As yoga awareness increases, more people are joining meditation classes and reading yoga books. It is a fact that yoga and meditation, when conducted under proper guidance, can deliver astonishing results. However, the million dollar question is, what exactly is yoga and meditation? Interestingly, to most people, yoga is for fitness and meditation is for peace of mind. Sounds like a meaningful definition as the practitioners do feel healthier after exercise, and peaceful after medication. What they often don’t seem to realize is the fact that yoga and meditation are not two different things. Meditation is one of the processes yoga can be performed through.
“Originated in ancient India, yoga makes use of different movements, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques that help in leading a healthy life, while keeping stress at bay. Although yoga is a powerful technique that is absolutely relevant to the modern world, and bearing in mind that yoga is one of the best remedies ever known to humankind, it cannot be however be denied that the pure concept of yoga is often misrepresented and packaged in present day world.” – Is that all Yoga has to offer?
Unfortunately yoga has been watered down. Some think of it as a hobby, status, a business, while others, completely unaware of what it is, even regard it as a religion. A recent article published here gives a comprehensive analysis of different yoga systems. Meditation, called dhyana in Sanskrit, is one of the yogas that seekers of absolute truth practice. Just as there are widespread misconceptions about yoga, meditation also been been misrepresented and misunderstood. Most people are told and think that meditation can be done on anything or nothing. This is plain wrong.
While all can experience how meditation, even when performed imperfectly, helps them become peaceful, if practiced strictly according to Vedic literature like Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, it lifts one’s consciousness beyond his or her best imagination of peace. Vedic scriptures, from where the teachings of yoga originate, clearly state that meditation should be done on the four-handed form of Lord Vishnu, who is known to yogis as Paramatma and who resides in everyone’s heart.
Bhagavad Gita (6.11-15) describes some of the prerequisites for practicing dhyan yoga:
“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kush grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should be neither too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very ﬁrmly and practice yoga to purify the heart by controlling his mind, senses and activities and ﬁxing the mind on one point. One should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.”
Note how this verse advises the practitioner to control his mind and other senses. It also says one should be unagitated, devoid of fear and completely free from sex life. If we compare this guidelines with what happens today in the name of yoga and meditation, we can easily see why the result is not encouraging. Yoga is not meant for just being fit and enjoy a carefree life. In fact, the concept of carefree life is found to be more prominent in animals. Although modern propaganda encourages one to live animal-like life, human life is actually meant for discharging one’s duties responsibly and uncovering one’s real identity. That’s what makes human beings different from animals. The purpose of yoga and meditation is to achieve this higher state of consciousness.
Srimad Bhagavatam reveals who the best of the yogis meditate upon.
yam brahma varunendra-rudra-marutah stunvanti divyaih stavair
vedaih sanga-pada-kramopanisadair gayanti yam sama-gah
dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yogino
yasyantam na viduh surasura-gana devaya tasmai namah
TRANSLATION: Unto that personality whom Brahma, Varuna, Indra, Rudra and the Maruts praise by chanting transcendental hymns and reciting the Vedas with all their corollaries, pada-kramas and Upanisads, to whom the chanters of the Sama Veda always sing, whom the perfected yogis see within their minds after fixing themselves in trance and absorbing themselves within Him, and whose limit can never be found by any demigod or demon — unto that Supreme Personality of Godhead I offer my humble obeisances. (SB 12.13.1)
From this verse we can understand who is the ultimate object of worship and meditation for highly elevated demigods and perfected yogis. The same Supreme Personality of Godhead is also the object of meditation for the beginners.
While operating a new machine or computer, instead of wasting time in figuring out various features, intelligent users go through the manual provided by the manufacturer. Yoga, which includes meditation, has its roots in the teachings of Vedic scriptures. Not following the instructions given in those books and inventing new styles of yoga and meditations for selling it to anyone and everyone cannot go far. At the best it can make some money for the teachers and help some improve their health. This may not be harmful in itself but it seriously undermines the real value of yoga. For those seeking success, it is important to safeguard themselves against commercially conducted, concocted yoga performances. On the other hand, sticking to the path shown in Vedic scriptures is a guaranteed process for achieving the ultimate success in yoga.