It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good that a great change in my life took place . It was quite sudden. I was sitting in a room on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden, violent fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it; and I did not try to account for it or to find out whether there was any reason for the fear. I just felt, ‘I am going to die,’ and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or my elders or friends. I felt that I had to solve the problem myself, then and there.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ And I at once dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor mortis had set in and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word ‘I’ or any other word could be uttered, ‘Well then,’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. This means I am the deathless Spirit.’ All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that ‘I’. From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centred on ‘I’. Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.
One of the features of my new state was my changed attitude to the Meenakshi Temple. Formerly I used to go there occasionally with friends to look at the images and put the sacred ash and vermillion on my brow and would return home almost unmoved. But after the awakening I went there almost every evening. I used to go alone and stand motionless for a long time before an image of Siva or Meenakshi or Nataraja and the sixty-three saints, and as I stood there waves of emotion overwhelmed me.
I have been thinking all day of a way to ask the question: How to stop thinking?
Thinking cannot be stopped—not that it does not stop, but it cannot be stopped. It stops of its own accord. This distinction has to be understood; otherwise you can go mad chasing your mind.
No-mind does not arise by stopping thinking. When the thinking is no more, no-mind is.
The very effort to stop will create more anxiety, it will create conflict, it will make you split. You will be in a constant turmoil within. This is not going to help.
And even if you succeed in stopping it forcibly for a few moments, it is not an achievement at all—because those few moments will be almost dead, they will not be alive. You may feel a sort of stillness, but not silence, because a forced stillness is not silence. Underneath it, deep in the unconscious, the repressed mind goes on working.
So, there is no way to stop the mind. But the mind stops—that is certain. It stops of its own accord.
So what to do?—the question is relevant. Watch. Don’t try to stop. There is no need to do any action against the mind. In the first place, who will do it? It will be mind fighting mind itself; you will divide your mind into two: one that is trying to be the boss, the top dog, trying to kill the other part of itself—which is absurd. It is a foolish game. It can drive you crazy. Don’t try to stop the mind or the thinking—just watch it, allow it. Allow it total freedom. Let it run as fast as it wants. You don’t try in any way to control it. You just be a witness.
It is beautiful! Mind is one of the most beautiful mechanisms. Science has not yet been able to create anything parallel to mind. Mind still remains the masterpiece, so complicated, so tremendously powerful, with so many potentialities. Watch it! Enjoy it!
And don’t watch like an enemy, because if you look at the mind like an enemy, you cannot watch. You are already prejudiced; you are already against. You have already decided that something is wrong with the mind—you have already concluded. And whenever you look at somebody as an enemy you never look deep, you never look into the eyes; you avoid!
Watching the mind means look at it with deep love, with deep respect, reverence—it is God’s gift to you! Nothing is wrong in mind itself. Nothing is wrong in thinking itself. It is a beautiful process as other processes are. Clouds moving in the sky are beautiful—why not thoughts moving into the inner sky? Flowers coming to the trees are beautiful—why not thoughts flowering into your being. The river running to the ocean is beautiful—why not this stream of thoughts running somewhere to an unknown destiny? Is it not beautiful? Look with deep reverence. Don’t be a fighter — be a lover.
Watch the subtle nuances of the mind, the sudden turns, the beautiful turns, the sudden jumps and leaps; the games that mind goes on playing; the dreams that it weaves—the imagination, the memory; the thousand and one projections that it creates. Watch! Standing there, aloof, distant, not involved, by and by you will start feeling… The deeper your watchfulness becomes, the deeper your awareness becomes, and gaps start arising, intervals. One thought goes and another has not come, and there is a gap. One cloud has passed, another is coming and there is a gap.
In those gaps, for the first time you will have glimpses of no-mind, you will have the taste of no-mind—call it the taste of Zen, or Tao, or Yoga. In those small intervals, suddenly the sky is clear and the sun is shining. Suddenly the world is full of mystery, because all barriers are dropped; the screen on your eyes is no more there. You see clearly, you see penetratingly. The whole existence becomes transparent.
In the beginning, these will be just rare moments, few and far in between. But they will give you glimpses of what samadhi is. Small pools of silence—they will come and they will disappear. But now you know that you are on the right track. You start watching again. When a thought passes, you watch it; when an interval passes, you watch it. Clouds are also beautiful; sunshine also is beautiful. Now you are not a chooser. Now you don’t have a fixed mind: you don’t say, “I would like only the intervals.” That is stupid – because once you become attached to wanting only the intervals, you have decided again against thinking. And then those intervals will disappear. They happen only when you are very distant, aloof. They happen, they cannot be brought. They happen; you cannot force them to happen. They are spontaneous happenings.
Go on watching. Let thoughts come and go—wherever they want to go. Nothing is wrong! Don’t try to manipulate and don’t try to direct. Let thoughts move in total freedom. And then bigger intervals will be coming. You will be blessed with small satoris. Sometimes minutes will pass and no thought will be there; there will be no traffic—a total silence, undisturbed.
When the bigger gaps come, you will not only have clarity to see into the world – with the bigger gaps you will have a new clarity arising—you will be able to see into the inner world. With the first gaps you will see into the world—trees will be more green than they look right now. You will be surrounded by an infinite music — the music of the spheres. You will suddenly be in the presence of godliness—ineffable, mysterious. Touching you, although you cannot grasp it. Within your reach and yet beyond. With the bigger gaps, the same will happen inside. God will not only be outside, you will be suddenly surprised—he is inside also. He is not only in the seen; he is in the seer also—within and without. By and by…
But don’t get attached to that either. Attachment is the food for the mind to continue. Non-attached witnessing is the way to stop it without any effort to stop it. And when you start enjoying those blissful moments, your capacity to retain them for longer periods arises. Finally, eventually, one day, you become master. Then when you want to think, you think; if thought is needed, you use it; if thought is not needed, you allow it to rest. Not that mind is simply no longer there—mind is there, but you can use it or not use it. Now it is your decision. Just like legs: if you want to run you use them; if you don’t want to run you simply rest. The legs are there. In the same way, mind is always there.
When I am talking to you I am using the mind—there is no other way to talk. When I am answering your question I am using the mind—there is no other way. I have to respond and relate, and mind is a beautiful mechanism. When I am not talking to you and I am alone, there is no mind—because it is a medium to relate through. Sitting alone it is not needed.
You have not given it a rest; hence, the mind becomes mediocre. Continuously used, tired, it goes on and on and on. Day it works; night it works—in the day you think; in the night you dream. Day in, day out, it goes on working. If you live for seventy or eighty years it will be continuously working.
Look at the delicacy and the endurability of the mind — so delicate! In a small head all the libraries of the world can be contained; all that has ever been written can be contained in one single mind. Tremendous is the capacity of the mind—and in such a small space! And not making much noise. If scientists someday become capable of creating a parallel computer to mind… computers are there, but they are not yet minds. They are still mechanisms, they have no organic unity; they don’t have any center yet. If some day it becomes possible—and it is possible that scientists may someday be able to create minds—then you will know how much space that computer will take, and how much noise it will make.
Mind is making almost no noise; goes on working silently, and such a servant!—for seventy, eighty years. And then, too, when you are dying your body may be old but your mind remains young. Its capacity remains yet the same. Sometimes, if you have used it rightly, it even increases with your age—because the more you know, the more you understand, the more you have experienced and lived, the more capable your mind becomes. When you die, everything in your body is ready to die—except the mind.
That’s why in the East we say mind leaves the body and enters another womb, because it is not yet ready to die. The rebirth is of the mind. Once you have attained the state of samadhi, no-mind, then there will be no rebirth. Then you will simply die. And with your dying, everything will be dissolved—your body, your mind—only your witnessing soul will remain. That is beyond time and space. Then you become one with existence; then you are no more separate from it. The separation comes from the mind. But there is no way to stop it forcibly—don’t be violent. Move lovingly, with a deep reverence, and it will start happening of its own accord. You just watch, and don’t be in a hurry.
The modern mind is in much hurry. It wants instant methods for stopping the mind.
Hence, drugs have appeal. You can force the mind to stop by using chemicals, drugs, but again you are being violent with the mechanism. It is not good. It is destructive. In this way you are not going to become a master. You may be able to stop the mind through the drugs, but then drugs will become your master—you are not going to become the master. You have simply changed your bosses, and you have changed for the worse. Now the drugs will hold power over you, they will possess you; without them you will be nowhere.
