PRATYAHARA PREPARES THE WAY FOR MEDITATION
One of our life’s goals is to be happy. Whatever their spiritual level, people are permanently looking for happiness.
A special moment, event or state are considered moments of happiness and eventually become a reference point, an oasis of light that we relate to.
But, as time passes by, what we have lived fades away or disappears, being replaced by a state of dissatisfaction. Why? What could be the cause of our losing these reference points?
According to the Siddhas’, tradition, that made over time a science and an art out of the yoga practice, the uncounted wishes that disturb our peaceful life come from the subconscious mind, where all our past experiences are stocked. Just as the clouds blot out the Sun, our stress and worries hide our inner beatitude.
Referring to this human condition, the Siddhas assert that we just “dream with open eyes”, doing unconsciously, and out of habit most of the things we do.
Meditating, they have discovered that there is something within ourselves that is complete, perfectly conscious 24 hours a day, and independent of circumstances.
What do sages say to advise us in solving this universal dilemma? They say: “The measure of our happiness is given by our self-discipline.”
In order to act consciously we need self-discipline or “sadhana“. Patanjali, in his fundamental text Yoga Sutra, defines yoga as the “removal of the mental fluctuations born in the subconscious”.
What is needed to fulfil this challenge is sadhana or a sustained spiritual practice.
THE MOST ELEVATED YOGA PRACTICE
Most people can practice successfully physical or body building exercises without knowing much about anatomy, without understanding anything of what they are doing or even the reason for their action.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, this situation is not similar in yoga or in the practice of meditation. It is impossible to achieve this process unless you know its nature and that is why we cannot talk about meditation but only about spiritual hypocrisy.
Meditation is the most elevated yogi practice, which does not mean that it is very difficult. However, only a few people can meditate and this is because of two main reasons:
1. Very few know exactly what meditation is;
2. Lacking motivation, even fewer are willing to engage themselves in this process.
Not all that remain unmoved, with their eyes closed are meditating. Meditation is an exact science and that is why it can not be practiced in a complete state of ignorance.
Only the one who studies it with a serious inner motivation can practice it successfully. It also needs a certain subject to meditate upon; there isn’t any meditation in its absence.
The simplest meditation subject can be a physical object, a recipient, a drawing, a ball, etc, and at more advanced stages more and more subtle ones, mental images created at will, information, a problem that must be solved, a thought, an idea, a subtle energy, a state of consciousness.
A very important aspect is that the object of meditation must be well perceived by the subject, in other words, it must be clearly defined in an objective or subjective reality. A vague idea cannot be an object of meditation.
Thus, the subject, or the one who practices meditation, must be able to “catch” at least one of the major characteristics of the object, if not all of them.
The ageless tradition of wisdom reveals some well defined stages of meditation that must be followed in order to enter the state of meditation.
These stages are: DHARANA – mental concentration, DHYANA – meditation, and SAMADHI – perfect identification.
A preliminary but absolutely necessary stage is PRATYAHARA, the withdrawal of senses within.