H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Scienze of Meditation - Part II


Lecture by Matsya Avatara Dasa

Naples, Castello Angioino, 20th December 2008

Conference “The Science of Meditation”


The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, literally meaning "to unite, to connect". In fact Yoga is the science for the reintegration of the individual self with the supreme Self, of the infinitesimal consciousness with the cosmic Consciousness.

Bhagavad-gita describes various types of Yoga and in his very famous treatise on the Yogasutras constituting one of the foremost and most important Psychology Schools created by mankind, Patanjali defines eight stages of development of the Yogic discipline (Ashtanga Yoga) where meditation, dhyana, only constitutes the second-last stage.

Before entering a meditative state, the aspirant yogi must purify his mind and heart, abstaining from those activities that are contrary to the spiritual evolution (yama) and engaging in the activities that favor it (niyama). Next, one should become expert in keeping postures, or asanas, that enable us to become less disturbed by our body, and then learn the art of breathing, pranayama. By turning within and withdrawing the senses from their objects (pratyahara) and trying to focus our attention resources towards one direction (dharana) the yogi prepares for meditation proper, called dhyana, where the flow of one's attention is not distracted any more by external interference. This meditation will enable him to attain a stage of complete inner absorption, defined as samadhi. The stages that precede samadhi are required to solve the conflicts between the various psychic structures and functions, through the harmonization of personality, before aspiring to a complete absorption in the meditation seed, the bija, what to speak of the self. 

The approach to meditation must be gradual, because first we need to develop some knowledge derived from the attainment of the awareness of small truths, without the recurring presumption of having conquered Reality, Truth, and final enlightenment. What happens during meditation is a continued and progressive realization of Reality that is slowly revealed until it becomes apparent, manifest, clear and natural, so natural that it is impossible to conceive something different from it.

For example, regarding the awareness of our being different from the body, it can come all of a sudden, as in the case of a diagnosed terminal disease, an irreversible degenerative pathology that forces the patient to concentrate not on the physical structure that is subject to that devastation, but on his real self. In this perspective, as reported in many ECM works in various Italian hospitals and health assistance centers, death should not be seen as a physical event, as something concrete, but rather as an abstract concept, because there is not a real end of something, but rather a transformation in something else. On the other hand, de-identification can happen as a progressive goal of an introspective process that enables us to understand the body as something that is external to us, with which we are not identifying. However, in this realization we see the body as a valuable instrument, useful and treasured, we can employ for further knowledge and experience. 


The human body and the human personality are not the all-in-all of the person, but they are merely aspects of the person. The eminently divine part of ourselves considers such aspects, and thus the human dimension in general, as a limitation, a stricture, a sort of prison - the soul's cage in Plato's metaphor. However, we should not see it as something obsessive and oppressive, because it is a structure evolved by matter and its degree of evolution is comparable to the degree of elevation of the consciousness that lives in it. Therefore every person inhabits a particular body and, with it, carries a particular pathology or state of health. 

The science of health or Ayurveda (the Sanskrit word ayur means life, strength, health) studies in details the nature of the human being and his relationship with a vast array of energies. It expands the scenario of interaction between body, psyche and intra-individual consciousness to an inter-individual level, therefore the behavior, as the sum of the actions of the individual, is considered as the result not only of one's individual apparatus, but also as the result of its interaction with the body, psyche and consciousness of others. This factor is very important because it is the basis of many conflicts that afflict man at present both at an individual level and at the collective level; often conflicts that we cannot solve internally are projected externally, on the people around us, both near and far.

The connection between the various elements of creation cannot simply be reduced to relationships but it permeates the entire Universe: just think of Bell's Theorem, enunciating that two particles in contact, sharing the same experience, remain in resonance and synchrony even when they are separated, and by activating a modification on one of them this variation also simultaneously extended to the other, in no time.

Thus in the Universe there is nothing that is separated from something else: everything is inside the network and, as on the micro level we can identify networks and neural circuits, on the macro level we can see much greater webs, that extend beyond the single individual.

In Vedas, in Gita, in the Upanishads, in the Yogasutras and in other texts of the Indo-Vedic tradition we can find descriptions of these concepts expressed in an incredibly specialized language and in general we find the vision of man as a creature that is composed by many "bodies" or layers, that go from the grossest to the subtlest and are not limited only to the material and psychic bodies. 

In the above diagram we can notice that the material body is only the most external covering of man; this layer, made of gross matter and visible to all, is called annamaya kosha. Annamaya means energy of the food, because the physical body is sustained by food. At a subtler level it is possible to identify the energy field, prana, belonging to each human being, individual and specific for each living entity: this level is called pranamaya kosha. The physical body has no energy of its own, and would not even be able to stand without this vital energy, the energy sheath of prana, that enables it to move and makes it so valuable. This energy field is utilized by acupuncture, for example: when the energy that supports the physical body is not properly distributed, we can have some energy blockages. 

