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What Is Meditation?
Meditation is the science of reuniting the soul with your essence, the Source, the Infinite Spirit, with God. By meditating regularly and deeply, you will awaken your soul — the immortal, blissful divine consciousness at the innermost core of your being. Yoga meditation is the time-proven way of unlocking our soul’s infinite potential. It is the direct means of freeing the attention from life’s distractions, stilling the turbulent and restless thoughts that keep us from knowing our real Self — the wondrous divine being that we really are. Through the discipline of meditation, we learn to concentrate within, discovering our center of unshakable peace and joy.
As you progress in meditation, gradually you experience an ever-increasing inner peace and joy that comes from the soul. In the most exalted states, your soul realizes its complete oneness with God. This is the goal of meditation — ecstatic, superconscious, blissful divine communion, which is called Samadhi.
Paramahansa Yogananda taught a system of powerful meditation techniques as part of the science of Kriya Yoga. These techniques are available through the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. Anyone wishing to learn and benefit from the highest techniques of meditation will find these lessons to be an invaluable resource and lifelong support.
If you have not yet enrolled for the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, you will find on this article some basic instructions on how to meditate, which you can use right away to begin experiencing the peace and divine consciousness that meditation brings.
From the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda:“Even though you may be able to do everything else but meditate, you will never find joy to equal that which comes when the thoughts are silent and your mind is tuned to the peace of God.”— Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship LessonsBenefits of Meditation
The benefits of meditation are multiple. Through regular practice, subtle transformations take place in one’s body, mind, and inmost consciousness. Some of these benefits are experienced right away; others unfold progressively and may take more time to become apparent.
These results come with sincere effort and by mobilizing the will to continue striving until one finds the ultimate goal in life — ever new bliss and union with God through Self-realization.
How to meditate
Find a quiet, peaceful place where you can be secluded and undisturbed during meditation. Create your own sanctuary exclusively for your meditation practice.
Sit on a straight chair or cross legged on a firm surface — cover that with a woolen blanket and/or a silk cloth. This insulates your seat from the downward pull of subtle earth currents.
Instructions on Posture for Effective Meditation
Sit straight with the feet resting flat on the floor. Hold spine erect, abdomen in, chest out, shoulders back, chin parallel to the ground. Those persons whose legs are supple may prefer to meditate sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, or on a firm bed.
The hands, with palms upturned, should rest on the legs at the juncture of the thighs and the abdominal region to prevent the body from bending forward.
If the correct posture has been assumed, the body will be stable yet relaxed, so that it is easily possible to remain completely still, without moving a muscle.
Now, close your eyes and gently lift your gaze upward, without straining, to the point between the eyebrows — the seat of concentration, and of the spiritual eye of divine perception.
A Beginner’s Meditation, ss taught by Paramahansa Yogananda
After you are established in the meditation posture, begin by offering God a prayer from your heart, expressing your devotion and asking His blessings on your meditation.
2) Tense and Relax to Remove All Stress
Repeat this practice three to six times.Then forget the breath. Let it flow in and out naturally, of its own accord, as in ordinary breathing.
3) Focus Attention at the Spiritual Eye
With the eyelids half closed (or completely closed, if this is more comfortable to you), look upward, focusing the gaze and the attention as though looking out through a point between the eyebrows. (A person deep in concentration often "knits" his brows at this spot.) Do not cross the eyes or strain them; the upward gaze comes naturally when one is relaxed and calmly concentrated.
What is important is fixing the whole attention at the point between the eyebrows. This is the Christ Consciousness center, the seat of the single eye spoken of by Jesus: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matthew 6:22).
When the purpose of meditation is fulfilled, the follower finds his consciousness automatically concentrated at the spiritual eye, and he experiences, according to his inner spiritual capacity, a state of joyous divine union with Spirit.
4) Pray Deeply to God in the Language of Your Own Heart
Whether you see the light of the spiritual eye or not, however, you should continue to concentrate at the Christ Consciousness center between the eyebrows, praying deeply to God and His great saints. In the language of your heart invoke Their presence and Their blessings.
A good practice is to take an affirmation or a prayer from the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, or from Paramahansa Yogananda's Whispers from Eternity or Metaphysical Meditations, and spiritualize it with your own devotional yearning.
Silently chant and pray to God, keeping the attention at the point between the eyebrows, until you feel God's response as calm, deep peace and inner joy.
5) Daily Practice as Preparation for the Deeper Techniques
The meditation period should last at least thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes at night. The longer you sit, enjoying the state of meditative calm, the faster you will progress spiritually. Carry into your daily activities the calmness you feel in meditation; that calmness will help you to bring harmony and happiness into every department of your life.
