MEDITATION – THE DOORWAY TO NIRVANA

Meditation as of today comprises and manifests the very core of every effort, religion and faith. Meditation- a concept initiated and heralded by the eastern theological philosophy finds its roots in the Hindu sacred scriptures “Vedas” dating back to 1500 B.C. popularly termed as “Dhyana” in Hindu mythology; it has multiple connotations according to application in varied situations. It means, to pay attention, meditate, remember, recollect, etc. This concept was immediately embraced by the neighbors - Taoist China and Buddhist Tibet. It was thereafter that the other religions also learnt and adapted the concept sans their eastern trappings, per their theological compatibility. With the passage of time meditation acquired a prominent and compulsive feature of every religious sect.

In traditional parlance “Meditation” is a discipline or practice in which person systematically concentrates his mind or attention for inducing a state of consciousness for the attainment of spiritual salvation. However with time the concept of “meditation” underwent refinements and research and its ambit expanded from the realms of spirituality to its inclusion for the betterment of the human fiber of life. The modern day concept of “Mediation” has factored into its ambit a plethora of aspects such as relaxation, wellness, booting internal energy, generosity, compassion, love, patience and forgiveness. It has become a powerful tool for de-stressing and accelerating the sense of wellness of the human psyche.       

Meditation-Its types and methods   

To put it very simply, meditation – as per its usage can be broadly categorized into religious (spiritual) and non religious (wellness). Meditation with spiritual orientation is compartmentalized to a particular segment of society which pursues it for the intrinsic purpose of furthering their religious faiths and belief, whereas mediation for non religious purposes has acquired the status of the common man’s stress buster. Today its rampant peddling and commercialization has undergone such a high decibel sales pitch that the concentration of subject’s glory has paled to pittance.    

Modern day materialism and high octane lifestyles have bereft human lives of ecstasy and exuberance thereby substituted it with trauma, stress, depression, disease and disorders. Social scientists and engineers along with religious sector preachers mooted the concept of deploying meditation engineering as a tool to nullify the impact inflicted on human lives by scorching pace of technology and development. Its mapping was

Anxiety --> Distress --> Depression --> Disorder --> Disease --> Pain

The human brain triggered this personality disintegration and had to nurtured for the purpose of attaining equilibrium. Under the meditative philosophy the man was trained to control the mind instead of the mind which controls the man under normal conditions. With this clearly chalked out the social engineers devised a meditative strategy with a dual orientation.

1.  Meditation for the control and resolution of anxiety.

2. Meditation for the control and resolution of pain.

With the initial and end fields defined it became much convenient to control the intermediate variables. Meditative techniques of the various religions were analyzed for ascertaining the therapeutic qualities they provided and adopted as inputs for the resolution of these mental ailments. In view of the above these were classified into   

·         Concentration Meditation – basically focusing to control the mind by eliminating the negative thoughts and concentrating on personal wellness. Techniques include i) Zen Meditation ii) Transcendental Meditation iii) Om Meditation iv) Shrine Meditation v) Chakra Meditation.

·         Reflective Meditation – It is basically an introspective meditation which concentrates on the various aspects of oneself by initiating queries such as i) Who ii) What iii) How iv) Why.

·         Mindfulness Meditation – Popularly called “self healing process” trains to treat your thoughts as temporary sensations and help you control your impulses towards them. Techniques include i) Mindful Eating ii) Mindful Breathing iii) Vipasana Meditation iv) Walking Meditation v) Sitting Meditation vi) Deep Breathing Meditation vii) Body Scan Meditation viii) Visualization Meditation.

·         Heart-Centered Meditation – Popularly known as “heart chakra meditation”, helps in the resolution of mental negatives by opening up the heart chakra. It is a vital technique.

·         Creative Meditation – Helps by strengthening the various wellness faculties of the mind such as joy, happiness, fearlessness, empathy, patience, love, gratitude, etc. 

The process of meditating is pretty simple enough as it does not involve any gadgets or implements besides being practically hands free. The process of meditating involves

·         Choose a peaceful and serene environment.

·         Wear comfortable attire.

·         Pre determine the duration you intend to meditate.

