The second of Kausthub’s lectures at the “Discover Yoga Anatomy” intensive at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, March 2012….
Many people make claims about meditation, but still don’t understand it. They assume that TECHNIQUES are meditation.
What is happening in modern day science and medicine is that they say meditation works, but we don’t want to understand WHY it works. Books on this subject are merely guidebooks, they give no explanation as to HOW meditation works. If we take a tool like meditation and become attached to it, there is no understanding.
WHY is more important than WHAT.
There are three domains of meditation in yoga, but modern yogis are concerned with bendy bodies, fancy clothes, and taking their pictures in front of waterfalls. They should be applying for jobs in Hollywood, not in yoga. Yoga is meant to be done as a meditative practice.
The first domain is that meditation is about helping us live our lives better. We have daily activities, actions concerning the world, we’re part of a social eco-system. Many times we do not deal appropriately with this eco-system because of our klesas — we make mistakes. To help us see clearly, to improve our actions, meditation is done.
The second domain of meditation is to improve or regain our health because we get sick, whether it is body, mind, emotions, or spirit.
The third domain has to do with self-realization. The difference between animals and us is that we are not only interested in eating and sex, but as humans we have the potential for self-realization. We have the ability to question the meaning of life and our role in it, what we can give back.
It is my hope that there will be enough sanity in future yogis to move beyond the body and go inward.
So how does meditation work in these three domains, because it does not work the same in each.
For the first domain, yoga philosophy says that there is a process in which an action begets another action. We hear or read something (knowledge) and that awareness creates a desire. That desire creates an action, so we act from a place of desire. The action is not the end of the cycle because there is a consequence. The consequence leaves an impression on us, good or bad. This is where mistakes happen.
Meditation works here by addressing the source: is your awareness right or wrong? Our knowledge is not based on a fact but what we are drawn to. We have the illusion of clarity, we see what we want to see, not what is really in front of us.
In meditation for this domain, the practice is designed in such a way in order to give us clarity of perception. It takes us to a neutral space, not from a bias. Meditation can influence how we see things, i.e. with greater perception of clarity. In that way, our responses in life become more appropriate — this is the opposite of what we usually do, how we usually react in and to life.
In the second domain, it is given that the mind controls the body. For example, we have a nightmare and truly believe that whatever is happening in the nightmare is actually happening to us, we have a physical reaction to the nightmare — that is how strong the mind is over the body. In the same way our mind can influence us in a positive way. Modern science is finally seeing this. When the mind moves into nirodha samskara (YS Ch. 3), the mind becomes stable. Meditation helps us change the patterns of the mind which can thereby change the patterns of the body. In yoga philosophy, diseases and health are seen as nothing other than a set of patterns. Patanjali introduces the concept of yoga therapy in the second and third chapters of the Sutra-s. The mind is very powerful — there is a reason why it is said “mind over matter” — because the mind can literally change matter. This seems paranormal, but it is not.
The trouble is that we always want things to change quickly, but change takes time. The mind is linked with the senses which are linked to matter. What is held in the mind moves towards what holds the senses. We have seen what could be called miracles at the Mandiram, when all we do is show a person how to breath, how to meditate, when they came here and could not even lift an arm.
However, the same thing won’t work the same way with everyone. The stupidity of modern times is that everyone is the same — we want the same prescriptions. The same focus will be different with everyone. A metaphor for this is that the same food will be cooked differently whether it is cooked in an electric oven or a traditional tandoor — same food, different result. How your mind is will affect what the change is. Giving the same medicine to everyone and expecting the same results is ridiculous.
Patanjali said that each of us has different kinds of mind — which mind that holds the object of meditation will affect the change. The standardization of meditative practices is rubbish.
The third domain is the spiritual domain. The exploration of our potential is the spirituality contained in the Yoga Sutra-s.
We all have within us seeds that are dormant, seeds that will grow. Meditation in the spiritual domain is like a dry field with seeds — prana is equivalent to water for that field. The prana will irrigate that mind field so that our seeds will sprout.
But we trap ourselves. We are ignorant of our seeds. We don’t nourish them because we don’t have the patience.
We don’t want to be who we are, we want to be someone else. We think being different is somehow better. This is where acceptance of ourselves is so important — a mango can never be a papaya. We have to start accepting who were are and stop rejecting who we are.
The river of prana must water the deep levels of the mind, but remember that we also have negative seeds. Besides the beneficial seeds, a field also has poison seeds, weed seeds — we have to accept both. We do not have authority to judge ourselves or others.
If prana is remaining in you, it finds you worthy of something — look at the positive, not the negative, because no one is perfect.