What is meditation ?
Meditation is often defined as a centred expansion of the Mind.
How can we understand this definition and how does it differ from our usual state of mind ?
In our daily life, we are generally under the spell of our 'monkey mind' as the Indian metaphor calls it, in such an appropriate way. Our mind, our attention is continuously jumping from object to object. It can be the sense objects, emotions or thoughts. If we could record the content of our mind and play it afterwards, we would probably be very surprised of its contents. Without realising it, we suffer from the continuous pulls of the likes and dislikes towards what comes to our attention, either from the present situation trough our senses or from memories of the past and from our projections in the future. We are in a fight with the world, with manifestation.
The goal of meditation is to progressively break from the monkey mind tendency, in order to start to develop more centring, more awareness of the present, to learn to develop non-attachement, to learn to simply relax from our grasping tendencies. All authentic meditation technique will start, first, by developing concentration on something, an object. The object can be static or dynamic. There are numerous techniques of meditation and they can take very different objects of concentration and use them in various ways. It can be the breath, a piece of music, a part of the body, a movement of the body, a sacred diagramme, a chakra, a prayer, a mantra, a sound, a color, a concept,... It can be an external or an internal object.
The goal is to progressively step out of the turbulence of the mind and start to develop our attention. From this first step that corresponds with developing our concentration, can emerge another stage where the mind starts to expand, to become more vast, more open to moments of rest, of peace, of spaciousness,... From there, it can lead towards many different types of experiences, due to the progressive expansion of the mind. But the most important is the presence, the awareness that will progressively be strengthen by the regular meditation and that will start to be reflected in our daily life.
Different types of meditation: dual and non-dual approaches.
The most known techniques of meditation today are Goenka Vipasana meditation, TM meditation or mindfulness meditation. But in reality there are many different forms. Let's just explore few of them:
1. Mantra meditation:
In a more dual approach, you will find various classical forms of meditation with mantra. Mantras can be very strong tools in meditation, they are at the core of the traditional sadhana both in Indian and Tibetan Tantra. Let's have a look on few of these forms.
In Bhakti Yoga, the main practice is to sing with devotion the names of God, generally under the form of different mantras. This type of mantra meditation often does not require any specific initiation, we can just sing along the mantras, the most important is to find a form of the divine that will resonate with us, that will allow us to open up, to merge with it or simply to get contaminated by the love of the people singing it and opening the heart.
In Laya Yoga, the practice is very different, it requires a mantra initiation, as we need to receive the energy of the mantra and develop it in us, make it grow. It is a rather esoteric form of meditation. We repeat internally the received mantra and we focus on the Nada, the inner sound, the echo of the mantra. The mantras used for this meditation are Bija mantras, it means short seed mantras, one syllable mantra that do not have a meaning, but are directly connected with a specific frequency of the universe with which we progressively identify, unite though the merging in the inner sound.
In Japa Yoga, it requires also an initiation in order to receive the energy of the mantra. The technique is more simple, it is just the inner repetition of the mantra, sometimes we start out loud and then we internalise more the repetition. By repeating the mantra we call the energy to come to us and work on us, healing, energising, working gradually on activating the kundalini. The mantras used for this type of meditation are generally longer mantra. It can be few words or much longer, a chapter, several pages or more. The initiation process in this type of meditation is essential, without it either the energy of the mantra won't be accessed or it can be but generally in more chaotic way, not integrated, not harmonised. This form on meditation works with the shakti, the potential that is connected with the mantra, it can be going with various rituals, from very simple to very elaborated. It can be the use of a specific mala (rosary), the use of a candle (offering of light) or other offerings (water, flower, food,...), the use of an asan (meditation blanket), of specific asanas (postures of meditation) or more complex like building of a yantra,... These rituals will generally come as a way to amplify and stabilise the effects of the Japa in our structure at different levels: physical, energetically, astral, mental and causal.
In Japa meditation, we can recognise two main types of mantra initiation, there are sadhana that will be lead for a specific duration of time, certain amount of repetitions,... After the duration or the amount is done, the mantra is often considered as acquired, integrated by the practitioner. An other form is the Guru mantra, those mantras are more specific in the sense that they are generally life time mantra, the mantra connect you directly with the master of the lineage.
The authentic mantra practice can be very powerful, it can help to reshape our being and boost our spiritual evolution.
2. Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, 112 methods of meditation, towards non duality:
If we go even further in the field of meditation, we can meet the tantric approach of meditation from Kashmir Shivaism. The tantric tradition is extremely rich concerning the variety of techniques that she offers. Vijnana Bhairava Tantra can be considered as one of the most complete treatise concerning meditation. It collects no less than 112 methods, those 112 techniques or dharanas (as the text mention it), can be considered as the root of all forms of meditation, any form of meditation developed today can be connected in one or an another of these dharanas. The Kashmir Shivaist approach knew its peak influence with his greatest master Abhinavagupta in the 10th century. The basis of the Kashmir Shivaist tradition are several agamas, tantric texts, that have been commented and later on translated. The fascinating aspect of Vijnana is the diversity of the method, it seems that it can correspond to any temperament, any type of person, if we are more connected with kinaesthetic sensations, more visual, auditive, mental, physical, in any case, we can all will find various forms that would fit with our natural inclinations. In these forms of meditation, we'll generally go towards more and ore non dual approaches of meditation. We do not identify with a specific form via a mantra, a yantra, we rather merge with the non dual, merge with presence.
Which is the best meditation ?
At this point, it is important to mention that there are not really better ameditation technique than others, the best ones are the ones that helps us and support our progression from where we are at at that point of our evolution. Some people will be naturally incline for more simple, down to earth type of meditation, like simple breath awareness, while others will be attracted by more energetic type of work with strong mantras, others more abstract, subtle types of meditation.
To be continued...