MEDITATION, WORK AND REST
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is from the book Meditation Know-How.
A microscopic minority only are fit for whole-time meditation. People like Sadasiva Brahmendra and Sri Sankara only can spend the whole time in meditation. Many Sadhus who take to Nirvritti Marga become completely Tamasic. Tamas is mistaken for Sattva. This is a great blunder. One can evolve beautifully by doing Karma Yoga in the world if he knows how to spend his time profitably. A householder should seek the advice of Sannyasins and Mahatmas from time to time, draw a daily routine and adhere to it strictly amidst worldly activities. Rajas can be converted into Sattva. Intense Rajas takes a Sattvic turn. It is impossible to convert Tamas all of a sudden into Sattva. Tamas should be turned into Rajas first.
Young Sadhus who take to Nivritti Marga do not stick to a routine. They do not hear the words of elders. They do not obey the orders of the Guru. They want absolute independence from the very beginning. They lead a happy-go-lucky life. There is no one to check. They have their own ways. They do not know how to regulate the energy and how to chalk out a daily programme. They aimlessly wander about from place to place. They become Tamasic within six months. They sit for half an hour in some Asana and imagine that they are realised souls.
If an aspirant who has taken to the Nivritti Marga finds that he is not evolving, that he is not improving in meditation, and is going into a Tamasic state, he should at once take up some kind of service for some years and work vigorously. He should combine work along with meditation. This is wisdom. This is prudence. This is sagacity. Then he should go in for seclusion. One should use his common sense throughout his Sadhana. It is very difficult to come out of the Tamasic state. A Sadhaka should be very cautious. When Tamas tries to overtake him, he should immediately do some sort of brisk work. He can run in the open air, draw water from wells. He should drive off the Tamas by some intelligent means or the other.
Meditation and Work
He who meditates is not able to work. He who works is not able to meditate. This is not balance. This is not equanimity. The two principles meditation and action, must be well balanced. If you are ready to follow the divine injunction, you must be able to take up whatever work you are given—even a stupendous work—and leave it the next day, with the same quietness with which you took it up and without feeling that the responsibility is yours. You must be able to work hard in the world with tremendous force, and when the work is over you must be able to shut yourself up in a cave as an absolute recluse for a long time with great peace of mind. That is balance. That is real strength. Then only you have gone beyond the qualities. Then only you have become a Gunatita. “He, O Pandava, who hateth not radiance (Sattva) nor outgoing energy (work), nor even sloth and slumber (Moha) when present, nor longeth after them when absent—he is said to have crossed over the qualities.” (Gita, XIV-22).
When you have a disinclination for work and a desire for meditation only, you can lead a life of complete seclusion, living on milk and fruits alone. You will have good spiritual progress. When there is an inclination for work, when the meditative mood vanishes, take up work again. Thus, by gradual practice, the mind should be moulded.
When you advance in the spiritual practice, it will be very difficult for you to do meditation and office work at the same time, because the mind will undergo a double strain. Those who practise meditation will find that they are more sensitive than the people who do not meditate and because of that, the strain on the physical body is enormous. The mind works in different grooves and channels with different Samskaras during meditation. It finds it very difficult to adjust to different kinds of uncongenial activities. As soon as it comes down from the meditation, it gropes in darkness. It gets bewildered and puzzled. The Prana or energy which moves inward in different grooves and channels and which is subtle during meditation has to move in new, different channels during worldly activities. It becomes very gross during work. When you sit again for meditation in the evening, you will have to struggle hard to wipe out the new Samskaras you have gathered during the course of the day and get calm and one-pointedness of mind. This struggle sometimes brings in headache.
Therefore, Grihastha Yogic students will have to stop all the worldly activities when they advance in meditation if they desire to progress further. They themselves will be forced to give up all work if they are really sincere. Work is a hindrance in meditation for advanced students. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in the Gita: “For a sage who is seeking Yoga, action is called the means; for the same sage who is enthroned in Yoga, who is in the state of Yogarudha, serenity or Sama is called the means”. Then, work and meditation become incompatible like acid and alkali or fire and water or light and darkness.
Advanced aspirants should stop all sorts of work and study of religious books even, if they want to enter into Samadhi quickly. They should observe Mauna and remain in a solitary place on the banks of the Ganga, Yamuna or Narmada or any river. They should live on milk alone or milk and fruits. They should plunge themselves in Sadhana in right earnest. They should reduce the sleep to 2 or 3 hours. They should start the practice in the beginning of winter, in November. There is real rest in meditation. This rest for half an hour or one hour is far superior to the rest that is obtained from sleep and will suffice.
Meditation Gives Real Rest
Fatigue of the Indriyas demands rest. Hence, sleep supervenes at night rhythmically. Motion and rest are rhythmical processes in life. The mind moves about in the avenues of the senses through the force of the Vasanas. Strictly speaking, Dridha Sushupti or the deep sleep state is very, very rare. There is subtle working of the mind in sleep also. Hence you do not get good rest in sleep. Real rest is secured in meditation, and in meditation only. It is only Dhyana Yogins who practise meditation that can feel real rest in Asana. The mind is fully concentrated during meditation, is far away from objects, and nearer the Atman. There are no Raga-Dvesha currents during meditation owing to the absence of objects. Consequently, there is the manifestation of solid, lasting, real spiritual Ananda with complete, genuine rest. You must practise meditation. You must feel yourself. Then you will agree with me. In Varanasi, there is a Hatha Yogi who does levitation. He never sleeps at night. He sits on the Asana during the whole night. He gets the real rest from meditation. He has dispensed with sleep. You may not enjoy the rest fully in the beginning of your practice. Because, at the outset, there is a good deal of wrestling between the will and Svabhava, the old Samskaras and the new Samskaras, old habits and new habits, Purushartha and old conduct. The mind revolts. When the mind is thinned out; when you have reached the Tanumanasi stage, the third Jnana Bhumika, you will enjoy like anything. You will find 10,000 Bengal Rasagullas in the supreme rest in meditation. You can then cut short your sleep to 3 or 4 hours gradually.