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The myth of meditation and concentration
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
11 min
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Questioner: “Acharya Ji, pranam. In shloka 407 of Vivekchudamani, it is advised to dissolve the mind by 'concentrating it in the Supreme Self which is one’s inmost essence.' So, is this inmost essence the same as the I am—the natural sense of being felt in the heart? If so, is it enough to fix the attention on this, both in my meditations and as I go through the day, bringing the attention back every time it wanders away? Would that kind of concentration be sufficient or is something more required?”

Acharya Prashant: The flower, can never quite feel the root, or can it? You have talked of the I am—the natural sense of being felt in the heart. Whatsoever is felt is always felt in the mind. The heart is that which enables the feeling. In the heart, there are no feelings nor can the heart be ever felt. Meditation is not about concentrating on the natural sense of being. Meditation is not about bringing the mind back from the world to some ‘I am’ idea.

To meditate is to continuously look for That, for which the eyes anyway are looking. You must understand this. Look at the way one’s eyes look. We don't just look. We look purposefully, don't we? The eyes keep on looking. The ears keep on hearing. The mind keeps on processing. The memory keeps on accumulating. One keeps on living. One keeps on breathing. None of that is just happening.

For us, all of that is happening with a purpose. The eyes are looking for something. The mind is processing, traveling, running in order to reach somewhere. That's what the human being is all about – a dislocation trying to find its home.

You don't have to bring your mind back from the world to yourself because there is nothing called yourself.

The mind will anyway not be able to look at the Truth beyond its own dimension. The mind is not configured to do that. You don't have to retreat from the world. You don't have to shrink away from the world.

You just have to remember that when the eyes are looking at something, they are also trying to look at something beyond that something.

That is why no ‘thing’ ever suffices. Just remembering this is sufficient.

And what’s more, you don't even need to remember this much, because the very movement of eyes is anyway a continuous reminder that you are hungry. To meditate is to keep your one aim as your only aim. When you are somewhere and as a physical being, as a personal body; you would always be somewhere in the world. When you are somewhere, look fully into where you are. That fullness is what you are looking for. Please understand. That is meditation.

If you are fully looking at the world, that fullness is what you are looking for and what you are looking at, and where you are looking from. Be fully in the world. Don't escape, don't run away, don't try to go somewhere else.

If you can know the reality of what you are seeing with your eyes, hearing with your ears, thinking of with your mind, that is meditation.

To meditate is to be continuously in love with the Truth. That is meditation. I repeat, your eyes will not look at the Truth, that is not a power given to them. But, let your eyes truthfully look. That choice is available to you. Exercising that choice rightly is meditation.

Now, what does verse 407 say? “Dissolve the mind by concentrating it the Supreme Self, which is thy inmost Essence. “

The mind remains concentrated anyway, but do note the objects of your concentration. Fear concentrates you, greed concentrates you, do they not? If there is a fearsome object in front of you, you feel great concentration, don't you? A black cobra in your room, you would be fully concentrated, won't you? An attractive scene in a movie, you are fully concentrated. A lucrative business idea, you are concentrated. Possibility of the fulfillment of desire, you are concentrated.

And different people are concentrated on different things because the desires are different. Your desire decides your concentration, doesn't it? What you are desirous of, that you would be concentrated upon. Deeper the desire, the deeper the concentration. But, the mind is a fool because desire is blind. Desire does not know what it really desires, so it moves in blind directions. And therefore, all concentration is false.

You can concentrate only on that which you think will fulfill you. And that which you think will fulfill you never really fulfills you. So, concentration doesn't help. Hence, it is not a matter of concentrating, even more, it is a matter of seeing the futility of concentration.

