The discussions in this series do not confine to any particular type of meditation. What is being discussed here is applicable to those who make sincere attempt to pursue the path of spirituality amongst our tight scheduled routine. To practice meditation, one needs to understand the intricacies of meditation such as knowledge and skill, the fundamental requirements in spirituality. Many of the meditators fail to achieve significant progress or achieve illusionary progress due to lack of foundational knowledge. There is no point in practicing meditation without achieving explicit progress. Once the required knowledge is acquired, the practice becomes easier. Further progress depends purely on one’s perseverance and commitment. Meditation is a process through which enlightenment can be attained through direct, clear and deep perception rather than religious beliefs. Therefore, religion has nothing to do with meditation and spirituality.
Consciousness is the psychological result of perception, learning and reasoning in which one is aware of his own self and his situation. Attention is the focal point in meditation. Attention is different from consciousness. Attention is the power of mental concentration. Awareness and attentiveness are the two important constituents of foundational knowledge of meditation. The first stage of awareness leads to the second stage of attentiveness. Substantial spiritual progress can be achieved only through evolution of consciousness in combination with attentiveness. The intent to be spiritual is more important than efforts. Thought process to get enlightenment is more important than spiritual actions. Both awareness and attentiveness are the evolutions of mind. The level of consciousness varies from person to person. The level of consciousness depends upon mind’s natural inclination and capacity to interpret the inputs that it has collected. Based upon this understanding only, it has been repeatedly said that one should not indulge too much in sensory activities. Mind has tendency to act only on the inputs provided to it through senses. But due to its unconditioned nature, mind cannot differentiate between perception and reality. Perception is the consequence of senses and reality is the consequence of knowledge. But the mind in its unconditioned state which is also known as innate state, wrongly understands perception as reality. Unconditioned state refers to that state of mind that is devoid of spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is nothing but non-duality, the philosophy of advaita. This spiritual knowledge, in the initial stages can be obtained through scriptures and Upanishads. Without the basic knowledge of the Brahman, He cannot be meditated upon. Knowing the formless Brahman is the logical conclusion of the meditative process. To reach this ultimate state, one has to evolve from the foundational stage. The spiritual evolution is a gradual purification process of the mind. Mind can be purified by dissociating it from too much of sensory afflictions. It is not possible for anyone to live without senses. What Upanishads advocate is not to get addicted to sensory influences and materialistic pleasures. The word ‘addiction’ is important in classifying what is the level being classified as ‘too much’. Without using senses, man cannot make a living. But temptations and ego are to be conquered. They wrongly identify self as Self, due to the effect of maya or illusion. Temptations and ego can be conquered only by knowledge. Spiritual purity can be attained by unstinted devotion. Thus knowledge and devotion form the foundational state of meditation. During meditative progression, one could frequently come across illusionary states where auto suggestions are often misconceived as divine commune. Contact with the cosmos in the form subtle sound can be established only by persistent practice and this will be discussed later in this series. In the state of autosuggestions, the mind is not totally purified and awareness and attentiveness are not totally achieved.
The stage of “living in the present moment” happens when one makes substantial progress in meditation. Meditation is nothing but a bundle of few techniques to consciously focus attention leading to a conclusion by reasoning or argument rather than intuition and to think deeply about a subject over a period of time. Capacity for reasoning and thinking is provided by knowledge. Therefore quality of knowledge is paramount in meditation. Meditation is a self initiated process. As one progress in meditation, absorption and grasping of the inner nature of things intuitively unfold without our conscious knowledge. This happens automatically without any effort on the part of the meditator. The faculty or power of mental concentration through intense mental effort, ability to discriminate between illusion and reality, and knowledge of the Spirit (spiritual knowledge), these three combine together in the mental platform leading to a stage of clear understanding unintentionally. But this happens only if the mind is in a stage of total relaxation. For example, if Ishta Devata’s form is focused in the mental domain with sustained attention, one becomes absorbed in the form of Ishta Devata. But, over a period of time if the focus on Ishta Devata is withdrawn, then one makes a spiritual progress with the unfolding internal experience. The change over from focusing to un-focusing is not a difficult process, as the mind would have been tamed by now. This transition from focusing to un-focusing is important as one has to become least absorbed leading to higher level of consciousness where one develops the skill of intuitiveness. The meditation can said to be complete only if one develops various skills to make the mind serene over a period of time while in withdrawing for prayer, study and meditation. Only in the higher level of meditation, alternate level of consciousness can be realized, which is an important factor if God realization.