Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A few words about meditation

It has come to my attention that some people are having a difficulty putting all the pieces of my philosophy and sadhana together. That is perfectly understandable, since various people are coming to the issue from different angles of vision and levels of experience and knowledge.

Most people who read or hear about this Prema Sadhana or Sahaja Sadhana are coming to it from the point of view of the bhakti-marga, which is not at all surprising since that is my original orientation also. However, as readers of these pages will know, I am critical of the general approach to bhakti for several reason.

Too many devotees of Krishna are literalist and ritualistic in their approach. Moreover, they are philosophical so dualistic that phrases like bhedābheda are functionally meaningless to them. They get the bheda part, so much that they are willing to die or kill for it, but the abheda part of it is a complete mystery.

Because of these defects, they are basically stuck in the beginner stage of the bhakti path or the Prema Marga, and have very little hope of ever escaping it. When you are on one level of advancement, you have to maintain a particular niṣṭhā for it, which is a bit like putting blinders on and moving full steam ahead, ignoring challenges and doubts until one day those challenges and doubts reach a certain critical mass.

When that critical mass is reached, then one goes through a period of transition, which may be easy or difficult, some never make it through this "dark night of the soul"; most recede into the comfort zone and force themselves into a hysterical and hypocritical pretense; some drop out altogether, denying the validity of their spiritual experience and holding the entire thing to be a "God illusion" and looking for meaning in some mundane project; the least intelligent move on to another religious sect in the hope of reviving their secure faith, while others take to philosophical atheism and yet others to the "sexed-up atheism" of Buddhism or Shankara monism.

And some fortunate souls progress onward to the next level of the Prema Marga.

In actual fact, some people will be surprised to hear it, the negative movement away from literalism, fundamentalism and ritualism posing as Theism and Absolute Truth and towards a kind of base position in monism is not undesirable, but a necessary movement to rationality without which any progress will be nothing more than a hallucination, no matter how many followers one accumulates or big temples one builds in the name of prema bhakti and devotional service.

For devotees who are desirous of moving on to the next level, it is necessary at this stage of advancing from the kaniṣṭha stage to come to terms with the synthetic nature of all Indian religious thought and practice. No path exists in a cultural vacuum, least of all the bhakti tradition. The bhakti tradition is a part of the pan-India religious tradition otherwise known as Hinduism. Those who deny this are first class fools. Those who do recognize it must come to terms with it. The very word bhedābheda is an indication of this synthetic character.

When I talk about meditation, I am talking about abheda-mananam in a very fundamental sense. It is closer to the yogic idea of īśvara-praṇidhāna or sensing the presence of and identity with God, rather than any Tantric or Pancharatrika exercise of visualization. The key is the internal movement.

parāñci khāni vyatṛṇat svayambhūs
tasmāt parāṅ paśyati nāntarātman
kaścid dhīraḥ pratyag-ātmānam aikṣad
āvṛtta-cakṣur amṛtatvam icchan
The Self-born Creator pierced holes [i.e., the senses] facing outward; therefore humans look outward and do not see the true Self within. Some wise man, desiring immortality, turned his eyes inward and saw the indwelling ātman. (Katha Upanishad, 2.1.1)
The implication for the devotees is that purely external orientation, whether it is in matters of ritual, sadhana or textual interpretation, is just that -- external.

On the devotional path, this is explained a little differently, as sāsaṅga-bhajana, without which all the external activities of bhakti in themselves will not give prema or rasa. You have to make that spiritual connection, and the only way that is possible is by finding the depths of one's inner being and identifying one's self as spiritual, not material. When that has been attained, then one goes on to parā bhakti, as stated in the Gita.

brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati |
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām ||
Becoming Brahman, one is satisfied in the self, he neither laments nor desires, he is equal to all creatures. [In that state] he attains the higher bhakti to Me. (18.54)
The external activities of bhakti, i.e., vidhi bhakti, are there to help purify the grosser manifestations of rajas and tamas and to establish sattva so that one can sit down and meditate and go deeply within.

