Leading a virtuous life is not by itself sufficient for God-realization. Concentration of mind is absolutely necessary. A good, virtuous life only prepares the mind as a fit instrument for concentration and meditation. It is concentration and meditation that eventually lead to self-realization. God has hidden Himself in this immanent world and is seated in the cavity of the lotus of your heart. He is an absentee landlord. You will have to seek Him through concentration and meditation with a pure mind. This is a real play of hide-and-seek.
Sit in a lonely place in padma, siddha or sukha asana. Free yourself from all passions, emotions and impulses. Subjugate the senses. Withdraw the mind from objects. Now the mind will be calm, one-pointed, pure and subtle. With the help of this trained instrument, disciplined mind, contemplate on that one Infinite Self. Do not think of anything else. Do not allow any worldly thought to enter the mind. Do not allow the mind to think of any physical or mental enjoyment.
When it indulges in these thoughts, give it a good hammering. Then it will move towards divinity. Just as the Ganga flows continuously towards the sea, thoughts of divinity should flow continuously towards the Lord. Just as oil, when poured from one vessel to another, flows in an unbroken, continuous stream, just as the harmonious sound produced from the ringing of bells falls upon the ear in a continuous stream, so also the mind should flow towards God in one continuous stream.
Make the mind blank. It is the only medium for these severe strokes of grief. It is difficult to suppress thought and, after it is once suppressed, a new succession of thoughts arises which overpowers the mind. Fix the mind on some tranquil object. You will succeed in checking the mind. Collect your thoughts in the spirit, atman, as a person cools himself by going into a pool of water in the hot season.
There must be a continuous divine vritti pravaha, flow of mental patterns, from the sattwic mind towards divinity through continuous sadhana. You must have a mental image of divinity or Brahman, whether concrete or abstract, before you begin to meditate. When you are a neophyte in meditation, start repeating some sublime slokas or stotras (hymns) for ten minutes as soon as you sit for meditation. This will elevate the mind. The mind can be easily withdrawn from the worldly objects. Then stop this kind of thinking also and fix the mind on one idea only by repeated and strenuous efforts. Then nishtha, steadfastness, will ensue.
Renounce the thoughts of objects. Drive them away with the whip of viveka, discrimination, and vichara, contemplation. There is struggle in the beginning. It is trying indeed. But, later on, as you will grow stronger and stronger and as you grow in purity, Brahma chintana, contemplation on Brahman, becomes easy. You rejoice in the life of unity. You get strength from atman. Inner strength grows when all the vishaya vrittis, thought of objects of the senses, are thinned out and the mind becomes one-pointed.
When you start a fire, you heap up some straw, pieces of paper, thin pieces of wood. The fire gets extinguished quickly. You blow it again several times through the mouth of the blow-pipe. After some time it becomes a small conflagration. You can hardly extinguish it now even with great effort. However, in the beginning neophytes often fall back from meditation into their old grooves. They have to lift up their minds again and again and fix on the aim.
You will have to exert in the beginning to get equilibrium of mind. Later on, you will have a habitual balanced state of mind. So is the case with meditation. After some years of practice, meditation becomes habitual. When meditation becomes deep and steady, the aspirant is established in the Supreme Spirit. Then meditation becomes natural. It becomes habitual. Use the blow-pipe of intense vairagya and meditation to kindle the fire of meditation.
During meditation, note how long you can shut out all worldly thoughts. Watch the mind very carefully. If it is for twenty minutes, try to increase the period to thirty or forty minutes and so on. Fill the mind with the thoughts of divinity again and again. Allow the one Brahmic idea to flow gently and continuously. Fasten the mind with a fine silk thread to the lotus feet of Shiva or Hari. Drive out the worldly ideas gently.
When you begin to sweep a room that was kept closed for six months, various kinds of dirt come out from the corners of the room. Similarly, during meditation, under pressure of yoga, through the grace of God, various kinds of impurities float about on the surface of the mind.
Bravely remove them one by one by suitable methods and counter-virtues with patience and strenuous effort. The old vicious samskaras strike revenge when you try to suppress them. Do not be afraid. They lose their strength after some time. You have to tame the mind just as you tame a wild elephant or tiger. Do not indulge in negative thoughts that serve as food for the mind.
Try to keep up the Brahmakara vritti by repeating Om or Aham Brahmasmi mentally very often. The idea of infinity, the idea of an ocean of light, the idea of all-knowledge and all-bliss should accompany the mental repetition of Om. If the mind wanders, repeat verbally six times the long Pranava with 312 matras (units). This process will remove the dissipation and all other obstacles.
Make the mind self-introspective. Substitute good, virtuous, sublime thoughts. Feed the mind with ennobling aspirations and ideals. The old samskaras will be gradually thinned out and eventually obliterated. Now the Brahmakara vritti will dawn. Coupled with Brahma jnana, this is the destroyer of ignorance. Allow the Brahmakara vritti to flow steadily like a continuous flow of oil. Now infinite bliss will flow. At this stage, the whole universe will appear as sat-chit-ananda, truth-consciousness-bliss, only. This thought also will die. You will then enter sahajananda, naturally blissful, state.
Have the one all-pervading feeling. Deny the finite body as a mere appearance. Try to keep up the feelings always. Whatever elevates you, you can take it up for your advantage just to elevate the mind and then continue your prolonged meditation. You must daily increase your vairagya, meditation and sattwic virtues such as patience, perseverance, mercy, love, forgiveness, purity, etc. Vairagya and good qualities help meditation and meditation increases the sattwic qualities. Just as you conserve the energy by observing mouna, silence, so also you will have to conserve the mental energy by stopping useless thinking. Then you will save abundant reserve energy for meditation.
Remember these three word-images: purification, concentration, absorption. Repeat them mentally during meditation. This is a triplet. Remember this triplet. Purify the mind. Get rid of impurities such as anger and lust. Perform selfless, desireless actions. This will purify the mind. Practise worship, pranayama, trataka and the raja yogic precept of chitta vritti nirodha, cessation of mental modificaitons. This will help in one-pointedness. Then practise constant and deep meditation. The mind will be absorbed eventually.
It has been said in the Mundakopanishad (2:2:4):
Pranavo dhanuh saro hyatma brahma tallakshyam uchyate;
Apramattena veddhavyam saravan tanmayo bhavet.
Om is the bow, mind is the arrow and Brahman is the mark to be aimed at. Brahman is to be hit or pierced by him whose thoughts are concentrated. Then he will be of the same nature (tanmaya) as Brahman, as the arrow becomes one with the aim when it has pierced it.
Sit in padma or siddha asana. Close the eyes. Concentrate the gaze on trikuti, space between the two eyebrows. Now, chant deergha Pranava, long Om, forcibly for five minutes. This will remove the tossing of the mind. Concentration will ensue. Now repeat Om mentally with Brahma bhavana, feeling. Whenever the mind begins to wander, again chant Om verbally. As soon as the mind gets calm, mentally repeat Om again. The same process can be adopted for meditation on a form also.
In the beginning, when you are a neophyte, you can close your eyes to remove the distraction of mind, as you are very weak. But later on you must meditate with eyes open, even during walking. You must keep your balance of mind even when you are in the bustle of a city. Then only you are perfect. Why do you close your eyes during meditation? Open your eyes and meditate.
Think strongly that the world is unreal, that there is no world, that there is atman only. If you can meditate on atman even when the eyes are open, you will be a strong man. You will not be easily disturbed.
Put a piece of iron rod in the blazing furnace. It becomes red like fire. Remove it. It loses its red colour. If you want to always keep it red, you must always keep it in fire. Even so, if you want to keep the mind charged with the fire of Brahmic wisdom, you must keep it always in contact with the Brahmic fire of knowledge through constant and intense meditation. You must keep up an unceasing flow of the Brahmic consciousness. Then you will have the natural state.
If you are really thirsty for atma jnana and take delight therein, be not hasty in longing for the fruits at once. Meditate regularly and gradually upon them, then the mind will, by degrees, be ripened and, in the end, the endless atman will be reached. You will get self-realization.