I have in mind to tell you something about that aspect of yoga which is the climax in one’s spiritual evolution, more particularly at this place where the settings are conducive to the practice of that aspect of yoga. Of course, the most known aspect of yoga is hatha yoga, the practice of asana and pranayama, which is very important insofar as the achievement of a mind capable of practising meditation is concerned. Now I will confine myself to the topic of dhyana yoga.
I am particularly thinking about this subject because I wish to tell you that the ultimate purpose of practising every type of yoga is to achieve dhyana or meditation. One might ask ‘What is there in meditation? What is there in dhyana yoga? You close your eyes, lock your body and become still. Don’t think anything else. So everybody can do it’. Therefore, people think it is not necessary to know anything about meditation. They are of the opinion that when you want to practise asana and pranayama, you need a teacher, but if you want to meditate there is nothing to be learned from anybody. It is just closing the eyes and closing the mind. Easily said but difficult to do.
As you practise exercises in order to control your body, similarly in yoga there is a concept of having control over the mind. To control the mind is to control the influxes of energy. In psychology and in yoga, mind is not psychological stuff. Mind is a kind of energy. Just as you say the negative energy and positive energy flow through the cables of the electrical wire, in the same way, mind, chitta or manas, is not psychological stuff, it is not an emotional system.
Thinking is not the mind, feeling is not the mind, memory is not the mind. They are aspects of the mind, just as the bulb is not electricity, the fan is not electricity, the air conditioner is not electricity; they are run by electricity. Bulb, fan and air conditioner, microphone, radios, televisions are run by electrical energy. In the same way, there is an energy within us that is called mind. This energy is manifesting itself through various samskaras, habits or awareness, like feeling, memory, anger. This energy has to be tamed.
Man has not tamed this energy so far. He has been taught about this for over five or seven thousand years in India and almost fifty years in the west. People know it is something very potent and powerful, but they don’t know how to tame it. In order to tame this energy, the first thing you have to do is to find out the channel of this energy flowing in the physical body.
According to tantra, yoga and other sciences which have been known to Indians for many thousand years, three nadis flow within the frame of the spine. One of them is responsible for distributing, conducting and carrying this pranic energy, and that is known as pingala nadi. This flows on the right side of the spine and on the left side is ida nadi, the main conductor of the mental energy of the manas, chitta or awareness. In order to tame this, there are two ways to practise.
One is the way of pranayama, the other is the way of dhyana yoga. I am not going to tell you about the system of pranayama in this brief talk, but I will deal a little bit with dhyana yoga or meditation. It is said when you practise meditation, first of all you fix the position of your body, and for that, quite a few postures are recommended. One is the lotus posture, padmasana, second is siddhasana, and third is swastikasana, fourth one is sukhasana, fifth one is vajrasana. Out of all these, two are most important – the lotus posture and siddhasana.
Out of these two asanas, siddhasana is considered to be the best. It is considered best not from the point of view that it is easy to practise, but in this asana two important centres of the body, which are responsible for creating disturbances in the sympathetic nervous system, creating turbulence in the mind and brain are spontaneously put under control.
Those of you who know siddhasana can understand what I mean. First of all, you press the perineum with one heel and the other heel presses the vajra nadi, the lower part of the abdomen. These two centres are the vajra nadi and the shukra nadi in yoga. Shukra nadi is in the perineum, the coccyx, between the genital and the urinary-excretory organs. This is an important centre in yoga which is known as mooladhara chakra, the seat of kundalini. There it is situated in the form of a small gland, a granthi, and it is also the centre of the great turbulence of the mind.
The mind is never disturbed by external things. Birth, death, friendship or enmity, poverty or prosperity – nothing disturbs the mind. The disturbance of the mind begins at the point of the shukra nadi and vajra nadi. All the facts are first registered in these centres, not in the brain. You may be listening to a new approach, but it is not a new approach because I know a little bit of science. Whenever you see pleasant things or obnoxious things through the senses, the impressions are first carried to the shukra nadi and vajra nadi. Only then are they carried to the brain through the nadis and you express them. If the scientists of today have not known this, they are going to know it after some time because this is the fact.
Experience of pleasure, experience of pain, experience of love and hatred, experiences of heat and cold can be had at two different levels. One is the gross level; one is the subtle level. Yogis can experience that in the subtle level in the brain, but all others experience pain and pleasure at a gross level. You prick me with a thorn. The thorn is pricked here on the fingertip and the pain is taking place in the brain, but it is felt here. With everybody that is so. The perception takes place in the brain but the experience is felt somewhere else. So there are two levels – the gross and the subtle levels.
This gross level is blocked by siddhasana; it is called moola bandha and vajroli. When you block vajra nadi, it is called vajroli. When you block the perineum, it is called moola bandha which is also responsible for controlling blood pressure and the temperature of the body.
Many people think meditation is very easy, but I tell you it is not. When you meditate without proper preparation, you cannot control the changes that take place in the body. It has been studied by scientists that when you meditate, within a minute the waves change. From beta to theta to delta to alpha, the wave changes. The voltage in the brain falls down within minutes. You should be able to control the changes in the wave patterns of the brain.
