The Two Forms & Eight Main Types of Meditation
Babaji’s commentary on Yoga Sutras 3.3 in the SRV Raja Yoga email class
tad evarthamatranirbhasan svarupashunyam iva samadhih (tad, that; eva, the same; artha, place or object; matra, alone/single; nirbhasam, radiates; svarupa, essence; shunyam, empty; iva, as it were; samadhi, absorption).
“When all places and objects become empty or equal, as it were, and deep reflection only on the essence occurs, radiating forth meaning, then the mind gets absorbed in samadhi.”
Sutra three of this third pada, our only sutra for this lesson, brooks the hard to define subject of meditation. It is hard to define, and to teach (what to speak of attain), because it is so personal, so inward. The teaching which I have put forth on meditation via SRV Associations, given that the subject is not “taught” by teachers in general, is the one on the Two Forms and Eight Types. For a complete view of this, please see the chart I have attached on the final page of this lesson.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of meditation: the one on form, and the formless meditation. Generally, the one on form involves a devotee’s Ishtam, called a “Chosen Ideal,” signifying an all-important decision reached by guru and disciple at the time of initiation. At that auspicious moment in time the disciple selected a preferred Form which represented his heart’s utter love and surrender. A mantra for that deity was then transmitted. Patanjali refers to this Great Soul in the sutras, calling Him/Her a specially qualified and advanced being who is overseer of the worlds and their occupants. The Ishtam can be a member of the Trinity, a God or Goddess, an Avatar, or an especially illumined soul. Meditation on this transcendent Form then ensues, and the devotee gets shaped inwardly by the influence of this powerful being. As the Upanisads state, “By meditating on the Lord, one gets the qualities of the Lord.” Thus, meditation with form is crucial for the spiritual development of mankind.
On the chart featured in this lesson, we can see listed four different methods which fall under this heading, classified under the heading of Saguna Brahman, God with attributes. First there is meditation on an ordinary object, not ordinary in the sense of being mundane or common, but only in terms of something practical, and that can inspire higher thought, even inspiration. That is called a pratika or a pratima in Sanskrit. Since the Hindus are well-versed, over expansive cycles of time, in worshiping images via the mode of deifying the world and its contents, the aspirant is in good hands when taking up a practice of this kind. Please notice the quote by the Father of Yoga under this heading on the chart, for one can see the support and encouragement for such a practice in him.
The second type of meditation under the God with Form category is called Sukshma-dhyan. It is meditation, or contemplation, on the wisdom contained in scripture. As Lord Vasishtha declares, studying Atma-jnan scriptures that treat nondual Reality is a way of purification and leads “omward” to extraordinary spiritual advancement. The Yoga of Jnana is based upon this principle, but so is Raja Yoga. After all, we are studying the sutras as they appear in scriptural form. Karma Yoga proceeds via study as well, despite its accent on works, and Bhakti Yoga has its own set of scriptures, like the Bhakti Sutras of Narada. Point well taken, I hope.
Next comes Vyakti-upasanadhyan, which not only includes focus upon the Chosen Ideal mentioned earlier, but extends outward to embrace all divine forms, even forms in nature. Of course, the pratika form of meditation discussed above can count its articles as being from nature as well. Herein, sunsets, seascapes. starscapes, and such, are valuable for this superlative art, as long as they are taken up and perceived in their essence (see sutra 3 and its transliteration) to afford a true meaning, rather than one involved with appearances alone. This, in part, is why Patanjali encourages meditation on the alambanas [cosmic principles] early on, so that the qualified soul can see through surface beauty in nature and receive the profound impact of what nature is really communicating to us. For example, space, with its millions of stars, planets, galaxies, etc., is really speaking to the eternal and boundless nature within us, thus Paramakasha. The ocean, with its constant formulation of waves, and their equally consistent disappearance, is relating that the many souls who make their appearance on the surface of existence really only merge again into their essence, thus, no birth or death, or nonorigination. The sun, shining without break, symbolizes the endless emanation of wisdom which is ever-illuminating, thus the Soul’s self-effulgent nature. And the myriad raindrops falling into the verdant earth’s many bodies of water signifies the merging of souls into the ocean of Consciousness after their play in form is over, thus reincarnation free of bondage, or jivanmukti.
