A Program for Progress
from Meditation and
Its Practice (Chapter 6)
by Swami Rama
This program is the result of thorough examination and experimentation
by the tradition of the sages. Many sincere students of meditation have
experienced its benefits. If you really want to attain the highest state
of meditation, you should commit yourself to following this system,
which is very simple:
a) Learn to sit at the
same time every day, and allow this to become a habit.
b) Develop a good sitting posture for meditation.
There are only a few
postures that are appropriate for meditation. These include sukhasana,
siddhasana, and swastikasana. Choose one position and regularly practice
that same position for meditation. The body will adjust accordingly.
Guidelines and Goals
for the First Month
The first one or two
months should be devoted to attaining a still, comfortable posture.
Meditative posture should be steady and comfortable. Steadiness of
posture means that you are able to sit still and keep the head, neck and
trunk aligned. Allowing the posture to become comfortable means that you
are not uneasy or disturbed in any way. The cushion that you use as a
meditation seat should be neither too high nor too hard, and it should
never be a spongy, unsteady cushion.
For the first month,
you may use the support of a wall to help you tell when you are keeping
your head, neck and truck in a straight line. After that, learn to sit
independently of such support. A very good meditation seat can be made
from a wooden plank or board covered with two blankets that are folded
At the first level of practice, obstacles may arise on several
dimensions: First, the body may shake, perspire or become numb. Next,
the subtler muscles, such as the cheeks or eyes, twitch. One should
learn to ignore all this. At first, the body rebels when you try to
discipline it. If your throat gets dry while you are doing meditation,
you can take a few sips of water. In certain cases, you may notice that
there is excess saliva in the mouth. Both of these symptoms are
unhealthy and may be due to overeating or consuming bad food.
When you begin to sit
in meditation, you should not try to sit for a long time. To start,
15-20 minutes will be sufficient. Every third day, you can expand your
practice by three minutes. Gradually, when your posture becomes steady,
the time will easily extend itself. Developing a still, steady posture
will bring you great joy. Discomfort is not a good sign; massage your
toes, legs, and thighs with your hands when you get up from your
Pray to the Lord that
your meditation will continue to become better and will create the
motivation to again sit in meditation, so that you await your meditation
time with great desire. But remember that you are praying to the Lord of
Life, who is seated in the inner chamber of your own being; this sort
prayer strengthens your awareness. Do not pray for anything else except
to strengthen your meditation. Selfish prayers feed the ego and make the
aspirant weak and dependent. Prayer should be God-centered and not
As you begin your
meditation, survey and observe your body mentally: your eyes are gently
closed, your teeth are gently touching, your lips are sealed, and your
hands are places lightly on the knees.
Complete this survey of
your body systematically, from the crown of the head downward. In the
forehead, let there be no tension; in the cheeks and jaws, no tension;
in the neck and shoulders, no tension. From the arms to the fingertips
there should be no tension.
Mentally return to the
shoulders, allowing no tension. Let there be no tension in the chest.
Take several deep breaths when you begin and mentally surrender and let
go. When you come to the chest, inhale and exhale within your
comfortable capacity. This will help you to relax your body. Do not make
suggestions to your body but rather, survey it and then let your
attention move on to the abdominal area. Survey the pelvic area, the
hips, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet.
Now inhale and exhale
at least five to ten times. Visualize your body and again systematically
come back through the body in the same order, returning to the crown of
the head. Survey your body thoroughly; if you find that a certain part
of the body has any aches or pain, you can discover that and gently ask
your mind to go to that spot to heal that aching part. The mind
definitely has the inner capacity to correct and heal such discomfort;
do not doubt that.
The mind is the master
of the body, breath, and senses, though it is, charged by the power of
the Center of Consciousness (the individual soul). All our thinking
processes, emotional power, capacity for analysis, and the functioning
of the different modifications of mind are due to the power of the soul.
One simply has to become aware of this fact, that the mind is in direct
control of the senses, breath, and body. It is the mind that influences
the senses and causes them to function in the external world. It is mind
that desires to perceive the world through the senses and to
conceptualize and categorize those sensory perceptions. The mind stores
such impressions in the unconscious, the storehouse of merits and
demerits, and then it recalls them whenever it needs them.
All sadhanas (spiritual
practices), techniques, and disciplines are actually means to train the
mind. And the foremost part of the training is to make the mind aware
that Reality lies beyond itself, and that is the immortality of the
soul. The mind is a separate, individual entity, but it does not have a
separate existence; it exists only because of the existence of the soul.
The mind is the finest
instrument that we possess. If it is understood well, the mind can be
helpful in our sadhana; however, if the mind is not well-ordered and
disciplined, it can distract and dissipate all our potentials.
Anything within the
domain of the mind can be healed by the mind, once one knows his or her
deeper nature. When the aspirant becomes aware of this fact, he or she
can willfully heal or prevent the occurrence of those diseases that have
their basis in malignancy.
There are four distinct
functions of mind: manas, buddhi, ahamkara, and chitta. These four
should be understood and their functioning should be coordinated. Manas
is the lower mind, through which the mind interacts with the external
world and takes in sensory impressions and data. Manas also has the
tendency to doubt and question, which can cause great difficulties if
this tendency becomes excessive.
Buddhi is the higher
aspect of mind, the doorway to inner wisdom. It has the capacity to
decide, judge, and make cognitive discriminations and differentiations.
It can determine the wiser of the two courses of action, if it functions
clearly and if manas will accept its guidance.
Ahamkara is the sense
of “I-ness,” the individual ego, which feels itself to be a distinct,
separate entity. It provides identity to our functioning, but ahamkara
creates our feeling of separation, pain, and alienation as well.
Chitta is the memory
bank, which stores impressions and experiences, and while it can be very
useful, chitta can also cause difficulties if its functioning is not
coordinated with the others. These functions are described in greater
detail in The Art of Joyful Living.
Just as an aspirant
should care for and pay attention to the different functions of mind
(manas, chitta, buddhi, and ahamkara), which have different abilities
and duties, so also should the student take care of his external
behavior, so that he does not acquire the diseases that are transmitted
through unhealthy food, sex, or imbalanced ways of living.
valuable, but it should not become obsessive, because in order to
function effectively, the immune system also requires a healthy mind.
When we talk about purity of mind, that is actually achieved by ridding
ourselves of negative, passive, and slothful mental tendencies. Such a
healthy mind acquires self-confidence, and then buddhi judges,
discriminates, and decides things on time.
coordination among the various modifications of mind, one has to learn
to watch the mind’s functioning through our actions and speech, and at
the same time, observe the thinking process within. Ignorance is the
mother of all diseases, discomfort, pains, and miseries. A purified,
quiet, and serene mind is positive and healthy. The process of
meditation helps the mind to remain a useful and constructive
Such a clear mind,
which has been trained to become purified and one-pointed, can in many
cases also heal others. Self-healing is one of the natural physical
capabilities and tendencies of each person’s mind. For example, suppose
that a person is peeling an apple and cuts his of her finger, so that it
begins to bleed. You’ll notice that the cells of the body act as if they
have a kind of understanding, and they function in the cut to protect
the injured and destroyed cells. In time, according to the health of the
body’s immune system, the body heals itself. But in a body whose mental
and emotional processes are not coordinated, something may allow
excessive cell growth there, and may eventually create a growth. Due to
such a lack of coordination and balance at a subtle level of mental
functioning, some diseases occur and disturb our sadhana.
I believe that if we become emotionally attached to the external objects
of the world, but remain unable to unfold ourselves and our highest
potential, then life is incomplete and we become victims of discontent
and dissatisfaction. Therefore, a student should apply all his or her
present resources to make the body, breath, senses, and mind into
healthy tools, so that sadhana is accomplished.
When you attain a state
of meditation, in which the body has become perfectly still and quiet,
and it does not move, shake or tremble, and muscle twitches no longer
occur, then there is a feeling of unusual joy, which is quite different
from other joys of worldly experience. Then you can begin to watch your
breath, and develop the next state of meditation.
practicing Breath Awareness is very important and vital for meditation.
Observe your breathing to see if you notice any problems with the four
common faults we discussed earlier – jerkiness in the breath,
shallowness, noise or extended pauses.
The body should be
still, with the head, neck and trunk aligned, so that your breathing can
Practice for the
In the second month,
you can extend your practice as follows:
After you have done
your stretching and limbering exercises, then do your breathing
exercises. To relax the gross muscles, physical exercises are healthy,
but to create a deeper level of relaxation in the subtle muscles and the
nervous system, breathing exercises are even more helpful.
Even Breathing and
Alternate Nostril Breathing are very healthy preparatory practices, but
during meditation itself, the only exercise that is recommended is
Breath Awareness. Breath is one of the great focal points of the mind.
The mind and the breath are inseparable associates, and it is easy and
spontaneous for the mind to focus on the breath.
As we said earlier, in
the beginning, for the first month, the aspirant should focus the mind
on the flow of the breath, watching and observing the breath and seeking
to remove the four main problems with breath. In the next step of
breathing practice, the mind should be carefully focused on the exercise
This will be a
delightful experience for the student, but remember that you will
experience this delightful and pleasant state only if you do not jump
from an awareness of bodily posture to breath awareness. If you fist
learn to make the posture steady, still, and comfortable, this
experience will become very delightful.
