The favourite image that was discussed in the previous section is known as ‘ishta devata’ in Sanskrit. In order to develop effective concentration these forms are required. For progressing in spirituality, one should develop faith, dedication and sincerity. Meditation is a process through which commune with Ishta Devata is established. Only after establishing a firm commune with Him, realisation takes place. Here commune does not mean communication, but a state of intensified and intimate receptivity of the mind. Intimate receptivity is possible only if the mind is devoid other thought processes. In order to focus our attention on a single object, Ishta Devata is conceptualised, contemplated and visualized. A sincere meditator with persistent practice meets his Ishta Devata face to face during the peak of his meditative session. There can be no theological and metaphysical reasoning for such head on meeting with the form of Ishta Devata, but the fact is that it happens. This becomes possible only through the highest level of consciousness. The mind by nature is not able to distinguish between the illusion and reality or perception and impression. Willpower is a tool that can be effectively used to manipulate the mind and make it to differentiate between illusion and reality. But the question is how to manipulate the mind with willpower. Mind is highly susceptible to influence. Whichever influences it more, mind becomes predisposed to that influence and begins to perceive only from that angle. If it has more sensory influence, the mind becomes susceptible to sensory perceptions. When the mind is not influenced by senses, it conceives extra sensory perceptions also known as clairvoyance. Extra sensory perception becomes possible due to the influence of knowledge. The knowledge that is required for clairvoyance can be attained through scriptures, reasoning and self-experiencing. Amongst the three, self-experiencing is the most important factor. The other two are mere requisites for self-experiencing. It is like knowing an animal from books through narrations and descriptions, rather than personally experiencing the animal. The direct experience of the animal gives total picture of the animal and is different from our perception and reasoning. Understanding the Brahman from scriptures and lectures is totally different from personally experiencing the Brahman. Such direct experience is possible only through meditation. In order to have perfect, complete and direct experience, meditation on an object (form such as Ishta Devata) is advised in the initial stages of meditation.
The direct experience happens when knowledge and reasoning matures with the passage of time. The passage of time is not fixed as the quality of the time spent is important rather than the quantity of the time. There are two aspects to realization, both associated with mind. First, other thoughts are to be eradicated from the mind. Second, mind has to focus on the object of meditation. Without getting rid of other thoughts, focusing becomes impossible. By nature, mind is fond of wandering. It dwells on many things at a time, be it past, present or future. Mind spends more time either in the past or in the future than on present. Meditation on the form is prescribed merely to make the mind to forget about past and future and make it to exist in the present. Knowledge with conviction is the basic requirement of spirituality. Faith forms the basis of intuitional reasoning and abstract thought forms the basis of intellectual reasoning. Former becomes the subject matter of philosophy and the latter becomes the subject matter of science. Though spirituality can be explained scientifically, but science cannot address all the intricacies of spirituality as spirituality deals with subtle matter and science deals with gross matter. For example, air is subtle and invisible; still we know that air exists. This is because of knowledge and reasoning that lead to belief and final experience. Same is the case with spirituality.
Meditation is a process wherein effort is made to transform the agitative state of mind into the state of spiritual concentration. The vision of the deity is not important, but what is important is the purification of our thoughts that happens automatically depending upon the level of one’s consciousness. Meditation is not like mantra where a guru initiates his disciple. Guru can tell the disciple how to meditate, but the effect of meditation purely depends upon individual dedication, perseverance and practice. Without persistent practice it is impossible to make spiritual progress.
Yogic breathing that has been discussed in the previous postings is to be regularly practiced. Patanjali says (Yoga sutra I.14) “Long constant efforts with great love and devotion for the end to be attained.” This breathing is to be practiced along with proper sitting posture. The comfort and firmness of the sitting posture is important, as one has to sit comfortably for a long duration. It is not important that one should sit with crossed legs. Once a posture is taken for meditation, there should be no movement in the body during the entire process of meditation. Patanjali says (II.46) “sthirasukham asanam” which means that posture is that which is firm and enjoyable. Spine should be erect with head slightly tilted behind, so that kundalini can comfortably traverse through the spine. In a good meditative stage, kundalini begins it’s ascend automatically without any efforts. The movement of kundalini largely depends upon purity of thoughts. One should fix his consciousness in between the eye brows, known as clairvoyant eye or the third eye. In other words, one should visualise the object of meditation between the eye brows. Once concentration is fixed, the method of breathing and sitting posture are of no relevance. The breathing tends to become slow. In the beginning stages of meditation it is advisable to meditate in a place where there is no noise around. Noise will distract one’s concentration. Any loud and sudden sound could lead to a panic attack. It is also essential that one should not be touched during meditation.