In the CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Freud preached that the two prime motivating forces in life are sex and self-preservation. This may be a great oversimplification, but it does show how much of our time we devote to thinking about sex, putting ourselves in sexual situations and actually performing sex. This time could be more usefully utilized in spiritual directions, the yogis say, and though sexual union is a transcendental experience, it is far inferior to high states of meditation. Therefore, the ideal of yoga is that if you can leave sex you will attain a far greater degree of transcendence, bliss and union in the long run. If possible, leave sex behind, divert your mind to treading the spiritual path, and greater things will come. Sex is regarded as a necessary part of mundane life but a hindrance to spiritual evolution.
What does tantra say? It says almost the opposite. It says that the transcendental experience of sexual union should be utilized in your path to spiritual awareness. Does this mean that one system must be wrong? No, absolutely not! It just means they are tackling the problem of attaining transcendence in different ways. Their aim is the same, only their basic method differs. Tantra can be used by people who do not want to leave sexual activities, either through their very nature or because they are deeply involved in family life. It says don’t suppress your sexual inclinations, but utilize the power of sex to gain transcendence. Don’t just have sexual interplay; use it to climb the spiritual path. Be conscious of your heightened awareness during sexual acts, using it as a stepping stone
to higher awareness. Through the experiences gained by tantric sexual union and through other tantric practices, the aspirant will naturally evolve and then he will automatically lose mundane interest in sex. Of course sexual activity will not stop the continual distraction of one’s mind in life, but when the urge is strong it is far preferable to try to utilize it for spiritual purposes rather than to suppress it.
However one point must be remembered, and that is that tantra does not preach indiscriminate sexual interplay. It actually lays down specific rules about how the sexual energy can be utilized. For example, people who practise tantric union, known as maithuna, in its uncorrupted form, perform the sexual act without allowing the occurrence of a physical orgasm, which requires an enormous amount of willpower and nervous control. Additionally, persons who practise this aspect of tantric sadhana must do so under the guidance of a guru, who will surely lay down strict guidelines on how they must conduct their lives and what course their spiritual sadhana must follow.
There are various other types of yoga, but generally they are only modifications of the systems we have already mentioned. For example, jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge; it is the means to attain high meditational states, and eventually samadhi, through reason. Actually it means reasoning in a particular sense, namely, discrimination between what is real and what is unreal. It
is very close to raja yoga except it does not utilize the preparatory stages of raja yoga such as yamas, niyamas, asanas and pranayama. Raja yoga uses these as methods of stilling the mind. Jnana yoga tries to still the mind by reasoning.
All religions, whether the adherents know it or not, aim at attaining meditation or transcendence. We will not deal with this subject in detail, but to give a few examples, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all basically bhakti or devotional faiths that aim at attaining oneness with a personal form of God. In this endeavour prayers, rituals, hymns, contemplation, etc., are utilized to purify and concentrate the mind, thereby inducing transcendental experiences.
Buddhism has much in common with raja and jnana yoga, but gives an emphasis on attentiveness. Every action must be viewed from the standpoint of a witness. Awareness of every action and thought must be heightened. Samkhya, which provides the philosophical background to yoga, also utilizes the same system. The idea is to de-automate our actions. Many, if not most, of our actions are entirely automatic; on attention, no concentration is required. By being more aware of our every action, our consciousness is opened up to new spheres of being. Further, continual attention to the task or action in hand prevents the mind becoming absorbed or brooding over problems, dislikes, fears and so on. With continual awareness, complexes and worries disappear of their own accord; they no longer play a large role in the individual personality. All this leads to meditation as a
continuous process throughout every minute of life.
Hinduism is not really one religion; it actually encompasses all types of religion and yoga. It is a compendium of religions. All the different facets lead to meditational states. Thus we can say that meditation is a common aim of all religions, including the many that we have not mentioned, eventually leading to self-realization.
The importance of making preparations for meditation cannot be over-emphasized. Though there are a few evolved people who can merely sit down and start their meditation, and even fewer who are continually meditating anyway, adequate preparations are necessary for most people. Without making suitable preparations their progress will be seriously impeded. It is for this reason that the reader is advised to carry out the following instructions. As he progresses he will find out for himself the best preparations. The following is a guide applicable to most people.
Calming the mind
Sometimes it is possible to sit down for meditation and the mind spontaneously concentrates, no effort is required, yet at other times the mind wanders here and there like a wild elephant. Even autosuggestion doesn’t seem to work. An excellent method to calm the mind, to tame its wandering tendency and to gain the ability to concentrate during the meditation practice is to chant Om loudly for as long as you can. Chant Om from your heart and not from the mouth; say it with intensity and feeling. Lose yourself and your ego in its sound. Feel its vibrations in your whole body and mind. If this doesn’t still the mind, then nothing will. Incidentally, Om chanting alone can be considered an extremely powerful meditation technique.
Regularity and dedication
Don’t expect meditational experiences to occur the first
time you meditate. Just do your practices regularly and persevere. In fact, at times one may become disheartened and will wonder whether meditation is a waste of time or even a myth. With dedication, transcendental experiences must come to you. The eventual aim is for the meditation to be a spontaneous, unrestrained flow of bliss or joy. One’s whole life becomes a meditational experience. This is the culmination of your practice of sitting down at a particular time and place every day.
Suitable place of practice
When you decide on a place to practise meditation, try to use the same place daily. It should be clean and conducive to tranquillity. It should be well ventilated but not breezy, and it should be dry. Place a blanket or rug on the floor. During meditation it is desirable to reduce outside stimuli as much as possible; therefore a quiet corner of a room is recommended where you cannot see out of a window. Don’t meditate under a fan, and try to ensure that there is no furniture or other objects within a radius of about two yards.
It is best to meditate in the early morning and in the evening before going to bed. The best hours are from 4 to 6 in the morning. This is the period of brahmamuhurta and it is particularly conducive to meditation. Allow at least one to one and a half hours before meditation after taking light refreshment, and four hours after a meal. This is because attention is drawn to the stomach and the digestion process. Try to eat moderately, not heavily.