In the Meditations from the Tantras Great thinkers now begin to exclaim in awe that each cell contains, inherent within itself, the total knowledge of our evolutionary past. In other words, each cell contains a memory of everything that has happened in each individual’s past: when he was a germ plasma, struggling to emerge from the primordial mud during the birth of life; when he was a fish; when the fish struggled onto the land to start the line of land animals; when he was a monkey; when he was a Neanderthal man; when he became a human of the same type that exists today, a few thousand years ago; when he was in his mother’s womb. All this information is stored in every single cell in the body. The immediate reaction to this idea is that it is impossible. Our conditioned mind cannot accept or grasp it, yet this has been frequently described by progressive thinkers, including many great scientists.
This is what has always been said by great spiritual giants throughout history. They have said that infinite knowledge exists within. What is outside is also inside. The human is the miniaturized version of the universe. They have said that as you dive into the depths of your being you are able to gain knowledge of your past lives. And now science is starting to prove the truth of these statements. Religion and science, which only a few years ago seemed so far away from each other, are starting to merge into a higher form of knowledge.
Scientists have mapped out the physical form of the DNA molecule. They have explored it with electron microscopes. The next stage is to investigate the inherent nature of the DNA molecule, the property that science cannot explore at present because its nature is a subjective experience, beyond the realms of science. Is it too much to suggest that the method of exploring these DNA molecules is meditation? Because meditation is all about exploring the inner nature. Meditation should become the tool of scientific investigation into the nature of the DNA molecule or anything else that needs to be investigated internally.
The white matter ego
The reticular activating system is located at the top of the spinal cord. It is the valve that controls the information that actually reaches our conscious perception. It is the part of the brain that regulates man’s depth of consciousness, e.g. sleeping, conscious, superconscious states, etc., and it allows only a refined trickle of
information to seep through the consciousness, preventing other data which it considers unsuitable from reaching conscious perception. It is the censor of the human mind.
Some people have called this system the ego, which is the central theme in psychology. Through its activity we are aware of only certain aspects of perception, and totally unaware of most of the information reaching the brain. It is in fact an essential part of the brain, for without it we would be flooded with sense data. For example, while we write a letter our consciousness is concerned with thinking what to write and the writing process itself. If we simultaneously received an influx of sounds, smells, skin sensations and information on organic activity in the body, we would find it impossible to write the letter. The reticular activating system shuts out all irrelevant information from the senses, allowing information which is concerned with the work in hand to reach consciousness. It allows us to concentrate on our work.
How does the system act as the ego? The reticular activating system allows information to reach consciousness if it has intensity. In other words, information about the outside world reaches our awareness if, and only if, it reinforces our mental programming, if it agrees with our prejudices, if it fits our mental pattern. It is in this way that it acts as the ego. It identifies with complexes, inhibitions, likes, dislikes, etc., which make up the egotistical nature of an individual, and feeds the individual consciousness with the information which tallies with or will satisfy these facets of the individual’s taste or desires. Therefore, if we fear something, then information
which reinforces this fear will be most likely to rise to conscious perception. It is the same with other emotional and rational programming. For this reason we can never see the world as it is. We see a blurred picture of the world and the people around us.
If we remove these fears, phobias, complexes, likes, dislikes and any other prejudices, we will start to see a clearer picture of the world. The reticular activating system will have less of a bias, less of a tendency to let us be aware only of the things that reinforce our complexes, etc. It will allow information to flow to consciousness which is less determined by our negative mental programming. If our mind is reasonably untroubled and loving, then we will see the environment in the same light. If our mind is habitually relaxed, then we will see the world in a similar way, where everything is harmonious.
Eventually, in the highest stages of the spiritual path, even love in an emotional sense disappears. In this case the feeling of love is transcended, so that even love doesn’t colour the mind. The consciousness now identifies with everything; the oneness is experienced; now there is no intermediate censor between consciousness and the environment. In this condition even the ego has disappeared. It becomes superfluous, for there are no preferences in the mind to be satisfied. The centre of consciousness now operates from the self instead of the ego.
Purification of the mind is the aim of yoga in general, of meditation in particular, as well as the techniques given in this book. Thus the aim is to break down the existing complexes, phobia and prejudice-riddled mental program and replace it with a purified mental program. Meditation, highest meditation, then becomes a spontaneous process. Thus the barriers that have long kept separate the fields of science and spirit are fast being broken down. The dichotomy between them is lessening. Even now science presents possibilities of helping people to tread the spiritual path, and meditation offers great potential in helping science to understand the mind systematically and to gain a deeper insight into existence.
Meditation implies relaxation, both physical and mental, at a level which few of us experience even during sleep. For this reason meditation brings excellent health and can alleviate and cure many types of disease.
Before discussing this we would like to emphasize the non-duality that exists between body and mind. For too long it has been assumed that a physical ailment is devoid of mental content, and that a mental ailment is devoid of any physical content. Only comparatively recently has the intimate relationship between the physical and mental spheres been realized. They are really one whole. For example, physical relaxation will surely also bring mental relaxation and conversely, mental relaxation will also bring physical relaxation. The reader must have realized this for himself. So when one discusses any disease, it must be seen as involving both mind and body.
Meditation acts as a holistic, or whole, treatment for disease. It is a more widely encompassing method of treatment than is provided by drugs, which tend to ‘cure’ the disease of an organ but can have unforeseen negative repercussions on other parts of the body. Many cases of this can be cited. Meditation takes the treatment back to the sufferer. The patient will be able to exercise more power himself over his health for the removal of his ailment. The treatment will concern the whole mind-body complex. Through meditation the mind can be trained to cure the ailment, but first one must know how to meditate
and exercise a greater control over the mind-body. When one becomes aware of the inner processes of the mind and body, one can direct energies where they are most needed. People with diseases will know how to direct their inner energy to the diseased organ.
The physiological effects of meditation
Meditation is a most powerful way of controlling physiological processes and also of controlling physiological reactions to psychological events. One of the most profound changes that takes place in the body during meditation is the slowing down of the metabolism, the rate of breaking down and building up the body, for there is a sharp reduction in oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide output. Experimenters have measured up to a 20 percent decrease in oxygen consumption, which is because the respiration rate is slower. The reduced metabolic rate is due to the control over the involuntary nervous system which one develops through meditation.
Meditation has a noticeable influence on blood pressure, which drops much lower than normal both during and after meditation, and, therefore, meditation can be particularly recommended for those people suffering from high blood pressure. The heart rate also slows down to a few beats every minute. Another interesting discovery regarding the blood system is the fact that the blood flow increases during meditation. To explain this we must again bring in the autonomic nervous system and, in particular, the sympathetic nerve network. This network, as one of its many functions, constricts the blood vessels and in turn the blood flow. The greater the constriction, the less the blood flow. During meditation the activities of the sympathetic system are reduced and therefore constriction of the blood vessels is automatically decreased, resulting in a greater flow of blood.