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Spiritual Ministration

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Shri Shri Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj Life & Spiritual Ministration
9.
Dhyana

 

Preliminaries to the Practice of Dhyana

Introduction

Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi Maharaj initiates and guides sadhakas essentially on the path of “Dhyana Yoga.”  In the perception of most people Dhyana is a mysterious and esoteric path, which they regard with awe and reverence, but which they nevertheless consider to be beyond their ken and understanding.  This, in turn, makes them hesitant and reluctant to undertake the practice of Dhyana.  Even among those who are persuaded to take to Dhyana, there exist many doubts and misunderstandings, which are compounded by pretentious and confusing statements by people who though themselves quite ignorant, yet pose as advanced sadhakas and pseudo gurus, purporting to teach others when in fact they only add to their confusion.

The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to clear such doubts and misunderstandings, and to provide a guide with the help of which earnest sadhakas can do abhyas (practice) of dhyana; the contents of this chapter are based on the teachings and guidance imparted by Sri Swamji from time to time.  However, it needs to be stressed that only aspects of general applicability have been covered; advanced sadhakas, who seek personal guidance, should refer their problems direct to Sri Swamiji.

The contents of this chapter are essentially practical guidelines for dhyana;  no attempt has been made to setout any basic underlying theory or philosophy.  This is as it should be because, whereas in other yogas theory guides practice, in Dhyana Yoga practice unfolds theory and a sadhaka acquires automatic understanding of spiritual matters and the deepest spiritual truths as he progresses in his dhyana.

Dhyana Diksha (Initiation into Dhyana)

Aspirants who wish to take Dhyana Diksha are made to sit facing Sri Swamiji.  All present are then asked to close their eyes and a disciple, after receiving Sri Swamiji’s blessing, touches each aspirant on the spot between the eyebrows, which is known as the Bhrikuti, and instructs him to concentrate his sight and mind at that spot.  The aspirants are then required to do dhyana in the presence of Sri Swamiji for approximately one hour.  Through the touch given between the eyebrows prior to the commencement of dhyana, and by his look of Grace during the dhyana which follows, Sri Swamiji imparts spiritual power to the aspirant which will be of great value and assistance to him in his future sadhana and his further practice of dhyana.

It is the recorded experience of many thousands who have received diksha from Sri Swamiji in this manner, that they have been blessed with some form of spiritual experience during the period of dhyana following the Dhyana Diksha;  this experience can take many forms, e.g., seeing of colours, or having a vision of light, or, in the case of many advanced aspirants, having a vision of their Ishta Dev.  In fact, failure to see any vision during the Dhyana Diksha is primarily due to some shortcoming in the aspirant;  either there is lack of faith (many come not as genuine aspirants but primarily to test Swamiji’s powers);  or the aspirant is unable to still his eyeballs and gaze steadily at the root of the eyebrows;  or his mind is diverted by thoughts or worries and he is unable to achieve ‘ekagratha,’ i.e., concentration or one pointedness of mind;  or he is fidgety and moves his body or opens his eyes, thereby breaking his concentration.  Undoubtedly, those who have had no previous practice or training in dhyana will inadvertently make, one or more of these mistakes and hence are unlikely to get any very vivid experience.

On the other hand those who can successfully concentrate their sight and mind at the Bhrikuti during the Dhyana Diksha, will certainly be vouchsafed a spiritual experience;  this will usually come as a momentary flash sometime towards the close of the one hour dhyana period.  But, whether they get a spiritual experience or not, almost every aspirant experiences a deep feeling of peace during the dhyana which in itself is a clear indicator of the spiritual benefit and power of the diksha given by Sri Swamiji.

As it is generally customary to give a mantra during diksha, many aspirants are curious to know why Sri Swamiji docs not give ‘mantra diksha.’  There are two reasons;  firstly, as will be discussed later, a mantra is not necessary for doing dhyana when one follows the technique of dhyana as taught by Sri Swamiji;  secondly, in the case of those aspirants whose personal inclinations and other factors require the imparting of a mantra for the furtherance of their sadhana, the correct mantra will be spontaneously and automatically manifested to them during their normal practice of dhyana.

Use of Vibhuti

At the conclusion of the dhyana diksha, the sadhaka is given some vibhuti which has been blessed by Sri Swamiji.  This vibhuti must at all times be regarded as very sacred; if it is accidently spilt on the ground or defiled in any other way, it will lose its potency.  Before commencing the practice of dhyana, the sadhaka must first do puja to this vibhuti with incense and coconut.  Thereafter, the sadhaka must apply a tikka of this vibhuti at the spot between the eyebrows, whenever he sits for dhyana.

Time for Dhyana

Dhyana may be done any time of the day or night.  However, Sri Swamiji advises that the sadhaka must do a minimum of one hour’s dhyana at any one sitting.  The reasons for this stipulation are obvious.  A sadhaka will find that during the early stages of his practice, almost the entire period of one hour — often more — will be required to still the sight and mind and to concentrate them at the Bhrikuti.  Also, as will be explained subsequently, dhyana proper does not commence till such time as this stillness and concentration of sight and mind have been achieved.  Therefore, merely sitting with eyes closed for half an hour or so, and then getting up thinking that one has done the required dhyana for the day, is only deceiving oneself.  In fact the basic criteria for fixing the minimum period of dhyana should not be just the time factor of one or more hours;  it should be based on the time required by the sadhaka to achieve ‘Ekagratha’ and, thereafter, to remain in the state of dhyana, as described subsequently, for at least 15 to 30 minutes.  This being the case, the sadhaka himself is the best judge of the time that he requires to achieve this.

Those who wish to seriously pursue the practice of dhyana, must increase the period of dhyana gradually, with the aim of doing at least 10-12 hours dhyana daily;  more if possible.  This 10-12 hours need not be in one stretch; it can be broken up into periods of 2-4 hours, depending on the capacity of the sadhaka.  In this context it needs to be stressed that the sadhaka should not forcibly sit for dhyana for long periods;  the increase in the period of dhyana should be a natural process, in keeping with the development of his dhyana practice.

The early hours of the morning, and the hour of dusk are the best times of the day to do dhyana as the mind is naturally calm and composed during these periods.  However, those who cannot, for any reason, do dhyana at these times, may choose any other time that suits their convenience.  But whatever time they may choose, it is very desirable that sadhakas do dhyana at a fixed time every day.  Cultivation of such a habit will assist them in their sadhana because, just as one feels hungry at one’s regular meal time, so also will one feel a natural urge and inclination to do dhyana at the habitual dhyana time.

Even more important than having proper, fixed timings for dhyana, is the need for regularity in practice.  To illustrate the harm that irregularity in sadhana can do, if a sadhaka misses out one day in his dhyana practice, it will take him seven to ten days to make up the set-back caused to his progress by that single day’s irregularity.

