THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION
Empty the mind, adopt a posture firm
Which naturally comes, heralding success!
Assume a posture, easy, comfortable, calm,
Standing or sitting, with total concentration!
The backbone straight, the body relaxed,
Half-closed eyes, hands rested on the lap!
Q.Is there any need to practise asanas or pranayama for
meditation, or the mere emptying of the mind and brain of all thought creates
the right atmosphere for dhyana?
Ans. No method of sadhana can be partial or one sided. It is designed to
discipline the body, the mind and the soul, because all the three are
closely-knit, and each one influences and is influenced by others. In the
practice of preksha meditation, three disciplines of steadiness occupy an
important place. The first relates to the steadiness of the body---to make it
still, to train it properly, to acquire the capability of controlling it.
Without disciplining the body, it is not possible to control speech or the mind.
Because the body is the grossest of the three. That which is gross can be more
easily grasped. In the rocess of meditation and in kayotsarga also, the first
consideration is control over the body. The practice of asanas, too, is a kind
What posture should one assume while sitting for meditation? There is nothing
obligatory about it. Any sadhak can assume any posture at any time, which he
finds convenient and comfortable. However it should be kept in mind that
facility in assuming various postures acquired through regular and systematic
practice of asanas, can prove extremely convenient to a sadhak during
meditation. From this point of view, a few asanas are recommended, such as
Ardha-Padmasana, Padmasana, Vajrasana, cross-legged pose, etc, All these are
comfortable enough and good for meditation.
Q.Is an asana used for meditation only, or has it other uses, too? Even people
not practising meditation, do yoga asanas regularly. Indeed, some people look
upon the doing of asanas as yoga itself. Generally, in the yoga classes, only
asanas are taught. Does the word yoga, signify a whole tradition or merely the
exercise of asanas?
Ans. Asanas are essential for meditation. But apart from that, these are also
performed for physical and mental health. The chief cause of bodily and mental
illness is the wrong working of the parts of the physical organism. Sloth and
over-exertion are the two conditions which upset the bodily system. To prevent
such a disorder, the sadhak is given training in asanas. Many asanas are taught
which are helpful in controlling the senses and mental perversions. In the
method of preksha dhyana, asanas have a distinct place. Besides the asanas
mentioned above, there are many others, whose regular practice is designed to
maintain the equilibrium of energy, to impart a feeling of lightness to the
body, increase its agility and lustre, reduce fat and strengthen the nerves.
The asanas form a part of yoga. Of Hatha-yoga, they form the chief part. But
they do not embody the whole of yoga. Acharya Haribhadra gives the name of yoga
to all those actions which deliver a man from bondage and lead him to salvation.
According to the masters of yoga, controlling the functioning of the mind is
yoga. Although the word 'yoga' today has become synonymous with asanas, but the
asanas do not constitute the whole of yoga. Asana-dhyana, devout austerities and
various religious performances constitute an organised system through which the
yoga-sadhaks have to pass.
In the Jain Agamas, 'position' is the word used for yoga-asana. Three kinds of
positions are mentioned there---standing position, sitting position and sleeping
position. The root meaning of 'asana' is to be motionless. Thus, the use of the
word 'position', is very appropriate. It is indicative of situation. To practice
kayotsarg while standing is an instance of the first position; any asana in the
sitting pose, an instance of the second; while doing an asana lying down is an
instance of the lying-down position. The sadhak of preksha dhyana tries to
achieve mastery in all these postures.
Q.The talk of mastering various asanas for disciplining the body is quite
intelligible, but how does it affect the mind?
Ans. The asanas principally affect the body. But with prolonged practice, they
begin to influence the endocrine glands also. For instance, sarvangasana
influences the thyroid gland. Sashankasana and paschimottanasna influence the
adrenal glands. Similarly, some other asanas activate the pituitary and the
pineal glands. Their secretions change, and the mind is willy-nilly affected by
them. As a matter of fact, any change in any part of the body leaves its impact
on the entire physical organism in a gross or subtle form. The mind and the body
are linked together. Bodily sickness affects the mind. Likewise, bodily health
is a factor of mental health. It is, said that a healthy mind can live only in a
healthy body. Even if this be a partial truth, it is an established fact that,
with the regular practice of asanas, changes occur both in the body and the
Q.Do asanas relate only to a standing or a sitting position, or does their
practice involve the body as whole?
Ans. A partial, one-sided view, can never be holistic. Many important questions
are naturally involved in the practice of asanas. For example, what should be
the position of the backbone? Should the body be perfectly straight and taut or
bent? Should the eyes be kept open or shut? Where should the hands be? The
spinal cord is a part of our central nervous system. It is intimately connected
with physical changes and mental processes. This also constitutes the path of
upward movement of vital energy. It is again through the spinal cord that,
before entering the state of meditation, the vital current is made to flow
between the centre of wisdom and the centre of energy. In brief, it may be said
that the well-being of the spinal cord connotes the well-being of the whole
body. And it is possible to develop the practice of meditation on this basis.
During the meditation-period, the backbone should be perfectly straight. That is
the first condition. The body may be bent a little forward, never backward.
Therefore, one should deliberately keep the backbone straight, with the upper
part slightly bent forward.
For the eyes, three possible conditions are: close, open, and half-closed. If
the eyes are kept open, there is greater probability of interference from
outside; if shut, there is the possibility of being assailed by wrong notions or
sleep. Both these possibilities can be avoided by keeping the eyes half-closed.
Therefore, half-closed eyes is considered to be the best option. It is also the
prescribed condition in the meditation-posture of an arhant.
Last of all the position of the hands. This may be considered from two angles.
While meditating in a standing position, pendulous arms are the norm. For a
sitting position, hands are folded in the lap, sticking close to the part
between the navel and the pubic region. The right hand is placed above the left.
This is one kind of meditation-posture. After one's practice has matured, one
could sit for meditations in any other posture. The best condition for
meditation, though, is the standing position. Because in that posture, a
complete cycle of energy is formed. In a sitting position there may be some
obstruction in the flow of energy. Still, the sitting posture is usually adopted
for the practise of dhyana in the shivirs. It stands midway between the standing
and the lying-down postures, and is considered to be the most suitable for