For the first time since I have been here, Swami Veda gave a public lecture in both English and Hindi. I had heard him speak before on Christmas, when he wrote a poem he had written and said a few words of introduction to the program. However, today after meditation, he invited everyone to stay and spoke on the subject of atmavabodha.
Swamiji has an interesting style. He speaks slowly and deliberately, almost hypnotically, and repeats his speech almost word for word in Hindi afterwards. He has clearly prepared his thoughts in advance and rarely has to correct or add anything further in either English or Hindi. He also includes a guided meditation in the course of speaking. I noticed from his book, The Philosophy of Hatha Yoga, which seems to be based on a series of public lectures, that he did the same there. The overall effect is very powerful in a group of committed disciples--everyone is very attentive and goes deep into meditation when given the appropriate suggestions.
In fact, Swami Veda's entire system of Hatha Yoga, which is based on the teachings of Swami Rama, puts a great deal of emphasis on attentiveness to the body's responses to each movement. The idea is to create full awareness of the body's subtlest reactions, with the goal of making it suitable for the meditation of Raja Yoga.
Today, his subject of atmavabodha was about the relationship of words to meaning and of sleep to atmanubhuti. Perhaps because he recently gave two sannyasa initiations, he started by saying that upon receiving initiation mantras or the sannyas mahavakyas (tat tvam asi, aham brahmasmi, ayam atma brahma, prajnanandam brahma), it is common for someone to ask their meaning. He pointed out that all words point to some experience. The word cow is meaningful because we have the experience of a cow, or the experience of a cow is possible. Therefore, the Sanskrit word for "thing" is padartha, or "the meaning of the word." In the case of the mantras or mahavakyas, however, one has to look for direct experience rather than an explanation, because the words point to an experience that is without any object, i.e., consciousness without any object.
He went on to explain that every creature before going to sleep undergoes a process of atmavabodha, by retracting the consciousness from the sense objects. Falling asleep means consciousness with no object, no padartha. This is, of course, only analogous to the experience that one should seek in meditation, but the principle of consciousness without an object is the same. He thus counselled that when going to sleep, one should observe the process of separation of consciousness from the objects of the mind and senses and emulate this process while engaged in meditation.