From the Book:
FIFTEEN PORTALS TO THE SUPREME
The pearly gates to Heaven - my own Blissful Infinite Self - Are either not seen or are firmly shut. The intellectual knowledge, constant repetition or faith that 'i am Infinite Bliss' does not remove the delusion, tensions and sorrows of my life. How can I come to live a stress-free life a- life of total fulfillment and bliss?
tripancanganyatho vaksye purvoktasya hi labdhaye,
taisca sarvaih sada karyam nididhyasanam-eva tu
Now, for the attainment of the afore-said (Knowledge) I shall expound the fifteen steps; with their help one should practise profound meditation at all times.
Meditation is prescribed as a balm to remove all the stress and strain of life. It is in fashion these days and every other person claims to be practising or propounding some new and original technique. It is therefore important to understand what the Scriptures and Realised Masters say about meditation. The Guru, Sage Yajnavalkya, teaches his disciple, his own wife, Maitreyi. He instructs, "The Self should be realised. For that, one should listen, reflect and meditate (atma va are drastavyah srotavyah mantavyah nididhyasitavyah - Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 2.4)." Even though the Truth, the Self, is self-evident, we are unable to realise the same due to gross obstacles like dullness of the intellect and objects (visayasakti) etc. there also exist subtler obstacles like non-comprehension of the existence or the nature of the Self or unavailability of the right means (pramana asambhavana), doubts regarding the Self (samsaya or prameya asambhavana ) or a habit, accumulated from innumerable lives, of identifying with the not-self like the body (viparita bhavana ).
The gross obstacles are removed by spiritual practices like japa, asana, pranayama, practice of discrimination and self-control, and cultivation of qualities like tolerance and faith. The mind, thus rendered relatively pure, is prepared to listen to the Scriptures from a qualified Guru. When a disciple listens with faith, he understands that the import of the Scriptures is, 'I am not the finite entity (jiva) that I consider myself to be, but the Infinite Truth (Brahman).' Listening thus with an open and prepared mind (sravana) removes the non-comprehension of the existence and nature of the Truth. Thereafter the Knowledge is deeply and independently reflected upon (manana), until the seeker gains doubtless Knowledge that 'I am the Infinite Truth'. Even after this doubtless Knowledge, we still live on with the notion 'I am the body', as against our Knowledge 'I am the Infinite Self'. To remove this obstacle one should practise nididhyasana or meditation. It should be noted that without sravanam and mananam, nididhyasanam or meditation may not be very effective. It is difficult for a mind riddled with doubts to enquire deeply or gain firm abidance in the Self.
Acknowledgement and Dedication:
From the age of ten I have been practising yogasanas off and on. I enjoy doing so and have experienced its benefits. I have had occasion to go through the Patanjali Yoga Sutras which I found fascinating. Vedanta, of course is the core of my life. Verses 100-124 of Aparoksanubhuti have always held a special attraction for me as they give a Vedantic meaning to the Hatha Yoga practices. These verses have been the basis for several of my meditation courses and camps.
An urge to write notes on them arose as I attempted to practise what I taught. In the background of solitude and sadhana the thoughts and words flowed easily. Swami Vidyaranya's Aparoksanubhuti Dipika and Swami Akhandananda Maharaj's commentary helped me to reflect deeper and to express my thoughts more clearly. Humble prostrations at their feet, I have enjoyed sipping these thoughts and I hope they quench your thirst too. I believe that, as Eckart Tolle puts it, "I cannot tell you anything that deep within, you don't already know".
