Recently a friend referred me to a website which had an impressive collection of different kinds of meditations. He had tried one of them – watching the breath – and found a deep inner peace. He was very surprised that such a simple technique can have such a profound effect on the mind.
We are usually extrovert. The mind is created so. So usually we are carried away by the noise of the external world and throw our mind on the various things we see outside. We desire for things, we hate things, we judge things, etc. The mind is thus scattered. When the mind is turned inwards it gets detached from the noise and activity. For a short period of time, the mind calms down. This results in an experience of peace.
There are two points to be noted here.
(1) The scattered mind is not powerful and so cannot do much harm to others and to the person. By this exercise, the person learns to concentrate the mind. A concentrated mind is very powerful. Unless the person has developed a good sense of values, the powerful mind will be like a nuclear bomb in the hands of a terrorist.
(2) The peace that the mind experienced is temporary. When the mind gets back to interact with the world, the peace will be lost.
Traditional Vedanta has three steps to the ultimate goal of human life, which is Jivanmukti.
(1) Karma Yoga – to purify the mind
(2) Upaasana Yoga – to make the mind calm and introvert
(3) Jnaana Yoga – to realize the Truth
Meditation is a part of Upaasana Yoga. It is neither the first step, nor is it the last step. There is a lot of misconception regarding this.
A person who has not purified the mind sufficiently before attempting meditation will land up in a lot of trouble. He can create a lot of harm to himself and to the society. A highly moral life is a prerequisite for meditation. Purity of mid is defined as “unidentification with the body”. All impurities of the mind are because of identification with the body and other props that support it. This identification should be at least weakened to an extent before one attempts meditation. This is done by serving others selflessly. Doing one’s duty without having attachment to the fruits will make the mind pure. A person who is attached to the fruits of his usual work should not attempt long periods of meditation. Social service, charity, discipline, etc are the activities that he should be involved in.
There is also the misconception that meditation is an end in itself. A person enjoys the peace of mind when it is introvert tends to get attached to it and wants to be in meditation always. Also, there are several cases that the person gets distracted by the various side effects of meditation like hearing sounds, seeing light, seeing visions, etc. Meditation is not an end in itself. It is more important how much peace the person and the people around him enjoy when he is not meditating.
Meditation is only a preparation of the mind. The mind should be made introvert and ready to think about things deeply. With this preparation, the person should proceed to hearing about the Truth, thinking about it and putting it into action. The final goal is to realize the Truth about the Jiva, World, God, Bondage and Liberation. When the Truth is realized, the person enjoys the peace of mind everywhere at all times. He enjoys the highest peace of mind when he is busily involved in all the activities of life. This is the final state of the Jivanmukta.