In meditation practice, it is essential to remember the purpose, which is: realization of an existing fact. Meditation is not building up a dream.
The traditional meditations are, however, allocated to different stages. Many people cannot yet meditate on identity of the true Self and God; it is too remote from daily experience. To them, such texts are frankly incredible. Statements such as Rama Tirtha’s main teaching,
“You are infinite, God Almighty you are, Infinite God you are”,
run so absolutely counter to actual experience that they are mentally discounted. Until the vividness and urgency of daily life have been considerably thinned, meditation on the true Self will be (as Shankara says in his Gita commentary) impossible.
While individual concerns and trivial events continue to occupy most of the attention, there will not be conscious experience of the true Self. That experience has to be as clear and direct as our present experience of being a human body rigidly circumscribed by place and time. In meditation, awareness of place and time has to be lessened, and finally lost altogether. Shri Dada, the teacher of Dr. Shastri who founded Shanti Sadan, says in the book called The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching:
“As long as you have consciousness of time and space you will not be able to perceive the light of Atman”
(the true Self). By practising one fixed posture till it becomes natural, and by thinning out passionate interest in personally motivated activities, deep meditation becomes possible. When glimpses of the Self are had, worldly activities become unselfish and calmly vigorous (Gita XVIII 26). Inspired as to direction and timing, they are really efficient, as against the self-assertive but ultimately self-defeating bustling about trivial details which is often mistaken for efficiency (24).
But some give up before there is any genuine experience. They come to think that meditation is being momentarily “drunk on words”, as the Zen school calls it. Things can be created by words alone; they will not bear a moment’s close examination, but if unexamined can powerfully affect feelings and conduct. For instance, when Napoleon had just defeated Prussia in 1806, the German philosopher Fichte wrote a nationalistic essay in which he declared: “The Frenchman knows only French, but the German knows both German and French. So the Frenchman understands what is going on only if it is in French, whereas the German always understands, whether it be in German or in French. And as a matter of fact” – the current of his words is beginning to sweep him off his feet – “the Frenchman does not understand things fully even when they are in French, because of the dullness of his intellect; whereas the German with his superior intellect understands the French side even if perhaps his own knowledge of French is incomplete.” The conclusion is, that the “blood” (what we should now call genetic endowment) of the people of Germany gives them decisive superiority.
It seems that this flood of words is saying something. But in actual fact it is not. No less than one-third of the population of Berlin in 1830 – not long after Fichte wrote – were of Huguenot, namely French, descent. The prized German blood had a lot of Frenchness in it. Fichte must have had an inkling of this; but he shut his eyes, and deliberately got drunk on a creation of words.
To get drunk on words, as on wine, has an after-effect of disappointment and sometimes bitterness. Unless there is some confirmation in experience, the exaltation created by reading or hearing spiritual texts dries up, and finally the texts themselves are felt to be merely rainbow pictures. As soon as the occasion is over, the mind springs back with redoubled vigour to what is “really important”, namely the concerns of the world.
Without active search by the methods given by the teachers along with the truths to be confirmed, everything becomes doubtful. An attitude may develop: “Well, this I cannot accept. But there are other things which may well be beneficial.”
As Shankara points out, if the texts are thought to be mistaken or incoherent on one point, then they lose credibility on all points.
A typical doubt arises over the doctrine of a divine inner controller of everything. Shankara states that there must be Intelligence controlling even the flow of water. But in the physics laboratories, predictable regularities are found which require no intelligence to keep prompting them. However, physics recognizes that at the sub-atomic level there are no such predictable regularities, and the question is, “Where do they come from?” There must be some control.
Merely summing a vast number of undetermined events will not produce determined ones.
As one great mathematician puts it, “Taken to its logical conclusion, quantum mechanics should lead to a spreading vagueness in the world, even to the extent of making vague the events of everyday life.”
So perhaps the Intelligence has been observed in the laboratories; but the conclusion was simply not liked.
Yoga has its own experiments. Meditation on the Lord as the inner controller leads to growing awareness of the inner lines of situations, as set in the context of the Lord’s purpose.
Another doubt arises from texts like Swami Rama Tirtha’s “secret of success”, derived from the Upanishads, and repeated by him many times in various ways: “Suppose you are studying or you have in hand something important, and you every day enter your solitary meditation chamber, withdraw your mind from all external objects and meditate, identifying yourself with the infinite store of light, then, O friend, I assure you, fame and success will be attracted towards you and will dance before you.” (Scientist and Mahatma, by H. P. Shastri, p. 125).
A sceptic thinks, “How can this be so? Success often depends on events far beyond the control of the meditator’s immediate circle. Meditation, like light, might improve life in the iron prison of human circumstances; it is certainly better than to be imprisoned in darkness. Still, light cannot burn a hole in the iron wall.”
But it can. Sunlight is a mixture of lights of many different wavelengths, just as untrained thinking consists of many different streams of thought, clashing with each other. The crest of the waves of sunlight do not coincide; they are out of step, and so sunlight, like ordinary thinking, is “incoherent”.
Sunlight can be split up into its constituent colours, one of which is red. In a particular red light, all the waves are similar in wavelength; but the crests do not coincide, so it is still not “coherent”. This corresponds to the dhyana stage of meditation, where there is a stream of similar thoughts only. However there is still some internal clashing because of association such as time and place, and especially memory.
When by a special process, the crests of light waves of a particular colour are made to coincide exactly, it is laser light, which can burn a hole through a thick steel plate in less than a minute. When waves of exactly the same wavelength are “coherent”, the laser effect is produced. This corresponds to what Patanjali calls nir-vichara samadhi, where thought is one-pointed and free from associations of time, space, and all memory-associations, especially passionate ones. It burns up the rigidity of external circumstances.
As Swami Rama says:
“Your true Self is the only rigid Reality. The phenomenal worldly circumstances become mobile, malleable and volatile unto you when you are soaked in the stern fact, your true Self.”