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Spiritual Concentration & Meditation:
Sufferings of Life

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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.







Swami Adiswarananda

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center

New York

Meditation overcomes the fear of death, which lies at the root of all fears. The diverse manifestations of this primal fear are anxiety, despair, depression, possessiveness, attachments, and aversions. Fear arises when we treat the body as an end unto itself. Meditation reveals that body and mind are mere instruments of the soul for self-fulfillment, and never ends in themselves. The philosophy of meditation teaches that creative living is never possible unless we accept the inevitability of our physical death and keep ourselves ready for it. The life-wish and the death-wish go together. In meditation we die in a measured way to our old self, and simultaneously we become reborn in our new self. A neurotic wants to run away from the death-wish and accepts only the life-wish. Frustrated, he falls victim to his own fears. Meditation teaches a deepening of self-awareness, so that we realize, "I am not the body, which belongs to the order of the organic world and is subject to its mechanical laws. Feelings and emotions are psychological. My ego is just a function of the psyche. I am the true Self, beyond all polarities and tensions. My breath belongs to the universal breath, my eyes are the sun and the moon. I am the all-pervading Self shining in every heart."

Meditation liberates us from the bondage of the mind and body, and lifts us up into the vast expanse of the Infinite Self. By raising the blaze of consciousness within us, it burns all that is dross and false in us. Shankaracharya compares meditation to a source of friction that kindles the fire of knowledge: "By constant meditation (comparable to the rubbing of the firewood) is kindled the flame of Knowledge, which completely burns up the fuel of ignorance."

Life is not what it appears to be. Suffering is the moral message of life. It is the first of the four noble truths of Buddha's message to the world. Asked by a king the meaning of life, a sage once replied: "A man is born, he suffers, and he dies." Sorrow, indeed, is the price of our birth on earth. It afflicts both body and mind. Any glimpses of happiness that may be seen to brighten our days on earth are both fugitive and deceptive. Every enjoyment is moved by haunting fear. The rich are afraid of robbers, the beautiful of deformity, the healthy of disease, the learned of rivals, the aristocrats of dishonor, the virtuous of slander. Yet a human individual somehow forgets this brutal fact in the rhapsody of momentary happiness. Twenty-five hundred years ago the Buddha declared that if all the tears that had flowed from human eyes since the beginning of time were gathered together, they would exceed the waters of the oceans.

Why do we suffer? Some attribute suffering to luck, some to the stars, some to the retribution of God, and some to external circumstances. According to the seers of Yoga and Vedanta, suffering is self-created, and the causes are five: loss of contact with the real, ego and egotism, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. Loss of contact with our true Self gives rise to ego-the false, limited, finite self—which projects a world of dream and fancy, and forces us to live in that world. Driven by the promptings of the ego, we strive for the impossible. It is the ego that polarizes our mind and creates the world of good and evil, and pain and pleasure. The harvest of egotistic living is fatigue and failure, anxiety and frustration. The more the ego gobbles up to create a "me" and "mine" world, the more it gets choked up and pushed into isolation, and thereby gets set against its own reality. Denial of our true Self is the surest and shortest way to disintegration and doom. The practice of meditation brings us in contact with our true Self, endows us with a realistic cosmic vision where everything falls in its right place, and frees us from the cramped life of endless craving and cringing.

Meditation awakens the dormant powers of the mind. Just as a vast amount of energy is hidden in an atom, so too is there a vast reservoir of energy hidden in the depths of our psyche. The sacred texts of Yoga and Vedanta call this sleeping power of the mind kundalini. Life becomes blessed when the kundalini is awakened. Using the power of the mind, human beings have been able to achieve great wonders in the realm of science and technology. It is the same power of the mind that makes impossible things possible in the realm of spirituality. The story of the evolution of life is the story of the manifestation of mental powers.

To be continued

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]

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