This talk is about some aspects of meditation, its place in our spiritual pursuit, some of the processes behind it and its role and nature in the Integral Yoga.
Words of Sri Aurobindo
By meditation we correct the restless wandering of the mind and train it like an athlete to economise all its energies and fix them on the attainment of some desirable knowledge or self discipline. This is done normally by men in ordinary life, but Yoga takes this higher working of Nature and carries it to its full possibilities. It takes note of the fact that by fixing the mind luminously on a single object of thought, we awaken a response in general Consciousness which proceeds to satisfy the mind by pouring into it knowledge about that object or even reveals to us its central or its essential truth. We awaken also a response of Power which gives us in various ways an increasing mastery over the workings of that on which we meditate or enables us to create it and make it active in ourselves. Thus by fixing the mind on the idea of Divine Love, we can come to the knowledge of that principle and its workings, put ourselves into communion with it, create it in ourselves and impose its law on the heart and the senses. In Yoga concentration is used also for another object,— to retire from the waking state, which is a limited and superficial condition of our consciousness, into the depths of our being measured by various states of Samadhi. For this process contemplation of the single object, idea or name is more powerful than the succession of concentrated thoughts.
But on that which as yet we know not how shall we concentrate?…
All that the Light from above asks of us that it may begin its work is a call from the soul and a sufficient point of support in the mind. This support can be reached through an insistent idea of the Divine in the thought, a corresponding will in the dynamic parts, an aspiration, a faith, a need in the heart. Any one of these may lead or predominate, if all cannot move in unison or in an equal rhythm. The idea may be and must in the beginning be inadequate; the aspiration may be narrow and imperfect, the faith poorly illumined or even, as not surely founded on the rock of knowledge, fluctuating, uncertain, easily diminished; often even it may be extinguished and need to be lit again with difficulty like a torch in a windy pass. But if once there is a resolute self-consecration from deep within, if there is an awakening to the soul’s call, these inadequate things can be a sufficient instrument for the divine purpose. Therefore the wise have always been unwilling to limit man’s avenues towards God; they would not shut against his entry even the narrowest portal, the lowest and darkest postern, the humblest wicket-gate. Any name, any form, any symbol, any offering has been held to be sufficient if there is the consecration along with it; for the Divine knows himself in the heart of the seeker and accepts the sacrifice. But still the greater and wider the moving idea-force behind the consecration, the better for the seeker; his attainment is likely to be fuller and more ample. If we are to attempt an integral Yoga, it will be as well to start with an idea of the Divine that is itself integral. There should be an aspiration in the heart wide enough for a realisation without any narrow limits. Not only should we avoid a sectarian religious outlook, but also all one-sided philosophical conceptions which try to shut up the Ineffable in a restricting mental formula.
Words of the Mother
It is a meditation that has the power of transforming your being. It is a meditation which makes you progress, as opposed to static meditation which is immobile and relatively inert, and which changes nothing in your consciousness or in your way of being.
A dynamic meditation is a meditation of transformation. Generally, people don’t have a dynamic meditation. When they enter into meditation—or at least what they call meditation— they enter into a kind of immobility where nothing stirs, and they come out of it exactly as they went in, without any change either in their being or in their consciousness. And the more motionless it is, the happier they are. They could meditate in this way for eternities, it would never change anything either in the universe or in themselves. That is why Sri Aurobindo speaks of a dynamic meditation which is exactly the very opposite. It is a transforming meditation.
How is it done? Is it done in a different way?
I think it is the aspiration that should be different, the attitude should be different. “Different way”—what do you mean by “way”—(laughing) the way of sitting?… Not that? The inner way?
But for each one it is different.
I think the most important thing is to know why one meditates; this is what gives the quality of the meditation and makes it of one order or another.
You may meditate to open yourself to the divine Force, you may meditate to reject the ordinary consciousness, you may meditate to enter the depths of your being, you may meditate to learn how to give yourself integrally; you may meditate for all kinds of things. You may meditate to enter into peace and calm and silence—this is what people generally do, but without much success. But you may also meditate to receive the Force of transformation, to discover the points to be transformed, to trace out the line of progress. And then you may also meditate for very practical reasons: when you have a difficulty to clear up, a solution to find, when you want help in some action or other. You may meditate for that too. I think everyone has his own mode of meditation. But if one wants the meditation to be dynamic, one must have an aspiration for progress and the meditation must be done to help and fulfil this aspiration for progress. Then it becomes dynamic.
There has been a kind of perception of a variety of bodily activities, a whole series of them, having to do exclusively (or so it seems) with the maintenance of the body. Some are on the borderline – sleep, for instance: one portion of it is necessary for good maintenance of the body, and another portion puts it in contact with other parts and activities of the being; but one portion of sleep is exclusively for maintaining the body’s balance. Then there is food, keeping clean, a whole range of things. And according to Sri Aurobindo, spiritual life shouldn’t suppress those things; whatever is indispensable for the body’s well-being must be kept up. For ordinary people, all other bodily activities are used for personal pleasure and benefit. The spiritual man, on the other hand, has given his body to serve the Divine, so that the Divine may use it for His work and perhaps, as Sri Aurobindo said, for His joy – although given the present state of Matter and the body, that seems to me unlikely or at best very intermittent and partial, because this body is much more a field of misery than a field of joy. (None of this is based on speculation, but on personal experience – I am relating my personal experience.) But with work, it’s different: when the body is at work, it’s in full swing. That’s its joy, its need – to exist only to serve Him. To exist only to serve. And of course, to reduce maintenance to a bare minimum while trying to find a way for the Divine to participate in the very restricted, limited and meager possibilities of joy this maintenance may give. To associate the Divine with all those movements and things, like keeping clean, sleeping (although sleep is different, it’s already a lot more interesting); but especially with personal hygiene, eating and other absolutely indispensable things, the attempt is to associate them with the Divine Presence so that they may be as much an expression of divine joy as possible. (This is realized to a certain extent.)
Now where does japa fit into all this?
Japa, like meditation, is a procedure – apparently the most active and effective procedure – for joining, as much as possible, the Divine Presence to the bodily substance. It is the magic of sound, you see.
Naturally, if there’s also an awareness of the idea behind it, if one does japa as a very active conscious invocation, then its effects are greatly multiplied. But the basis is the magic of sound. This is a fact of experience, and it’s absolutely true. The sound OM, for instance, awakens very special vibrations (there are other such sounds as well, but of course that one is the most powerful of all).
It is an attempt to divinize material substance.
From another, almost identical point of view, it fills the physical atmosphere with the Divine Presence. So time spent in japa is time consecrated to helping the material substance enter into more intimate rapport with the Divine.
And if one adds to this, as I do, a mantric program, that is, a sort of prayer or invocation, a program for both personal development and helping the collective, then it becomes a truly active work. Then there’s also what I call “external” work: contact with others, reading and answering letters, seeing and speaking to people, and finally all the activities having to do with the organization and running of the Ashram (in meditation this work becomes worldwide, but physically, materially, it is limited for the moment to the Ashram). In the course of my observation, I also saw the position of X and people like him, who practically spend their lives doing japa, plus meditation, puja, ceremonies (I am talking only about sincere people, not fakers). Well, that’s their way of working for the world, of serving the Divine, and it seems the best way to them – perhaps even the only way – but it’s a question of mental belief. In any case, it’s obvious that even a bit of … not exactly puja, but some sort of ceremony that you set yourself to do – habitual gestures symbolizing and expressing a particular inner state – can also be a help and a way of offering yourself and relating to the Divine and thus serving the Divine. I feel it’s important looked at in this way – not from the traditional viewpoint, I can’t stand that traditional viewpoint; I understand it, but it seems to me like putting a brake on true self-giving to the Divine. I am speaking of self-imposed japa and rules (or, if someone gives you the japa, rules you accept with all your heart and adhere to). These self-imposed rules should be followed as a gesture of love, as a way of saying to the Divine, “I love You.” Do you see what I mean? Like arranging flowers in a certain way, burning incense, dozens of little things like that, made beautiful because of what is put into them – it is a form of self-giving.
Now, I think that doing japa with the will and the idea of getting something out of it spoils it a little. You spoil it. I don’t much like it when somebody says, “Do this and you will get that.” It’s true – it’s true, but it’s a bit like baiting a fish. I don’t much like it.
Let it be your own manner of serving the Divine, of relating to Him, loving Him, of joining Him to your physical life, being close to Him and drawing Him close to you – that way it’s beautiful. Each time you say the Word, let it be an invocation, let it be like the recitation of a word of love; then it’s beautiful.
That’s how I see it.
And so according to your mission in the world, you have to find for yourself the right proportion between this work and external, intellectual or organizational work; and then there are the body’s needs, which can be met in the same way, trying to make it possible for the Lord to take delight in them. I have seen this for trivial things: for example, making your bath a pleasant experience, or caring for your hair, or whatever (of course, it’s been a long time since there have been any of those stupid, petty ideas of personal pleasure), so that these things aren’t done indifferently, out of habit and necessity, but … with a touch of beauty, a touch of charm and delight for the Lord.
There, that’s all….
Mon petit … (Mother gazes a long time at Satprem).
For me, you know, japa means a moment when all physical life is EXCLUSIVELY for the Divine. A moment when nothing but the Divine exists – every single cell of the body, each second, is EXCLUSIVELY for the Divine, there is nothing but the Divine.
When you succeed in doing that, it’s good.
Japa shouldn’t become so exclusive that it’s done twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, because then it’s equivalent to asceticism – but there should be a good dose of it.
It’s almost the one luxury of life – that’s how it feels to me. The luxury of That alone, nothing but that divine vibration around you, within you, everywhere. Nothing but the divine vibration.
Now, that’s luxury.