What is yoga of meditation and what does it give?
There are various branches of yoga: hatha yoga, pranayama yoga, mantra yoga, raja yoga, djnana yoga etc. Together they all represent a single teaching, the goal of which is to achieve the peak of self-exploration and to acquire freedom. Knowledge is power and any knowledge regarding ourselves gives us tools to find solution for problems and avoid negativity.
Meditation is one of the branches of the single yoga teaching. And the goal of meditation yoga is the same as the goal of all yoga as a whole: self-exploration, acquisition of freedom from all the limiting factors. We may say that meditation is a set of tools that lets us reach the highest goal of yoga.
The word "meditation" has a lot of meanings: it is hard to translate it unambiguously. The word itself is of European origin: from Latin meditatio – reflection, contemplation, mental process. Before the 20th century, this term only stood for deep thinking, concentration on a problem, an inner prayer, as well as a form of philosophical lyrics.
The word "meditation" has the same stem as the word 'media' or 'multimedia', which means something intermediary, something that connects. In the West, meditation is usually understood as some intermediate incomprehensible state of a human being: here is their functioning and interaction with the outside world, and there is their interaction with the inner world. The practice of meditation in the West gained widespread acceptance in various spiritual organizations. Christian mystics as well as esoteric societies ranging from alchemists to Pythagor’s disciples - the Pythagorean, used it.
What we call 'mediation' in the West, is defined with three terms in the East: 'dharana', 'dhyana' and 'samadhi'. In 'The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali' the three of them together are called 'sanyama'. Dharana, dhyana and samadhi are the three stages of a meditative process, which successively supersede each other. As we can see, there is a certain difficulty in trying to relate the western term 'meditation' to the practices that exist in the East. This causes all kinds of speculations on this topic, which, moreover, are everyway fueled with numerous incomprehensible books. There is indeed a lot of popular literature on the market now, in which meditation is presented either as exotic esotery, or as something extremely sublime, yet bookish. An approach like this, exultant and emotional, as well as the exotic-esoteric one results in a distorted picture of this most ancient practice. Meanwhile, the yoga of meditation, like any other branch of yoga, is as accurate as mathematics. Mediation is based on certain principles: the principles of our body, the principles of mind and the principles of our world. And despite the fact that the topic of meditation is rather complicated and serious, it is at the same time very close to life. Our task is to approach the theory and of course the practice of this question in such a way that each of you could consciously try this kind of yoga and get a result yourself.
In order to define what meditation is and how we can benefit from it, in order to understand why and how meditation works, we shall take a very round about approach.
Now a days life has become rather stressful, everyone has to experience a lot of pressure coming from our everyday life. And it results in that we often fail to restore our emotional balance, equilibrium, and harmony. The eternal rush that makes us move and race forward causes various stress conditions that gradually begin to reveal themselves on the physical level, too - we start to suffer from some physical diseases. Thus, a rather grave problem arises. Sophisticated people suffer from it most. People who are somewhat rough, with sort of rough sense organs, rough mind, are less sensitive in regard to various irritants, where as more sophisticated people suffer tremendously. Now, yoga gives us a wonderful method that is called 'meditation'. This method helps us deal with all these negative moments of life. But strictly speaking, this method of meditation, which lets us avoid all these negativities coming from life, has a deeper essence. This is one of the methods of self-exploration. We remember that yoga is a science of self-exploration. Now, this 'curative' effect of meditation is like a 'side' effect.
Now a couple of words for those people who have never come across meditation in their life before. The thing is that it has become quite a trendy topic nowadays. The television, magazines and books encourage us to turn to meditation, but inexperienced people have difficulty in understanding what is meant sometimes.
What kind of state is it that we are encouraged to pursue? And how should one approach it anyway?
As a matter of fact, everyone has their own personal experience that at least vaguely resembles meditation. Imagine yourself doing some very difficult job for a very long time and then that you have finally finished it and sat down to have rest - with the feeling of a job well done. You sat down, relaxed and found yourself in such a blissful state, with a very good, positive emotional background - that you have really completed some very important task.
Now, this state partially resembles the state experienced by those who practice meditation. But the experience in a state of meditation is deeper. At this point, it is already important for us to understand the following: meditation is natural for us. It is not something artificial, brought from outside, something difficult and incomprehensible that is even hard to approach. No. We all understand somehow intuitively what it is; moreover, all of us have partially experienced such states in our everyday life. Yoga is a very practical science. Naturally, it has worked out an algorithm allowing for a fast and efficient achievement of this state of tranquility and serenity with a very positive background within.
And why should we enter this state at all? What is the use of meditation for a modern person?
For example, we cannot always do a job and have rest afterwards. A modern person's job can sometimes last for many years and its result is very distant in time. And that is where we observe a state of accumulated stress - we tense all our powers, all our emotions, all our nerves but the result is still not there. We burn out and simultaneously fall within the scope of numerous irritant factors: we get stuck in hours-long traffic jams or push strollers through the subways during rush hours, we are surrounded by the noise and the clatter of the city, the overall nervousness falls upon us. And these negative factors overlap with the internal pressure from unfinished tasks or some unachieved goals that we set for ourselves, which results in dire consequences in the form of stress. That is why it would be good to learn to enter this state of peace, tranquility, and detachment in order to restore one’s strength, to see things in a new light, even if it is the task, we are working on.
Let us consider another example. Suppose you are trying to resolve some complicated life situation of yours. And yoga encourages us to resolve it with maximum kindness. Sometimes you have to wait until other people around you will understand themselves the necessity of a compromise. And they may be unwilling to do so. They may, on the contrary, be stubborn and hold their ground - and a conflict situation arises. Now, a yogi should sometimes arm himself/herself with patience, so that the people involved in the conflict situation could change their mind after a while. And how does a poor yogi stay patient when he is loaded both at work and here, and he is all stressed out head to toe? 'Be patient', they demand - and she/he is already at the end of her/his patience, he cannot bear it anymore, he cannot bear it just emotionally.