Talking about meditation and hence calming the mind has become the necessity of modern life. Many meditative techniques are in vogue currently intending to help humans to cope up with stresses and strains associated with modern life and life-styles. Many traditional meditation techniques are presently popularly encased in modern phrases. Attempts to calm the mind will be fruitful and give desired results if meditation is performed with knowledge about mind and its vagaries and also about the nature of meditation process.
Upanishadic philosophy which is Sat-Darsana is synonymous with Sat or Truth revealed. The process of arriving at and experiencing Truth is technically termed as Self Realization. Self Realization sets in calmness in mind and efficiency of mental functions increases. Possessing an absolute faith is a must to calm the mind; faith in the approach; faith in the text and teacher; and faith in oneself. Cultivating, engaged in and maintaining a stable and harmonious relationship with one’s near and dear ones and fellow-beings highly benefit the aspirant in attempts to calm the mind. And many times lack of such a harmonious relationship obstructs the setting of peace in the mind and mere observation or practice of a meditative technique in an academic or mechanical way many not help the individual in his/her aim or quest.
Ego, the self-consciousness, the collection of thoughts about ‘I’ as body and associated personality traits, social status, ‘me’ and ‘mine’, creates vasanas (impressions/experiences/memories) within us. All cognition/perception/volition/urge-related experiences are created and retrieved by the antahkarana (inner mental tool) chittam. Egoistic thoughts and actions (with the thought and sense of ‘I’, where ‘I’ is identified with respective individual) in Awakened/Wakeful and Dream conscious states creates memories (vasanas). These memories get activated later (with reference to physical time passage) and cause happiness or unhappiness accordingly in the present of physical time.
The phase of mind bereft of egoistic thoughts, memories or other cognitions / perceptions/experiences is the state of Self (Atman, Ego-free, blissful, peaceful and is Time-transcendent). This state is called Jagrat Sushupti or Wakeful Sleep. The three other conscious states – the Awakened/Wakeful (Jagrat), the Dream (swapna) and Deep Sleep (Sushupti) - conscious states are transient super-impositions over thever present wakeful sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) conscious state simultaneously/alternately. Memories and record of our experiences is our psychological past and our fears, anxieties, imaginations, expectations etc., are our psychological future The thought-flow concerning these past and future in the form of memories activated as remembrances and fear, anxiety, anticipation, apprehensions, imaginations etc., consist of our psychological past and future and gives us the awareness of time and feeling of passage of time. Thus thought-flow (reflected chit-energy transformations) is the psychological time and its flow.
Living in the ‘past or future’ in the present leads to peacelessness. The aim of spirituality is to enable one to cultivate the habit of living in the physical present with peace. Such a spiritual tradition suggests that the aim of human birth is to cease to be ‘human’ and be Divine - Ego-free - , rather transcending human nature and live in eternal blissful ego-free state. The adjective ‘human’ in human-being refers to the ecstasies, excitements, grieves, aches, fears, anxieties, thrills, sense of achievements or disappointments and many other psychological comforts or discomforts felt or experienced by men and women during the course of life.
A human-being is tired of these psychological pulls and pushes and craves for relief from this chain of states of emotional disorders and be peaceful. Some others study Vedanta for acquiring knowledge and to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Arriving at Truth gives peace in both the cases and calms the mind. Peace and Calmness are Divine Qualities. So are Pure Consciousness, Being, Bliss, Silence, Timelessness, etc. The mental process in which one can attain these qualities of Divinity or how a human-being transforms oneself into a Calm Divine Being is known as meditation on the Self - the real Nature of the individual. Self, Brahman, Atman are other names for Divine Being.
Eka Vastu Chintanameva Dhyanam – is a definition of the meditation. This means that meditation is contemplation on a Divine Quality and finally merging mind into that Quality and Be That Quality; this is also known as Self Realization. Theology proposes Bhakti – the path of devotion for this purpose. In this method the mind concentrates on a Name or Form of a choice Divine Being and meditation on that Name or Form - which are nothing but Self’s Manifestations, mind becomes one-pointed. At the appropriate moment Divine Grace showers and makes the mind to merge in that Name or Form.
