Chapter 9: Light on Meditation
Total Error and Advantageous Error
Meditation on Brahman leads to its realisation, as in the case of Samvadi-bhrama, or erroneous notion of a thing leading to a successful result in relation to that thing. Hence in the Upanishads various kinds of Upasanas, or meditations, are described. Take the instance of a person seeing from a distance the ray of a light, situated within the walls of a room. He sees a gleam of light passing through the window of a house and getting reflected outside, and mistakes the ray of the light seen outside for a gem shining. He commits this error in his mind because he has not seen the source of the light, but only its reflection outside. Suppose this person runs after that reflection thinking that it is a gem. We can imagine the mistake that he is making in cherishing that notion. But, suppose, at another place, there is a gem kept inside a room at a distance and the light emanating from it through an aperture is also reflected outside. If this reflection of light outside is mistaken for the gem itself, there is, naturally an erroneous perception, for the light of the gem is not the gem. In the two instances cited, where one person sees the gleam of the lamp and takes it for a gem, and another where one sees the ray of light emanating from a gem and thinks it is the gem itself, though there is similarity in so far as there is a mistaken notion regarding the gem, yet, there is a difference in the results that they would achieve in pursuing the objects of their quests. While the one who has mistaken the light of the lamp for the gem would not acquire the gem by approaching it, the other who has mistaken the light of the gem for the gem itself would, by going near it, obtain it. This is an illusion in perception called Samvadi, because, though initial perception is a mistake, the end reached is the desired one. Where the end reached is something quite different from the desired one, the mistaken perception is called Visamvadi-bhrama.
We have also instances of Samvadi error in inference and also acts based on scriptural injunctions. It is likely that by seeing mist at some place we may mistake it for smoke emanating from fire and move towards it in search of fire, and by chance, find fire there, though what was perceived originally was not the smoke emanating from the fire. This is an instance where there is Samvadi in inference. If a person sprinkles some water over himself thinking that it is from the holy Ganga, and gets purified, but it so happens that the water is not of the Ganga but of the Godavari, which is also holy, it is again the mistake known as Samvadi, where the mind thinks something different from the actual fact and yet reaches the desired result. If one is affected by high fever and utters in a delirious mood the holy name of Narayana, and reaches spiritual exaltation in the higher planes of existence thereby, it should be considered as an instance of Samvadi error. And so on, there can be hundreds of instances of such errors in respect of perception, inference and scriptural testimony, which lead to the desired end, nevertheless.
Types and Methods of Meditation
All types of meditation on images, such as those made of earth, or wood or stone, and also meditations on such concepts as prescribed in the Panchagni Vidya of the Chhandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads, come under Samvadi ideas, because, here, the desired object is attained even though the means employed is a knowledge which does not really and directly correspond to the whole nature of the object. As in the example of the Samvadi-bhrama cited, an incorrect knowledge leads to a proper realisation of the end; so Upasana, or meditational concepts on the reality of Brahman lead to the final liberation of the soul because of the intense habituation of the mind to the sublime concepts of universal Existence, Consciousness etc., by which the Vedanta texts describe Brahman. By acquiring such indirect knowledge, the aspirant begins to intensely feel within himself the communion of his innermost ‘I’ with Brahman and recognises the presence of Brahman in his innermost being. This is the highest type of meditation, whereby the highest Reality is asserted in each and everything in the universe, including one’s own Self, but as long as there is only an idea of Brahman in the mind, as Existence, and there is no direct inward realisation in one’s own experience, as in the case of indirect knowledge of the deities like Lord Vishnu gathered from scriptures, this general knowledge acquired has to be regarded as conceptual (Paroksha) alone, notwithstanding that by the study of scriptures one has a clear notion of the Divine Being, Vishnu. This is just indirect knowledge, because, here, the Divine Being is not directly seen, but only visualised; but because of this, it cannot be said that indirect knowledge is an illusion, for, what makes knowledge an illusion is not its indirectness but the absence of the object to which it relates. A Divinity like Lord Vishnu is not a non-existent being, because his existence is affirmed in the scriptures which are valid proofs of knowledge, though in the present state of knowledge we have no direct realisation of such a Divine Being. Similarly, though we hear from the scriptures that Brahman is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, etc., since this has not yet become an actual experience within, it cannot be equated with realisation or direct knowledge of Brahman. Yet, this knowledge of an indirect nature is not illusory, because it has a relevance to reality, though indirectly. Though there are instructions in the Upanishads such as, Tat-Tvam-Asi (That Thou Art), where direct experience of Brahman is indicated, yet, merely on hearing such sentences, no immediate realisation comes to the seekers because of the absence of proper discrimination, reflection and profound meditation subsequent to hearing or studying. So long as there is the strong erroneous feeling that one is only a body or an individual, and there is the consequent relationship with the objects of the world, no amount of force applied on the mind will ever succeed in coming to the realisation of the Oneness of the Atman with Brahman, because here, after all, the impurity of the mind still persists, which accounts for its dullness and incapacity to grasp deeper truths. The faithful disciple and the student who knows the true meaning of the scripture has an adequate indirect knowledge of Brahman, but this indirect knowledge is not opposed to the direct knowledge of the dualistic world which he sees simultaneously. There is no opposition between the indirect feeling of the Divinity in an image and the direct perception of an ordinary object in it; naturally, no one can prevent the mind from visualising Beings like Lord Vishnu in images, though to the ordinary mind the image is only a physical object. Here the instance of the faithless need not be brought in as an argument, because the faithful alone are competent to undertake these arduous processes of practice prescribed in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Once this faith is acquired, there is an immediate rising of devout knowledge of the objective of meditation by means of instruction from the Preceptor, and this instruction in regard to meditation does not need any argumentation. Due to a possible diversity likely to be seen in the instructions, and the variety of Karmas and Upasanas mentioned in the scriptures, which are hard to understand for the ordinary minds of mortals, sages have taken the trouble of bringing all these teachings together and collating them in a suitable manner in such works as the Kalpa-Sutras, Brahma-Sutras, etc. With the help of these guides, the faithful aspirant can, even without further rational investigation, undertake the practice directly, with confidence in the words of the teachers.
The sages of yore have described the practice of various Upasanas (devout meditations) in their works, and those who have not the capacity to conduct self-enquiry and investigation for themselves can study these and grasp these under the instruction of a preceptor and then directly engage themselves in meditation. No doubt, a thorough investigation and enquiry may be required in the case of those who are aiming at ascertaining the true meaning of the scripture such as the Vedas, but the practice of Upasana does not require such arduous investigations. What is necessary is a mere implicit confidence in the words of the teacher and an immediate resorting to its practice. However, Brahma-Sakshatkara, or the realisation of Brahman, is not a question merely of faith or belief in what others say about it. It is a question of direct experience for oneself in one’s own deepest understanding and conscience. What prevents success in putting into practice all the indirect knowledge acquired through the scripture or the teacher is faithlessness, and the obstacle to direct realisation is non-discrimination. Though it may be that a person has practised self-enquiry for a very long time, if he has not yet realised Brahman, the duty here of the aspirant is not to discontinue meditation and enquiry, but proceed with it again till the attainment of direct experience. Sadhana (practice) concludes only in experience and never before. It is also possible that even though one practises enquiry and meditation till death, yet, the Atman has not been realised. But this should not be the cause for any dissatisfaction, because it only means that the obstructing Karmas have not yet come to an end, but it is certain that on their cessation realisation shall be attained in some future birth. In the Brahmasutras, too, it has been corroborated that one can attain knowledge either in this birth or in a future birth and it shall be attained the moment the obstacles have come to an end. This is also the reason why many people, though they have heard and studied much on the nature of the Atman, have no real knowledge of it. In the case of Sage Vamadeva, the obstacles to knowledge came to an end even while he was in the womb of his mother, and he had illumination then and there due to the force of the previous spiritual practices which he had undergone in past lives. As in the case of studying one may not be able to commit to memory a particular part of a text, for example, even after repeated reading of it, and it may be that on the next day the memory of it comes of its own accord, so in the case of knowledge, it reveals itself as a consequence of intense practice for a very protracted period, when the impediments are over. Knowledge matures gradually and not immediately, as in the case of the harvest. A child in the womb matures gradually, and Nature always goes by stages, and never by leaps and bounds. Yet, it is likely that on account of the threefold obstacles mentioned previously, knowledge may not dawn at all even after continued practice. These obstacles have to be overcome first in order that there may be final success on the path.
