Sense experiences during meditation

Sense experiences during meditation are not what the yogi may imagine beforehand; all the accounts show a sort of surprise when the experiences first come. They are more beautiful than anything in the world, and are quite different from hallucinations or dreams. The commentators say that they are genuine perceptions, but of objects not normally accessible to perception. If they produce attachment to their delight, it blocks further progress in yoga, because independence is lost. After a few such experiences, the teacher always directs the pupil to meditations on truth. Attachment to these higher sense experiences, like any attachment, darkens and restricts the mind, which loses its purity and strength.

They come and go. They are self-terminating, because the excitement they arouse interferes with the necessary concentration, which becomes split between the meditation, and what he expects to get as a result. The same applies to drug experiences. When meditation advances, there can be unusual happenings which are traditionally holy but the meditator is warned against becoming attached to them. Attachment will impair his meditation. A yogi who lived on top of a hill in a remote area used to meditate every day either inside his little hut or in front of the door, just as the impulse took him. A poisonous snake which lived in the roots of a nearby tree came to know the man, and feeling some sort of attraction to him, used to coil itself round his neck when he was motionless in meditation. The yogi became aware of it but did not mind; as he slowly came out of meditation the snake would quietly go back to its own home.

The villagers in the valley used to send one of their number to take some milk and rice to the yogi every day. Once the messenger saw the snake coiled round his neck. In this village they were worshippers of the god Shiva, who is classically represented with snakes round neck, symbolizing tamed passions. The villager fell down and worshipped the yogi as Shiva. Next day another messenger saw the same thing. A few days later, the headman bought the rice: he waited till the yogi came out of meditation and the snake had gone, and then asked whether the whole village could come to see it.

The yogi agreed, but said, `You must not disturb the snake. So stand a good distance off. I will meditate in front of the hut tomorrow, so that you will be able to see.’ The next day he sat in meditation as usual, while the villagers stood some way off to see the miracle. But the snake never again came to the yogi.

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