Through daily practice of the foregoing instructions, you can prepare yourself for the practice of the deeper techniques of concentration and meditation that are given in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. These scientific techniques will enable you to dive ever more deeply in the great ocean of God's presence. We all exist at this very moment in that ocean of Spirit; but only by steadfast, devoted, scientific meditation may we consciously perceive that we are individualized soul waves on the vast ocean of God's bliss.
For your inspiration, here are some extracts about meditation drawn from Metaphysical Meditations by Paramahansa Yogananda.
“Meditation is the science of God realization. It is the most practical science in the world. Most people would want to meditate if they understood its value and experienced its beneficial effects. The ultimate object of meditation is to attain conscious awareness of God, and the soul’s eternal oneness with Him. What achievement could be more purposeful and useful than to harness limited human faculties to the omnipresence and omnipotence of the Creator? God realization bestows on the meditator the blessings of the Lord’s peace, love, joy, power, and wisdom.”
“Meditation utilizes concentration in its highest form. Concentration consists in freeing the attention from distractions and in focusing it on any thought in which one may be interested. Meditation is that special form of concentration in which the attention has been liberated from restlessness and is focused on God. Meditation, therefore, is concentration used to know God....
“The first proof of God’s presence is an ineffable peace. This evolves into joy humanly inconceivable. Once you have touched the Source of truth and life, all nature will respond to you.”
“Finding God within, you will find Him without, in all people and all conditions.”
We invite you to come to experience meditation as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda, Saturday, July 21 from 13:30 to 15:00, at the workshop, "Meditate and live better" to be held as part of Greet & Meet Saturdays at the Birla Wellness Center of Cheneville. For reservation, visit our website by cliking HERE, or cal at 1-866-428-3799
May your meditation bring you peace and divine joy to reconnect to your source.
Source: Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship
Paramahansa Yogananda, an enlightened master who brought the powerful technique of Kriya to the west and the founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, states in his biography that: “A child is born on that day and at that hour when the celestial rays are in mathematical harmony with his individual karma. His horoscope is a challenging portrait, revealing his unalterable past and its probable future results.”
Accordingly, who we are on all levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – as well as the karmic trail that we have left behind and, which follows us into the present, is embedded in the blueprint of our birth chart. Born into this life, we assume our role, put on our costume – the physical body – and venture forth to experience life in all its diversity. It is here, though, that many astrologers, assuming that our future is unalterable, employ astrology as a predictive science. We can see how this might be true, as the natal chart is static and unchangeable. Moreover, a core feature of Vedic astrology called Vimshottari dasha further implies this notion. The dasha system indicates specific periods in our life ruled by each of the nine planets: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Rahu and Ketu. These periods range from 6 to 20 years in duration, milestones that indicate the beginning and duration of important chapters that we will experience in our lives. In total, this cycle of planets lasts for 120 years – a span of time that, according to Vedic lore we should all live to see. Astrologically speaking, then, it could appear that our lives are on an undeviating, fatalistic track.
Sanchit, Prarabdh, and Kriyaman - The 3 karmas
Imagine for a moment life is a conveyor belt taking us on the ride of our lifetime, passing daily through familiar territory that is pleasant and satisfying as well as unfamiliar terrain that is challenging and difficult to traverse. According to the Vedas, the events that we experience as we go through life, as well as our response to them and their likely outcome can be defined through 3 karmas: Sanchit, Prarabdh, and Kriyaman. The first karma, Sanchit, is defined as all the karma, both good and difficult, that we have created from all our past lives. The second, Prarabdh karma, is that portion - the “pizza slice” - of our total Sanchit karma that we will experience in this life. We are given only a fraction of our Sanchit to deal with in this life, otherwise we might find ourselves drowning helplessly in a sea of karma. Kriyaman, the third karma, is “real time” karma – our daily unceasing thoughts and actions – and how they influence, for better or worse, our success in managing the “slice” of this life’s Prarabdh.
This approach to life changes everything quite dramatically, in contrast to a philosophy based on fatalism. It demonstrates that we do have free will and determination to work out this life’s Prarabdh karma, the results of which are detailed in our Kriyaman “report card” – shown as either karma burned or new difficult karma accumulated. From one life to the next, we make a series of choices, the outcome of which determines the quality of our subsequent incarnation. Consequently, we either continue to reduce our Prarabdh “slice” of karma through conscious and positive choices, eventually eliminating once and for all our cache of lifetimes of accumulated Sanchit, or we simply continue to pile on more negative karma, only having to deal with it in a subsequent life.
