Meditation is one of the most important practices in a spiritual life. It is the fine-tuning of the consciousness so that it becomes aware of its own “vibrations” as being identical with the “vibrations” of the Cosmic Consciousness. In such a state of identity, there is no sense of individuality, and the Soul realizes that it is the same in “substance” as God. This is the state called God-consciousness, Self-consciousness or Cosmic Consciousness. This is the goal for which all ‘religious’ people strive, even if they are not totally aware that this is their goal. Achieving this goal means achieving salvation, and who is there who, in his or her right spiritual mind, will not want to reach such a goal.
Meditation had its origin in ancient India among the monks and ascetics who devoted a great deal of time and introspective thought into finding out the reason for life, for the manifestation of the universe, and for the Infinite Intelligence which appeared to be operating in all the varied happenings in nature. They investigated the nature of the physical body, the astral body, the causal body, the mind, the intellect, the ego, the consciousness, the soul, the Infinite Intelligence, the various gunas or qualities which are inherent in all manifested life, the principle of Maya, or the great Illusion, which was from the beginning of ‘creation’, and which makes the physical world perceptible to our senses, the way in which this Maya produced the idea of ‘Duality’ proceeding from the ‘Singularity’ which was the Word or God in Energy form. They investigated the Atma or Soul, and its relationship to all living and non-living things, and with God. This process continued for a considerable time among the great sages of India, and was taught by the gurus to their disciples by oral tradition. All of these were later systemized by a great sage, Patanjali, into the ‘Yoga Aphorisms’ that are widely used up to today.
The goal of Yoga is to prepare the devotee to enter meditation and to realize Samadhi – the state of ‘One-ness’ in the Universe, a realization which gives the devotee spiritual liberation from the cycle of birth and death, which is the prevailing order of the world due to Karma – the Law of Cause and Effect. The Law of Karma works very precisely, and no one can escape it, unless he purifies himself to such a degree in thought, word and deed that he no longer incurs karmas. The goal of life is thus to free oneself from the effects of karmas so that spiritual liberation can take place.
Without going into the philosophy of Yoga, it is sufficient here to point out that there are eight steps in yoga practice. They are:
1. Yama or the observances of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, control of the passions, and non-hoarding of things.
2. Niyama or the practices of cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study of holy books, and remembrance of god.
3. Asanas or physical postures to promote health and flexibility of body.
4. Pranayama or the control of the breath in order to help control the mind to aid meditation.
5. Pratyahara or the withdrawal of the senses from the sense objects of world.
6. Dharana or concentration on physical objects or abstract ideas.
7. Dhyana or meditation. More will be said on this in the next issue
8. Samadhi or union with the Infinite Being.
These practices necessarily require time and dedicated effort to achieve success. If you adhere to them, you would be amply rewarded with knowledge of your true Self, the Spirit of God dwelling in you.