·         Tone your body by doing some light stretch outs.

·         Sit in a comfortable posture.

·         Close your eyes or maintain a soft gaze, with your tongue touching the roof of your mouth.

·         Ensure tranquility and maintain silence.

·         Concentrate and focus.

·         Breathe normally and count it for initiating focus.

·         Don’t stop but avoid thoughts.

·         Let go of emotions – avoid them as well.

·         Smile mildly and enjoy the persistent peace generated by creating a mental void.

Meditation  - contribution to human wellness   

Once a person learns to control his mind, it is easier for him to focus on good aspects and avoid occurrences, thoughts and incidents which are the root cause of anxiety and the subsequent ills. A healthy and virtuous person is one who is anxiety free and the transformation accomplished by the meditative disciplining of the mental faculties reverberates from his personality. The multi dimensional wellness factors accruing to an individual and his society can be in the following forms –

With the individual’s personality 

·         Shapes a stable and balanced personality.

·         Builds self confidence.

·         Helps control one’s thoughts.

·         Increases emotional stability.

·         Helps in improving relationships.

·         Heightens intelligence growth rate.

·         Improves listening skills and empathy.

·         Develops emotional maturity.

·         Helps make accurate judgments.

With the individual’s spirituality 

·         Deeper understanding of oneself and others.

·         Helps learn forgiveness.

·         Alters attitude towards life.

·         Heightened compassion.

·         Infuses peace of mind and happiness.

·         In-depth spiritual relaxation.

·         Creates a broad spectrum of love.

·         Completely dissolves ego.

·         Inculcates wisdom.

·         Attains inner awakening.

With the individual’s health 

·         Reduces blood pressure.

·         Reduces attacks of anxiety by reducing bold lactate levels.

·         Enhances the immune system.

·         Reduces cholesterol levels, and risk of cardiovascular disease.

·         Retards the ageing process.

·         Greater orderliness of brain functioning.

·         Reduced need for medical care.

·         Significant relief from asthma.

·         Helps in weight loss.

·         Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis, etc.

With the individual’s society 

·         Induces impeccable social conduct and behavior.

·         Helps in quitting smoking and alcohol addiction.

·         Reduces dependency on drugs, pills and pharmaceuticals.

·         Develops greater tolerance.

·         Abhorrence to road rage.

·         Increased sense of responsibility.

·         Non aggressiveness.

·         Enhanced productivity.

·         Increase in the capacity for intimate contact with loved ones. 

The human brain till the day is a subject of intense research due to its extreme complexity. A normal mind is identical to an unbridled horse knowing no direction which is the cause of all ills. Meditation teaches us to virtually bridle our brain for the betterment of self and society. It is nothing very complex and difficult but a simplistic discipline to be learnt under a capable teacher. If infinite wellness can be attained by undergoing 5-25 minutes of meditation, then spending dollars and sweat for hours pumping iron, somehow does not seem intelligent logical and worth undertaking.     

YOGA - THE INFINITE THERAPY

Yoga – An Introduction 

The literal Hindu meaning of “Yoga” is addition, union, contribution, etc. Sanskrit has unlimited derivations and connotations of the word. In the current context “Yoga” is an ancient Indian methodology of the unification of one’s own consciousness to the universal consciousness. This process of spiritual liturgy transpires through an extremely intense and rigorous process of dedication and concentration of the physical and mental faculties. It has a meditative and spiritual core whose singular and ultimate aim is emancipation.

As per the mythological scriptures, Lord Shiva himself is said to have propounded “Yoga” which was carried forward down the generation by succession. The great sage Patanjali is considered to be the compiler of aphorisms of yogic practices. “Yoga” has various branches or schools

·         Bhakti Yoga – focused on love and devotion to God.

·         Karma Yoga – relates to discipline of action outlined in Bhagwat Gita.

·         Jnana Yoga – union attained by the dint of pure knowledge.

·         Laya Yoga – yoga of awareness.

·         Hatha Yoga – involving physical techniques.

Hatha Yoga – Most popular, preferred and practiced

Hatha yoga has six limbs of attaining salvation which are

·         Asanas – postures – the most popular and practiced form of yogic exercise.

