Modes and Methods of Meditation

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    Leonel Palacios

    Apologies. Please, delete my posts. I don’t want to cause any troubles.

    Ashish Dalela

    I don’t think you are causing any trouble, and I wasn’t trying to imply that you were. If my answer came across that way, then I’m sorry. Sometimes it is hard to understand a person’s tone through text, and misunderstandings can occur if you think that my tone is harsh although that is not my intent. That might be the case here. You are welcome to ask questions, and there is no limit to that.

    Pradhana-gopika dd

    Thank you for your comments about karma-yoga and concerning pure chanting.

    I’m still thinking about our discussion of the last days, where different subjects were raised, and still one question is left: On 26th of October you wrote “The deepest level of material reality is fear, insecurity, inferiority. This is called Mahā-Māyā. Everyone in this world is conditioned by fear. There are four philosophies for conquering this fear.” Then subsequently you explained those four philosophies. May I ask where do those different kinds of philosophy come from?

    Ashish Dalela

    The Sāñkhya Sūtra speaks about a progression from detachment to knowledge to devotion. This is because, at the outset, the goal of Sāñkhya is stated to be “freedom from three-fold miseries”. Over the course of the text, this negative conception of freedom from suffering is revised to uphold a positive conception of understanding the self in relationship to the Lord for eternal happiness. Freedom from miseries is thus attained progressively by detachment, knowledge, and devotion.

    The Yoga Sūtra speaks about the attainment of bodily and mental strength (after it states that mystical powers don’t give liberation) as being important to tolerate the hardships of yoga in the journey to devotion. Another Yoga text called Hatha-Yoga Pradīpika lists six qualities or “limbs” to progress in yoga practice (specifically referring to aśtānga-yoga): (a) enthusiasm, (b) courage, (c) patience, (d) knowledge, (e) determination, and (e) renunciation of worldly association.

    Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in the Upadeśāmṛta lists a similar set of six attributes to progress in bhakti-yoga, of which, enthusiasm, patience, determination, and renouncing worldly association, are identical to those given in Hatha-Yoga Pradīpika. However, “courage” and “knowledge” in Hatha-Yoga Pradīpika are replaced by “performing the relevant duties” and “associating with the saintly people”.

    If we take Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī as the reference, then, enthusiasm, patience, and determination collectively constitute what we ordinarily call “mental strength”. The term “courage” is excluded as the bhakti-yoga process doesn’t involve intense austerities. However, prior to this statement, there is a statement of the qualification of a guru, which involves six difficult things, namely, having the capacity to control speech, tongue, belly, sex, mind, and anger. While they are the minimal qualification for a guru, they are important for other practitioners too. Thus, there is considerable hardship, or what we call “austerities” that require a person to have mental strength. The ability to tolerate these hardships also needs “courage”, especially in this age of many weaknesses.

    The Bhagavad-Gita states that out of thousands of people, only one tries for perfection, and out of thousands who have attained perfection, only one truly knows the Lord. One might wonder: What is the difference between perfection and knowing Krishna? Aren’t they the same thing? The answer is that “perfection” means liberation, and “truly knowing Krishna” is one out of thousands who are liberated. Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport to BG 7.3: “Although non-devotees declare that the path of bhakti or devotional service is very easy, they cannot practice it. If the path of bhakti is so easy, as the non-devotee class of men proclaims, then why do they take up the difficult path? Actually, the path of bhakti is not easy. The so-called path of bhakti practiced by unauthorized persons without knowledge of bhakti may be easy, but when it is practiced factually according to the rules and regulations, the speculative scholars and philosophers fall away from the path.”

    Then, Srimad Bhagavatam speaks about the triad of knowledge, detachment, and devotion in many places (e.g., in SB 3.25.18). This is because, without knowledge, devotion becomes fanaticism, and without renunciation, devotion is mixed up with various kinds of sense gratifications. All over the world, we can see religious systems that have emphasized the personality of God, but deemphasized knowledge and renunciation, have ended up as fanatical, materialistic, and ignorant religions.

    Thus, in various places, we find knowledge, renunciation, strength, and devotion are emphasized in various combinations. The combination of knowledge, renunciation, strength, and devotion leads to the perfect understanding of Krishna, which is one in thousands of liberated souls (while liberation alone can be obtained by detachment, knowledge, or strength). The four methods are presented in Bhagavad-Gita, and in various other places, combinations of these four are emphasized.

    Sometimes, the combination is knowledge, detachment, and devotion. At other times, the combination is mental strength, continuous practice, and knowledge. At other times, the combination is detachment, continuous practice, and knowledge. I’m sure if we exhaustively analyze the various statements across varied texts, then we can find other kinds of combinations.

    To summarize, we can say that all four are important, but the combination depends on the person. Whenever something is left out, a potential problem may be created; its rectification will require the practice of the missing limb or aspect of the practice. For example, a fanatic neophyte practitioner requires more knowledge to recognize nuances. A person practicing bhakti for name and fame needs renunciation. A person trying to practice bhakti, but who has become discouraged by problems, requires mental strength. And those who may be highly renounced, knowledgeable, and mentally strong, need to become softer, compassionate, humbler, and tolerant by devotion.

    Thus knowing these four systems is important because there are three kinds of problems even in devotional practice: fanatic following, materialistic pursuits, and abandoning the path due to difficulties. Other systems are important as counterbalances to these types of problems.

    Whether we only divide them into four parts or subdivide some of these four parts into further parts (e.g. in the description of six types of austerities, and six limbs progress in the practice), is up to us.

    Pradhana-gopika dd

    Another Yoga text called Hatha-Yoga Pradīpika lists six qualities or “limbs” to progress in yoga practice (specifically referring to aśtānga-yoga): (a) enthusiasm, (b) courage, (c) patience, (d) knowledge, (e) determination, and (e) renunciation of worldly association.

    I was also immediately thinking of the third verse of Rupa Goswami’s Sri Upadesamrta. Interesting is your point that “enthusiasm, patience and determination (I guess that’s “endeavoring with confidence”) collectively constitute what we ordinarily call “mental strength””. I never saw it in this way, but, yes, it makes sense.

    To summarize, we can say that all four are important, but the combination depends on the person. Whenever something is left out, a potential problem may be created;

    Thus knowing these four systems is important because there are three kinds of problems even in devotional practice: fanatic following, materialistic pursuits, and abandoning the path due to difficulties. Other systems are important as counterbalances to these types of problems.

    Thank you for elaborating on this topic. That’s quite useful, not just for the theoretical understanding, but also and above all for the practical application.

    Back to the topic of mantra meditation: The more I think about what you said, the more questions are arising. I hope it doesn’t go beyond the scope of this forum.

    So, by chanting with the tongue, gradually the senses are purified, then the mind is purified, and this process keeps going deeper and deeper until all material desires are purified, and then the name springs out of the soul automatically. This automatically springing-out name creates spiritual happiness.

    Here you summarized what is happening during the process of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra attentively. I wonder how it works in detail, I mean when we are looking at it with the microscope. You explained that gradually the senses, the mind and the desires are purified. How does it work that mantras work on a variety of levels including physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual? How does it work that sound has the power to change matter? Are there any information about it?

    (Eric Kandel, neuroscientist and Nobel laureate, found that thoughts change the connections between the neurons, means they influence matter. I also wonder how that works. I guess it has something to do  with their nature as electromagnetic waves.)

    There are few studies showing that fake mantras don’t have the same effect as traditional mantras. Does the power of a mantra come mainly from it’s nature of being not different from it’s object (it’s para vak, transcendental sound)?

    Ashish Dalela

    I wonder how it works in detail, I mean when we are looking at it with the microscope.

    To look through a microscope, we have to understand the nature of atomic reality. I have a book on this entitled “Quantum Meaning–A Semantic Interpretation of Quantum Theory“. Newtonian physics emerged out of the Cartesian idea that matter is res extensa which means that it only has one property of extension in space. Thereby, all the qualities of perception such as taste, odor, color, shape, heat, hardness, roughness, tone, etc. were eliminated from science. Every property had to be reduced to some length. For example, heaviness is a type of length called “mass”. Heat is another length called “temperature”. So, there is no meaning to mass or temperature other than how much a pointer moves on a measuring instrument (e.g., a weighing machine or thermometer). Thus, a language of qualities in Sāñkhya was converted into a language of quantities in science.

    This quality to quantity conversion is approximate in most cases, and impossible in other cases. For example, there is presently no scientific theory of taste and smell. I don’t mean in a mental sense that some smells will make you happy, and others make you unhappy. I mean even in the sense of perception, that we cannot explain how the taste of water arises from the chemical formula H2O. Or that a molecule called SO2 smells like rotten eggs, while another chemical formula of CO2 is odorless. Or, a chemical formula N2O makes a person laugh (it is called “laughing gas”).

    Similarly, modern science cannot explain why a succession of musical notes creates emotions in us. Or some combination of notes gives a morning feeling, while another combination appears as night. Then, we cannot explain why some person is called “bitter” while another person is called “sweet”. How can taste be a property of a personality? How can someone’s speech be pungent, and someone’s words be fragrant? There are literally infinite such things unexplainable in modern science.

    This is because science studies matter as quantities, while Sāñkhya describes it as qualities. Every taste, smell, touch, thought, emotion, etc. is comprised of a combination of three qualities, called sattva, rajas, and tamas. So, there is no essential difference between body and mind, between physical and conceptual. They are all combinations of qualities. Hence, there is no need for ideas such as res extensa and res cogitans in Cartesian philosophy. The body and mind are simply different combinations of the three qualities of nature. In effect, the table or computer is made out of the same “stuff” as your thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. That “stuff” is three qualities.

    The result of the interaction is also based on three qualities. So, when you listen to a sound, it has a sensual, mental, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual effect, because everything is a combination of three qualities. This seems very hard in modern science because we have become accustomed to the idea that the mind and body are different kinds of things; in Sāñkhya, they are not. They are all comprised of three qualities. For example, yellow has the quality of sattva, red has the quality of rajas, and blue has the quality of tamas. Likewise, everything is just varied combinations of three qualities. To truly understand the atomic reality, we have to think in terms of qualities. But modern science always thinks in terms of quantities. And they run into many problems in modeling this qualitative reality using quantities. The problems of quantum theory are such problems. Beyond this, the subject becomes very technical and if you like you can read the abovesaid book.

    Similarly, numbers are also qualities. Therefore, 5 has a different quality than 7. This is again another very technical subject, but if you are interested, you can read “Godel’s Mistake–The Role of Meaning in Mathematics“. Based on this qualitative understanding of numbers, we get a qualitative understanding of geometry, and then space. So, different locations in space are not just different quantities; rather, each location in space has a different quality. In ordinary life, we can say that the bathroom in the house has a different quality than the bedroom or kitchen. But the general principle applies to the entire universe. Hence, different locations in the universe (or what we called ‘graha’ which means ‘house’, loosely translated as a ‘planet’) have different qualities. To enter these planets, our bodies and minds have to be suited to the quality of the place. Thereby, every type of body cannot enter every kind of place, and every kind of mind cannot imagine every kind of life. With the qualities of tamo-guna or rajo-guna, we cannot understand, imagine, or think of the life of sattva-guna, and hence we are incapable of understanding the nature of life on the higher planets.

    So, if we want to go into detail, then we have to understand three qualities, and how everything including places in the universe, the atoms comprising our body, and numbers are all qualities.

