Sunday, June 12, 2016

OBSTACLES IN MEDITATION - Mental Obstacles PART I ~ Swami Sivananda

by Swami Sivananda 

1. Anger

It is a gate to hell. It destroys the knowledge of Self. It is born of Rajas. It is all-consuming and all-polluting. It is the greatest enemy of peace. It is a modification of lust. Just as milk is changed into curd, so also lust or desire becomes transmuted into anger. When a man's desire is not gratified, he becomes angry. Then his mind becomes confused. He loses his memory and understanding. He perishes. A man when he is angry will talk anything he likes and do anything he likes. He commits murder. A hot word results in fighting and stabbing. He is under intoxication. He loses his senses for the time being. He does not know what he is exactly doing. He is a prey to anger. He is under the sway of anger. Anger is a form of Sakti or Devi. In Chandipatha you will find:

"Ya devi sarva-bhuteshu krodharupena samsthita
Namas-tasyai namas-tasyai namas-tasyai namo namah."

"I bow to that Devi who is seated in all beings in the form of anger."

Resentment, indignation, fury, wrath and irritation are all varieties of anger according to degree or intensity. If a man wants to correct another man and uses slight anger unselfishly as a force to check and improve him, then it is called ‘righteous anger.' Suppose a man molests a girl and tries to outrage her, and a by-stander becomes angry towards this criminal, then it is called ‘righteous indignation.' That is not bad. Only when the anger is the outcome of greed or selfish motives, it is bad. Sometimes a religious teacher has to express a little anger outwardly to correct his disciples. This is also not bad. One has to do it. But he should be cool within and hot and impetuous outside. He should not allow the anger to take deep root in his Antahkarana for a long time. It should pass off immediately like a wave in the sea.

If a man becomes irritable for trifling things very often, it is a definite sign of mental weakness. One should control irritability by developing patience, Vichara, Kshama, love, mercy and spirit of service. When anger is controlled it becomes transmuted into an energy that can move the world. It becomes changed into Ojas, just as heat or light is changed into electricity. Energy takes another form. If an aspirant has controlled anger completely, half of his Sadhana is over. Control of anger means control of lust also. All vices, evil qualities and wrong actions take their origin in anger. If anger is controlled all bad qualities die by themselves. He who has controlled anger cannot do any wrong or evil actions. He is always just. An easily irritable man is always unjust. He is swayed by impulses and emotions. Too much loss of semen is the chief cause for irritability and anger. The root cause for anger lies in egoism. Through Vichara, egoism should be removed. Then only can one control anger completely to the very root. Through development of the opposite virtues such as Kshama, love, Santi, Karuna and friendship it can be controlled to some extent. The force can be reduced. Jnana only completely fries all Samskaras. But practice of Mouna is of great help in controlling anger. It is very difficult to say when a man will be thrown into a state of fury. All of a sudden he gets a terrible fit of anger for trifling matters. When the anger assumes a grave form, it becomes difficult to control. It should be controlled when it assumes the form of a small ripple in the subconscious mind. One should watch the mind carefully, whenever there is a sign of irritability. Then it becomes very easy.

When a man is furious, he has lost all control. Anger gains strength by repetition. If it is checked, man gains strength of will gradually. An aspirant should direct all his attention towards conquest of his powerful enemy. Sattvic food, Japa, meditation, prayer, Satsanga, Vichara, service, Kirtan, Brahmacharya, Pranayama-all will pave a long way in eradicating this dire malady. A combined method should be adopted in its removal. When a man abuses, you try to keep quiet. Bear the insult. You will gain strength. Check the impulses and emotions to begin with. Whenever there is likelihood of a burst of anger during conversation or debate, stop your speech. Always try to speak sweet and soft words (Madhura and Mridu). The words must be soft and the arguments hard, but if the words are hard, it will bring discord. If you find it difficult to control anger, leave the place at once and take a brisk walk. Drink some cool water immediately. Chant OM loudly for 10 minutes. Smoking, meat-eating and drinking of liquors make the heart very irritable. Therefore they should be completely abandoned. Tobacco brings diseases of heart. It gives rise to ‘tobacco-heart' which gets easily irritated.

Be careful in the selection of companions. Talk little. Mix little. Plunge yourself into spiritual Sadhana. Think that the world is a long dream; that the world is Mithya. This will prevent anger. Make Vichara: "What is abuse? What do I gain by getting angry? It is only wasting of energy and time. I am not body. The Atman is the same in all." This will completely remove anger. Anger spoils the blood. It throws various poisons into the blood.

