There are as many paths to draw the mind to the present moment and one of them, Maharshi Patanjali says, is to meditate on the name and form of a person who is free of individual likes and dislikes. Veetaraga vishayam va chittam, says the sutra. Chittam is the mind made of chit or consciousness. The mind is an ocean of consciousness. Each individual is like a wave in that ocean. This wave always refuses to realise that it is the very ocean itself. It thinks itself separate and has its own likes and dislikes, pet peeves, favourite places and people.
This attachment is called raga and for every attachment, there is a corresponding detachment to everything else. If you have an attachment to a particular person, that means there is detachment from everybody else at that moment. When this becomes strong, it turns into hatred. The human mind is generally tossed between these two emotions of love and hatred. To love someone or something binds the mind to the object of love. It is so evident in people with addictions. When the interest in some addictive drink increases, there is a hatred for all other foods that keep the body healthy. When there is an addiction to a particular lazy posture, there is a hatred for any position of the body that keeps the mind alert. If there is a liking towards a person whom we think gives us happiness, there is hatred towards all those who try to make us see reality as it is.
The sage or the Guru is one who has transcended these motions of the mind that swing like a pendulum between love and hate. When we connect our mind to such a person outside, it settles down with the same quietude. What the mind sees, that it becomes. It can be the image of a deity or the form of the Guru or the Master. As the mind focusses on the form in the picture or an idol in a temple or a living personality in front of him or her, reading about such a person, meditating upon him or her who is not swayed by passion—a Vairagi or desireless person—the mind also becomes so and rests quietly at the altar of consciousness instead of being swayed like the waves of an ocean caught up in a storm.
This meditation can be done in many ways. This is what we normally do when we stand before a divine idol in the temple. The deity before us has transcended all likes and dislikes. The picture of a Guru or a liberated master, even the very thought or name of such a person can make the mind meditative.
The mind is nothing but pure consciousness. In this mind, when the focus is on the form of a person whose mind is not in splinters of likes and dislikes, the mind of the meditator too becomes quiet as an ocean. It takes the form of what it meditates upon.