Author: Randeep Singh / go to all articles on Yoga Concepts
7 Stages Exercise to Meditation, Connect with Consciousness
Meditation Stages – The classical culture
of meditation is based on,
exactitude of science and intellectual
analysis of metaphysics,
with the intuitive perception of mysticism.
Meditation as an exercise is a practical
process of realizing the self,
which may be equitably termed as scientific mysticism.
The science of controlling all the mental processes is termed as Yoga. Samadhi, the eight step of Ashtanga Yoga as enumerated by Patanjali, represents a state of perfect concentration and meditation in which the meditator is aware only of the object of meditation, or aim of concentration during this stage the meditators mind becomes one with his target and he is not aware of anything else, including his own existence.
During samadhi he appears completely relaxed or even sleeping. His respiratory rate, pulse rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption and metabolic rate are low. This appears like the hibernation state in animals. Though the body is relaxed his mind is concentrating on one fixed target and maturing further and further. The brain wave patterns in electroencephalograms indicate that while the body is in deep rest, the mind is in a state of inner wakefulness and alertness.
There are seven stages of Samadhi, as described by the yogic school of Patanjali. A humble attempt to explain the possible physiological mechanisms of Samadhi is made here. a student of Yoga subjects his mind to intensive training on the following lines:
Vitarka Stage – Object Stage
The beginner tries to concentrate by focusing his eyes, ears and other sense organs together with the mind on any large object or loud sound in quiet and tranquil surroundings. God is revered and completely respected by almost everyone, and is also a representative of all good in the world. Thus, it is better for a beginner to concentrate on a idol of God, and / or chant his name.
He brushes aside all mundane thoughts. Here his eyes should see nothing but God’s idol and ears hear nothing but God’s name. He is not aware of other sensory stimuli. Now he learns to trigger one or two neuronal circuits and to suppress all others.
The ideal time to practice meditation is the early morning, as the mind and body are fresh and relaxed after a night’s rest. The environmental stimuli at this time of the day are also minimal. He should have completed his ablutions and bath before starting. The seat should be even and comfortable. A Padmasana or Sukhasana posture in which the spine is erect i.e. the head, neck and spine are in one line, with the eyes are directed straight ahead at the ideal, is recommended.
However, one may adopt any posture in which one can concentrate and which can be maintained comfortably for long period. While maintaining this posture one should learn to relax and maintain a calm and serene countenance.
Initially, the mind wavers and the meditator has to voluntarily bring it back to his target of focus. After sustained practice, one can concentrate inspite of environmental disturbances. Now one can meditate at ay place and at any time with the help of the idol of the chant of God’s name. When he attains perfection in this stage, he forgets self, and he is in the stage of “I am one with the idol or chant of God.”
Vichara State: Thought Stage – of the Meditation stages
Without the image of the God or chanting God’s name the student in this stage, of the 7 meditation stages, recalls or concentrates on the image of the God or chant. This stage can be practiced at any place, whenever one is free.
During this stage one voluntarily stimulates the memory centre and suppresses all other stimuli and thoughts. The only neuronal circuit functioning now is that between the memory centres and formation reticularis in the brain. On perfection he is in the stage “I am one with the thought of God.”
Ananda Stage: Joy Stage – Meditation Stages
Here one tries to concentrate eon the “joy” associated with the thought of God and not on the thought of God itself. While training his mind in this way he slowly develops a new circuit from the memory centre in the neocortex tot he reward centre in the hypothalamus, in the brain.
After continuous practice the thought of God acts as a trigger mechanism and stimulates the reward centre in the brain through reflex. The reward centre continues to remain stimulated and impart happiness for a long time. After prolonged study one learns to dissociate the trigger mechanism and still experience happiness.
He is now not dependent on extraneous sources of happiness like music, pictures etc. and is in the stage of “I am happy.”
Asmita Stage: Awareness of Self stage
During this stage he is conscious only of “Self” and nothing else in the universe. Here his awareness of “self” does not represent the self as we usually experience it i.e. the self associated with ll our desires, instincts, emotions, good and bad qualities. This means that his mind has got rid of all its attachments and qualities and exists in pure form.