Instances are recorded of women who have killed children by nursing them with breast milk when they were in a fit of anger. In the light of modern psychology all diseases take their origin in anger. Rheumatism, heart diseases and nervous diseases are due to anger. The whole nervous system is completely shattered by one fit of anger. It takes months before it is restored to normal equilibrium.

2. Backbiting

This is a dirty, abominable habit of petty-minded people. Almost all are victims of this dire malady. This has become an ingrained habit of narrow-hearted, mischievous people. This is a Tamo-Guna Vritti. The Lila of this world is kept up by this evil habit of man. It is Maya's strong weapon to spread restlessness throughout the world. If you see four men sitting in a group, think that some backbiting is surely going on there. If you behold that four Sadhus are talking, you can at once infer without any shadow of doubt that they are backbiting against some person or other. The Sadhu will be talking: "The food of that Kshetra is very bad. That Swamiji is a very bad man." Backbiting is more prevalent amongst the so-called Sadhus than amongst householders. Even educated Sannyasins and householders are not free from this dreadful disease. A real Sadhu who is engaged in contemplation will always be alone.

The root cause of backbiting is ignorance or jealousy. The backbiter wants to pull down or destroy the man who is in a prosperous condition by false vilification, slander, calumny, false accusation, etc. There is no other work for a backbiter except scandal-mongering. He lives on backbiting. He takes pleasure in backbiting and mischief-making. This is his Svabhava. Backbiters are a menace to society. They are worst criminals. They need capital punishment. Double-dealing, crookedness, diplomacy, chicanery, quibbling, tricks and artifices are the retinues of backbiting. A backbiter can never have a calm, peaceful mind. His mind is always planning or scheming in wrong directions. An aspirant should be absolutely free from this dreadful vice. He should walk alone, live alone, eat alone and meditate alone. If a man who has not removed jealousy, backbiting, hatred, pride, selfishness says, "I am meditating for six hours daily," it is all nonsense. There is no hope of getting a meditative mood even for six minutes unless a man removes all these evil Vrittis and purifies his mind first by selfless service for six years.

3. Depression

Very often depression comes in meditation in neophytes owing to the effect of previous Samskaras, influence of astral entities, evil spirits, bad company, cloudy days, bad stomach (indigestion) and loaded bowels. Treat the cause. Remove the cause. Do not allow depression to overpower you. Immediately take a brisk long walk. Run in the open air. Sing divine songs. Chant OM loudly for one hour. Walk along the seaside or river-side. Play on the harmonium if you know the art. Have cheerful thoughts and good laughing. If necessary you can take purgative and a dose of carminative mixture.

Do some Kumbhakas and Sitali Pranayama. Drink a small cup of orange juice or hot tea or coffee. Read some of the elevating portions of Avadhoota Gita and the Upanishads.

When depression comes and troubles you, the mind will revolt. The Indriyas will pull your legs. The undercurrent Vasanas will gush to the surface of the mind and torment you. Sensuous thoughts will agitate the mind and try to overwhelm you. Be bold. Stand adamant. Face these passing shocks. Keep your mind cool. Do not identify yourself with these obstacles. Increase your period of Japa and meditation. Strengthen Vairagya and discrimination too. Pray fervently. Live on milk and fruits. All these obstacles will pass away like a rent cloud. With the removal of all troubles you will shine gloriously. The improvement will be known to you. There will be a change in the mind, in speech and in all actions.

4. Doubt (Samsaya)

An aspirant begins to doubt whether God exists or not, whether he will succeed in his God-realisation or not, whether he is doing his practices rightly or not. Lack of faith is a dangerous obstacle in the spiritual path. The student slackens his efforts when these doubts crop up. Maya is very powerful. Mysterious is Maya. It misleads people through doubting and forgetfulness. Mind is Maya. Mind deludes people through doubting. Sometimes he gives up his Sadhana altogether. This is a serious mistake. Whenever doubt tries to overpower any student he should at once take recourse to the company of Mahatmas and remain with them for some time under the influence of their currents. He should clear his doubts by conversing with them. Generally an aspirant starts his Sadhana with expectation of so many Siddhis within a short time. When he does not get them he gets dejected and stops his practices. This is the trouble in almost all cases. He thinks that Kundalini will be awakened within six months and he will have clairvoyance, clairaudience, thought-reading, flying in the air, etc. He entertains so many fantastic and queer ideas.

