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Advanced Meditation from The Path

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Excerpted from the 49-page paper, The Path The Path was written by Swami Jnaneshvara in in 1997 as an aid to the Residential Program at Swami Rama s Ashram,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2005
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      Excerpted from the 49-page paper, The Path
      The Path was written by Swami Jnaneshvara in in 1997 as an aid to the
      Residential Program at Swami Rama's Ashram, Rishikesh, India (program
      has not been available for several years due to management and policy
      changes at the ashram)
      The Path is in pdf and can be downloaded here:
      http://www.swamij.com/modules.php?name==Downloads

      See also this summary of Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced
      meditation:
      http://www.swamij.com/bia.htm

      ADVANCED MEDITATION

      In general, the tasks of the advanced stage are:

      ·Allowing thoughts to come forward from the unconscious
      ·Introspection; discriminating useful and unuseful thoughts
      ·Witnessing thoughts in the mental field
      ·Examining fears and eliminating samskaras
      ·Ajapa japa; being led by mantra towards silence
      ·Meditation on mantra and/or visualized objects
      ·Meditation at the space between the breasts or eyebrows
      ·Meditation on light or sound; merging of mantra, light and sound
      ·Subtle meditation and traveling to sahasrara, the crown chakra
      ·Expansion of the conscious state to that Beyond

      Descriptions of the advanced stages are naturally inadequate. But
      please remember there is a simplicity to this process which we can
      all understand in a general way. Even such a general understanding
      can be inspiring and lead one to further their studies and practice.
      We can certainly grasp it well enough to practice, while continuing
      to deepen and expand our meditation through study and direct
      experience. Remember too, that we are discussing the practice of
      meditation, and where meditation ends, samadhi begins. We are not
      trying to "understand" samadhi through the study of this process.

      INTERNAL DIALOGUE

      Your mind has become a constant companion [by practicing the
      Beginning and Intermediate stages]. This sets the stage for the
      advanced meditation practices where you allow the whole of the
      unconscious to start coming forward. Gradually, the conscious mind
      is to expand to the point that there is no longer any unconscious.
      Unconscious means unknown. Once it all becomes known, there is no
      more unconscious; it is all conscious. And this process begins by
      having made friends with the mind through internal dialogue.

      [See also the Internal Dialogue practices guidelines which are on
      page 47 of The Path, and the Internal Dialoge writings in the paper
      Understanding and Practicing the Teachings of Swami Rama, which can
      also be downloaded at the link above.]

      MINDFULNESS

      The practices of mindfulness are now well in place. There is a sound,
      experiential base of understanding how the mind works, and how it
      effects all aspects of one's life. As one enters the advanced stage
      and starts to more directly experience the operating of the
      subtleties of mind, there are not so many surprises. The content may
      seem new, but the underlying process will be familiar. As you more
      and more clearly see the marvelous way in which the mind operates,
      there will be a sense of awe and delight, rather than a fear of the
      unknown. The skill of paying attention to all aspects of one's life
      and being can now deepen to include subtler and subtler realms.

      [See also the Practicing Mindfulness suggestions which are on page 46
      of The Path]

      BREATHING

      The mechanics of the breathing exercises have been learned [in the
      Beginning and Intermediate stages] and they are being done in
      sequence, going from outer to inner, from gross to subtle. The
      practices are now moving with a consistent flow, from one to the
      next, like music. Sushumna awakening can be maintained for longer
      periods.

      During meditation you may get the feeling that you are not breathing,
      though you actually are. This is an encouraging sign of advancement;
      attention is moving inward.

      See also this article on breath:
      Breathing Practices and Pranayama
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm

      INTROSPECTION

      Introspection is learning to inspect your thoughts and deciding what
      is useful and what is not useful. Swami Rama points out that usually
      when one starts to inspect within, there is not a capacity to
      continue it because you become swayed by your thoughts and identify
      with the thought patterns. Then you become controlled by the
      thoughts. If you do not first have determination, you should not
      inspect your thoughts. And having determination comes by first
      having the ability to let go of thoughts. Determination is increased
      by paying attention and discriminating.