Though a person is learned, it may not be possible for him to attain to the spiritual ideal immediately on account of ignorance, as a person who may daily walk over a treasure hidden beneath the earth may not know that he is daily walking over it. In fact, Jivas go to Brahman daily in the state of deep sleep, but do not know it, being covered by ignorance, and return to external consciousness of the world outside them. As mentioned, the obstacles may be grouped under three heads – past, present and future – due to which the Self-manifestation of knowledge is obstructed and its revelation becomes difficult. Past impressions harass the mind. There was a householder who was attached to a she-buffalo to such an extent that even when he took to renunciation later on, the love for the she-buffalo became an obstacle in his spiritual practice and it is said that he approached his Guru for initiation, and the Guru had to take into consideration his love for the she-buffalo and described to him Brahman as conditioned by the form of a she-buffalo. However, by intense concentration on his beloved object, he was able to feel and realise the unity of himself with the object of his meditation and it is then that the Guru came and gave him the proper initiation into the mysteries of true meditation, admonishing him that the form he was thinking in his mind was only an adjunct outside truth, and that the truth was the Consciousness witnessing the form. The present obstacles are in the form of attachment to sense-objects and dullness of the mind, perverted argumentation and an obsessed wrong notion confirming the reality of the world and its objects. These obstacles are to be gradually eliminated by the practice of such virtues as tranquillity of mind, sense-restraint, etc., and by hearing, reflection and meditation on the great truths of existence, as also by employment, of proper means to suit, then and there, the different circumstances which one may have to encounter on the path. By such gradual elimination of desires, the obstacles decrease by degrees and then the Truth shines by itself. The future obstacles are the part of Prarabdha-Karma which manages to bring about future experience and even rebirth, such as in the case of Sage Vamadeva, whose Prarabdha was just enough to make him enter the womb of a mother, and the moment he entered it he had knowledge and realisation. In the case of Sage Jadabharata, the births were three before he had ultimate Self-realisation; but in the case of most people, the births are many. As mentioned in the Bhagavadgita, these seekers attain to a certain stage in Yoga, but not having had the final consummation of it, take further births until all the Karmas as obstacles are got over; but their honest practices are not a waste, though they have not succeeded in a particular life. Every little bit that is added to the storehouse of spiritual merit is a permanent asset and it shall never be destroyed, though it may be very meagre. Seekers and Yogins who have some desires in their minds unfulfilled, reach, after the dropping of their bodies, higher realms of joy accessible only to highly virtuous persons, and when the momentum of that enjoyment is over, they are born again in the house of pure-minded and wealthy persons. But those who have no desires in their minds are reborn in the homes of great Yogins endowed with spiritual wisdom. Such a birth is very rare to obtain and cannot be had by a mere little merit acquired in the world. Having acquired such birth, the Yogin is pushed forward by the spontaneous impulse which he carries with him and superior intelligence, as a result of his past practices. Consequently, he exerts more on the spiritual path in this birth. Hard indeed is this blessedness to obtain, for, here, one is driven forward by the spiritual current even without one’s personal will and effort. Thus, after several births the Yogin attains the beatitude of Brahman.
If there is any desire left in the mind, such as the longing to reach Brahma-loka, the meditation would not be completely successful, because realisation of Brahman will not be possible if there is any desire suppressed within. Those who meditate with a desire to go to Brahma-loka reach that region and attain to Brahman in the end, at the end of the age-cycle. In the case of most persons, even spiritual effort is very difficult, and self-enquiry is still more difficult, because of the obstructing Karmas. It is in regard to such persons that it is said that there are many to whom the Atman has not come within the purview of even their hearing, due to dullness of mind and the absence of the proper requisites, such as a proper Guru, a suitable place, conducive circumstances, etc.
As in the case of Saguna-Upasana (meditation with attributes), as described, so in Nirguna-Upasana (meditation without attributes), too it is possible to fix the attention of the mind on a series of concepts relating to Brahman. In Saguna meditation the mind is made to think and deeply feel the presence of God in the best conceivable form, called the Ishta-Devata (chosen deity). The fundamental stage here would be to regard the Ishta as the absolute deity, standing or sitting in front of oneself and possessed of sublime qualities, the best that can be ever conceived of. There is then a flow of thought towards the Ishta-Devata, the current of love proceeds from the meditator and envelops the object of meditation with the intention to gain communion with the desired objective. However, this is not so simple as it appears, because the mind has the natural habit of thinking something which is different from the prescribed object, due to the notion that there is some other thing in this world which can also bring the needed satisfaction to it, and an involuntary, rather unconscious, question arises within itself as to why one should not enjoy these pleasures of communion with the other objects of the world when they too have values of their own. Here commences the great difficulty which every seeker has to encounter in his spiritual endeavour, the difficulty of giving a proper education to the mind to the effect that its highest consolation lies not in coming into contact with sense-objects, but in seeking the source of all pleasure, which definitely is not the objects, and the purpose of meditation is after all to seek this ultimate source of perennial bliss, and, so, meditation is not an end in itself, but a means to this realisation. When one succeeds in such an educative attitude in regard to the mind, the mind will come back to the object of meditation. Then the seeker puts forth efforts to give a little relaxation and a wider range of activity to the mind by bringing before its eye the various names, forms and actions of God which he is meditating upon, feeling also simultaneously that what is meditated upon is only a form of God, and God is not only in one place, but everywhere. All the forms of the world are then invested in meditation with the glories of God so that the meditative consciousness begins to rise to the concept of the Virat (Cosmic Form) and the ideas of inside and outside get transcended. Eventually, even this kind of meditation gets surpassed in the resting of the consciousness in itself without an attempt at feeling anything external to itself or even as an adjective to itself. The Nirguna form of meditation should be mostly concerned with the effort to make the mind subside whenever it tries to take some shape or form, even a concept of Brahman, to feel that Brahman is unthinkable, undefinable, unknowable, and to perpetuate this feeling for a protracted period would be to engage oneself in a type of Nirguna meditation. Whatever may be the idea that arises in the mind in regard to Brahman, that should be withdrawn as inadequate and the consequent condition maintained for as long a period as possible, continuously setting aside attributes whenever they arise in the mind and trying to remain a witness of all the ideas that arise.
Nirguna meditation may be of two kinds, positive and negative; one associated with direct qualities, and the other with indirect ones.
The Nirguna form of meditation is laid down in several of the Upanishads. The main type of meditation inculcated is on Pranava, or Omkara. There is the injunction to feel the unity of the component parts of OM with the different states of Consciousness. Macrocosmically as well as microcosmically, A,U, and M, which are the component sounds of OM, are to be gradually identified with the conscious states of Visva (waking consciousness), Taijasa (dream-consciousness) and Prajna (sleep-consciousness), subjectively; and with Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Isvara cosmically. Chanting of OM and the feeling of its vibrations set up a rhythm and harmony in the system, nervous, emotional and intellectual, so that due to this equilibrium brought about in the whole system, the Rajas of the mind is made to subside for the time being and a Sattvika state introduced which is conducive to Upasana, or meditation. The feeling of the union of Omkara with the states of Consciousness should lead ultimately to the feeling of the presence of Brahman as identical with oneself. The procedure is laid down in the Mandukya Upanishad, as well as in the Panchikaranavarttika of Acharya Suresvara. This Upasana is a means to Knowledge. Knowledge is the end, and the Upasana is the means leading to it. Most people do not take to such difficult meditations, as they are hard to practise, but notwithstanding this, it is there and is open to anyone who has a will to undergo the requisite discipline for the practice. Being frightened by the difficulties involved in such stupendous meditations, people resort to lower Upasanas of inferior deities, and do Japa of Mantras for lower ends in view, but it is the duty of every true seeker to endeavour hard to reach that stage where he can summon the requisite capacity from within to commence truly spiritual meditations.