"The all-pervading Lord always resides in and supports all endeavours performed with the Yajna spirit," - Gita 3.15 (tasmat sarvagatam brahma nityam yajne pratisthitam). Two main supports of my writing endeavours left me this time - Smt. Radhika Krishnakumar, because she is very busy and Ganesh, to join the Vedanta Course. I was wondering who would take up the task of editing and typing the manuscript. The Lord sent Smt. Parvathy Raman, Chennai to do the editing and Smt. Gayatri Balasubramanian of Coimbatore to do the typing. They did a commendable job. Since new editing rules were being formulated and had to be implemented as the book was getting ready, the manuscript went back and forth more than it has ever done so. Parvati-amma proved as fastidious and correct as Radhika and Gayatri-amma very accommodating and patient. Their understanding of Vedanta and the Yajna spirit made it an expression of 'joy' instead of merely a 'job' well done.
Shri Krishnamurti of Mayapuri Graphics, Chennai, designed the beautiful cover page and other designs which set the contemplative mood for what is to come.
Thank you all for your immense support. I value all that you do.
When Shri T. B. Thakur came to know of this book, he readily offered to sponsor the printing of the first edition on his own. I believe that the Lord alone accomplishes this work. May the blessings of Gurudev and the Lord be on him and his family for supporting a Chinmaya Mission publication once again.
This is a humble offering to our Param Guru, Swami Tapovan Maharaj. I share in a small way his immense love for nature, the Himalayas, the holy river Ganga and Lord Siva. I also glimpse his joy in wandering, meditation and solitude. I admire his simple life-style, envy his dispassion (vairagya) and revere his abidance in the truth (jnana-nistha). May his blessings be ever on me.
All credit for the thoughts expressed goes to the Guru Parampara. All shortcomings are due to my limitations.
Swamini Vimalananda Saraswati
Back of Book:
The mother bird flies to the top of the tree to eat the sweet, ripe fruit. The baby bird, not having strong wings, takes smaller flights to reach the same. This simple and effective book on Meditation Techniques, commented upon by Swamini Vimalananda, describes both the straight flight of Raja Yoga or Vedantic Meditation and the preparatory steps of Hatha Yoga (popularly known as Yoga). The thought provoking ideas and practical tips on meditation make it easy to open the Portals to the Supreme.
Life is like a huge painting, where every stroke and dot of experience contributes to the overall effect. Some experience contributes to the overall effect. Some experiences from the watermark or background on which others are painted. Some experiences hide others, some embellish others, some change their hues when mixed with others and some remain pure and untouched by others. Some become the central theme or purpose of life, some add beauty, some give pain, some clutter our lives and some others are of no consequence at all.
Some rare lives are master-pieces-inspiring and precious, some are too abstract to be understood, some are vulgar, some good, some gaudy, some understated, some famous, some unknown, some over-priced and some a dime a dozen!
As we look on, admire, utilize, analyse or just observe the painting, we rarely think of the pure white canvas, the substratum, which made it all possible. The text Aparoksanubhuti draws our attention to the 'unique experience' of this substratum of all life's experiences.
I experience this world of thinks and beings in the mind, as thoughts employing the outer instruments (sense organs of perception) and inner instruments (mind-intellect). Thus all my experiences are finite by their very nature, as they are limited by the very objects I experience and the finite instruments through which I experience them. However, 'I', the very basis and root of all experiences, stands apart, free of all the limitations of the objects and instruments. The text Aparoksanubhuti makes us discover the infinite experience of Me, Myself -a truly 'thoughtless' experience!
Let us explore this 'unique infinite experience' called aparoksa-anubhuti. Objects which are directly perceived- pratyaksa (prati [each] + Aksa [eye/sense organ]) - are experienced through the five sense organs of perception (panca jnanendriya) as sound, feel, colour and form, taste and smell (sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, gandha). For example, I see the book before me with my eyes and feel the texture of the page through the skin, hear the soft rustling of its pages, and smell that strangely appealing scent that books usually have.
Objects that are far away - paroksa (para (others) + aksa [eye/sense organ]; experienced as pratyaksa perhaps by others, but not by us) -are known to us either through inference based on previous knowledge or through faith in the words of others. When I see smoke over the mountain, I infer the cause, that there is a fire in the forest beyond, even if I cannot directly see the fire. When I see dark clouds, I predict that it will rain, inferring the effect from the cause. When I see a cow and a calf together, I assume that they are related as mother and child, inferring their relation from their proximity. From the above examples, we can see that both direct perception and previous knowledge are essential for inference. The science textbooks talk of neutrons, electrons and protons -here my faith that prescribed educational texts are authentic gives me knowledge. My conviction that God exists and loves all, displays faith in the words of my Guru and Scriptures.
That which is directly perceived (pratyaksa) can become paroksa (unperceived) and vice versa. The book in my hand may get lost. I can go and watch the forest fire on the other side of the mountain, get drenched in the rain, see the structure of the atom through an electron microscope or through devotion and spiritual practices 'see' God in a form I desire.
However, there is one entity-the Self of the seeker-which never becomes pratyaksa or perceived; but it is experienced only as me, myself- aparoksa (a [not] + paroksa [other's eye/sense organ]) - not through one's own or another's eyes or sense organ or mind. This 'Self' or 'I' is 'experienced only through the 'Eye of Wisdom' or Knowledge.
What is an experience- anubhava? We get the following meaning from its etymology - anu (after/continues) + bhava (to be/to become):
1. That which occurs 'after' we use the outer or inner instruments. For example, the sunset is 'seen' when the eyes receive the light and transmit the image to the mind.
2. that which occurs 'after' the Guru teaches (upadesam anu), e.g. Aparoksanubhuti or Self-Realisation.
3. That which occurs 'after' the Self shines (Atma bhati, jagat anubhati, 'tam eva bhantam anubhati sarvam'). I am, I know I am, and thereafter I know my experiences.
4. In all worldly experiences there is 'continuous becoming' (anu-bhavam). For example, I saw the man coming, wondered who he was, recognised him as a friend and greeted him. Here I first became a seer, then a thinker, a remember, and finally as a friend, a speaker of warm words of greetings.
5. Experience of 'continuous being'. The Man of Realisation has this continuous experience of Pure Being.
Aparoksa anubhuti means the experience of aparoksa atma -the Inner Self (aparoksasya atmanah anubhuti), or an experience that is immediate (aparoksasca asau anubhuti).
In all experiences we know the objects as shown to us by the instruments we employ. A colour blind person does not see certain colours and one with cataract may see a double image. When the inner and outer instruments are not employed, the 'experience' of the Self is as it is, unconditioned, unaltered and unlimited by anything. This experience of infinity as my own Self is Aparoksanubhuti.
When we hear or read such words we do understand intellectually that 'I am the Infinite Self'. But we do not experience the infinite Bliss that is promised as a result of this experience. This stage of spiritual knowledge is called paroksa jnana, indirect knowledge. The process of making the indirect knowledge, paroksa jnana, into our direct experience, aparoksa anubhuti, is called nididhyasana or meditation.
To some, all the above may seem just a lot of meaningless high flowing words. Some are unable to understand the import of the Scriptures even if heard many times. If understood, our mind is still doubt-ridden. Even if our understanding is doubt-free, we are unable to abide in the Truth. The practice of abiding in the Self is called nididhyasana or meditation.
Pujya Gurudev, Swami Chinmayananda, in his introduction to the commentary on Aparoksanubhuti writes, "This book is a ready vehicle to enter into the path of meditation. It delves even deeper for the advanced seekers to guide them to a direct experience of the Self." Bhagavan "di Sankaracarya, himself ever abiding in the infinite Bliss of Realisation, is the author of this beautiful text. In the verses 100-125 of this text, he gives us fifteen techniques of Vedantic meditations. He makes use of fifteen aspects of Hatha Yoga or Astanga Yoga to lift our mind from considering them not only as simple spiritual practices, but also as direct portals to the Supreme.
The explanatory notes elaborate on both aspects of Hatha Yoga- as useful techniques to fine-tune the body and the mind and also as Vedantic meditations to reach the Supreme. The latter is also called Raja Yoga, , the Royal Path.
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