There are various kinds of impurities in the mind. It takes a long time for purification of the mind and getting a one-pointed mind. Concentration is a question of practice for several lives. Concentration is the most difficult thing in the world. One should not get dejected after some practice for some months or one or two years. Even if you do a little practice, the effect is there. Nothing is lost. That is the immutable law of nature. You will not be able to detect the little improvement that has come out of a little practice as you have no subtle and pure intellect. You must develop virtues: Vairagya, patience and perseverance to a maximum degree; you must have an unshakable conviction in the existence of God and in the efficacy of spiritual practices. You must have a strong determination: "I will realise God right now in this very birth, nay in this very second. I will realise or die."

Doubts are of three kinds, viz., Samsaya Bhavana, Asambhavana and Vipareeta Bhavana (wrong feeling that the Self is the body and the world is a solid reality). Sravana (hearing of the scriptures), will remove Samsaya Bhavana. Manana (meditation) will remove Asambhavana. Nididhyasana (profound meditation) and Sakshatkara (realisation) will remove Vipareeta Bhavana.

Doubt or uncertainty is a great obstacle in the path of Self-realisation. It bars the spiritual progress. This must be removed by Satsanga, study of religious books, Vichara and reasoning. It will again and again raise its head to mislead the aspirant. It should be killed beyond resurrection by certainty of conviction and firm, unshakable faith based on reasoning.

Doubt is your great enemy. Doubt causes restlessness of mind. Destroy all doubts through Vichara and Jnana.

Do not bother about the doubts. There is no end for doubts. Purify your hearts. Go on vigorously with the purification processes, such as Japa, meditation. Meditate regularly. The doubts will be cleared by themselves in a mysterious manner. The great teacher or Inner Ruler is with you. He will illumine you and remove your doubts.

5. Dreams

Various sorts of fantastic dreams trouble some aspirants very much. Sometimes there is a mixture of meditation and dreams. As the phenomenon of dreams is very peculiar and inexplicable, it is very difficult to control dreams unless you wipe out all the Samskaras in the Karana Sarira (causal body) and control all thoughts. As you grow in purity, Viveka and concentration, dreams will decrease.

The presence of dreams denotes that you are not yet well-established in deep meditation, that you have not removed Vikshepa (tossing of the mind) and that you have not done constant intense Sadhana.

6. Evil Thoughts

Suppose the evil thoughts stay in your mind for twelve hours and recur every third day. If you can make them stay for ten hours and recur once in a week by daily practice of concentration and meditation, that is a decided improvement. If you continue your practice, the period of stay and recurrence will be gradually lessened. Eventually they will disappear altogether. Compare your present state with that of last year. You will be able to find out your progress. The progress will be very slow in the beginning. It will be difficult for you to gauge your growth and progress.

Your mind will sometimes shudder when evil thoughts enter your mind. This is a sign of your spiritual progress. You are growing spiritually. You will be much tormented when you think of your evil actions committed in the past. This is also a sign of your spiritual upheaval. You will not repeat now the same actions. Your mind will tremble. Your body will quiver whenever a wrong Samskara of some evil action urges you to do the same act through force of habit. Continue your meditation with full vigour and earnestness. All memories of evil actions, all evil thoughts, all evil promptings of Satan will die by themselves. You will be established in perfect purity and peace.

An aspirant complains, "As I continue my meditation, layer after layer of impurities is rising from the subconscious mind. Sometimes they are so strong and formidable that I am bewildered as to how to check them. I am not perfectly established in truth and Brahmacharya. The old habits of speaking lies and lust are still lurking in my mind. Lust is troubling me vigorously. The very idea of women agitates the mind. My mind is so sensitive that I am not able to hear or think of them. As soon as the thought comes in the mind, all the hidden Samskaras of lust rise up. As soon as these ideas come in my mind, the meditation as also the peace of the whole day is spoiled. I advise my mind, coax it, frighten it, but it is of no avail. My mind revolts. I do not know how to control this passion. Irritability, egoism, anger, greed, hatred, attachment, etc., are still lurking in me. As far as I have analysed the mind, lust is my chief enemy and it is very strong one, too. I request you to be kind enough to advise me as to how to get rid of the same."