This particular exercise is very subtle; it is finer, more advanced, and
more refined that the other experiences you have had in Breath
Awareness. In our research laboratory, we have had extensive experience
with this exercise and it has also been the focus of experiments done
for thousands of years by the line of sages and teachers.
Inhale as though you
are breathing from the base of the spine to the crown of the head,
without creating any disturbances in the breath. Exhale as though you
are exhaling to the base of the spine. It will be helpful if you can
visualize three cords: in the center, the centralis canalis, and on the
sides, ida and pigal. (Ida and pingala are two of the main nadis
Inhale and exhale
through the centralis canalis, which is the finest, milky white tube.
Feel the subtle current of energy that flows between the medulla
oblongata (at the base of the brain) and the pelvic plexus. Observe your
mind and see how many times it becomes distracted. The moment the mind
is distracted, you will find that there is a slight jerk or an
irregularity in the breath. During this practice, it is recommended that
you continue the gentle flow of the breath without jerks, noise,
shallowness or extended pauses.
After you inhale and
exhale with awareness of the spine, you next become aware of the breath
as it comes and goes through the nostrils. You may notice that one
nostril seems blocked and the other may seem to be more open. You can
easily inhale through one but not the other. In such cases, pay
attention to the blocked nostril, and you may be surprised to notice
that in a few seconds’ time, the blocked nostril has opened.
For example, in this
manner you might first pay attention to the right nostril and when it
has become open and easy to breathe through, you then pay attention to
the other nostril, in order to open it. If you practice attention this
systematically, it will not take you much time to develop control over
the flow of the breath.
The breath and mind are
twin laws of life: they are very close to each other and very easily
influence each other. Although they both have a separate existence, they
register each other’s influence. We are trying to establish the
awareness that the flow of the breath can be changed by choice, through
simple attention of mind. Soon you will find that the moment your
thinking changes, the breath also switches.
with the electrical potentials associated with the both nostrils, the
sages discovered that these two aspects of breath have different
natures. Breathing through the left side has a cooling effect, while the
right-sided breath has a warming effect.
According to this
advanced Science of Breath, when you notice that one nostril is more
active, during that time, one of the tattvas (subtle elements of the
physical body) are active and one of them becomes most prominent, which
of course creates a disturbance in the mind. This is what causes the
alteration in the flow of the breath. The tattvas, or physical elements,
are affected by the flow of the breath through the left and right
nostril, and vice versa. However, once you gain control over the breath,
it can also give you control over the changes in the tattvas, according
to your discrimination and concentration as a student of meditation.
This is a profound science discussed in much greater detail in Path of
Fire and Light.
Meditative State of Mind: Awakening Sushumna
Now, let us go on to
the next step: the process of making the mind calm and joyous, so that
the mind experiences delight in practicing meditation. This method is
called sushumna awakening. The aspirant who has the patience to proceed
according to this program will surely benefit. Those who are “economy
readers” will probably read through this description without ever
practicing it, and they will gain only a glimpse of this process. May
God bless them and hopefully someday they will also walk on this path of
To begin the process of
sushumna awakening, the meditator is prepared to focus the mind on the
breath as it is felt between the two nostrils. Mind you, this is not a
focus on the top of the nostrils; it is not trataka (an external gaze).
The goal is to focus awareness on the flow of the breath, where it can
be perceived at the nostrils on inhalation and exhalation. When you
focus the mind on the center between the nostrils, you will soon
discover that both nostrils are flowing freely. When both nostrils flow
freely, that is called sandhya, the wedding of the sun and the moon, or
between pingala and ida. This is a delightful moment, in which neither
worry, fear nor other negative thought can distract the mind. However,
it is important to realize that, because students do not have much
experience and practice in creating this state, it does not usually last
and is difficult to maintain for a very long time.
When one regularly
prepares to focus the mind on the center between the two nostrils,
morning and evening, he will find that the mind easily attains a state
of joy. Then, the student becomes eager to again attain this joy and
looks forward to his of her meditation all day. When both nostrils flow
freely, it means that one is inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils
simultaneously, which is the sign of sushumna awakening. Once this
experience can be maintained for five minutes, the student has crossed a
great barrier, and the mind has attained some one-pointedness. Then, the
mind becomes focused inward. Two to three months should be devoted to
this kriya or practice.
The Conscious Mind
The conscious mind is
that part of the mind which functions during the waking state. It is
merely a small fragment of the totality of the mind. Our educational
system – whether at home, in school or in the colleges and universities
- has no systematic program that teaches us how to really understand and
become aware of the whole of the mind, especially the unconscious mind.
