What is Meditation or ‘Dhyana’?
Meditation has been glorified by the Hindu scriptures as the most sacred vocation of human being. Humans alone are capable of this highest effort, by which they can rise beyond the mind and the intellect, the factors that limit them states Swami Chimayananda (2008:13). The spiritual stalwart of our times, further states, and rightly so, that, few of us can remain for a single moment without the mind and intellect roaming in clusters of thoughts. The question is: How can we regulate the production and flow of our thoughts? (ibid) Seeking an answer to this can had by cultivating controls over thoughts, gaining mastery on controlling and directing their flow, which can be attained by practicing meditation or dhyana.
What then is dhyana? Dhyana is a Sanskrit word. “Dhi” means receptacle or the mind and “yana” means moving or going. Dhyana means journey or movement of the mind. It is a mental activity of the mind (dhi). In Hindu philosophy, the mind (manas) is viewed as a receptacle (dhi) into which thoughts pour back and forth from the universal pool of thought forms. According to Hindu tradition, the human mind has the creative potency of God.
The cornerstone of this philosophy spells that an individual is a sum total of his thoughts and desires, not only of this life but also of past lives. What one thinks and desires grows upon us, becomes part of the latent impressions (sanskaras) and influence the course of life here and hereafter. Patanjali says in his Yoga aphorisms, ‘What ever our mind constantly dwells upon that we become.’ Our thoughts form a point of connection between us and the object our thought points, Swami Paramananda (2012:46).
The purpose of meditation or dhyana is, therefore, to become consciously aware of or investigate into one’s own mind and body to know oneself. It is essentially a technique as well as inclusive process, in which one withdraws one’s mind and senses from the distractions of the world and contemplates upon a chosen object or idea with concentration. It is focused thinking with or without the exercise of individual will, in which the mind and body has to be brought together to function as one harmonious whole.
Mediation, thus is observing the inward and outward movement of thoughts that are coming and going out of the mind, with silence (maunam), stability (dhiram) and detachment (vairagyam).
With the help of mind we can overcome mental blocks, negative thinking, debilitating fears, stress and anxiety by knowing the cause and dealing with them. In dhyana we gain insightful awareness whereby we can control over our response and reactions. Through its regular practice, we come to understand the nature of things, the impermanence of our corporeal existence, the fluctuations of our mind, the source of our suffering and its possible resolution.
Grasping the mind, learn to be in it as in an external abode, and then realize the Consciousness Supreme, which preceded the mind, and which also follow everything in the end, goads Swami Bhoomananda to spiritual aspirants (Bhoomananda, 1997) In dhyana there exists the potential to help human beings evolve assert Swami Chinmayananda reassuringly (Chinmayananda, 2008).
(The above short extract is from an unpublished work titled, ‘Evaluating the impact of meditation and silence’ by Swati)