The Heart and Soul of Spiritual Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 4: The Art of Meditation on God

It is important to understand the art of meditation on God. Loving God is actually a great meditation on God. Your heart concentrates itself on the Supreme Being. You make yourself en rapport with this mighty existence. How will you succeed in doing this great sacrifice of meditation on God?

Ordinarily, in every human being, the consciousness, which is the nature of the soul, gets diverted to the sense organs. Even when we close our eyes and plug our ears, the senses operate. A sense is not the physical eardrum or the retina of the eye; it is a sensation that is perpetually taking place in us. The manner in which the mind operates will indicate to what extent the sensations are active. Close your eyes and then start thinking. You will think only in terms of the memory that you retain of the objects of sense. So even if the eyes are closed, sensory activity need not cease. The sense organs are not the culprits. They are only the vehicles through which consciousness emerges in terms of the objects outside. This habit of the mind, or consciousness, to think always in terms of what is outside us has to be checked. This is what is known as self-restraint or sense-control. You cannot think God correctly unless your senses are controlled.

When Sri Krishna, as we have it in the Mahabharata, proposed to go on a peace mission to the court of the Kauravas, Dhritarashtra, the blind king, hearing the news of the coming of this great person, summoned his minister Sanjaya and asked, "What kind of person is coming? Can I behold him?" The minister Sanjaya, the wisest of people at that time, remarked: "You cannot see him unless you are a kritatma. An akritatma cannot behold this great person that is coming to the court of Your Highness." What is kritatma, and what is akritatma? Kritatmata is to be blessed in a spiritual sense to be able to restrain the operation of the sense organs. Such a person can behold Sri Krishna, who is the master of self-restraint.

This is a symbolic statement indicating that the vision of God is the cessation of sensory activity. God is the soul of the universe and, therefore, only your soul can contact that universal Soul. The senses, the mind and the operations of the psyche normally cannot hope to contact God. There is no such thing as contacting God, really speaking, because contact implies the coming together of two elements. The soul of the human being actually is the replica of the Soul of the universe. It is a miniature presentation of the universal existence which is the paramatman, as it is called – Supreme Soul. So only a soul can behold the Soul. The effort that you have to exercise in this regard is something to be deeply considered. You cannot desire God when you desire something else. The desire for another thing different from the supreme existence of God is a diversion of interest. The diversion of the mind to something which is other than the great objective of your meditation – such a devotion is called vyabhicharini bhakti. It is a dishonest way of looking at God and trying to deceive Him, as it were, by making it appear that you are concerned with Him while you are really concerned with the objects of the world.

Why are the senses so strong? Why has it become so difficult for us to restrain them? What is the matter? When a clarified understanding suggests to you that the inclusion of God's being in your own person is going to give you whatever you want – superabundance of everything that you can conceive is in the very being of the great Almighty Lord – knowing this, why should the senses move here and there? The reason, apparently, is the search for as much joy as possible. Is there no joy in union with God? The power of the sense organs, which find joy only in outward objects, influences the mind to such an extent that when you think, you think with joy only of that which is outside you. It is not easy to control the sense organs. The secret of their success, the source of their power, is in the attachment that consciousness has with this body. Though omnipresence is the nature of reality, location is the nature of this body. The body is in one place only and, therefore, it wants only one thing – connected with each sense organ.

You have to learn the art of meditation, first of all. Many of you must be practising meditation. And each one of you should honestly feel for yourself how far you have succeeded in pouring your entire personality into the consciousness of God's existence. Meditation is not a routine. It is not a mechanical performance of religiosity. Meditation is not an activity in the ordinary sense of the term. You are not 'doing' something in meditation. Your being wells up into a heightened form of performance. You do not know whether you have got a soul at all. How many of you think that there is a soul? You think it is just 'me', this physical body, and, with some concession, it is this mind, this reason, this intellect – the psychological operation. Have you got a soul? Actually, you do not have a soul, you are the soul! So do not say "the soul in me", and so on. If the soul, which you are, is in you, then what are you? Are you something other than the soul? Remove this idea from your mind, first of all. You do not have a soul inside you, as if you are outside the soul. You are, yourself, the soul.

