Guru: You said that you have a few questions on nirvikalpa samādhi.
Disciple: Yes, though you have explained about nirvikalpa samādhi, I have few doubts. How do you relate “I” ness or individual consciousness coupled with essential ego between savikalpa samādhi and nirvikalpa samādhi-s?
Guru: It is simple. In savikalpa amādhi, “I” ness still persists. For example you say ‘I had bliss today’ or ‘I had visions in today’s meditation’, etc are the stages of savikalpa samādhi. In nirvikalpa samādhi, the “I”, which you used to identify yourself would be totally nonexistent. Generally, in a good meditation, there are three parts. One is the meditator, another is the process of meditation and the third is the object of meditation.
Disciple: What is the object of meditation?
Guru: This is the object that is to be understood and realized; it is a qualified and conditioned word. The object that is spoken of here depends upon your ability to visualize. Please always remember that Nirguṇa Brahman is without shape and form. It is a mass of energy, from which all types of energies that are required to create, sustain and dissolve originate. Unable to describe the Grandeur of Nirguṇa Brahman, Kaṭha Upaniṣad says that He is bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest. Therefore, how you contemplate depends upon your individual ability, which is purely based on your mind.
Disciple: Do you mean to say that we should not meditate on a particular form of my choice? For example, I love to meditate on a particular from of Divine Mother. Is it wrong?
Guru: What is meditation? Meditation can be explained with the word rumination, which means a calm, lengthy, intent consideration. Calm, lengthy and intent considerations are again qualified words. It is alright when you meditate with a form in the beginning, but when you go forward, you have to move from Dvaita or dualism to Advaita or non-dualism. If you want an honest answer, you should shun all types of forms. As long as you are associated with forms, you can never attain liberation. You may ask me why. When you are contemplating a form in meditation, you are still in dualism, which will never lead you to liberation.
Disciple: What about mantras then?
Guru: Probably you have forgotten various discussions we had on mantras earlier. As I told you, mantra is meant to tame your mind from wandering. In the initial stages you were told that Guru, mantra and Devata are the same. When you are spiritually evolved and ready for your final lap, the same Guru will tell you that you are Brahman (Tat tvam asi or you are That). Please always remember that only your Guru knows your spiritual evolution, not even you. Many times, personal experiences could be deceptive. You may conclude that you are Self realized; and in reality you would not have realized the Self. You have to learn to meditate using a particular mantra and at some point of time in your meditation, the mantra would have stopped on its own and you will not be aware, when it stopped. In fact, you can try this with ‘OM”. Say it aloud a few times. When you pronounce M part of OM, close your lips and focus on your ājña chakra and observe the vibrations there. While you are observing the vibrations, you would have stopped the repetition of OM. Stay put with the vibrations for some time.
Disciple: Is this the meditation that leads to samādhi?
Guru: Yes, Brahman can be realized only in absolute silence, as it is all about the intensity of your awareness. When your awareness is disturbed and diluted, your inner silence would be lost. Self is not something that you can see and carry to an isolated place. The Self already exists in your body, but remain veiled by māyā, which can be removed through your mind. Kaṭha Upaniṣad (I.iii.12) beautifully explains this. “The Self is hidden in all beings. It is not noticed. Only the sagacious practitioners through their sharp and penetrating intellect can perceive It.” Here, your mind has dual functionality. One, you need to know about the Self and second you have to realize the Self. Without adequate knowledge about the Self, you cannot realize It. The next verse of Kaṭha Upaniṣad explains how important our mind is. It says that sensory organs are turned towards mind, mind towards intellect and intellect into the individual self and the individual self into the Supreme Self. The path to Self-realization is beautifully explained here. That is why I always say spiritual evolution is very important for Self-realization and consequent liberation. You have to evolve from idol worship to nirvikalpa samādhi. It is a process by itself and there is no other way to realize the Self except what is explained in Upaniṣad-s. However, you have to traverse this path very carefully. If you move at an undesirable speed, there could be setbacks. I have already discussed this with you in detail.
Disciple: So, in order to realize the Self within, we have to move from outward to inward, by first moving to antaḥkaraṇa from sensory organs and from antaḥkaraṇa to māyā and from māyā to the self and finally from the self to the Self. Is this right?
Guru: Yes, this is right. Sādhana and upāsana should lead to this stage. But the movement from antaḥkaraṇa to māyā and māyā to the self are the most difficult parts, as they are more to do with both knowledge and practice. While you are evolving spiritually, your kuṇḍalinī also moves up. Your consciousness, which is totally impure, is at mūlādhāra and your consciousness gradually gets purified in higher psychic chakras. The first stage of samādhi is experienced at your manas (mind) chakra, which is an inch above ājñā chakra. You may ask why. When your consciousness reaches manas chakra, your mind is controlled, purified by purging all mundane thought processes. Your consciousness works with your prāṇa and cleanses your mind. This does not mean that you will be totally disconnected from the material world, but there will be some subtle changes happening within you.
Disciple: Is there any way to measure the quality of meditation?
Guru: There are certain measures by which one unit of meditation is measured. If you are able to contemplate formless Brahman for a period of about 10 seconds, it is considered as one measure of concentration. The 10 seconds represent one round of both deep inhalation and exhalation. If you take 10 seconds as one measure of unit, you should be breathing only six rounds per minute. This is the slowest and safest breathing pattern possible. Human respiratory rate under normal circumstances would be around 12 to 15. Your level of concentration and your level of breathing are inversely related. If your breathing is slow, your concentration would be high and vice versa. If your breathing rate is reduced to this level, you experience the first stage of samādhi. The preliminary stage of samādhi could vary between 10 measures (100 seconds or 1.66 minutes) to 20 measures (200 seconds or 3.33 minutes). In the stage of nirvikalpa samādhi, this could vary between three hours to six hours and this period is directly related to your breath.
Disciple: How much time it would take to enter into nirvikalpa samādhi?
Guru: It is difficult to generalize. But it has to be beyond 20 measures (3.33 minutes). Once you are able to cross this stage without any distractions, you could be entering into nirvikalpa samādhi of lower intensity. Lower intensity refers to your level of concentration and duration of samādhi. I think, we have almost come to the end our discussion on samādhi. It is advisable that you should ponder over this very carefully. When we meet next time, we will talk more on realization, where all kinds of samādhi-s culminate.
Disciple: Thank you very much for your time.