A disciple once asked his guru, “Why do we pray after completing our meditation?”
“We do it to thank God that it’s over,” the guru quipped.
Even though it’s a joke, this is how meditation can feel at times. For the sincere and disciplined meditators, meditation is an arduous journey. You are removing the warts of emotions, you are getting rid of the calluses of thoughts, you are removing the layers of desires, you are trying to still your mind. It’s not easy. Pacification and complete stabilization of the mind requires great skill and effort.
I’ve invested a significant portion of my life in experimenting with various forms and styles of meditation. Some focus on extensive visualization, some insist on sounds, many methods involve mandalas, some talk about breath regulation, many talk about watching your thoughts or sensations, but meditation isn’t about creating an artificial sensitivity, it is about discovering your most natural state — a state of pristine awareness and clarity. Hence, the system of meditation I prefer the most is Mahamudra because it emphasizes on removing the mental constructs and seeing your mind as is — still, infinite and eternal.
Over the years, I’ve practiced Mahamudra in both the tantric and non-tantric ways and have found it truly remarkable. Literally, Mahamudra means the great seal. You may interpret it as the seal of stillness, of peace, of bliss, or simply the seal of emptiness. How our world (not the world!) is a projection of our mind is something I would love to expound another day. For now, allow me to share with you the six fundamental principles of meditation with a short note on its origin.
1500 years ago, there lived a great meditator in India. His name was Tilopa. Much like the Buddha, the Gautama, he too renounced his kingdom, and went on to crystallize the essence of meditation for serious practitioners. He called it Mahamudra and orally transmitted this system of meditation to his chief disciple and successor Naropa, another phenomenal scholar. After Naropa had learned Mahamudra, Tilopa gave him six golden prohibitions — a summary of the entire system in six words. The original Sanskrit instruction is no longer extant, but translated in English, his advice is short and worth its weight in gold. According to Tilopa, and I fully concur, here are the six things a good meditator avoids while meditating:
1. Recollection: Don’t pursue thoughts of the past.
2. Calculation: Don’t pursue thoughts of the present.
3. Imagination: Don’t imagine what may happen in the future.
4. Examination: Don’t analyze your thoughts.
5. Construction: Don’t try to create an experience.
6. Digression: Don’t wander; simply stay in the present moment.
The greater effort you put in following the instructions above, the more you’ll gain from meditation. If you sit down to meditate and start to analyze or pursue your thoughts, you will not progress in gaining mental stability and calmness. The four primary hurdles of restlessness, laziness, thoughts and images will continue to bother such a meditator. In the past, I’ve written on the four hurdles of meditation. You can use the search feature on this blog for more.
Just like waves form in the ocean constantly, thoughts emerge in the mind incessantly. One of the most rewarding outcomes of great meditation is complete cessation of thoughts. It’s an extraordinary feeling; I’ve no words to describe what it’s like to stay in that state for hours and hours. If you are serious about meditation, then following Tilopa’s six words of advice will help you make a giant leap.
In a nutshell: while meditating, don’t brood over, don’t resent and don’t repent your past. Don’t examine what’s going on in your present life. Don’t imagine any future. Don’t analyze any thought. When any thought comes, don’t run after it. It’ll disappear. Don’t crave for any specific experience or else you’ll end up mentally constructing that experience thereby polluting your meditation. Don’t let your mind wander. Just be here now, in the present moment. Simply maintain your awareness with alertness.
The act of meditation ceases to be a practice and transforms into a peaceful state of mind if you practice it with persistence and discipline.
Mahamudra meditation lists nine stages of progression on the path of a meditator. I’ll be happy to touch upon them in my next post.