Advanced Meditation from The Path
- 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:
See also this summary of Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced
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.
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.]
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]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.]
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
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:
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
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
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.
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
Japa and Ajapa
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
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
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.
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
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
Kundalini Rises to Sahasrara
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
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
"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:
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,
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:
Guru and Divine Grace: