DOES MEDITIATION DISSOLVE OR STRENGTHEN THE I CONSCIOUSNESS?
The practice of deep breathing sustained for long
Makes a man conscious from moment to moment;
An alert spectator; the breath itself is mild;
Watch it come and go through the filter of Preksha!
While sitting or walking or lying down,
In the midst of activity.
Perception of breath goes on from hour to hour.
A mind integrated, a body free from ills,
The ego quiescent, wrath and greed no more!
Q. In spite of the desire for meditation, favourable environment and all external facilities, the sadhak is unable to control his mind. Even while seated in posture of meditation, the mind continues to be restless because of the wandering thoughts. Where is the mind to find a point of equilibrium?
Ans. The mind is capable of two actions---to think and to perceive. Thinking creates resolves and counter-resolves; perception inhibits thought. If, instead of thinking the mind starts observing, its wandering ceases of itself. The question arises as to what it is that the mind should observe. The first thing to perceive is one's breathing. For dhyana-sadhana, it is most important to regulate one's breath. Without regulating our breathing, there can be no progress because most of the time an individual takes short breaths. From the point of view of sadhana, it is necessary to practise deep breathing. Both inhalation and exhalation must be silent, slow, continuous and easy. Of course, it is not merely pranayama. Pranayama by itself is not necessary for meditation. The practice of deep breathing, the experiencing of each incoming and outgoing breath from moment to moment with full awareness is the simplest and infallible method of learning mental concentration.
Q. What is the difference between deep breathing and pranayama?
Ans. Deep breathing in itself and pranayama are not two different things. The exhalation, the inhalation and the kumbhak (holding the breath) have the same role in both. But, to concentrate the mind on each breath and be conscious of it, is meditation, and not part of pranayama. To observe the movement of the breath, its coming and going, is meditation. Pranayama alone may have some utility from the point of view of bodily health, but from the psychological point of view it is of little use. Whereas meditation greatly increases the possibilities of mental development.
The practice of deep breathing or being aware of the coming and going of each breath produces three results---alertness, the feeling of being a mere spectator, and slow breath. In the beginning of sadhana, the direct experiencing of these results serves to awaken the sadhak's self-confidence. To awaken confidence in oneself means to come to know one's powers and one's capacity to use them. This is the fruit of deep breath-perception, after experiencing which the direction of one's life stands changed. One becomes established in oneself and develops a distinct identity.
As the practice of breath-perception matures, a state of alertness naturally comes into being. This state becomes perpetual and results in the growth of mindfulness. Then, whether sitting, standing, walking, relaxing or working, in the midst of every activity, one remains conscious of one's breathing . For this one does not have to do a thing. Only one must awaken in oneself the condition of being a mere spectator. Alert and objective observation provides a vision of true self-understanding and weakens the mentality of attachment and aversion.
Q. What is the use of deep breath-perception, wakefulness or objective observation?
Ans. Constant regular and dedicated perception of breathing over a long period endows the sadhak with some special benefits. It improves the power of mind to concentrate. It is also useful in removing physical diseases. With the help of deep breathing and wakefulness, the defilements of the mind are to a great extent eliminated. From the spiritual point of view, the most important gain is the weakening of the I consciousness, a feeling of self-assertion. Self-ride increases on account of various factors. If this is allowed to grow beyond a certain limit one's personality becomes as utterly hollow and one has a sense of inner disintegration. The individual then begins to feel that egoism is destroying him, yet he cannot get rid of it. In a situation like that the sadhak who practises perception of deep breathing with full conciousness, succeeds in dissolving his ego. With the disintegration of the ego, wrath and greed also end. Anger and avarice are the two emotions which destroy the individual and the community. When these start dissolving, the individual naturally grows tranquil.
Q. That the perception of breathing is conducive to mental concentration, is intelligible, but to say that this also dissolves the ego-conciousness, anger and avarice, etc. is not so clear. Will you kindly elaborate on this?
Ans. The inner feelings are intimately connected with breathing. Breath indeed is a reflector of one's inner condition. With the deepening of the breath, pride, anger and greed grow quiescent. The man in whom the feelings of egoism, anger and avarice are strong, cannot breathe deep and slow. If a mans breath be short, it can be said on this basis that feelings of egoism, anger, etc., are very active in him. Breath is the element which truly represents the whole of our inner individuality. It is not only the means of taking the vital air within and taking out the carbon-dioxide; it is also the means of awakening or extinguishing many of our powers. Used properly it can resolve many problems connected with meditation.
Q. You just said that through breath-perception, feelings of egoism, anger, etc. are changed, or ended. But it has been observed that meditation and excitement go together. Sometimes we find a non-dhyanee keeping cool and collected in a trying situation, whereas an individual practising meditation for a number of years loses his temper. Why does it happen like that?
Ans. This is quite natural. The practice of meditation results in the accumulation of vital energy. With an increase in vital energy, anger also grows. The greater the heat in the body, the higher the mental temperature. And corresponding with anger, mans other dispositions also get defiled. If the energy derived from meditation and austerities is not properly channelised, it can certainly lead to greater anger.
Q. What is a sadhak required to do in a situation like that?
Ans. He should utilize his energy in study, service, and other activites. The intake of food increases energy; by practising asanas, this energy is kept in equilibrium. If a sadhak does not know how to utilize his energy along constructive channels, he is bound to be assailed by anger, lust, etc. It is, therefore, necessary for a practitioner of meditation to undertake hard work. His additional energy is then well spent. Thus, the energy of a man who keeps busy in a regular way, is never misutilized. Only a lazy and easy-going person is troubled on this account. Self-study and anupreksha (contemplation) are the means of utilizing extra energy. Therefore, the man practising preksha meditation should also do contemplation.
Lord Mahavira was a unique practitioner of meditation, withal a unique ascetic. Going on a journey was an obstacle in the path of his sadhana, yet he undertook long voyages. Why? He knew that meditation and his ascetic practice greatly increased his energy. To utilize that energy, to direct it along the right channel, he choose the way to pilgrimage. Basically, he spent his energy in awakening transcendental consciousness, in self-realisation, by rising above like and dislike. Whatever energy was still left unused, he utilised it in pilgrimages.
Q. If meditation results in the increase of passions, why do meditation at all?
Ans. It is very necessary to practice meditation for cleansing the mind. Suppressed passion may lead a man astray at any time. It is necessary to rouse the mind, but then one must at the same time master the art of controlling it. The awakening of energy and its right utilisation strengthen self-discipline. The lack of discipline only results in disequilibrium. Keeping it in view while practicing meditation, an alert sadhak is able to bypass this danger and march ahead.
Deep-breath-preksha also provides rest to the body. A man exhausted by the day's work is greatly refreshed by practising meditation for 10-15 minutes. Both the mind and the body are relieved and renewed. Besides physical and mental benefits, the spiritual value of deep breath-preksha is also very great. It is a useful staircase for spiritual evolution. The moment one steps on this staircase, new dimensions of consciousness begin to open up by themselves. The whole objective of a sadhak's endeavor is to come to know the hidden secrets of consciousness. The revelation of these secrets can begin in the very first stage of preksha dhyana, provided the sadhak practices it with deep faith and a firm determination.