The process of meditation also depends upon the condition of the physical body, as body and mind are interdependent. Meditation is a process by which the conscious mind is rested for a certain period of time. Mind normally takes rest only during deep sleep. In the initial stage of sleep, mind continues to be active at the subconscious level. Dreams arise from sub-conscious mind. When sub-conscious mind is active, conscious mind takes rest. When conscious mind is active, sub-conscious mind does not act. Conscious mind is the normal objective mind. Sub-conscious mind is the place where the impressions or vasanas of our thoughts and actions are stored. These impressions become important as they affect the karmic account embedded in the soul. These impressions have to be pure. Even if the conscious mind is controlled, it is difficult to control the sub-conscious mind which is stronger and deeper than the conscious mind. It is only the sub-conscious mind that manifests as dreams. When our conscious mind is controlled, we are almost there with the Divine. But mind can be mastered or controlled only by practice. First, the sensory inputs to the mind should be disconnected and second the mind should be allowed to explore the source of creation, the Brahman or God. The essential requirement for mastering the mind is knowledge. Vedanta refers to six types of knowledge. They are perception, inference, description, comparison, assumption and intuition. These types of knowledge are like many rivers flowing into the same ocean. The source and quality of knowledge differs like the waters of different rivers. But, ultimately they all provide knowledge that is required to know the Brahman. Probably each one of these types can quieten the mind in their own way. In spirituality, the level of one’s consciousness is important because only the purest level of consciousness can destroy one’s ego and endorses the thought process to pursue spirituality. Most of us fail in spirituality mainly because of our limited understanding of spirituality. Meditation alone is not going to help us in making progress in spirituality. Mediation is one of the tools. Meditation makes an attempt to unplug the link between mind and the body, so that the mind could function independent of the body. When the connection between the mind and the body is snapped, sensory inputs to the mind are stopped. The first transformation to spirituality happens here. When mind and body are delinked, the pleasure and pain are not felt. Pleasure and pain cause afflictions only on the physical body and realized through the mind. Ramana Maharishi was operated upon without anaesthesia and he never felt the pain of surgery.
Mind is the most powerful instrument and can be compared to an atom. Both are very subtle in nature and highly potent. Consciously resting such a mind is undoubtedly an incomprehensible act. We are trying to achieve this with the help of meditation, the only tool that is available to us to control the mind. If mind is to be controlled, first thoughts are to be controlled. Thoughts arise out of desires and actions (past, present and future) and are related to objects. Thoughts are subtler than mind and cannot be totally eliminated from the mind, but the mind can be made thoughtless or stilled for a few moments. In those stilled moments, God is realized. In the beginning stage, mind cannot be made thoughtless with ease. Instead, we have to develop a powerful thought process, different from our mundane thoughts. How to activate this thought process? We have to visualise a form of Divinity. In the initial stages of meditation, an image of the deity is a necessity. The favourite image of the deity is to be repeatedly visualised and fixed in the sub-conscious mind. There is no rule for visualisation. It is not necessary that one should visualize a deity as per dhyan verses. Visualising the deity in a human form is the ideal way to begin with. Probably a painting or a sculpture or an idol is the right object. Focus the attention on this object repeatedly. Look (stare is the right word) at the object for some time without winking, if possible. Winking or no winking, staring at the object is more important. Observe the object very closely. Close the eyes now and try to recollect the object. Recollect all the minute details of the object. Once this is practiced, the object will get fixed into the conscious mind by persistent practice. From the conscious mind the impressions of the object get stored in the subconscious mind. After sometime, the object is not necessary, as the object gets transferred from the physical plane to the mental plane. There will be a stage when one can recollect the object whenever needed using the conscious mind from the hidden depths of sub-conscious mind. Even during sleep, one is able to retrieve this object in the form of a dream, as the impression of the object is already stored in the subconscious mind.
One can reminiscent the object perfectly, only if all other thoughts are subdued. When the mind is absorbed in the object, all other thoughts are automatically subdued. This is the process of meditation. In this process there are three constituents. One is the person who meditates known as the meditator, second is the object on which the meditator meditates and the third is the process of meditation by which the meditator tries to visualise the object of meditation. They are known as the seer, seen and seeing or knower, known and the process of knowing. By persistent practice, the meditator is able to visualise the exact replica of the object in his mind, thereby driving out all other thoughts. This is the beginning of meditative practice. In the initial stages of meditation, if one tries to meditate on the formless form of the Brahman, he may not be able to achieve substantial progress. Spiritual progress should be gradual and steady and requires a strong meditation.