Place of Dhyana

Dhyana should be done in a secluded spot or a quiet room where there is no disturbance or distraction caused by people coming in, or going out, or talking in the vicinity.  The room should also be darkened to the extent possible as this is helpful for the practice of dhyana.

Asana

We next come to the question of the correct ‘asana’ or posture to adopt while doing dhyana.  In this regard it is preferable that the sadhaka adopts either the ‘Padma Asana,’ or the ‘Siddha Asana,’ or the ‘Veer Asana,’ during his dhyana practice.  However, if he finds these asanas difficult, he may adopt any asana or posture that he finds easy or comfortable.  The main points to keep in mind regarding asana are:—

(a)    The spine should be kept erect.

(b)    The weight of the body should be evenly distributed on the underside of the thighs and buttocks; if the weight is kept too far back then the main burden will be borne by the spine, as a consequence of which the sadhaka will tire quickly.

(c)    The body must be completely relaxed and at ease; if any part of the body is kept artificially stretched and taut, this will lead to early tiring of the concerned muscles, which in turn will lead to cramps and pains in that part of the body.

(d)    The face must be held level or even lifted slightly upwards; it should never be allowed to droop downwards.

If the face is allowed to droop down, then it becomes difficult to retain concentration of the sight and mind and there will be a tendency to fall asleep.  If, due to fatigue, muscular pain or other reasons, a sadhaka cannot retain a steady posture, he may change his asana and continue dhyana.  However, he must be careful not to break the concentration of his sight and mind at the Bhrikuti, particularly the sight, during the process of changing the asana.

Physical Fitness and Diet

It goes without saying that unless a sadhaka is in sound health, he cannot hope to undertake dhyana because bodily ailments will distract the mind and prevent concentration.  In case of illness, a sadhaka should take sacred vibhuti, mixed with water and the illness will be cured.

Prolonged sadhana requires bodily strength and energy.  Hence it is essential that a sadhaka takes a nutritious and balanced diet, in moderate quantities.  Dhyana should preferably be done on an empty or light stomach as an overloaded or full stomach tends to make a sadhaka mentally and physically sluggish.

For those who practice dhyana for long hours, it is desirable that when they terminate their dhyana, they should drink a glass of milk or partake of some other light repast;  thereafter, they should rest for a while before resuming other work.

Once the foregoing essential preliminaries have been grasped, the sadhaka should commence serious practice of dhyana.  To do this it is first necessary to clearly understand the basic ‘Technique of doing dhyana.

The Technique of Dhyana

Lakshaya: Aim or Purpose of Dhyana

When a person embarks on any quest he must, from the start, know what he is seeking, else he is likely to falter or go astray.  Similarly, dhyana can only be practiced purposefully when the sadhaka is clear from the very start as to what he should strive to attain.  In other words, he must be clear about the ‘Lakshaya’ or aim of dhyana.  It is because of misunderstanding or confused thinking on this basic aspect that sadhakas wander off into incorrect practices and, consequently, go astray in their sadhana.

All our scriptures declare that the mind is the cause of our bondage and that ‘Manonash’ or destruction of the mind is Mukti (release from bondage).  If we try to analyse this mind we find that the mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts;  if we can successfully eliminate the thought waves of the mind then, like a lamp that is extinguished for want of oil, the mind, as we know it; will subside and die and we will attain realisation of the Atman, which is our real and eternal nature.

The aim or purpose of dhyana, therefore, is to achieve the destruction of the mind by controlling the ‘Mano Vrittis,’ i.e., the thought waves of the mind.  In essence, what is implied is that the sadhaka, during dhyana, should aim at stilling the mind by eliminating all thoughts;  when thought is thus eliminated, only Chit or Pure Awareness remains;  once this state of Pure Awareness is attained, the sadhaka should strive to focus his entire mind on this residual Awareness, and keep it steadily poised in this state, unobstructed by even the faintest trace of thought.  By continuously holding onto this state the mind will die and Atman Sakshatkara or Self-Realisation will arise of its own accord.

The Technique of Dhyana

Having clarified our mind on what we must strive to achieve, we must now concern ourselves with how this is to be achieved; in other words we must now study the method or technique of dhyana.  In order to facilitate a clearer understanding, the whole process of dhyana has been explained step by step in the paragraphs that follow.  In this context the reader needs to be cautioned that though the technique of dhyana has been broken up into distinct and separate stages,  this has been done primarily to enable a better understanding of the entire process.  When putting this technique into practice tile sadhaka will find that many of these different aspects merge together and occur simultaneously, which is as it should be; he need make no effort to compartmentalize each stage.

Steadying the Vision

When commencing dhyana, the sadhaka must first still the movement of his eyeballs by fixing his gaze on the ‘Bhrikuti’ (the space between the eyebrows).  The novitiate usually makes the mistake of trying to still the sight by looking forcibly inwards;  this causes strain to the muscles of the eyeballs, resulting in fatigue of these muscles.  As a consequence, instead of being stilled, the eyeballs start quivering involuntarily and if the sadhaka persists in this practice, he is likely to develop a headache.  This is obviously wrong.  The process of stilling the sight should be a gradual and natural process wherein the sadhaka continues to gaze steadily at the Bhrikuti, without any strain whatsoever, until he can hold his vision steady at that spot, without allowing the eyeballs or the eyelids to flicker;  this is a very important preliminary as, unless the sadhaka has mastered this aspect, further progress in dhyana is not possible.  Initially, the sadhaka may take 15-20 minutes to achieve this steadiness of vision.  Later, if he continues practicing regularly, he will start receiving help in this stilling process by the development of the Divine Power given by Sri Swamiji during the initiation.  Initially, the development and manifestation of this power will be felt as heaviness of the eyelids;  gradually, as this power develops with practice, the sadhaka will find that as soon as he sits for dhyana, this power takes hold and almost forcibly as it were, the vision is concentrated at the Bhrikuti and held steady there.

Stilling the Mind

It is the nature of the mind to flow out through the brain and the sense organs, thus becoming aware of the world of names and forms.  As a first step, therefore, this outward flow of the mind, in myriad thought forms, is to be checked, and the mind made ‘Ekagratha,’ i.e., one pointed.  This is done by concentrating the entire mind on the Bhrikuti and, thereafter, not allowing even a single thought to arise; even such a basic thought as “I am doing dhyana” must not be allowed to crop up.

Concentration on Chit

When the sight and the mind have been stilled, and the pure state of ‘Ekagratha’ is achieved, all names, forms and thoughts will fade away and only Chit, i.e., Pure Consciousness will remain.  This Chit has no concrete form that can be grasped by the mind; it is the Residual Awareness of Existence, of ‘Aham’ (I am) that remains when all thought forms have been eliminated.  When the sadhaka achieves this state, it will be something like gazing into vacancy;  initially, this may appear like gazing at a blank wall of darkness;  later, this darkness will give way to light and it will appear like gazing into a lighted crystal or a blazing mass of light.

Commencement of Dhyana.

It is only when the state of ‘Ekagratha’ or concentration on Pure Chit is achieved, by concentrating the sight and the mind at the Bhrikuti, that actual dhyana commences;  all else that precedes the attainment of this state is only a prelude to dhyana;  this preliminary process and must not be mistaken for dhyana.  Having attained the state of ‘Ekagratha’ on Pure Chit, the Sadhaka must then attempt to retain that state, unbroken by even a single thought wave.  To put it into correct perspective then, dhyana is the effort made by the sadhaka to continue to abide in the state of Pure Chit;  the excellence of the practice of dhyana lies in not allowing even a single ‘vritti’ or mental concept to disturb this state of Pure Awareness of Being;  even the idea that he is doing dhyana should not be present in his mind.

When the sadhaka thus attempts to keep his mind steady and poised on Pure Chit, various thought waves, impelled by ‘Purva Samskar’ (inherent tendencies), will try to rise and disturb the even flow of his mind.  The sadhaka must remain vigilant and alert and as soon as each thought crops up, it must be gently brushed aside and the calm flow of the mind retained.  The mind, during dhyana, should remain still and unflickering “like a lamp in a windless place” and the calm flow of the mind should remain unbroken like a “continuous flow of oil”.

The Guru’s Grace

The technique of dhyana described above is an attempt to explain, step by step, the process of dhyana.  However, by ‘Purna Shamagathi’ (self surrender) at the feet of the Guru, and by unswerving ‘abhyas’ (practice) of dhyana, the power given by Sri Swamiji at the time of Diksha begins to develop in the sadhaka.  When that happens, he will find that the entire preliminary process leading to attainment of the state of dhyana is automatically accomplished by this power.  All that the sadhaka has to do then is to make the mind quiescent, and to surrender to this power;  then this power or shakti takes over, concentrates the sight and mind on the Bhrikuti and holds it there.  If a sadhaka feels agitation of the mind, flickering of the eyesight or tightness or pain near the eyes or forehead, he will find that these symptoms are due to his unconsciously resisting the functioning of this Shakti by fleeting thoughts;  the moment these thoughts are stilled and the mind becomes quiescent again, these symptoms disappear and the Shakti resumes its automatic process of concentrating the sight and mind on the Bhrikuti;  such is the beneficient effect of the Guru’s Grace.

Some Problems and Misconceptions Common to Beginners

Turbulence of the Mind

It is the unvaried experience of those who take to dhyana for the first time that as soon as they sit for dhyana, all sorts of thoughts arise and they find it almost impossible to control the mind.  They should not be worried or discouraged by this phenomenon, because dhyana can be likened to the churning up of the vast ocean of ‘vasanas’ (latent tendencies), which have accumulated from beginningless time;  unless these vasanas are destroyed, the Atman cannot be realised.  In order to accomplish this, the practice of dhyana throws up these ‘vasanas’ in the form of an endless stream of thoughts;  as each thought is quelled or controlled, the related ‘vasanas’ get destroyed.  Since he does not know or understand this, a sadhaka faced with this problem in the preliminary stages of his sadhana, invariably thinks that this is a problem peculiar to him alone and hence feels discouraged and dejected on this account.  Therefore, he is usually surprised and relieved to learn that this is the universal experience of every sadhaka when he starts on the path of dhyana.  Whereas it may be a source of solace to know that turbulence of the mind is a common problem for all beginners, it still does not help the sadhaka to control his wayward thoughts;  in fact it appears to be an impossible task and sadhakas despair of ever being able to gain mastery over their minds.  Therefore, the question of how the mind should be controlled is a recurring theme in all our scriptures.  In this context, two well known questions and answers on this subject may be quoted.  The first, taken from the Yoga Vasishta, is the question put by Sri Rama to Vasishta Maha Muni:  “O Guru! Is it not possible to control the mind?  One may sooner drink up the oceans or lift up Mount Meru or swallow flaming fire than control the mind.”  To this Vasishta replies: “Oh Rama, ‘though the mind is hard to control yet it must be subdued by ‘Vairagya’ (Dispassion) and effort (practice) even at the cost of wringing your hands, clenching your teeth and holding down the senses and limbs;  it must be controlled by will power.”  In the second example taken from the Bhagavad Gita, a similar question is put by Arjuna to Sri Krishna:—

Chanchaalm hi manah Krishna
Pramaathi balavat drishdam
Tasyaham nigraham manye
Vaayoriva sudushkaram (Gita 6:34)

“For, Krishna the mind is very unsteady, turbulent, tenacious and powerful;
therefore, I consider it as difficult to control it as the wind.”

And Sri Krishna replies:—

Asamshayam maha baho
Mano duni graham chalam
Abhyasen tu Kounteya
Vairaagyenacha grihaate (Gita 6:35)

“The mind is restless no doubt and difficult to subdue Arjuna
but it can be brought under control by constant practice (Abhysa) and by exercising dispassion (Vairagya).”

From the foregoing examples it can be seen that even such great personages as Sri Rama and Arjuna were afflicted by turbulence and restlessness of mind which should make it amply clear that it is an universal malady.  And from the replies given by Vasishta and Sri Krishna, it should be equally clear that there are no short cuts to controlling the mind.  For, as per the advice given by Vasishta to Sri Rama and by Sri Krishna to Arjuna, the two infallible remedies are cultivating ‘Vairagya’ and undertaking constant ‘Abhyas’; by resolute adherence to these two guiding principles, the earnest sadhaka will gradually gain control over his mind;  of this there need be no doubt.

Notwithstanding all his resolution and efforts, there will be days when the mind will be more agitated than normal and the sadhaka will find it difficult to control his surging thoughts by the normal processes of dhyana.  On such occasions there is little point in forcibly trying to continue dhyana; the agitation of mind caused by the onrush of thoughts must first be subdued and the mind made calm: only then can dhyana be attempted again.  Though a number of methods are prescribed for this purpose, the most efficacious is ‘Pranayam’ or breath control.  It is an infallible rule that when the mind is controlled, the breath is controlled and, conversely, when the breath is controlled the mind becomes controlled.  Therefore, by doing ‘Pranayam’ for a few minutes, as the breath becomes calm and regular, the mind will also calm down.  In this context it is emphasized that only the very simplest form of pranayam should be practised, for a period of 5 to 10 minutes only, and as soon as the mind becomes calm, pranayam should be discontinued and normal dhyana started;  otherwise, unless pranayam is done under the guidance of a qualified teacher, it can lead to harm.  A simpler and almost equally effective method is to mentally watch the inhaling and exhaling motion of the breath within the nostrils: this will result in breathing becoming calm and regular and will in turn lead to calming the mind.

