Meditative (Dhyana) is a state that can be defined in two approaches, one is the state where in the mind chatter and the senses become dormant and seize to react. Second, it is the state where in the entity known as the manas looses its agitation and becomes immersed in the contemplation of an entity (or a concept), towards realizing its inherent nature (we will explore the meaning of manas and mind soon). In this attempt the manas/mind also realizes its own identity, beyond the physical. In this meditative state the awareness of the mind and the senses fade into a void of calmness, but it doesn’t mean they fail in function, the eyes can still see, the nose can still smell, the ears can still listen, the body can still sense and the mind can still process this information, but the manas / mind seize to react to that information. Again, meditation is not about stopping the functionality of the body (including the mind), one stage of meditation is in attaining the ability wherein one becomes a witness (sakshi) to one’s own functioning.
In this article lets cover the following questions:
What are the different types of meditation?
What are the steps and techniques involved in meditation?
Should I think about something specific?
Should I be seated in a specific posture?
Should I create a proper environment?
Should I keep my eyes partially open or completely closed?
Should I focus on breathing?
Should I focus on the area between my eyes?
Should I evaluate my level of dhyana?
What is the difference between mind and manas?
Finally, should I have to believe and think about God (Ishwara).
So, let’s understand the fundamentals and the significance of meditation as suggested in the Yogic Siddhanta of Sanatana Dharma literature (fundamentals inherited by Hinduism & Buddhism) and move towards the significant steps towards its practice, for better mind, body and overall health, irrespective of our belief in Ishwara (God). To better comprehend this topic we need to understand three vital concepts, which are Manas, Vasana and Jiva. Let’s start with the understanding of Manas and Mind. Now, if this details and the compartmentalization of Mind vs Manas is not in one’s preview then just assume manas as a logical subset of Mind and skip the following paragraph.
What is Manas vs Mind?
Shastra defines manas as “Sankalpa Vikalpa Sangatham”, where in Sankalpa meaning resolution or decision, and Vikalpa means to be in a state of flux and fantasy and uncertainty, and finally Sangatham means to struggle. This statement defines our manas as an entity which reasons and struggles between resolutions and uncertainty. This manas can either be clouded by doubt arising from Vasana (as emotions), or it can be governed by intellect (Buddhi) (through Upasana and Sadhana). Manas along with Buddhi, Ahamkara and Chitta are together called Antakarana, which elaborately explains difference between Manas, Buddhi (intellect) and Mind, Ahamkara (identity) and Chitta (Pure Intelligence). Its strongly recommended to explore the concept of Antakarana to better understand the true reason for Meditation. Mind is generic aspect of the physical entity called brain representing the intellect and various psychological processes, based on accumulated information, however, manas uses this mind (technically buddhi) and its memory, to reason between like and dislike. This reasoning is influenced by various factors, and not limited to the data accumulated by the sense organs. A jiva forgets its true self and keeps becoming a victim to its inherent vasana, which governs the manas hence, constantly struggles with decision making. Manas is a part of Sukshma Sharira (non-physical or subtle body) and is directly proportional to the physical breathing pattern of the physical body (Sthula Sharira). In reaction to various emotions, especially hate, fear or jealousy, arising out of vasana and guna, various chemical aspects in the physical body change, causing our heart and breathing pattern to loose balance. This breathing pattern is directly coupled to the life-force of a body, this life-force is called prana (various vayu/air that reside within our body). So, when a balanced breathing patter is disturbed, the manas tries to react and reason with our mind’s information. Though buddhi presents information and statistics, the manas obscures this information and directs actions based on its like and dislike. Hence, one has to carefully witness and examine the likes (raaga or preeti) and dislikes (dwesha) of the manas. Otherwise, these decisions and actions will leave an impression upon a jiva which it will carry over to the next life, in-fact it will determine the upadi (form, like animal form or human form or other celestial forms) of a jiva in the next life. One should not fight or be in conflict with one’s manas, one has to treat manas like a child or a monkey and slowly train it with love and reasoning. This can only happen through upasana and sadana (Practice through dedication). Various path of Sadana have been put forth by Yoga, there are eight such types called Astangayoga. ‘Asta’ Means eight, ‘anga’ means branches or limbs, ‘yoga’ means a path or a method to union. One can channel Manas through these eight yogic aspects, which are, Yama, Niyama, Aasana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana, Samadhi. Channeling manas means to break free from its bond of likes and dislikes.