Too many devotees fall into a bad habit with their japa, which confirms that they have a misconception that the purely mechanical chanting of the Holy Names will somehow bring them to the ultimate level of achievement. When we talk about nāmābhāsa and nāmāparādha, we are talking about inattentive chanting, and indeed Bhaktivinoda Thakur included inattentiveness as pramāda in his explanation of the Ten Aparadhas in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur there divides inattentiveness into three subdivisions, lethargy (jāḍya),  indifference (audasīnya) and distractedness (vikṣepa). Two of these correspond roughly to the yogi's lower citta-bhūmis of mūḍha and vikṣipta. Overcoming indifference, i.e., staying motivated, requires good association, but even the motivated meditator needs to overcome lethargy, the fruit of tamas, and distractions, the result of a preponderence of rajas.

Although Bhaktivinoda Thakur gives various prescriptions for overcoming these three defects, primarily focusing on seeking out higher association, which gives inspiration and so on, but in each case he comes back to sitting in isolation, minimizing distractions as far as possible.
Giving up sense objects, spend some time in the company of Vaishnavas,
one should chant the Name in a secluded place to eradicate the flaw [of inattentiveness]. (12.16)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur says that this can mean either chanting while sitting in an isolated room with the door locked, or with the eyes and head covered with a cloth.
Vaishnava custom holds that chanting is best performed in the presence of Tulasi Devi,
in a place of Lord Krishna’s pastimes, or in the association of saintly devotees. (12.18)
The words used here for Vaishnava custom are sätvata-vidhäna, which means the system discovered by the Vaishnavas who have enjoyed worshiping the Lord. At first they chant just half an hour a day, then gradually double this time and then again. Eventually they increase to chanting a lakh of Names per day, eventually increasing to three lakhs a day. Such increases take place naturally as one develops a taste for the chanting. (Comment to 12.18)
At first one should begin by keeping this rule for half an hour in such. By chanting or meditating in the company of advanced Vaishnavas one will see their mood and example and by emulating it, develop the desire to give up his indifference to the Holy Name. "So search out devotees of this quality and stay in their company, then emulate their character and give up lethargy." (Comment to 12.26)
There is no doubt that the opportunity to meditate with an advanced meditator is a special blessing that is not given to even sincere practitioners. Any ashram that teaches or promotes meditation practices should always have advanced meditators always present in group sessions.

But the point is that, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur intimates, there is a common ground of Yoga practice and Bhakti-yoga. One should not think that because the goal is apparently different that the practice is also different. On the level of pure mechanics, the same things are required and no Bhakti-yogi trying to take credit for seriousness can afford to allow the practices related to meditation to be ignored.

The Bhagavad-gita gives the basic outlines: Sit in a sacred spot regularly... but sitting with the back, neck and head erect is essential. Keeping the body still, practising keeping the body still for a longer and longer period of time. In Chapter 12 of HNC, Bhaktivinoda Thakur says to start by chanting for a fixed period of time each day, suggesting half an hour, rather than beginning with a count, because the tendency is to concentrate on the number of malas at the expense of training the mind to be still and concentrated. So I have come to feel also that it is better to chant with good concentration for a short time than spend a long time chanting without concentration.

Though Bhaktivinoda Thakur (nor indeed the Goswamis) do not mention it, breath observation and control is a necessary element in progressing to deeper levels of meditation. Then, careful attention to the mechanics of other processes that lead to the meditative state.

With regards to sanga, as you probably guess, I believe that sadhaka couples should meditate together as their primary practice. Other Yugala practices -- indeed any practices, no matter how potent -- will always be defective if there is no direct training in mind control, citta-vritti-nirodha.

11 comments:

pareshadasa said...

Dear Jagadananda Das Prabhu, Im very glad about your article. In fact, it came at a suitable time for me. I had just one opportunity of talking to you in Rishikesh last year, but I felt our meeting was of great importance on my spiritual path. Thanks for sharing such insight to us.

Sadhudasa Anudasa said...

Yes! This is inspiring for it is correct ad-vice (or AD-verse to VICE).

Anantavijaya said...

Thank you..

Saragrahi T Karapurnam said...

Part One
This post comes in synchronicity with my own "Dark Night Of The Soul" transition from First Naivete through Critical Distance toward Second Naivete. First Naivete is a term coined by Paul Ricoeur which describes a stage of faith generally known as Faithful or Fundamentalist. This preliminary stage corresponds to the Chaitanya Vaishnava stage of Kanishta Adhikari. James Fowler has also developed a seven stage categorization of religious and spiritual development that includes the three stages presented by Ricoeur, Chaitanya Vaishnavism and others.

