Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Meditate?

Meditation is a state of consciousness that can be understood only on a direct, intuitive level.  Ordinary experiences are limited by time, space, and the laws of causality, but the meditative state transcends all boundaries.  While you meditate, past and future cease to exist.  There is only the consciousness of I AM in the infinite, eternal, NOW.

What is Happiness?

Everyone wants to be happy; this is a universal fact.  Most people believe that some material object will bring this happiness - money, the perfect spouse, the dream job, a new car, a big house with swimming pool - but in truth the list of what would make you completely happy is never-ending.  Each "thing" will please only for a short time, until the novelty wears off.  As long as you think that happiness will come from something outside yourself, you will never be happy.  Happiness, the blissful state, comes from within your own self.  Anyone who believes otherwise is like a person wandering in th desert, constantly disappointed by mirages of water and shade.  Worldly happiness is equally elusive, always just beyond our grasp.  Two famous stories, told below, illustrate the reason why.

Searching for Sweetness

A man went to visit his guru, and when he arrived he found the teacher sitting in the yard in front of a massive pile of hot chilli peppers.  The teacher was eating the chillies, one by one.  Tears of pain were running down his face and he was sobbing "This is terrible", over and over.  When the man asked his guru why he was doing this, the teacher replied, "I am looking for the sweet one".  His actions exemplify the way in which most of us spend our lives.  We should know from past experience that "the sweet one" does not exist, but we continue to search for our happiness in external objects.  However, the sum total of all the pleasures of the physical world are nothing compared to the blissful state of meditation.

Looking in the Wrong Place

Once, an old woman dropped her needle.  A passer-by saw her searching in her garden and offered to help.  After looking for some time without success,  the kindly stranger asked the woman exactly where the needle had fallen.  He was amazed to learn that she had dropped it inside the house.  "Then why are you looking out here?" he asked.  "You will never find it."  She replied that her house was too dark, so she was looking outside, where there was more light.  Most of us are like that woman.  We are looking for our lost happiness where the bright lights are, but it isn't there to be found.

Physical  Benefits

Meditation provides a lasting spiritual rest, which must be experienced to be understood.  Once you can meditate, the time you normally devote to sleep can gradually be reduced to as little as three hours per night, and you will still feel more rested and peaceful than before.  By reducing heart rate and consumption of oxygen, meditation greatly reduces stress levels.  It seems that each part of the body, even down to the individual cells, is taught to relax and rejuvenate.  Meditation helps to prolong the body's period of growth and cell production, and reduces the decaying process.  After the age of 35, our brain cells die off at a rate of 100,000 per day, and they are not replaced, but meditation can reduce this decline, as it changes the vibratory make-up of both the body and the mind.  In this way, meditation can prevent or minimize senility.

Mental Benefits

We each possess vast inner resources of power and knowledge, much of it brought with us from past lives. In meditation, new patterns of thinking come to the surface and develop as we experience a new view of the universe, a vision of unity, happiness, harmony, and inner peace. Negative tendencies vanish, and the mind becomes steady.  Meditation brings freedom from fear of death, which is seen as a doorway to a new name and form.  People who meditate regularly tend to develop magnetic and dynamic personalities, cheerfulness, powerful speech, lustrous eyes, physical health, and boundless energy.  Others draw strength from such people and feel elevated in their presence.  Meditation is only possible when all mental modifications (thought waves) have been stilled, and with this comes mental peace.

States of Consciousness

Waking State

This is the normal everyday state of awareness.  The conscious mind is functioning.  You know that you are awake.  The intellect is working.  You are thinking and reasoning, and you are aware of your physical environment.  Time, space, and causality are in full control in the waking state.

Dream State

Contrary to popular belief, this intermediate state between waking and deep sleep is not a restful state, as mental energy is being expended.  The intellect is not functioning, but there remains some awareness of the physical world.  Regular asana practice will help you to relax at night and enter deep sleep.

Deep Sleep

When the mind is relaxed it will go into the state known as deep sleep.  The mind is blank; there is no awareness of yourself as a separate entity.  The ego identity does not exist.  There is no awareness of "I am doing..." nor of your physical environment, nor even an awareness of your own being.


As in deep sleep, neither body consciousness nor awareness of an external physical reality exists.  Nor do time, space, or causality, but in meditation the awareness is transcendental.  It is the continuous flow of one thought of the Supreme, as identification of the individual with the divine.

Source from Yoga Mind & Body by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre