord’s Name) and Kirtan (singing of Lord’s Name and His Glory) will develop concentration.
HOW TO CONCENTRATE
Do not leave the practice even for a day. It is very difficult to rise up again. Devotees concentrate on the heart, Raja Yogins on Trikuti (the seat of mind), Vedantins on Sahasrara or top of the head. Trikuti is the space between the eyebrows. You can also concentrate on the tip ofthe nose, the navel, or the Muladhara (below the last vertebra of the spinal column.
Concentration on the moon is beneficial to those of emotional temperament. Concentration on candle flame will give vision of Rishis and Devatas.
Concentrate on divine qualities such as love, mercy, compassion, or any other abstract idea such as infinity, omnipotence and omnipresence of the Lord, etc.
You can concentrate on the breath in your nostrils (Soham sound). There is ‘Soldering inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation.
Do not concentrate when the mind is tired. Do not wrestle with the mind when you concentrate. When irrelevant thoughts enter the mind, be indifferent. They will pass away. Do not drive them forcibly. They will persist and resist. It will tax your will. But substitute with divine thoughts. Evil thoughts will gradually fade out.
Be slow and steady in the practice of concentration. Apply some Brahmi-Amla oil to the head if there is much heat. Take butter and sugarcandy. This will cool the system.
If you want to succeed in any walk of life, you must develop concentration. It is a source of spiritual strength. It is the master-key for opening the chamber of knowledge.
SEVENTH STEP – DHYANA (MEDITATION)
Meditation is an unbroken flow of knowledge of the object on which one meditates.
Meditation follows concentration. Concentration merges in meditation.
Concentration, meditation and Sarah (superconsciousness) are internal Sadhanas. When you practise concentration, meditation and Samadhi at a time, it is called Samyama.
Meditation is freeing the mind from all thoughts of sense-objects. The mind dwells on God alone during meditation.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
If you meditate for half an hour daily, you will be able to face the battle of life with peace and spiritual strength. Meditation kills all pain, suffering and sorrow.
Meditation is the most powerful mental and nervine tonic. Meditation opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss. During meditation the mind becomes calm, serene and steady. One idea occupies the mind.
Deep meditation cannot come in a day or a week or a month. You will have to struggle hard for along time. Be patient. Be persevering. Be vigilant. Be diligent.
All doubts will be gradually cleared through meditation.
HOW TO MEDITATE?
Meditate regularly in the early morning between 4 and 6 a.m. Have a separate meditation room, or convert by means of screens a corner of a room into a meditation chamber.
Use your commonsense throughout your Sadhana. Do not go to extremes. Stick to the golden medium or the middle path.
Meditate in the beginning on a concrete Form such as the image of your Ishta Devata, Lord Jesus, or Lord Buddha. This is Saguna meditation, or meditation on the form of the Lord with attributes. Think of His attributes such as omnipotence, perfection, purity, freedom, when you meditate on His form. Rotate your mind on His form from head to foot or from foot to head.
You can also recite Om while meditating. The short-accented Om burns all sins, the long accented gives Moksha, and the elongated bestows all psychic powers (Siddhis). He who chants and meditates upon this monosyllable (Om), meditates upon and chants all the scriptures of the world.
Meditate on the effulgence in the sun, or the splendour in the moon, or the glory in the stars. Meditate on the magnificence of the ocean and its infinite nature. Then compare the ocean to the infinite Brahman, and the waves, foams and icebergs to the various names and forms of the world. Identify yourself with the ocean. Become silent. Expand.
Gaze steadily on the formless air. Concentrate on the air. Meditate on the all-pervading nature of the air. Watch the flow of breath. You will hear the sound ‘Soham,’ ‘So’ during inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation. Soham means “I am He.” The breath is reminding you of your identity with the Supreme Soul.
EXPERIENCES IN MEDITATION
The feeling of rising up during meditation is a sign that you are going above body-consciousness.
When you practise concentration and meditation, you are bound to get various powers and Siddhis. Do not use these powers for gaining some material end. Do not misuse the powers. You will get a hopeless downfall.
There is really no such thing as a miracle. When you know the cause, the miracle becomes an ordinary event. During meditation you will get rapture, ecstasy, thrill.
A flash is a glimpse of truth. It is Ritambara Prajna. This is not the whole experience. This is not the highest experience. Reach the Bhuma or the Infinite. This is the acme or the final stage. You have reached the final destination. Meditation stops here.
You will hear various sorts of Anahata sounds. You will see brilliant lights in the space between the eyebrows. Sometimes you will behold coloured lights: green, blue, red, etc. They are due to the presence of different Tattvas at a particular time.
Sometimes you will have vision of Rishis, sages, tutelary deity, Nitya Siddhas, astral entities, landscape, mountains, blue sky, beautiful lardens. Sometimes you may float in the air. Your Astral body may get detached from the physical body. You will move about in the astral world. You may go to Brahma Loka, the realm of Brahma or Hiranyagarbha.
Those who have entered the first degree of meditation will have a light body, sweetness of voice, beautiful complexion, clarity of mind and scanty urine and defaecation.
OBSTACLES IN MEDITATION
The chief obstacles in meditation are: – Laya (sleep), – Vikshepa (tossing of mind), – the rising up of latent desires, – lack of Brahmacharya, – spiritual pride, – laziness, – disease.
Other obstacles: company of worldly people, overwork, over-eating, self-assertive Rajasic nature.
Conquer sleep through Pranayama, Asanas and light diet. Remove Vikshepa through Pranayama, Japa, Upasana, Trataka, etc. Destroy desires through dispassion, discrimination, study of books which treat of dispassion, enquiry, etc.
Shun the company of worldly persons who always talk on sexual matters, money and worldly things. Observe moderation in diet. Obey the laws of health and hygiene.
Excerpts from “FOURTEEN LESSONS ON RAJA YOGA” by Sri Swami Sivananda
Om. I bow with folded hands to Lord Siva, Who is the lord of the universe (Jagat-Pati), world’s teacher (Jagad-Guru), Who is the destroyer of Tripuras (3 cities – egoism, lust and anger), Who is the Lord of Uma (Uma Sankar), Gauri (Gauri Sankar), Ganga (Ganga Sankar), who is full of light (Jyotirmaya), knowledge and bliss (Chidananda Maya), Who is the Lord of Yogins (Yogeesvara), Who is the storehouse of knowledge and Who is known by the various names as Mahadeva, Sankara, Hara, Sambhu, Sadasiva, Rudra, Soolapani, Bhairava, Uma- Mahesvara, Neelakantha, Trilochana or Tryambaka (the three-eyed), Visvanatha, Chandrasekhara, Ardhanareesvara, Mahesvara, Neelalohita, Parama Siva, Digambara, Dakshinamurti, etc. How merciful He is! How loving and kind He is! He even wears the skulls of His devotees as a garland around His neck. He is an embodiment of renunciation, mercy, love and wisdom. It is a mistake to say that He is the destroyer. Lord Siva in reality is the regenerator. Whenever one’s physical body becomes unfit for further evolution in this birth either by disease, old age or other causes, He at once removes this rotten physical sheath and gives a new, healthy, vigorous body for further quick evolution. He wants to take all His children to His Lotus Feet quickly. He desires to give them His glorious “Siva-Pada”. It is easier to please Siva than Hari. A little Prem and devotion, a little chanting of His Panchakshra is quite sufficient to infuse delight in Siva.
Hatha Yogins awaken the Kundalini Sakti that is lying dormant in the Muladhara Chakra by Asana, Pranayama, Kumbhaka, Mudra and Bandha, take it above through different Chakras (centres of spiritual energy) Svadhishthna, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha and Ajna and join it with Lord Siva at the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head. They drink the nectar of Immortality (Siva-Jnana-Amritam). This is termed Amrita-srava. When the Sakti is united with Siva, full illumination comes for the Yogi. Lord Siva represents the destructive aspect of Brahman. That portion of Brahman that is enveloped by Tamo-Guna-Pradhana-Maya is Lord Siva who is the all-pervading Isvara and who also dwells in Mount Kailas. He is the Bhandar or store-house for wisdom. Siva minus Parvati or Kaali or Durga is pure Nirguna Brahman. With Maya (Parvati) He becomes the Saguna Brahman for the purpose of pious devotion of His devotees. Devotees of Rama must worship Lord Siva also. Rama Himself worshiped Lord Siva at the famous Ramesvaram. Lord Siva is the Lord of ascetics and Lord of Yogins robed in space (Digambara).
His Trisul (trident) that is held in His right hand represents the three Gunas-Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. That is the emblem of sovereignty. He wields the world through these three Gunas. The Damaru in His left hand represents the Sabda Brahman. It represents OM from which all languages are formed. It is He who formed the Sanskrit language out of the Damaru sound. The wearing of the crescent moon on His head indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly. The flow of the Ganga represents the nectar of immortality. Elephant represents symbolically the Vritti, pride. Wearing the skin of the elephant denotes that He has controlled pride. Tiger represents lust. His sitting on the tiger’s skin indicates that he has conquered lust. His holding a deer in one hand indicates that He has removed the Chanchalata (tossing) of the mind. Deer jumps from one place to another swiftly. The mind also jumps from one object to another. His wearing of serpents on the neck denotes wisdom and eternity. Serpents live for a large number of years. He is Trilochana, the three-eyed One, in the centre of whose forehead is the third eye, the eye of wisdom. Nandi, the bull that sits in front of Sivalingam represents Pranava (Omkara). The Lingam represents Advaita. It points out “I am one without a second. Ekam eva Advaiteeyam” just as a man raises his right hand above his head pointing out his right index finger only.
The following are the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Siva: 1. Somanath in Gujarat. 2. Mallikarjuna in Srisaila Parvat in Andhra Pradesh. 3. Mahakala in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. 4. Oinkaresvar on the banks of Narmada in Amalesvarm. 5. Baijnath near Gaya (Paralya). 6. Naganath in Southern India. 7. Kedarnath in Himalayas, Uttar Pradesh. 8. Tryambak, near the source of the Godavari in the Nasik District, Maharashtra. 9. Ramesvaram, in Ramnad district, Tamil Nadu. 10. Bhima Sankar, near Poona’ 11. Visvanath in Benares. 12. Grishnesvar (Gokarna) in Karwar district, Karnataka.
Even if people remember these 12 places both morning and evening, the sins of seven births will be destroyed.
In Southern India, there are five famous Siva Lingas which represent the five elements. 1. In Shiyali, Tanjore district, there is Prithvi Lingam. 2. ln Tiruvana Koil, Trichinopoly district, there is Appu Lingam. The Lingam is always in water. Tiruvana Koil is otherwise known as Jambukesvaram. 3. In Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh, there is a Vayu Lingam. 4. In Tiruvannamalai, via Villupuram Junction, North Arcot District, there is the Tejolingam (Arunachalesvar). 5. In Chidambaram, there is the Akasa Lingam.
1. Sivaya Nama Om Sivaya Namah; Sivaya Nama Om Namah Sivaya.