Now he learns to voluntarily trigger the mechanism of consciousness and remain in this phase of Samadhi as long as he desires. Here a yogi has learnt to cut off all extraneous stimuli and to voluntarily stimulate the reticular formation in the brain, and through it the cortex. From the previous experience of “I am happy”, in the Ananda phase, now, at this stage of the meditation stages, he is only experiencing ” I am.”
It seems surprising that the student should aspire to this “I am” stage from the previous “I am happy” stage. This is because he realizes that the joy of the previous stage is dependent on the extraneous sources. True happiness can only come from within. Happiness of the Ananda stage is derived from the reward centre in the hypothalamus whereas the enlightenment of true happiness arises from the most evolved part of the brain i.e. the neocortex.
Mahatattvalaya Stage : Videha stage
HIs pure mind and intellect attempt to pervade and become one with the universal intellect, or Mahat. In this stage of the meditation stages, a yogi learns to trigger and tune his highest cortical centres to the universal intellect. A person who has attained and perfected this stage through continuous practice has the ability to acquire any knowledge in the universe, e.g. by concentrating his mind on the minds of other people he can easily read their minds.
The entire knowledge of the universe is now at his command. During this phase the self awareness of the previous stage disappears and he is in the stage of “I am one with universal intellect.” While in this stage of samadhi even if his body is burnt to death he will not be aware of it.
Prakrutilaya Stage : Meditation Stages
In this stage the mind concentrates upon and becomes one with “Prakruti” which denotes the original energy from which is the entire universe, except the soul principle, is created. Even our body, sense organs, mind, and intellect originate from “Prakruti.”
Now the pure mind of the yogi attempts to concentrate and become one with “Prakruti.” Here his cortical energy becomes tuned with universal energy. He is now capable of knowing and commanding all the laws of the universe. Yogis who have mastered this stage acquire powers unexplainable by the present scientific knowledge.
Nirbhija Stage: Purusha or the Almighty Stage
In this final stage, of the meditation stages, the Yogi concentrates on Purusha i.e. Almighty or the universal soul principle. The Almighty or universal soul is the trinity of knowledge, happiness and eternity. “He is now one with Almighty.” He has now attained the highest stage of samadhi, or meditation.
During this stage, the mind and the intellect are no more functioning. His soul which represents eternal happiness and knowledge is no more bound or attached to the mind and intellect and is now free to communicate and merge with the universal soul principle, also known as Almighty, God to some.
This supreme happiness enjoyed by the yogi during this Nirbhija samadhi cannot be described by words, or be comprehended by mind. One has to experience it to know it.
The first four meditation stages, upto Asmita stage, are grouped under Savikalpa or ” Sampradnata Samadhi” and the higher three stages under ” Nirvikalpa” or ” Asampradnata Samadhi.” Another way of classifying these stages is Sabeeja Samadhi, which include the first six stages which include up to Prakrutilaya stage. The second part of this classification is Nirbhija Samadhi which includes only the last or Purusha stage.
From Asmita samadhi onwards, a yogi automatically comes into possession of super-natural powers, or Siddhis ; like:
- Taking possession of another body.
- Reading another’s thoughts – telepathy.
- Using senses at will, instead of by compulsion.
- Ability to hear far-off sounds.
- Ability to see things and objects at far-off distances.
- Remembering events in this and other’s former births and knowing what will happen in future births.
- Extraordinary splendor of the body.
- Ability to disappear from the sight of other’s.
- Ability to assume atomic or enormous forms.
- Ability to become very light or very heavy etc.
Attaining super-natural powers, or Siddhis is a sign of success, progress in yoga practice. However, a yogi is hardly and should not ever be attracted by these powers. Using, or demonstrating these powers can hamper his progress towards his target i.e. the Almighty stage, in which he gets merged into supreme knowledge and eternal happiness.
Even if one does not attain perfection, by regular meditation one can improve one’s mental health. Beneficial effects of meditation have been noted in hypertension, asthma, obesity, insomnia, schizophrenia, depressive states, hypochondriasis etc.