Ideally, at one point we are left with only good karma having made consistently, wise spiritually evolved choices. Keep in mind, that those who seem to have it off better than others, ones who are happier, more content, and with peace of mind are not lucky; they have simply – often over lifetimes, as well as in the present – been consciously and positively managing their kriyaman. Next we take a look at an infallible way of becoming a Kriyaman master.
Buddhi and Manas
As to what we may experience in life, and as to how we react to circumstances, determines how well we are managing our Kriyaman karma in this life. There is, however, an effective conscious template of sorts that we can apply to just about anything we could possibly experience in life; one that will keep us on track, and our Kriyaman karma unblemished. You see, the mind does have its uses, especially when we use it as a tool to guide us towards spirit and the ultimate experience of bliss. What is this thought template that we can all apply to every life event and circumstance? Remember these two Sanskrit words, buddhi and manas. Buddhi stands for discriminative intelligence; we choose to eat a salad rather than fries and a coke. Manas, (we jokingly refer to as menace) translated as mind, is the ego at work – we may find ourselves instead at the hotdog stand, leaving the salad instead for our pet rabbit.
It is really important that if we genuinely want to make spiritual headway in life – translated as happiness, contentment of heart, and peace of mind – we need to lock these two words in our memory bank. We need to keep them as a polestar, at the forefront of our thinking, so that all our thoughts and actions are guided, prompting us to attain this divine state of being. To paraphrase Swami Sri Yukteswar, an illumined rishi, “happiness and the elimination of pain is our heritage.” In contrast, we can surrender to our ego and regress, leading instead to pain and the elimination of joy. Of course all our thoughts and deeds, like x-rays, are cumulative. There is no one fatal bad decision that irrevocably sends us to the dark side for eternity. Yet if we keep adding extra toppings to perhaps our already overladen “Sanchit pizza”, now or at some time in the future we will be obliged to discharge this accumulated karma – giving new meaning to “paying for our sins.”
In the end, it all comes down to awareness, buddhi consciousness, whereby we know and choose to do that which is proper and virtuous as opposed to manas; we choose to please the ego’s needs and desires. And even though it has been said by various saints that all desires need to be met, hopefully we recognize which ones are valid and beneficial, and not simply worldly and fleeting – not to mention those that can actually harm us. Furthermore, we learn either through wisdom (buddhi) or from experience (manas) – for example the decision to pursue some object of our desire proves over time to have been unwise. Finally it’s simply a matter of time – now or later – to experience the happiness we are all searching for, which in fact is our heritage. So, how are we to know when we are using buddhi or manas, perceiving our reality from our own subjective point of view?
Astrology and palmistry, then, are tools that can help guide, and keep us on our spiritual path (remember happiness, contentment of heart, and peace of mind). Knowing our strengths and weaknesses we then have the choice to apply buddhi rather than manas to stay on track. Therefore, regardless that our natal chart is static, a fatalistic point of view is not acceptable. And again in the words of Swami Sri Yukteswar, an intuitive and master Vedic astrologer, “A wise man rules his stars!”
The Birla Center will be holding its next monthly meditation on Saturday, May 5th at its retreat center in Chénéville. Come and celebrate the full Moon in Libra. It is a very auspicious time to embark upon cultivating healing powers, intuition, and, above all, integration of body, mind and soul. Referred to as Guru Poornima in the Indian panchang (ephemeris), traditionally, this full moon provides the opportunity to connect with your teachers, gurus and “guardian angels” in order to seek their blessings. In turn, the students offer them their love, devotion and commitment, as a sign of loyalty, in the form of gifts to God to attract all-round prosperity. The practice of meditating on the full Moon brings fulfillment in all respects of our life.
We are holding a monthly meditation here at our center, provided to help support yours, as well as our continued spiritual growth. The progress you are likely to make during this upcoming year, ushered in part through the group meditation, will improve if you maintain your focus and dedication to meditate consistently throughout the coming months. Consequently, as we are living in tumultuous times, this would be a great time to initiate a spiritual meditation practice – if you haven’t done so already.
Mark this date in your calendar. These monthly meditations can become, a special, and memorable occasions to share some time with like-minded individuals, and to recharge your spiritual batteries, helping you instill greater peace of mind in the midst of a hectic life. You can return home, better equipped to face daily challenges in a more serene manner.
If you cannot take part in person at our center in Chénéville, you can still join us in meditation from the comfort of your home. Though not ideal, in terms of the benefits gained from participating in a group meditation, synchronizing your home meditation with that of ours here at the center provides a fellowship whereby we are all together on a similar spiritual quest.
Please note that our group meditations are free. To reserve your place and/or your room, call us toll free 866.428.3799.
