Is meditation a mental repetition of a chant or thought or a mental worship of God or a state of concentration or absorption or a state of thoughtlessness? Ᾱdi Śaṅkarācārya now takes on the much talked about and often misunderstood topic of dhyāna – meditation.
ब्रह्मैवास्मीति सद्वृत्त्या निरालम्बतया स्थितिः। ध्यानशब्देन विख्याता परमानन्ददायिनी ॥ १२३ ॥brahmaivāsmiti sadvṛttyä nirälambataya sthitih, dhyana-sabdena vikhyātā paramānanda-dayinī. (123)
(अहम् – I ); ब्रह्म- the Truth; एव alone; अस्मि- am ; इति सद्वृत्त्या – by such unassailable thought; निरालम्बतया – depending on nothing; स्थितिः – remaining; ध्यानशब्देन – by the word dhyāna; विख्याता – well known; (सा – this); परमानन्ददायिनी – giver of supreme Bliss, ( भवति – is )
Remaining independent of everything as a result of the unassailable thought, I am verily the Truth, is well known by the word dhyana (meditation), and is the giver of supreme Bliss.
In common parlance, dhyāna a state of full awareness is not a particular action to be done at some special time. It forms an essential part of our life. We are told, ‘dhyāna se calanā … dhyāna se sunanā dhyāna rakhana’ and so on (walk carefully, listen with full attention, be alert, and so on). Without it, our life becomes mechanical and incomplete. No success is possible without our full attention. Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda describes a meditative mind as ‘quiet, vigilant and alert’. Having fixed one’s mind in a particular chakra or place in the body, what
is one to do? The mind is then directed to the Truth or Self or God. With a continuous flow of thought towards the Truth, the mind attains a state of absorption. That is dhyāna. Such a stream of thought may be directed towards the form and qualities of God (saguṇa dhyāna) or the formless Truth (nirguṇa dhyāna). Vedānta calls this state also as samādhāna. The mind remains in one of the five states:
1. Kṣipta: focused on objects directly perceived
2. Vikṣipta: turned towards objects not directly perceived, as in daydreaming, memories, and so on.
3. Laya: in a dormant state as in sleep
4. Ekāgra: single pointed
5. Niruddha: in a thoughtless state.
From the state of deep concentration or absorption (dhyāna), it is very easy for the mind to reach a state of thoughtlessness. A couple of ‘dhyāna meditation’ techniques of Vedānta are now explained. ‘I’ am the witness-consciousness of all my thoughts. ‘I’ am different from them and unaffected by them. They arise, are sustained, and merge in ‘Me’. They exist and are illumined by ‘Me’. The practice of this attitude of being a witness (sākṣī bhāva) leads to the disappearance of the thoughts of objects, leaving only the thought ‘I am the infinite Consciousness (ahaṁ brahmāsmi)’. There is no more dependence on the thoughts of objects (nirālambatayā sthitiḥ).
We repeat the words and focus on the meaning of ‘I am the infinite Truth’, ‘I am all-pervading, Partless, Eternal, Self-evident’, ‘I am Unborn, Deathless, Changeless’, and so on. By doing so with full sincerity and concentration, the thought ‘I am the infinite Truth (ahaṁ brahmāsmi)’ alone remains. There is no more need for words (nirālambatayā sthitiḥ). This single thought too finally disappears in the state of Realisation (aparokṣānubhūti ).