All the attributes of Brahman mentioned in the Upanishads, positive as well as negative, may be brought together in a single group as aids to meditation. Different qualities do not indicate different objects. They refer to one and the same being, though various modes of meditation are laid down in different recensions or sections. They are to be gathered together under one group, since it is the uniform teaching of the Vedanta that the Atman is one. It may be looked upon from various points of view. This is to be done both in the case of the positive qualities such as Ananda (Bliss), Vijnana (Knowledge), etc., and the negative attributes such as Asthula (not gross), Ahrasva (not small), etc. It will be found on practice that the numerous attributes may be condensed into a few for the purpose of convenience in meditation, the most fundamental and the highest attributes being Sat (Existence), Chit (Consciousness) and Ananda (Bliss). Though it may be remembered that the Nirguna-Brahman being above qualities cannot be brought under the head of objective meditation, yet, for all practical purposes, we need not regard such attributes as Sat-Chit-Ananda to be limiting qualities, but only indicators of the Supreme Absolute. However, the case is different in such meditations as the Divine Purusha situated within the Sun, who is asked to be meditated upon as a resplendent golden figure. Though qualities do not exist in Brahman, they indicate its presence and give us a hint as to its nature. Let the meditation be carried on thus. We may meditate that the essential being is one with the Akhanda-Ekarasa-Atman (Undivided, single essence of Self), which is faintly indicated by such descriptions as mentioned above.
There is a difference between knowledge and meditation. Knowledge is dependent on the nature of the object (Vastu-tantra), while meditation is dependent on the option of the mind of the meditator (Purusha-tantra). While the former cannot be made otherwise than what it is, the latter can be conceived of in any form that one likes. When true knowledge dawns, it puts an end to all the ills of life and the feeling of reality in objects to which one is usually attached. Then Jivanmukti is reached and the highest satisfaction attained. But in Upasana, faith is the prime factor, and here the discipline is not to engage in any personal enquiry or critical examination of the nature and meaning of the teaching of the preceptor, but to go on with confidence and devotion, continuously contemplating on the ideal before one with no intrusion of a second thought. Meditation should be continued till there arises the feeling of one’s communion with the object. The spirit of meditation should be retained till the death of the body. One must attain as much union with the ideal of meditation as in the case of the Brahmacharin mentioned in the Chhandogya Upanishad, who practised Prana-Vidya and felt his identity with the Cosmic Prana.
Upasana is capable of change, it being subject to option (Purusha-tantra). It is possible, therefore, and it is necessary, to employ different means of practice as and when one advances in the spiritual path, to suit the convenience of the particular state which one has attained on the path of meditation. In different stages of meditation, or Upasana, different levels of consciousness present themselves and different types of obstacles are encountered. Hence, it is essential that different processes of tackling these situations are to be employed by the intelligent seeker in order that he may attain ultimate success in overcoming the opposing forces. Sadhana (practice) is not a set of uniform routines of a fixed nature, for all individuals alike, for all times, but varies in its nature from person to person, and from one condition to another. When there is complete establishment in Dhyana (meditation), it goes on spontaneously by force of habit, just as people do Japa of Mantra, keeping on doing it even in dream due to continuous practice during the waking stage. This is an indication that Upasana, or Dhyana, is to be well-grounded, and this state is achieved when all the external attractions are set aside and there is a continuous flow of thought on the spiritual ideal without any intermittance. As a person engaged in work may do it as a matter of routine without bestowing much thought on it, the thought being fixed on something else, one who is well established in spiritual Sadhana keeps on doing his daily duties perfectly well, yet not bestowing his whole thought on them, the thought being mostly directed to the higher ideals. Thus, an Upasaka (worshipper or meditator) keeps on performing his daily duties as any one else does them, but does not cherish any love, either for objects or for actions, his love being directed to the Divine Being. However, when perfection is attained, no distinction is made between knowledge and action, because the perfected one sees the One Being in the many, and what we call action is to him nothing but an expression of knowledge. Naturally, there cannot be any attachment either to one thing or the other in a person who has the established conviction that the Atman is the Universal Consciousness and everything is included in it. Moreover, activity does not demand the reality of the objects to which it is directed. What is essential for any activity is the availability of the means of activity, such as the mind and the senses, and the feeling of reality in regard to external appearances, called objects.
