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.
SIGNPOSTS OF PROGRESS IN MEDITATION:
II: MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES
Regarding mystical experiences, the
Svetasvatara Upanishad mentions the following: "When
yoga is practised, the forms which appear
first and which gradually manifest Brahman are those of snow-flakes,
smoke, sun, wind, fireflies, lightning, crystal, and the moon." In other
words, while practicing meditation the aspirant sees within, one after
another, the visions of a snowfall, radiant smoke, and the brilliant sun.
Then he feels within him a strong current of wind, followed by intense
heat. Sometimes he sees in meditation the sky filled with fireflies or a
dazzling flash of lightning, and sometimes the serene luster of a crystal
or of the moon. These visions indicate an aspirant's progress in
Spiritual experiences vary from person to person, depending upon the
extent of the progress made. Some of these relate to hearing. At a certain
stage of concentration, an aspirant often experiences such phenomena as
hearing within himself the pulsations of sound, the melody of bells
ringing at a distance, and vibrations rising out of the depths of space,
just like ripples produced in a pond when a stone is thrown in it. At a
more advanced stage of concentration, he may hear the
anahata dhvani, the eternal and
uninterrupted vibration of the cosmic mind.
Another measure of progress is the vision of inner light. Visions of inner
light include the vision of the form of the object of concentration. As
his meditation deepens, an aspirant is able to picture within himself the
object of concentration with more and more clarity and distinctness. For a
beginner in meditation, the object of concentration is more imaginary than
real; this becomes reversed as he progresses in concentration, and the
object of concentration gradually begins to appear more real to him than
any tangible object.
Meditation is a process of devolution in which the aspirant voluntarily
and consciously transcends the states of waking, dream, and dreamless
sleep, finally reaching turiya, or Pure
Consciousness. Spiritual visions and experiences during meditation are
faint glimpses of the state of Pure Consciousness. In order for these to
be genuine indicators of progress, they must be conscious realizations,
distinguishable from involuntary experiences in a dream. Spiritual
experiences in dreams have no significance unless they serve as
inducements for the practice of meditation and moral purification during
the waking state.
Sri Ramakrishna describes the following spiritual experiences as
indicators of progress in meditation:
Man, looking outward, sees the gross; at that time his mind dwells in the
annamayakosha, the gross body. Next is the subtle body. Functioning
through the subtle body, the mind dwells in the manomayakosha and the
viinanamayakosha. Next is the causal body. Functioning through the causal
body the mind enjoys bliss; it dwells in the anandamayakosha This
corresponds to the semi-conscious state experienced by Chaitanya. First of
all, the mind loses itself in the Great Cause. It disappears. It merges in
the Great Cause. What one experiences after that cannot be described in
words. In his inmost state of consciousness, Chaitanya enjoyed this
experience. Do you know what this state is like? Dayananda described it by
saying, "Come into the inner apartments and shut the door." Anyone and
everyone cannot enter that part of the house.
I used to meditate on the flame of a light. I thought of the red part as
gross, the white part inside the red as subtle, and the stick-like black
part, which is the innermost of all, as the causal.
By certain signs you can tell when meditation is being rightly practised.
One of them is that a bird will sit on your head, thinking you are an
A person can achieve such single-mindedness in meditation that he will see
nothing, hear nothing. He will not be conscious even of touch. A snake may
crawl over his body, but he will not know it. Neither of them will be
aware of the other.
In deep meditation the sense-organs stop functioning; the mind does not
look outward. It is like closing the gate of the outer court in a house.
There are five objects of the senses: form, taste, smell, touch, and
sound. They are all left outside.
At the beginning of meditation the objects of the senses appear before the
aspirant. But when the meditation becomes deep, they no longer bother him.
They are left outside. How many things I saw during meditation! I vividly
perceived before me a heap of rupees, a shawl, a plate of sweets, and two
women with rings in their noses. "What do you want?" I asked my mind. "Do
you want to enjoy any of these things?" "No," replied the mind, "I don't
want any of them. I don't want anything but the Lotus Feet of God.”
Sri Ramakrishna further describes his own experiences:
There are certain characteristics of God-vision. One sees light, feels
joy, and experiences the upsurge of a great current in one's chest, like
the bursting of a rocket. …
I had all the experiences that one should have, according to the
scriptures, after one's direct perception of God. I behaved like a child,
like a madman, like a ghoul, and like an inert thing.
I saw the visions described in the scriptures. Sometimes I saw the
universe filled with sparks of fire. Sometimes I saw all the quarters
glittering with light, as if the world were a lake of mercury. Sometimes I
saw the world as if made of liquid silver. Sometimes, again, I saw all the
quarters illumined as if with the light of Roman candles. So you see my
experiences tally with those described in the scriptures.
To be continued
[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]
Weekly Message Archive