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Signposts of Progress in Meditation
Part III: Intensity of Performance

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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

            Success in meditation, according to Patanjali, depends upon samvega, the intensely energetic practice of meditation and quickness of performance necessary to such practice. Such energetic practice and quickness in fulfilling the conditions, however, depend upon the aspirant's physical and mental equipment, mastery over posture, ability to overcome the environment, self-control, worshipfulness, concentration of mind, and longing for the goal. The seeker is said to have gained perfect mastery over posture when he is able to remain seated easily in one place and in one posture for three hours (according to other texts, four hours and twenty minutes) without even blinking his eyes. When he is able to invoke his meditative mood in spite of distractions in the external world, he is said to have overcome the environment. He is said to be established in self-control when his aversion to sense enjoyment equals his innate abhorrence for "the excreta of a crow" (according to Shankaracharya). His self-control is said to be perfect when he is able to live among the objects of temptation without any form of attachment or aversion to them. His worshipfulness is measured by his self-surrender to God; his concentration of mind, by his inner absorption; and his longing for the goal, by his intense dispassion and indomitable effort.

            The pace of an aspirant's progress in meditation depends upon how quickly or slowly he is able to fulfill these conditions. Progress is quick for those who either have been endowed with these masteries from birth or else have acquired them through intense effort. According to the Yoga System, there are five types of mind: (1) kshipta, or wandering; (2) mudha, or deluded; (3) vikshipta, or scattered but occasionally steady; (4) ekagra, or one-pointed; and (5) niruddha, or restrained. Of these five types of mind, only the last two are fit for the practice of meditation. Thus, if progress depends upon practice, then practice depends upon samvega. With samvega as the chief consideration, aspirants have been classified into categories of mild, medium, and intense. Each of these three main categories is again subdivided into three, making nine categories all together: mildly mild, medium mild,  and intensely mild; mildly medium, medium medium, and intensely medium; mildly intense, medium intense, and intensely intense. Progress in meditation is quick for those who are intensely intense in every respect.

            Depending upon their progress in meditation, aspirants are divided into four groups: beginner, struggling soul, adept, and perfect.

            The beginner is one who has just set foot on the path. His practice of meditation is formal; his object of meditation exists more in his imagination than as a reality. The struggling soul is one who has been practicing meditation for some time, so that his entire mind has become churned up: contrary desires and tendencies that previously remained submerged in his mind now rise to the surface, and he wrestles with them and tries to conquer them. He often thinks the condition of his mind to be in worse than it was before he began practicing meditation. Sometimes he feels enthusiasm in his practice, and at other times he finds his meditation dry and uninteresting. The adept is one who has achieved a great amount of devotedness to his practice. He can invoke concentration of mind at will, regardless of internal or external distractions, and is able to maintain his meditative mood at a steady level, His object of meditation is no longer a reproduction of an external symbol or an imagination, but a living reality. An aspirant is said to be perfect when he is able to maintain his meditative mood continuously and without any effort on his part, and to always remain absorbed in God-consciousness with eyes open or with eyes closed.

            How long does it take to reach the state of perfection in meditation? Theoretically speaking, the time involved is not long and is measurable. As explained earlier, the traditions of Yoga and Vedanta maintain that if the mind can be made to flow uninterruptedly toward the same object for twelve seconds, that will make one unit of concentration. If the mind can continue in that concentration for twelve times twelve seconds (or two minutes and twenty-four seconds), that will be considered one unit of meditation. If the mind can continue in that meditation for twelve times two minutes and twenty-four seconds (or twenty-eight minutes and forty-eight seconds), that will be the first stage of samadhi. If this samadhi can be maintained for twelve times that period (five hours, forty-five minutes, and thirty-six seconds), it will lead to the highest absorption of nirvikalpa samadhi. But in practical terms, the situation is different for each individual aspirant.

To be continued

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]


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