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:
IX: STAGES OF REALIZATION
As an aspirant makes progress in meditation, he passes through various
levels of realization. The Yoga system mentions that the supreme goal of
meditation is attained by seven successive stages. The first level is
reached when it dawns upon the aspirant that the Truth he is seeking is
not outside himself but within. In the words of Swami Vivekananda:
After long searches here and there, in temples and in churches, on earth
and in heaven, at last you come back to your own soul, completing the
circle from where you started, and find that He whom you have been seeking
all over the world, for whom you have been weeping and praying in churches
and in temples, on whom you were looking as the mystery of all mysteries,
shrouded in the clouds, is the nearest of the near, is your own Self, the
reality of your life, body, and soul.
The second level is that at which the aspirant experiences cessation of
pain arising out of attachment and aversion: an all-abiding calmness
pervades his entire mind. At the third level, he attains total absorption
in the Self. The objective universe disappears completely. By reaching the
fourth level, he gains absolute freedom and dwells on the borderland
between the absolute and the relative. When he attains the fifth level, he
realizes that for him the world and his body and mind have completed their
services. When he reaches the sixth level, all his stored-up impressions
fall away forever, never to come back again. Finally, at the seventh
level, the aspirant reaches the final stage of union with the Self, from
which he no longer returns to partial consciousness.
The devotional scriptures of Hinduism mention experiences of certain
specific spiritual emotions as indicators of progress in dualistic
meditation. Following the path of devotion, an aspirant meditates on a
particular aspect of the Personal God as his Chosen Ideal, and he reaches
the state of absorption by his intensified love for his Chosen Ideal. The
steps leading to the state of absorption are considered practices of
preparatory love, while the different depths of meditative absorption are
known as different degrees of spontaneous love.
Love begins with one-pointed loyalty (nishtha)
to the Chosen Ideal. An aspirant with this one-pointed loyalty begins to
develop a special love and liking for his own object of worship, although
he shows love and adoration for other forms of God as well. His love at
this stage is formal and ceremonial, and therefore his meditation, too, is
mostly a practice of discipline, motivated not so much by the commitment
of his heart as by practical considerations of his intellect.
One-pointed loyalty brings in its wake a feeling of loving attachment to
the Chosen Ideal, and loving attachment gradually culminates in loving
devotion. The sense of practicing discipline with effort is slowly
replaced by the feeling of loving service and self-surrender. Devotion
makes the object of meditation alive and responsive, and therefore
meditation becomes spontaneous. Spontaneity in anything results from the
commitment of the heart. The cooperation of the heart represents the
support of the unconscious part of our mind for our conscious endeavors.
There is always a difference between what we think we want and what we
really want. So long as an aspirant's conscious spiritual efforts and
practices do not get the support and cooperation of his heart, such
practices are never spontaneous.
Loving devotion leads to the stage of bhava.
Reaching this stage, an aspirant feels the inebriation of the meditative
mood. This naturally generates continual bubbles of thought within the
aspirant reminiscent of his Chosen Ideal. The stage of
bhava reaches its consummation in the
attainment of mahabhava, which is divine
intoxication, and then in prema, or pure
To be continued
[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]
Weekly Message Archive