[Advaita-l] Obstacles for Spiritual Progress VI - Part I

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 14 00:17:56 CST 2014

PraNAms to all.

Continuation of the series on Obstacles for Spiritual Progress - Posted in two parts. 

Hari Om!

Part I 

Krishna provides the guide lines for Nidhidhyaasana. He says - aatmasamstham manaH kRitvaa na kinchitadapi chintayet, with the mind centered on aatma and without thinking anything else, one should contemplate. Again it is not thoughtless state but recognizing one’s own nature or as sat chit ananda swaruupa. Shree GouDapaada in advaita prakaraNa of ManDukya kaarika discusses the obstacles that arise during the nidhidhyaasana.

GouDapaada lists four obstacles that can arise for seekers as they contemplate on the nature of the self. They are discussed in the following. 1. Laya or Sleep. Sitting quietly induces sleep for many, and this arises from tamasic state of the mind, since mind normally sleeps when it is quiet. 2. Vekshepa or restlessness of the mind arises from rajasic condition of the mind. Both these obstacles are obstacles against saatvic condition. Satva guNa involves alert or vigilant or focused mind. 3. kaShaaya or stagnation of the mind is the third obstacle. It is a state in which the mind is neither sleeping nor wondering, but yet not available for meditation also. Mind becomes stagnant or immobilized, and it happens when there are deep internal disturbances at subconscious level. It is some kind of a shocked condition when the mind goes blank as it faces a situation suddenly. This state is reached when the mind has deeper suppressed emotions such as anger,
 hatred, depression, etc. Lastly, 4) rasa aaswaada or enjoyment of meditation itself.  rasa means happiness – raso vai saH says Tai. Up. When the mind is relaxed as in meditation and withdrawn from all the pressing problems or worries, it starts enjoying certain happiness arising from that state. This is a conditional happiness. Meditation brings joy and experiential pleasure available at the time of relaxation. That joy is a temporary, since it depends on the mental state. Any experience-dependent pleasure of the mental state is temporary. It is also samsaara only – like sense pleasure – but meditation-pleasure. Since it is an experiential pleasure and therefore temporary, aachaarya says do not get attached to that temporary pleasure also as the mind longs for it. It is not an intrinsic nature but depends on the state of the mind. Many people experience some happy moments in meditation once in a way. They say we have beautiful meditation on that
 day, etc. We hear stories of people, particularly the beginners who get into that state occasionally and say they are enjoying the bliss of meditation.  From then on they long for it or want to repeat that experience. We hear the statements - I experienced pure bliss once, and I am trying to experience it again during meditation, and it is not coming – Such assertions or complaints are common when they can not access that state, at will. GouDapaada says do not get attached to this temporary pleasure – you will get also addicted to meditation. As a result, one starts disliking the worldly transactions. Always looking for meditation pleasure is also an obstacle for growth. He calls this as rasa aaswaadaH, meditation dependency for happiness, which is more subtle bondage since any dependence on other than oneself is bondage or samsaara. 

GouDapaada and some sub commentators suggest some remedies to overcome these obstacles. 1. Remedy for sleep involves removing the contributing factors for sleep. Any or all of the factors may cause sleep. a.) The first is incomplete sleep or nidraa sheShaH. If I do not give enough rest for the system, (BMI), the recommended seven or eight hours, the body looks for an opportunity to get that missing sleep. Meditation is an ideal condition to get that missing sleep. Hence to avoid sleeping during meditation, one should give the BMI sufficient sleep. It means meditation should not be done when the mind is sleepy, unless sleep is the main goal of meditation. Another cause can be b) Indigestion or ajiirnam. That is a dysfunction or sedation in the body which can make the mind lethargic. c.) Over eating or bahu ashanam or meditation with full stomach induces sleep. Finally d) Physical exertion or shrama – One should not meditate when one is physically too
 tired. Body would like to relax and sleep comes naturally during meditation. Hence the remedy for sleep is to remove the causes for sleep. Auto suggestion to the mind not to sleep during meditation can also work. Essentially one should use any appropriate method that works for him to keep the mind vigilant or saatvik during meditation. 

