All About Meditation

  • By Hinduism Today
  • August 2017

Fourteen Secrets for Serious Meditators


1 Create your sacred space. Keep it clean and uplifting.

2 The only bad meditation is the one you skip. Use the power of habit. A strong meditation habit will carry you forward with less effort.

3 Decide on your meditation subject or goal and stick to it.

4 Meditation is hard work. The more effort you give to it, the more results you get back from it. Meditate when it's not easy. That is when the most progress takes place.

5 Learn to work past the obstacles of distraction.

6 Nurture curiosity; make your inner search engaging.

7 Perfect your technique, but work equally hard to nurture the right spirit. It's the spirit/ will that matters most.

8 Move from each meditation to a positive external activity, and from a positive project into meditation. Let the external energies impel your seeking, and let your inner discoveries inform your outer life.

9 Meditate in the morning before you read your e-mail, open the newspaper or turn on the TV.

10 Become what you seek to experience. The quality of your meditations is a reflection of the state of your nerve system and the purity of your karmas.

11 Keep working on yourself between meditations.

12 Progress is cyclical, like a spiral. There are ups and downs, but the trajectory overall is always up. Enjoy the days when the wind is in your sails, and work on the other days extra hard.

13 Keep expectations realistic and achievable.

14 Write down your insights when they come, bringing them into words to impress the subconscious.

"Who Am I?" A Strategy for Self-Realization

"I am not the physical body, nor am I the five organs of sense-perception; I am not the five organs of external activity, nor am I the five vital forces, nor am I even the thinking mind." Ramana Maharishi

"A conscious bliss ensues when one abides as the Self, by inquiring 'What is the true import of I?' This bliss is spontaneous, indestructible and limitless." These are the words of Ramana Maharishi (1879-1950), the renowned sage of Arunachala, South India, whose widely popular approach to meditation is called Atma-vichara, or Self inquiry. It epitomizes the path of discovery propounded in the Advaita Vedanta teachings of the Smarta Sampradaya.


Ramana spoke little and defied all efforts to have his teachings distilled into a set of instructions for meditation, but much can be learned from the gems of wisdom that he did confer regarding the path of Self knowing. In the English translation of Upadesa Manjari (A Bouquet of Spiritual Instruction), published in 1939, the sage is asked: "What is the correct method of practice for the disciple to adopt and follow?" The answer: "In the first instance, it should be recognized that the Atman, or the Self, is not something existing separate and distinct from the seeker, which he has yet to obtain, as it were, from without. Considering further that there is nothing loftier or more sublime than the object of his quest, which is identical with himself, he that would earnestly try to attain Liberation should initially proceed to discriminate between what is permanent and abiding and what is not. By this discriminative insight, he should know beyond doubt and free from misconception what he really is, i.e., in what his real Being consists. Realizing thus his true and natural state, he should remain changeless, firmly established therein. This is the correct method of practice, or sadhana, and is called the Vichara Marga, which is pre-eminently instrumental in gaining direct and immediate knowledge of the Self.


"Jnana is the utter annihilation of the mind by making it realize its absolute identity with the Atman, or the Self, by incessant practice of dhyana (meditation) or vichara (inquiry in quest of the Self). Utter annihilation of the mind is synonymous with that state of pure Being in which all effort (either to control or to direct it, which is necessary only if the mind is wayward or in any way subject to the influence of mundane existence) has finally ceased. Those who have attained that state never swerve from it. What is called Mauna, or Quiescence, is verily that state of pure Being.


"In sadhana, one should pay particular attention to the following points:


(a) "If the aspirant would only devote every minute spent in vain thinking about objects, which constitute the not-Self, in earnest inquiry in quest of the Self, he would, in a very short time, attain Self-Realization.


(b) "Until the mind obtains a firm and steady hold on the state of pure Being, practice of profound meditation tinged with religious emotion (bhavana) is essential, for, otherwise, the mind becomes an easy prey to wayward thoughts or is overcome by sleep.


(c) "The aspirant must not waste his time in an endless and vain repetition of such scriptural dicta as 'Sivoham' (the Supreme Lord am I) or 'Aham Bra hma smi' (I am Bra hman), which is considered characteristic of nir gun opa sana. Instead, the aspirant should, with the strength of mind he gains by such devout repetition, or upasana, practice At ma vi chara, or investigation in quest of the Self even as he is, without the superimposition of such ideas as 'I am Brahman,' etc.


(d) "The excellence of the sadhana, or the method of practice, adopted consists essentially in not yielding, by every possible means, any scope for obsessing thoughts of any kind to enter into the mind."


In his book Who Am I?, ca 1922, Siva pra kasam Pillai captured the famous discourse by that name which he heard Sri Ramana give twenty years earlier. Here are brief excerpts:


"Who am I? I am not the physical body, nor am I the five organs of sense-perception; I am not the five organs of external activity, nor am I the five vital forces, nor am I even the thinking mind. Neither am I that unconscious state of nescience that retains merely the subtle vasanas (latencies of the mind), being then free from the functional activity of the sense organs and of the mind, and being unaware of the existence of the objects of sense-perception.


"Therefore, summarily rejecting all the above mentioned physical adjuncts and their functions, saying, 'I am not this; no, nor am I this, not this,' that which then remains separate and alone by itself, that pure Awareness, verily am I. This Awareness is by its very nature Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss).


"By a steady and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind, the mind is transformed into That to which the 'I' refers, and that is verily the Self.

"Even when extraneous thoughts sprout up during such inquiry, do not seek to complete the rising thought, but, instead, deeply inquire within, 'To whom has this thought occurred?' No matter how many thoughts thus occur to you, if you would, with acute vigilance, inquire immediately, as and when each individual thought arises, as to whom it has occurred, you would find it is to 'me.' If, then, you inquire, 'Who am I?' the mind gets introverted, and the rising thought also subsides. In this manner, as you persevere more and more in the practice of Self-inquiry, the mind acquires increasing strength and power to abide in its Source."


Our thanks to Master Nome of the Society of Abidance in Truth (http:/ for providing the citations from the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharishi for this Educational Insight.

Aspiring on the Spiritual Path Excerpts from the Writings of Sri Chinmoy

"Do you need happiness? Then do just three things: meditate regularly, smile soulfully and love untiringly." Sri Chinmoy

No matter which path you follow for meditation, the first and foremost task is to try to make the mind calm and quiet. If the mind is constantly roaming, if it is all the time a victim of merciless thoughts, then you will make no progress whatsoever. The mind has to be made calm and quiet so that when the light descends from above, you can be fully conscious of it. In your conscious observation and conscious acceptance of light, you will enter into a profound meditation and see the purification, transformation and illumination of your life.


How will you make the mind calm and quiet? The mind has its own power, and right now this power is stronger than your present eagerness and determination to meditate. But if you can get help from your heart, then gradually you will be able to control your mind. The heart, in turn, gets constant assistance from the soul, which is all light and power. If you can keep your mind calm and quiet for ten or fifteen minutes, a new world will dawn within you.


On the problem of falling asleep in meditation. When you meditate you have to be absolutely dynamic. Do not allow sleepiness to enter into you. When you sit down to meditate, feel that you are entering into the battlefield where you have to fight against ignorance, imperfection and death.


The best thing is to breathe in deeply a few times before you meditate and make your whole body energetic. This dynamic energy will help you enter into meditation. If possible, take a small quantity of hot juice or hot milk before you begin your meditation also.


With each breath, try to feel that a stream of energy is entering into you. Then try to feel that you are breathing in through different parts of your body: your eyes, your ears, your forehead, your shoulders, the crown of your head and so on. Feel that each of these places is a door, and when you breathe in feel that you are opening this door. At that time, energy enters into you from the Universal Consciousness. Then try to invoke the power aspect of the Supreme. Do not invoke peace or light; only try to bring forward divine power from within or bring it down from above.


Lethargy and sleep come during meditation because sincere interest is lacking. If sincere interest is there, there will be no tendency to sleep. When a student wants to be first in school, when he has a real, sincere interest, then he studies without being forced by his parents. You should always try to be eager and enthusiastic about meditation. If you feel that you cannot meditate for half an hour, then plan to meditate for ten minutes. Then you will feel, "Oh, only ten minutes. Easily I can do that." If your goal is very near, then you will give it all your energy. 


On the necessity of meditating every day. If you are serious about your spiritual life, then you have to meditate at least once a day. If you are very enthusiastic, you can meditate three times a day--early in the morning, at noon or during your lunch hour, and in the evening. Your morning and evening meditations can be for a longer time, for fifteen minutes or half an hour, whereas your noon meditation can be as short as five or ten minutes. If it is not possible to feed your soul three times a day, then please feed it at least once. Feel that the soul is a little divine child. If you don't feed the divine child within you, it will not be able to grow and manifest your inner divine qualities and your soul's possibilities.


It is better to meditate well just once a day in the morning than to sit five or six times a day with your eyes closed and just have pleasant thoughts drifting through your head. Before the sun rises, the earth-consciousness is not yet agitated. The world has not yet entered into its daily turmoil. Nature is calm and quiet and will help you meditate. Whether you meditate in the morning or the evening, it is of paramount importance to have a fixed time for your meditation.


On the benefits of group meditation. When you meditate with others, you can be of real help to them, and they can be of real help to you. Nobody meditates well every day. Let us say that today you are in a very high state of consciousness, while the person who is sitting beside you is not in his highest consciousness. If both of you are meditating together, your aspiration and even your very presence will inspire and lift up that person. Then, tomorrow it may happen that you are not inspired to go high, whereas the other person is in a high consciousness. At that time he will be able to lift you up. So, collective meditation is meant for mutual help.


During collective meditation try to feel that others are not separate entities. Feel that you are the only person meditating, and that you are entirely responsible for the meditation. It is always advisable that the disciples of one spiritual master meditate only with those on their own path or with those who have not yet chosen a path.


Is Vegetarianism Vital To Success in Meditation? Sri Chinmoy's Response

Purity is of paramount importance for an aspirant. This purity we must establish in the body, in the vital and in the mind. When we eat meat, the aggressive animal consciousness enters into us. Our nerves become agitated and restless, and this can interfere with our meditation. If a seeker does not stop eating meat, generally he does not get subtle experiences or subtle visions.


The mild qualities of fruits and vegetables help us to establish in our inner life, as well as in our outer life, the qualities of sweetness, softness, simplicity and purity. If we are vegetarians, this helps our inner being to strengthen its own existence. Inwardly, we are praying and meditating; outwardly, the food we are taking from Mother Earth is helping us, too, giving us not only energy but also inspiration.


Many spiritual seekers have come to the conclusion that a vegetarian is in a position to make quicker progress in the spiritual life. But along with a vegetarian diet, one must pray and meditate. If one has aspiration, the vegetarian diet will help considerably; the body's purity will help one's inner aspiration to become more intense and more soulful.


These passages are drawn from Sri Chinmoy's Meditation, Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction, with permission from the publisher, Aum Publications, Jamaica, New York.


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To see pictures of

1. Ramana Maharshi Ashram 

2. Arunachala Temple