What Meditation Is—and Isn’t

What Meditation Is—and Isn’t

What Is Meditation?

Swami Rama

Year Long Meditation

Meditation teaches one how to be; it is an inward method for knowing oneself on all levels and for experiencing the higher levels of consciousness.

Meditation Is Not . . .

But meditation does not interfere with any religious or cultural beliefs. Meditation should not be mingled with any sort of religion, and religious ceremony should not be involved in meditation. Doing so could create needless conflict with one’s cultural and religious background and personal beliefs. If a teacher involves any religious ceremony in meditation, it would be better not to learn from that person. Meditation neither rejects nor recognizes any particular religion.

Meditation neither rejects nor recognizes any particular religion.

The word meditation has been used by various religions, but not with its proper meaning: real meditation is entirely different from the sense in which the word is used by religionists. The different religious groups of the world give people a code for what to do and what not to do, but the question of how to be remains unanswered.

In the English dictionary the word meditation has not been adequately explained as yet. It is defined as meaning “to ruminate on,” “to reflect upon,” or “to contemplate”—that’s all. But in the Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese languages, the word meditation has been used in a very clear way: it means “to make the mind free from disturbing thoughts.” Meditation is a method that makes one aware of the highest reality.” This is an inward journey from the gross, to the subtle, to the subtlest aspect of one’s being.

Meditation Is . . .

The purpose of meditation is to lead one to the center of consciousness, from where consciousness flows in various degrees and grades. Meditation is a method that leads one inward by stilling the mind. There is no other way of education that helps one to know oneself on all levels. There is no religion that does this, either. And if there is any philosophy that speaks of this, it is not helpful, because it is purely theoretical without any practical application or instruction. “Know thyself” is the aim of everyone’s life, and for that, one must practice an inward method. The ancients of all great cultures of the world knew the method of meditation, but modern humanity is lost in the charms and attractions of materialism. This is a self-created misery.

Meditation, Contemplation, and Concentration

Just as many people think meditation is part of religion, they also confuse the words meditation and contemplation. If one looks up the word meditation in the dictionary, he will find it defined as “contemplation,” and the word contemplation is defined as “meditation,” as if there were no difference between the two. But they are actually two different things.

Meditation leads one inward by stilling the mind.

Contemplation is thinking with a definite idea in mind, but in meditation one does not explore the various aspects of a particular concept. In meditation one has a single point of focus, and one does not change that—it is always the same focus. For contemplation one needs an idea, but to learn meditation one needs an object of concentration.

Meditation will tell one how distracted one’s mind is, and how much concentration one has. Meditation is different from concentration, although concentration is an essential step in the process. To concentrate is to narrow down, to lead the mind one-pointedly in a single direction. Meditation is expansion, but if the mind is scattered and dissipated, there is nothing to expand. Without concentration, meditation is not possible. Some schools of meditation want to please people, and so they say that one does not have to do anything particular to practice meditation. But they are misleading and hurting people, because it is not possible to direct the mind inward one-pointedly without concentration.

Meditation is also not hypnosis. Hypnosis imposes control on the mind, and then one is not oneself, whereas meditation is a self-reliant method of inner study that does not rely on anyone else leading you into a particular state. Meditation is going within, beneath all these different forms and names.

The purpose of meditation is to lead one to unity—to a realization that we are all breathing the same air and that there is only one proprietor who is giving the same vitality to you and me. In meditation, one learns the process that makes one aware of the unity of life, the oneness within all these multiples. In other words, meditation is an internal practice that unites rather than divides—that expands, rather than contracts, your awareness.

Source: The Theory and Practice of Meditation by Swami Rama

Further Reading

The Theory and Practice of Meditation

Swami Rama

This classic collection of essays shares valuable insights into the nature and dynamics of meditation. The contributors to this volume are some of the best-versed scholars and health professionals in their fields. Their penetrating reflections convey a well-rounded understanding of meditation as a systematic path to achieve mental and emotional well-being and self-realization.

About the Author

Swami Rama

One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925–1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster, who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally, in 1969, came to the United States, where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best-known work, Living with the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.