An Outline of the Accessories to Meditation
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on January 28th, 1973)

Yesterday I was referring to the supernormal aspects involved in the experience and the practice of meditation. These aspects of experience in the spiritual circle of our life are supernormal in the sense that they do not easily come within the purview of our normal observation. They are far more momentous to our life and to the life of the world than we would be able to imagine in our minds. It is precisely this incapacity on the part of the human mind to properly gauge the depth of the spiritual vision of things that has partly been responsible for the relegation of the religious and the spiritual life to a corner – that too, an unimportant and ignored corner – of our existence.

We boast of our culture and education and the advancement of humanity in the process of evolution today, but we are very backward in our insight into the nature of things. We do not understand what is really good for us, and such ignorance cannot be equated with any kind of culture or knowledge. To mistake one’s ideal completely and, as the Bhagavadgita puts it in one of the verses in the Eighteenth Chapter, to regard the whole as a part and a part as the whole is tamasic knowledge. We regard the whole, which is spirituality, as a part of our life, and the part, which is the sort of life that we are living, as the whole of it, and it has led to the condition in which we are today.

The life spiritual is supernormal, and in this supremacy of its operation throughout nature, it includes, as I tried to point out yesterday, all that we regard as normal. The advance that we make in spiritual meditation is not a psychological advancement that we are privately making in our life, but an advancement of all that constitutes nature. To reiterate, nature is an all-round activity that is taking place everywhere, within and without us, and therefore, an advance made in the field of natural activity is a universal advancement. We grow in stature in every aspect of our being.

There is a beautiful anecdote in the Chhandogya Upanishad wherein we are told that some learned men go to a sage, an emperor, for initiation into the mystery of the Supreme Self. The sage queried these learned men as to the way in which they had been meditating, which was all explained to him but which he rebutted as incomplete, as partial – as valid, no doubt, inasmuch as it was charged with a fervour and sincerity behind it, but it was defective in the sense that all their efforts were infected with this precise defect of taking the part for the whole. Nevertheless, says the teacher, we are prosperous in our lives on account of the spirit that has entered into our meditational practices, though not wholly but only partially.

Spiritual progress includes material progress. It is not entering into a house of poverty, dejection and ignorance. Even today, with all our studies, we have a lurking suspicion in our mind that to advance in spirituality is to become poorer and poorer materially so that we become a beggar. This is not true. To grow in spirit is to grow richer in every aspect of our life, every aspect of life in generality.

The Upanishads are the testament for this enormous truth that startles us. The sages of the Upanishads were masters not merely of a so-called esoteric knowledge which was useful only to them in their houses privately, but they were masters of the forces of nature, masters of the resources of the world, masters of body, mind and spirit, masters who could control even kings because it was mastery over everything that was real. It was mastery of Reality. It was not merely a psychological enhancement of virtue or value in one’s personal life.

All these give a fillip and a pep to our meditation, and we become enthused because the more does Reality enter into our lives, the wider becomes the circle of our operation, which means to say that the circle of our activity does not get confined merely to our bodily individuality but exceeds the limit of our personal life and begins to transform and give a magical touch to our outward life also.

A corresponding and parallel transformation will take place in our relationship with outer things also when there is an inner advancement of spirit. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as an inward advancement of the spirit because the spirit is not merely an inner reality, as we usually call it. It is a universal reality, and when there is advancement in the spirit, we universally advance. So when there is such a spiritual growth as is ensured by our meditations, we become possessed of our higher Self.

The higher Self is an integrated consciousness of ours which is larger than our personality. In the threefold process I explained yesterday is also implied the meaning of what this entry of the higher Self into our lower self is. When the higher Self enters us, what happens to us? What do we become? What change takes place in our personality? What sort of experience do we have at that time? It is difficult to explain in language. Symbolically, metaphorically in the form of tales, fables, images, and metaphors do sages explain as to what happens when the higher Self enters the lower self.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say in his own humorous way that it is like a mad elephant entering a thatched hut. It will devastate the hut and break it into pieces. This is one way of explaining what happens. It does not mean it is the whole truth. Well, what he means is that the lower self cannot contain the higher Self in it, just as a small thatched hut cannot contain the activity of a wild elephant. Some say it is like the entry of the ocean into our house. Our house cannot contain the ocean. Some say it is like entering the lion’s den. Plotinus was fond of saying this. These are all partial metaphors which bring out some aspect of what happens actually – that too, in a very feeble manner because except by metaphor and symbol and comparison, we cannot explain what will happen because what this spiritual growth implies cannot be explained by comparisons of the mortal earth. What comparisons can we give? That is why, when trying to compare the grandeur and immensity of the battle between Rama and Ravana, Valmiki said, “What sort of comparison can be given? The sky is like sky, ocean is like ocean, and the battle between Rama and Ravana was like the battle between Rama and Ravana.” There was no comparison because they were superb and they had reached the superlative form of their structure and action. Likewise, what sort of experience will we have when the Supreme Self enters us? That very same experience we will have, and nothing else. We cannot compare it because we cannot find a similar thing in this world, so what can be there as a comparison to it? But we are given hints as to what happens. We grow organically. We grow as a whole. We grow not merely inwardly and outwardly, but entirely. In better terms we cannot explain it.

Now, this growth entire, the entire spiritual growth is also the growth of the spiritual relationship that we have with the other things in the world. We have a sort of relationship with other people, other things, society and so on. This relationship begins to grow spiritually when we advance in meditation. What is this spiritual relationship? It is different from social relationships, it is different from psychological relationships, it is different from economic and political relationships, it is different from family relationships. Spiritual relationship is entirely different from all these known relationships of the world. What sort of thing is it? It is the unity of Selfhood. We begin to perceive Selfhood in things. Even the word ‘perceive’ is not applicable here. We begin to realise our Selfhood in the existence of the world when we grow spiritually. This again is something beyond language and description. We begin to be possessed of the reality that can be seen in anything in the world.

There is another beautiful anecdote from the Chhandogya Upanishad. There was a king called Janasruti. He was camping somewhere with his retinue. Two swans were flying across just above where King Janasruti was camping, and one of the birds told the other bird, “Look here! Be careful. Don’t you see the fire of the lustre of this king coming up and burning you if you cross it? Don’t cross him. You will be burnt by his lustre.”

The other bird retorted, “Who is this King Janasruti about whom you are speaking as if he is like the sage Raikva with a cart?”

This was heard by the king. “There is somebody greater than I. That is what is implied in this conversation. When one of the birds was speaking about my spiritual lustre, the other bird retorted, saying there is someone greater than this.”

The king went in search of that person to whom reference was made by the other bird. Who is this sage Raikva? Well, the rest of the story is irrelevant to our subject. The point is that the Upanishad mentions the greatness of this sage Raikva.

The Upanishads are very pithy in their statements. They do not go on expounding like treatises. In their short, pointed remarks they give a wealth of truth, and one of the things they say about this Raikva is that all the virtue of everyone in the world goes to him, as rivers enter the ocean. If anybody does any good anywhere, the credit will go to him. You will be surprised. What is this? How should my virtue go to that man? So what is the use of my doing any good when all the credit will go to somebody else?

This is again a metaphor, a symbol of spiritual glory. It is something like saying whatever you do is God doing. If any credit is to go to you, the credit really goes to God. You have no objection to it, evidently. And when they speak of the greatness of the sage, they inadvertently and invariably speak of the godliness in that person. It is not the person that is given credit to. It is something super-personal present in that person that is referred to as the lustrous super-abundant Reality.

The Upanishads use illustrations in metaphors to show the glory of spiritual realisation. When you come to this realisation, the mastery of the spirit, what happens to you? Everything and everyone circles round you like children gathering around their mother when they are hungry and want food. As children sit round their mother craving for food, the world shall come round you seeking your protection. This again is a symbol, a metaphor used by the Upanishad to give an idea of the power that you gain and the immensity of the importance that you assume as a spiritual reality. You cease to be a human being at that time because a human being cannot command such respect, cannot wield such power, and cannot have such knowledge.

Souls who have been possessed by the Super-self, the higher Self, are not human beings. They cease to be persons, though they may look like persons. They are moved inwardly by a larger immensity of knowledge and power which exceeds the limit of their body and personal relationships. This is what will happen when you develop a spiritual relationship with others.

Another symbol is given in the Kenopanishad. Tadd ha tad-vanaṁ nāma, tad-vanam ity upāsitavyam (Kena 4.6): Supreme Adoration is the name of this Reality. Or, to translate it in another way, Supreme Lovability, Supreme Attraction is the name of this Reality. And whoever realises this becomes the source of attraction for everything. Everything starts gravitating towards you as planets gravitate towards the sun; everyone and everything in all creation will start moving towards you, being attracted by you.

Now, this ‘you’ is not a person. The world cannot be attracted by a single individual because the world is larger than the individual. So when you become the source of the attraction of the whole world, you exceed the limit of the world itself. Such is the glory and the realisation to which you come when you gain mastery of the spirit. This is to have spiritual relationship with things. The world comes to you because you have attracted it by your spiritual relationship with it. In your social relationship you cannot do anything with it. You cannot control even your own servant, what to talk of other things, because your relationship with him is not spiritual, so he asserts his independence always. They revolt, rebel, strike, etc., due to there being only a superficial, outward, mechanised relationship with people. There cannot be revolt and strike, etc., in spiritual relationships because there you catch the selfhood of things. The very root is caught, so there cannot be any kind of trouble by other individuals.