Rising toward increasingly subtle levels, after the energy level we find the mind level, manomaya kosha, therefore the energy sheath depends on the mind. Thus pranamaya kosha directly depends on our mind, on our state of mind, and therefore it is not possible to develop ecological energies to support the body if we do not take care of the rehabilitation of the mind first. This is the message transmitted by the rishis, the Spiritual Masters that belong to the Indo-Vedic Tradition, a basic teaching on which we need to work immediately, because as explained by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita, the mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. It can be the vehicle for the healing process or the cause for disease, infirmity or paralysis. Thus the mind is the priority in the search for health, even before the physical body, because the physical body depends on it, as in Juvenal's motto, “mens sana in corpore sano”. In general, mind and body are so inter-dependent and so interacting, that some damage in either of them is almost immediately transmitted to the other, therefore they must be treated at the same time. For this reason, Patanjali teaches that the first step on the path of spiritual realization, codified in his Yogasutras, some fundamental ethical norms (yama and niyama) for the harmonization of the psycho-physical structure. The mind sheath is supported by the intellectual sheath, vijnanamaya kosha. At the level of the psychic dimension intellect (buddhi) is constituted by deep beliefs on which people built their lives, consciously or unconsciously. Such deep beliefs lie in the intellect and are the support of the mental structure. Ananda means inexhaustible happiness, bliss. It cannot be compared to sense pleasure, as sense pleasure does not even constitute the shadow of such happiness. Euphoria, excitement, orgasm: they all have a beginning and an end, and therefore the wise people consider them as illusory products of human life. When the living being is completely satisfied in the self he does not have any other aspiration; one who feels ananda experiences a sense of communion with all creatures, wants to be a friend for everyone and becomes benevolent towards all living beings. In fact, conflicts are a symptom of dissatisfaction and suffering. Ananda is essential in order to remain healthy: a popular Neapolitan saying goes, "God helps the merry hearts". The intellectual sheath is thus supported by a sheath of bliss or essential joy, anandamaya kosha, fundamental for our physical well being, because inner satisfaction guarantees the harmonization and the balance of all the other structures - physical, energetic, psychic, while a depressed mood and negative emotions affect the immune system by depressing it through hormonal de-synchronization, as it was also explained in the lecture of Professor Genovesi.

Ananda belongs to atman: the real source of energy of the person is of spiritual nature. It is neither physical nor psychic, but spiritual energy, and besides ananda, its characteristics are eternity, sat, and consciousness, cit. We are spiritual entities, we are atman and sat, cit, ananda are characteristics that we cannot possibly lose, no matter what happens, because they are intrinsic, they cannot be separated from what we objectively and intimately are, although they may become more or less veiled by ignorance, neglected or atrophied.

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Science of Meditation - Part I


Lecture by Matsya Avatara Dasa

Naples, Castello Angioino, 20th December 2008

Conference “The Science of Meditation”


First of all I would like to draw your attention on some cosmogonical aspects that will help us to understand the context where man stands. Today's man has forgotten where he is coming from, he does not know where he is going any more, but above all he does not know who he is, because he is totally identified with an external and temporary identity. This de-contextualization of man is one of the most serious problems that afflict present society and cannot be solved simply through scholarship. The research on one's own self constitutes the basis for meditation, as confirmed by the great texts of the Indo-Vedic tradition such as the Samhitas, Upanishads, Itihasas and Puranas, that can be compared for a very interesting dialogue with the contemporary Western Tradition. Among the many writers and Masters of knowledge that have explored instruments the immense Vedic Culture to get inspiration and concepts for their doctrines and theories, we can mention Carl Gustav Jung and his “individuation of the self”. Individuating one's self means knowing one's deep nature, without being limited by a fallacious and superficial level such as the level of sense perception.

The signals and the information that come to our consciousness from the external environment through the sense organs and the subsequent elaboration at the cortex level only represent a small part of reality, even below the 10% indicated by Prof. Genovesi during the previous presentation. Sense perception is zero compared with the knowledge of reality, and this also applies to our power of comprehension because it is subject to, and thus conditioned by, our sense perception. Therefore not only the senses (indriya) are fallacious, but the mind (manas) that constitutes the collecting area of the perceptive information is fallacious, too, precisely because it is based on sense perception.

The tendency (vasana) of the mind to depend on sensory data leads to the development of a pre-constituted, rigid and generally structured perception of the world, and when this perception is not integrated, it can not be useful to the definition of individual identity. The issue of the nature of personal identity is crucial to the effect of meditation. Indo-Vedic psychology identifies man in his entirety: just like the universe is called "the three worlds" as it is constituted by Earth, intermediate dimensions and Heaven, similarly incarnated man, too, has a threefold nature: physical, psychic and spiritual. The earthly constitution, solid and physical, is the material body, comprising that complex structure - the most complex material structure known to date - that is the Nervous System, but it also possesses a system that, although still material, has a subtler nature that cannot be graphically defined or positioned in space, or even measured in terms of time. Finally, there is the most intimate nature of man, the engine of life itself, its real essence and identity: the spiritual nature. According to Vedic wisdom, each living entity is ontologically atman, an eternal spiritual spark.

To simplify further, we could say that man's identity is split between two aspects connected to the different psycho-physical conditions that the individual has experienced along the various existential cycles of his history. One is the historical or false ego, that is the sum total of the psychic contents with which the individual identifies, called in Sanskrit ahamkara. The other is real, eternal and unchanging, beyond any space and time: his spiritual nature.

The fundamental faculty to access the dimension of meditation is constituted by attention that, contrarily to what is claimed by extreme positivism embraced by modern Western psychology, is not controlled by the Nervous System, but is supported first and foremost by the atman, the unifying center that keeps the personality together and that ultimately offers a unique and special character to the personality. The spiritual self uses the physiological and biological parts of the so-called "human" individual only as an instrument, nourishing and moving his energies. All the Schools of the classic Indian tradition (Sampradayas), all the lineages of the great Masters (acharyas) who have lived the Vedic teachings in their daily life, recognize the atman as the fundamental principle.

In Bhagavad-gita, one of the most popular texts shared by the different Schools of thought of the Indian continent, Krishna defines knowledge as that which distinguishes the field (the body) from the knower of the field (the self). Distancing oneself from the body does not mean rejecting or despising it; this would not be real detachment as what attracts us will eventually repel us. Heraclites also explained this point. In order to go beyond the duality of the opposites - attraction and repulsion, respectively raga and dvesha in Sanskrit - we need to rebalance the opposites, and to find the connection, the harmonization between them. In this harmonization, in this search for balance, in this case in Yoga, meditation is particularly important.