·         Pranayama – controlled breathing.

·         Pratyadhara – sense withdrawal.

·         Dharana – concentration.

·         Dhyana – meditation.

·         Samadhi – heightened concentration.

Hatha yoga is a unique technique of opposing energy which has much similarity to the yin – yang concept. Being therapeutic in nature, Hatha yoga attempts to attain physical and mental equilibrium by postures, purification practices, controlled breathing, the calming of mind by relaxation and meditation. Asanas teach poise, balance and strength and are practiced to improve the physical health and clear the mind for the preparation of meditation.   

Therapy induced by Asanas and Pranayams

Scriptures narrate of 8.4 million asanas. The Hatha Yoga scriptures provide 84 popular postures, which the modern day teachers have reduced further as per the need, benefit effectiveness and cure. Pranayams or breathing exercises which are 50 in number. Hath yoga utilizes a combination of Asanas and Pranayams to bring about spectacular human wellness factors and cure to many chronic illness. A brief examination can be attempted thus –  

Philosophy of the Yoga wellness regime

It is apparent from the above as to how each asana or pranayam of Hath Yoga helps in the mental and physical betterment of humanity. A closer examination will reveal that the tool of wellness has always been around us in the form of animals, trees, birds, mundane objects of daily use, basic mathematics, geometry, etc which forms the very basis of the Yoga postures or asanas. The ancient yogic sages and saints closely studied, experimented and monitored the wellness over the years and factored them into yoga asanas for the refinement in the life quality of human beings.

Conclusion and caution.    

Yoga is a common man’s secret to good health and wellness. They are simple, freehand, effective, inexpensive and without any negative after effects. Like any other knowledge yoga is also to be learnt under a trained instructor. It is good to have knowledge, but no knowledge is good without a teacher and so is the science and art of Yoga as well.

 

Be sure to join us at 7:30pm on the last Sunday of every month for yoga! 

Posted on May 14, 2015 .

THE MYSTICAL BUDDHA HEAD

Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism was born in Lumbini, Nepal in 563 B.C. to Queen Maya and King Suddhodana of the Sakya clan.  He had a royalty filled childhood and at the age of sixteen was married to Yashodhara from whom he had a son named Rahula. After the birth of his son, Siddartha on seeing the sufferings and realities of life resolved to spend a life of austerity and inner detachment. For a short while he was the disciple of the famous sage Alara Kalama who indoctrinated him about “Atma” and “Brahma”. Gautama practiced several austerities and undertook severe self-mortification. To invigorate his weakened body he begged in the villages for food. His resolved for the attainment of enlightenment was rock firm. He sat under a banyan tree in the present day place named Bodh Gaya in India and practiced deep meditation for several days. And, finally a day arrived when he received enlightenment or the answers to questions he had been long looking for. He thus attained “Nirvana” or spiritual emancipation and came to known as ‘Buddha”. The word “Buddha” has been derived from the Hindu word “Buddhi” meaning “Mind” and “Buddha” meaning “The One with an Awakened Mind”. Buddhism as of today has a global following of nearly 300 million people who are mainly concentrated in Central and South East Asia.

Buddhism - its modern perspective

More than a religion, Buddhism is a philosophy focused to “conduct of life”. The eternal core of Buddhism focuses on

·         Having a moral life.

·         Having compassion and awareness of actions and thoughts.

·         Having wisdom and understanding.

Buddhism’s rapid popularity in the modern day has resulted mainly from the solutions it has to offer for today’s rampant materialism. It also initiates a deep understanding of the complex human mind and of the natural therapies that lie within to rid humanity of the rigors of modern day rat race. Psychologists the world over are concentrating on unraveling this aspect and facet which the Buddhism discipline inculcates into the human mind.

The significance of Buddha Head

Buddha statues come in numerous “asanas” or sitting postures and “mudras” or physical postures, yet the focal point remains the “Head” as it hold the secret to all elusive methodology for the attainment of enlightenment. Though the styling has remained constant or fixed, but the facial features though being basically Mongoloid in nature has varied with respect to geography. The facial features of a Buddha head as in a temple of Japan will vary with the one found in a Tibetan monastery, basically due to sub racial classification.