If, in spite of all efforts to calm it, the mind still continues to be agitated, then the sadhaka should continue his dhyana, leave his seat and read some scriptural or other holy book, or listen to (or himself do) bhajans and kirtan, or do mental japam.  When the agitation of the mind subsides, then he should sit for dhyana again.

Steadying the Sight and Concentrating the Mind

The process of steadying the sight and concentrating the mind is often misunderstood and wrongly applied by beginners.  As explained in the ‘technique’ of dhyana, no force should be applied in concentrating the vision at the ‘Bhrikuti’, and once the vision has been steadied, it must be held there.  Most beginners forget this and, after a few minutes, their eyeballs become unsteady and start flitting about again.  This must be guarded against as, unless the vision is steady, there can be no progress in dhyana.

Similarly, many beginners make the mistake of trying to achieve concentration of mind by physical effort such as knitting the eyebrows, or looking forcefully at the Bhrikuti etc.;  such practices will only result in fatigue and pain in the facial muscles and, if persisted in for any length of time, the sadhaka is likely to develop headache.  In this context it needs to be remembered that concentration of the mind is a purely mental process and no physical act is involved.  In the same way, the injunction that one should “dive deep” within during dhyana is often misinterpreted to mean trying to make the mind see deep within the physical body or to try and make it sink deep into the internal recesses of the body.  In fact, diving deep within means making the ‘bahir-mukhi’ or outward turned mind ‘antar-mukhi’ or inward turned.  It is the habit of thought that makes the mind ‘bahir-mukhi’.  Hence the degree to which the mind can be made ‘antar-mukhi’, depends solely on the extent to which a sadhaka is successful in eliminating other thoughts; as the thoughts are stilled, the mind gradually and of its own accord sinks back to its source, the Hridayam (spiritual heart).  Therefore, making the mind “dive deep” in reality implies making it sink back to the Hridayam by freeing it from the tyranny of thought.

Japa and Concentration on Ishta during Dhyana

Even though it is explained at the time of initiation that whereas one may do ‘Japa’ prior to or after dhyana, no japa should be done during dhyana, the import of this instruction is rarely understood; sadhakas continue to do japa during dhyana, or try to concentrate their mind on their Ishta Deva or on Swamiji as their Guru. This must be avoided because doing of japa or mental picturisation of the Ishta or Guru are also only thoughts and if persisted in, will obstruct progress in dhyana. Therefore, these methods may be used in the initial stages to calm the mind, but once this has been achieved, japa or concentration on the Ishta Deva should be discontinued and the sadhaka should aim at keeping his mind concentrated only on ‘Chit’.

The Mental Eye and Mental Ear

It is also not realized by many that apart from the external eye and the external ear, all of us have a mental eye and a mental ear.  Because of these mental organs, even if external sights and sounds are cut off, the sadhaka’s dhyana will be obstructed by mental pictures conjured up by the mental eye and by sounds and speech conjured up by the mental ear, whereby the sadhaka conducts mental conversations with his mental images.  Hence the importance of concentrating the sight at the ‘Brikuti’; if the mental sight is kept concentrated on the Bhrikuti, it will not be able to create mental pictures, and in the absence of these pictures, there will be no scope for mental speech either.

Progress During the Initial Stages

It will thus be seen that a sadhaka who sets out on the ‘dhyana marga’ will be prone to make many mistakes and will have to face some initial hurdles, but if he persists in his practice and resolutely overcomes these hurdles by the methods indicated, he will soon find his path smooth and he will start progressing in his sadhana.  In the very early stages, as control of mind is gained, the sadhaka will start attaining periods of thoughtlessness: these periods will normally last for just a few seconds and then, because the sadhaka’s alertness slackens, thoughts will shoot up again.  The only answer, of course, is to regain control of the mind; no matter where and how frequently the restless and wayward mind may stray, it must be brought back, made still and again concentrated on the Bhrikuti.  Thus during the initial stages of tile sadhana, the periods of actual dhyana, which implies those periods when the mind and sight are completely stilled and fully concentrated, may be achieved for only a minute or so during the entire one hour or more devoted to the practice of dhyana.  However, as dhyana practice continues, the length of the period for which the mind can be held still, as also the frequency of such periods, will both increase.  This alone is the measure of progress in one’s dhyana.

Obstructions to Dhyana

Sleep

During dhyana the mind, impelled by the vasanas, tends to drift into reverie; when this is prevented and the mind rendered thoughtless, the sadhaka involuntarily drifts into sleep.  The only way to prevent this is for the sadhaka to strive to retain awareness during dhyana.  If, however, the impulse to sleep is over-powering, it is best to let nature take its course and go to sleep, and to sleep on until the mind and the system attain satiety.  Once such satiety is achieved, the urge to sleep will not obstruct dhyana, at least for sometime.

Bliss of Manolaya

When thought is extinguished, the sadhaka experiences the state of Manolaya or subsidence of the mind.  This state of ‘laya’ brings peace of mind, as a result of which the sadhaka experiences a feeling of joy or bliss.  Many sadhakas mistakenly assume that they have attained the goal when they experience ‘Manolaya’ and are content to abide in this stale.  However, the goal of dhyana is not merely to attain ‘Manolaya’, but to attain ‘Manonasha’, i.e., total destruction of the mind, and a sadhaka must press on with his dhyana until this is achieved.

Shunya or Void

Another common cause for doubt and anxiety occurs when thoughts have been extinguished and the sadhaka comes up against a seemingly impenetrable wall of blankness, which is referred to in the scriptures as Shunya or Void.  In almost all books dealing with ‘Nirgunopasana’, we find the disciple questioning his Guru on this phenomenon of there being nothing left when thought is extinguished, resulting in the experience of Shunya or void;  the disciple is consequently perplexed and does not know how to proceed further in his sadhana.  In order to resolve this doubt the Guru explains to the disciple that the void is not self manifest;  there has to be some one who perceives that void;  He who is the witness of this void is the Atman only and hence the disciple is advised by the Guru to seek Him who is the witness of the void.  Explaining this same point Sri Ramana Maharishi said, “First one sees the Atman as objects;  then one sees the Atman as void;  finally, one sees the Atman as Atman:  only in this last case there is no seeing because seeing is being.”

Mistaking Somnolence for Dhyana

Some sadhakas allow their mind to drift into a passive state of somnolence and imagine that they are immersed in deep dhyana. This is just another example of the delusive tricks that the mind plays when it is subjected to the discipline of dhyana. In this context it needs to be emphasised that dhyana is anything but somnolence; on the contrary, dhyana involves an intense activity of the entire mind to keep it steadily poised and concentrated on ‘chit’; the mind during dhyana can be likened to a spinning top which, though apparently stationary, is revolving at top speed.