    This is harder for most people than it seems at first sight. For example, while studying Vedic cosmology, people think of various places in the universe in just the same way as they think of Euclidean geometric space where all the points in space are just different quantities. Due to not knowing enough about the foundations of physics and mathematics, and due to the inability to think in terms of qualities instead of quantities, all so-called experts in Vedic cosmology are unable to grasp basic principles of Vedic cosmology, namely, that each place in space has a different quality. They think that space is res extensa rather than just like res cogitans, due to Cartesian thinking.

    The fact is that extension is itself cogitans, because everything–including numbers, atomic particles, and locations in space–arises from quality combinations. Sāñkhya is the study of numbers (Sāñkhya means numerosity), and it is the study of qualities. So, numbers are not quantities in Sāñkhya. They are various qualities, produced by a combination of fundamental qualities. Hence, everything in science, which is based on numbers, is also a study of qualities rather than quantities. However, because we don’t know that numbers are qualities, so even when we study Sāñkhya, we keep thinking of everything in terms of quantities although each thing is a different quality.

    Therefore, I use the term “semantic space” to distinguish it from res extensa space, and the book “Mystic Universe–An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology” discusses this alternative idea of space. In my experience, Vedic cosmology students are unable to think in terms of qualities. They want to continue thinking that space is res extensa and the mind is res cogitans, rather than a space that is both extended and semantic. The conditioning of modern “education” goes very deep.

    Srila Prabhupada used to explain this idea in a simple way that people can understand; he would say: Just as by putting something in contact with hot iron makes it hot, similarly, by chanting Krishna’s name you get the quality of Krishna. So, he was drawing a comparison between the process of heat transfer and the process of becoming “Krishnaized” by chanting a mantra. In our minds, heat transfer is a material process studied by modern science, and mantra chanting is a spiritual process that has to be studied in religion. We don’t understand that both the science of material and spiritual interaction is based on quality interactions. Prabhupada knew the science of quality interactions, so he was drawing comparisons between heat transfer and mantra chanting. If we understand the science of qualities, then we can also describe heat transfer in a new way, and by that description, the effect of chanting would also be understood just like heat transfer. But since we have a wrong understanding of heat transfer presently, therefore, we are unable to understand chanting.

    In short, there are a lot of details, if we want to see under the microscope, but it is a laborious and complex process. Unless we grasp these basic ideas about matter, space, numbers, etc. we cannot understand how the sounds of a mantra can produce spiritual advancement. If we understand the science of qualities, then by chanting a mantra, we associate with that quality, and that association transforms the senses, mind, and intellect because all these are also comprised of qualities.

    Eric Kandel, neuroscientist and Nobel laureate, found that thoughts change the connections between the neurons, means they influence matter. I also wonder how that works. I guess it has something to do  with their nature as electromagnetic waves.

    You are still thinking in terms of physical properties, which means that the entire foregoing discussion about how all reality is meaning, how meaning is outside and inside, how one meaning springs from another meaning, etc. has been pointless. We went round and round into so many things, and then we came back to electromagnetic waves. You are not even thinking in terms of Sāñkhya qualities of smell, taste, touch, and sight, then what to speak about the mind. We cannot understand Vedic philosophy in this way. We have to begin by saying that there is nothing called electromagnetic waves with properties like energy and momentum. There are only five sense perceived qualities of taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. Then we can talk about mental qualities, then intellectual qualities, and slowly we can progress to understand Krishna’s qualities.

    Vedic philosophy has no separation between “science” and “religion”. So, we don’t study the brain in terms of electromagnetic waves, and then mantras in terms of meanings. Both are meanings. Likewise, we study matter as qualities, the soul has qualities, and then God as qualities. Material qualities are dualistic, and God’s quality is non-dualistic. The soul can have dualistic and non-dualistic qualities. So, there is a difference between matter, soul, and God, but not in the way conceived in modern science. God, soul, and matter are qualities of different types. So, it is the study of qualities all the way. When we bring in electromagnetic waves, then we are trying to mix a qualitative study of the world with a quantitative description. These two cannot be reconciled.