“Hetam manoharika durlabham vachaha”
Meaning, the words of well-being are often disliked by manas, since it always seeks comfort and pleasure-of-senses, based on its strong bonding to likes and dislikes, conditioned over many lifetimes. Manas has to accept Buddhi to be the one that projects and concludes, and than put into practice using its Indriya. (Garikapati. 2016. SMA)
Now that we have defined manas and mind, and before we go into the approach to controlling or channeling them, let look into the different types of meditations. Though the usage of the word meditation has become too generic and broadly used for various things, the approaches mention by Shastra are:
Different types of meditations
Jappa: A cyclic repetition of a name of an entity or a verse (sloka or mantra) without distractions, using the help of beads string for counting.
Tapa: Also known as Tapasya, is a enduring and long lasting (years) state of austerity performed in isolation, wherein the mind is focused on a single aspect or entity. Its starts slowly with short breaks and gradually moves into extended hours of practice, detaching oneself of all external attachments, influences or self regard. It’s usually performed with a target or towards the blossom of inner chakras (energy confluence) and to realize the Singular Conscience. There exists references in Shastra of many individuals who converted their lives into tapasya by striving towards a specific act, like singing, writing, reading, chanting, speaking, enacting, serving, abiding by certain dharma like speaking the truth or following someone and more. There are also many references wherein tapasya was performed out of hate, competition and stubbornness. No matter what the intent, striving (sadana) bears fruit, but the approach of stubbornness is ill-advised.
Dharana: Is a process to retain an aspect like admiration of an entity, nature of an entity, a title or more in a linear fashion without deviations or contemplation.
Dhyana: Is very close to Dharana but has the aspect of contemplation of an entity progresses into an expanding exploration of that entity. This entity could be a concept, an object, a deity, a person, a story, an event or more. Dhyana doesn’t mean deliberate thinking or pondering upon a decision or a future/past aspect in life. Its not an effort in-order to solve an issue, in short its not planning or calculating outcomes. Its to dwell upon an entity and become a part of that scenario, and be in captivation of that scenario in thought, body, mind and manas with no regards to the progression of time, the notion of self or external influences. Meaning, one’s memory, thoughts, body, desires, emotions isolate themselves and become a part of the entity in contemplation. A good example is, say if we are in contemplation of an event (of a deity) or its title, the person performing the dhyana will skip the current reality and moves into this event as a spectator of that reality, or a part of that entity devoid of one’s own individuality.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev elegantly defines dhyana as:
“What Dhyana means is, if you sit here, there is a clear space between what is you and what is not you. In the sense, what is you and what you accumulated. Body you accumulated, content of the mind you accumulated, if there is a little separation and if you can maintain that awareness, now we say you are in Dhyanam.
This is meditativeness, this is not something you can ever do, if you create a right conditions this will happen as a consequence.”
Samadi: Is a much deeper and final stage of Dhyana wherein one seizes to be a part of a scenario (spectator) to become truly ONE with the entity (deity) itself. In the terminology of Yoga it leaves Prakriti and enters into the ultimate reality (Purusha). There is no notion of ‘Me’ vs ‘You’ (deity) any more. One’s individuality dissolves completely. The state of Samadi have many layers in Yoga, which are Sabija Samadi, Samprajnata Samadhi, Nirbija Samadhi & Asamprajnata Samadhi.
There also exists an approach of meditation called Shunya, but we will look into that soon.
Samadhi vs Shunya (Śūnyatā)
Samadhi is not a single state/stage. Samadhi has spiral stages: So let me quote rather than use my own interpretation:
“To the stage of Kirya:Yoga in which one learns the preliminary lessons, to the stages of Dhāraṇā and Dhyāna in which one brings the mind under one’s control, to the stage of Sabīja Samādhi (samadhi with a seed of thought) in which one has to suppress the seed of thought of Samprajnata Samadhi (a samadhi with prajna) and to the last stage of Nirbija Samādhi (samadhi without a seed of thought) in which one inhibits all modifications of Citta and passes beyond the realm of Prakṛti into the world of reality (Puruṣa=consciousness) ”
Prajnā=higher consciousness belonging to Puruṣa realm.