Next Meditations at the Birla Center
Wednesday, June 20 - Summer’s SolsticeSunday, July 22 - Sun in LeoFriday, August 31 - Blue (full) MoonSaturday, September 29 - Harvest (full) MoonMonday, October 29 - Full MoonWednesday, November 28 - Full moon and lunar eclipseFriday, December 21 - Winter solstice and Christmas meditation
by Paramahansa Yogananda, Inner Culture, December 1934
For twenty centuries the birth of Christ has been celebrated differently by the different Christian sects. Many have counted the coming of Christmas as a time for exchanging nicely caparisoned, costly gifts. Many children look upon Christmas as the time for Santa Claus to give them new toys. They hang empty stockings around the chimney place. Santa is supposed to slip down the sooty opening of the chimney and fill the stockings with the longed-for articles. Some children remain awake and some dream, waiting for Christmas Morn.Some hoary gentlemen who have lost interest in life perhaps look upon Christmas as a good time for a special home-cooked hot dinner. Some folks drink themselves into oblivion, expecting thus to celebrate the birth of Christ. American mothers and fathers are very fond of decorating the Christmas Tree and loading it with gifts. The churches take Christmas as an occasion for great festivity.
Some religious institutions brace up and decorate their places and invite crowds, expecting big collections to enhance church activities. It is right to use business methods in order to advance the work of Christ in establishing Him in the Souls of men, but it is blasphemous to use Christ merely as a means for increasing business.Some churches thank God intensely for sending His beloved Child to redeem the sin-laden world. Some serious-minded monks and nuns in the sequestered nooks of their monasteries celebrate Christmas more seriously by meditating on Christ.
The question is: Is it right to use the birth of Christ for material rejoicings involved in the exchange of gifts, Christmas dinners, and decorations, or is it right to worship the coming of Christ only in spirit?
Most of the superficial celebrators of Christmas turn Christmas into an expensive gift-exchanging, eating, and decorating occasion. What do they get out of Christmas except a few gifts, a few kindnesses and love behind those gifts, and a few passing joys? Very few people celebrate Christmas with the Christ thought. Very few know how to celebrate the coming of Christ by beholding Him born in the cradle of the new awakening of deep meditation.
Birthday celebrations are intended to make the person in question feel that His life should be useful to society. Jesus does not need our celebration for His rejoicing or His upliftment, but we certainly need to celebrate the coming of Christ at least once every year in order to remember His exemplary, abiding, uplifting life, so that we may perchance pattern or remold our lives after His life, through all futurity. We need to celebrate the birthday of Christ every Christmas because His life is permanently useful and inspiring to all humanity in all Ages.Millions of people are expecting to celebrate the coming Christmas purely as a social event. Very few are looking forward to it as the time for spiritually remembering Christ and for exchanging the lasting gifts of soul and heart qualities.
The question before you is: Are you going to use Christmas just as a romanticism of religious festivity, or are you going to celebrate Christmas by beholding the Christ love for all brother races and all living creatures? Are you going to celebrate the coming of Christ by really feeling the universal love, forgiveness, character, renunciation, and devotion of Christ within you? Unless you made the effort to really get acquainted with the ever-living Christ, born as new wisdom, new happiness within you, this coming Christmas season, I am afraid you will let the precious instructive Christmas season pass by without heed.I am not telling you to omit the physical, social factor in connection with the Christmas celebration. What I want is that you should not, like millions of those who forget God, omit the paramount Spiritual factor in your Christmas celebration. Add to your social celebration of Christmas the celebration of bringing Christ a second time into your meditative consciousness.
Christ is only suggested in social Christmas festivities, but He is seen and felt as an everlasting, ever-joyous Fact in the cradle of Divine Ecstasy. Prepare yourself to celebrate
Christmas in the real way, as humbly suggested in the following:
A Meditation For Christmas Morning from Paramahansa Yogananda
The following excerpt is from Metaphysical Meditations by Paramahansa Yogananda (Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles.)
Celebrate the birth of Christ in the cradle of your consciousness during the Christmas season. Let His vast perception in Nature, in space, and in universal love be felt within your heart.
Break the limitations of caste, color, race, religious prejudice, and inharmony, that the cradle of your heart be big enough to hold within you the Christ-love for all creation.
On every Christmas morn of your inner perception, prepare precious packages of divine qualities and deliver them to the beloved souls who gather around the Christmas tree of inner awakening to commemorate His birth in understanding, truth, and bliss.
Celebrating the birth of omniscient, omnipresent Christ Consciousness on the joyous Christmas festivity of your inner awakening, you will find the unbroken happiness of your dreams.
Let the omniscient Christ Consciousness come to earth a second time and be born in you, even as it was manifested in the consciousness of Jesus.