This is the great glory towards which our self moves when we gradually gain mastery over our own self. To gain mastery over one’s own self is to gain entry into one’s own higher Self, because mastery over the lower self is identical with a corresponding extent of the entry of the higher Self into us. It is actually the higher Self controlling the lower self, and the more we approximate to the content and the extent of the higher Self in us, the more do we grow in power, knowledge and happiness.

All these ideas should be entertained in our mind when we begin to meditate so that every minute of meditation becomes a moment of getting oneself charged with force. It is to bask in the sun, which is the same as gaining energy from the sun. When we bask in the sun, we gain strength from the sunlight. Or when we place ourselves in the vicinity of a powerful magnetic field, we receive the impact of that electromagnetic field around us. Forces get connected with our body and we feel the energy moving towards us. The cells of the body revolve, rotate in a more rapid manner. Such is the impact of the higher spirit upon us when we meditate.

What I am trying to make out is that meditation is not such a simple and isolated activity as people may imagine. It is a tremendous work that we are doing, superior to which there can be nothing. We are trying to shake the world itself, as a matter of fact. It is not some private thought that occurs to our mind. It is an attempt to shake the creation itself from the very roots. That is meditation. Imagine what an immensity of task is called for, and what understanding is essential to it.

There was an astronomer who said, “Give me the place to stand. I shall keep the whole universe on my head.” This is something like a physicist saying that if we catch the proper point of the fulcrum of a huge mountain, we can make it stand on a pinhead. According to physical laws there is a particular point in a physical body which is its centre of gravity. It is difficult to detect, but once we detect it, we can make it stand on even a nail. Likewise it is that the spirit is trying to enter into the inward and outward immensity of its own higher Self, for which an all-round preparation has to be made, taking into consideration the different aspects in which spirit manifests itself in the world. All this is wonderful to hear, no doubt, but it is difficult to practise because the secret behind it we cannot catch. It is something like the secret of holding a mountain on a nail. It is an academic secret, a scientific mystery, but it is difficult to catch the point involved in it and actually do it.

We cannot catch the spirit so easily, though it seems to be so near us and it is actually ourselves. The reason is that we are unable to take into consideration in our personal life the various aspects in which spirit manifests itself. The spirit is not only above the world, it is also within the world. It is in the world, it is around us. It is essential to move from the lower aspects of it to the higher ones. We miss in our enthusiasm the lower manifestations and try to catch that which is above, not abiding by the law of the very same spirit as manifest in the lower realms. This is perhaps the spiritual significance of the remark made by Jesus Christ, “If you have something wrong in your relation with your brother in this world, make peace with him first and then turn to God.” You cannot have an enemy in the world and then try to make friendship with God. That is not possible because God is manifest in the world. So the manifest form of God is not to be ignored in our attempt to catch the unmanifest form of Him.

The evolution of the spirit is always gradual. There are degrees in the manifestation of reality, and there are also degrees in our approach to it. It is a slow and steady process. We usually commit to the mistake of missing this point in our life. We are very enthusiastic, overenthusiastic, and this enthusiasm itself kills us because enthusiasm, while it is good, it should not be misdirected. Enthusiasm is an act of the emotion, but it should be coupled with understanding also. It should not be the enthusiasm of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, which was bereft of proper discrimination of the implications of things. This is why we have been told again and again that discipline is the order of the spirit, and advance in the spiritual field is possible only when there is self-discipline.

Meditation is the highest of disciplines. It is the last discipline that we can have, but there are lower forms of it which are contributory to it. The lower forms are yuktāhāravihārasya yuktaceṣṭasya karmasu, yuktasvapnāvabodhasya yogo bhavati duḥkhahā (Gita 6.17); nātyaśnatas tu yogosti na caikāntam anaśnataḥ, na cātisvapnaśīlasya jāgrato naiva cārjuna (Gita 6.16). These are cautions given to us in the Bhagavadgita that we should be moderate in our conduct, behaviour and action. We should not go to extremes in our behaviour in any manner. Physical discipline, moral discipline, social discipline, are all parts of spiritual discipline.

“Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” is again what Christ has said. What is due to Caesar is due to Caesar, and what is due to God is due to God, which means to say when you are in Rome, be a Roman. When you are in the world, do not violate the law of the world because to abide by the law of that particular condition or environment in which you are is a part of spiritual discipline. You do not violate any law because all laws are finally God’s laws insofar as they are contributory to the discipline of the spirit. You cannot violate the law of even your physical body thinking that you are after only God, because the law of the spirit manifests itself even as the law of material forces, even of the body.

So it is that a graduated and systematised discipline is to be followed, neither overestimating nor underestimating oneself. We must know our own powers, and we must also know our own weaknesses. We must be conscious about both if we are to succeed. Gradually the spirit unfolds itself, like the process of cooking. Gradually foods get heated, cooked, and become ready as edibles. Everything is gradual. There is a gradual growth of a plant. There is a gradual growth of the embryo in the womb. The growth of our own body is very gradual. We have not suddenly become an adult and an old man. The process of nature is evolutionary, and not revolutionary. It is gradual. And there is no double promotion in nature. We will not be made to jump like that to the skies. Every step has to be passed through. Every rung in the ladder is to be stepped upon. We have to have every kind of experience because nothing in nature is unworthy of our recognition. Nothing is so unimportant in this world as to be fit for complete neglect on our part. We bring into the fold of our observations and discipline all the existent aspects of law that operate in the world in all the layers of our personality – physical, vital, psychological – so that they may contribute to the spiritual discipline.

Thus, meditation on God is an activity which is quite different in its structure and nature from ordinary activities. Sometimes it looks that God Himself is meditating on God. It is not man meditating. Such changes and transformations take place in us the moment we become more and more independent in ourselves, less and less dependent, on account of our gaining greater and greater entry into our spiritual relationship with others.

All these are beautifully described in scriptures like the Bhagavadgita. To point out only one among the many, the Bhagavadgita should be regarded as a fitting text for daily contemplation and a guide for us in our meditations. The more we study it, the deeper we will find it is. As a small boy I used to read the Bhagavadgita as a kind of religious routine, and later on I began to find more and more meaning in it of a higher theological and spiritual nature; yet, its true meaning could not be grasped, and even today I cannot say that its real meaning has been grasped because the more we go into the implications and suggestive meanings of its different verses, the deeper we seem to be plumbing into the mysteries of the cosmos. The Bhagavadgita is an exposition of the mysteries of the cosmos and the mysteries of God, and we cannot say we have properly grasped it at any time. But it will be a very good guide. All our problems are touched upon there; all questions are answered. Every verse is complete by itself. Just as every cell in our body is complete in itself and yet it contributes to the formation of another huge integration called our body, every verse in the Bhagavadgita is complete in itself and yet it contributes to the totality of an organism which is the entire Bhagavadgita.

Every day it is essential that we spend a little time in svadhyaya of scriptures of this kind, together with japa and meditation and service. We have to combine in our spiritual efforts service, meditation, study, and taking the name of God. All these aspects have to be combined because otherwise, we are likely to become one-sided and either extrovert or introvert.

The name of God, japa as it is called, may well become a preparation for meditation. Most people are unfit for a direct abstract contemplation of the nature of God. Meditation, pure and simple, taken as it is, is abstract contemplation on the superior form of the Absolute. The mind cannot grasp it. However much we may struggle, we will be repelled by the attempt. So it is essential that we create formulae in our mind to enable the mind to entertain higher thoughts by the recitation of formulae or names of gods, mantras, so that these mantras generate certain thoughts which automatically get enshrined in the mind. If we cannot call certain thoughts into our mind of our own accord, we are enabled to summon these thoughts by the chant of a mantra.

The mantras have a double effect. They contain a thought or a seed idea in them and, at the same time, they have a magnetic influence upon us. The recitation of a mantra produces a magnetic effect on our personality. It charges us with a kind of electricity, as it were. It stirs our personality, generates a force within us, in addition to giving an opportunity for us to entertain a thought or an idea of divinity. The mantra itself is a force and the devata, or the deity of it, is another force.

There is also a third aspect of a mantra. A mantra is not an ordinary group of letters. It is not simply some phrase that we are coining for the purpose of recitation. It is supposed to have a rishi behind it. Rishi means the drashta or the seer of the mantra. The seer to whom the magic of the mantra has been revealed is called a rishi, and we are supposed to remember the name of the rishi also when we begin to do japa. Rishi, chandas and devata – those who are accustomed to perform the daily sandhyavandana will know what all this means. Rishi, chandas and devata are associated with a mantra. Rishi is the seer to whom the mantra is revealed originally, and remembrance of him is also a kind of divine invocation. His grace will be upon us. When we read a book, we think of the author of the book and we are able to recollect in our memory the characteristics of the personality of the author, and so on. Something like that is the invocation of the form or at least the name of the rishi to whom the mantra was revealed, so that when we think of the rishi, his grace is supposed to be upon us.