Pratyaya= total content of mind at every stage of Samādhi
“Asamprajnata Samādhi, therefore, represents a very dynamic condition of the mind and differs from Samprajnata Samādhi only in the absence of Pratyaya (absence of mind content) in the field of consciousness.”
Now emptiness = shun·ya·ta is the state not really of emptiness but a state where consciousness is not associated with any Pratyaya and not associated with any aspect of Prakṛti in the form of memory that is limited to you. At this stage, one passes beyond psychologic/physiological/genetic memory and the memory carried over from various karmas/lives = karmic memory and enters a state of reality that is absent of all memory and mind complex.
Now let’s come back to Samādhi, There is a void of Asamprajata Samādhiz sometimes called as a cloud in yogic terminology and the experience may be compared to that of a pilot whose airplane passes through a cloud bank. During each state of Samādhi, there lies an intermediate void stage. So there lies shun·ya·ta in this interim.
Remember, Kaivalya is the final goal of Yoga and so is for other regiments.
All the above approaches are in a way intertwined with each other with aspects that are common or an extended versions of each other. For more details one can dive deeper into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and its eight compartments. In this article let’s understand dhyana on a fundamental basis and the various approaches towards it. Rather than asking the question how, let’s ask why. Any act has a reason or a purpose behind it. The inherent purpose towards performing dhyana is not just relaxation, it’s to ease our fluctuating manas/mind and body to a much calmer state, and swim in bliss of the concept known as Ishwara. We are not referring Ishwara as in a supernatural entity but as a concept, but devotion has no such boundary or limitation towards one’s admiration of such an entity. So, we will go through such references during this discussion. Coming back, the state of dhyana is devoid of the passage of time and outside interference which is commonly felt or recognized by the mind through sense organs. During dhyana one reminiscence in joy towards the contemplation and admiration of a subject or attributes of Ishwara, finally to enter a deeper abyss of calmness, where in thought and emotions become dormant. In this state, one stops to realize oneself to be just a physical body and dwells in the admiration of Ishwara to unite with Him, by becoming one with Him. In this state the awareness of the mind and the sense organs lessen. Relaxation is an involuntary result when one enters such a state, even momentarily or intermittently. Through upasana (implementation & practice towards moving closer to truth) one reaches a state where in time and location doesn’t limit one to enter into dhyana. One while traveling, seated alone or seated among other, performing Pooja, and many more, can momentarily enter and exit dhyana. In Srimad Bhagavadgita, chapter 2 of Sankhya Yoga, sloka 58, Gitacharya (Sri Krishna) says:
यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वशः।
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता।।
(Gita Supersite n.d.)
Meaning, a person steady in content of knowledge and truth will withdraw one’s sense organs and their longing similar to a way a turtle withdraws its limbs into it’s shell.
Many use a trigger, like a smell, or a name, or an event, which when recollected can make oneself detach from the reality outside and slip into a blissful transient state of admiring Ishwara’s magnificence. Though during the initial stages of dhyana one might start with a name or a title or an event, but this aspect will and should eventually fade, leading to absolute calmness. This absolute calmness is not absolute darkness, or the notion of becoming blank, its to slip into Shunya (Sanskrit for zero), wherein Shunya doesn’t mean empty, its actually means everything. Hence, skipping into Shunya means to slip into the vastness of becoming one with everything. There are Shunya meditation regiments defined, but its not a common practice. Another vital aspect of dhyana is the notion of ‘me’ or ‘I’ must eventually seize to exist, meaning dhyana is not an act, dhyana is a flow. Dhyana might have a trigger but has no end or intermediate awareness of self, its a continues flow where the notion of Dhyana and the one performing it seize to exist. Let’s phrase this in another way, during dhyana if one identifies that one is performing dhyana, or one has been performing dhyana well, and admiring oneself or among others, is not dhyana, its called gloating. There is no such thing as ‘I do dhyana well’ or ‘I do dhyana everyday’, the only thing, if one has to share, then its, ‘I try to get into dhyana’. One can always complement ones effort so as to encourage oneself to enter into dhyana and sustain the calmness for a longer period, but not for the purpose of accreditation.
Realizing this significance, the process of Pooja includes various upacharas along with dhyana as its vital step. The state of dhyanam depends mainly on one’s breathing rhythm. No matter how calm one might look, there could be a volcano of thoughts and emotions within, which disrupts our breathing pattern. Even the seating posture has a significant effect on the breathing and the expansion and contraction of both lungs and the stomach. While new and attempting to enter dhyana one might notice various uncontrollable thoughts flowing through us and causing various emotional imbalance within us, which is nothing but the manas reacting to the mind’s information based on its like and dislike. But one shouldn’t force oneself to stop, one should attempt to realize that one is thinking about something, convince oneself to calm down, exhale deeply and slowly start a smooth pattern of breathing, and start to dwell on an aspect or title of Ishwara. Manas, a part of subtle body is directly coupled with the breathing pattern of the physical body, and change or agitation of the manas will effect this breathing. One should not fight or be in conflict with one’s manas, one has to treat manas as a child and slowly train it with love and reasoning. This can only happen through upasana and sadana. If one fails to channel one’s manas, then during the final breath of the jiva (before death), the manas which lacks upasana (practice) will continue to hold on to aspects like enmity, hate, jealousy, selfishness, discrimination and so will carry these aspects to its next life. The nature of the manas in its final breath will determine the upadi (form) of the next life. When we say ‘dwell on Ishwara’ it doesn’t mean one has to constantly think of something through active mind with focus. This process needs practice and not to be treated as a competition with time limit. Now, is this as easy as it sounds, no, at least not for all, since it takes practice and time. This is the reason why exploration of Shastra and performing Pooja is a nitya karma (karma that needs to be preformed nityam, meaning daily) and so is very important, because it allows us to contemplate various concepts and the tatva of Ishwara. Pooja involves in performing various upacharas and reciting various slokas and astotrams surrounded by beautiful and fragrant items like termaric, sandalwood, flowers, oils, incense and more. Through Pooja and its upacharas one can learn to focus one’s thoughts, physical actions and speech together in one liner fashion, slowing evolving and falling deeper into the state of Dhyana. Astotram is one such beautiful approach where in one recites 108 titles of Ishwara and dwells in the magnificence of those titles. The purpose is not just to complete those 108 titles, but to slip into any one or more titles whose magnificence and beauty captures our manas and makes us dwell on them. Even if such state is reach momentarily, it creates an alternate reality within ourselves, to which we can enter and exit at any time of the day. One can do the same with a sloka or a stotram or a poem or dandakam and more. This is the reason why Pooja was marked as a nitya karma by Shastra, so that we can practice it daily in a relaxed fashion, without rush, seated in a yogic posture, among various beautiful and fragrant items. Pooja also constitutes performing various mudras (gestures) and pranayamam (yogic breathing exercise). After certain level of practice one can calm oneself from any situation or agitation. In time, one will slowly start to admire the peace and solace during dhyana and will wish to enter as often as possible and spend more time dwelling in the abyss of peace, finally realizing oneself to be Ishwara. This state will allow oneself to connect and view creation at a much higher vantage, and that view is the view of Ishwara Himself. A higher conscience where in the atma realizes itself to be the extension of Paramatma. Shastra (especially Yoga) has provided various regiments to foster one’s body and mind to become a host to bring out our inherent peace, this concept is called yoga. Srimad Bhagavad Gita emulates this in various chapters. Please note that yoga is not just limited to various postures for physical exercise, it is much deeper and has a broader concept for a human body to connect with the nature and the universe. One should spend time each day to explore to understand this reality through the contemplation of tatva of Sanatana Dharma, and prepare oneself to understand this creation and not become a victim to its constraints and limitations. Please note that the principles of dhyana overlap with Bhuddhism since it evolved out of Sanatana Dharma hence the core is the same, but will differ in practice and regiments. Practice (sadana) and striving is the way to calm the agitating mind/manas, because oneself is one’s own enemy and oneself can become a friend and uplift one’s jiva, this message can be found in Srimad Bhagavadgita, chapter 6 of Dhyana Yoga, sloka 5,6 & 33.
Steps & techniques to practice meditation (Dhyana) for better mind, body and overall health?
Following are few steps that are not hard rules but are suggestions (not necessarily principles) towards encouraging those new to this practice.
- There will always be some distractions, like noise, smell, mind chatter, emotional outbursts, feeling sleepy, tiredness, logical part of mind telling you it’s all useless and unproven, body pains, vibrations from technical and mechanical devices and more.
- The solution to the above is not to fight with the body or the distractions, or seek a place devoid of all, which is not possible. One within one’s own purview, should find a comfortable and calm environment that doesn’t enable or exaggerate our sensitivities. This is the reason why, daily pooja vidhi (nitya karma) includes dhyana (meditation) and Pranayana (breathing exercise) as a vital part of its regiment in the presence of various fragrant and soothing elements like, oil/ghee lamp, flowers, sandalwood, incense, turmeric and more.
- In the early stages of practice, the memory of the muscle, especially thighs, hip, spine and shoulders disagree with the yogic postures, hence, there will be resistance as they try to adapt. But this will go away as time passes. It’s not a flaw with our body, its a flaw in our process or way of living. Let’s give an example, say if we step out of a moving vehicle in a casual fashion, the mind might have decided to step out, but our body will disagree to that action and will tumble down, because our body is still in action or motion. So it takes time for the body to adjust. A similar example is when we stand in one spot and turn around and suddenly come to a stop, our mind can decide to stop but body is still in that motion and takes time to adjust. So its not a flaw in our body, as its doing what is was trained to do and this routine is preserved in the body as memory.
- The logical mind will continue to question and reason about the goal of such practice, where as the manas will choose to avoid it and like a child will pester us for an answer in various ways. It presents various important things as high priority rather than preforming Dhyana. Again, it’s all about convincing the manas (mind) by saying something like this ‘you didn’t create this universe and you don’t know it all, so let’s try to improve our calmness for overall health’.
- Then comes random mind chatter or desired thoughts, the more you fight with them, the more they tunnel through your mind and conscience. This mind chatter is not random, it originates from the identity (ahankara) that we have forged upon ourselves. So, the attempt should be to strip off various layers of identity in an attempt to realize our true self. This identity claims oneself to be a doctor or a mechanic, it claims itself as a leader, smart, a victim and more. Any statement that challenges this identity will result in a struggle and a rebellion. So, one has to slowly try use this time of dhyana to slowly remove these designations that constitute the identity like a cloth and put it aside for a while. One has say something like “I am not a doctor nor a mechanic for the next 15 min, I am not a parent nor a child to someone, I will put aside all the insults and praises for these 15 min, I will put my social and personal status aside for 15 min”. At this time the mind chatter will still continue, hence, the goal is simple, first, ignore them and don’t fight with them, second, accept these thought and agree with it by saying ‘ok fine, let me get back to you in few minutes, for now let’s seek some inherent peace’. Finally, if they continue to persist, then, reason with your mind by telling it ‘I am doing this for us, so that we can be better, calmer, and healthier, so please help me do this’. If the chatter persists, take a small break and try again. The manas is like a child or a monkey, and we can’t expect them to follow rules, they need to be groomed, trained and nurtured slowly with patience and empathy, for all, this is our own manas/mind and not someone else’s. There will come a time when the manas will recognize the mind chatter, but will only become a witness to that chatter and will not participate in it. This stage will cause the chatter to flow in and flow out without resistance or intervention. Its in this stage that senses and the mind will reseed into background and calmness takes the front stage.
- Then comes the negative thoughts, so how to deal with negative thoughts? The answer is simple and straight, deal with them in the same way as any thoughts. A thought is only significant as the value we assign to it. So, try not to evaluate it, treat a thought as any thought. Once the thought is evaluated its categorized as good and negative thought, and both have physical consequences to out body, by secreting various chemicals and reactions within you. This will throw you out of composure and balance. Hence, tell yourself: ‘this is just a thought, I don’t really mean it, even if I do, today I am striving to be better and I will continue to do so, till I save myself from it’, and take a sightly deeper than usual breath and slip back to dwelling on your chosen entity. Again, dwelling doesn’t mean rapid thinking about that entity. If you believe and have faith in Ishwara (God) then you can rephrase this by saying ‘Ishwara (God) this is just a thought, I don’t really mean it, even if I do, today I am striving to be better and I will continue to do so till I save myself from it, so please help me as I am your creation and you my creator’.
