Q: Please tell me which of the following methods of meditation is easy and better and why?
- Meditate only on the breath (breathing meditation or anapanasati).
- Meditate on the mantra (mantra japa or mantra meditation).
- Breathing with mantra japa.
With practice all three become easy. As to why Soham Yoga (mentally intoning “So” when inhaling and “Ham” [Hum] when exhaling) is better than these three–assuming that in the third practice a mantra other than Soham is done in time with the breath–please look up Soham Yoga on our website.
Q: I try hard to follow the Soham Japa and the associated yamas and niyamas, yet often I fail and then neglect the practice for a long time and get frustrated. Kindly give me a few words of encouragement as association with people who are already advanced on the path is beneficial.
We have ignored spiritual life for countless lives, and only tried spiritual life for the last few of our lives. It takes time to create the disposition to persevere. When I was at the university, the administration demanded that people only walk on the existing sidewalks and not walk on the grass. They even had someone watching in a window, and if someone started across the grass, they would tell them over a loudspeaker to stop. Silly. So finally the university got the idea and watched to see where the grass was worn into a path and then put cement walks there. In the same way we have to keep up practice enough so a “track” is made in our minds.
Never be discouraged. Billions of people are not taking to sadhana, but you have. So you are a very rare person, indeed. You would never have begun to try if you were not able to succeed. You most certainly will. Just keep it up and in time you will manage.
Thomas Edison tried over six hundred different things as a filament in the light bulb. A huge number failed, but the last one succeeded. It is the same with discipline of any kind.
Keep going. The Goal is there and you are on the way.
Q: To another friend who often felt discouraged about meditation.
Do not force yourself or make yourself miserable. And especially do not expect too much of yourself. First we crawl, then we walk and then we run.
There is no reason why you cannot just meditate five minutes at a time and add five minutes (or even just one minute) more when it gets easy. Like anything else, we have to make meditation a habit, but there is no need to rush it.
Billions of people either do not know about meditation or do not care. But you have been trying. This itself creates positive karma. You can succeed. Just take it easy.
Sri Gajanana Maharaj said the following:
“It is a common idea with aspirants that as soon as they begin japa of the mantra Soham their mind should become concentrated and they should enter into the state of samadhi. It is a laudable wish, no doubt, but it is out of place at the time. The main idea in meditation is that while the japa is going on there should not be the flow of other thoughts disturbing the repetition of the mantra. Our mind is naturally fickle. It is very difficult for it to concentrate itself upon one idea. The aspirant will in time experience a state in which the mantra is going on while his mind is entirely at repose.”
“‘All possible troubles beset the worldly life.’ Keeping this truth firmly in mind, it is necessary to get deliverance from samsara (worldly existence) by the internal repetition of Soham. The seeing of many visions is not a sure sign of progress. Real progress lies in the continuous meditation on the sound of Soham going on without a break, after the visions have stopped. If a person carries on the continuous practice of the Soham japa, his mind will in course of time get concentrated upon it, and he will then experience the state of samadhi.”
“Attaining the state of samadhi is not the final goal of our life. In the state of samadhi there is no consciousness of the external world, and there is experience of bliss. But this state lasts only for a short time. As soon as the normal consciousness is gained, the world makes its presence felt as before and the old play of desires, full of pleasure and pain, commences. Thus it will be seen that it is a mistake to suppose that we have reached our final goal when we reach the state of samadhi. What is necessary in this stage, is that even while we are conscious of worldly objects our meditation on Soham must be ceaselessly going on, and the worldly objects and events should produce no reaction on our mind, making it unsteady. Hence it is necessary to carry on the meditation of Soham ceaselessly. When this practice is carried on continuously, a state is reached when the presence of the Paramatman is felt in all the three states: the waking, the dreaming and the sleeping. Thus, the state of ajapa-japa is reached, and when this is reached we experience the state of samadhi even while we are doing worldly activities. The mind itself becomes one with Soham and the truth of the following words is realized: ‘The mind has become fixed and motionless in one place. Atmic bliss has, therefore, been realized to the full. Nothing remains lacking.’
“The object of the above discussion is not to make aspirants despondent and abandon the practice through a sense of frustration if they find that their efforts are not crowned with success in a short time. They are sure to realize the real power of Soham after some days if they carry on the practice continuously, with great intensity. There is absolutely no doubt about this. I say this from my own experience. The aspirant should have the firm determination that he will carry on the practice of Soham intensely in the future, although he might have failed to do so in the past.”
More articles about meditation:
- Seven Signs of Progress in Meditation, from Paramhansa Yogananda
- Prayer, Dharma, and Meditation: 3 Questions
- Your Place for Meditation: Tips for Making it the Best
- Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self: An In-Depth Guide to Effective Meditation on Amazon