Prerequisites For Meditation
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is from the book Meditation Know-How.
For meditation, you want a properly trained instrument. You must have a calm, clear, pure, subtle, sharp, steady and one-pointed Buddhi to understand the Brahma-tattva or Brahma-vastu. Then and then only is realisation possible. Brahman is pure and subtle and you need a pure and subtle mind to approach Brahman.
Only a trained mind which utterly controls the body can inquire and meditate endlessly as long as life remains, never for a moment losing sight of the object of its search and contemplation, the Brahman, never for a moment letting it to be obscured by any terrestrial temptation. All physical activities should be completely suspended, all attachments should be ruthlessly cut asunder completely for five or six years, if you want to practise Dhyana Yoga, if you want to realise God through concentration of mind. Newspaper reading and correspondence with friends and relatives should be completely stopped as they cause distraction of mind and strengthen the world-idea. Seclusion for a period of five or six years is indispensable.
For purposes of meditation, everything must be rendered Sattvic. The place of meditation must be Sattvic. The food must be Sattvic. The wearing apparel must be Sattvic. The company must be Sattvic. Talking must be Sattvic. The sound that you hear must be Sattvic. Thinking must be Sattvic. Study must be Sattvic. Everything must be Sattvic. Then only good progress in Sadhana is possible, particularly with the beginners.
A solitary place with spiritual vibratory conditions, a cool Sattvic place with temperate climate, is indispensably requisite for concentration of mind and meditation, because the brain gets hot during meditation. The banks of sacred rivers, Himalayan scenery, lovely flower gardens, sacred temples–these are the places which elevate the mind in concentration and meditation. Have recourse to them.
Of course, the ideal condition cannot always be obtained as this is a relative plane. All places combine advantages and some disadvantages also side by side. You must select a place which has the maximum of advantages and the minimum of disadvantages. You must do the best you can. You must try to put up with some difficulties. You must overcome them. You should be alone with yourself. You should be able to abstract yourself from the distracting causes.
There must be good, Sattvic, substantial, light, nutritious food. Meditation is possible only when the mind is full of the Sattva Guna. The stomach should not be loaded. There is an intimate connection between the mind and the food. A heavy meal is harmful. Take a full meal at 11 a.m. and half a litre of milk at night. The night meal should be light for those who meditate.
There must be capacity for Sadhana. Asana steadies the body. Bandhas and Mudras make the body firm. Pranayama makes the body light. Nadi-suddhi effects Samayavastha of the mind, produces steadiness of the mind. Having acquired these qualifications, you will have to fix the mind on Brahman. Then only meditation will go on steadily with ease and happiness.
You should have perfect control over the body through regular practice of Asanas before you take up serious and constant meditation. You cannot practise meditation without a firm seat. If the body is unsteady, the mind also will become unsteady. There is intimate connection between the body and the mind. You should not shake the body even a bit. You should attain mastery over the Asana–Asana Jaya–by daily practice. You should be as firm as a statue or a rock. If you keep the body, head and neck erect, the spinal cord also will be erect, the Kundalini will rise up steadily through the Sushumna. You will not be overpowered by sleep.
Asanas pertain to the physical body. They render the body firm and steady and eradicate physical ailments. Bandhas pertain to the Prana. That which binds is a Bandha. Bandhas do not allow the Prana to move upwards and the Apana to move downwards. They bind or unite the Prana with the Apana and send the united Prana-Apana up through the Sushumna Nadi. Mudras concern the mind. They represent seals. Mudra means a seal. Mudras seal the mind with the Soul or Atman. They do not allow the mind to wander outside towards objects. They direct the externalising mind towards the Atman in the chambers of the heart and fix it there.
When the Sushumna Nadi is working, when the breath flows through both the nostrils, meditation goes on with ease and joy. The mind then is calm. There is an increase of Sattva Guna when the Sushumna is operating. Sit for meditation the moment the Sushumna begins to flow.
You can meditate only when the mind is beyond all anxieties. Retire to a quiet room or place where you do not fear interruption so that your mind may feel secure and at rest. Sit in a comfortable posture and be, as far as possible, free from external disturbing influences. Drive off negative thoughts. Become positive always. You can do nice meditation when you are positive.
Do not cause pain or suffering to any living being from greed, selfishness, irritability or annoyance. Give up anger or ill-will. Give up the spirit of fighting and heated debates. Do not argue. If you quarrel with somebody or if you have a heated debate with anybody, you cannot meditate for 3 or 4 days. Your balance of mind will be upset. Much energy will be wasted in useless channels. The blood will become hot. The nerves will be shattered. You must try your level best to keep a serene mind always. Meditation can proceed from a serene mind only. A serene mind is a valuable spiritual asset for you.
The aspirant should possess serenity. The divine light can descend only in a serene mind. Serenity is attained by the eradication of Vasanas or desires and cravings. The aspirant should be fearless also. This is the most important qualification. A timid or cowardly aspirant is very far from Self-realisation.
The arduous practice of Yoga demands an abundance of energy and nerve power on the part of the Yogic student. If one conserves the seminal energy only, he can have an abundance of energy and nerve power. Semen or vital juice tones the nerves and brain and energises the system. He who has preserved his vital force by the vow of celibacy and sublimated it into Ojas Sakti can practise steady meditation for a long period. He only can ascend the ladder of Yoga. Without Brahmacharya no iota of spiritual progress is possible. Brahmacharya is the very foundation on which the superstructure of meditation and Samadhi can be built up. Many people waste this vital energy–a great spiritual treasure indeed–when they become blind and lose their power of reason under excitement. Pitiable indeed is their lot! They cannot make any substantial progress in Yoga.
There must be firm Vairagya, burning Mumukshutva and strong Viveka in you. There must be a good spiritual teacher, an Anubhavi Guru, to guide you.
You must have an intellectual grasp, intellectual conviction and a comprehensive understanding of Brahman first through the purified mind.
Many do not get the above favourable conditions for spiritual Sadhana. That is the reason why they do not make any spiritual progress.