Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The Sanskrit word for spiritual practice is sadhana. Sadhana means spiritual effort, not physical or mental effort. Spiritual effort or endeavour seems to be an act of opening the door to enlightenment. Enlightenment is the prime purpose of yoga. Out of the many practices there is one method which has become popular throughout the world and is called the spontaneous awareness of consciousness.

Isolation of consciousness

Let anyone who is interested in developing higher awareness sit down in a calm and quiet posture with eyes closed. Let the mind be aware for some time of the physical body from top to toe. Let the awareness remain in the body. Usually when body consciousness comes to the mind, one tries to avoid it. The body consciousness is lost and then it comes again.

However, in this method one knows that one is thinking of the body, is aware of the body and conscious of the existence of bodily functions. At the same time, the concentration becomes so deep, that after a while the practitioner switches from the body to the mind and becomes aware of the thought process which is taking place somewhere in the conscious and subconscious fields.

When the body is gone, the mind remains. The mind is experienced in the form of thoughts, emotions and certain subtle processes. Every thought that emerges from the subconscious level and comes in the form of a symbol, vision, or idea must be seen as clearly as possible. There must be complete detachment and disidentification with the thought process. After a few days practice, one will be beyond the body and mind, for in spite of the awareness of body and mind, the idea of body and mind is lost.

Then the consciousness of ‘I' comes in, devoid of the idea of body and mind; just ‘I' without name, distinction of caste, creed or sex. This awareness becomes so extended and so supreme, that at a certain point the difference between I and you, they, he and everything is lost. This is the final point of spiritual realization.

In meditation, the aspirant should develop the awareness to the maximum degree and a little awareness must diffuse into the supreme awareness. Ultimately, nothing should remain except ‘One'. When that supreme state is attained, it is called revelation, the giving up of knowledge. It is the point of liberation, freedom and the isolation of consciousness.

Overcoming obstacles

Yoga says that in deep meditation one becomes free of tension, worries and anxieties, the so-called subconscious trammel, and finds peace within oneself. This peace is different from happiness, it is a kind of positive, dynamic power. In regards to meditation a few points should be remembered.

First of all, the practitioners should make their asana perfect, in which they can comfortably sit for one hour without moving the body, without feeling any pain or hampering the blood circulation.

Second, after deep meditation, practitioners must see that they do not enter a state of depression, which happens to all spiritual aspirants due to lack of sufficient oxygen in the system. This causes depression, yawning and sleep, which has to be avoided by the regular practice of pranayama, a pure diet and other methods.

Third, one has to fix the faults in one's meditation. It seems to be so easy in the beginning, but when practitioners actually practice meditation they find it difficult. To sit down for meditation is easy, but after a certain stage the practitioners sleep. They forget everything and do not remember what they are doing. Self-awareness is lost which is not desirable in meditation.

Most aspirants who meditate want to forget everything. However, it should be remembered that everything should be forgotten except self-awareness. It is the central point to be remembered during meditation. If it is forgotten, the path is missed and one enters into laya, total suspension of consciousness. This is a spiritual loss.

The triad

When sitting down quietly for meditation, one should try to forget the body and mind through positive or negative methods, but maintain the consciousness throughout. The awareness of meditating should remain to a great extent.

At this point the awareness of the meditator, the object of meditation and the process of meditation, this triad, this threefold process exists. The knowledge ‘I am meditating', the awareness ‘I am meditating on this point', and the awareness of ‘how the meditation is proceeding' should remain.

This triad helps in the beginning to maintain awareness throughout the meditation; otherwise the suspension of consciousness takes place. Finally, one must have patience, perseverance and the power of intuition, which will force the consciousness to detach itself from the material aspect of the personality.

Divine pilgrimage

I have given a little glimpse of meditation and yoga. I personally feel that in our lives everything is available, we can get everything quickly, but we do not get meditation. Few teachers and guides are able to give us guidance and let us know how to take this mind on the path of divine pilgrimage.

The mind has to be taken from outside, where it is wandering among the sense objects of the world, the temporary things, which are so nice in the beginning and so bad in the end. The mind has to be taken from there and directed inside, where the innermost part of our personality is full of illumination, knowledge, peace and bliss. Those who know how to go there, at least for a few seconds every day, they know how to maintain peace, tranquility, equanimity and strength in their lives. This is the panacea for our age.

My request to all is to try meditation every day, if possible in the morning hours, and if not, definitely at night before going to bed.

In the morning hours, the condition of the mind, body, glandular secretions, and so on, is conducive to meditation. Yogis throughout the world get up at 4 am and meditate until 6 am. Try to experience the divine moment of meditation, but let it not be forced, let it be spontaneous and come from within you.

1972, Sivanandashram, Munger, India