So, being a thoroughly modern person you have decided that you want to find a meditation and you are thinking of starting your search on the Internet.
Well you are in for a big surprise. Key in the word ‘meditation’ or ‘yoga’ and you are going to be overwhelmed by a multiplicity of choice. Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, Hatha Yoga, The Kabbalah, Tibetan Buddhism, Kundalini Yoga, Krishnamurti’s Choiceless Awareness, Zen, Vippasana meditation, the Ramana Maharshi meditation or perhaps Sahaja Yoga. There are many more.
Well help is at hand. Daniel Goleman has written a book called “Meditative Mind” in which he classifies all the different meditations in terms of the Vissudhimagga that was taught by the Lord Buddha. The Vissushimagga means the path of purification. There are two basic types of meditation: the path of concentration and the path of insight.
Thoughts enter your mind in a random manner. There is no pattern to their entry. The path of concentration has you direct the flow of your thoughts, fixing them onto the object chosen for the meditation. By forcing your wandering thoughts back on to the object your mind will eventually become absorbed in it and your awareness will experience a feeling of oneness with it. This is called the “point of entry.”
The start of insight meditation is the practice of mindfulness. You are required to pay attention to your thoughts and senses as they arise and to merely register or note your observation of the thought or sense impression without further comment, reflection or judgement. You simply pay attention to what is happening in and to you. In the beginning as in the path of concentration your mind will wander until you reach the point of bare insight where your mind develops the ability to observe all that is registering in your mind without the interference of wandering thoughts. With the achievement of bare insight you realise that your awareness is different from the object of your awareness.
Once you have reached the point of entry or of bare insight you then continue to achieve higher and higher levels of awareness until eventually you reach the highest state possible, which is variously called Nirvana, Nirodh, Moksha and various other names. This state indicates that you have achieved the point whereby you have acquired total self-knowledge and are freed from the perpetual cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
What actually happens here is that your kundalini awakens and rises up the central subtle spiritual channel called the Sushumna. The kundalini is the dormant spiritual power within each one of us, which resides in our pelvic bone. The disadvantage with either of the two paths of the Vissuddimagga is that normally it takes a very long time to get your self-realisation. More than one lifetime is not unusual. Remember that the Vissuddimagga means the ‘Path of Purification’. This refers to the fact that in addition to meditation the seeker has to purify his spiritual centres called chakras one by one. This is why the Indian yogis go to the Himalayan Mountains or the forests. They isolate themselves in order to concentrate on their spirit and not be interrupted by mundane life.
In the modern world it is well nigh impossible for the ordinary seeker to achieve their self-realisation using the paths of the Vissuddhimagga. There has however been a change in the firmament and it is now possible to achieve your self-realisation through taking to Sahaja Yoga. As impossible as it seems you can now get your self-realisation simply by asking for it. Any Sahaja yogi can give self-realisation. It is like one candle lighting another. Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi developed Sahaja Yoga. She is a very high spiritual personality and can be described as a messenger from God.
With the Vissuddimagga you have to be spiritually perfect before you can get your self-realisation. With the Sahaja Yoga you are not perfect but you can work on trying to become spiritually perfect. The point is that your kundalini does the work for you. All that you have to do is to introspect on your self during meditation. What’s wrong with me? The path of Sahaja Yoga is a much faster and easier method of achieving spiritual perfection than the two Vissuddimagga paths. It’s like putting the roof on the house first and then building up the walls and windows etc rather than the conventional way around.
The methods used by the Vissuddimargga meditation work by trying to subdue the mind. Sahaja Yoga says that instead of trying to subdue or control the mind, which is almost impossible anyway, why not ignore it and simply go beyond it. The Sahaja Yoga meditation is described as thoughtless awareness. Normally it is virtually impossible to do this but in Sahaja Yoga your kundalini simply takes you straight into thoughtless awareness.
In their book ‘From Here to Nirvana’ Anne Cushman and Jerry Jones say that there are five types of yoga: Jhana, Bhakti, Karma, Raja and Hatha. Ramana Maharshi was a Jnana yogi who taught that thinking the thought ‘Who am I’ would eventually lead to self-realisation. This is the mind being used to distinguish between the real and the unreal. Bhakti yoga is the path of love, devotion, and worship. Karma yoga is the path of selfless service. The Karma yogi does not renounce the world but rather seeks to serve humanity in a detached, egoless manner. This leads to self-realisation. Raja yoga is the path taught by the saint Patanjali around the second and third centuries AD. It is a systematic eight-fold path, which works through the quietening of the mind. Raja yoga includes a moral code, positive breath control and a meditation akin to the ‘ path of concentration’ talked about above. Hatha yoga is the classic ‘exercise’ yoga well known to people in the west. Raja and Hatha yoga are usually associated together. Sahaja Yoga includes elements of all the different types of yoga except Hatha Yoga.
(1) From Here to Nirvana. 1998. Anne Cushman and Jerry Jones. Rider Books, London. ISBN 0712670610.
(2) Meditative Mind. 1996. Daniel Goleman Harper Collins Publishers, London. ISBN 07225 347 2
Huntly Reid is an experienced Sahaja Yoga practitoner.