The chandas is the magnetic influence inherent in the mantra. The juxtaposition of the words of a mantra is something like the combining of chemical ingredients in an apothecary’s mixture. They create a force which is different from that which is contained in their individual ingredients. The taste of tea which we take every day is different from the taste of milk, different from the taste of sugar, and is different from the taste of a tea leaf taken independently. It is a different thing altogether that is prepared by a combination of all these elements. Likewise, the utterance or the chant properly of a mantra is not merely the individual utterance of the letters of the mantra, but the generation of a new force which is implied by what is known as the chandas of the mantra. Chandas is the proportion in which it is mixed up. The rishi’s grace is there, the force of the chandas is there, and the deity is there, so you can imagine the importance of the mantra. And if it is given to you by initiation from a Guru, it has an added effect because Guru’s grace is also there. Something wonderful is the mantra. Something wonderful is initiation, and it is tremendously helpful in meditation.

So it is advisable that we do not directly attempt to summon abstract ideas into our mind, as they would slip from our mind. It is better that we take the prop of an accepted formula or a mantra. In the beginning the repetition of the mantra should be slightly audible, and then it is done mentally, so that the mantra shakti will enable us to generate the thought of the deity, and meditation comes of its own accord. As a matter of fact, there is what is known as japa sahita dhyana, and also japa rahita dhyana. Meditation with japa is one thing, and meditation without japa is another thing. The meditation without japa is a higher thing. Well, we need not try to enter into meditation without japa immediately. That will come to us automatically. When we intensify our thoughts in japa, japa automatically drops of its own accord and only the concept of the deity remains in our mind. That will take a lot of time. It will not come to us immediately.

But there are novitiates, sadhakas, who will not find it easy even to do japa. While meditation is difficult, japa is not easy. They will be bored by it. They get fatigued, tired, and sometimes disgusted. The mind will not go to it. The reason is that the mind is not wholly prepared for a religious discipline. Hence, we are to give to the mind some other form of discipline such as svadhyaya, study, as I mentioned. While meditation actually pinpoints the mind on meditation, japa gives a slightly wider circle of activity because there is a little wider scope and freedom given to the mind in thinking of the meaning of the mantra or the formula, but in svadhyaya, or study, we give a greater scope to the mind because we can wade through a scripture like the Srimad Bhagavata, which is a large area for the mind to wander, and yet we are wandering only in divine thought. It is also a kind of meditation, but more loosely used.

If even that is not possible, then attend satsanga. Attend the functions or the gatherings or the discourses connected with great mahatmas, saints and sages, and merely listen to what is said. Sit at the feet of a great master and make a habit of attending these religious gatherings, satsangas, as they are called.

These are various ways in which we can discipline our mind, and temple-going, daily worship, getting up at a particular time in the morning, having a routine which is fixed definitely, are all ultimately contributory to spiritual discipline. We have to grow from the lower discipline to the higher one. While the actual act of meditation is the highest form of discipline, as many of us are not ready for it, we have to prepare ourselves for it by these lesser forms of discipline which are nonetheless not inferior. Therefore, all these lower aspects should be given as much importance as the higher disciplines because many drops make the ocean; pennies make the pound, as we know. Such is the way in which we have to discipline ourselves.

Also, there is the importance of the chant of pranava, or Om together with the attempt at doing japa. Om is associated with the mantra mostly, but it can be taken as an individual sadhana by itself, into which again we have to be initiated. The japa sadhana, the chant of Om, svadhyaya, etc., should become a delight to the mind. That is the test of success. Our meditations, our disciplines and our sadhanas should not be a kind of force that has been exerted upon us, an order that has been executed over us, but a joy that has come to us. To the extent it is a joy, to that extent it is also a success. But if it is only a discipline outwardly imposed by external circumstances, it will not lead to success. The spirit will revolt. So vitality has to be infused into our sadhana. Even if it be very little, it should be proper.

This is an outline of the accessories to meditation, while yesterday I tried to point out the inward aspects of meditation and the spiritual reaches of advanced forms of meditation. So we will do well to remember all these points – the accessories as well as the inner aspects – so that life spiritual becomes the only conceivable life. There will be no such thing as spiritual life isolated from social life or earthly life, temporal life, business life, etc. There will be only one kind of life, call it spiritual or call it anything. There cannot be another kind of life. That is the only thing conceivable, worthwhile and meaningful for us, and this is how we have to re-orientate our perspective of things and re-educate ourselves. This is veritably the entry into the realm of the spirit.