2. vikshepa parihaaraH – Krishna also says main cause for this restlessness of the mind is attachments.  Mind wants to dwell on the object or person towards whom we have strong attachments or aversions. To overcome these raaga and dvesha or likes and dislikes, mind needs to get attached to something higher or surrender to higher. For this abhyaasa (practice) and vairaagya (detachment) are two traditional methods. By repeatedly reminding that raaga or attachments are cause of sorrow one can get detached from them. Second method is viaraagya by withdrawing or detaching the mind from attachments and redirecting it to object of meditation. Krishna says – yato yato nischarati manashcamcalam asthiram| tatastato niyamyaitad aatmanyeva vasham nayet|| By bringing into my mind the understanding that (a) all objects of the world are mithyaa, (b) hence, they have no validity in the long run, and (c) nothing is really real other than the self, I redirect my mind
 back into self-inquiry or aatma vichaara. Thus by remembering the lessons learned during shravana and manana, my attachments to the objects of the world get reduced. Therefore I turn the attention away from the world of objects using the lessons learned. 

3. kaShaayaH means stagnation of the mind. We do not have any solution for this. We need to be aware that the mind is a hostage for deeper suppressions. This happens when the mind is forcibly withdrawn from its attachments (withdrawal symptoms). The best method suggested is to be a saakshii to the mind. In due course the mind will get out of this stagnation. Like child is forced to study when important play is going on TV – That is kaShaayam – Mind is not watching the play but it is not ready to study. 

 4. rasaaswaadaH is where meditation itself becomes an object of pleasure. The best way to overcome this is educating the intellect that any temporary pleasure is samsaara and that this happiness is not due to intrinsic self.  Since it is available only during meditation, this temporary ananda or happiness is also a reflection of the original ananda of myself. It is like getting attached to the image in the mirror or one’s own photo. With this wisdom or discrimination one can get out of this obstacle and in the process shift the attention to the original than the image. Krishna also calls this as rasam, the remnant taste for sense pleasures. How to overcome this rasa aaswaadanam – lingering taste for sensuous objects or even to meditation? Krishna says: rasa varjam raso pyasya param dRishTaa nivartate|  One can give up the taste by turning attention or investing the mind on the supreme reality. This is the real sanyaasa where one withdraws the mind
 from doer-ship and enjoyer-ship and reinvests it in the enquiry of the absolute truth. Another way of looking at the problem is to shift the attention to the saakshii chaitanya, or that I am the pure witnessing consciousness witnessing even the mediation and the associated happiness.

By shifting our attention to the witnessing consciousness that I am, I get slowly detached from all the raaga and dveshaas, attachments and aversions. Thus the moment one discovers that the mind is getting high-jacked by any of these diversions, I need to shift the attention of my mind immediately to the witnessing consciousness that I am. That involves the recognition that all abrasions or projections are just reflections of the consciousness, and  I am pure consciousness conscious of even the abrasions or projections. They are objects of my knowledge and I am the subject. The subject being conscious entity and object being an inert entity, and therefore objects can never affect the subject, which is of higher order of reality. Janma mRityu jaraa vyaadhi duHkha doShaanudarshanam, says Krishna. The greatest attachments come from the body identification. Change is the essential nature of the world of objects including the body. By recognizing their
 intrinsic changing nature and understanding that any attachments to the naturally changing things will only give rise to mental suffering, one should withdraw the mind from their clutches and recognize the divine unchanging nature of oneself. This constant shift in the attention is done by detaching the mind from lower and attaching it to the higher. This is called sanyaasa-yoga, sanyaasa to lower and yoga to higher or detachment-attachment technique.   
Continued in part II

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