Meditation is not an effort against the mind. It is a way of understanding the mind. It is a very loving way of witnessing the mind—but, of course, one has to be very patient. This mind that you are carrying in your head has arisen over centuries, millennia. Your small mind carries the whole experience of humanity—and not only of humanity: of animals, of birds, of plants, of rocks. You have passed through all those experiences. All that has happened up to now has happened in you also.
In a very small nutshell, you carry the whole experience of existence. That’s what your mind is. In fact, to say it is yours is not right: it is collective; it belongs to us all. Modern psychology has been approaching it, particularly Jungian analysis has been approaching it, and they have started feeling something like a collective unconscious. Your mind is not yours — it belongs to us all. Our bodies are very separate; our minds are not so separate. Our bodies are clearly separate; our minds overlap—and our souls are one.
Bodies separate, minds overlapping, and souls are one. I don’t have a different soul and you don’t have a different soul. At the very center of existence we meet and are one. That’s what God is: the meeting-point of all. Between the God and the world—the “world’ means the bodies—is mind.
Mind is a bridge: a bridge between the body and the soul, between the world and God. Don’t try to destroy it!
Many have tried to destroy it through Yoga. That is a misuse of Yoga. Many have tried to destroy it through body postures, breathing—that too brings subtle chemical changes inside. For example, if you stand on your head in shirshasan, in the headstand, you can destroy the mind very easily. Because when the blood rushes too much, like a flood, into the head—when you stand on your head that’s what you are trying to do. The brain mechanism is very delicate. You are flooding it with blood, the delicate tissues will die. That’s why you never come across a very intelligent yogi. No—yogis are, more or less, stupid. Their bodies are healthy, that’s true, strong—but their minds are just dead. You will not see the glimmer of intelligence. You will see a very robust body, animal-like, but somehow the human has disappeared.
Standing on your head, you are forcing your blood into the head through gravitation. The head needs blood, but in a very, very small quantity; and slowly, not floodlike. Against gravitation, very little blood reaches to the head, and that, too, in a very silent way. If too much blood is reaching into the head it is destructive.
Yoga has been used to kill the mind. Breathing can be used to kill the mind—there are rhythms of breath, subtle vibrations of breath, that can be very, very drastic to the delicate mind. The mind can be destroyed through them. These are old tricks. Now the latest tricks are supplied by science: LSD, marijuana, and others; more and more sophisticated drugs will be available sooner or later.
I am not in favor of stopping the mind. I am in favor of watching it. It stops of its own accord—and then it is beautiful when something happens without any violence it has a beauty of its own, it has a natural growth. You can force a flower and open it by force; you can pull the petals of a bud and open it by force, but you have destroyed the beauty of the flower. Now it is almost dead. It cannot stand your violence. The petals will be hanging loose, limp, dying. When the bud opens by its own energy, when it opens of its own accord, then those petals are alive.
The mind is your flowering—don’t force it in any way. I am against all force and against all violence, and particularly violence that is directed towards yourself.
Just watch—in deep prayer, love, reverence—and see what happens! Miracles happen of their own accord. There is no need to pull and push.
You ask: How to stop thinking? I say: Just watch, be alert. And drop this idea of stopping; otherwise it will stop the natural transformation of the mind. Drop this idea of stopping! Who are you to stop?
At the most, enjoy. And nothing is wrong—even if immoral thoughts, so-called immoral thoughts, pass through your mind, let them pass. Nothing is wrong. You remain detached, no harm is being done. It is just fiction; you are seeing an inner movie. Allow it its own way and it will lead you, by and by, to the state of no-mind. Watching ultimately culminates in no-mind.
No-mind is not against mind: no-mind is beyond mind. No-mind does not come by killing and destroying the mind: no-mind comes when you have understood the mind so totally that thinking is no longer needed—your understanding has replaced it.
Amid of Kolkata humidity my seeking made me to book an AC chair ticket from Howrah to Bardhaman which later proved to be a spiritual adventure. As my health was on slop I couldn’t help but to wake up at 8 am, with my honey lime water I was going through the train schedule on IRCTC website. There were many trains which ply on regular basis from Kolkata to Bardhaman. Guess what, I booked my ticket which was scheduled at 9:05 am. By then it was 8:15am already, and I was hanging in my pajamas. I just dropped everything then and there and rushed to get ready. It was around 8:30am, I was locking my room in Belur math while holding my Unibic biscuits, salted peanuts, hair brush, and my so called handbag. Juggling with my challenges from not getting a cab, and walking distance from Vivekananda Athithi Niwas to the main gate of Belur math, I was constantly thinking about paramahansa Swami vishuddhananda and his great penance,
WIKIPEDIA LINK – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishuddhananda_Paramahansa
By 8:35am I was literally running to cover up the walking distance to reach the main gate of math, luckily found a guy on bike, and without any hesitation I asked for lift. I was in a total new geographical setting, starting from the language to food and roads, everything was a new experience. My fast paced heartbeat was a constant reminder to catch my train. Finally got a cab but the gigantic Kolkata traffic welcomed me with open arms, my cab driver assured me that I will be able to catch my train as it’s a faaka road( empty road). It was a jaw-dropping statement; If this is faaka road, then what’s traffic jam for them. So as he promised I was at Howrah station by sharp 9:05am. I was supposed to cross thousands of layers of crowd to reach to my described platform. I kept running madly, and reached on platform no 4 instead of 5, and was told that the train to my left was going to Bardhaman. By the time I could think of anything, it started off. My survival instinct played its role and I was in the same frame as that of kajol from the Hindi movie DDLJ. I just plunged to board a speed picking train and yes I succeeded in the first attempt. It was such a relief.
Now here were a number of surprises awaiting me like I had boarded the wrong train, with no Ac coach. It was to take 2 to 3 hrs to reach Bardhaman, and not 1hr 5 min which was my actual express train’s travel time. It was a local passenger cum freight train, with no seats to sit. So I almost sat on the train coach’s floor by someone’s bag near the main entrance, the guy whom the bag had belonged might haven’t liked it and took it away. I was helplessly witnessing everything. Keeping faith in my heart I murmured “ if this is your wish I am ok ”. Luckily after some 25-30 minutes, the train stopped at a village platform and I got a seat near a window. It was a blessing. I noticed an old couple sitting next to me. The Lady was nice and humble; I could see the great experiences lines on the male’s face with multi layers of wrinkles. He was sitting with a buttoned open shirt. What else could one do at such a compartment bearing three- four times of its capacity, and that too in such a humid weather. At 12 noon I reached Bardhaman. I just thanked the almighty.
So here starts my roller coaster ride. After finishing my tea in two sips, (yes Kolkata’s region is the only region which considers 2 sips of tea as tea; We in north India leave this much tea in our tea bags after finishing our cuppa ) I decided to take an e-rickshaw for a richer experience.
In no time we were at the location mentioned by Google & maps ; Gps. There were all possible sites but no traces of ashram. I was completely shattered when all the young and old folks were in denial, that there had never ever been any ashram. Even they were not familiar with the name of Swami Vishuddhananda. I had no clues for what made them to suggest me the nearby Goddess Kali temple. I presumed, “ah! Being a worship place they must know about Swami Vishuddhananda.” Now my target had been adjusted, I was keener to know “does anyone in Bardhaman know about this paramahansa who crossed all the parameters of a yogi/mahatma and attained Paramahansa, that too from the highest degree of spiritual school. With this thought I started my journey towards Goddess Kali temple. Precisely in 15 minutes I reached there and with all hopes and twinkles in my eye, I entered the temple premises. Secretly chatting Ma’s name and requesting her for some insight. I met the authorities of that temple and again, got no information. Yet they suggested me to visit a nearby ashram. It’s certainly not of Swami Vishuddhananda still I might get some information. Again in the e-rickshaw, I set off to a new destination.
Short in a while I was amid of rice fields, far from the town life, I could see goats near a water bawri (small water pool) it was almost 1 in noon, crossing small villages of west Bengal, I had many beautiful sights to behold. In a soaring temperature I found a few old ladies sitting outside their houses wearing sari without blouse in a typical Bengali way. Around 1:30 pm I saw a pink-peach building from afar and again my heart was filled with hopes and expectations. I tried to be more realistic and warned myself to not nurture unrealistic expectations. This is my personal experience, whenever I stop thinking about having or achieving something that’s the moment when it happens to me. Similar experience happened this time too. Standing in-front of that building with not even a single word or info in English /Hindi, I was scared if this rikshawala dropped me here and go how I will reach back to town. To ensure he stayed back, I requested him to join me in the ashram and in a prompt reply he said “madam aap pata kijiye mai aapko wapis le ker he jaoonga” (you please go and check I will surely take you back to town). Ah I felt so humbled and went inside the ashram.
To my utter surprise where not even a single word was in Hindi I found a gentleman fluent in the language, clad in white kurta and dhoti, all white hair, fair complexion with an impressive voice, came forward to help me. He took all my info and offered me water to drink and asked me to have parsadam first. Ah I was empty stomach since morning, so I accepted his humbled request n proceeded towards the ashram’s kitchen. It was simple food with lots of love, care and respect. I ate the bangla rice with potato vegetable, drumstick curry and yellow daal (lentils). I felt I was a special guest so I got a sweet dish too. It was some west bengal local sweet dish prepared with flour and then soaked in chashani (sugar syrup). Believe me I’d never had a sweet dish which was so much sweet. I feel it tasted double sugary because of their overwhelming love for me and I am truly grateful for that. By the time I returned to ashram’s reception I found 4-5 people standing there. One of them was my rikshawala bhaiya. He was talking to those people and when he saw me coming he told them. I reached and Asked if anyone had heard about Vishuddhananda ji. They all said no in one go. I was so disheartened and murmured “ah! He was born and brought on this land, attained what is impossible for a human being and attained paramahansa that too from Gyanganj and his own people are not aware about him”. The moment I uttered the word gyanganj a guy started saying something in Bengali language exclaiming gyanganj-gyanganj. In excitement I too said yes-yes Gyanganj, “Do u know something about it ? Please tell if u know something.” Then the other person asked me whether I had their contact number or not, I said in my knowledge swami ji used to visit in 3 ashrams, one in kashi, the other in bondul and another was in bardhaman and no ashram has any contact no. When I was trying to show them my search by mistake a fan page got opened and yes it had a gentleman’s named Anirudha mukherji’s contact no. That too from bardhaman I was shocked, why the hell on this earth didn’t I check this fan page before coming. I contacted Mr. Anirudha Mukherjee who was the only one aware about those ashrams and he gave me an address and talked to my e-rishawala, explaining to him the address. On a happy note I thanked all the Debananda ashram’s people for their great hospitality and delicious lunch. Yet again, I was all ready and excited to be in the place where a human scaled the spiritual heights with his sheer hard work and dedication, and became a God himself. It was 3 pm I was waiting outside the ashram which was locked from inside. Finally Mr. Annirudha mukherjee came in a pink shirt and blue denim. He introduced me to baba’s great grandson Mr. Debashis Chhatopadhyay. Who stays at Bardhaman ashram. We sat for some time, had a spiritual discussion and finally decided to go to Bondul ashram.
I hired a cab to save time and started for Bondul ashram. After 45 mins or so we reached Bondul What an energised place it was. Mr Mukherjee guided me towards the hall. Its main door was closed where swami vishuddananda used to give discourse to his followers. It was a quite big hall. Some stuff was being put in one corner near the main door. With vishuddananda and his wife’s images, there were a few more portraits all old and black-white. There was a wooden bed with its legs designed in a very old style and a black-white portrait of swami kept on it. I was given a blanket to meditate.
