Intro to Meditation
Meditation: Eastern Thing or Everyday Habit?
In one sense, meditation is not such a profound activity. All living beings are naturally always meditating on something or someone; it is only a question of what one meditates on. Through the senses, the mind gains knowledge of material objects and becomes attached to them. According to the mind’s interpretation of, attachment to, and absorption in the acquired sensory knowledge, one experiences within one’s consciousness (heart) happiness or distress. Thus, the mind can be one’s friend or one’s enemy. An unfavorable mental absorption debilitates one by fear, anxiety, stress, confusion, lamentation, addictions and/or excessive lust, anger, greed, pride, and envy. Conversely, a favorable mental absorption uplifts one by peace, courage, confidence, fearlessness, self-control, compassion, etc.
Therefore, although the actual act of meditation is not so profound, when discussed as a practice it refers to the process of making the mind a friend.
“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy
(Bhagavad Gita 6.6).”
I Haven’t Bathed in Years!
Generally, human beings find it beneficial to regularly (if not daily) bathe to protect the body from dirt, deterioration and disease. But what about the mind? What are we doing to cleanse the mind of the innumerable unfavorable experiences and impressions (samskaras) that bombard us daily? Just as the body becomes diseased when we fail to properly clean it, so also the mind becomes ill, in the form of a polluted mentality, if one neglects to purify it regularly by prescribed methods. As Einstein cogently puts it, “The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one [i.e. the diseased mindset that would goad a person to create such terrible weapons in the first place].”
It is not possible to solve a problem with the same mentality that produced it. Any attempt at administrative welfare work for the amelioration of society is useless unless it corrects the diseased mentality that is ultimately responsible. Such so-called solutions can be compared to the bathing of an elephant, who immediately after taking his bath throws dust all over himself!
Thus any sincere person who actually desires to “be the change one wants to see in the world” should compassionately accept the responsibility of bathing the mind, with the confidence that peace in the collective world community is attainable only to the degree that individuals take up this important duty.
How to Bathe?
Although the mind cannot be directly perceived by the gross senses, it has a subtle form which can be observed in one’s activities. As the saying goes, “the face is the index of the mind.” Unlike the body, the mind is not gross and tangible, so one may wonder how it may be possible to bathe it? The answer to this question has many aspects because it involves how one uses his gross senses. The senses incessantly pour information into the mind and thus cause it to become contaminated or purified according to the quality of the information received. In other words, the mind’s contamination can come from any one of the uncontrolled senses, as eloquently stated in Ancient India’s theistic classic Bhagavad-Gita:
“As a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away one’s intelligence.”
Therefore bathing the mind involves the healthy engagement of one’s senses. However, notwithstanding this truth, it is described that, of all the senses, the ear, which has sound as its object, is the most important sense that needs proper engagement and purification. Indeed, through sound many atrocious doctrines have been promulgated which have later on led to horrible acts of genocide and/or oppression. Emotional abuse, indoctrination, manipulation, etc. often takes place through the medium of sound vibration. Conversely, enlightenment can be achieved (by hearing from self-realized persons), knowledge is inculcated, etc. all through the potency of beneficial sound. In this way, the type of sound one indulges in governs one’s conceptions about life. Sound can be the cause of bondage or the cause of liberation for the mind. Freedom can be attained simply by always hearing transcendental and spiritually uplifting sound vibrations.
What is a Mantra?
Mantra is a Sanskrit compound word, manah+trayate. Manah means mind and trayate means to deliver or free. Thus the word mantra denotes a sound vibration that can purify the mind and free it from the debilitating effects of the mind’s unfavorable absorption.
An authentic mantra consists of a few words denoting the Absolute Truth. The different names are combined in a particular sequence and repeated throughout ones meditational practice. This process is actually much more effective than silent mediation. By harnessing the power of sound, one can easily capture the restless and obstinate mind.
Chant and Be Happy!
Maha means “great.” The maha-mantra therefore refers to the great mantra for freeing the mind. That maha-mantra is:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
This great mantra consists of 3 names of Sri Hari, the Supreme Transcendental Personality who “takes away” all inauspiciousness and suffering. The maha-mantra has been used since time immemorial to achieve complete states of self-purification, self-realization, and self-satisfaction. It is often sung by oneself or in congregation, or murmured to oneself, often with the help of meditation beads, in a sacred space withdrawn from materially contaminating atmospheres.
A Little Philosophy
“Krsna Consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. This consciousness is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived. And the process is recommended by authorities for this age. By practical experience also, we can perceive that by chanting this maha-mantra, or the Great Chanting for Deliverance, one can at once feel transcendental ecstasy from the spiritual stratum. When one is factually situated on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind, and intelligence, one is situated on the transcendental plane.”
– A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada