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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Some Questions and Answers About Meditation, Yoga, and Tantra

Questions and Answers about Meditation 
Below are several questions probing the depths of Tantra, perhaps you may have questions also fathoming a deeper understanding of what meditation, tantra and yoga are about -- post them here. 
1.  Question:  What is the definition of yoga?

Answer:  Yoga can be defined according to the following three definitions. 

The first is:  Yogashcitta vrttinirodha.  That is, "The suspension of all psychic propensities is called yoga." Those who follow this type of yoga suppress the propensities of the mind through psychic pressure, but once the psychic pressure is removed, the old propensities of the mind are revived and they resume their original state.  Hence this type of yoga cannot lead to spiritual progress. 

The second definition is:  Sarva'cinta'paritya'go niscinta yoga ucyate.  That is, "If the mind's propensities are suspended, then all thought processes will automatically stop." But will this lead to supreme attainment?  Certainly not. 

The third definition is:  Sam'yogo yogo ityukto jiiva'tma' Parama'tma'nah -- "When the unit consciousness and the Supreme Consciousness are fused into one, that is real yoga." This takes place when the spiritual aspirant establishes a relationship of sweet love with Parama Purus'a [Supreme Consciousness].

2.  Question:  What is tra't'aka?
Answer:  Tra't'aka yoga is controlling the ocular vision.  It may lead to some supernatural vision.

3.  Question:  What is dhruva'smrti?
Answer: The reproduction in the mind of something which was perceived before is called "memory" or smrti.  When the memory becomes permanent it is called "infallible, eternal memory" or dhruva'smrti.

4.  Question:  What is the definition of a'sanas?

Answer:  Sthirasukham a'sanam (Patanjali).  A'sanas are calm, quiet and easy postures which are held with proper inhalation and exhalation.  They exercise the nerves, tissues, glands and organs of the human body.  While practising a'sanas one enjoys physical comfort and mental composure. 
The regular practice of a'sanas keeps the body healthy and cures many diseases.  A'sanas control the glands, the glands control the secretion of hormones, and the secretion of hormones controls the propensities.  So a'sanas help a sa'dhaka [spiritual aspirant] to balance the body and concentrate the mind.

5.  Question:  Why do we practise a'sanas?

Answer:  We perform a'sanas for the following reasons:
1.  To increase the flexibility of the body.
2.  To rectify glandular defects and balance hormonal secretions in order to control the vrttis [propensities]. 
3.  To balance the body and mind.
4.  To withdraw the mind from undesirable thinking.
5.  To prepare the mind for subtler and higher sa'dhana' [spiritual practices].

6.  Question:  How do we name a'sanas?

Answer:  We name a'sanas as follows:
(1) Some a'sanas are similar to animal movements so they are named after those animals; for example, matsyamudra' [fish posture], garud'a'sana [bird posture], etc.
(2) Some a'sanas have the characteristics of animal structures, so they are also named after those animals; for example, ku'rmaka'sana [tortoise posture], etc.
(3) Some a'sanas are named by the qualities of the a'sana; for example, sarva'unga'sana [shoulder stand; literally "all-limbs posture"].  The entire body is benefited by this a'sana.

7.  Question:  How many types of a'sanas are there?

Answer:  There are mainly two types of a'sanas:  sva'sthya'sanas and dhya'na'sanas.  Sva'sthya'sanas are practised primarily for physical health and secondarily for spiritual elevation.  Dhya'na'sanas are practised primarily for concentration of mind and meditation.  Dhya'na'sanas include padma'sana [lotus posture], baddha padma'sana [bound-lotus posture], siddha'sana [siddha posture, the posture of a perfected one] and viira'sana [hero posture].

8.  Question:  What is the difference between sarva'unga'sana and vipariitakaranii mudra'?

Answer:  While practising sarva'unga'sana the mind is fixed at the point between the tip of the two big toes, whereas in vipariitakaranii mudra' the mind is fixed at the tip of the nose or at the navel.

9.  Question:  What are mudra's, bandhas and vedhas?

Answer:  Mudra's are postures which exercise the nerves and muscles.  Mudra' literally means "externalization of internal bha'va [ideation]".  There are only a few spiritual mudra's where the internal ideation is not externalized. 
The practitioner of mudra' may or may not enjoy physical comfort and mental composure.  During the practice of mudra's one has to continue one's conscious endeavour to remain in that posture, but in the case of a'sanas one need not. 

Bandhas are also postures of a special type which exercise the nerves only.  The practitioner may or may not derive physical comfort and mental composure.  In bandha also one has to continue one's conscious endeavour to remain in the particular posture.  Bandhas also influence the va'yus [vital-energy currents] in the body.
Vedhas are almost the same as bandhas.  Vedhas exert some influence on both the nerves and the vital airs [vital-energy currents].

10.  Question:  What is pratya'ha'ra?

Answer:  Pratya'ha'ra is derived:  prati - a' - hr + ghain.  The word a'ha'ra literally means "assimilating" or "taking something within".  As a yogic practice, pratya'ha'ra means "withdrawal of the mind from external objectivity and goading the withdrawn mind toward Parama Purus'a".

11.  Question:  What is pra'n'a'ya'ma?

Answer:  Pra'n'a'ya'ma is defined as:  Tasmin sati shva'sa prashva'sayoh gativicchedah pra'n'a'ya'ma.  That is, "Pra'n'a'ya'ma is the process of breath control along with the imposition of the ideation of Supreme Consciousness." It helps the mind in concentration and meditation.

12.  Question:  What is the spirit of pra'n'a'ya'ma?
Answer:  Pra'na'n yamayati es'ah pra'n'a'ya'mah.  That is, the word pra'n'a'ya'ma literally means "controlling the  pra'n'a'h [vital energy]".  The psycho-philosophy behind the practice of pra'n'a'ya'ma is that the spiritual aspirant tries to let the pra'n'endriya [ten vital-energy currents] remain in a state of pause so that the paused unit mind will merge into the ocean of consciousness.