With a grateful heart I started moving towards baba’s image where he used to sit. Out of devotion I came on my knees and just bowed to the greatest master and touched the age old floor with my head. The moment I touched the floor a mild fragrance of roses started coming out from the floor itself. This fragrance was something which I’d never smelled before. It was not of some incense sticks, If that’d been of some incense stick, it should have been there when the door of that hall was being opened. This place had no modern routine of using fragrant substance for cleaning. Infact the floor was so old that it had small- small cracks, I was wondering how they might be doing the cleaning. I raised my head still being on my knees and looked into baba’s eyes and said “baba you have been known as the Gandh baba( fragrant saint). If it’s you who is blessing me with making your presence felt please let me know when I bow down the 2 nd time under your grace”. I again bowed down and smelled the same fragrance. I stood up in shock . Oh my gosh yes it’s here. I started looking here and there and found no one who could answer my queries. This time my logical mind came in and said it might be your illusion. I decided to check it again. And this time it was a normal old floor. No fragrance. I realised my mistake and started asking for forgiveness. I tried to understand baba’s grace through my intellect. With teary eyes I was on floor doing dandwat pranaam seeking forgiveness. I was all on floor n there were no traces of fragrance. I sat there and decided to meditate and arranged the blanket which was given by ashram’s care taker. I sat for about 20 minutes or so and words can’t describe what I got from there. With overflowing emotions and high energies I bowed down in reverence and yes I was again blessed with the same mild rose fragrance. I was thrilled, and didn’t know how to pay my gratitude.
Even right now, while writing down my experience I still have tears. Whether I am in this body or not this experience will stay with me forever. Few things are beyond this 5 element’s world. They never age, wither or fade away. They are eternal. Its baba’s grace else I am not even qualified or entitled to have this enduring and beyond this world experience. My heartfelt gratitude to the louts feet of Swami Vishuddhanada paramhansa.
After having this divine experience I went to the temple which was on the other side of the hall building. The temple was having the banlingam and to the other side was baba’s live statue. I did the parikrama and again sat for meditation absorbing the greatest vibes of that pious place. After spending almost an hour in that ashram, Mr. Mukherjee took me to Swami Vishuddhananda’s house and showed me places and streets where this great sage had spent his childhood. After paying my homage we decided to return to Bardhaman. Mr Anirudha told me that he was getting calls from baba’s great grandson Mr. Chattopadhyay. He was very concerned about my safety till i’d returned to Kolkata. He told Mr. Mukherjee to help me board the train and inform him. Oh I was so touched by their concern and care. I am thoroughly grateful to Mr. Anirudha Mukherjee and Mr. Debashis Chhatopadhyay who took their time out and were there to guide me, on each step.
By 6:15 pm I was at the railway station in Bardhaman. With a completely renewed, elite and healed soul, I bid adieu to Mr. Mukherjee and sat in my coach. Like me, my coach too was all new. I was hallucinating with my experiences and didn’t realize when I reached back to Kolkata. Here I completed my pilgrimage successfully. To have a better understanding about swami vishuddhananda I am sharing wiki links and other useful links. May you all always be blessed with baba’s divine grace.
There are hundreds of methods of meditation, but perhaps Vipassana has a unique status; just the same way as there have been thousands of mystics, but Gautam Buddha has a uniqueness of his own. In many ways he is incomparable. In many ways he has done more for humanity than anybody else. In many ways his search for truth was more sincere, more authentic than anybody else’s.
The meaning – the literal meaning – of the word Vipassana is “to look,” and the metaphorical meaning is “to watch, to witness.” Gautam Buddha has chosen a meditation that can be called the essential meditation. All other meditations are different forms of witnessing, but witnessing is present in every kind of meditation as an essential part; it cannot be avoided. Buddha has deleted everything else and kept only the essential part – to witness. When you have become perfectly watchful of your body, mind and heart, then you cannot do anything more, then you have to wait. When perfection is complete on these three steps, the fourth step happens on its own accord as a reward. Suddenly your life force, your witnessing, enters into the very center of your being. You have come home.
Vipassana can be done in three ways.
The first is: awareness of your actions, your body, your mind, your heart. Walking, you should walk with awareness. Moving your hand, you should move with awareness, knowing perfectly that you are moving the hand. You can move it without any consciousness, like a mechanical thing…you are on a morning walk; you can go on walking without being aware of your feet. Be alert of the movements of your body. While eating, be alert to the movements that are needed for eating. Taking a shower, be alert to the coolness that is coming to you, the water falling on you and the tremendous joy of it ― just be alert. It should not go on happening in an unconscious state. And the same about your mind. Whatever thought passes on the screen of your mind, just be a watcher. Whatever emotion passes on the screen of your heart, just remain a witness ― don’t get involved, don’t get identified, don’t evaluate what is good, what is bad; that is not part of your meditation.
The second form is breathing, becoming aware of breathing. As the breath goes in, your belly starts rising up, and as the breath goes out, your belly starts settling down again. So the second method is to be aware of the belly: its rising and falling. Just the very awareness of the belly rising and falling…and the belly is very close to the life sources because the child is joined with the mother’s life through the navel. Behind the navel is his life’s source. So, when the belly rises up, it is really the life energy, the spring of life that is rising up and falling down with each breath. That too is not difficult and perhaps maybe even easier because it is a single technique. In the first, you have to be aware of the body, you have to be aware of the mind, you have to be aware of your emotions, moods. So it has three steps. The second approach has a single step: just the belly, moving up and down. And the result is the same. As you become more aware of the belly, the mind becomes silent, the heart becomes silent, and the moods disappear.
And the third is to be aware of the breath at the entrance, when the breath goes in through your nostrils. Feel it at that extreme ― the other polarity from the belly ― feel it from the nose. The breath going in gives certain coolness to your nostrils. Then the breath going out…breath going in…breath going out.
Find a reasonably comfortable and alert position to sit for 40 to 60 minutes. Back and head should be straight, eyes closed and breathing normal. Stay as still as possible, only changing position if it is really necessary. While sitting, the primary object is to be watching the rise and fall of the belly, slightly above the navel, caused by breathing in and out. It is not a concentration technique, so while watching the breath; many other things will take your attention away. Nothing is a distraction in vipassana, so when something else comes up, stop watching the breath, pay attention to whatever is happening until it’s possible to go back to your breath. This may include thoughts, feelings, judgments, body sensations, impressions from the outside world, etc. It is the process of watching that is significant, not so much what you are watching, so remember not to become identified with whatever comes up; questions or problems may just be seen as mysteries to be enjoyed!
Nisargadatta Maharaj : For meditation you should sit with identification with the knowledge “I am” only and have confirmed to yourself that you are not the body. You must dwell only in that knowledge “I am”–not merely the words “I am.” The design of your body does not signify your identification. And also, the name which is given to you or to the body is not your correct identity. The name which is imposed on you, or the name which you have heard about you-you have accepted that name as yourself. Similarly, since you have seen your body, you think you are the body. So you have to give up both these identities. And the indwelling knowledge that you are, without words, that itself you are. In that identity, you must stabilize yourself. And then, whatever doubts you have, will be cleared by that very knowledge, and everything will be opened up in you.
Question: All teachers advise to meditate. What is the purpose of meditation?
Maharaj: We know the outer world of sensations and actions. But of our inner world of thoughts and feelings we know very little. The primary purpose of meditation is to become conscious of, and familiar with, our inner life. The ultimate purpose is to reach the source of life and consciousness. Incidentally, practice of meditation affects deeply our character. We are slaves to what we do not know. Whatever vice or weakness in ourselves we discover and understand its causes and its workings, we overcome it by the very knowing; the unconscious dissolves when brought into the conscious. The dissolution of the unconscious release energy; the mind feels adequate and become quiet.
My teacher told me to hold on to the sense ‘I am’ tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment. I did my best to follow his advice and in a comparatively short time I realized within myself the truth of his teaching. All I did was to remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am — unbound.
I simply followed (my teacher’s) instruction which was to focus the mind on pure being ‘I am’, and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with nothing but the ‘I am’ in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared — myself, my Guru, the life I lived, the world around me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence.
My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense ‘I am’ and to give attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any particular course of breathing, or meditation, or study of scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it and remain with the sense ‘I am’, it may look too simple, even crude. My only reason for doing it was that my Guru told me so. Yet it worked! Obedience is a powerful solvent of all desires and fears.
Ramana Maharshi was a guru of international renown from southern India who taught during the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in 1879 near Madurai, Tamilnadu. His father was a farmer. He was the second of three sons. The family was religious, giving ritual offerings to the family deity and visiting temples. One unusual aspect of his family history was a curse that was put on the family by a wandering monk who was refused food by a family member. The monk decreed that in every generation, one child in the family would renounce the world to lead a religious life. Ramana was largely disinterested in school and absent-minded during work. He had a marked inclination towards introspection and self-analysis. He used to ask fundamental questions about identity, such as the question “who am I?”. He was always seeking to find the answer to the mystery of his own identity and origins.