      In Path of Fire and Light, Vol. II, introspection is Step 7. In step
      4, one becomes focused on the bridge of the nostrils, bringing
      sushumna awakening and an increased awareness of one's thoughts. In
      step 5, one develops determination. In step 6, one learns to let go
      of thoughts. Now that you have determination to deal with the
      thoughts which are coming, and have learned to let go of thoughts,
      you can learn to call back individual thoughts by your own choice.
      Then you are able to inspect them. It is an important point to
      recognize that, at this step you have attained the ability to choose
      whether to let a thought go, or to bring it back, at your own wish
      and desire.

      By gaining control over the thinking process, one can control the
      impressions stored in the mind and eventually over one's karma.
      Through introspection, one can discover the nature and origin of
      thoughts. Through introspection one can learn to understand and see
      clearly habits and their origins. Through introspection one can
      change habits and thus change character and personality.

      Thoughts are people. They are not mere thoughts; they are people
      within you. You are a world in yourself. Just as people are born and
      die, so too, thoughts are born and die. Those thoughts that are deep
      grooves or imprints in the mind, samskaras, can be eliminated. One
      can be free from these samskaras. One can obtain freedom from their
      samskaras, from the impressions that have been stored in the
      unconscious mind.

      To burn your samskaras, you sit in meditation and ask all the
      impressions in your mind to come forward, so that you can examine and
      burn them. In this method, you observe the thoughts but you do not
      get involved with them.

      Through introspection you can learn what is your real nature and what
      is not your real nature. We can use discrimination and introspection
      in looking into the stream of symbols, ideas, images and fantasies
      that are in the mind. One can see right away that these images are
      not independent; these symbols have certain inner meanings. We color
      them ourselves, and we cannot trust them without analyzing them. Yoga
      science never asks us to follow anything blindly but rather to
      discriminate and analyze. Learning to discriminate between useful
      and harmful knowledge is an important part of the process of
      introspection.

      In the dreaming state, one has no control over the dream, but in
      meditation one has perfect control. One can remain in meditation and
      recall all the unfulfilled desires that are normally expressed during
      dreaming. One can then analyze and resolve them. One can judge,
      analyze, and decide the usefulness of the impressions coming from the
      unconscious that are the root of the dreaming reality. The meditator
      can experience all that which is experienced during the dreaming
      state. When the conscious state is expanded, dream analysis becomes
      clear, and the ideas and symbols that are experienced during that
      state are easily understood. If one has clear introspection, the
      harmful and injurious dreams that strain and distract the mind and
      its energy can be analyzed and resolved. A time comes when meditation
      stirs the unconscious mind and brings forward impressions from
      its hidden recesses. It quickens the method of analyzing,
      understanding, and surveying the whole dreaming state.

      With introspection, you learn to examine each of your fears, one by
      one, to encounter them and then be free of their control. As you
      examine your fears, you will learn that all your fears are somehow
      false and based on misunderstandings. There is no truth or reality to
      your fears. This process is very important. To fear and try to escape
      from examining one's thought process is a serious mistake for a
      student to make.

      All of our samskaras reside in the latent bed of memory. To study
      action and even conscious thought can provide some personal
      consolation; but it is not the way of liberation and enlightenment.
      Without focusing on the subtle traces of our mind stuff, that is, on
      the samskaras in their latent form rather than on their manifestation
      at the surface, enlightenment is not possible, according to Swami
      Rama.

      There is a bed of memory in the mind where we store the seeds of our
      impressions or samskaras. Without this bed, the river of mind cannot
      flow. From this bed arise many of the memories and impressions which
      trouble and disturb us. In meditation we learn first to calm down the
      conscious mind, so that these impressions may be allowed to rise and
      pass through our mind without troubling us. Then we learn to deal
      with the deeper memories of the unconscious mind with which we
      normally have no contact.

      In this introspection, you want to study the mind, but how do you
      actually do it? You don't have any external device or instrument to
      use to study the totality of your mind, so you have to train one of
      the aspects of your mind to study the totality of your mind. You have
      to train a part of the mind, so that all of the functions of the mind
      can be studied through the use of that one part. All sadhanas,
      spiritual practices, techniques, and disciplines are actually means
      to train the mind.

      Introspection, or inspecting within is covered in Path of Fire and
      Light, Vol. II., and is also well described in Freedom from the
      Bondage of Karma.

      [See also the Introspection descriptions, which are in the paper
      Understanding and Practicing the Teachings of Swami Rama, which can
      also be downloaded from the website.]

      WITNESSING

      One becomes a mere witness to mental activity, observing silently the
      thought waves arising in the mind. One should not associate with the
      passing thoughts; one should merely watch them flit by. No attempt
      should be made to use the faculties of discrimination or will, and
      there should be no struggle for control of the emotions and impulses.
      One should, however, note carefully the degree and duration of
      conflicts and attention.

      Many people assume that meditation means not thinking. But if you
      stop your mind from thinking, you will hallucinate, and your mind
      will lose consciousness. Meditation does not mean losing touch with
      yourself or denying your thinking process. When you are fighting
      with your thinking process, you are not meditating. Fighting deepens
      negative thought patterns. Learn instead to let go of the thinking
      process; learn to gradually strengthen the witnessing faculty of your
      mind. In this way, you can understand and examine thought patterns
      with the help of introspection, strengthening those thoughts that are
      inspiring, helpful, and positive.

      You are the architect of your life. Never forget that. By systematic
      practice, in three months' time you will be able to calm down your
      breath. Gradually, you will be able to have perfect serenity on your
      conscious level, and then you will find that infinite library called
      the unconscious mind slowly coming back to your conscious level. Then
      you can go beyond these levels to the very center of consciousness.

      The first stage of meditation is to clear the mind. We all know that
      we think, but do not know why or what are the root causes of our
      thoughts. It is essential to observe the thinking process and witness
      the contents of the mind. To establish ourselves in our own basic
      nature we need to know how to cleanse the mind. We constantly
      identify with the content of the mind and with our memories. Things
      which trouble us inwardly are hidden from others, but we see them and
      allow ourselves to be disturbed constantly by them. Through
      meditation we gain control over these disturbances and learn to
      observe and witness them. Then slowly problems fade from our mental
      processes.

      Gradually, you will acquire the power to inspect your own thinking
      process, while remaining undisturbed. Such a mind attains clarity and
      is then prepared to attain samadhi.

      Witnessing is covered in Path of Fire and Light, Vol. II., and is
      also well described in Freedom from the Bondage of Karma.

      See also this article on witnessing:
      Witnessing Your Thoughts:
      http://www.swamij.com/witnessing.htm

      NORMAL OPERATION OF THE MIND

      A thought normally takes 2/25 of a second, which is a rate of 12½
      thoughts per second, 750 per minute, or 45,000 per hour. This is the
      normal operation of the mind, but it is usually not noticed. Through
      the process of meditation the mind becomes progressively more
      purified or clear, and one starts to experience the mind as it is
      actually operating. As meditation advances, the thought process even
      speeds up faster than this. The process of introspection and burning
      samskaras quickens.

      To experience the mind in this "normal" way is actually a part of the
      process of the expansion of the conscious mind. One might begin to
      experience this with the onepointed concentration of the sushumna
      awakening practice of focusing on the flow at the bridge of the
      nostrils. It is this expansion process which eventually leads one to
      enlightenment or Self-realization; the conscious expands until there
      is no unconscious. Since that is the goal, one does not, therefore,
      want to skip this aspect of meditation where the mind is encountered
      in this way.

      It is obvious that to be able to consciously experience such a stream
      of thoughts, one must have the ability to remain undisturbed by those
      thoughts. In fact, if a disturbing thought does come, one then loses
      sight of the others by becoming absorbed in the disturbing thought.
      That single disturbing thought acts as the engine of a train of
      associated thoughts which becomes a subject of worry or distraction.