The second point is that when you are sitting for meditation, gradually the inner body temperature falls. You know what is inner body temperature? What we call jatharagni in Sanskrit is responsible for metabolism, anabolism and catabolism. If there is no proper temperature in the body, there will be catabolism. If there is proper temperature in the body, there will be proper metabolism and anabolism. In meditation, the temperature falls down.
When you practise meditation, you must remember a few things. First, the body temperature should not fall suddenly. How are you going to do this? Secondly, the waves of the brain should not change very fast. Third, the influxes of the nervous system become slow and as a result of that, there is inertia in the heart. Fourth, the breath stops, and that is very difficult.
The moment the mind becomes quiet, kumbhaka, retention of breath, takes place and many people cannot understand what is happening. When the breath stops, you have a lot of visions and sensations. Sometimes people do not understand what is happening to them. So when you meditate, you must have a system, and that system is taught in yoga.
There are many systems in yoga such as ajapa japa, japa, kriya yoga, nada yoga, shabda yoga and antar mouna. It is not necessary for me to tell you all about the systems, you have to study them. I am going to tell you about one system that is called ajapa japa.
Sit in siddhasana, practise your usual pranayama, especially bhastrika. Then sit quietly, concentrate on the tip of the nose, nasikagra drishti. Watch the natural breath very carefully. Sometimes it is deep, sometimes it is shallow, sometimes very deep, sometimes deeper than natural. It does not have a uniform rhythm; it is different from time to time. The general rate is 15 times or breaths per minute, 900 times per hour, 10,800 per twelve hours, 21,600 in 24 hours. That happens with us all the time and we are unconscious of this. We have never watched our breath; we have always watched the world outside. We have always watched how our mind is feeling. We have watched everything in life, but we have not watched our breath, and this is very unfortunate because it is through watching the breath that you can get into the mind.
You cannot get into your mind directly; it is not possible even for yogis. You cannot get into your conscious, subconscious or super conscious mind directly. There is no way, even yogis cannot do it, and if by chance they get in, they cannot get out. It is like the chakravyuha, the maze you get into and you do not know how to get out. However, the natural breath is with us all the time, yet we have never thought about it.
So you sit in your asana, concentrate on the nose tip, and do nothing. Don’t do anything. Just watch the breath. Don’t breathe in, don’t breathe out, let things happen. After 10 to 20 minutes, just try to discover what the sound of the breath is like. Every breath has sound, everything has sound. If you watch the sound of the breath closely, you will discover the mantra So Ham or Ham So. The ingoing breath is So and the outgoing breath is Ham, or the outgoing breath is Ham and the ingoing breath is So. You can either think of So Ham or Ham So, in any order you like.
After practising this for 15 or 20 minutes, without losing awareness of the breath, you should continue. Then you sometimes feel So Ham, sometimes you feel Ham So. Sometimes there is a continuous flow of awareness in the form So Ham, So Ham, So Ham, So Ham. You do not know if you are starting with So or with Ham. You are in a confusion but you are transcending the idea of So Ham and Ham So, both. At this time, when you are not sure what you are doing, whether it is So Ham or Ham So, you take your mind to the mid eyebrow centre called bhrumadhya, and here you experience the flow of breath, that’s all. It takes about 20 minutes or half an hour, minimum it is 10 minutes, maximum it could be one hour. This is one method of meditation.
There are other methods also which you will have to practise after ascertaining them from your guru. Another method is japa yoga, the practice of mantra in which control of the mind is not involved, but where you are trying to awaken the inner awareness through the mantra.
According to raja yoga, dhyana yoga is the state proceeding samadhi. Samadhi is that state where the awareness is felt in its totality. It is not unawareness, it is not unconsciousness, it is the total awareness. You feel the awareness but you do not feel ‘you’. You do not feel anything else. This is the most important aspect of man’s life. Through the practice of yoga, we should try to develop this.
Finally, a lot of work is being done on meditation by scientists in different countries. In Melbourne, Australia, a doctor is doing research on the effect of meditation on cancer. He was a very renowned doctor and is now totally dedicated to cancer therapy. He has evolved three methods: yoga nidra, pranayama and meditation. Thousands of students who are suffering from malignant tumour go to his class. He gives them these three practices. Besides teaching these practices, he is also conducting research on the effect of meditation on the changes taking place in the body.
Just as you try to create a change in your physical body through asana and pranayama, you can bring about a change in your physical body through meditation more quickly and more positively. It has been found that through meditation, the haemoglobin count has been improved. Through meditation, the growth of cancer has been stopped, and some of the psychological, psychosomatic disorders can be arrested. In this way, scientists are working on greater possibilities. It is said that regular practice of meditation can not only make you free from sickness, but it can change the elements of the body. Meditation can change the contents of the body, and that is written in the yoga shastras as well.
In this fine place that you have here, I am giving a very important way for everybody. If you devote half an hour every day for dhyana yoga, you will find that your attending this meeting has been an important landmark of your life.
28 January 1982, Kovalam Beach Yoga Centre, Trivandrum, Kerala