The Influence of the Three Gunas

A Sadhaka who practices dhyana regularly will notice that at times the mind is peaceful and calm and dhyana is easy; at other times he will find dhyana obstructed by excessive thoughts or just plain lassitude.  This is because the mind is subject to the continuous influence of the three Gunas, viz, ‘Satwa’, ‘Rajas’ and ‘Tamas’.  At anyone time, one or the other of these three’ Gunas’ holds sway over the mind and the moods and mental condition of the sadhaka are determined accordingly.  Thus, when ‘Satwa’ prevails, dispassion, peace, calmness of mind etc. manifest;  when ‘Rajas’ prevails strong desires, lust, anger, greed, fear, driving ambition etc. manifest:  when Tamas prevails laziness, confusion, dullness of mind etc. manifest.  From the foregoing description of the three Gunas it is obvious that a sadhaka should try and cultivate the ‘Satwa Guna’ as this Guna is most beneficial for his sadhana.  To do this, he must overcome ‘Tamas’ by cultivating ‘Rajas’; he must subdue ‘Rajas’ by cultivating ‘Satwa’; and when ‘Satwa’ prevails, he must take advantage of the favourable conditions that it brings by increasing the intensity of his sadhana.  As the sadhaka makes progress in dhyana, he will find that the prevalence of the Satwa Guna will increase and, correspondingly, the prevalence of the Rajo and Tamo Gunas will decrease.  Helpful as this may be, the sadhaka nevertheless needs to remember that he cannot be wholly free from the influence of the three Gunas till such time as he has not attained the final goal of Atman Gyan (self realisation).  By acquiring this understanding of the influence and function of the three Gunas, a Sadhaka will also be able to understand the sudden and apparently inexplicable fluctuations in his mental state and he will not, thereafter, be puzzled or depressed by the contrary modes of mind produced by Rajas and Tamas.

The Baneful Influence of the Tamo Guna

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali it is stated that:  “Sickness, mental laziness, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, sloth, craving for sense pleasures, false perception, despair caused by failure to concentrate and unsteadiness in concentration:  these distractions are the obstacles to knowledge.  These distractions are accompanied by grief, despondency, trembling of the body and irregular breathing.”  (Chapter 1: Sutras 30, 31)  From the indications given here almost all the distractions listed by Patanjali come under the category of ‘Tamas’.  The sloth or mental lassitude induced by Tamas is indeed the greatest enemy of the sadhaka.  When a sadhaka first embarks upon the spiritual life, he does so with great faith and enthusiasm.  During the first few months, under the impetus of this initial inspiration, the sadhaka makes good progress;  he finds sadhana easy and pleasurable, and he is filled with peace and joy.  However, it is very necessary for him to know right from the start that this inspired mood will not last long.  As the other ‘Gunas’ come into play, he is likely to relapse into his former state;  there will be periods of dryness and doubt, necessitating hard struggle.  He will probably feel that he is unfit for a spiritual life and will be tempted to give it up.  But a sadhaka must never give way to such feelings of despair;  these are prompted by ‘Tamas’.  If he continues resolutely in his sadhana, such dark moods of doubt and despair will pass and he will be able to continue with redoubled vigour.  With each such struggle, he will take a major stride forward.

Heated Brain and Headaches

Some Sadhakas complain of a heated brain and or headaches during dhyana.  These may either be caused by incorrect application of the technique of dhyana or they may be due to a subconscious resistance of the mind and body to the unaccustomed discipline of dhyana.  The answer in such cases is to avoid physical and mental strain; relax, particularly mentally, and dhyana will become easy.  Instead of trying to forcibly concentrate the mind, the sadhaka should aim to keep the mind steady by gently warding off intruding thoughts as they arise, but without causing mental strain.

Attainments through Dhyana Sadhana

Progress in Dhyana

Once the sadhaka has gained proficiency in keeping his sight and mind steady, he will reach a stage of calm abidance in pure Chit.  When once the mind reaches this state of steadiness, it should be left undisturbed;  nothing should be thought of; the mind should be made to rest in its pristine state.  When thus the mind is kept continuously poised in dhyana, it will become extinct, for “just as a fire is automatically extinguished if not fed with fuel, so does the mind become extinct of not fed with thoughts.”  (Devikalottra).

Sadhakas usually feel, and often complain, that they are making no progress.  That is because, in spite of long years of practice, they do not find in themselves any external manifestations indicative of progress.  However, it needs to be remembered in this context that the changes being brought In the sadhaka are internal and hence not evident to the sadhaka himself; only the Guru knows and can discern the actual progress made.  There are, nevertheless, certain indicators which act like sign posts to reassure the sadhaka that he is on the right track and is progressing; these are:—

(a)    Development of the power given by Sri Swamiji
(b)    Visions
(c)    Powers
(d)    Manifestation of Spiritual Currents
(e)    Rise of the “Kundalini Shakti”
(f)    Experience of ananda (bliss)

It needs to be stressed though that it is highly unlikely that every sadhaka will experience all the above manifestations;  a sadhaka will usually experience one or more of the above manifestations, and in varying degrees, according to his own personal inclinations and mental attitudes.  There is no absolute rule in this regard, nor is it essential for a sadhaka’s progress to experience all the above manifestations.  Hence a sadhaka must not lose heart just because he is not having any of these experiences;  It merely means that he does not need them and can progress without them.

Development of Power given during Diksha.

This aspect has been dealt with earlier also, but it needs to be elaborated a bit more at this stage.  After receiving initiation, as the sadhaka continues his practice, he will find that the Divine Power given by Sri Swamiji at the time of dhyana will begin to gradually grow within him.  Externally, it will first be felt in the form of heaviness of the eyelids at the time of dhyana;  later, as it grows stronger by continued practice, it will manifest itself in the form of a strong and compelling pull, drawing the sight and mind towards the Bhrikuti.  In fact, the manifestation of this power at times becomes so strong that, to an onlooker, the sadhaka’s face appears to undergo contortions under its influence, though the sadhaka himself is usually unaware of this fact.  Once this power develops, all that the sadhaka has to do is to submit to it and not resist it in any way; he will find that this power on its own will draw the sadhaka’s sight and mind to the Bhrikuti and hold them there.  As mentioned earlier also, if a sadhaka finds his eyeballs flickering, or feels tightness or pain around the eyes and forehead, or experiences an uncomfortable strain on the mind, he will find that these are merely warning signals that he is unconsciously resisting the working of this power by allowing thoughts to play his mind;  the moment he controls his thoughts and makes the mind quiet again, the power resumes its work unhindered and these stress signals disappear.  As this power increases with practice, the sadhaka will find it progressively easier to concentrate his sight and mind, and he will be able to sit for dhyana for longer hours.