13.  Question:  How many types of pra'n'a'ya'ma are there?

Answer:  There are two main types of pra'n'a'ya'ma:  hat'ha yaogika pra'n'a'ya'ma and Yudhis't'hira pra'n'a'ya'ma.  When pra'n'a'ya'ma is done without fixing the mind on a particular point of concentration, and without imbibing Cosmic ideation, it is called hat'ha yaogika pra'n'a'ya'ma.  But when pra'n'a'ya'ma is performed with the mind fixed at a particular point along with Cosmic ideation, it is called Yudhis't'hira pra'n'a'ya'ma.  [The eldest Pandava, Yudhisthira, was the first person to propularize pra'n'a'ya'ma according to this method.]

14.  Question:  What is the meaning of recaka?

Answer:  Recaka means "emptying".  When one exhales completely and keeps the breath out during the process of breathing, it is called recaka.

15.  Question:  What are the differences among recaka, pu'raka, and kumbhaka?

Answer:  At the time of pra'n'a'ya'ma, when one exhales the breath completely, it is called recaka; when one inhales completely, it is called pu'raka; and when one retains air inside the body, it is called kumbhaka.

16.  Question:  What is dha'ran'a'?

Answer:  Dha'ran'a' is defined as:  Deshabandhashcittasya dha'ran'a'.  Dha'ran'a' literally means "locating the mind firmly in an area or region of the body".  This involves concentrating upon the respective controlling points of the fundamental factors located within the human body.  That is, the mind is to be fixed on specific cakras [plexi] and engaged in Cosmic ideation.

17.  Question:  What is shodhana?

Answer:  The word shodhana literally means "refinement" or "purification".  In spiritual meditation shodhana is concentration on the cakras.  It is a part of Ananda Marga sa'dhana' which is not included in as't'a'm'ga yoga [the eight-fold path of yoga].

18.  Question:  What is dhya'na?

Answer:  Patanjali defined dhya'na as:  Tatra pratyatyaekata'nata' dhya'nam -- "Dhya'na means 'the unbroken flow of mind towards the supreme goal." So dhya'na is meditation on the Supreme Entity so that there is an incessant upward movement of the mind towards Parama Purus'a.

19.  Question:  What is the macro-pineal plexus?  What is its utility in the course of spiritual practices?

Answer:  The inner side of the pineal plexus is called the macro-pineal plexus.  In spiritual practices it has immense importance because it is at this plexus, the Guru cakra, that dhya'na is practised.

20.  Question:  Is the outer side of the macro-pineal plexus within the corporal structure or without the corporal structure?

Answer:  The outer side of the macro-pineal plexus is outside the corporal structure; that is, it is outside the body.

21.  Question:  What is sama'dhi?

Answer:  Sama'dhi is the merger of the unit consciousness in Cosmic Consciousness.  It is not a particular lesson; it is the result of all the above spiritual practices.

22.  Question:  What is diiks'a'?

Answer:  Diiks'a' is defined as:
Diipa jina'nam' yato dadya't kurya't pa'paks'ayam tatah;
Tasma'tdiiks'eti sa' prokta' sarvatantrasya sammata'.
"Diiks'a' is the process of initiation.  It brings about spiritual illumination and burns up accumulated sam'ska'ras [mental reactive momenta]."

23.  Question:  What is Vaedikii diiks'a'?

Answer:  When someone is initiated with only a prayer mantra [words or sounds repeated orally] without the shuddhis [visualizations for the systematic withdrawal of the mind], it is called Vaedikii diiks'a'.  Vaedikii diiks'a' is not a spiritual cult or practical process.  Its primary goal is to request Parama Purus'a to show the path of spiritual progress.

24.  Question:  What is Ta'ntrikii diiks'a'?

Answer:  When someone is initiated into the Tantric cult elaborately with all shuddhis, it is called Ta'ntrikii diiks'a'.  Ta'ntrikii diiks'a' is a practical spiritual cult.  Is't'a mantra [a personal mantra repeated in meditation] and Is't'a cakra [the cakra of meditation] are prescribed.  The role of the guru is very important because the guru gives blessings to the spiritual aspirant.  The goal is to become one with Parama Purus'a.

25.  Question:  What is onm'ka'ra?

Answer:  Onm'ka'ra is the combined acoustic sound of the entire process of creation, preservation and destruction.

26.  Question:  What is the starting point of onm'ka'ra?

Answer:  The divine sound onm'ka'ra starts from the starting point of creation (Shambhu'liunga).

27.  Question:  What is the difference between the attributional and the non-attributional stances?

Answer:  Bhu'ma'vya'pte mahati aham'cittayorpran'a'she sagun'a'sthitih savikalpasama'dhih va' ["When the aham and the citta merge into the Macrocosmic Mahat, the merger is called sagun'a'sthiti or savikalpa sama'dhi"].
A'tmani mahadpran'a'she nirgun'a'sthitih nirvikalpasama'dhi va' ["When the mahat merges into the A'tman, it is called nirgun'a'sthiti (state of objectlessness) or nirvikalpa sama'dhi (the trance of indeterminate absorption, or total suspension, of the mind)"].

28.  Question:  Should a monk or hermit take intoxicating liquor?

Answer:  No, because it increases the production of semen from lymph, and consequently the brain will not get sufficient lymph as food to practise sa'dhana' properly.  Intoxicating liquor will affect the semen and lymph, which in turn will affect all the other glands.  The entire nervous system will get agitated, and as a result mental concentration will be lost and sa'dhana' will be impaired.

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