according to Hinduism
Arvind Sharma has made a sincere and admirable attempt at
a comparative study of meditation in the context of Hindu-Christian
dialogue. It will go a long way in the sympathetic understanding
of other religions and in fostering a brotherly relationship
among different warring religious groups, provided they make
an attempt to go into the central core of their own religions,
instead of hanging on to external forms of religion, where
differences and contradictions seem to be insurmountable.
All practices prescribed in different religious traditions
seem to converge in meditative awareness if we overlook inconsequential
technical details. The author has tried to show how the practice
of meditation can be the meeting ground for the adherents
of Hinduism and Christianity, by highlighting the common points
and providing an impetus for further investigation into the
a humble attempt is made to throw some light on the concept
of meditation in Hinduism.
are living in a dynamic world, where every particle is in
constant flux. We cannot imagine a state where there is no
action or movement. Even the apparent state of inaction reveals
intense activity when analysed scientifically. Still, there
is an urge in man to be calm and silent without any activity,
which induces him to go into the state of deep sleep every
day. Meditation is an attempt to reach that state consciously,
gradually reducing the number of thoughts and finally retaining
only one thought in the mind.
is a special kind of concentration. In ordinary concentration,
the mind is focused on one particular subject, and there can
be many divergent thoughts related to that particular subject.
Here the subject is one, but thoughts are many and dissimilar.
For example, if one is reading a book on electricity and if
his mind is concentrated, all his thoughts would centre on
electricity alone. But in meditation there should be one subject
and one thought related to that. Regarding this special kind
of concentration, Swami Yatiswarananda says:
is important to know the difference between ordinary concentration
and meditation. By the word 'meditation' we mean dhyana
or contemplation. It is not just ordinary concentration.
It is a special type of concentration. In the first place,
meditation is a fully conscious process, an exercise of
the will. Secondly, meditation means concentration on a
spiritual idea which presupposes that the aspirant is capable
of rising above worldly ideas. And finally, meditation is
done usually at a particular centre of consciousness. It
is clear that true meditation is a fairly advanced state,
attained after long practice. It is the result of long years
of discipline. (1)
one is meditating on a particular divine form of Rama at a
particular centre of consciousness, say the heart, then there
would be a continuous flow of the same thought representing
the divine form of Rama, to the exclusion of all other thoughts,
even the thoughts related to Rama's qualities or his life.
This continuous flow of one same thought is called meditation.
there is a continuous flow of thoughts in our minds related
to different objects, events and persons. If one thought represents
one particular object, the subsequent one would be related
to some other object or person. This state of mind is called
sarvarthata in Yoga literature. In contrast to this,
the flow of similar thoughts pertaining to our particular
object of meditation is called ekagrata. As stated
earlier, this is a higher form of concentration in which there
will be different, but similar, thoughts representing one
and the same object. As a result of quick succession of these
thoughts, the object of meditation appears to be steady and,
as the concentration deepens, the object becomes more vivid
and bright. This is somewhat similar to the case when still
pictures are taken and projected on the screen: the form on
the screen appears to be one and steady though the images
are different. This meditative state is described as taila
dharavat, 'like a stream of oil'. According to Patanjali,
'Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam; An unbroken flow
of thoughts of that object (of meditation) is called dhyana.'
is similar to upasana spoken of in Vedanta. Sri Shankaracharya
gives a vivid description of upasana in his commentary
on the Bhagavadgita: 'Upasana, or meditation, means
approaching an object of meditation as presented by the scriptures,
making it an object of one's own thought, and dwelling on
it uninterruptedly for long by continuing the same current
of thought with regard to it - like a stream of oil poured
from one vessel to another.' (3)
analogy of the stream of oil is very appropriate. When we
pour oil from one vessel to another, there will be a constant
flow of oil without any sound or splash. But when we pour
water in similar fashion there is so much of noise and splash
all around. If the current of thought flows towards the object
of meditation in an uninterrupted stream without this kind
of restlessness, that state is called meditation.
state is reached only after one has passed through two other
stages of meditation - pratyahara and dharana.
Pratyahara consists in making the mind free from the
clutches of the senses. The mind is always running after sense
objects. When we see a particular object or hear a particular
sound, the mind immediately grabs it and starts building a
castle of thoughts. Same is the case when a particular thought
arises in the mind. When we sit for meditation, the mind constantly
goes away from the object of meditation, drawn by the objects
of the senses. We withdraw the mind from these and fix it
on the object of meditation. This withdrawal of the mind is
called pratyahara. But the mind refuses to remain steady
and starts wandering in the world of the senses. Again and
again we withdraw it from the senses, and this struggle goes
on for a long time, after which the mind becomes more steady
and we are able to fix it on the object of meditation. This
stage is called dharana. The object of meditation can
be the divine form of our chosen deity, or some sound like
the pranava, or a particular centre of consciousness
like the heart or the region between the two eyebrows, and
so on. When the mind remains fixed on the object of meditation
for a definite length of time, without being disturbed by
any other thought, and the object of meditation becomes steady
and vivid, then the mind is said to be in the state of meditation.
this meditative state there are three things: the object of
meditation, the process of meditation and the meditator. The
meditator is aware of himself and the object, and there is
self-direction too. But there is a still higher state of concentration
called samadhi, in which the object alone shines so
brightly that the meditator loses himself, as it were, being
absorbed in the thought of the object and experiences ecstatic
joy. Patanjali thus describes this state: 'Tadeva arthamatranirbhasam
svarupashunyamiva samadhih; In the same meditative state,
when the meditator loses himself, as it were, and the object
of meditation alone shines forth - that is called samadhi.'
is a still higher state of consciousness where even this single
thought of the object of meditation is eliminated and the
Self is revealed in Its pristine purity without any qualification.
Swami Vivekananda explains this with an appropriate illustration:
bottom of a lake we cannot see, because its surface is covered
with ripples. It is only possible for us to catch a glimpse
of the bottom when the ripples have subsided, and the water
is calm. If the water is muddy or is agitated all the time,
the bottom will not be seen. If it is clear, and there are
no waves, we shall see the bottom. The bottom of the lake
is our own true Self; the lake is the Chitta [mind] and
the waves the Vrittis [thoughts]. (5)
true purpose of meditation is to know our true nature, the
bedrock of our personality, by removing the accretions that
cover it. This is done in stages, first by holding on to one
thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts, and finally
letting go of even that single thought.
brief description of meditation in the light of Vedanta and
Yoga philosophies is only to highlight the main aspects of
meditation which may stimulate one to study the subject further.
Swami Yatiswarananda, Meditation and Spiritual Life
(Bangalore: Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, 1983), 324.
Yoga Sutras, 3.2.
Shankaracharya's commentary on Bhagavadgita, 12.3.
Yoga Sutras, 3.3.
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta:
Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 1.202