One of the most misunderstood concepts of the Vedas is meditation. Our sages or munis used Dhyāna, and they showed us the correct method to meditate. However, we Indians have completely lost the knowledge to meditate. On the other hand, Westerners slowly realize the benefit of yoga and meditation.
The problem arises when Hindus do not learn these techniques directly through the Vedas and Upanishads but learn them through various western sources. A lot of knowledge is lost in translation. There are no English words for certain concepts of Hinduism. Let me explain this by giving you an example: what is tapa called in English? If you are thinking of the word penance, you are wrong.
Tapa and penance have a fundamental difference in intention. While penance is done as retribution, tapa is done without any guilt for a higher purpose.
What is Meditation?
So, we come to our topic: meditation. Meditation is a process of self-realization. According to the Upanishads, meditation involves going inside the depths of your mind and soul for the ultimate truth. The author of the Yogasutras, Patanjali, describes meditation in the same lines.
The reason behind meditation being done after doing yogasāna is that the mind will concentrate better if the body has been through exercises. Actually, yogasāna involves controlling the breathing while doing various asanās. If the breathing and the postures are not in sync, it is not yogasāna but merely exercise akin to aerobics. Breath plays a pivotal role in both yogasāna and meditation.
If you are told to perform mediation for a certain amount of time and do so at the designated hour, I’m sorry to say that you are not meditating. Meditation is beyond the restraints of time and hour. It comes from inside your soul and takes you there. If your mind is active and monkeying around, and you are ‘meditating,’ it will not help you.
You are merely sitting in one position and thinking. Meditation is thinking nothing. Meditation is feeling nothing. Meditation is a state of nothingness. Mediation is not happiness or sadness; it is Ānanda (roughly translated to bliss).
Meditation or Dhyāna in Hindu Texts:
Rigveda mentions Dhyāna multiple times. The Kaushitaki, Chandogya, Maitri, and Brihadaranyaka Upnishads also mentions Dhyāna many times. Even Dharma Sutra and Brahma Sutra describe meditation as the interiorization of oneself.
Bhagavad Gits refers to meditation or Dhyāna as a means to one’s spiritual journey that requires three moral values Satya, ahimsa, and aparigraha. To reach the ultimate stage of nothingness, we humans need to quieten the mind. Reciting a mantra or simply reciting Aum repeatedly can be a helpful practice for meditation. If the mind keeps on thinking, give it a mantra to recite. This way, you can direct your thoughts.
Stages of Meditation
The higher souls in India and other countries have taken meditation at a very different level. A rough estimation of the stages of Dhyāna or meditation can be described as follows (I am saying rough estimate because the depth of Dhyāna cannot be measured and hence it is incomprehensible for simple people like us):
Dharana: Dharana is the first stage of meditation. It involves focusing on one object with full awareness for a long time. Many sages concentrate on the tip of their nose or in the center of their forehead for Dharana.
Dhyāna: Dhyāna is the meditation performed by the yogis where they go inside themselves searching for truth. Patanjali describes Dhyāna as a continuous flow of thoughts and energies on one single object for a long time. The object can be internal or external. No memories, or thoughts, or feelings can intercept Dhyāna.
Samadhi: I cannot describe samadhi better than Swami Vivekananda,
“When one has so intensified the power of dhyana as to be able to reject the external part of perception and remain meditating only on the internal part, the meaning, that state is called Samadhi.”
Final Words on Meditation or Dhyāna:
of us actually practice meditation. We all know the benefits of meditation, but our minds have become too fast to calm down. As our bodies need rest and activities, alternatively, to work at full efficiency, so do our minds. Yogāsana and meditation are the paths through which we can attain peace.