Visions

Visions are about the most misunderstood aspect of dhyana.  Sadhakas talk to older devotees, hear them speak of their varied visions, and thereby conclude that visions are the sole indicators of progress;  in fact, many sadhakas treat visions as the be-all and end-all of dhyana.  These wrong notions need to be dispelled.  Regarding visions, Sri Swamiji has repeatedly stressed that visions are not an essential feature of dhyana and the fact that a sadhaka sees no visions should be no cause for despondency.  Undoubtedly, during the earlier stages of dhyana, seeing of visions is a great source of encouragement and gives a tremendous filip to a sadhaka’s endeavour, enthusiasm and progress.  However, during the more advanced stages, a sadhaka has to transcend these visions in order to make further progress and, at this stage, the habitual desire for seeing visions acts as a brake and an obstacle as the sadhaka is merely satisfied if he sees a vision and has no will or inclination to transcend them and proceed further.  Hence Sri Swamiji vouchsafes visions only to those who he feels require such aids for their further progress in dhyana;  this again is determined by the personal proclivities of the sadhaka such as whether he is attracted by the personal or impersonal aspect of God, whether he yearns for visions etc.  If Sri Swamiji finds that a sadhaka can carry on dhyana without the need for visions, then such a sadhaka may not get any visions at all.

Be that as it may, it is important to remember that visions, if they have to come, will come at their own time and of their own accord.  This point is being stressed because many sadhakas fall into the error trying to “will” visions.  This is wrong, because such attempts at trying to force visions by “willing” them only disturbs the natural tenor of the dhyana and often obstructs a vision that might have come, had the sadhaka let dhyana take its natural course.  And, when in spite of such yearning and intense effort no vision results, (and it will not for the reason stated earlier), the sadhaka feels despondent and frustrated.  It cannot be overstressed that a vision, when it has to come, will come spontaneously and of its own accord; it cannot be willed by the sadhaka, however how hard he tries;  in fact, such willing may lead to mental hallucinations and may cause him harm.

Again, in the context of visions, a sadhaka needs to be cautioned that he must never allow himself to forget the basic aim of dhyana, which is to concentrate the sight and mind at the Bhrikuti and keep the mind free of thought and poised in Pure Awareness or Chit.  When lights or visions arise during dhyana and flit across the mind, he must not allow himself to be carried away by them and try to follow them with his eyes;  he should see them if they come within the orbit of his steadied vision, or else he should let them pass.  He will find that if he tries to follow a vision as it flits across his mind, he will not only lose his concentration but the vision will also fade away;  if he keeps his sight and mind steadily concentrated on the Bhrikuti, the vision will also steady itself and remain within the orbit of his sight.  These visions come in a flash, last a few second and then disappear.

Powers

Like visions, powers are another attainment keenly sought after by sadhakas, particularly the uninitiated.  In fact, there are many who take to dhyana not because of a desire to attain spiritual benefit and realisation, but primarily because of their desire to attain powers;  this craving is excited and further whetted by the stories they hear and the accounts they read of the various extra-ordinary powers attained by different disciples of Sri Swamiji.  It will not be out of place, therefore, to caution the sincere seeker in this regard.

Whereas visions are a help to the sadhaka in his spiritual progress, powers are of no help whatsoever; in fact they constitute a major stumbling block.  When a sadhaka attains any extra-ordinary power, there is always a temptation to exhibit it;  such exhibition leads to adulation from the ignorant populace who generally confuse miracle mongering with spirituality.  Such popular adulation inevitably gives an unwelcome boost to the sadhaka’s ego, which in turn prevents any further spiritual progress.  Sooner or later, the sadhaka who possesses these powers is tempted to use them for selfish purposes, and this leads to a headlong fall from the spiritual path;  such unfortunate sadhakas not only lose the powers that they once possessed, but with them they also lose their spiritual discernment and end up far worse than what they were when they first set out on the spiritual path.  Powers, therefore, are to be shunned like poison.

Sri Swamiji constantly warns sadhakas against the dangers inherent in the attainment and misuse of powers.  But the fact is that various powers come to a sadhaka unasked and unsolicited, during the course of his sadhana; not necessarily to all, but certainly to many.  Should this happen, the sadhaka should on no account exhibit or use these powers;  he should, instead, pray ardently to Sri Swamiji to take these powers away from him.  If he is sincere in his supplications, Sri Swamiji will withdraw these powers, or at least they will lose their capacity to harm the sadhaka’s spiritual progress.

Sri Swamiji also cautions that during dhyana many forms of Devas and Devis will appear before the sadhaka and tempt him by granting him various boons.  On such occasions, the sadhaka should never ask for any powers or any material benefit;  he should, instead, ask only for bhakti and dhyana siddhi.

Sri Swamiji does, however, make exceptions in the case of spiritually matured and advanced disciples; to them he grants certain powers so that they can do ‘Jana Seva’ and help other sadhakas in their spiritual progress.  However, in the case of these chosen disciples there is no danger of misuse as their ego has been eliminated and they have no personal desires.  Whatever powers Sri Swamiji grants them, they use for the benefit of others, strictly in accordance with his directions.

Spiritual Currents

As dhyana progresses, spiritual currents will start manifesting themselves in the sadhaka’s body.  These are occasioned by the stirring into wakefulness and subsequent movements of the Kundalini Shakti.  These currents will be felt in varying intensities in different parts of the body; their frequency and manifestation are unpredictable.  They occur of their own accord and at varying intervals.  These currents are helpful to the sadhaka both physically and spiritually, for they cure physical ailments, improve health, give the sadhaka energy fur continuing his dhyana, eliminate worries and calm the mind.

Rise of the Kundalini Shakti

According to the ‘Yoga Shastras’, a vast reservoir of spiritual energy is located at the base of the spine; this is known as the ‘Kundalini Shakti’ which, literally translated, means: ‘coiled up energy’.  During the course of a sadhaka’s spiritual practices, this spiritual energy which is lying coiled up and dormant, is stirred up into wakefulness and moves up along a spiritual channel known as the’ Sushumna Nadi’, which corresponds to the location of the spinal column, to the Sahasrara or thousand petalled lotus said to be located at the crown of the head.  On this upward journey, the ‘Kundalini Shakti ‘passes through six ‘Chakras’ or centres of spiritual consciousness which are:—

1.    The ‘Muladhara Chakra’, which is located at the base of the spine.
2.    The ‘Swadhisthana Chakra’, which is located along the spine, approximately opposite the genital organs.
3.    The ‘Manipura Chakra’, which is located along the spine, approximately opposite the navel.
4.    The ‘Anhata”Chakru’, which is located along the spine approximately in line with the heart.
5.    The ‘Visuddhi Chakra’, which is located along the spine, at the base of the neck, in the rear.
6.    The ‘Ajna Chakra’, which is located in the central cavity where the vertical line connecting the crown of the head to the soft palate joins the horizontal line connecting the two ears.

As the Kundalini Shakti travels upwards through these ‘Chakras’ the sadhaka will have experiences and encounter obstacles peculiar to each Chakra; these are given in some detail below.

Muladhara Chakra

The mind of a worldly person is said to dwell in the three lower centres or chakras;  the mind does not manifest any spiritual aspirations and is normally obsessed by desires of a material and worldly nature.  However, once the Kundalini Shakti is awakened as a result of Diksha and Dhyana, the following indications become manifest:-

a)    Indications:  There will be a keen desire to do more and more dhyana.
b)    Experiences:  A sadhaka may obtain a vision of his Ishta Deva during Dhyana.
c)    Obstacles:  The sadhaka may be afflicted with various bodily ailments but such ailments will not hamper his dhyana.  Such ailments can be cured by Sri Swamiji’s ‘ashirvad’ and by use of vibhuti given by Sri Swamiji.

Swadhisthana Chakra

a)    Indications:  When the Kundalini is in this Chakra the mind becomes very agitated (Chanchal).  A sadhaka feels restless and usually roams from place to place. He also feels excessively hungry.
b)    Experiences:  The experiences he may have been having earlier disappear and though he yearns to have experiences, his yearning is not fulfilled.  This causes depression of mind.
c)    Obstacles:  The mind is agitated and disturbed; the sadhaka feels depressed and is tormented by excessive craving for food.  These obstacles are to be overcome by persistence and regularity in dhyana, and by increasing the time spent on dhyana to the maximum possible.

Manipura Chakra

a)    Indications:  Sadhaka starts experiencing samadhi and soon reaches a stage when, as soon as he sits for dhyana, he goes into samadhi.
b)    Experiences:  Powers begin to manifest themselves such as ability to materialise at a distant place.
c)    Obstacles:  As soon as a sadhaka gets up from dhyana, he is tempted to tryout his powers and if he yields to this temptation, he is soon misled into trying to show off the powers he has acquired. As a consequence of this his ego gains strength and, correspondingly, his ‘Bhakti’ or devotion to God and his Guru diminishes. In order to overcome this obstacle the sadhaka should refrain from exhibiting his powers.

Anhata Chakra

a)    Indications:  The sadhaka acquires ‘Yoga Siddhi’ or ‘Vachan Siddhi’, i.e. whatever he says comes true or is fulfilled.
b)    Experiences:  The sadhaka acquires the power to roam about in his ‘Sukshuma Sharir” or astral body wheresoever he wills.
c)     Obstacles:  As additional powers manifest, the sadhaka’s ‘Ahankara’ (pride, self importance) greatly increases so much so that he forgets that it is by the Guru’s grace alone that he has attained this present state.  The sadhaka goes around boasting and showing off and, at times, may even go to the extent of deriding his Guru.  As the saying goes, ‘Pride goes before a fall’, and sure enough this pride and egoism that he develops lead to his downfall.  The only answer of course, is to shun these powers like poison and to pray sincerely to the Guru for his ‘Ashirwad’ so that he (the sadhaka) docs not fall prey to egoism and pride.

Visudhi Chakra

a)    Indication:  The sadhaka experiences deep and blissful samadhi.
b)    Experiences:  The sadhaka sees divine light and has darshan of his Ishta Deva in dhyana.  He attains the power to go anywhere he likes in his ‘Sukshuma Sharir” including other ‘Lokas’ or planes of existence such as ‘Deva Loka’, ‘Mrityu Loka’, etc.
c)    Obstacles:  There are no obstacles experienced at this stage.

Ajna Chakra

a)    Indications and Experiences:  The sadhaka experiences deep samadhi and strong currents.  The sadhaka obtains vision of the Atman, but there is still a trace of individually left.  As Sri Ramakrishna puts it, “It is like a light in a lantern; one feels one could touch the light but cannot, because of the obstructing pane of glass”.
b)    Obstacles:  It is at this stage that the sadhaka is tested and, consequently, undergoes his ordeal by fire.  Patanjali also cautions the Sadhaka thus: “When tempted by the invisible beings in high places let the Yogi feel neither allured nor flattered; for he is in danger of being caught once more by ignorance.”  (Chapter 3: Sutra 52).  The “Invisible beings in high places” mentioned here are the ‘Devis’ and ‘Devatas’ who tempt the sadhaka with various heavenly allurements and enjoyments and try to deflect him from his path.  The sadhaka succumbs to these temptation then he falls from the path and becomes a ‘Yoga Bhrasta’;  in case of a fall, there is also danger of mental disease.  Hence, this is the stage when the greatest help is required from the Guru;  it is only by the Guru’s ‘Ashirwad’ (blessings) and his raksha (protection) that the sadhaka can hope to steer a safe course through the powerful temptations to which he is subjected.  Even in the lives of divine incarnations we read about this period of testing; e.g. Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness; or Buddha being tempted by the Devil Mara just before he gained the final illumination.

The Sahasrara

If the sadhaka successfully resists the various temptations and sticks resolutely to the Yogic path, the Kundalini finally rises to the seventh plane,  The thousand petalled lotus in the crown of the head known as the Sahasrara.  When this happens, the sadhaka passes into Nirvikalpa Samadhi and experiences Atman Sakshatkara.

Samadhi

The only difference between fully matured dhyana and samadhi is that the state of dhyana is attained by effort and is kept up by effort; samadhi is a state of effortless abidance in the Atman.  Samadhi, like everything else in dhyana, cannot be induced by the sadhaka by an act of will. It comes automatically, of its own accord, when the sadhaka has acquired the requisite state of maturity in his dhyana. While doing dhyana, he will effortlessly pass into samadhi;  this initial samadhi may last for half an hour or more;  then the vasanas, which are still active, will pull his mind down from samadhi again. As the sadhaka continues his dhyana in the proper manner, such samadhi will become more frequent.

Samadhi is of three kinds:—

a) Savikalpa Samadhi.
b) Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
c) Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Savikalpa Samadhi

In the advanced state of dhyana, the mind turns away from objectivity to subjectivity and, when that happens, Savikalpa Samadhi ensues.  During this samadhi, the mind is resolved in its origin, the ‘Hridayam’ or heart and the sadhaka is sunk in deep peace and bliss, without the least ripple of thought.  However, the sadhaka still retains consciousness of his identity and hence the feeling continues to persist that he, the subject, is doing dhyana and the Atman is the object of his dhyana.  As he is aware of this differentiation, he has to make an effort to hold on to this state of Savikalpa Samadhi.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

By continuously holding on to Savikalpa Samadhi, the sadhaka eventually experiences Nirvikalpa Samadhi.  In this state the mind sinks into and is resolved into the Atman;  there is not the least trace of ‘I’ or separate identity; in fact there is no knowledge apart from the awareness of blissful existence.  In connection with Nirvikalpa Samadhi, it is stated in the ‘Viveka Chudamani’ that: “When the mind is purified by sadhana, one passes from Savikalpa to Nirvikalpa Samadhi; this in turn leads to the direct realisation of the Atman.  This Nirvikalpa Samadhi destroys all vasanas, and severs the Chit-Jada Granthi;  thereafter, everything is seen as a manifestation of the Atman only;  The difference of you, I, this, that etc. disappears.”

