Meditation is experiencing and enjoying the inner void - though one may say that this enjoying is a mind-oriented experience. Both joy and sorrow are experienced by the mind - and anything that is experienced by the mind is not meditation. It is witnessing the various conditions of the mind and releasing oneself from the clutches of the mind through awareness.
Meditation is the route to enlightenment. In this statement, there are two words that require elaboration. Enlightenment is not stuff received from outside. It is our awareness of our inner essential self that is normally ignored. When this ignorance is got rid of, the reality of the real self astounds us and makes us wonderstruck. That is enlightenment.
One tends to ask here, when this self is all the time within us, how come we keep ignoring it? The reason is that we get accustomed to looking outward almost exclusively.
The material world we live in, we have to explore it for our sustenance; also to guard against dangers that lurk around. For that our senses need to exercise vigilance. The outside intrudes into our mind in the form of images, thoughts, feelings and intentions.
Our scriptures, sages and seers have told us that the goal of life is happiness. But real happiness or bliss cannot be found in the outside world. It is to be experienced within us, and unless a person has it, he will not feel satisfied, no matter how much material comfort or wealth he may enjoy. He will always desire more. But once he starts experiencing the inner ecstasy, irrespective of what he has or does not have, he will feel totally satisfied.
Wise men were telling us that the answer to all difficulties could be found by ‘turning within’ and discovering their own ‘Inner Self’, almost no one knew how to do it. Everyone feels that he has a tremendous untapped potential yet none can unlock it. That sleeping power within can awakened only by the grace of a Guru, a ‘realized’ master who possesses the ability to transmit his own spiritual energy to others.
Thus, meditation is a systematic practice of controlling the senses and the wandering of mind by fixing attention inwards, whether on a mantra, one’s own breathing or any part of one’s body. Such practice over a period of time begins to produce a sense of serenity. Regular practice with commitment, perseverance, patience and hopefulness is required for ultimate success.
There is no shortcut, nor is there a fast forward button in meditation. Perseverant meditation breaks all the bonds that bind man and sets him free. The world is a snare and yet the human mind is not able to comprehend this truth in its entirety because of the veiling power of Maya.
Meditation is an exercise that helps us to understand this truth and make it a part of our life.
Then the external world disappears from our view and we gain access to the experience in our inner world. It is a new world and once we enter it and have a taste of it, the external world ceases to appeal because of its ephemeral nature.
Solitude helps us to experience the calm and peace of this inner world and that is why Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa advised his disciples to seek solitude even when one lived amongst family and society.
Even if it was for a short duration, meditation in solitude should be practiced initially.
Gradually the time span could be increased. Only when one is alone with one’s mind can we manipulate it to turn its focus on the Self that is a direct link to God realization.
Every individual is endowed with this powerful instrument, the mind, that works as a two way opening - towards the external world or towards inner spiritual goal. The initial hurdles have to be overcome with strong will and determination.
Thus, the newly planted saplings on the footpath need to be protected from the cattle with a fence; but when they grow into trees with big trunks, the fence is no longer necessary. We must create for ourselves a chance to get into the groove of meditation. The worldly attractions are like water and pickle. If we get involved in these, our aim will be forgotten.
We all suffer from a deep-rooted sense of ego that makes us see the differences based on caste, creed or status.
This article is an ‘Ashirvachana’ given by His Holiness Sri Balagangadaranatha
Mahaswamiji, 71st Pontiff of Sri Adichunchanagiri Math