The yogic tradition has described three aspects of awareness through meditation:
(i) awareness of the practitioner, the person who is practicing meditation,
(ii) the aim or the goal which the practitioner wishes to attain through the technique or process of meditation, and
(iii) the process that the practitioner adopts.
awareness of body and mind. There is nothing but the meditative experience, and that state is called dhyana. When we become one with the meditative experience it becomes a living experience. When the concept of duality no longer exists and there is only one experience, this is known as liberation of the mind.
Side view of a woman sitting in lotus position on lake shore with focus on stack of stones
When all three become one then the meditative experience dawns and we lose
In the beginning, however, the awareness of each practitioner is different and each aims at a different level of conscious evolution. The thoughts and motivations of one practitioner may seem to be similar or the same as those of another, the evolutionary level of the mind is at a different stage. The evolutionary level of the mind has to be observed through a process of self-observation. After observing oneself, one can decide which areas of the personality need to be developed.
Every individual is a composition of head, heart and hands. The head represents buddhi or the intellectual aspect of life. The heart represents the emotional or feeling aspect, the spontaneous, natural, non-rational expressions of life.
The hands represent action, the drive to act, to be a participant in this world club of which we are all life members. We begin like this, by integrating and harmonizing the sensory organs and the organs of action, because the mind itself is a sensory organ.
The spirit is attracted to the dimension of prakriti, the world of tangible experiences, which it perceives through :
- The five jnanendriyas or sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin)
- The five karmendriyas or physical organs (hands, feet, anus, sexual organs and speech)
- Through the total mind or mahat, which includes the faculties of manas (rational mind), buddhi (intellect), chitta (memory) and ahamkara (ego).
Each of these mental faculties is also considered as a separate, subtle sense.
In pratyahara there is a gradual withdrawal of externalized sensory experiences so that dissipation and distraction do not occur. The mind must go through a gradual training process to perfect pratyahara, which may take many years. After mastering sensory withdrawal, dharana begins where there is total, one-pointed concentration on the symbol, object or process of meditation. Eventually there must be a merging of mind with the experience of mind; a merger of the two identities, ‘me’ and ‘you’, subject and object.
As long as we are going through the process of merging, we are in the stages of pratyahara and dharana. When the merger takes place we are in the stages of dhyana and samadhi. However, until we have merged ourselves we cannot say that we practice meditation. We can only say that we are practicing methods to improve our awareness and concentration. In order to come to the stage of dhyana and samadhi there must be a pranic awakening as well, because there is a very intimate relationship between prana and mind.
Tools of meditation and Awareness
In order to consolidate the mind three tools are necessary:
These three tools are used in the stages of pratyahara and dharana in order to perfect the meditation process. They provide a basis or a support which the mind can hold on to when the sensory input is cut off. In the process of meditation, as the concentration becomes intensified, the attention is diverted from the sensory perception to the object of concentration. At this time there is a tendency to lose touch with the experience of time, space and object as the awareness moves towards the unconscious dimension.
In this state the mind is overcome by drowsiness as the physical and psychological perceptions are lost. In short it means that we become sleepy. In the state of sleep the mind is diverted to different areas of experience. It begins to dream, imagine and fantasize, and the meditative state is lost. So, there has to be a support on which the mind, that has been divested of its identity with the senses, can rest. That is the purpose of using these three tools of meditation.
[ LEARN MORE ABOUT : Color Meditation ]
There is a story about a caravan in the desert which explains this concept very clearly. A caravan was travelling at night. When it was time to rest, the travelers erected tents and tied up their camels. Unfortunately one man had lost the hook for securing his camel, so the camel remained loose. The man was worried about his camel being untied, so he went to the leader of the caravan and told him his problem. The leader said, “Don’t worry about the hook. Just go through the same motion of tying your camel up and the camel will not go anywhere.“ So the man returned to his camel and went through the motions of tying it up. The camel sat down and did not move from the spot all night.
The next morning everybody was getting ready to resume the journey, but this man’s camel would not get up. The man could not understand why his camel would not get up like the other camels had done. So again he went to the leader of the caravan and asked him what he should do. The leader said, “Now go through the motions of unhitching the camel as you would normally do if it had been tied up.” So the man went through the motions of untying the rope and the camel immediately stood up.
The meaning of this story is obvious. There is actually no bondage within the mind. However, due to our mental conditioning we feel that we must be bound. The mind feels a need for support, a need to be tied down. So, in our own mind we go through the motions of hitching and unhitching our own mental camel. This is where the tools of meditation are important. We use them as a support for the mind when we are entering the uncharted dimensions of the subconscious and unconscious. This is why there are so many mantras, symbols and meditation practices. They are all intended to act as a support for the mind, as a focal point for concentration, as the awareness penetrates into deeper and deeper levels of consciousness.