- Then comes compulsive thoughts which over power the mind and will. Willpower is not something that can be purchased in a store. It has to be fostered over time. Some have it by default as a nature inherited from previous lives, but one has to try to built it to rule of one’s own body and mind, else one will always be a slave to one’s desires and thoughts arising from them. These thoughts can run wild and exaggerate various emotions, causing instability of mind in return causing chemicals imbalance. So what to do? The answer is simple, but implementation is not a one time thing. The answer is distraction, when one tries to meditate and the thoughts start to over power you even after numerous attempts, then simply distract the mind, how? When a child cries for a lost toy and doesn’t seem to let go, then one way is to get the child a new toy, same thing with the mind. When the thoughts and emotions go haywire, stop trying to meditate, take a break and sing a song you like, or chant a bajan. Sing a song or bajan that doesn’t exaggerate the thoughts. Get involved in the bajan or song and sing it loudly if possible, dance if possible, take a nice bath and sing, listen to a joke, call a friend, take a walk, go for a swim, but do not indulge in over eating or substituting with compulsive shopping. Once you feel the mind is distracted then try meditating again. If the thoughts come back, then tell this to yourself seriously, “you have done this before and I was able to distract it and I will do it again and again, so lets try to calm down so that we can enjoy the calmness”. Keep repeating this approach since this is not a one day solution, its a battle that will last for a long time. As explained in the grand composition called Viveka Chudamani, translated by Swami Prabhavananada and Christopher Isherwood:
“Rivers flow into the ocean, but the ocean is not disturbed. Sense-objects flow into his mind, but he feels no reaction, for he lives in the consciousness of the one Reality. He is free indeed.” (Swami Prabhavananda. Isherwood, Christopher. 1947)
- Now comes the focus, the goal is not to set a goal or a fixed target and strive towards it. If you do that, than your logical section of the mind will get all fired-up and will keep reminding you to focus and concentrate on something. So initially you may choose an entity like a flower or a lamp or a sculpture/painting for your mind (actually manas) to dwell, eventually the manas and the body will adjust to the rhythm of thought and breathing. Remember, the attempt is to dwell in joy and admiration of this entity and not focus or struggle with it. In the beginning, it might look like a struggle as you reason with yourself and trying to bring your thought back to this entity, but eventually there comes a state where your mind (actually manas) will involuntarily slip into it.
- This is the reason why, the regiment of pooja is to linearize three things, your manas (mind/thought), your speech (mantra) and finally the physical act of the upachara. This practice will eventually lead to a state where the mind stops analyzing the speech, the physical actions, the muscles which will come to a rest, and the indria (senses) become dormant, and the thought just dwells on entity surrounded with absolute darkness or emptiness (calmness) leading you to forget yourself, your existence, your very identity making the inherent peace to manifest itself as your true self.
- You can either try this through pooja or through Dhyana, or both. But as mentioned earlier, its all about the breathing and how well the breathing stabilizes, but it doesn’t mean to focus or work upon your breathing that makes you slip into dhyana. When its said to focus on breathing, what it really means is to keep an eye or take notice of your breathing pattern during various emotional situations (both in like and dislike). In this way categorize your breathing patterns during various situations. During meditation, when the thoughts and manas start to react, then take notice of the breathing and calm oneself to a point where the breathing slowly stabilizes to a fine rhythm. Slowly reason with yourself and nudge your mind/manas back onto your entity, causing it to calm itself. When this practice grows, there will come a time when your mind will be conditioned to warn your manas about its breathing in the event of agitation.
- Remember, there is no shortcut to dhyana, slow and steady practice (sadana) is the key. There is no destination or target for dhyana, its a state that has no depth, but the results of it will start from the very first day. It will also help understand oneself, one’s identity and weaknesses as we calm ourselves leading to a balanced mind and body.
Please note, in the midst of this calmness our silence will speak to us with unblemished purity and in a way that will clarify our reality and our existence.
Let’s take an example on how one can perform Dhyana. A sloka from Sri Suktam and also from Sri Kanakadhara stotram states the following:
प्रातर्नमामि जगतां जननीमशेष_
Praatar-Namaami Jagataam Jananiim-Ashessa_
(Green Message Kanakadhara Stotram, n.d.).
Sri Shankara in Kanakadhara Stotram refers to the sloka from Sri Suktam where in abhisheka(m) (ritual holy bath) is performed by ‘Dig-ghast’ (also known as diggaja(m), which are elephants holding the world on their forehead from submerging into the abyss of the ever-expanding universe). These diggaja(m) are pouring holy water using ‘Kanaka-Kumbha’ meaning golden or shiny Kumbha (pots or vessels that are round in shape used to hold water). The abhisheka(m) water drenches and flows over Sri Lakshmi, emulating Her magnificent beauty to be even more splendid. A similar reference can be seen when Sri Lakshmi emerges from the Ocean (Samudra) during Ksherasagara (Kshera:sagara) Madan(am) and was performed abhisheka(m) where Ganaga (the innate controller or Shakthi of river Ganga) gave water in ‘Purna Kalasha’ (vessel) and many other presented various gifts.
This ritual of abhisheka(m) is a excellent example to visualize during our dhyanam and convey our gratitude by performing Namaskar, especially during the auspicious time of the day which is the Praata:kaal(am) (Pratha meaning early hours before sunrise and kaal(am) meaning time), hence the phrase ‘Praatar-Namaami’.
During the period of Dakshinayanam (Six-month duration of Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice), on Toliekadashi (Toli-Eka:dashi) (first Eka:dashi) Sri Vishnu is considered to go into a sleep (Deep Meditation). Not to be interpreted same as our sleep, which is due to Tamas (tiredness). Sri Vishnu’s reclined posture is called ‘Nidra-Mudra’, where ‘Nidra’ meaning sleep, and ‘Mudra’ meaning a gesture of yoga and pranayama, so, He is in His Yoganidra (Yoga:nidra) (Yoga Sleep).
So, why Sri Vishnu goes into Yoganidra?
Because, Dakshinayanam is considered to be a period for Upasana, to train one’s mind to be calm and free from agitations. So what is Upasana? ‘Upa’ means to move closer and ‘Asana’ means position, when read as one it means to move to a position closer to Ishwara and to gyana (jnana). So, Sri Vishnu in His Yoganidra (Yoga:nidra) peeks into our hearts and thoughts to examine our Upasana and help those who are trying to move closer to Ishwara, hence Sri Vishnu comes much closer to us during the period of Dakshinayanam. Hence the sloka:
“निद्रा मुद्रम अकिलजगति, रक्षाने जागरूकम”
“Nidra mudram akilajagati, rakshane jagarukam”
Then what is Sri Lakshmi’s thinking while pressing His feet? She is secretly gazing with admiration and pride of pressing the feet of the Preserver of the creation, who in His Yoganidra is examining and helping those in Upasana. She makes sure they receive the guidance of a Guru or the availability of books and knowledge. Literature tells us that, Sri Vishnu created a flower garden for Ramananda (Guru of Kabir Das), with admiration to his Upasana, so that Ramananda can slip into another beautiful reality during his dyanam.
These are few such scenarios which Sri Shankara wants us to visualize as we slip into dhyana (meditate), where in Sri Lakshmi is pressing the feet of Sri Vishnu admiring His excellence and seeing through His thoughts, Who intern in His sleeping posture (Yoga Nidra) is watching those who are in their Upasana. Hence during dhyanam, when we start to reach Ishwara and visualize Him, it’s to conclude that He is watching us in His Yoga Nidra, and Sri Lakshmi intern is watching Sri Vishnu’s thoughts, which also means She is watching us too.
However if one asks a details about Dhyanam and the yoga involved in it, then we can refer to Srimad Bhagavat Gita, part of Sri Mahabharath, composed by Rishi Veda Vyasa, in which Chapter 6 emulates the concept of yoga and dhyanam.
(Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-19)
REFERENCE ENTRY (APA Style citation)
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