Why meditate? It’s important for novice meditators and experienced practitioners alike to reflect on this question, and on the nature of real meditation and true spiritual experience. And we can turn to the masters of yoga for the answers to these questions.
What is meditation?
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “to join.” Yoga is both union and the way to that union. What do we join through yoga? First, we join our awareness to our own essential being, the spirit whose nature is pure consciousness. In yoga philosophy this is known as the Atman or Self. Next, we join our finite consciousness to the Infinite Consciousness, God, the Supreme Self (Paramatman). In essence they are eternally one.
Meditation is the process of restoring our consciousness to the center– our eternal spirit-self–and keeping it there so our evolution will proceed exactly according to the divine plan without any delays or deviations. As the Gita says, “Only that yogi whose joy is inward, inward his peace, and his vision inward shall come to Brahman and know Nirvana” (Bhagavad Gita 5:24).
Regarding this, a yogi-adept of the twentieth century, Dr. I. K. Taimni, remarks in his book The Science of Yoga:
“According to the yogic philosophy it is possible to rise completely above the illusions and miseries of life and to gain infinite knowledge, bliss, and power through enlightenment here and now while we are still living in the physical body…. No vague promise of an uncertain postmortem happiness this, but a definite scientific assertion of a fact verified by the experience of innumerable yogis, saints, and sages who have trodden the path of yoga throughout the ages.”
What is the nature of true spiritual experience?
The yogi’s fervent aspiration is to experience the Real, the Truly Existent (Sat) which we call Brahman, the Paramatman. So immediately he is confronted with the crucial question: What is true spiritual experience? This must be answered lest he wander for future lifetimes through delusional experiences he mistakes for realities.
Since yoga deals with the mind–the major source of illusory experience–the yogi is very susceptible to mistaking the unreal for the real, just as he was before becoming a yogi! The masters of yoga have given us clear information as to the nature of real spiritual experience.
Shankara defines correct meditation as “meditation established in the perception of the nature of Spirit alone, pure Consciousness itself.”
Yoga Sutra 3:55 tells us: “Liberation is attained when the mind is the same as the spirit in purity.” That is, when through meditation we are permanently filled with nothing but the awareness of pure consciousness, liberation is attained.
“That is the liberation of the spirit when the spirit stands alone in its true nature as pure light. So it is.” This is the conclusion of Vyasa. Pure consciousness alone prevails. True spiritual experience, then, is the experience of pure, unalloyed consciousness that is the nature of spirit and Spirit, of the individual and the cosmic Self.
What is the Key?
Suppose some people who have always lived in tents entered a house and came upon a locked door. Knowing nothing of doors, locks, and keys, how would they open it? They might throw themselves against it, beat on it with their fists or heavy objects such as sledgehammers or even some kind of battering ram. If someone approached them with a tiny key they could easily snap in two and told them it would open the door, they would laugh and mock him. But he would effortlessly insert the key, turn it, and enter. His knowledge would make the difference. Yoga is both the knowledge of human makeup and the key to unlock it and ascend to freedom in spirit.
In Journey to Self-Realization, a collection of talks by Paramhansa Yogananda, at the end of the talk entitled “The True Signs of Progress in Meditation,” he gives the following list of seven indications of progress in meditation practice:
- An increasing peacefulness during meditation.
- A conscious inner experience of calmness in meditation metamorphosing into increasing bliss.
- A deepening of one’s understanding, and finding answers to one’s questions through the calm intuitive state of inner perception.
- An increasing mental and physical efficiency in one’s daily life.
- Love for meditation and the desire to hold on to the peace and joy of the meditative state in preference to attraction to anything in the world.
- An expanding consciousness of loving all with the unconditional love that one feels toward his own dearest loved ones.
- Actual contact with God, and worshipping Him as ever new Bliss felt in meditation and in His omnipresent manifestations within and beyond all creation.
It is important that meditation become the heart, the dominant factor, of your life; for then God will be the heart, the ruler, of your life. Browse the links below to find other articles on meditation, and to find the answer to the all-important question How To Meditate.
Further Reading about Meditation
Articles on Meditation
- Key Concepts of Indian Philosophy and Yoga
- What is Yoga?
- How to Be a Yogi
- Foundations of Yoga
- Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, and Meditation
- A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How to Be Free from Them
Blog Posts on Meditation
- Meditation and Samadhi: a Modern Nath Yogi’s Insights
- The Science of Sound and Breath in Meditation: Essential Facts
- Chakras and Meditation: What Is the Best Practice?
- Why Meditation Can Be Unpleasant, and Why This Can Be a Good Thing
Podcasts on Meditation:
- Beyond Theory and Belief to Actual Experience
- Why We Meditate and the Obstacles We Overcome
- Yoga, God, and Gurus: an Important Perspective
- The Yoga Life Podcast: Tips for Successful Meditation