Understanding Meditation & Its Benefits From Vedic Fundamentals Perspective
Did you know the words medicine and meditation come from the root word-medi, which means ‘to heal’ in Latin. While medicine is used to treat diseases in the physical body, it appears that meditation is the medication needed by our soul body and our mind.
To understand meditation, we need to understand our mind.
What is Mind?
Vedic texts describe the mind as the sum total of our thoughts, conviction, anti-thoughts, emotions of nine kinds, perception, wrong perception.
Did you know?
Our mind experiences emotions, which are placed in 9 basic categories:
- Karuna -Sorrow
- Bibhatsa- Disgust
- Shantha-Peace or tranquillity
Image: Nine Kinds of Emotions Ayurveda
Based on the level and the kind of activity, the mind is found to exist in 5 states.
These are described by Sage Patanjali-
Kshipt: Disturbed state of mind due to a known reason.
Vikshipt: Disturbed state of mind due to unknown reason
Moodha: Lost state of mind.
Ekagra: Focused and one-pointed attentive state of mind
Nirodha- Equanimous state of mind very close to meditative state
Also, as per our ancient Vedic scriptures, mind is just one form of the tool Nature has given us to contemplate. Mind is actually a form of ‘antahkarana’. Antahkarana means a tool (karana) which gathers information from outside and brings it inside (anta-ha) .
And there are 4 states of Antahkarana
Image: Symbol of Antahkarana
Mind (Mann): The conscious mind which functions as per sensory exprines, penceptions, feelings, emotions, and thought, conviction (sankalpa), anti thoughts to convisn (vikalpa). The more free the mind is of unneeded emotions and thoughts, anti thoughts, the better it functions and is said to be clear. A clear mind can make a string sankalpa, which will manifest in the real world.
Intellect (Buddhi): The faculty of antahkarana which makes a decision. Out of many anti- thoughts or vikalpa, the intellect chooses one, it determines what will come to be in the form action. It’s the decisive power of antahkarana.
Subconscious (Chitta): Which is like a camera which records each event, each moment of our lives, present, past and future. It misses nothing we do or what happens to us through sensory or extrasensory experience. It has impressions of whatever we have been through like a dormant seed. This seed, when given the right conditions to flourish, matures in conscious action and bears fruit in time. Its impressions are deeply related to our karmic account.
Ego- Sense of “I” ness (Ahankara): We all feel that we exist. No one says -’I don’t exist’. This feeling of being distinct from the others, our environment, and everything else is ahankara or I-ness. It’s due to I-ness that we don’t realise our oneness of being with the whole of the cosmos. But, we perceive ourselves to be this small human being. It requires, humongous effort to get rid of ahankara. Scriptures mention that for this purpose, one needs help from a Realized Master.
Coming to stress and anxiety in daily life; we can relate them to the kshipt and vikshipt states of mind. Through the root of the vikshipt mind lies in the subconscious or chitta.
Now, Let’s Analyse What Makes Our Mind Feel Happy.
When whatever expectation we had formed in our mind from the external world, it gets met, our mind feels happy.
What is Sadness?
It’s the state of mind we experience in finding situations not in accordance with our expectations.
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem related to any apparent reason in the present. All is going well and still you feel it’s missing. Our mind is sad. This is closely related to the vikshipt state of mind. The reason is somewhere in the subconscious, in the immediate physical world. So, without reason the mind is depressed or sad. Somehow, it’s related to first hand experience of expectations not being met at some point in time in the past.
Now, let’s delve deeper into this.
Why is it that the mind feels happy in reality? What happens inside the subtle realms that the ‘moon’ of happiness rises in the mind.
For this, we need to delve deeper within our being.
You might think, I have gone bonkers.
Wait a minute.
Let’s see this chart
You know, our scriptures clearly tell us that we, as human beings, are comprised of 5 subtle levels of bodies or treasures or cases.
What are they?
Yes, coming onto that.
The first layer of your physical existence is your gross body-Annamaya Kosha, our body made from food.
Second is mind- Manomaya Kosha (body made from thoughts, anti-thoughts, feelings , emotions, vipraya, wrong knowledge).
Third, Pranmayi Kosha- this is the energy body, the subtle part of food or elements which give life to our gross body and mind. Prana also connects the mind to the body. It is closely related to our breath. Changing breathing patterns has an effect on prana and it also modifies the mind. So, deeper breathing enhances prana and strengthens the mind (calms it down).
Fourth, Vigyanmayi Kosha. This or the subtle body which understands everything about the external world, comprises our five senses dealing with the external world. These are powers to see in the eyes, power to hear in ears, power to smell in the nose, and the power of the skin to feel touch, heat, cold, and stimuli, tonhou to taste.
Fifth is the Anandamayi Kosha or bliss body. This is the subtle body or treasure case around our Real Self, which (hold your breath!) is related to bliss and happiness. It is a blissful body. It’s situated closest to the real You. Just outside the Real Me (Atman) is the anandamayi kosha.
When this anandamaya kosha reflects in your manomayi ksosha, you get the feeling of happiness or bliss.
So, why does this happen on fulfilment of desire?
This is because every desire arises to create a turbulence in the mind. When the mind moves, anandamaya kosha does not reflect on it, nor does the atman, so it becomes anxious, unhappy, sad, or non blissful.
Image: Disturbed state of mind-No clear reflection of Atman
But, when your desire is fulfilled, for that moment, the thought subsides, and the mind stills for a while. In that while, the blissful body and atman get reflected in the mind; you feel bliss and happiness.
A yogi, who is ever in a calm mind state, feels this bliss day in and day out. Because the truth is happiness is inside of you. Yes! You guessed right, in the anandamaya kosha. The real nature of atman (real me) is bliss. You are ever blissful consciousness.
It’s like having treasure within, but begging for pennies outside, not being able to access your own treasure. But, in the process of asking for pennies, you’re also getting debt. The debt from the world, karmic debt.
More negative karma (nishiddha karma) we do to satiate desires, the more we incur unhappiness, anxiety, sadness and all negative undesirable emotions in the process. When this negative karma manifests in our life, it can plague our mind into sickness.
Adding good karma to your karmic account is an important and preliminary step to recovering from negative emotions or a negative state of mind.
The real medicine to get rid of anxiety, depression and sadness is within you, understanding your real self-Atman.
Meditation is a path to know the real self. It also restores your brain’s chemical balance and everything else you need to feel like a wholesome human being.
Did you know?
Good karma always translates into happy emotions and life situations in due course of time.
What are Good Karmas (Vihita Karma)?
Actions that bring a smile to someone’s lips, add value to anyone’s lives, and add to the happiness quotient of the world without a touch of egoistic-ness.
- Charity as per financial capacity to the right place.
- Volunteering in community services.
- Planting and nurturing a tree.
- Feeding animals or raking care of sentient beings.
- Helping a fellow human.
- Giving a smile (especially to strangers!)
- Mantra chanting.
- Practising Compassion.
In short, try to make your mind aligned with Nature. Being good to yourself and others are positive actions or good karma. Meditation is not only good karma, but also a fruit of small good actions done earlier.
In modern context, we can say that meditation is the process of bringing an equanimous state of mind.
Meditation resolves the kshipt, vikshipt, and moodha states of mind. It goes beyond ekagra state, it enters the mind into nirodha, samadhan, or savikalpa samadhi. It lets you enjoy the bliss of your own being without any external crutches of desires, objects or material things. It allows direct access to Atman and experiencing anandamaya kosha (bliss body).
Are problems bogging you down?
Don’t worry, you can still begin and start the process to get rid of negativity!
When negative emotions and situations are plaguing our lives, we can take an initial step, in the form of mantra meditation or mantra chanting. Repetition of mantra with breath control to a certain extent helps to resolve the negative states of mind. It brings back health and strength to your mind.
There are different kinds of meditation practices which are being practised and have shown to give great results of improving the quality of life in physical life.
The Real Goal
Let me say that scriptures tell us the goal of achieving a meditative state is to experience samadhan or samadhi. It ultimately flowers into self realisation.
Image: Know Thyself
But, to start with meditation can help to relieve anxiety, stress, tension and the like. There are various side benefits which you get from practice of meditation. The best part is it removes our ignorance of thinking ourselves to be limited, sad, powerless, and such a negative self image.
You are a reflection of the Lord, the Universal Consciousness-You are Truth, Bliss, Omnipresent, Consciousness- Satchidananda. Meditation brings you to this point of understanding (through nirvikalpa samadhi one day). This state, when rejected in mind is what will end all the sadness, reasons of dejection from your life.
What Is Sorrow?
Sorrow is whatever causes sadness in our lives. This is due to unfulfillment of our desires.
There are three kinds of sorrows, dukkha (sadness) or as per Scriptures.
Adi Daivik: Anguish and despair due to natural calamities.
Adi Bhautik: Despair due to physical, debt, and enemies.
Adhyatmik: Grief due to spiritual inadequacy, mental illnesses, and the like.
So, when you come to know your real self or atman, through nirvikalpa samadhi, you know, you’re not the body, mind or ahankara. You’re universal consciousness. You know this through experience, like today you know you are Mr. So and So, Mrs A, or Ms Li. It might sound intriguing, but this is how it is! : )
How Much Time Should I Invest In Meditation?
Meditation has immense power. But, like other things, it requires practice and consistency. You need to invest at least 30 minutes a day to practise meditation.
In the least, you should start with 10 minutes of whatever form of meditation practice suits your physical nature. We’ll describe the different meditation practices one can learn and practice in the following article.
Thumb Rule 😉 (arrow up)
How Will Meditation Help Me?
There are also so many physical benefits of meditation. Research suggests that regular practice of meditation helps control symptoms of certain illnesses such as:
- High Blood Pressure
- Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour.
However, it’s always better to consult your healthcare practitioner to know the pros and cons of meditation for your health condition.
More on this in the following article.
But, it’s always better to have a higher aim. Reach out to the sky, the real goals, the things in between will come anyway. In the process, we’ll become beautiful human beings with splendid lives. The beauty and joy which descend into its lives, the level of acceptance the mind gets is precious fruits of meditative practices.
But, you need to learn it from a Self-Realised Master, no less, no more. If your heart is yearning deeply, you’ll surely find one or They’ll reach out to you.
Just keep walking the path earnestly! It’s a beautiful path…