Paul Ricoeur:
http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/Paul-Ricoeur.html

James Fowler:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowler%27s_stages_of_faith_development#Fowler.27s_stages
http://www.amazon.com/Stages-Faith-Psychology-Development-Meaning/dp/0060628669

At http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/Paul-Ricoeur.html, one reads, "According to Ricoeur, the rational forces brought to our civilization through modernity have made it difficult to accept religion or scripture in the "first naïveté" sense. Once subjected to rational inspection, the literal meanings of religion really do not hold up. Once a person allows himself to take a step back from religious belief, and examine it critically, he really cannot believe the simple, naïve, concepts his religion teaches at face value. This "critical distance" is the equivalent of the Rational level of spiritual development, as described on this site."

From my limited research, it appears the Chaitanya Vaishnava Sampradaya does not, at this time, contain a body of teachings and practices having to do with the transit of Critical Distance and immersion in the Second Naivete or Mystical Consciousness. It appears that the teachings of Shankaracharya, Sahajism and other teachings containing mystical lore are categorically rejected as unorthodox. Other religious and spiritual traditions have mystical traditions, such as Christian Gnosis, Islam Sufism and Judaic Kabbalah. In virtually all pre-industrial tribal societies, the Shaman acted as the teacher, maintainer and guide for First Naivete Stability, Critical Distance Transit and Second Naivete Mystical Explorations. It seems, under the influence of the current Industrial Civilization [Kali Yuga], the status of Shaman has devolved to that of Institutional Priest. One sees this devolvement of the Shaman into Brahman [also Smartism] in the Chaitanya Sampradaya, wherein the Brahman is usually more concerned with the memorization and maintenance of Religious Dogma than with recognition and exploration of the Second Naivete Mystical Realm.

In this consideration, one must also investigate the differences between Right and Left hand paths, in terms of the Chaitanya Vaishnava concepts of Vaidhi and Raga Bhakti: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_hand_path. The Right Hand and Vaidhi paths both have to do with the rules and regulations of religious and spiritual practices in terms of societal morality. The Left Hand and Raga paths both have to do with rejecting the strictures of religious and social regulations in order to embrace the freedoms of mystical realization available "beyond" or "outside". The relationship between the Right and Left hand paths in Chaitanya Vaishnava circles manifests in the form of contentious debate between the Vaidhi and Raga bhaktas. One group claims that certain rules and regulations must be followed by Raga practitioners, or else, and another group claims no specific rules and regulations need be followed, other than those actions, such as mantra recitation, which lead to trance and direct experience of non-physical states of consciousness.

Saragrahi T Karapurnam said...

Part Two
It appears there is a Spiritual Monomyth Odyssey [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth] involved in movement from the First Naivete, through Critical Distance into the Second Naivete [Mystical Dimensions]. The First Naivete is much like a village in a valley surrounded by mountains. As ones consciousness evolves, one begins to observe and experience "escalating cognitive dissonance" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance] wherein the village no longer suffices to fulfill ones developing spiritual needs. This causes an exodus from ones Village of Origin in search of understanding and experience free of the limitations of First Naivete consciousness. The exodus demands Critical Distance in the form of seeking out passages of egress through the mountains surrounding the Village. As one climbs higher and higher, one may look back upon the Village of Origin with perspectives unavailable to those remaining. At the "Critical Peak," the intrepid explorer is graced with a vision of another Village, beyond the mountain range, in which full spiritual realization can be obtained. Going up the mountain and down the other side brings one to the valley of Second Naivete.

In addition, there is also the concept of Sampradaya Evolution in which the initial status of First Naivete is extended to include the Critical Distance and Second Naivete. In this evolution, the Shaman of ancient times is again discovered and invited to guide "The People", not only in their First Naivete existence but also the Critical Distance and Second Naivete. The Shaman is well aware of Universal Archetypes, Sampradaya Symbols and Mythology and the specific practices for each stage of spiritual evolution by way of his or her "direct experience" of non-physical states of consciousness.

Saragrahi T Karapurnam said...

Part Three
The meditation practices of individuals in each of the three stages are different.

