Gita Series 70: Chapter VI. Verses 10 – 14
“Living in isolation with controlled mind and body (senses), devoid of desires and possessions, he should constantly postulate in meditation. His seat (asana) should be neither too high nor too low and free of impurities. It should be made by spreading kusha grass (dharba grass), deer skin and cloth one over the other. By sitting on that seat, utilising his thought process and controlling his senses, he should practice yoga for self-purification. He should hold his trunk, head and neck firm and erect, fixing his concentration on the tip of the nose and not elsewhere. By ensuring continence and braveness, remaining calm and thoughts focused on me, he should meditate on me and should get absorbed in me.”
Krishna now proceeds to teach the practical aspect of yoga. He commences by narrating the requirements for a good meditation. Isolation is advocated by Krishna, as unpolluted atmosphere with calm environment is important to make significant progress in meditation. Meditation is a process wherein one’s mind is made to focus on the Creator and the Creator alone. Controlling the mind is a very difficult task to achieve. Perfection can be achieved only by practice. Initial stage of mind control is more difficult than latter stages. Once the mind begins the process of taming through persistent practice, further advancements would be much easier. Therefore, it is important that during initial stages, one needs to have calm surroundings, as noise would disturb the practitioner’s concentration. Living in isolation also helps in controlling senses. If one really wants to realise the Brahman, he should sacrifice the level of his comfort. Ramana Maharishi asked one of his followers “Is it the body in front of me that desires to obtain my grace or is it the awareness within it? All that you have to do hereafter is that you do not identify yourself with the body, the senses and the mind.” Krishna does not say that one should not eat and sleep. What He says is that one should not succumb to pleasures and comforts, because desire is the reason for such longings. Claiming ownership of an object is the result of ego. Any modification of mental state leads to distraction in single pointed focus on the Brahman. If single pointed objective focus is lost, the desired result is not achieved. The entire exercise then could become futile. Further, if one is not able to make small sacrifices, how can he realise the Brahman? Isolation means those places, where there is less noise and distraction. Places like mountains or riversides or forests would be ideal choices as the presence of pure air with higher level of oxygen make one’s breathing comfortable, thereby causing increased oxygen absorption into the body and better nourishment. During protracted meditative sessions, breathing tends to become shallow.
After having spoken about the mental stage of the practitioner, Krishna proceeds to explain the intricacies of one’s seating known as ‘āsanā’. The seating arrangement that Krishna talks about depends upon certain environmental factors. Suppose one meditates in a forest, the place either could be wet or infested with tiny insects and worms that could hurt the body. That is why Krishna says that the seat one makes should be neither too high nor too low. If the seat is situated in a high place, there is a possibility that one could fall down when he enters unconscious (super conscious) stage while transcending his thought process. Kusa grass is first placed on the ground. A deer skin is placed over the kusa grass. Deer skin means skin taken from a naturally dead deer (Now this is a prohibited item. There cannot be any worse sin than killing a deer and taking its skin for meditation). Those days, deer population was very high and such skins are taken from the dead ones. Over the deer skin, a white cloth should be spread in order to make the sitting comfortable. Kusha grass and animal skin prevents wetness of the ground percolating into the physical body, causing alteration in the composition of elements that prevails in the body. Such alterations cause physical ailments. When body is not healthy, meditation is not possible. Caraka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic treatise says (I.54) “the causes of the diseases relating to both mind and body are three fold: wrong utilisation, non-utilisation and excessive utilisation of time, mental faculties and objects of sense organs.” The proper utilisation of mind and body is called yoga. A healthy body and a disciplined mind are the two factors that are responsible for spiritual advancement. That is why Krishna talks about different types of yoga in Bhagavad Gita.
After having said about the seat, Krishna talks about positioning the body. Two major factors are emphasised, one is the body and another is the mind. Body posture is important in meditation at least in the preliminary stages of practice. Trunk, neck and head should be kept erect. During meditation, a current is generated inside the body that traverses from the lower part of the spinal cord to the brain. This is what is called as Kundalini or the life force. The body current moves up and down the body producing heat and energy waves. If trunk, neck and head are not kept in a straight line, the kundalini energy will find it difficult to freely make movements through the spinal cord. It traverses only through the spine. There is a wrong notion that kundalini meditation should be learnt and practiced separately. When one is deeply involved in meditation, kundalini energy automatically ascends. No effort is needed on the part of the practitioner. There is another reason to keep the body firm. If there are movements in the body, one’s concentration gets diverted. But, if one is able to transcend his mind and aligns himself with pure consciousness, he need not bother about the position of his body, as the body is bound to droop at that stage. His consciousness is outside his body and disturbance at this stage could cause irreparable damage to his body. This is also one of the reasons for suggesting isolation.
The next point that Krishna says is to keep one’s attention on the tip of the nose. There are two interpretations for the tip of the nose. One school of thought feels it is really the tip of the nostrils, just above the mouth. Another school of thought feels it is the point of ajna chakra, or the meeting point of the two eyebrows. When one has to concentrate on the tip of the nose, is he to keep his eyes open or closed is another point of discussion. The right practice would be to concentrate on the tip of the nose at the upper lip with eyes open. After a few minutes, one will find extensive generation of energy in the forehead. At that time, one should close his eyes and concentrate on the third eye or ajna chakra. In majority of the practitioners, this happens automatically. Once the third eye is well activated, rest of the meditation happens automatically. The visible symptoms of advancement in spirituality are the development of level of continence and the level of fearlessness. Fearlessness uprises when one develops disinterest in his body. All types of fears are associated with the body. When the mind is devoid of ego, desire and attachment, it becomes serene. Krishna does not say that one should not take care of his children or wife or parents. If one fails to protect them, he fails in his karmas. One can have love and affection for his kith and kin. What Krishna says is that one should not engross with them always. Love is an essential factor of life, but beyond the point of breach, it becomes an addiction and turns dangerous. Mind cannot have twin stages while pursuing the path of spirituality. When the mind becomes serene and devoid of ego, desire and attachment it becomes easier for the mind to focus on the eternal Brahman. Such focus is strengthened during meditation. When the single pointed focus becomes absolute, the practitioner stays perpetually connected with the Brahman. He is attracted to the Brahman as he knows the enjoyment of bliss. He becomes a Self-realised person and gets absorbed into Him. True love emanates from him.