Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 16

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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VI – Distraction of the mind (vikShepa) is the other major problem

Distraction of the mind is the other major impediment to knowledge. Trying to know through an unsteady mind is like wanting to study the details of our face in an unsteady mirror. We may now look into the exact nature of this problem.


It is the nature of the mind to change fast. When we see a friend, the friend thought takes place in the mind. When we see a cow behind the friend, the cow-thought should take place distinctly in the mind for the cow to be cognized. For this to happen, the friend-thought goes away quickly and prevents the overlapping of the two thoughts. So, the mind changes quickly and completely to enable clear perception of different objects to take place. Thus, the changing nature of the mind is not a problem but is a boon.


The problem arises when the mind makes us go its way like the dog which leads us when we take it out for a walk. Ordinarily, we do not pay any serious attention to it and allow it to function the way it wants even though our life becomes mechanical in the process. But now, as a seeker, when we want it to be fully available to receive self-knowledge, it is unable to do so. It moves away without our consent. It thus becomes necessary for us to train the mind not to be mechanical in its functioning.


VII – Upasana or meditation trains the mind to be undistracted

The practice prescribed for training the mind not to be mechanical is upäsanä or meditation. Upäsanä is the process of directing an unbroken flow of thought towards a locus sanctioned by the çästra [103]. Indications are given in Bhagavadgétä about the seat and posture for meditation. These are pointers and not rules. The basic requirement is that we should be able to sit in a given posture for forty-five minutes without our body becoming a source of distraction. We can, however, start doing upäsanä straightaway and accomplish this ability in course of time.


We sit for meditation, place the hands in the lap, lock the fingers, relax the body, close the eyes and turn the mind away from the world outside. When the mind has become relatively steady, we invoke Éçvara through any symbol representing him [104]. It can be any deity of our choice. We think of him as the one from whom everything has come, by whom everything is sustained and into whom everything goes back. When we worship what we venerate, our I-sense with its likes and dislikes surrenders. In the process, our assertive I-sense becomes the humble I-sense, which is worshipping.


The next step is to offer mental worship. It can be done through çlokas of mental worship like Çiva-mänasa-püjä [105] or any other. It can also be done according to our own thinking. We see vividly whatever we offer. We visualize every detail taking nothing for granted. The mental worship is concluded with prostration in which our whole body is laid before Éçvara. Through upäsanä, we become self-effacing and our mind gets trained to stay within the confines of a particular subject in the manner that we want. This is called citta-ekägratä or undivided mental attentiveness.


Äcäryas also teach their disciples meditations to take care of their particular problems. Some of them are relaxation-meditation, expansion-meditation and value-meditation. In one form of relaxation-meditation, the meditator lovingly visualizes beautiful scenes in nature like flowers in the garden, rolling green meadows, snow-capped mountains against the blue sky. In an expansion-meditation, which is done for freeing the mind from its restricted perspective, the expansive space over the vast ocean is usually meditated upon. In value-meditation, the positive virtues like truth, non-hurting, compassion, and patience, and negative traits like impulsive reaction, hurting others, jealousy, hate are reflected upon to see, respectively, the positive and negative aspects of these traits. [106]


VIII - Japa or repetition of mantra with attention to the silence between the chants

In distraction (vikñepa), the mind moves from one object to another through association. For example, while listening to the teaching based on the commentary of Çaìkaräcärya, the mind moves from the teaching to Çaìkaräcärya, then to the friend, Çaìkar, then to the earlier days spent together and so on. The mind keeps moving from one thought to another without being aware of it. The thoughts are connected but they are dissimilar. Dissimilar thoughts distract the mind from the original thought. In the example given, it has moved from the teaching to the experience with Çankar.


Japa trains the mind not to wander. In japa, the same mantra like namççiväya, namo näräyaëäya is repeated with attention to the gaps of silence between the chants. As the same mantra is repeated, the possibility of the build-up of association and development of distracting thought patterns is greatly reduced. Generally, they do not develop. If a different thought were to arise, we bring back the mantra without any reaction and continue the chanting as before. 


There is a gap between any two successive thoughts even when the thoughts constantly flow. We do not usually notice this gap, as the flow of thought is rapid. In this gap, there is no tangible thought. When there is no thought, the mind is silent. Even as we have awareness of the thought when it is there, we have also the awareness of the lack of any thought. Thus, there is awareness with thought, then awareness without thought, then awareness with thought, then awareness without thought and so on. This is how thinking takes place. What is unchanging in the thought process is awareness. It is intrinsic and it does not change. During the mental silence in the gap between the chants, this intrinsic awareness is recognized and our mind experiences tranquility (çänti).


Normally, we do not own up our tranquility between the thoughts. For doing so, we repeat the mantra in the following manner. We utter the mantra consciously and not mechanically. We do not go to the next repetition without seeing and owning up the silence between the two chants. By being aware of the silence between two successive chants, we avoid being mechanical. If we own up the silence constantly, in course of time, the thought - silence - thought pattern changes into silence - thought - silence pattern. Our mind abides easily in the silence, as it is natural to us.


This process enables us to be at home with ourselves. It prevents the mind from being mechanical. As Éçvara’s name is being chanted, the attitude of devotion and surrender also develops. The assertive I-sense becomes non-projecting. Our mind relaxes and is at peace without any distraction.


103. Upäsanä is sajätéya-våtti-praväha i.e., flow of thoughts of the same kind.
104. For details, see “Lord Appreciated through Upasanas” in Swamini Pramananda Saraswati and Sri Dhira Caitanya, “Pürëa Vidyä”, Part 7 titled “Isvara and Religious Discipline”, pp. 59-60.
105. Çiva-mänasa-püja is composed by Çaìkaräcärya.
106. For some more details of these meditations, see Swami Paramarthananda,  Introduction to Vedanta, pp. 29-30.

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Page last updated: 27-Apr-2015