The Buddha head has been an icon and a symbolic depiction of the characteristics of his greatness. The Buddha head is famous for its religious and spiritual overtones. His head, to a layman resonates of his calm, composure and meditative character to the point infinity. The typical Buddha head is characterized by a round, vibrant, youthful, charming and sweet face, yet there is much more mysticism than what meets a common man’s eye. The great sage depicted as a friendly individual with eternal happiness and an embodiment of wisdom and compassion. A feature wise analysis of the Buddha had can be attempted in the following manner:-

·         The Ushnisha – or the crown of hair is a three dimensional oval at the top of the head. It is a gathering of his wavy and voluminous hair into a chignon. The “ushnisha” symbolizes the special status related to the spiritual power, the knowledge and the religious ideals preached by Buddha.

·         The Hair - It is shown as an infinitely complex combination of small curls. As hairs are symbolic of mankind’s illusion or ignorance, ridding of the same signifies renunciation of ignorance. This is one of the prime requisites for the attainment of enlightenment.

·         The Third Eye – is a hairy dot which appears on the forehead between the eyebrows. This has great significance and connotations. It signifies to the devotes to inculcate ethical behavior, indulge in meditation, be generous, make offerings and free oneself from materialistic provocations. The third eye symbolizes spiritual awakening of knowledge and wisdom besides providing divine vision with the ability to see past our mundane universe of sufferings. It also symbolizes that he was a great being.

·         The Eye – are usually casting downwards in a state of meditation with a hue of spiritual aura. It signifies looking beyond materialistic things only towards the truth. It is virtually awakening of the inner eye or “urna”.

·         The Ears – Long and bulgy ears besides being auspicious also signified a person’s sense of compassion and wisdom. It also connotes the abilities to hear the sounds of worldly sufferings and ease them with compassion. An alternative interpretation is that besides being materialistically wealthy during royalty, he was also wealthy in terms of knowledge, compassion and wisdom.

·         The Nose – He had long, protruding, proportioned and aquiline nose. This basically added balance and aura to his sagely personality, but conveyed no significant overt or covert connotations.

No doubt that Buddha Heads are today the most sought after collector’s objects. Many believe that by just observing the calm and composed gaze and the serene expression of the Buddha head one may attain a path to unravel the mysteries of inner composure and personal well being. Buddha heads are the icon of confidence, awareness, knowledge, compassion and concentrated meditative practices. Each and every faculty of the Buddha head symbolizes a hidden meaning, philosophy, history, occult, and above all how to individually and collectively be great, noble and kind human beings.  

MALA AND THE MANTRA

Introduction of Mala

Traditionally a “Mala” in the Hindu context denotes a garland; whereas the same when used in a prayer session is called a “Japa Mala”. As in many religions, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam the usage of  rosary, threngwa, japa mala or subha are an integral part for keeping a count and following the prescribed procedure of the prayer undertaken by the devotee. In the Hindu context the word “Mala” is loosely used to indicate both a garland and a rosary, and its meaning is connoted from the context of its usage in speech or text.  

The word “Japa Mala” comprises of two words “Japa” meaning devotional repetitions and “Mala” meaning garland. This virtually means a garland for the devotional repetition of prayers. The usage of mala in a prayer session may be for varied purposes like chanting, counting, mentally repeating a prayer or a deity name. The use of mala in prayers appears to have originated in India around 8th century B.C. Mala was an ancient tool to keep the devotees mind focused while practicing meditation. Hindu deities adorn themselves with the mala which forms a part of their attire or personality. The constitution, procedure of repetition, and benefits of the mala have preset rules and regulations.

Constitution of Mala   

The Mala consists of solid spherical beads with a hole bored through the radius for stringing them in a garland form. The spherical concept of the bead springs from the Hindu philosophy that the “Atma” or soul is immortal and life is cyclical. The selection of a bead type basically depicts the purpose of the mala.

