Not so very long ago, Europe and the most of the West had very little understanding or knowledge about what meditation entails, or how to practice it correctly. But that’s seemingly all changing now; in the US alone almost 32 million people are either regular or part time meditators. Nonetheless, there still seems to be quite a variance in perspective as to what meditation really is, or isn’t. The confusion isn’t just in the Western hemisphere; it’s a very much global issue.
In fact, in both the contemporary East and West the most common ideas about what meditation is are on the large, quite similar.
Per example: Settling into one’s inner thoughtfulness or creative imagination, an everyday notion in our Westernized meditation, is in the East commonly referred to as mano-bhavana. Inward reflection or seeking self-oriented understanding is in India referred to as manana.
Meditatively focusing on a single thought is referred to as dhyanamatra. Concentration on a single object is referred to as ekotibhava.
External forms of meditations, which involve the development of meaning and mindful-balance in the world, are at times referred to as bahiryoga, at other times kriyavat. And these are just a few of the vast array of East-West definitions that are presently associated with meditation.
So too, prayer, daily mindful-attentiveness, applied deliberation or contemplation, creative visualization, relaxation, and even sitting or walking in nature are variously taught and practiced as valid meditation procedures. As a result, an exacting or definable theory of meditation practice is far more elusive than ever before. And while all of these practices may have some level of value, the many relaxed margins used to describe a meditation practice today can be very confusing.
So now that we’re aware that all these forms are presently a part of the global use of the word meditation, is there a more exacting term; one that might shed light on the more ancient meditation practices — of tested practices that have been cultured for thousands of years through developing traditions and their deep commitment to Self Realize, to attain Samyaksambodhi — enlightenment?
Yes, there are a number of such terms, but one Sanskrit term stands out as paramount, a reference that has held the central standard for meditation for a very long time.
That word is adyatma’dhya, which can be translated to mean — “One’s conscious application of introspective awareness, which allows the practitioner to transcend beyond the common limits of thought.”
In other words, it refers to a practice that takes the practitioner to the very essence of being, to the quantum heart of Self, beyond the thinking limits of the sensory-active psyche. Let’s take a closer look at the term: Adya means, “one without a second, the original or the first” — atma means, “essential-self, or pure being” — and dhya simply refers to one’s inward transcendental, self-directed, application of awareness. And while that’s quite a mouthful to say, it’s really quite easy to comprehend, once the basic structure of our human consciousness is understood.
Gautama Buddha was once asked by one of his students — “How do we find our way on the path; how do we practice?”
The Buddha answered, “A devotee who makes letting go the main object of meditation can easily attain silence, that attainment is the real purpose of meditation. Such a devotee then gains the essential state that supports the inner currents of bliss.”
While at first glance this statement seems quite simple in its context, it actually involves a broader understanding of a vast and long-standing tradition of knowledge that had already been in existence for thousands of years prior to Buddhism. As such, if a sample of truth is presented newly, in essence, it can only echo a truth that has always been — thus it is still true today.
An old Indian proverb states, “Manas eva manushyanam, karana bandha moksha yoho” — “As is the mind, so is the person, causing either bondage or liberation.” This proverb is directly related to why, in part, the Buddha may have told his devotee those words. This is because the central reason for meditating rests in the vulnerable nature of the mind, and in what rests in wait beyond it.
Nearly 380 years after the birth of Gautama Buddha, in 180 BCE a revered Sramana scholar named Maharishi Patanjali, wrote an ontological treatise comprised of 196 sutras, delineating a precise methodology for attaining Self-Realization, and Kaivalya — the Self-Aware-Silence the Buddha had spoken of in his instructions. A sutra can be described as a verse that is intimately tied to any other verse that accompanies it. The most important sutras in Maharishi Patanjali’s 196 sutra treatise were undoubtedly “Yogas chitti vritti nirodha — Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam — Vritti svarupyam itaratra.”
These sutras can be translated as, “When the distorting mental patterns that influence the mind’s operating principles are annulled in a state of complete rest, the perceiver realizes Oneness. Only then, does the perceiver reclaim his or her illumined nature. Otherwise, those perceptions-distorting patterns continue to cause the perceiver to resemble the distortions.”
So what are these vritti-distortions that keep us from being enlightened? They are the patterned mental-habits that cause one’s ego desires to form — desires that lead to a broad complex of attachments and aversions. Once ingrained into the mind, they enduringly create misunderstandings about what is real or not, and also what will bring us fulfillment or not. They are what make us appear to be what we are not and also what life it is not. Simply stated, meditation is meant to be our means to resolve this issue and bring ourselves back into alignment with the truth of our being — giving us back our true perceptions and therein setting us free to live our lives as an expression of our full potential. We accomplish this through what the Buddha said is a process of letting go, and what Patanjali said is transcending through our thought patterns into a bed of silence, from where our rightful perceptions may then emerge to give us our intended lives.
Our “intended lives” is what the Buddha was referring to in his instructions when he said, “Such a devotee then gains the essential state that supports the inner current of bliss.” Bliss can be our guide to fulfillment. Our process of letting go can bring us to sense these currents arising from within us, from deep within the sea of silence that rests at the fount of our being. If we are so able to sustain our effortless letting go, we can also let our willingness flow freely into the rising bliss currents. Once accomplished those currents can carry the devotee to his destiny through actualizing as pure creative intelligence. This is, in essence, one’s only viable means to realizing Dharma.
So we meditate to realize our Dharma, which in turn takes us to our highest potential in life — Samyaksambodhi — enlightenment.
That said, there are a number of meditation practices that can serve that lofty goal. But, they must include a few core principles: The practice must be effortless, disciplined, steadily practiced, inwardly directed to the source of one’s natural being, transcendental by nature, and must always involve the practice of letting go. Hence — adyatma’dhya
© Aaravindha Himadra