The world of objects does not get annihilated in realisation, but is seen from a different perspective. There is no attempt on the part of the seer to suppress his mind or to control his senses because he just sees a uniform reality perpetually for which there is no necessity to forcibly direct the mind in any particular fashion. Just as we see the world when we open our eyes, spontaneously as it were, and for this purpose we do not have to concentrate our mind on the world, so in the case of the seer there is a revelation of Truth, and this revelation is different from concentration of mind, though, in the beginning, there is an endeavour to practise such concentration. We have, no doubt, to direct our minds to an object for our seeing it, but there is no such effort when the perception is complete and the knowledge of the object in question is continuous.
Having attained this sublime state, the seer is free to do or think as he likes. He does not attempt either to forget or to remember the world, for he achieves no purpose either by seeing it or by not seeing it. He is a storehouse and an embodiment of all goodness and virtues. Wherever he is, and whatever he is, there is good alone emanating from him, to the good of all, and also for him. What he does is left to his option and free will. There is no particular injunction, even scriptural, that may restrict him in any manner, because he is a liberated one, and has attained liberation by the mere fact of having attained the Self-revealing knowledge. If he sees variety, it does no harm to him, because, for him, variety is nothing but the form of the One. Hence, there is no overstepping of limit either of law or rule, because he has reached the highest law of the Absolute. Rules apply to persons who are situated in the various levels of society on account of their different endowments and capacities etc., but no rule can be applied to one who is cosmic and has everything within himself.
Action and inaction, the positive and the negative, have lost their meaning to him who has rid himself of all the Vasanas, or mental impressions, of a binding nature. He has no desire either for this world or the other. How, then, can he have the impulsion to live and to do anything at all?
There is no injunction in regard to a seer, just as there is no injunction to a child. A child is not bound by rules because of its ignorance of ethical distinctions and rules of society, while the seer knows everything and, therefore, transcends all things. All rules are pertinent only to a person of little knowledge, who is neither totally ignorant nor knows everything. There is no prohibitory rule to restrict either a child or a sage.
A sage of practical wisdom is not necessarily one who deliberately exercises powers, either to bless or to curse. There are types of Tapas, or austerity: one intended for acquisition of powers by the conserving of energy, and the other for the sake of insight by the dedication of one’s whole individuality for the sake of Truth. No doubt, there are exceptional persons like Sage Vyasa, who had the highest knowledge and the highest power, but this is because they had performed the Tapas by way of sense-control and mental concentration, through which they had immense strength within them, as also the higher one in the form of contemplation of the Eternal Being, through which they had omniscience. The Tapas which is the cause of powers is quite different from the Tapas which brings wisdom. The former consists in the inhibition of the senses and in concentration of the mind, while the latter is essentially a lifting up of one’s consciousness to wider and wider realms until it reaches universality. Mostly, one sees only masters with one or the other of the mentioned perfections, but very rare are persons like Vyasa, in whom there is perfection in the highest sense. It is, of course, common in this world that people with a little power of Tapas belittle those serene men of wisdom, even as it is not very uncommon that sensualists belittle men of Tapas for their austerities, which the ignorant ones consider as foolish. We should never make the mistake of craving for miracles as the criterion of wisdom. Men of the highest realisation may not exercise powers at all, because of their absolute desirelessness, but they are veritable sources of all powers, far beyond the little powers acquired by ordinary persons with meagre austerities. No doubt, when there is the revelation of knowledge, a Jnanin may perform the usual functions of a person in the world on account of the presence in him of such instruments of activity as the mind and the senses. Though he realises the unreality of the world in its manifested form, he lives his life either working as the other people do or meditating on the spiritual truths, in accordance with the nature of his Prarabdha. But the Upasaka should continue his meditation always, and never cease from it till the end of his life, because his final success entirely depends on the success of the meditation. It is imperative that he should maintain his exalted consciousness by way of meditation until the goal is reached. Visions in meditation may come and go, but the meditation should not cease, and no concept or vision should be confused with realisation, because all visions belong to certain planes of existence, still within the realm of relativity.
Brahman does not cease to be, just because there is no knower of it, while visions will cease when meditation ceases. Though Brahman is present in all beings without distinction, it is manifested in a greater or lesser degree in different persons and it is this degree of manifestation that explains the distinction between the wise and the ignorant. Though the general existence of Brahman is common to one and all, it is its particular manifestation that determines the degree of enlightenment attained by different persons. There are degrees in approaching the Truth, and naturally one is lower and the other is higher, all these forming a successive series leading to the highest Sakshatkara, or realisation. Better than ignorance are the selfish activities of people immersed in worldliness. The performance of duty and engagement in activities of an unselfish nature with a view to the purification of oneself, is higher. Higher than this is meditation on Saguna-Brahman (Brahman with attributes). Saguna-Brahma-Upasana, again, is of two kinds, in accordance with the nature of the symbol used in meditation. When particular symbols are used, it is called Pratika-Upasana, where the meditator seeks to find the universal in the individual symbols by making them vehicles of the higher concept on which he is meditating. In the other kind of Saguna-Upasana, the whole universe is taken as a symbol for meditation, where one’s feeling is that all, indeed, is Brahman. In Ahamgraha-Upasana, or the meditation by which one strives to grasp the essential inner ‘I’, the symbol is Consciousness, which, in the beginning, appears as personal and later on becomes universal. That which approximates to true knowledge in a greater degree is to be considered better than the others as a means of liberation. In this manner, by stages, N irguna-Upasana becomes mature and merges into Brahma-Jnana, or Experience of Brahman. As Samvadi-bhrama leads to correct perception later on, so does Upasana lead to real experience by sufficient maturity in the end. Just as Samvadi-bhrama is not the direct cause for the perception of the desired object, since contact is the direct cause, yet the former is responsible for the latter, so, indeed, Upasana may not be the direct cause of Brahman-Experience, but it leads the seeker to the acquisition of that knowledge which is the direct cause of liberation. Here, we have to concede that Japa of Mantras, devout worship of images, and so on, are also means for spiritual perfection in the end, though not the direct means. We consider that as a better means and a higher one which has a greater nearness to Truth.
Fully perfected Nirguna-Upasana ends in the absorption of the Universe in Consciousness, which is simultaneous with the direct perception that the Atman is Brahman. This is knowledge of Truth, which one acquires by the laborious practices of meditation on the Absolute Brahman, with such attributes as Nirvikara or Changeless; Asanga, or unattached; Nitya, Eternal; Svaprakasa, or Self-luminous; Eka, or One alone; Purna, or Full; Bhuma or the Plenum; etc., which are only ideas in the beginning but become realities in the end, as the embodiment of the Universal Atman itself. It is towards this end that the practice of Yoga has been enjoined on the aspirants. One should not, here, mistake the lower stages for the final end to be reached, and there should be no stagnation at any lower stage with the wrong feeling that it is the goal. Upasana, as a soul-filled approach, is prescribed for those who enter into the more difficult means of directly meditating on the higher realities. It is in the absence of this primary means that Yoga as concentration of mind is prescribed as a secondary means. It is for these latter that concentration on special concepts is prescribed, by which the dross of the mind is removed and it is steadied to enable it to reflect Truth. For the higher minds Samkhya (knowledge) is prescribed, and for the lower ones Yoga (concentration). Here Samkhya means knowledge of the Absolute and not the special jargon of the school of Kapila. Samkhya is to be taken in its liberal sense of knowledge of Truth by discrimination between the Universal Self and the not-Self, and not in the sense of the metaphysical concepts of the school of Kapila, according to which Purushas are many, Prakriti is eternal and the one is different from the other. For the Yoga, Isvara is isolated from both. When Samkhya and Yoga are understood in their true sense, they lead to the same goal, says, the Bhagavadgita.
The goal finally reached by the Samkhya and the Yoga is one and the same, inasmuch as the principles involved in both practices are similar. In the Samkhya, there is an acute and penetrating understanding of the different categories of the Universe, and this is achieved by an investigation of every item of experience which presents itself before the consciousness of the individual. This result is achieved also by the Yoga, which is the force of the concentration of the mind on the ideal by deliberate direction of the mind and the will towards it.