When Shankaracharya is saying, “Dissolve the mind by concentrating it in the Supreme Self”, then it has to be read with care and caution. What he is saying is that a mind concentrated in random and miscellaneous stuff will never dissolve. Please, appreciate what is being said. Shankaracharya says, “Dissolve the mind by concentrating it in the Supreme Self.” But the mind is never really concentrated in the Supreme Self. It is always concentrated in all the worldly and miscellaneous things, is it not? It is beyond the mind to concentrate on the Truth. Because the Truth is not an object. So, effectively what Shankaracharya is saying is this: concentration will not help. Effectively what Shankaracharya is saying is: your mind is anyway always concentrated and the type of concentration that you have will not help. Does that mean that the mind has to be concentrated somewhere else? No. This verse is then a critic of concentration. This verse just tells you that whatsoever you are concentrating on is going to disappoint you.

Concentration is synonymous with fear and desire.

And fear and desire are fake methods to gain fulfillment. Desire tells you, “Follow me and you will gain fulfillment.” And fear tells you, “Follow me and you will retain fulfillment. If you do not follow me, your fulfillment would be snatched away.” That's what fear tells you.

Shankaracharya is saying, “Your concentrations are useless. Do not concentrate.” And when you gain the strength to not to concentrate upon the objects of your desire, then rest assured that you are concentrating in your Supreme Self. You will never directly know that you are concentrating in the Supreme Self. It is only when you become a little light, a little indifferent, a little casual about the objects that you value so much, that you can indirectly realize that you are getting the fruits of concentrating on the True Self.

I repeat, concentrating on the True Self is not directly possible. Mind concentrates and concentrates only on the False. Therefore, when you see the futility, the falseness of your prevailing concentrations, it’s then that you are concentrating on the Truth. In other words, concentrating on the Truth enables you not to concentrate on the False. But it is here that the effect will tell about the cause. You cannot use the cause to generate the effect. You cannot say, “When I will concentrate on the Truth, then I will forget about the False.” No, this kind of a cause–effect relationship does not apply to the Truth. Why will it not apply to the Truth? Understand that. You are saying, “When I will concentrate on the Truth, then I will give up the False.” In other words, you are trying to cause the cause. What is the effect according to you? Obliteration of the False. What is the cause according to you that will generate that effect? Concentrating on the Truth. So, you want to concentrate on the Truth. So, you are trying to generate the cause. In other words, you are trying to cause the cause. That is foolish.

Truth is the first cause. Truth is the primal cause. And Truth itself is uncaused. How can you cause the uncaused? Therefore, don't try ever to concentrate on the Truth. That is not meditation. Unfortunately, that is what is going around in the name of meditation. That is not meditation.

Meditation is when you look at your existing desires and the resulting concentration.

That looking itself is a blessing of the Truth. Seek no further. Don't try to know any further. Beyond that is not the realm of knowledge, you won’t be able to know. Just accept the grace. Grace has arrived. You will never be able to know how and from where.

It is a strange thing. The cause is not in your hands. The effect is. How is that so? Because you are the one who has a choice. You have a choice with respect to the effect. Which effect are we talking of? Concentration is the effect. You can either concentrate and give a lot of importance to your desires or you can decide to take yourself lightly. You can decide to not give too much value to your desires, to your tendencies, to your proclivities. That is where your choice and your power lies. The mind is concentrating. Do you want to side with the mind? If you want to side with the mind, then side with the mind. The mind is your God. Or, you may decide to take the mind with a pinch of salt, a bit casually. The moment you make that decision, you are blessed. Does that mean that your decision is causing the cause? Does that mean your decision is fetching you the blessings? Yes and no both. It is the freedom that you have.

You are fully free to concentrate as per your ideas. The skies will not come crashing down. Do whatever you want to do. The Truth remains as it is. You keep doing whatever you want. Or, you may decide that the mind is a fickle thing, not to be given much importance. You may ask, “From where does this difference in decision come?” You will never be able to know. You will never be able to know what causes a person to choose rightly and another one to choose foolishly. You will not be able to know the source of wisdom.

You can at most pray. You can at most wonder. May be wondering would help. May be wondering is what one calls as inquiry. Maybe wondering rather than thinking or ideating is the purest form of inquiry. Don’t look elsewhere. Look where you are. See what you are doing. And pray that you get the power to reject the falseness in yourself—in your thoughts, in your actions. That's all and that is meditation.

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