The Yoga of Meditation
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 3: Spiritual Experiences

The apparently inseparable connection of the body and, in fact, the whole of one's life, with the physical elements of creation gets gradually loosened when one progressively advances in meditation. The force of gravitation by which one is confined to the surface of the earth, the limitations of time in the form of the notions of past, present and future, and the loneliness one feels in a corner of unending space are the essence of mortal existence. These are hard ties and difficult knots to break, and often even the possibility of overstepping their limits is beyond one's imagination. But this is precisely what the science of meditation promises and, in the end, achieves. The achievement, however, may take a long time, as several stages of the ascent to Reality have to be passed through.

In the initial stages, visions of different lustrous things such as a crystal, smoke, stars, fire-flies, lamps, glittering eyes, shining gold and light of various precious jewels, arise. These are only hints of advancement in meditation. We are also told that there will be, first, internal perception of a bright star, then a mirror made of diamonds, then the disc of the full moon, then a disc of jewels, then the disc of the mid-day sun and, finally, a sphere of fire-flames, all these coming to one's vision, one after another, in succession. It is also said that a dazzling white brilliance will be seen in the disc made visible, and a mountain of lustre flashes forth before the meditating consciousness. There can also be visions of sky filled with blue light, with dark green colour, and blood-red colour, a brilliant yellow, and ordinary yellow, respectively, at a distance of about four, six, eight, ten and twelve inches. Continued practice enables one to behold a sky which is qualityless. This further changes into a charming light of bright stars, then an expanse blazing with world-destroying fire. It then becomes consciousness-space. Finally, it assumes the form of space refulgent with millions of suns put together.

Sounds of various types are also heard in deep meditation of a high order. First, there is a tinkling sound; second, a more jingling sound; third, the sound of a bell; fourth, that of a conch; fifth, of stringed musical instruments; sixth, of cymbals; seventh, of the flute; eighth, of a large drum; ninth, of tabor; and lastly, tenth, of the rumbling of clouds. Other sounds such as of the roaring of the ocean, of a sprouting fountain, of kettle-drums, of the hum of bees, etc., are also common. Celestial fragrances, celestial tastes and celestial touches of an extraordinary type come as strange experience in meditation. In the condition of the first sound being heard, a thrilling experience passes through one's body; in the second, a feeling comes of the limbs being tom from the body; in the third profuse perspiration is produced; in the fourth a feeling of shaking of the head; in the fifth a feeling of one's palate dropping from the mouth; in the sixth a sensation of ambrosial sweetness oozing from the location of the palate; in the seventh comes knowledge of secrets; in the eighth ability of celestial speech; in the ninth divine cognition, and in the tenth one becomes a veritable God-incarnate.

The existence of different realms or planes of consciousness is recorded in the texts on Yoga and spiritual philosophy, and the seeker has to pierce through these layers, with undaunted vigour of aspiration. It is not wholly true that 'man is the measure of things', for we are assured in the Upanishads that there are higher measures of being and these are successively more real and inclusive forms of life than the preceding layers in the series. To speak in the language of the Upanishads, (1) the lowest unit of human perfection and joy is the satisfaction of a king who is a healthy youth, robust, learned, cultured, good natured and powerful, to whom belong the entire riches of the globe. A person of these endowments is not usually seen in the world but if there is one, he is the lowest unit of delight, which would mean that man is the lowest measure of conceivable perfection. Higher than this unit, says the scripture, is (2) the Jurisdiction of perfection and joy of that class of beings above and internal to man's earth-consciousness, which have been called the mortal Gandharvas (or Gandharvas by action). Higher than this category of beings are (3) the heavenly Gandharvas, (4) the manes or Pitris, (5) the celestials or Devas by action, (6) the celestials or Devas by birth, (7) the celestials or Devas in essence, (8) the ruler of the celestials, called Indra, (9) the sages such as Brihaspati, (10) the divine manifestations as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, known in the Puranas as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, (11) the Cosmic Form, known as Virat, each succeeding stage exceeding and transcending the earlier one a hundred times in knowledge, power and bliss. In fact, the Virat is not merely a mathematical multiplication of the lower experiences, but the Infinite stretching behind and beyond everything, which has no measure or equal with which it can be compared, either in quantity or quality. The Supreme Reality ranges beyond even the manifestation as the Virat, and it rises further higher as (12) Hiranyagarbha and (13) Ishvara, which are its more internal and inclusive cosmical extensions. The Eternal Being, which is the ultimate Goal of Yoga, is beyond these universal manifestation still, and it exists unrelated in its supremacy as (14) the Absolute, Brahman.

It is not that a Yogin has to take graduated steps through everyone of these stages, for the planes of consciousness from (2) to (10) enumerated above are regarded as mostly intermediary levels which may have to be traversed by souls that entertain certain corresponding desires within, and this is the well-known passage of progressive unfoldment, which goes by the name of Krama-Mukti (gradual liberation), and which is detailed by means of quite a different terminology in the Chhandogya and Kaushitaki Upanishads. But this is not a uniform rule of ascent of every soul and in exceptional cases, the consciousness may suddenly rise from (1) to (11), directly, as a result of the intensity of rightly practised meditation of an impersonal nature. Even the stages (12) and (13) are not obligatory divisions in the experience that follows, and there is said to be a sublimation of consciousness, at once, from (11) to (14), since, in fact, the stages (12) and (13) are logical distinctions necessitated as the cosmic counterparts of the human states of consciousness and need not be taken to represent experiences necessarily incumbent on the seeking soul that has once reached the stage (11), the stages (11), (12) and (13) being ultimately indistinguishable from one another when one actually comes to their realisation. The many stages mentioned, nevertheless, indicate the difficulty of the ascent, as well as the extent of the progress that man has yet to make in his evolution. These are mysteries transcending human comprehension, and here our guides are only the scriptures and the teachings of the Masters of Yoga.