Vedanta and Meditation
The Advaita Vedanta is the supreme jewel in Hindu philosophic tradition. It is a theoretical-practical system, which provides explanations for fundamental questions that any human being may pose.
The Advaita Vedanta studies meditation practice and different levels of consciousness, which range from the Dream State to the exquisite states of Non-Duality that come into effect in the states of Meditation and Samadhi. What it is to meditate, what the present is and what Non duality is from the point of view of the Advaita (advaita means “non-dual” or “non-different”) will be briefly explained below.
Hence, meditating is the simple act of being aware of what is happening in the present.
Are you aware of what the present is? The present is what is happening here and now. For instance, at this instant the present is reading what is written here.
What is paradoxical is that when you are reading and you are in the present, you are not. Since when you become aware of yourselves reading, you are not in the present. In other words: when you think, you are not in the present, and when you do not think you are not aware you are in the present. Do you see? This is what is paradoxical.
The present is that strange. There is nobody in the present, because the present is integrated. The present is like a drop of rain falling into a river: there are no borders. It is like a river running into the sea: there are no borders. In the present, being a raindrop is being a river, being a river is being a sea and being a sea is being an ocean. Therefore, in the present, being a raindrop is being all water. For this reason, there is no differentiated subject in the present
So, What is meditation? Meditation is being aware of the present. The present contains this magic condition, this strange and unique circumstance of things not having frontiers, or limits. As in the present there is nobody differentiated thinking about things based on intellectual descriptions or memory.
The present contains magic. The present is pure understanding, which understands itself. That is why we do not need to know who understands in the present. Why not? Because if the present is understanding; it understands itself
The condition of the present is important to us, extremely important; because it is a sort of dissolver of frontiers, it is a sort of mental bleach, so to speak. The present shatters frontiers. And what is there if there are no frontiers? What is there? Well, what there is, is a live mass of information which has the condition of knowing and being aware. For us, this is what a human being really is: the human being is an exquisite mass of living consciousness that does not depend on time or space, and thanks to the achievement of the present it is capable of becoming all things and flowing through eternity.
Therefore, what is meditation to the Advaita Vedanta? Meditation is being aware of the present. Within the present there is so much life, so much, that this life bedazzles in such a way, it is capable of breaking down the frontiers between the observer and the observed. That is why the Advaita Vedanta states that greatest understanding is obtained when the observer is the observed and the observed is the observer
We analyse the strength of understanding and try to know what is happening there. We try to stay in the present, we try to discover what mysteries there are in an instant that can transform into eternity.
What we are considering is the condition of sustained awareness in what we call the present, or, the condition of sustained awareness in the here-and-now, so that the condition of the information that constitutes the universe takes on a new order.
In this case, the rearrangement of the information that makes up the universe is such that, in the present, borders are erased and a total condition appears. We call it Non-Duality or non-difference. Why is it non-different? Well because if it is true that there is information, information is rearranged as non-different. This means that information does not disappear: your bank account does not disappear, nor your wife or husband, nor your children; nothing disappears in the present. What does disappear is the condition of perceiving what is observed being different to the observer. That is what disappears. The information does not disappear but the condition of describing what is known through someone who feels different to it, does.
This differentiated condition, that is excluded, that disappears, that is erased, happens in the present. So, what this boils down to is that the perception of someone who recognises the present gets a glimpse of the timeless totality, without tjme, without space, with no history. It is an exquisite and unique experience. This experience is what the Advaita Vedanta calls meditation
This condition generates a margin of balance, of peace and wholeness incomparable to any other experience. Can you imagine what it is to be conscious of the absence of personal limits?
But, how do we achieve this experience? How do we systematise a process where all things which appear different to each other are verified as non-different? This systematisation process is what the Advaita Vedanta has developed through the ages. This is what meditation practice consists of
In other words: meditation is not seeing pretty things, because while there is someone who can see them there is a differentiated subject and object. Meditation is not seeing beautiful, brilliant colours, or masters, or chakras, or marvellous shapes...Why not, we might ask: Who sees all these things? If there is someone who sees them then there is differentiation between subject and object, and while it is like this, there is no meditation
So what is meditation? To describe Vedanta meditation practice in detail would be beyond the scope of such a short article. However, it is possible to give an outlined sketch and say that for us meditation is “chitta vritti nirodaha”, which in Sanskrit means “to quieten the fluctuations of the mind”. Hence, meditation practice is concerned with quietening your thoughts, or more precisely, it concerns being constantly aware of what is happening in the present, without thinking about it (as, if we think about the present, then we are not in it); and this has to be so both inwardly (contemplating in silence within ourselves) and outwardly (contemplating while acting in the outside world).
This is meditation.