India has long been known for its wisdom. A variety of Hindu meditations offer powerful spiritual tools for those learning meditation.
"All philosophy remains talk unless people practice sadhana (spiritual practice)."--Shivabalayogi
"Body, mind and spirituality--these are three cages. A spiritual seeker will go beyond all these cages. In his natural state, samadhi, the entire universe is nothing but his Self. Whatever he enjoys in this world is nothing but Self; time is Self only; wisdom is Self only."--Karunamayi
My first exposure to Hindu meditations and the wisdom that came out of India was when I was in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, West Africa. I was a young man of 24 years, and in my apartment was a library built up by preceding volunteers. One of those books was The Razor's Edge, by Sommerset Maugham. It was about a young man who no longer found comfort from the society he grew up in and went traveling the world seeking the answers to life. Eventually, he comes to a master who teaches him how to meditate and to find the answers within.
When I read about his meeting of the master, a desire arose in me that I, too, would love to meet such a master. Later on, after meeting many teachers, many ending in disappointments, I came across Ramana Maharshi and had an inner initiation with him. Later, I found that Somerset Maugham had met Ramana in India and then wrote The Razor's Edge, basing his master on Ramana. I had received my wish.
Another book that became an inspiration and introduction to the variety of Hindu meditations was Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. I read this book after returning from Africa while hitchhiking across the backroads of America. This book opened a whole new world for me, and like many people, I would meet later, my life changed. What Yogananda wrote about felt so familiar, and I longed to immerse myself in such a world.
I studied with many Indian teachers (whether in the flesh or the dream state) such as Satya Sai Baba, Shivabalayogi, Ramakrishna, Karunamayi, Babaji, and Neem Karoli Baba, each offering me exactly what I needed at the time. I fell in love with the Hindu pantheon: Vishnu, Shiva, Divine Mother (Kali, Parvati, and Saraswati), Krishna and Rama, Hanuman, and more. My heart would swell just hearing about their stories, and I tears would flow when I talked about them and those teachers who embodied them. I was walking the path of Bhakti Yoga, the pathway of the heart. And it was ecstatic.
And then came Ramana and the path of Jnana Yoga, the path of Self-knowledge. And I began practicing a self-meditation self-meditation called Self Inquiry. It is a practice I have continued daily for over 25 years. It was the sword that cut me away from my illusions about who I thought I was.
What I include under Hindu meditations are spiritual tools that originate in the Hindu tradition that brings one into a greater understanding with one's Self, or the Divine. It can be through either chanting, repeating mantras (sacred words and sounds), working with the body (Hatha Yoga) and breath (pranayama), meditating on sacred writings and teachings, and meditations that either focus on an image or those that go beyond all doings of the mind.
When people in the West speak of yoga, they generally mean and assume one is practicing Hatha Yoga, the yoga where people twist themselves up in all kinds of positions. However, there are many yogas. Yoga means to yoke or to attach to. And what yogis are connecting to is the Divine--whatever their chosen focus of the Divine is. Some yogis will focus on some form, whether an aspect of God, such as Shiva or upon the formless, beyond duality. I will be sharing from the various yogas and offering meditation techniques from those that I have found beneficial for me upon my journey.
Perhaps the greatest of Hindu scripture is the Bhagavad Gita, which is a section of the Mahabharata. It is a discourse between Sri Krishna, who is the embodiment of Lord Vishnu, giving his upadesa, or teaching, to Arjuna, son of Indra, and the greatest of warriors. It takes place on a battlefield set between two armies. There have been hundreds of translations of these sacred teachings; my favorite, however, is The Song of God: Bhagavad Gita, translated by Prabhavananda and Isherwood. It has more of a poetic quality to its prose.
When seekers would come to Ramana Maharshi about the nuances of the teachings of the scripture, he stated that the Bhagavad Gita was intended to address the various stages and temperaments of seekers. The second chapter deals with knowledge--the knowledge of the deathless Atman, the Self, that dwells in both foe and friend. As Arjuna, still identifying with the I-am-the body-idea, cannot come to Self-realization, the teachings continue. If Arjuna had realized the Self right then and there, the Gita would have been very short.
Krishna tells Arjuna that to see Brahman, the universal Spirit; he must find the Atman within. For him to do so, he must go to a solitary place and live alone.
You do not have to go out and live alone literally. You do not have to become a renunciate and become a hermit living on a mountain peak. However, when you meditate, you need to be focused entirely within so that no other person or thing exists. You can go to a mountain top and think about things about the world--that is not being alone, the whole world is with you then. You can be in your house with your entire family living with you, but when you are meditating, not a thought of them occurs. That's being alone.
Then Krishna tells Arjuna to prepare his seat that should neither be too high or too low; space should be clean, and the seat covered with sacred grass and a deerskin.
Arjuna is a warrior and is very disciplined, just being who he is. By making such specifics for him to follow it already helps with preparing for concentration. But you do not need all those specifics. Your seat should be comfortable, but not too comfortable that it induces sleep. And cleanliness helps to reflect a clear mind. Having a sacred object in your meditation space or holding it in your hand (I have a stone from the holy mountain of Arunachala that I use sometimes) is a good reminder of the Divine and has positive energy to help give a boost.
Arjuna is told to be motionless and sit erect and should be gazing as though upon "the tip of the nose."
The tip of the nose, I do not believe it means that literally but instead means to focus upon the middle of the forehead, in what is called the third eye. Shivabalayogi, the first teacher from the East to initiate me into meditation, had everyone focus on the Third Eye, where there would be placed some vihbuti or sacred ash.
Finally, Arjuna is to think of nothing else but Krishna, no sense objects, no plans, nothing from the past. Only upon him.
Now Krishna is speaking from the place of knowing that he is Brahman. So he does not mean just his form as Krishna. On a side note, I think this was the place Jesus was speaking from when he said only through him could one come to God. Masters such as Krishna and Jesus do not communicate from such limitations as those of us do when we see the world through the eyes of our body and not the Spiritual Eye.
And that's the essential meditation. I would add to it by saying that if you are having trouble keeping your mind focused upon the Third Eye, or upon the tip of the nose, for that matter, just become aware of your breathing. Watching the inhalation, holding the breath slightly, and then exhaling, making all of it natural. Don't try to force the breathing. And don't worry when it becomes so subtle that it appears to stop.
May your focus be one-pointed upon Brahman, in whatever form or formlessness your Heart desires.
Hindu Trinity Meditation
Do you have a favorite meditation technique that you have found helpful? Great. How about sharing it? What is it? How have you benefited from it? And more importantly, what is your background story that led to this practice? In other words, this is not a technical piece, but a human story to inspire others.