The small part of mind that is cultivated by our educational system,
from our childhood on, is merely the conscious mind.
The conscious mind
employs and relies on ten senses to collect data for it from the
external world of objects. These consist of five subtle cognitive senses
(sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) and five gross active senses
(the hands, feet, the power of speech, and the organs of reproduction
We commonly know only a
little about how to educate the small conscious aspect of mind. The
sages, however, with the assistance of deeper meditative methods,
learned to dive deeply into the inner recesses of the unconscious mind
and then, to make use of it and its capacities in an orderly way. These
sages and great ones are able to accomplish that with a simple,
systematic method of meditation. Most human beings continue to operate
on or function barely above the level of the brute, because they do not
know how to gain access into the deeper aspects of the mind. That is why
we do not become aware of our deeper personalities.
There are many problems
and obstacles to overcome, in order to help the ordinary mind to
understand itself. The mind usually remains clouded, confused, and
undisciplined in the external world, where everything seems to move and
change. Because the mind itself is confused, even learning how to
collect data correctly, or accurately perceive the external world, is a
serious problem for the ordinary mind.
However, those who are
meditators learn to purify the mind and make the mind one-pointed. For
them, it then becomes possible to collect the data and impressions
exactly as they are. Such a person sees things clearly, while in
contrast, the clouded mind remains distorted and dissipated.
With the help of
meditation, the conscious mind can be trained to from a new habit. The
personality can be transformed when one learns to let go of the habitual
thoughts arising in the conscious mind. Then, the next step is to learn
to witness the thoughts going on in your mental train, practicing and
learning to remain undisturbed, unaffected and uninvolved. Another three
to four months of regular meditative practice will allow you enough time
to learn to deal with the conscious aspect of the mind.
Sometimes people feel
that they have perfect control over their minds, but that is not
accurate, because even if they control the conscious mind, they cannot
control the unknown, unconscious mind, which is extensive. The
unconscious is a vast reservoir of the impressions resulting from our
deeds, actions, desires, and emotions. These latent, dormant levels of
mind remain unknown to the aspirant. Even when the conscious mind has
become seemingly calm, a single impression (such as a memory) that
arises from the unconscious can suddenly distort the mind, exactly the
way that a pebble’s splash can disturb the smooth surface of a lake.
Human emotion is an
immense power, which usually operates below the surface of the lake of
mind, like a fish swimming under water. If that emotion is not guided,
it can pollute and contaminate the whole lake of the mind. In this
endeavor, students need to learn patience with themselves. Actually, our
impressions, thought patterns, and emotions are identical to our own
deeds, because a thought is virtually a deed.
To fear and try to
escape from examining one’s own thought processes is a serious mistake
for a student to make. You should examine all your fears, and then you
will find that most fears are imaginary and irrational. From this point,
you then begin the process of contemplation with analysis. Gradually,
you will acquire power to inspect your own thinking process, while
remaining undisturbed. Such a mind attains clarity and is then prepared
to attain samadhi. There are many levels of samadhi, which is a state of
deep, absorbed meditation. When the student can focus his or her mind
for ten minutes without any disturbance, he or she has nearly attained
All human beings who
are aware of the reality of life, and who have already examined the
small joys and pleasures of the world, will realize that they cannot
remain content or truly satisfied without practicing meditation.
Meditation creates the highest of all joys; meditation creates
fearlessness. Glory to the path of meditation!
The final step of
meditation is to remain in silence. This silence cannot be described; it
is inexplicable. This silence opens the door of intuitive knowledge, and
then the past, present, and future are revealed to the student.
Once upon a time, a
student of meditation went to see a sage. The student began discussing
philosophical concepts, such as God and the divine existence, but the
sage didn’t say anything. The aspirant talked on and on about God and
asked many probing questions, but still the sage kept still. Finally, in
frustration, the aspirant inquired why the sage wouldn’t answer his
questions. Then the sage smiled and said gently, “I have been answering
you, but you are not listening: God is silence.”
In the course of my
search and study in the Himalayas and the other parts of India, I met a
fortunate few, who enjoyed such deep state of silence and who also
helped those who are prepared to meditate.
Beyond body, breath, and mind lies this silence. From Silence emanate
peace, happiness, and bliss. The meditator makes that silence his or her
personal abode; that is the final goal of meditation.
Om. Peace, Peace, Peace
. . .
This site is devoted to
presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of
the Tradition of the Himalayan masters
in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising
quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest
Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the
center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is
one and the same with the Absolute Reality.
This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga
Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the
intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which
complement one another like fingers on a hand.
We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti
Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha,
and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer
finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final
stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the