      The elimination of the disturbing quality of thoughts is the purpose
      of introspection and burning samskaras, which was described above. It
      is for this reason that one should learn, from the very beginning,
      the strategy of letting go of the disturbing quality, rather than the
      strategy of getting rid of the thoughts themselves. Many people
      believe you can stop the thinking process, but you cannot actually do
      that.

      Remember also, that one of the six skills mentioned at the beginning
      of the paper had to do with witnessing thoughts. First one learned to
      witness a gross level of thought, and now is experiencing a deeper
      level of this same process of witnessing. In this process, one
      continues to progressively experience deeper levels of the mind. The
      ability to witness may seem to change with each level, yet it remains
      fundamentally the same skill. This is why it is so important to
      cultivate this skill from the beginning, including in daily life.

      AJAPA JAPA

      Mantra has been referred to as a boat which carries one to the other
      shore. When one enters the ocean of the mind as described above,
      mantra is the boat which helps one journey through the unconscious,
      on the way to the Self within.

      Mantra has by now become the dominant thought in the mind. The
      thousands of other thoughts are not as strong as they used to be, and
      the student has learned the skills of letting go and witnessing. With
      those skills in place, mantra automatically rises to the surface as
      the dominant thought. There is no battle between thoughts and mantra.
      The mantra is automatically going on, on its own, repeating itself.
      One simply "watches" it with attention. The mantra has a leading
      quality to it. By just paying attention to it, and following it
      wherever it goes, it will lead us.

      This leading quality is very important. To find out where it is
      trying to lead us, we must follow it. It is trying to take us
      somewhere. If you internally "say" your mantra, and then stop, you
      will notice that the feel of it remains and tries to take you
      somewhere. If you will allow your attention to stay with it, in an
      inquisitive way, you will find that it carries you to the place of
      silence. It's actually going very deep, right to the center of
      consciousness, but we usually don't allow it to lead us quite that
      far. But the point is this: we need to keep following, trying to find
      the place to which the mantra is trying to lead us. It's like being
      in a forest, hearing the sound of an animal in the distant bushes,
      and then trying to follow that sound until we find the source of it.
      We just keep listening, paying attention, and following.

      Japa is sometimes described as the repetition of a mantra. Ajapa japa
      is sometimes described as the automatic, internal repetition of the
      mantra. But there is a deeper meaning to ajapa japa. A word Swami
      Rama often uses when discussing mantra is "remembering" the mantra.
      And remembering does not mean speaking or talking, whether externally
      or only in the mind. He explains that one should "listen" to,
      or "hear" the mantra. One should allow the mantra to "arise and
      repeat itself." This means taking a stance of paying attention to the
      mantra which is already there. He even explains that by mentally
      repeating the mantra, the mind then repeats many things (which is
      not how you want to train your mind).

      Advertising people are well aware of this principle. They create a
      catchy tune which a person hears a few times, and then automatically
      repeats internally. You do not use will power to cause the
      advertising tune to come up; it's just there, like it or not. A
      meditator wants the mantra to arise, rather than the advertising
      tune. The meditator then wants to then pay attention to that mantra
      which has arisen. The meditator wants to watch it, listen to it, hear
      it, feel it, and become completely absorbed in it. It does not
      require an act of will to cause the mantra to come, to be "repeated."
      It is already there. All you have to do is notice it, pay attention
      to it, and follow it.

      A mantra has four bodies, or koshas. Outermost is the word and its
      meaning; next is feeling, then constant awareness, and finally
      soundless sound, or silence. The mantra will move past the quality of
      just being a word and one will experience the feeling associated with
      the mantra, and a constant awareness, which then guides one towards
      silence. All sounds, including mantras, arise from silence and go
      back to silence. This is where the mantra is trying to lead you, if
      you will allow it to do so.

      Sometimes one can think that they are forgetting their mantra when
      they notice that the syllables start to drift away. What might be
      happening, is that the mantra is leading you inward, past the level
      of verbal language. But, not understanding this, the student might
      get concerned and try even harder to hold on to the verbal level of
      the mantra. The student might "repeat" the mantra with more
      intensity, or intentionally faster, so as to not "forget" the mantra,
      when what is needed is to allow the mantra to do its job, which is to
      lead you inward towards silence.