Beads

·         Spirituality – Shiva (Rudrakasha), Vishnu (Basil), Lakshmi (Gold), Ganesha (Ivory), Kali, Durga or Shakti (Pearl or Coral)

·         Black magic (Tantric) – Human bones

·         Wealth acquisition – Coral

·         Satiation of desires – Silver

·         Attraction – Ivory, etc.

The single “Meru” or the main bead. This is the most steadfast bead and is not included in the counting. The “Meru” bead maintains its separate existence in spite of being with the rest. This in all cases is not to be crossed and if the same unknowingly transpires, the devotee has to perform pranayam yoga (breathing exercise) six times as penance.

The quantum of beads in a mala has multi dimensional significance. Ideally a Hindu mala consists of 108 beads, but the different tenets/schools and scriptures have specified varying bead quantum. Some may be enumerated thus -

·         Spirituality attainment – 27 beads.

·         Desire fulfillment – 108 beads.

·         Wealth acquisition – 30 beads.

·         Dexterity in black magic – 30 beads.

The significance of the 108 beads of the mala are numerous and unfathomable. However a few can be summarized as follows –

·         108 are indicative of the sensory focuses in our body.

·         108 represent the scriptures or Upanishads.

·         108 happen to be the names of Vishnu and Shiva in the epic Mahabharata.

·         A normal person breathes 21600 times a day. If half of the total breaths (10800) are spent in worldly affairs, he should give 10800 for spiritual emancipation, which can be attained by 100 turns of the mala (100 x 108=10800).

·         Astronomy – The four compartments of each of the twenty seven lunar asterisms i.e., 27 x 4 = 108

·         108 have innumerable mathematical, spiritual and philosophical substantiation.

The Knot (Brahmagath) and the Thread 

Since the red color in Hindu mythology is endowed with great supernatural powers three strands/rounds of red colored thread are used to string the beads. Reach bead is to be separated by a knot as a buffer so that they do not make a clicking sound due to collusion while in use. The “Meru” bead is tied in the middle of the mala with a Brahmagath (Brahma’s knot). A “Brahmagath” has great significance and is used only in rituals of infinite spiritual sanctity like marriages and thread ceremonies. A “Brahmagath” in the mala denotes the transcendence of Brahma himself in the object.

Invocating a Mala

A new mala should be procured from a ‘Guru” after observing the due rituals. Thereafter its purification and invocation should be accomplished else the success for the attainment of the four elements of humanity, namely – Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha which the mala will help the devotee to attain will remain unfulfilled.

Principles of Mala usage

The following points are to be observed while using a mala –

·         Do not cross the “Meru” bead. On violations ritualistic penances are to be performed.

·         For experiencing heightened positive energy draw the mala closer towards your body.

·         While offering prayers the mala should always be held in the right hand.

·         The index finger should never touch the mala.

·         The mala should be placed on the mid joint of the middle finger and the beads should be drawn by the thumb towards oneself.

·         The mala alternatively can also be placed on the ring finger with the tip of the ring finger and thumb touching each other. The mala can then be drawn by the middle finger.

·         For experiencing higher level of powers, the mala can be placed on the ring finger and drawn by the thumb.

 

Precautions while using a Mala

A user should ensure the observance of the following so as not to desecrate the mala –

·         Use only one and your own exclusive mala. Never share or lend your mala.

·         Never change mala’s for different prayer offerings.

·         Sprinkle holy water and pay the ritualistic obeisance before commencing the usage of mala.

·         Ensure that the beads of the mala do not make a clicking sound during usage.

·         The prayer mala should never be physically worn.

·         To prevent the energy loss of a mala subsequent to its use store it in a box, bowl or at the place of worship.

·         A bad omen transpires if a mala slips and falls. As penance perform six pranayams.

·         The mala should never be visible to anyone except the user. A bag resembling a cow’s face should be used for concealment of the mala during use to prevent the loss of positive energy.

·         Breaking of a mala is the most disastrous omen. One has to perform Mahamritunjay japa to reverse the effects of the bad omen.

The “Mala” in Hindu mythology is not just a prayer rosary but a great religious tool of discipline, restraint, and perseverance for the ultimate attainment of spiritual bliss and salvation.