And speaking of playful sport, the fourth type of meditation with form is that of Lila-dhyan. The aspirant, disciple, or devotee is encouraged to take up any divine personality and the scenes of His or Her life and engage in a deep introspection of them. Like the Christians do with Jesus and His life, from the manger up until the crucifixion, and the Hindu’s do with the lives of Ramchandra and Krishna, and even the Buddhists do with the exemplary life of Sakyamuni Buddha and its highlights, just so should the seeker of deeper states of Awareness place the ardent and one-pointed mind upon God sporting as man. This is the sweetest kind of meditation overall.
The rest of the chart on the final page of this lesson is taken up with meditation in the Nirguna mode, or God without attributes. Getting a willful grasp on the mind is first needed, of the kind that Patanjali mentions when he gives out the teaching on the Five States of Mind of A Yogi. As Vivekananda has interpreted it in our class text, the scattered mind must be brought into a mode of “gathering.” When the state of “gathered” is accomplished, then “focusing” can begin. And finally, fully focused is attained. This gradation of stages applies to Tailadharadhyan very well, since all the mind’s thoughts must be not only controlled, but concentrated en masse, in force. The practice of intense coalescing of the mind’s power, day by day, can result in some profound insights and realizations. Practicing the transmission of one’s consciousness-force towards the ultimate goal of Brahman, as if pouring honey from one beaker into another, prepares the mind for deeper states of meditation in the formless vein.
This is where the appearance of the Self, called Atman, plays its excellent role in meditation. Svarupadhyan is meditation upon one’s own inner essence, svarupa. For many, this is the apex of meditation, and nothing further needs to be gained. The spiritual phenomenon of Oneness of Atman and Brahman, or Jivatman and Paramatman, occurs naturally after this. By the quote posted on the chart under this heading we can see that even the Buddha was not against using terminology such as “self” to explain the presence of Essence in mankind. Even the small self, the anatman, will necessarily have to merge in its big brother component, the Great Self, at some time or other. In Svarupadhyan, then, the Atman leaves off of its temporary association with the five sheaths, the koshas of Vedanta, and takes up its true nature, free of assumed modifications.
One further thing may be said of Svarupadhyan, and that is what it makes possible in terms of Brahmakaravrittidhyan. The still embodied soul, with Atman realized, can now spend time meditating directly on Brahman in rapt formlessness, an actionless act which was hardly possible before the Great Self was realized. Only glimpses were experienced previously, and these while still in the play of mock separation, seemingly real. Now, as Shankara avers, the undivided ocean of Consciousness is available for fathoming, where no barriers are present or possible.
One other form of formless meditation should be added to our list in accord with this sutra and my chart. It is rather an overall conglomeration of all levels of meditation that the soul passed through on its way to purely nondual meditation. It is valuable for return, too, for some souls who attain immersion may decide to forgo absorption and return to the world of individual play for various divine reasons. In this wise they will require some training in the art of Layachintayadhyan and its three phases. Laya, as we have learned earlier in this lesson, means dissolution. Thus, all the projections which form the realm of the bhutas, which reside in the antahkarana, and which spring from Omkara, must be dissolved, again and again, from top to bottom, inside out, and forwards and backwards, in order that this most refined of meditational tools be mastered. The perfect Soul then drives enlightenment deeper into every level, aspect and principle of life, from the physical all the way to the purely spiritual. With this accomplished, the yogi can live anywhere in total immersion, and even partake of complete absorption in a fully conscious way.
The import of this sutra is only superceded by what is to come, namely, the sutras on samyama and samadhi. Before we undertake those, some additional study here, along with more remarks and questions will be helpful for all. Please enter into the spirit of this lesson and respond before the deadline for our next lesson, and may the chart on the following page and its explication above help in this process....and in deepening your actual meditations, replete with all these tools and facets.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace!