by Swami Krishnananda
The true meaning of religion, its inseparability from man's entire life and activities, the necessity to maintain a continued form of the religious consciousness, have all been discussed to the point of some clarity. But, how to go about achieving such a state of religious consciousness is what now remains to be considered. There are methods known as meditation. What is meditation, and how is one to proceed with it?
The philosophical foundations and the religious consequences of the analysis lead to the need for a meditation on consciousness as the quintessence of the whole adventure. All study, all endeavour, and every enterprise, in every walk of life, results in the fixing of oneself in a type of reality. This is precisely the function of meditation. To recognise one's true relationship with the Ultimate Reality is to place oneself in the context of the highest form of meditation. Meditation is, in fact, not a psychological act or a physical movement, or even a social adjustment, but a trans-empirical attitude of the whole of what one is, a perfection of outlook one adopts in the light of the nature of the facts of life.
From the beginning of this study, an attempt has been made to understand what reality is, how it manifests itself by degrees of expression in the universe and in the individuals who form themselves into groups, societies, or organisations for the purpose of self-fulfilment. There is a gradual descent of the character of reality in the process of creation, and the aim of meditation is just the opposite of this descending series. Meditation leads to the gradual ascent of self by degrees of expansiveness.
The universe may be regarded as the body of God, the appearance of the Absolute, the very embodiment of the Cosmic animating Consciousness. The form appears as a material cosmos since it is represented as a sensory object. The world is envisaged as an object of the senses, located in space and time. It is the intervention of space and time that is responsible for the notion that the world is material and external. Materiality is the form which anything takes when it becomes an object of sensation by the mind. But it puts on a new colour and presents itself in a new light when it is recognised no more as an object of the senses, or even a content of the mind, but as something inseparable from the very fact in experience.
To everyone, experience is sensory, empirical, psychological, externalised, spatio-temporal. But true experience is integral. It is incapable of partition into the division of the subject and the object. It was noticed earlier that even the so-called division between the subjective factor and the objective one has implicitly hidden within it the feature of a transcendent presence, without whose operation the division between the subject and object cannot be accounted for. One cannot even know that there is such a thing as the subject distinguished from the object, unless there is something transcending the subject and the object, which is implied in experience, though not visible as an object of the senses. The moment it becomes an object, it gets distinguished from the subject, requiring once again another connecting link which is transcendent to this division. The meditative effort is directed to the inward recognition of the presence of this transcendence involved between the apparent distinctions made between the subject and the object. Man lifts himself up into a new atmosphere wherein is comprehended the subjective location of the observer or the meditating individual and the context of what is called the object which is the universe.
To meditate is not to think of an object outside, though many a time it is thought that it is such an effort. It is not just shifting the mind from one object to another when it is meditation in the spiritual sense. It is not another kind of work in which one is engaging oneself. It is not thinking of some other object than the one to which one is usually accustomed in daily life. Human consciousness which is at present limited to an individual existence is perforce aware of something outside, and this is what is commonly called life in this world. But spiritual meditation is a novel type of effort on the part of one's being, novel in the sense that it is not comparable with any activity to which man is used in ordinary life. Hence, meditation is a little difficult performance, and not an easy matter. It requires a power of will and a capacity to adapt oneself to an environment which is not purely objective, but superior to the objective predicament of day-to-day experience. One has to be able to place oneself in an atmosphere which rises above the distinction between oneself and the objects of experience. This requires some effort, but not an ordinary effort in the social or physical sense; it is a new type of effort of the wholeness of one's being in its envisagement of a presence which includes within itself what one is as one regards one's own self to be at present, and also what the object is, to which one is related.
The object on which one is expected to meditate is not outside; that is all the difference. The object of meditation is superior to the subject, but not external to him, and, therefore, it is not on par with him in reality. The external objects of the senses are on a par with man, as far as their reality is concerned. But the object of meditation is not on par with the meditator, for it is transcendent. So, when a person is in the state of meditation, he is not in himself. He has lifted himself above himself. It is difficult for the mind to understand what this feat can mean. The grace of one's Preceptor, the wondrous touch of the Almighty is necessary, and the consequences of good deeds that were performed in one's previous lives have to fructify in order that one may succeed in this arduous task. The difficulty lies in placing oneself in this peculiar mathematical position of transcendence, and not merely in the position of an observer. One does not observe an object in meditation, nor does one look upon it as one does certain other things in the world. The personality does not move outwardly to the object. It is raised vertically, as it were, rather than horizontally as in sense-perception. As the meditator is no more in himself in meditation, he is also no more in the objects of the senses. He is empirically connected with the external objects even as the objects of the senses are empirically connected with him from the point of view of his psycho-physical relations. But, here he is not establishing a new kind of relationship between himself and the objects, but is rising above the limitations to which both the objects and he himself are victims. One is midway between oneself and the object, connecting the two, and yet beyond both in a living wholeness. The meditator has become a different thing altogether, and no more is he what he has been till then. He would not be a person when he is meditating; he becomes, rather, a super-person. A super-subjective presence would be the characterisation of that state which one assumes in meditation.