Dhyanam Artha Bhavanam is another definition of meditation. This is the path of knowledge. This meditation process involves in concentrating the mind in the study and learning and hence understanding the Divine Nature. This is also the Path to calm the mind and live in and with peace. In short, meditation or calming the mind consists in concentrating the mind on a chosen thing or contemplating on a chosen concept or expression or insight. Upanishads contain descriptions of the Self and many ways of meditation on the Self, known as Vidya or Upasana.
The knowledge other than that of the Self is termed as Avidya by the Upanishadic Seers. According to their definition, Avidya consists of all sciences, arts, skills, learning- of languages and other disciplines and art-forms. Isaavaasyoopanishat counsels to make use of both Vidya and Avidya while meditating on the Self to attain calmness within and warns that using only one of them leads to darkness- the Upanishadic term for ignorance (sloka 9).
Eleventh sloka of this Upanishad gives us the proper way of meditating on the Self, Vidyaam cha avidyam cha yastadvedoobhyam saha Avidyayaa mrtyum teertvaa vidyayaa amritam asnute. This means that one must contemplate on and be aware of the Self by using both Avidya and Vidya. Through Avidya one crosses mortality and by Vidya one attains immortality. Immortality is release from births and deaths i.e., from the rise and set of egoistic mind (mithyaaham). Egoistic mind and self-consciousness are responsible for all the disturbances the individual experiences and suffers. Thus knowledge about both Vidya and Avidya is necessary for one to meditate on the Self and live as Self in and with calmness. The antahkaranas manas, buddhi, ahamkaaram and chittam are responsible for us to get, revel on, entangled in and come out of, the perceived and experienced external world and also for acquiring knowledge and make active the in-built tendencies- i.e., the arishadvargas.
All this knowing or mental activity which is named as Tamas (ignorance), blocks the Seer (sat) and makes one view only the seen (jagat). Hence all this activity of antahkaranas with perceived or experienced external world and respective experiences, is Ajnana in Upanishadic terms. The term Ajnana herein is used not at all to belittle any of the acquired knowledge or their eminence but only to point out that Truth, Self, Pure Consciousness or Prajnaam outlives rather transcends all these perceptions, intellectual operations, self-consciousness, experiences and their recollections by Being, manifesting as and in, causing, maintaining and observing the origin, becoming and cessation of all these mental functions carried out by antahkaranas - and is the Ultimate Jnaana.
Mind as activities of antahkaranas is like a boat in the river of consciousness and the self-consciousness of the person is the individual traveling in the boat. The boat helps the person to move on in the course of the life and at the end the river, the boat and the individual together merge in the sea of pure consciousness. Thus meditation is a travel on the mind-boat by the meditator to reach the Self, the Divinity and be it. After this merger with the Divinity no trace of the meditator or the meditative tool (the mind) are left (remain). Only object-free meditation goes on-which is nothing but the Blissful State of the Self is continuously experienced which sets in and maintains calmness of mind.
An individual by his samskaara gets attracted to the use of one of the antahkaranas as meditating tool and proceeds on with meditation. Different meditative techniques are available to suit the temperament and mental make up and mental preparedness of the individual. Self or Brahman or Atman or Prajnanam is present always. This is the revelation and the essence of Upanishadic Teachings. It is interesting to note that Being, Pure Consciousness and Bliss are the characteristics of the Self described in the Upanishads, the Sat, Chit and Ananda. Being is a present continuous form of the verb ‘to be’ and Becoming, the present continuous form of ‘to become’ – and both are present continuous forms, the becoming being the physical and psychological manifestation of the Being.
