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Signposts of Progress in Meditation
Part VII: Subjective and Objective Meditation

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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


Nondualistic Vedanta speaks of two varieties of meditation, objective and subjective. In objective meditation, the ideal concentrated upon is thought to be outside the body-mind complex. In subjective meditation, the ideal is placed inside. Again, objective meditation has two varieties: in one, the ideal is associated with a sound symbol; in the other, with a form symbol. In the former, the aspirant repeats such sacred words as "Brahman is Absolute Existence, Absolute Knowledge, and Absolute Bliss," or "Brahman is Reality, Consciousness, and One without a second." In objective meditation associated with a form symbol, the aspirant meditates on an external object or form that seems to him closest to Brahman, As his meditation advances, he withdraws the mind step by step from the concepts of name and form and concentrates it on Brahman, pure Consciousness, the essence of the symbol. Objective meditation has two aspects, savikalpa and nirvikalpa. In the savikalpa aspect, the aspirant is conscious of the object of meditation. The savikalpa state deepens gradually into the nirvikalpa state. Here the aspirant's mind becomes one with Brahman, pure Consciousness.

In subjective meditation, the ideal concentrated upon is regarded as being within oneself, and concentration is practice in the heart. The beginner thinks of the heart as a physical organ shaped like a lotus bud. Inside this bud is a luminous space described by Vedantic texts as Brahmapura, the abode of Brahman. As the aspirant progresses, he regards the heart not as a physical organ but as the buddhi (the determinative faculty), the most refined part of the mind. At this stage, meditation is raised from the physical level to the mental level. The aspirant then casts, as it were, a mental image of Brahman in the mold of his mind. This leads to the third stage, when the aspirant transcends both the physical heart and the mind. The image of the ideal in the heart and the reflection of Brahman in the mind become one with universal pure Consciousness.

In subjective meditation associated with a form symbol, the aspirant observes as detached witness the rise and fall in his mind of the thought-waves of doubt, belief, fear, fearlessness, desires and desirelessness. He identifies himself with the Consciousness, the witness of the thought-waves and meditates on It.

The subjective meditation has its savikalpa and nirvikalpa states. In the beginning the aspirant feels that he is the detached Brahman. In this state there is only I-consciousness as the observer. As the meditation deepens he reaches the nirvikalpa state, in which the mind becomes steady, like the unflickering flame of a lamp kept in a windless place. He becomes totally absorbed in the Self. No more cognition of subject or object exists in that state.

By following the gradual stages of meditation the aspirant attains to Knowledge of Brahman in the nirvikalpa state. He then perceives Brahman everywhere and in everything. In every perception he experiences the Supreme Bliss of Brahman. This Knowledge of Brahman with eyes open and with eyes closed in meditation puts an end to all the doubts of the mind and all the binding effects of his past karma, and makes him truly free.

Vedantic texts mention four stages of absorption in meditation and describe them by the following four analogies. First is the absolute control of speech. Silence is natural to the yogi in the same way as it is natural to the cow. The cow, after it has eaten its fill, is silent chewing its cud. So also is the contented aspirant silent, thinking about God. The second stage is a lack of self-consciousness similar to that of a baby or an inert object. The third stage is the absence of I-consciousness, exemplified by a person in a state of drowsiness. The fourth stage has been compared to the state of deep sleep: neither awake nor dreaming, the aspirant at this stage is the witness of both states, being totally detached from them.

To be continued

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]

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