In the beginning all sorts of evil thoughts will arise in your mind as soon as you sit for meditation. Why does this happen during meditation, when you attempt to entertain pure thoughts? Aspirants leave their spiritual practice of meditation on account of this. If you try to drive a monkey, it attempts to pounce upon you with vengeance. Even so, the old evil Samskaras and old evil thoughts try to attack you with vengeance and with redoubled force only at the time when you try to raise good, divine thoughts. Your enemy endeavours to resist you vehemently when you try to eject him out of your house. There is law of resistance in nature. The old evil thoughts assert and say, "O man! do not be cruel. You have allowed us to stay in your mental factory from time immemorial. We have every right to abide here. We have helped you up to this time in all your evil actions. Why do you want to oust us from our dwelling place? We will not vacate our abode." Do not be discouraged. Go on with your practice of meditation regularly. These evil thoughts will be thinned out.

Eventually they will all perish. Positive always overcomes the negative. This is the law of nature. Negative evil thoughts cannot stand before positive good thoughts. Courage overcomes fear. Patience overcomes anger and irritability. Love overcomes hatred. Purity overcomes lust. The very fact that you feel uneasy now when an evil thought comes to the surface of the mind during meditation, indicates that you are growing in spirituality. In those days you consciously harboured all sorts of evil thoughts. You welcomed and nourished them. Persist in your spiritual practices. Be tenacious and diligent. You are bound to succeed. Even a dull type of aspirant will notice a marvellous change in him if he keeps up the practice of Japa and meditation for 2 or 3 years in continuous stream. Now he cannot leave the practice. Even if he stops his practice of meditation for a day, he will actually feel that he has lost something on that day. His mind will be quite uneasy.

Passion is lurking in you. You may ask me the reason why you become frequently angry. Anger is nothing but the modification of passion. When the passion is not gratified, it assumes the form of anger. The real cause for anger is ungratified passion. It expresses itself in the form of anger when you deal with the mistakes of your servants. This is an indirect cause or external stimulus for its expression. Raga-Dvesha currents are not thoroughly eradicated. They are only attenuated or thinned out to some extent. The Indriyas or senses are yet turbulent. They are subjugated to a small degree. There are still undercurrents of Vasanas and Trishnas. The outgoing tendencies of the senses are not totally checked. You are not established in Pratyahara. The Vrittis are still powerful. There is no strong and sustained discrimination or dispassion. The aspiration for the Divine has not become intense. Rajas and Tamas are still doing havoc. There is only a small increase in the quantity of Sattva. Evil Vrittis are not thinned out. They are still powerful. Positive virtues have not been cultivated to a considerable degree. That is the reason why you have not attained perfect concentration. Purify the mind first. Concentration will come by itself.

Worldly thoughts will trouble you a lot in the beginning of your meditation. If you are regular in meditation, these thoughts will gradually die by themselves. Meditation is a fire to burn these thoughts. Do not try to drive all worldly thoughts. Entertain thoughts concerning the object of meditation.

Watch your mind always very carefully. Be vigilant. Be on the alert. Do not allow waves of irritability, jealousy, anger, hatred and lust to rise from the mind. These dark waves are enemies of meditation, peace and wisdom. Suppress them immediately by entertaining sublime and divine thoughts. Evil thoughts that have arisen may be destroyed by originating good thoughts and maintaining them by repeating any Mantra or the name of the Lord, by thinking on any form of the Lord, by practice of Pranayama, by singing the name of the Lord, by doing good action and thinking of the misery that arises from evil thoughts. When you attain the state of purity, no evil thoughts will arise in your mind. Just as it is easy to check the intruder or enemy at the gate, so also it is easy to overcome an evil thought as soon as it arises. Nip it in the bud. Do not allow it to strike deep root.

In the beginning of your practice of thought-control, you will experience great difficulty. You will have to wage war with them. They will try their level best for their own existence. They will say, "we have every right to remain in this palace of mind. We have a sole monopoly from time immemorial to occupy this area. Why should we vacate our dominion now? We will fight for our birthright till the end." They will pounce upon you with great ferocity. When you sit for meditation only, all sorts of evil thoughts will crop up. As you attempt to suppress, they want to attack you with redoubled force and vigour. But positive always overcomes the negative. Just as darkness cannot stand before the sun, just as the leopard cannot stand before the lion, so also all these dark, negative thoughts, these invisible intruders, enemies of peace, cannot stand before the sublime thoughts. They must die by themselves.

When you are very busy in your daily work, you may not harbour any impure thoughts; but when you take rest and leave the mind blank, the impure thoughts will try to enter insidiously. You must be careful when the mind is relaxed.