But, what is the soul? It is consciousness. Where is consciousness? It cannot be tied down to the little barrier of the physical body. Consciousness cannot have a limitation. The very consciousness of the limitation of consciousness implies that it is everywhere. You must be a little bit logical in this context. Deep thinking and analysis is necessary. If consciousness cannot be limited, it cannot be only inside your body. You have to work like a schoolmaster, like a teacher who goes on repeating the same thing again and again to the children, the students, so that what he says enters their minds. Repeat it again and again. This repetition of the formula of the soul's actual union with God is sometimes known as japa sadhana.

You know what is japa. You take a name, conceive a formula – a kind of expression describing the nature of God. You call it a mantra because it is holy. Repeat it again and again: "Almighty Lord, I seek You! Almighty Lord, I seek You! Almighty Lord, I seek You! I seek You only! I want You only! Thou art everywhere! I seek You, That which is everywhere! May my heart melt in the Ocean of Your Being!" Go on telling this to yourself. I am not giving you a mantra here, but a formula to think. You can think and recite the formula of God's existence in any manner whatsoever, in any language, because language is only an expression of feeling, of your intention. Loudly call the Name of God. Let it be That. Your senses will be hushed completely by the sound that you make in calling the Name of God. The noise of the senses, of course, is very intense. They clamour; they cry. They create a big hullabaloo. They will not allow you to think, even. "I want this! You give this to me! I am not satisfied!" say the sense organs.

While there are many ways of compelling the senses to come down to the level of the soul's action and being, one of the ways I am suggesting is loudly calling the Name of God. Nothing can succeed like this method, because you yourself are hearing what you are speaking. When you hear, your mind hears. And when you repeat this kind of calling, the soul will feel what the mind has been thinking. It is not merely muttering something that is called japa. It is a serious activity you are engaging yourself in. "I have to do one thousand malas today," people say. They are thinking more about the number of malas than the quality of thought. You can have a thousand malas, it is all right, but a thousand times you must be intensely thinking only this thing. Do not think of the beads, the fingers, and the time that you have taken for the japa. Remove this idea of time. "I have to finish it in three hours." Why should you finish it in three hours? Why are you limiting your aspiration to the time? A few minutes of internal surge of love and concentration on God's perfection is a greater japa than merely rolling the beads for a long time with a wandering mind and unsatisfied sensory calls.

All this is difficult. So, what you do in the beginning is to have a model of the presence of God, which may be in the form of a diagram that you can draw of the cosmic existence – a yantra or a mandala, as it is usually known – or even a picture of what you conceive God to be. You cannot conceive of God, of course. You cannot take His portrait; it is not possible. But you can imagine an extensive dimension of Being, including everything that is in creation. This kind of concept is adumbrated beautifully in the description of the cosmic form of God – Visvarupa darshana – as we have in the Purusha Sukta of the Veda and the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita. It does not mean that God has arms, legs, feet, eyes, etc. But you cannot think of Him in any other manner. The idea behind this portrait, this picture of the omnipotence of God through the Visvarupa darshana, is to compel the sense organs and the mind not to think anything other than one thing. Various methods have to be employed.

I mentioned to you japa sadhana, loudly chanting the Name of God – calling Him from the bottom of your heart as if you are dying for Him. You must really want Him. This is very important. "I do not know whether it is possible in this life, or not. Anyway, I have not succeeded in having any vision of God up to this time. Twenty-five years of meditation have been for no purpose. I do not know. I have pain in the legs. There are many difficulties in this life. I have so many commitments. I have a family. I have to work hard." These thoughts will come as vicious angels telling you that you are not meant for this. This is a predicament that you may have to face, but is something which great saints and sages have also faced.

"Take this vast kingdom of gold and silver," someone whispered into the ears of Jesus Christ who was on a high mountain, in meditation. "Why all this waste of withering your body? You have attained perfection already. Get up," said Mara to Buddha in meditation. When Dhruva of the Srimad Bhagavata fame, a little boy, went into meditation, it is said in the Puranas that he saw his own mother in his presence, just as Buddha saw his wife in his presence while he was meditating. It was not merely imagination – visibly, concretely, the figure of the wife was before him. "My dear Lord, why have you deserted me?" she said. A mother comes: "My dear child, this is not meant for you. Come on." Wherever there is an ardent effort to crush the senses, to divert them back into the mind and melt them in the soul, these obstacles will come like a ravaging tempest. Therefore, you should not try to do intensive forms of tapas when there are some lurking desires. Who does not have a desire for mundane things? If you are earnest in this practice, you must be as clear as a statistics officer, tabulating the desires. Make a list of all these desires that you have in your mind. They may be looking like a million, but they are really not so many. There are some fundamental impulses in you, and you are very well conscious of them. Make a list of them.

Can you fulfil these wishes? Sometimes there are some minor desires. Middling-intense is the form of certain desires. Some desires are very strong. How do you handle these desires? There are desires which can be harmlessly fulfilled. Do not go to extremes. There are harmless desires which are just requirements of the body. They are not luxuries; they are necessities, without which you cannot even survive. You must know what these needs of the physical personality are. Fulfil them in the measure that is necessary, without going to luxurious extremes. Certain desires are strong enough to worry your mind, especially when it is not easy to fulfil them. Some of the desires are beyond the capacity of your physical and mental existence, fulfilling which appears to be almost impossible in this life. They have to be handled only by direct meditation on God.

Remember, there is nothing that God cannot give you. The desires are foolish expressions of an uneducated mind. All that you want in this world, which is just a shadow of the realities of things, you will find in the Reality, in the kingdom of God. All the objects, all the persons, everything that you see in this world are shadows of a reality that is in the heavens. Hence, you are pursuing shadows actually when you are after the objects of sense. No sense contact can satisfy you completely. There is agony following every form of sense indulgence. You cannot be indulging in sense objects throughout your life. The vigour of the body will diminish by dissipation of energy, and later you will find you have got nothing from this mirage of the appearance of objects. It was a dry desert looking like clean water.

Are you sure that God can give you all things? Does not the Bhagavadgita loudly proclaim to us, "Whoever is intent upon Me exclusively, without any external thought, I shall take care of your requirements appropriately, as you would need them." You may doubt, sometimes, whether this is true. Has God ever given you what you need? You will complain, "I have got nothing from God. In spite of my worships, my japas and my prayers at the altar, I am the same miserable man." Do you know why you feel like that? It is because you have not asked God. It is told to us by the great Master, "Ask, and it shall be given." But you are not asking Him. Your mind is elsewhere. Your whole being should rise up into activity in asking from God. God is a whole Being and, therefore, He demands the whole of your being in order that He may respond. Asking is not thinking. It is the soul rising to the surface of intense action – unthinkable, indeed, what this could be. Intensely think that what you want is here with you.

Apart from the spiritual aspect of the certainty of God giving you everything, there is also a psychological side of it. If you intensely think that you want a thing, it shall come to you, but you should be intense and exclusive. One of the suggestions made by psychologists is that if you need a thing, feel that it has already come; that you are in possession of it. As everything is everywhere in this universe, it is not difficult to actually obtain what you need by intense longing for it. You should not think that what you need is somewhere else and it has to gradually come near you. "It has already come, and it is with me, and it is me!" Needless to say, you are identifying yourself with the very thing that you want. If this process can go on for a long time, you will find everything getting materialised. If you want laddu, laddu will come. If you want oranges, oranges will come. It may look very foolish to think like this, but it is a fact. God can give you even a spoon of sugar for your tea. He is not incapable of doing that. There are stories in the lives of saints where these miracles have taken place. You have got doubt in your mind. "This is not possible for me." The devil is always whispering, "This is not for you, it is not possible." "These are all useless talks," it will tell you; and it will go on telling you continuously so that you may not succeed at all in your life. Vigorous concentration and intense longing is necessary. If you cannot think properly along these lines, read stories, anecdotes wherein you will see how God has blessed devotees.