Once Nirvikalpa Samadhi is attained, further effort by the sadhaka is neither necessary nor possible. Effort is only possible up to and including the stage of Savikalpa Samadhi;  once Nirvikalpa Samadhi is attained, the sadhaka is no longer aware of his ‘I’, i.e. of his existence as a separate individual, and hence there is no one left to make any further effort.  At this stage, some higher power takes over and leads the sadhaka on until the final realisation.

Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Sahaja Samadhi is remaining in the primal, pure, natural state without effort.  This is the highest state and the goal of all Yogis.  The sadhaka no longer sees himself as an individual but is in conscious identity with the Param-Atman.  There is now no more need for him to do dhyana or any other sadhana.  Though he may engage in normal day to day activities, he no longer identifies himself with these activities but treats them as a dreamer treats a dream experience.  In fact, in the Sahaja state, the Yogi is aware only of the Atman; it is a continuous experience of oneness:  “Ekoha, Dwityo Nasti.”

Tapas

There are many ardent sadhakas who repeatedly request Sri Swamiji to initiate them into ‘Tapas.’ Such Sadhakas obviously do not comprehend the true meaning and nature of Tapas.  The difference between normal dhyana and Tapas is that during dhyana the sadhaka is conscious of the body;  Tapas implies being immersed in samadhi during which the sadhaka is not at all conscious of his body and his surroundings; whereas dhyana is intermittent and is interrupted by thoughts,  Tapas is continuous like the flow of oil.  From this it will be apparent that only that sadhaka is fit for undertaking Tapas who has reached the samadhi stage, and who is capable of holding onto his samadhi for long periods.  Obviously, therefore, a sadhaka cannot undertake Tapas merely by his having a wish to do so;  it is only by practice of dhyana over a period of time that the mind is purified and prepared for samadhi and Tapas;  the duration of this preparatory period depends on the spiritual maturity of the individual and the amount of time and effort he devotes to the practice of dhyana.

Initially, Tapas follows a six hour cycle.  Beginning from midnight, the sadhaka will be immersed in samadhi for about 5 or 5 1/2 hours;  at 0500-0530 hours his eyes will automatically open and he will emerge from the state of Samadhi;  this will be repeated at 1100-1130 hours, at 1700-1730 hours and at 2300-2330 hours.  When the sadhaka emerges from samadhi, he should drink some water.  He should then take light nourishment which should be restricted to only milk and fruits;  in case preferred, ‘Lassi’ (diluted curds) may be taken instead of milk.  After this light repast, the sadhaka should sleep for about 10 minutes to digest the milk and fruits he has consumed.  Thereafter, he may walk around within the house or ashram compound if he likes.  This rest period between samadhi should be restricted to 30 minutes to 1 hour.  During the midnight rest period, the sadhaka should have his daily bath;  after his bath, he should rest for one hour.  As the intensity of Tapas increases, the sadhaka will remain immersed in samadhi for longer and longer periods until during the advanced stages, he will be in continuous samadhi for all the 24 hours, except for an one hour break at midnight when he can take his bath and partake of some light refreshment of milk and fruit.  The sadhaka must continue his Tapas until, by ‘Guru Kripa’ he obtains Sakshatkara and is instructed by his Guru to rise and discontinue his Tapas.  If the sadhaka leaves off Tapas without ‘Guru Agya’ (Guru’s permission), he will face difficulties and he will have to come back to his Guru in order to complete his sadhana.

Sakshatkara

The state of Sakshatkara, of course, can never be described because it is beyond mind and speech.  However, there are various indications given in the scriptures and in the descriptions left to us by the great sages who have attained this final state.

The great Sages say that “to remain always as the Pure Atman is sakshatkara or realisation.”  Elaborating this, Sage Vasishta has said in ‘Yoga Vasishta’: “Just as the mind in a stone remains quiet and modeless, so also like the interior of the stone to remain unmoded and thought free, but not in slumber nor aware of duality, is to be fixed as the Real Atman.”

Sri Shankaracharya has said: “ Just as in the ignorant state unmindful of the identity of the Atman with Brahman, one truly believes one self to be the body, so also after knowledge, to be free from the illusion of’ the body, being the Atman, and becoming unaware of the body, undoubtingly and unmistakably and always to experience the Atman as the Sat-Chit-Ananda identical with Brahman is called Sakshatkara.”

Talking about the experience at the time of obtaining Sakshatkara, Sri Ramana Maharshi has said:  “Realisation is called ‘Vritti Jnana’.  You can feel yourself one with the one that exists; the whole body becomes a mere power, a force current, your life becomes a needle drawn to a huge mass of magnet and as you go deeper you become a mere centre and not even that, you become mere consciousness.  There are no thoughts and cares any longer;  they are shattered at the threshold; it is an inundation; you are a mere straw; you are swallowed alive; but it is very delightful, for you become the very thing that swallows you.  This is the union of ‘Jiva’ with ‘Brahman’, the loss of the ego in the real Atman, the destruction of ignorance, the attainment of Truth.”

Sri Swamiji, when questioned about Sakshatkara, has been somewhat reticent about this final and culminating aspect of dhyana.  As he explains it, this is something that has to be experienced and cannot be put into words.  That apart, even if an attempt is made to convey the nature of this experience, by suitable hints and examples, only very advanced sadhakas would be able to understand it.  Therefore Sri Swamiji feels that details about Sakshatkara should only be given once sadhakas have acquired a deeper understanding of dhyana;  these details may, perhaps, be included in a later edition of this book, or in a new book when it is written; for the present,  Sri Swamiji has confined his remarks to clarifying the nature of experience at the time of Sakshatkara.  According to Sri Swamiji, this experience will depend on the spiritual propensity of individual sadhakas;  thus, those sadhakas who are inclined towards the ‘Nirguna Bhava’ (devotion to the Attributeless Absolute), will obtain ‘Atman Sakshatkara’ on the successful completion of their dhyana practices;  those who are inclined towards the ‘Saguna Bhava’ (devotion to God with Attributes) will obtain Sakshatkara of their ‘Ishta Deva’ instead.  In the same context he has further clarified that there is no essential difference in these two forms of Sakshatkara; for it is the same Atman that manifests either as pure Atman, or appears in the form of the Ishta Deva.

In conclusion, it needs to be emphasized and stressed that Sakshatkara can never be obtained by a sadhaka merely by personal endeavour.  Sakshatkara is essentially the result of the Grace of God, who comes in the form of the Guru, to bless and bestow realisation and ‘mukti’ on the Yogi who has striven hard and ceaselessly on the path of Union with God.  This must never be forgotten.

 

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