    The fact is that is no such thing as electromagnetic waves. Nobody has ever seen such a wave. All they see are the effects of postulated waves in terms of taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight, and they claim that what we perceive is an illusion, and reality is what nobody sees, and can never see.

    This may surprise you because scientists claim to be empirical, but they are not. All their concepts about reality such as energy, momentum, mass, charge, particle, wave, etc. are never perceivable. Nobody can say that reality is these physical properties because nobody can perceive these things. Everything we perceive is Sāñkhya qualities. But science has a doctrinal dogma going back to John Locke where he said that all perceptual qualities are unreal, and only physical properties are real. The perceptual qualities are called “secondary” while the physical properties are called “primary”. By this nomenclature, Locke undermined all sense perceived qualities. Basically, Englightenment was mounted as an attack against commonsense, in order to attack religion. George Berkeley criticized this idea by stating that esse est percipi or that the essence of something is in its being perceived, which means that an electromagnetic wave can never be real as we can never perceive it. But he was ignored because he was a bishop in the Anglican Church of Ireland, and his ideas were rejected as being “religious”. Due to extreme aversion to religion, empiricists even rejected commonsense ideas that if we perceive something to be red, then redness must be a real thing in the world. This commonsense idea was replaced by the claim, that there is no such thing as redness; it is rather an illusion created by an electromagnetic wave. So, all our ordinary claims such as “the apple is red” are false in science. In science, the apple is not red; the apple is electromagnetic waves.

    Modern science began by claiming that every perception is false, and reality is unperceivable. This is the magic trick in science because it kills two birds with the same stone. First, you can never question a scientist’s version of reality because reality is never perceivable. Second, they will tell you that everything you perceive is false. So, they get to reject what you hold to be true, and they don’t allow anyone to question their ideas. They can never show you an electromagnetic wave, but they will ask you to show them the soul and God. This is the hypocrisy of science, where double standards are employed with regard to reality. Most people don’t understand this hypocritical stance.

    All these people, who have been given Nobel prizes, are operating under the same false assumptions created by John Locke. So, they might say that mantra chanting produces some exceptional effects, but what is under that superficial statement? It is the idea that there is nothing other than subatomic particles. Of course, they cannot explain how some particle is taste, another particle is smell, another particle is hot, another particle is cold, and so on. Without explaining these things, they will assert that everything is just particles. Again, a double standard is employed, where lesser mortals cannot question their authority, and anybody who questions them will be evicted out of their system. A rational criterion, where you demand an explanation before you accept a claim, is not used.

    You have to realize that if redness is an illusion created by an electromagnetic wave, then God-experience is also an illusion produced by a wave. Thereby, soul and God are not real; they are illusions produced by subatomic particles. Materialism has a hidden agenda, when it studies religious phenomena, to say that even religious experience is an illusion just like redness is an illusion. We think that these people are interested in understanding religious experience, but they are not. They are interested in trying to explain away religious experience as an illusion caused by matter. So, given their conclusion, I don’t give them any credence. Their foundations are false, they use double standards, and they employ propaganda and subversion as tools for power.

    If we want to escape this hypocritical system, then we have to create a theistic understanding of matter, where we can explain those experiences that modern science cannot explain. This theistic science is based on qualities, and both material and spiritual realities are different kinds of qualities. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, even material energy is daivi or “divine”. So, we need to get a divine understanding of matter, and then we can get a divine understanding of spirit. The basic principles of both matter and spirit are based on qualities and their interactions.

    This discussion has gone way beyond the original discussion of spiritual progress, but that is natural for us because all these topics are interconnected; we can talk about any subject and link it to any subject, and that is the power of the Vedic system of thinking. But since this is so vast a subject, it might be a good idea to read books as that will ground our discussion in better understanding.

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