- Numerous paths are described in various traditions, but among these paths prayer, meditation, and contemplation have been universally accepted and verified by the ancients. Discipline of mind, action, and speech are auxiliary, preliminary, and essential steps in each of these three different approaches. Let us explain and understand each of these distinct approaches separately.
Meditation is an inward method in which a systematic study is conducted to gain knowledge of the Absolute. It goes beyond prayer to help one realize the higher dimensions of life. In this approach it is believed that the human being is a dweller in two worlds, the world within himself and the world outside. One develops profound self-mastery so that he is able to go to the Source of consciousness through a meditative method and to simultaneously develop the ability to perform his duties skillfully, selflessly, and lovingly. Meditation thus has two aspects: meditation in silence and meditation in action. The Bhagavad Gita teaches both. Many scholars, however, do not know how to practice meditation and do not understand how the meditative mind can be capable of performing skillful actions. But karma yoga (the yoga of action) and dhyana yoga (the yoga of meditation) cannot be separated. One who has the ability and capacity to meditate in silence also has the capacity to perform his duties skillfully. Sincerity, truthfulness, and purity of heart are prerequisites for the method of prayer, but in meditation, stillness, even breathing, withdrawal of the senses, calming down the conscious mind, going beyond the unconscious, and finally attaining the state of tranquility or samadhi are the systematic steps one has to follow.
Many incomplete methods are practiced these days, and according to their advocates these methods are the only way. Such claims by bogus teachers are laughable. Meditation as taught by Patanjali's method is a systematic approach, like climbing a ladder and finally reaching the highest rung, the state of samadhi. It is not at all religious, and to give it religious color, as some mistakenly to, is to vulgarize a purely scientific and methodical way of attaining samadhi, a state in which all one's questions are resolved. Samadhi is the goal of the meditator. In that supreme state, which bestows serenity in all conditions, the individual unites himself with the self-existent Reality. There are no short cuts such as those taught by many modern teachers. Meditation is a discipline that must be resolutely practiced if one is to be transported from the physical to the subtlest aspect of his being and finally to that fountainhead of life and light where the purest consciousness perennially resides in all its glory.
Marvelous results can be observed when the method of meditation is introduced gradually, step by step. Meditational therapy is the highest of all therapies, providing that the therapist is competent and knows how to apply this form of therapy systematically. All other methods of therapy offer only momentary relief, and often one becomes dependent on the therapist. In meditational therapy, however, the student is led toward self-reliance, self-examination, self-verification, self-analysis, and self-attainment.