In the First Naivete, the practices are composed of time and place activity regulated by authority, rules and hierarchy with punishments for non-compliance. In this stage, direct experience of non-physical states of consciousness are rarely obtained. The main focus here is to create and maintain an identity based on an external adherence to Religion Dogma and maintenance of the hierarchical authority rule system. Universal Archetypes are presented as symbols, which are then presented as mythology, many of which contain direct contradictions to rational observation and experience. For the person in the First Naivete, Radha-Krishna is "out there", the Jiva is a marginal and separated energy and, in its detached and fallen position, is overwhelmed by the material nature which operates much like a huge machine The Creator has wound up so He can be on vacation with Her. Mired in darkness, the First Naivete soul is desperate for salvation from an external source. The Guru appears, as a 100% pure and perfect messenger from Radha-Krishna, to save the conditioned soul. This proposed form of salvation depends upon full surrender to the Guru and his Dogma, but does not depend on acute and deep understanding of mythology, symbology and universal archetypes. Mantra is to be chanted a specific number of times per day in order to get the desired effect. Sexual energies and activity are to be suppressed or sublimated and never directly experienced as a means of divine union. The First Naivete person seems content to remain suspended in external Dogma due to the [erroneous] understanding that, at the time of death, the accumulated result will instantly transport one to another dimension, even though the life long practice has contained no specific information about how the process of transfer works, nor what input is demanded of the practitioner. This [delusional] magic makes the First Naivete a simple matter of following rules, after which the results miraculously appear. The historical record and my personal observations show that such external religious practices rarely if ever lead to realization of non-physical states of consciousness.

Saragrahi T Karapurnam said...

Part Four
In the Critical Distance, the practices are composed of deep self-introspection, contemplation of external reality and a relentless search for rational, logical and scientific understanding with experiential proof. This is obtained by experimentation with such practices as hypnosis, astral projection, trance formation, breath work, sound, color, sexuality and growing familiarity with the non-physical nature of consciousness. In the Second Naivete, the practices include learning how to decode Religious Dogma to reveal the Universal Archetypes enfolded within symbols, mythology and Religion Dogma. The point of illumination here is that Radha-Krishna is not separate and "out there" but present equally everywhere and intimately involved "personally" as and with every aspect and moment of existence. The person in Critical Distance discovers that the jiva is not a separated energy but a fully integrated personality facet of Radha-Krishna. In this phase, the correct understanding of "simultaneous difference and non-difference" becomes, "universal differences with non-separation", non-difference and separation being as much an impossibility as non-existence. In this state of awareness, Radha-Krishna-Jiva are bound in absolute intimacy and engaged in co-creation and co-experience of unfolding existence via Lila Loka [pastimes and pastime venues].

In the Mystical Dimension, the practices are composed of Mystical Journeys through the layers of gross and subtle material coverings toward the divine abode of Radha-Krishna [Transcendental Universal Archetype Domain], wherein one discovers an eternal non-physical identity, venue and association. From the Mystical Dimension, the Shaman may serve his or her community in all matters pertaining to First Naivete and Critical Distance matters. The Shaman is the "spiritual hero" who has undergone or is undergoing the Monomyth Odyssey and returns again and again to the people with the elixir of eternal life and temporal success.

Perhaps one day "The Chaitanya Vaishnava Age Of Science And Consciousness Reformation" will painstakingly emerge upon the Critical Distance crest wave and guide the aforementioned Sampradaya evolutionary process in the direction of Second Naivete Mystical Experience?

Saragrahi Tarka Karapurnam
R-KaVACA
Shri Apurvada Gramya Paridhi

Bráulio Bhava said...

Hello Jagadananda,

Very interesting article. Just one note and correction, in Tantra Yoga by Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, the meditation is much like you said, and in fact is called īśvara-praṇidhāna

namaskar
bráulio

Bráulio Bhava said...

Hello Jagadananda,

Very interesting article. Just one note and correction, in Tantra Yoga by Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, the meditation is much like you said, and in fact is called īśvara-praṇidhāna

namaskar
bráulio

Satya devi dasi said...

Hare Krishna Prabhu,

In the section where you cite Harinama Chintamani, 12.16 & 12.18, you then cite commentary to 12.18. & 12.26. Is this commentary also Srila Bhaktivinode?

Thanks you. Radhe Radhe!

Jagat said...

Yes. Radhe Radhe.