Hinduism Simplified

Yoga and Meditation: Science and definitions

Liberation/Monism:

 Swami Ashokananda, in his book Meditation, Ecstasy and Illumination says as follows to us who want all material pleasures. Gods says to a devotee, ‘Look here, you say that you want me, right’ But if you want me you should not have your own things; these are barriers between  you and me?. Then the devotee says, ?Oh God, I cannot give up certain things in life. You are asking too much of me.? Then the God says, ‘OK, be my distant devotee. from several miles off. More you give up, closer you come to me’. By making this barrier thinner and thinner and with divine love the soul and God can merge. This is called monism or freedom, liberation, mukti or Moksha. By meditation one can free the soul from all the bondages and experience the free, eternal, immortal, infinite being within. That is the inward journey.

Quotes of Ramana Maharshi:

 'I' is the root cause of many problems in the world. Hence only the annihilation of 'I' is Liberation.

Inward seeking is the path to be gained by man?s intellect. The intellect itself realises after continuous practice that it is enabled by some Higher Power to function. It cannot itself reach this Power.

The mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from its restlessness; give it peace; make it free from distractedness; train it to look inward; make this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing the obstacles to peace of mind.

Meditation

 Meditation can help us in our inward journey, in training the mind and annihilating 'I'. Meditation can be practiced in devotional, spiritual and physical style. While physical style may results some peace of mind, spiritual or devotional style would result in imploring the I within us and help achieve the state of bliss, Sat Chit Ananda state. While reciting Nirvaana shatkam is a way to explain and practice meditation to achieve this state of bliss, there are other means as well. 

 What are the barriers to achieving Aananda State? The Five Sheaths - Pancha Kosha

Annamaya Kosha( Physical body),

Pranamaya Kosha (breathing, digestion, bowel movements, urination, sweating),

Manomaya kosha (Mind, basic intelligence, Ego, Chitta/Emotions),

Vignanamaya Kosha (Real Intelligence),

Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss/samaadhi)

How do we penetrate the Pancha Koshas?:

One can penetrate pancha koshas by regularly practicing yoga.  

What is Meditation, Pranayama, Yoga and Stretching?

Meditation, pranayama are just one of the eight forms of yoga. Eight kinds of Yoga are

1. Yam (self restraint: non-violence, satya, abstinence from stealing/asteya, celibacy, abstenance from having unwanted things), 

2. Niyama(rules: purity, contentment, penance, regular study of Vedas, devotion to god),

3. Aasanas (posture, stretching,etc),

4. Pranayaama,

5. Pratyaahaara (withdrawal of senses from their objects),

6. Dhaarana (Concentration),

7. Dhyaana (Meditation),

8. Sammadhi (Aananda). 

 Definitions of Meditation:

1.       An active state of zero thinking

2.       Transient state of 'Doing nothing' by freeing the soul/mind, from intelligence and the body.

3.       Transient state of bliss, ananda. Spiritually speaking meditation is a way into our self, way into our soul. It is a way of inward journey. It is a way or experiencing the Brahman within us.

'Yoga', literally means 'union with (God)' in Sanskrit. Please do not consider meditation or pranayama as breathing exercise because it is more than that. ?Pranayama?, involves coordination of breathing apparatus which maximizes lung capacity, gastrointestinal tract involving periodic stimulation of mechanical, digestive and hormonal functions and the Soul. Some people call this soul as the third eye and some call it the inner fire. No one knows where it is located.

Science of Meditation:

Swami Vivekananda said: 'Spirituality begins where Science ends'

 Physiologically speaking, the various areas of the brain which control the emotion are located deep inside the brain and parts of the brain located inside the forehead. The medical names of these centers are   frontal lobes, hypothalamus, pineal body, amygdala and reticular activating system. Together we are going to call all these centers as 'divine eye'. David Frawley calls it 'The Inner Fire'. There is medical evidence to suggest that the area of the brain inside the forehead gets activated during deep meditation.

Hypothalamus controls most of the hormonal functions of the body which regulates response to stress, immunity against infections and cancers. Response to stress is believed to be the cause of many of the common illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cancers and many other illnesses. Amydgala is believed to control sexual behavior. Pineal body and the reticular activating system control the sleep function. All these centers are interconnected. Meditation is believed to improve the immunity against infections and cancers, improve the stress response and inter-personal skills, help assist in healing from injuries and diseases and delay apoptosis, i. e., programmed cell death and hence delay aging.

Physical aspect of deep rhythmic breathing helps in preventing sinusitis and hay fever and allergic diseases of the nose and lungs. Physical aspect of exercising the tummy muscles is believed to improve irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, stomach ache, constipation, stomach ulcers and indigestion.

Some of the Mahavakyas  are:

1.       ‘So Ham’ means ‘I am He’ from Chandogya Upanishad 4. 11.1

2.       ‘Tat tvam asi’ means ‘That thou Art’ (Thou art that mean you are that), also from Chandogya Upanishad

3.       ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ means ‘I am Brahman’ from Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10

Lord Chaitanya was made popular in the recent world by Swami Prabhupada. Swami Prabhupada is known for teaching the world the Krishna Maha Mantra. Let me sing it in one of the popular tunes.

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

There are also people who recite 'Om Namaha Shivaya' repeatedly in an attempt to experience bliss.

The famous Gayatri Mantra according to many is the most powerful mantra.

Om bhûr bhuva svaha

tat savitur varenyam

bhargo devasya dhîmahi

dhiyo yo na prachodayât

 Similarly one can repeatedly recite the ultimate Hindu mono syllable OM (AUM) which represents the Universe, Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara.

These Mahavakyas or great supreme statements contain the highest truth and grand conclusions of Hinduism. Many Hindus continuously recite these grand truths and think about them. But it is not enough. These Mahavakyas have to be experienced and this is realistic. This is what Ramakrishna Paramahamsa made Swami Vivekananda experience. This is what I think Swami Prabhupada made the Hippies and the drug addicts of downtown New York  experience by reciting Hare Rama Hare Krishna. This is what Mahesh Yogi did by teaching TM to the sophisticated westerners. This is what Sri Sri RaviShankar is helping people experience by doing Sudharshan Kriya. And finally this is what Ramdev Maharaj is trying to achieve by making people do Pranayama and Omkara. I hope that our daily Mantra, Laka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu will become real if we all practice some form of Aham Brahmasmi. 

I want to conclude this by reciting Omkara three times now with me OM Om Om..