I shall recite to you an anecdote, for your information; and there are many others of that type. There was a person, very poor, begging his meal from people around. But he was a great devotee of God and he knew that God will give him everything, that he will receive alms every day; that there would be no difficulty. He was an ardent believer in the proclamation of the Bhagavadgita: ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate tesham nityabhiyuktanam yoga- ksemam vahamy aham (B.G. 9.22). "Undividedly devote yourself to me; I shall give you whatever you want and protect all your belongings." He believed in this proclamation intensely. He had no doubt at all. And he was receiving alms abundantly, every day, with no difficulty whatsoever. One day it so happened that he could not get anything. He was a poor fellow, with a wife and children. They were almost starving. He went hither and thither begging for food, and that day he could get nothing. This happened on the second day, and the third day, too. The children were crying due to the pangs of starvation. He could not imagine how this could be. "Has God forgotten me? He has forgotten me! He has not fulfilled His promise. No, I do not believe this proclamation. Tear out this sloka. Break this sentence from the Bhagavadgita." In those days, scriptures were written on palm leaves. There was no printing paper at that time. He took a nail and struck that sloka – tore it in agony. "This is a falsehood! I am dying of hunger and nothing has come to me!" In agony, he went out of the house.

A few minutes afterwards, when he was away from the house, a boy came with two bags of rations and threw them on the veranda of the house, calling out to the missus, "Mother, your husband has sent these things for you." His tongue was bleeding.

The mother came out. "From where have these rations come?"

"Your husband has bought these things and asked me to carry them. I have done so and am leaving them here," the boy replied.

"But what is the matter? Where are these bags coming from? He is a poor man. And what is the matter with you that your tongue is bleeding?" she asked.

The boy said, "I was a little delayed in bringing these things, and in anger he tore my tongue."

She cursed her husband, "You are a crazy man! This poor boy has brought these bags of rations and you tore his tongue!" In the evening when her husband returned, she exclaimed, "Have you gone crazy? You tore the tongue of that boy who brought rations."

He said, "I have not sent any rations. I have not torn the tongue of any boy. I don't know what you are talking about."

But there, the bags of rations were lying. He closed his eyes, and wept deeply for the mistake that he had committed and the distrust that he exhibited in respect of God by not believing in the truth of His proclamation. There are many other instances like this.

Faith is the miracle-maker! Faith is everything! Nothing can work except faith. Actually, in faith you are digging deep into the very structure of existence. Faith arises from the soul itself. It is an operation of your truest being, and so it touches the bottom of creation, and the whole thing shakes with your faith. Though it is difficult to gather yourself into this kind of devotion to God in the humdrum life of day-to-day activities, you have to hit your head with your fist and strike yourself saying, "Don't make a mistake!" You are one with this universe; you must remember that. Physically, ecologically, in the form of the working of nature, you are inseparable from the forces of the universe. So how will you lack anything? The forces will enter into you when you actually open the doors of your personality, and the energies will rush into you. Instead you have closed the doors by devoting yourself too much to the requirements of the sense organs. Open your gates!

It is true that whatever you ask shall be given, when you knock at the door of God it shall be opened, and whatever you seek you shall find. These three sayings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament are a wonderful recipe for the malady of the soul. You have to believe it, and you will see how it works. God is not even one inch away from you. The omnipresence of God precludes His distance from you. Many a time we are like children, thinking that God is far, far, far away in the heavens. An all-pervading being has no space inside it, so you cannot say that it is something away from you that has to take time to come near you. Timeless is the existence of God. Spaceless is His Being, so He does not take time to act; and He is not merely near you, He is you, operating from the source of your being. This is true love of God, bhakti at its supreme form – para-bhakti, as it is called.

You are not here in the Academy to hear something that is being told. You can hear it anywhere. Here, it is an occasion to remake yourself and be another person altogether when you complete this course. You have to become another person, and not remain same person that you were when you came. You have to unite yourself intensely, as you have felt the need for attaining perfection. You have to adopt several methods of spiritual practice. I mentioned to you the mode of japa sadhana. You may not be able to go on with this for a long time, due to fatigue of the exercise. Take to another method, which is the study of scriptures. Read the holy scriptures. When you study the scriptures, you are, at that time, attuned to the great masters who wrote the scriptures. You are attuned to the ideas expressed in the scriptures. It is also a kind of meditation of a different type. Japa, svadhyaya or study, and direct meditation – you can adopt any method you like to place before your mind a concept or a form of God, and it is up to you to choose what it is.

Every day this practice has to be continued. You should not miss the link by forgetting to do it on any particular day. It is like taking medicine for curing an illness. The doctor says you must take these medicines at regular intervals and you should not miss taking them on any day. Otherwise the link will be broken; the effect will not be there. Practice should be done every day – at a particular hour, if possible. The power of the time cycle helps you when you sit for your practice at a specific hour or time of the day. If possible, it should be at the same place in your house, facing the eastern direction or the northern direction, as it has been prescribed to us. The energy of the sun rises into action from the eastern horizon and you absorb the energy of the sun when you are facing the east. The northern direction is also prescribed because of the magnetic energy that goes from the North Pole to the South Pole. These are good prescriptions: same place, same time, same method of practice, and facing the same direction. Never expect a result immediately, because to expect a result would be to bargain with God. "I have done something for you and you are not giving me anything." This feeling should not be there. Everything has its own time. "In due time you shall have everything," says the Bhagavadgita.

There are three types of meditation to which you can resort: internal, external and universal. It is your predilection to choose which one is suitable for you. Many devotees feel like placing God in their own heart, or in the middle of their eyebrows, because they find that is convenient as it is easier to love that which is nearest than to love that which is away or far from yourself. The nearest thing is your own self, and you, to some extent, love yourself more than you love anybody else. So in order not to neglect your personality totally, place the presence of God in some location within yourself. During waking hours the mind operates at a point between the two eyebrows. In dream the mind operates in the throat, through certain nerve channels. In deep sleep the mind enters the heart. During meditation, during sleep and at the time of death, the mind is in the heart. This is one form of internality of the concept of God and the placement of the great vision in yourself. It is quite good.

Otherwise, you can have an external arrangement for the purpose of meditation on God – an image that you place before yourself, any kind of form which you would consider as suitable for your particular sentiment and need. It can be a portrait, an image, even a shaligrama stone or a lingam – whatever it is, to your satisfaction. You should not think of the image at the time of meditation. It is only the placement which you have conceived in your mind for bringing the Universal Being into this point. The centre of the universe is said to be everywhere. Where is the centre of the universe? Is it far, far away in the skies? Everywhere, at every point, is the centre of the universe. Can you conceive of this? This is a feat of the exercise of the vision. Everywhere is the centre. If everywhere is the centre, there cannot be a circumference – which is another way of saying everywhere is the Soul, and all is Soul.

The image that you place before yourself is itself not to be regarded as God. Everywhere is sunlight, and you can focus it through a lens at any particular point. You do not bring God down to the form of the image, but raise the image to the form of God – the other way around. In the beginning you may feel that there is a location for God: God is in a temple, on an altar, etc. But later you expand your vision of God from the point that you have chosen at a particular place to something which fills all space everywhere. Everywhere you see that vision, just as you see the sun everywhere after you concentrate on it for a long time with your eyes open. As the centre of the universe is everywhere, the image that you take up for your worship is also everywhere. Anything can be taken as a point of concentration. You can touch your body by touching any part of your body. Here, you will consider yourself as a person having the vision of God in this form. You observe, you see, you have a vision of God as a devotee, as a performer. That Being is to be considered as something in front of you, though it is everywhere.

One of the stages of devotion is this – where you do not identify yourself with That which is everywhere, but look at It spreading Itself everywhere. Everywhere you are seeing One Thing. This is an external form of meditation that is prescribed. The universal form of meditation is a still higher stage where the universe itself is contemplating itself. You are not meditating, because you have gone into the universe, as it should be. Who contemplates? The whole cosmos is being aware of itself. The highest meditation is the awareness of That which is everywhere – awareness of Itself only. The whole world, the whole cosmos, the whole creation is vibrating with the consciousness of itself. You are not meditating; That which is everywhere is contemplating Itself only. "I am what I am." This is the universal meditation that is prescribed in the paths of yoga.