One peculiar aspect of Ramana’s personality was his ability to sleep soundly. He could be beaten or carried from one place to another while asleep, and would not wake up. He was sometimes jokingly called “Kumbhakarna” after a figure in the Ramayana who slept soundly for months.
In the summer of 1896, Ramana went into an altered state of consciousness which had a profound effect on him. He experienced what he understood to be his own death, and later returned to life.
He also had spontaneous flashes of insight where he perceived himself as an essence independent of the body. During these events, he felt himself to be an eternal entity, existing without reliance on the physical body or material world.
Along with these intuitions came a fascination with the word “Arunachala” which carried associations of deep reverence and a sense that his destiny was closely intertwined with this unique sound. At the age of sixteen, Ramana heard that a place called Arunachala actually existed (the modern town’s name is Tiruvannamalai) and this brought him great happiness.
Ramana was nearing the end of high school when a careless criticism describing him as a person not fit to be a student jarred him into making a final decision to leave school. He had been reading a book on famous Tamil saints and resolved to leave home and lead the life of a religious seeker. Naturally, he planned to go to Arunachala, the place which was the focal point of all his religious ideals.
When he was seventeen years old, Ramama left for Arunachala, arriving after four days of mostly train travel. He went directly to the central shrine at the temple and addressed the Shiva symbol (linga) stating he had given up everything and come to Arunachala in response to the god’s call.
Ramana spent ten years living in temples and caves meditating, and pursuing spiritual purification, keeping the disciplines of silence and non-attachment. At this point, his reputation as a serious teacher (he was called Brahma Swami) began to grow and other seekers began to visit him. His disciples, some of whom were learned individuals, began to bring him sacred books. He became conversant with the religious traditions of South India written in the different regional languages.
Early disciples had a difficult time learning about Ramana’s background and even his native language because he was silent and refused to speak. As time passed he ceased his ascetic phase and began to live a more normal life in an ashram setting. Many people came to visit him with a variety of problems, from both India and abroad.
Ramana’s disciples constructed an ashram and temple, and space the accommodate the many visitors. All ate the same food and Ramana sat with the rest of the people during meals and did not expect special treatment. The ashram was a sanctuary for animals and Ramana had great fondness for the cows, monkeys, birds, and squirrels that inhabited the grounds.
Ramana continued to practice the method of inquiry into the nature of the self best expressed by the question “who am I?”.
Ramana was not a guru in the classic sense of a teacher who gives instruction on a regular basis or gives mantras during initiation. In fact, if the seeker wanted to practice repetition of a mantra rather than the “who am I?” method of self inquiry, he recommended repeating the pronoun “I” or the phrase “I am” rather than repeating sacred Sanskrit words or the names of gods. This focused the person’s mind on “being itself” or the mystery of their own awareness rather than an external object or word.
Sound, in general, is the most apparent medium to calm the mind. Therefore, at times the inner bliss is experienced upon listening to music. This type of music is generated through some external source like a stringed instrument or an electronic device or through the vocal cords of a living being. Sounds created by external sources can be perceived by the mind via physical ears. For example, the moment we hear a bark, we can easily identify the source of sound i.e. it’s from a dog. Similarly, whenever we listen to a music track, we would come to know which singer performs. However, there is an ‘Inner’ sound; in fact, as if, not exactly a sound, which is said to be coming from nowhere; i.e., without a source, the one which has no origin or source and has no limit to be ceased as well. Since the evolution of human world, many great Saints and Sages narrated of listening to this mysterious sound during their ample Silence of meditation. Several Holy Scriptures, have spoken of it by various names like Aum, Hu, Word, Shabd, Tao’s Hum, Amrit, Anahad, Nada and the list goes on and on. Many of the spiritual texts have described it too by using analogous stories and musical poetry. In recent time, a large volume of scientific study is also being carried out about this and in the years to come, science perhaps would also arrive at this all-pervading Sound Current. Inner Sound here simply implies a sound that is coming from within. To listen this, the practitioner withdraws his/her attention from all of the external sounds in the sensory plane and focuses deeply on the sound coming from within. In order to contact the Inner Sound, the practitioners usually plug their ears with their thumb or some kind of stop-cocking instrument like rubber earplugs, earphones, cotton buds etc.