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Meditation according to the Yoga Way (Part I)

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In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.







(Part I)





According to Yoga, the only way to overcome the maladies of life is to reestablish contact with the Self, and the only way to make contact with the Self is through uninterrupted meditation. Meditation calls for rise of the whole mind in concentration on the Self; concentration depends upon strict self-control; and self-control depends upon spiritual awakening and withdrawal of the mind from all its attachments, desires, and samskaras (deep-seated habits and tendencies). The step leading to meditation is one-pointed concentration. Such concentration does not develop by itself. It has to be practiced consciously and regularly. The obstacles to concentration are the drags of old samskaras.

Generally speaking, there are four ways to overcome the drags of the samskaras and establish contact with the Self: the ways of persuasion, purification, eradication, and confrontation.

The way of persuasion tries to convince us by reason, discrimination, and self-analysis that our real identity is not the body and mind but the Self. By hearing about the Self, reading about the Self, thinking about the Self, and meditating on the Self, the mind gradually realizes that the Self is the only reality in this universe and that all else is unreal.

The way of purification says that our self-love blocks our mind from becoming absorbed in thoughts of God. We must purify this self-love by pouring holy thoughts into our mind and transferring all our love to God through prayer, worship, chanting of holy words, and keeping holy company. When such holy thoughts are poured into the mind, all unholy and impure thoughts are naturally washed out.

The way of eradication of desires seeks to purify the mind through selfless action, which eradicates the ego. It is the ego, born of ignorance, that binds us to this world through attachment and separates us from the Self. By performing actions in a selfless manner, we can break down the barriers that separate us from the Self.

Patanjali’s Yoga system advocates the way of confrontation. The Yoga way contends that eradication of the ego is a long process, and most seekers do not have the patience to endure the sacrifice it calls for. Purification requires abiding faith in the reality of God, which is not always possible for an average seeker. And the mind is generally too weak and perverted to follow the path of persuasion. Impurities of the mind are too deeply imbedded and cannot be uprooted simply by reason. The way of confrontation asks the seeker to confront the mind and make relentless efforts to overcome its past habits and tendencies. The seeker must have unwavering determination and willpower to reach the goal of Self-realization. The goal is never attained unless we make an all-out effort for it. The essential teaching of Yoga is that the mind never becomes controlled unless we consciously control the effects of the mind’s restlessness—and not only the cause of restlessness.

(To be continued)

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