The natural state of human-being is Being, the present continuous form of ‘to be’ and not becoming, the present continuous form of ‘to become’ – which is limited by past – i.e.., the memories, the aches, the fears, the future – the anxieties, the fears and the imaginations. But normal state of a human being is a combination of series of Being and Becoming or Peace and Disturbance or Past and Future or alternates between all these and seldom is Being, the natural present continuous state-the blissful state. One becomes something when one cognizes an object or uses an antahkarana or the mind, else when mind ceases to cognize one comes back to or is in the natural state of Being. Becoming is a super-position and causes disturbance on this Being and makes one live in the unreal state of some becoming.
Mind, in the form of antahkaranas, is responsible for human-being getting transformed into a human-becoming. Luckily this transformation is transitory and reversible. These transformations of mind worry ordinary people. But the realized souls are always aware of the transitory nature of these transformations and the simultaneous presence of the two present continuous forms – the Being and the Becoming, which are consciousness and awareness – and are always beings. They only view the becomings in the form of vasanas and jagat occurring within and without and are not concerned or touched by these ‘unreal’ happenings. Upanishads talk about Mithyaham or virtual Self or maya.
The virtual Self is the reflected Sat and is made up of the same stuff as Sat. This virtual Self is the first Becoming in the individual and is responsible and is contained in all mental functions, - which are its own transformations. Virtual self always – transforms itself as antahkaranas resulting in the perceptions and experiences (vasanas) which are viewed by and are aware to the Self in the different conscious states. The various transformations of the virtual Self as various antahkaranas to perform various mental functions and back to itself are the forward and backward i.e., reversible becomings (vivartanam). These becomings constitute the mental times and thoughts and the feeling of passage of time in the individual and identifies the individual to the body, psychology, gender, social status etc, the form and structure of ego and self-consciousness) If these becomings – the thoughts, feelings, intellectual functions, perceptions, experiences, understandings, urges, instincts, institutions, tendencies – all cease to happen or the virtual Self undergoes no transformations then it is Unoccupied Awareness, Bliss, Peace, Silence, Eternity and hence Timelessness.
Thought-ego- and feelings-free consciousness their transcendence in the form of calmness and peace is experienced within and is observed by the Self as Prajnanam or Seer. Self as Seer is always present and is eternal or Timeless or Transcending is a present continuous Being. A reading of this transcript is itself a de-learning, relearning and unlearning process i.e., a way to calm the mind.
Note: Method of meditation or calming the mind is not unique. Single general method with mass instruction will not be fruitful. Just as the psychologist treats each case individually so also method of calming mind is individual-specific and heavily depends on one’s mental makeup.
- Meditation / calming the mind is putting veil on our ignorance and unveiling our knowledge.
- Meditation / calming the mind is putting veil on our false identification and unveiling our real or true identity.
- Meditation / calming the mind is putting veil on our unreal or apparent or misunderstood nature and unveiling our true and real nature. Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Insight on Meditation.
- Find out wherefrom this ‘I’ springs forth and merge at its source; that is tapas-meditation.
- Find out wherefrom the sound of the mantra in japa rises up and merge there; that is tapas-meditation.
In the above piece the Upanishadic insight of human consciousness, mind, their form, structure and function are analytically presented together with the description of phases and states of mind to get an idea of working of the mind. Calming the mind is presented as a process of de-learning illusory knowledge, relearning the real nature of human-being and then practice the knack of completely unlearning or be unaware of all the new knowledge too but not the insight gained. It is pointed out that meditation and calming the mind are synonymous with Self Realization which are a process reverse to the process of generation of thoughts. The essentiality of possession of an open mind and faith together with cultivating and maintaining harmonious relationship with one’s near and dear for the aspirant are highlighted.
Ramabrahmam, V., 2007 Upanishadic ways of calming the mind, Presentation at the national seminar on “The Indian Approach to Calming the Mind” on 25th and 26th August, 2007 at VedaVijnana Gurukulam, Bangalore.