Again, one has to exercise the mind to understand the meaning of this requirement. It may appear a little difficult, but by continuous practice one will find that it is the only justifiable way of thinking that can be entertained, and all the other ways will look drab and meaningless in comparison. Even as it would be meaningless to contemplate the objects of the dream world when one has risen into the wider consciousness of waking, one would consider all the business of the world as a hangover burden when living the larger life in the insight of meditation, when the consciousness occupies an intermediary position between the subjective individuality and the objects of the senses. This is the crux of meditation, and this is its foundational meaning.
Many teachers tell us to contemplate, to meditate upon, an Ishta-Devata, or a Deity of our choice. This Deity, which the adepts speak of, is that Divine Presence ranging between the subject and the object – God descended in one degree of expression. The many gods of the religions are the many degrees of this transcendent position which the Absolute occupies in the different degrees of relationship between the subjects and the objects in the history of evolution. They are many degrees of the descent, or one may say, the ascent, of the very same Being, which explains the relationship between subjects and objects in any plane of existence, in any realm of being, anywhere, at any time. So, the Ishta-Devata, the God of one's meditation, the Deity that one worships and contemplates upon, is the immediately superior presence.
This is somewhat akin to the synthesis which the German philosopher Hegel attempted in his 'dialectical process' of philosophy: A position has an opposition, a thesis has an antithesis, which are brought together in a blend called the synthesis. The synthesis becomes a thesis, again, of which the antithesis becomes the opposing element. The two have to be brought together in a second synthesis. The second synthesis becomes a thesis to a third antithesis, and so on, till the largest generality of perfection is reached. The synthesis is the Deity. The thesis is the subject. The antithesis is the object. And the bringing together of these positions and oppositions is the recognition of the Deity, which is transcendent to both the terms. As there are degrees of synthesis, until the Absolute Synthesis is realised, there are several gods in religion. These many gods are the many types of synthesis, bringing together the different degrees of subjects and objects in the evolutionary process of the cosmos. In meditation one places oneself in this position of the Divine Synthesis that is between oneself and the object, and fixes one's attention on this Deity.
When it is said that we have to fix 'our' attention, one has to be a little clear as to what this 'our' means. The reference is not to the attention of this so-called Mister or Missis, the boy or the girl, the son or the daughter, this person or that person. One has, as already mentioned, to become a super-person when seated for meditation. The seeker is no more the person that he has been; he is above involvements. It is the total consciousness that is affirming itself in meditation, the Deity becoming conscious of its presence, God becoming aware of Himself as the all.
Here is also the explanation as to why there is a feeling of so much strength and energy being infused into one's being during the process of meditation. One does not rise from meditation as the same person that went into it. One becomes a different thing altogether, with a new joy imbued and a new strength felt within. The reason behind it is that consciousness has outstripped the limitations of physical individuality and the limitations that the sense-objects cause are also broken through. Inasmuch as the limitations are outgrown, a larger freedom is attained. Freedom is the overcoming of all limitation, the restrictions imposed on one by extraneous factors. Man lacks freedom because of the presence of things outside. Now, this object before oneself, which is the limitation of one's personal self, is withdrawn into a larger individuality, which is the contemplating being. An integration of consciousness takes place, as the two attributes of the Substance of Spinoza, or, to come to a homely example, as the two hands of a person are brought together into a single, united collaboration. This centrality of the meditating consciousness brings into a unity of operation the empirical subject and its corresponding object.
The individual is like one of the hands of a wider body, the other hand being the object. One may consider the right hand as oneself and the left hand is the object. The right hand is looking at the left hand and imagining that it is an object. Man should cease to imagine that he is only the right hand, but that he is the whole body to which both the hands belong. This is an illustration to bring out the significance of the process in which one has to meditate on the Synthesis, rather than the thesis or the antithesis, the subject or the object. The body to which the two hands belong is not a subject, nor is it an object. The body is not the right hand, nor is it the left hand, for both belong to it. The meditator occupies the position of this integrating centre to which the right and the left belong and which is above both the right and the left. This is what is meant by placing oneself in meditation. The energy of the right and the energy of the left get both united in this central energy of the body. The right hand has a strength of its own, but it does not have the strength of the left hand. But the body has the strength of both, because they both belong to it.
One may achieve empirical strength. But this strength is limited due to the presence of an object, which also asserts its independence in its own way. This assertion of independence ceases on the part of the subject as well as of the object when meditation supervenes. Hence the manifestation of a new strength. The power of the subjective side as well as the objective comes together, and a larger freedom is enjoyed than when one was an empirical subject. There will be a greater freedom, a greater strength, and hence a greater satisfaction. Joy, satisfaction, happiness, bliss, is the experience of a freedom that is attained by transcending the lower limitations of the realms to which subjects and objects belong in the world.