What is the easiest way for concentration?
Japa of the name of the Lord. And a very important point to bear in mind in this connection is that perfect concentration is not achieved in just a day; you should never despair and give up your efforts. Be calm. Be patient. Do not worry if the mind wanders. Be regular in your japa; stick to the meditation hour. Slowly the mind will automatically turn God-ward. And once it tastes the bliss of the Lord, nothing will be able to shake it.
It is said that if the senses are turned inside, one will be able to attain liberation. What is meant by turning them inside?
Think of Lord Rama and repeat Rama, Rama. When you mentally repeat Rama, keep a picture of Rama. The senses will be withdrawn. Now the eyes run towards objects and the ears run to various sounds. When you repeat Rama, Rama loudly, the ears hear only Rama, Rama; and they will not run. The inner eye will see only Ramas picture. The mind will be concentrated on Rama. It will not run towards objects. So, gaze within, introspect. You can also do pranayama. Stop the breath. It is prana that gives strength to the senses. You withdraw the prana and try to centralize it so that the senses have no vigour to run outside. By gradual practice, the senses will be absorbed in the mind. The mind will be concentrated and will be absorbed in the Self. That is the superconscious state, samadhi.
I am not able to practise meditation for more than ten minutes. After that my mind begins to wander on sensual objects. What can I do?
When you develop ruchi or taste for dhyana and japa, you will be able to sit longer for the practices. Before going to bed, at four oclock in the morning, and before taking your meal at noon, you should do japa and meditation. Just as you take tea three or four times a day, you should also do japa three or four times a day. Do not worry if the mind wanders. By gradual practice, it will come under your control. Do kirtan when the mind wanders much. Do naam smaran, remembrance of the Name, while walking and working also. If you are not able to sit in padmasana for long, you can sit on a sofa and do japa and meditation. It is not necessary that you should sit in padmasana.
Give up onions and garlic completely. If you try to reduce the intake, one day you will take a little, another day you will be tempted to take a good quantity! A cigarette addict who wants to reduce cigarettes, takes a very few cigarettes on some days, but on other days he smokes heavily, with a vengeance as it were, and more than compensates for the quantity foregone by him previously. Therefore, give up onions completely.
If you give nice cotton seeds and oil-cakes to your cow, it will cease to graze in your neighbours fields, it will give up its wandering habit in search of grass and herbs. Now your mind is running after rasagulla and peda which it has tasted. But if you give the mind the bliss of japa and meditation, it will no more run after worldly objects. When you develop a taste for japa and meditation, the mind will give up its wandering habit.
What is the technique of concentration on the eighteen parts of the body as advised by Sage Yajnavalkya for the purpose of attaining pratyahara?
The technique of concentration as given by Sage Yajnavalkya involves a process of withdrawing the mind and prana gradually and step by step from one part of the body to another, starting from the two big toes of the feet and progressing upward by a series of successive acts of such concentration-cum-withdrawal, through the several occult centres of the body, leading finally to the crown of the head. By this process, the mind and prana are totally drawn away from the entire body and finally centred in the top of the head where the practitioner dives into deep meditation.
The eighteen parts mentioned by Sage Yajnavalkya are: 1) big toes, 2) ankles, 3) middles of the shanks, 4) the parts above the shanks and below the knees, 5) centres of the knees, 6) centres of the thighs, 7) anus, 8) centre of the body just below the waist, 9) genitals, 10) navel, 11) heart, 12) pit of the throat, 13) root of the palate, 14) root of the nose, 15) eyeballs, 16) centre of the eyebrows, 17) forehead, and 18) crown of the head.
It is when the senses are active that the mind becomes outgoing. Thus, concentration is retarded. The senses are made active by the play of prana. With the withdrawal of prana, the different parts of the body are rendered quiescent and their activity inhibited. In this technique, the effective withdrawal of prana is achieved by the withdrawal of the mind. It is not so much by a process of pranayama as by making use of the interconnection between prana and the mind that this withdrawal of prana is effected. When the mind is firmly withdrawn after a short spell of deep concentration upon a particular part, automatically, together with the ingoing mind, the prana too gets withdrawn. Prana follows the mind.
Thus, stage by stage, prana is withdrawn from the big toes upwards right up until it reaches the region of the crown of the head by which time the meditator is, as it were, oblivious of the body. In this state, the meditation proceeds undisturbed and becomes very effective.
This is one of the processes to enter into undisturbed and intense dhyana. Sit on your asana. Create the right mood and bhava by a little chanting of the Pranava mantra, Om. Next, negate the entire phenomenal universe, including this earth. When you reach the state where you are aware only of the body, then commence this process of withdrawal.
Closing your eyes, first direct your entire mind upon the two big toes. Concentrate there. Then gradually draw up the mind from the region of the toes to the next point, the ankles. Now concentrate here. Then withdraw yourself to the third point, the middle of the shanks. Concentrate here. Next withdraw into the fourth part, and so on. After a few days progress, depending on the interest and the earnestness with which you do it, you will be able to go through the entire series of eighteen parts and reach the seat of meditation on the crown of the head within a short time after taking up your seat in the meditation pose.
What is your idea about nirguna brahman? Does it mean only shoonya? In that case, it does not appeal to us very much. Who would like to meditate on nothingness?
Nirguna is not nothingness. It is the fullness of everything that is good. Nirguna is plenitude. In it you find all auspiciousness, all goodness, all beauty, all joy, all health, all sweetness, all purity, all peace, everything developed to perfection. From a distance this fullness becomes inconceivable and so the sages called it nirguna, formless. Once they reach there, they get merged in that inexpressible experience. It is not nothingness, but it is everythingness, and beyond this too, for it is inexpressible. Only know that all that exists in maya or false perception, evil, ugliness, misery, change, birth, decay, death, are not in it. For, it is beyond maya. In nirguna Brahman, there are no gunas of maya. That is what is meant by nirguna.
I understand the biggest mistake an aspirant often makes is to falsely identify lower samadhi with higher or the highest samadhi. But how can someone who makes such a mistake guard himself against it?
When one rises to the state of samadhi, he does not make the mistake of doubting as to whether it is lower or higher or the highest. He knows what it is without doubt, quite naturally.