Bring the mind to serenity at the heart centre for two hours a day

The large part of the mind which consists of unexamined ideas and habits, will often raise objections to Yoga practice: “Waste of time.” Swami Mangalnath’s advice is to bring the mind to serenity at the heart centre for two hours a day. The mind will probably object: “But I’ll have to cut my television time!” Sometimes beginners feel that even an hour’s meditation a day is wasted. There may be a temporary exaltation, but it is soon lost in the rush of life. Would it not be better to use the time in life itself, perhaps doing some good instead of just sitting there?

They do not understand the dynamics of yoga meditation. As a parallel, consider the case of an undeveloped country which wanted to industrialize itself. The government found young, idealistic, intelligent people and sent them abroad on scholarships to main centres of engineering and science to examine and learn about the world. There was opposition: people said, “We need them here and you’re sending them away.” But the government was far-seeing and said, “Send them!”

The young were a great loss, but after a few years, some began to return. Almost at once changes began. At the time, for instance, the midwives didn’t know about wiping the eyes of newborn children and as a result many children were blinded from birth. When the students returned with new training and experience, they called conferences and explained hygiene and sanitation.

At first there was resistance from the old midwives. They said, “We’ve never done that. It’s not necessary.” Again the government intervened, the reforms were put through and the number of cases of the infection fell dramatically.

In the same way when we sit in meditation, we may feel that time is being wasted. The thought arises “I’m only dreaming.” No, the time will come when we find that the basis of our character has been changed and we have become much more energetic, constructive and inspired. It’s called Concentration.

The next stage is Dhyana – translated “Meditation”. When we concentrated, we had to keep supporting the idea or the mind would fall away. When it did, we brought it back. But when the practice has advanced and the new sanskaras laid down have changed the basis of the mind, then the mind can flow in a line of similar thoughts. These become powerful, not on an individual level only, but on a spiritual level. Shankara, in his Bhagavad Gita commentary, says the Gita gives three main meditations on the divine powers which hold the world together, the partial forms of the Lord culminate in the Universal Form of chapter Xl. The absolute is beyond all forms. He gives examples of partial forms such as the fragrance of the earth which we know well in summer after a shower.

He says, “Meditate on this as divine. Meditate on light, the moon and sun, the majesty of mountains.” Another is on the law of karma, which brings the results of our good and bad actions to us. He says it is not a question simply of hoping or having faith, but instead trying the meditations on an experimental basis. In Dr Shastri’s book The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching there is an account of one such experiment, by someone meditating on Rama.

“The physical form of Shri Rama is in paradise, Vaikunta, but his vibrations are ever around and within us. You can even now come into contact with the grace of Rama by praying to Him with a tranquillised mind, divested of vanity and the longing for pleasure and by being devoted to service. Each particle of the holy vibrations of Rama contains His essence. You can have a vision of His materialised personality anywhere and at any time, if your devotion to Him is complete. The saint, Tulsi Das, and Raghunath Das in our own time, had this vision. Surely the privilege is open to each and every one of you …”

One can say, as a sort of self-defence masked as humility: This is very high. I do not pretend to aspire to these states, which are after all a bit unnatural. They are not for ordinary folk.” But the quotation above is directed to “each and everyone “. Shankara takes up this very point in one of his great commentaries: he cites 11.44 of Patanjali’s Yoga-sutra classic, to the effect that study of the scripture and repetition of Om, the highest name of God, bring about a face-to-face meeting with the deity of one’s devotion. He also gives an Upanishadic text confirming that this applies not merely to the spiritual giants of the past but to the ordinary people of the present, who must therefore not rule themselves out.

The same warning was given by St. Teresa of Avila to nuns who told her: “We are simple humble persons, and it’s not for me to hope the Lord will speak to us directly.” She would say, “Sisters, if you knew how the devil laughs when you say that!”

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