Since we started with the understanding that happiness is found within, not without (outside), the search naturally has to be within. So the ‘Sadhana’ (spiritual practice) has to be turning inward; so from extroversion to introversion.
Now, believe me, this does not mean that the saadhak (spiritual aspirant or student) who turns within to find the truth which is its own self, neglects the world or runs away from it. This search for happiness, this search for one’s true identity or consciousness, is not reserved for renunciants or monks (sanyasis).
It’s for every human being, every human being like you and me who lives in this world, works for his living and who has a family, who cares for other human beings.
But, then the daily activities of the world are often distracting, so distracting, that to practice sadhana, one needs to find certain times, certain periods when one can sit in solitude and practice. Once one becomes an expert at it, it can be done anywhere in the world.
Now, this practice of sadhana is what is known generally as meditation. This meditation that we are talking about is not some kind of mumbo jumbo, done behind closed doors, it is merely a method taught to a student by a spiritual teacher who has himself practiced it and it is based on the kind of student. What stage he or she is in and how much he or she can practice regularly?
Therefore, to study and understand this meditation which is called sadhana, requires contact between the teacher and the taught, between the student and the teacher.
There is no common formula by which millions of human beings can touch their inner self and find true happiness, because everyone is made differently – physically, mentally and psychologically.
Now, there are so many ways and so many methods of sadhana, depending upon the person’s background, personality and psychological makeup.
In this regard, I’d like to mention a great sage, teacher and saint, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who was the spiritual teacher of Swami Vivekananda. We are all familiar with Swami Vivekananda. He is well known and he was one of the first spiritual teachers from this country (India) to go west and speak about the Indian Philosophies and the practice of yoga.
Now, Ramakrishna Paramahansa had many disciples and each one he treated and taught in different ways and every one of them, at least most of them, turned out, at the end, to be sages in their own right. Not one technique was the same as the other. The approaches were different.
So what I mean to say is there has to be an contact between the teacher and the student so that the teacher can discover what kind of a student one is and teach accordingly, so that he may proceed at his own pace and come finally to one’s true inner self, which is the consciousness deep down in us which by its very nature is full of bliss.
|Ancient Indian Texts in Sanskrit (the language of the seers)|
The Vedas (a large body of texts originating in ancient India) have called it 'sat-chit-ananda', which is actually one word made of three syllables, which are sat – the truth, chit - consciousness and ananda – happiness. So slowly and gradually by the practice of sadhana, under the guidance of an expert teacher, the student moves inwards, goes deep within and realises that his very nature is happiness. He doesn’t have to look for it anywhere outside.
When this really happens, not theoretically but as an experiential thing, then one becomes a perfect yogi. Then one is ready to teach not before that. But the question often asked is, ‘If we take to the practise of sadhna, how can we work in this world and do we have to go away to a quiet cave and meditate to find the happiness that you are talking about?
It’s not true, although short periods of solitude are required. Ultimately one comes out of it and mixes with the world. If you go to the caves of the Himalayas and meditate for twelve years and say that I am free of anger and jealousy and all the emotions normally associated with undeveloped human minds, I really can’t be speaking the truth because there is no way to test it.
I can’t get angry with the cave, I can’t get upset or jealous with the grass growing outside. It’s only when I come out and get into a bus and somebody kicks me on my foot that I am able to find out if I am really free of anger, jealousy, so on and so forth.
So while it’s required to spend some period in solitude, especially in the beginning, Ramakrishna Parmahamsa used to say that in the beginning of the sadhana, one should protect oneself like the little sapling which is protected by surrounding it with a ring of thorny bushes, so that the cow doesn’t eat it up before it grows. But once it grows, there is no need of any such protection.
One can come back into this world and lead a life which is quite, to all intents and purposes, looking the same to others. Deep down, one is a changed person and the change which is within, that is absolute peace and happiness, is reflected in one’s dealings with the outside world.
Now this process of finding one’s true self which is one’s true consciousness, which is happiness, unalloyed happiness, independent of anything of the outside world, this is what is meant by the spiritual journey.
So you would have understood by now that it’s not cut off from day to day living. In fact it complements day to day living. One who practices meditation and lives in this world will soon discover even the workings of this world or his relationship with this world or the way he functions in this world is much more perfect than it was before.
Now, one has to start somewhere and that starting point is not far away but right here and now. One can start with ten minutes of introspection daily and then slowly proceed to the more important and intricate aspects of meditation.
So now we can deal with what is meditation, what are the different kinds of meditation and so on and so forth.
- To be continued