One whose practice, whether by Samkhya or by Yoga, is not adequately mature in one life, may have its completion at the time of his death, and, if this is not practicable on account of the working of obstructing Karmas, knowledge will dawn in the next life, or a future life. Knowledge usually should dawn at least in Brahma-loka, and there the final liberation is to be attained. Whatever is the last thought of the individual at the time of death shall be the determining factor of one’s rebirth, because the last thought is the quintessence of all the thoughts one has been cherishing throughout one’s life, and it is but natural that at the time of the death of a body the Pranas should stand collected and projected towards the region whose experience shall be the materialisation of one’s last thought. This is equal to saying that what one does in the present life shall fashion the nature of one’s future life. It does not mean that the last thought can be anything other than what one has been thinking throughout life. Moksha is the immediate non-objective experience of Brahman on which one has been meditating all along with intense devotion. By the force of Upasana, the primeval ignorance of the Jiva is dispelled, and Brahman is attained. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states that in the case of the desireless one, who has no other desire but the desire for the Atman, the Pranas do not depart. They do not get directed to any region or realm like projectiles, as they do in the case of ordinary mortals, but they dissolve then and there into the Substance of Brahman. Upasana leads to Jnana, the supreme achievement in life.
By the practice of unselfish Upasana, Moksha is attained, is the teaching of the Upanishad, and that by Upasana attended with desire, Brahma-loka is attained. One who meditates on the different constituents of Omkara, identifying them with the Brahman in Saguna form, passes through the region of the Sun, and having then reached the Brahma-loka, is finally liberated by the end of time when there is cosmic dissolution (Pralaya). He who meditates thus, transcends all realms and attains the ultimate liberation gradually, and so it is called Krama-mukti, or Progressive salvation. The Upanishad, in this connection, mentions that at a particular stage the soul of the Upasaka encounters a superhuman being who guides it along the path further until liberation is attained. In the Brahmasutras too, the author makes out in one of the aphorisms that by Upasana on that which is not merely a symbol, the seeking soul becomes fit to receive the guidance of the superhuman being referred to. It is also made clear here that the rule according to which one attains whatever one intensely thinks upon determines the attainment of the ends of Upasana. This rule of fulfilment of wishes is called in the Brahmasutras as Tatkratu-nyaya, after the term used in the Upanishad. There, in Brahma-loka, by the force of the Upasana practised previously, one attains to Truth and returns not to this world again. He is finally liberated. There is only ascent and no reverting to the mortal world, as a result of desireless meditation.
Usually, in the Upanishad, the manner in which Pranava-Upasana is described, is Nirguna, but sometimes it is also regarded as Saguna for the purpose of Upasana. It all depends upon the nature of the object with which Pranava is identified as the designator thereof. In the Prasna Upanishad, Pippalada gives his instructions to Satyakama on Omkara which is conceived of as both Para and Apara, i.e., the higher and the lower. Similarly, in the teaching of Lord Yama in the Katha Upanishad, it is said that the Upasana on Omkara leads to the realisation of whatsoever is in one’s mind at the time of the Upasana, depending on the nature of the determination with which one commences the Upasana.
Thus, summing up, we may say that liberation may be possible either here immediately, now, or at the time of the dropping of the body, or it may be even after one’s having attained Brahma-loka. Here, what determines the attainment is the nature of the Upasana. This fact is also emphasised in the Atma-Gita, where we are told that one should resort to continuous meditation on the nature of the Atman when discriminatory enquiry and investigation into the truths of things by direct approach is found difficult due to impurity of mind, fickleness of intellect, etc. Nevertheless, one should engage oneself in the practice, without the least trace of doubt in the mind, even though the realisation may not be near at hand. At the proper time the realisation shall come and there should be no impatience in this regard. As in digging out a treasure from the earth the stones etc., from above are removed with the help of instruments, so by setting aside the stone of the body and digging the earth of the mind with the spade of the intellect, one obtains the treasure of the Atman within. Meditation is imperative in the case of every seeker even if there is no immediate experience. Let there be the confidence that what we are seeking for is our essential nature and, therefore, naturally, it should be much easier to realise it than to acquire other things which are extraneous to our nature. There will be felt within in the case of meditation an uncommon tranquillity and peace of mind, a joy and a sense of power which cannot be had in this world. By overcoming attachment to the body in this manner, by protracted meditation on the Atman which is the Absolute, the mortal becomes the immortal and there is Sadyo-mukti, or instantaneous experience of the Supreme Being. (Verses 1-158)