      This notion of "feeling" and "awareness" might be more easily
      understood by thinking of some person you love (or someone you
      dislike). How do you remember that person? Do you have to repeat
      their name over and over? No. You remember the "feel" of the person
      inside of you, and if the emotion is very strong, it might be
      a "constant awareness." In this constant awareness, the name of the
      person may come and go, but the awareness is always there. A parent
      of a newborn baby is constantly aware of that child, though not
      actively thinking of the name of the baby.

      It is this constant awareness that is the real meaning of ajapa japa.
      In meditation, you make that awareness the object of meditation. It
      then carries you, fully awake and alert, through the ocean of the
      unconscious. And when you choose to observe the ocean, the mantra
      remains your boat. Done internally, it is meditation, Done
      externally, it is meditation in action. They are both ajapa japa.

      See also these articles on mantra:
      How to Use a Mantra
      http://www.swamij.com/mantra-use.htm
      Japa and Ajapa
      http://www.swamij.com/mantra-japa-ajapa.htm

      GOING TO THE SILENCE

      Though he repeatedly teaches that one should go to the silence, and
      that meditation ends in silence, Swami Rama makes this point
      particularly clear in Path of Fire and Light, Vol. II, where he
      writes succinctly, "You go to the silence, you go to the silence, you
      go to the silence."

      MEDITATION BETWEEN THE BREASTS OR THE EYEBROWS

      At this stage of advanced meditation, there are two points on which
      the mind can be focused, the space between the breasts or between the
      eyebrows. By the time one comes to the advanced level of meditation,
      one's inner tendencies and inclinations should be clear. If you are
      emotional, the center for meditation is the anahata chakra, the space
      between the two breasts. If you are more intellectual, or think a
      lot, then the center for meditation is the space between the
      eyebrows. Both will eventually lead you to the same intuitions.
      However, at this point of meditation one should not meditate on the
      crown chakra, or on any of the lower chakras. Meditating on the crown
      chakra might lead to hallucinating, and meditating on the lower
      chakras might lead to significant distraction from meditation.

      When meditating on the space between the breasts, one might meditate
      on a point of light in the space. When meditating on the space
      between the eyebrows, there is a tiny circle there. Inside the center
      of the circle, there is an unflinching flame steadily burning. It is
      like a milky white light. This flame has also been described as being
      like a crystal flame. One might also experience there a tiny black
      lingam, or oval shaped object. One might also meditate in the
      darkness at either of these two centers, with no visualized image.
      You may ask a teacher if you are uncertain about which center to
      meditate on, or on what object, if any, to meditate.

      You continue to allow your thoughts to come forward from the
      unconscious, but only witness them rather than brooding on them. If
      the mind does not brood on the thoughts, then you remain unaffected,
      and you allow your thoughts to let go.

      MEDITATION ON SOUND OR LIGHT

      There is a fine and subtle point that then comes, again according to
      one's internal tendency. There is sound and light within. You should
      strengthen visualization or you should engage your mind in listening
      to the sound coming from within. Every individual has one of these
      two predominant tendencies. For some, visualization is easy; for
      others, hearing sound is easier. You have to judge yourself by
      studying the tendency of your mind. Again, you should consult your
      teacher if you are uncertain.

      When one listens to the sound, the inner sound, anahata nada comes.
      It will systematically go through a variety of sounds. Finally,
      you'll hear the sound like "Om." Your whole being vibrates from
      within, though your body is still. These inner sounds come to both
      those who practice mantra yoga and to those who do not use mantra,
      but practice listening for the anahata nada. This practice is called
      nada yoga.

      Your mind is being led by the mantra, toward the silence. When your
      mind is not following the subtle sound of the mantra, then it becomes
      aware of the illumination at ajna chakra, the space between the
      eyebrows.

      The illumination may be experienced as coming from ajna chakra, the
      space between the eyebrows. The sound may be experienced as coming
      from anahata chakra, the space between the breasts.

      MERGING OF MANTRA, SOUND AND LIGHT

      The meditator is becoming aware of the inner sound and the inner
      light which are already there.

      When one develops the feeling of constant awareness of the mantra, it
      unites with the mainstream of consciousness where light and sound are
      inseparably mingled. That is a state of perfect concentration. The
      light of consciousness and mantra become one, and the mantra is not
      actually remembered, but its meaning and feeling are revealed.
      In a higher stage of meditation sound and light are united, and in
      the highest state pure Consciousness alone exists.

      TUNNEL

      While meditating on the sound or light, your mind suddenly enters
      into something like a tunnel that leads you to the gateway of
      sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petaled lotus. This particular gate,
      according to the yogis is called the eleventh gate in the city of
      life.

      Sushumna, the central channel along the spine, actually divides into
      an anterior portion and a posterior portion at the level of the
      larynx. The anterior portion of the sushumna passes through the ajna
      chakra and the posterior portion passes behind the skull, the two
      portions uniting in the brahmarandra, or cavity of Brahma, the
      thousand-petaled lotus at the fontanel.

      See also these articles from Kundalini Awakening:
      Prana is Made to Flow in Sushumna
      http://www.swamij.com/kundalini-awakening-3.htm
      Kundalini Rises to Sahasrara
      http://www.swamij.com/kundalini-awakening-6.htm

      BINDU

      Bindu means point or dot. In the yogic tradition it means the point
      at the ajna chakra where the gateway to sahasrara begins. It also
      means the seed of life.

      In meditation on the bindu (bindu bhedana), the bindu is visualized
      at the ajna chakra as a tiny transparent pearl until the vision is
      clear. Then the visualized pearl-like bindu is moved to the sahasrara
      chakra. In this practice the bindu is regarded as the essence of the
      mind, and the mind is enriched by direct contact with the resulting
      superconscious state.

      Finally the teacher leads the student to pierce the pearl of wisdom
      (bindu vedhana) and go beyond to the Limitless.

      See also this article on bindu:
      Bindu: Pinnacle of Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra
      http://www.swamij.com/bindu.htm

      SHAKTIPATA

      "Shakti" means "energy," and "pata" means "bestowing." Shaktipata
      means the bestowing of energy, or lighting the lamp. Shaktipata is
      the Sanskrit word for grace, and is sometimes referred to as a decent
      of power. It is the grace of God transmitted through a master.
      When a student has sincerely followed the instructions, enlightenment
      comes with the removal of the subtlest obstacle through shaktipata.
      There are various ways in which shaktipata may actually be given,
      such as by touch, glance, through another person, or by some physical
      object. One need not be in the physical presence of the master.

      See also this section on shaktipata from Kundalini Awakening:
      http://www.swamij.com/kundalini-awakening-6.htm#shaktipata

      GURU

      Guru is not any person, though guru can be represented in a
      person. "Gu" means darkness; "ru" means light. Guru is that light
      which dispels the darkness of ignorance. Guru is that special energy
      that is guiding individuals toward their fulfillment as human beings,
      toward perfection.

      When the student is prepared, the guru always arrives to help the
      student do what is necessary to progress in removing the veil of
      ignorance. The student should not worry about who the guru is, or
      what the guru will do. The student's first concern is getting prepared.

      It is the duty of the external teacher to lead the student to the
      path of silence. Then the job of the external teacher is done. Guru
      will then operate from within, guiding the student from the silence.
      The best teachings of the guru are given in silence. The student
      actually learns in the cave of silence.

      This guidance may come in many forms, and operates completely
      independently of where you are physically. Guru is the guide
      throughout life and beyond the realm of death. Guru is a process
      which is so incredible that it is often described as indescribable.

      See also these articles about guru:
      Guru and the Light Within:
      http://www.swamij.com/swami-rama-guru.htm
      Guru and Divine Grace:
      http://www.swamij.com/swami-rama-guru-grace.htm
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