How can we learn from the Bhagavatham?
This fundamental question can be answered by reading, hearing and contemplating on the questions asked by Parishksit Maharaja which were in turn answered by Shukadeva. Unlike material education where one usually manipulates, lacking sufficient knowledge about the subjects, spiritual wisdom of the seeker cannot prosper without clearing his/her doubts. If one fails to ask concerning questions from a bonafide master, one continues to tread on the wrong path, adopting incorrect practices that might lead to confusion. Therefore, we must try to implement and relate to the conversation that took place between the elevated beings, Shukhadeva and Pariksit as it answer both basic questions about material living and questions with reference to spirituality. All questions may arise in our mind has are already been answered in the Bhagavatham. Therefore if we attentively invest our time in this pursuit we will find personal answers to our questions!
Shukhadeva explains ‘Dhyana’ to alter consciousness
After narrating the story of the Ikshavaku King Khatwanga, Parikshit was enthused when attaining Shukhadeva as His preceptor.
King Khatwanga fought in favor of the devatas in the Devasura sangram and notched victory for them. When asked to seek for a boon from Indra, he desired to know when he would die. Though it was not a custom to reveal the time of death to people, Indra disclosed that his soul depart from the body after 48 minutes pass from then. The King immediately renounced his royal duties by appointing the rightful king on the throne and went in pursuit of spiritual knowledge. Within 1 muhurt (48 minutes), due to his steadfastness and genuine intentions he attained Bhagawan.
A soul attains spiritual wisdom by hearing the glorious pastimes of Bhagawan. Just like the body appears red when light is passed through a red glass and appears yellow when light is allowed to pass through a yellow glass, consciousness of an individual transforms spiritually if the light of knowledge (i.e knowledge about the Supreme Being) is allowed to pass through our mind. The ignorant living being then starts displaying characteristics of divinity as he engages with spiritual content.
Reason for why mind is not able to focus for a long time
Therefore, Shukhadeva first explains Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi or ‘different stages of meditation’ to Parikshit. The latter tried to focus, but the mind would to drift away after some moments. This is a very common experience for many of us. One is not able to retain his concentration levels with the same effectiveness as he did in the beginning. Neither concentrating on small stuffs like stone, water, etc can persist for long nor on huge celestial bodies like planets, stars and constellations. The former object of concentration has no benefit while the latter due to its vastness leads to mind wandering. Hence, our object of focus should be perceivable and at the same time we should be able to concentrate for long hours.
Parikshit found these characteristic missing in his objects of concentration and was left disappointed.
2 types of Meditation explained by Shukhadeva
- Formless meditation: Meditating on the huge formless aspect of God
- Form meditation: Meditating on the characteristic features and beauty of Bhagawan.
Shukhadeva explained two modes of meditation: “Parikshit, this entire world is governed by the vast, formless Brahman. He is the master of the 14 worlds and therefore you should meditate on the vastness of that Brahman.” But, on asked to meditate, Parikshit’s mind wandered when left to concentrate on the 14 worlds and the magnanimity of that supreme governor, Brahman. The mind does not have the power to capture such a huge, unperceivable God and therefore, dejected Parikshit approached Shukhadeva and reported his failure.
In turn Shukhadeva suggested: “Now, you must meditate on the form of Bhagawan who is the Supreme Master. He is omnipotent and is ever splendorous. Go and meditate on your Ishta.” Following the instructions of his Guru, Parikshit meditated and succeeded in his endeavor. Shukhadeva explained: “The formless aspect of the Lord is not perceivable but is all powerful or the Energy aspect of Bhagawan. But, meditating on the divine form of the Lord who is your Ishta or (favorite deity) is the highest form of meditation as the mind is engaged in praying to Him and adoring His beauty. Bhagawan, irrespective of His deity size, form, place of origin (Sri Rangam, Tirupati) is the master of all energies governing the universe. He is the energetic and not only does He possess qualities housed in the formless aspect (Virat) but additionally He also has a Divine form. Therefore, meditating on His form is the highest form of meditation.
Benefits of Form Meditation
Through relentless practice one will be able to install the deity who appears on the external platform as a vigraha into his heart, such that even with closed eyes, one will be able to see his/her Ishta devata. Throughout one’s life, one will experience constant association with the Supreme Lord. But, the practice must be genuinely carried out irrespective of the time (days, months, years) taken to achieve this result. One must consciously attempt to recollect the Lord’s divine pastimes and form and by deliberating thus, Bhagawan seats Himself eternally in the practitioner’s heart. The sign of Dhyana Siddhi or ‘perfecting meditation’ is absorption in the Lord, without exercising conscious efforts. Dhyana becomes an intrinsic part of life.
The greatest benefits of this meditation is that:
- Tamas (or mode of ignorance due to which laziness and lethargy is experienced) and Rajas (or mode of passion due to which overconfidence and rigidity develops) get uprooted from the system and Sattva Guna dawns (the mode of goodness that attracts peace and happiness into one’s lives).
- Bhakti is taken to the next level. Therefore, Oh Parikshit, continue to contemplate on the form of the Lord and then you’ll be able to,
- Easily comprehend the spiritual secrets that I’ll be delivering to you. ”
This suggests that one must contemplate on the form of the Lord (chintan) to understand the scriptures. Contemplation is given prime importance as it is regarded as a cleansing agent for the heart and mind. Due to materialism, ignorance has stratified in our minds and hearts. But, on adopting the above mentioned practices all material contamination gets washed away and the mind-heart develops unique abilities to decode the complex teachings of Vedic scriptures. This is the greatest advantage of form-meditation as it opens the gateways to spiritual knowledge.
Benefit of Gayatri Mantra-Vedic Schools adopted Mantra Sadhana- or meditating on Gayatri Mantra
Vedic schools adopt mantra sadhana which is very similar to the name of the Lord. The name and form of the Lord are non-different and they are equally potent. In the initial days, students struggle altering their pitch and stumble with their pronunciation. The Acharyas (teachers) prescribe the Gayatri Mantra and stop all other Vedic recitation for students encountering these problems. They instruct students to recite Gayatri Mantra 3 times a day, samithdanam and additionally recite Gayatri a thousand times, atleast once a week. This altered schedule is to be carried out for 6 months, which many times sets fear of losing out in students. Students feel that they will be left behind and their classmates will continue marching ahead. But, astonishingly they end up becoming better at grasping Vedic shlokas compared to those who didn’t practice Gayatri a sufficient number of times. The potency of the mantra is such that it dissolves all mental blocks and allows knowledge to flow.
The method of form-meditation is the fastest and simplest way to attain the Supreme Lord unlike the strenuous path of Ashtanga yoga which includes Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. The latter are strict practices and are quite difficult for common man to apply in their day to day lives. But, form-meditation is exclusively designed for Kali Yuga and is applicable for any kind of lifestyle. It can be done while sitting in your office chair, veranda or in the garden.
1 most important quality of a True Guru
Before practicing any spiritual practice, it is needed for the practitioner to consult a bonafide master. Not all practices prescribed by random spiritual preachers are relevant as their credibility can be questionable. Hence, we must be assured that spiritual practices are prescribed from an authorized guru and not by anyone who merely claims to be realized. The shastra reveals that a true guru is devoid of materialism.
Here, in Naimisharanya Shaunaka describes the virtues of Shukhadevacharya: “Since childhood, Shukha was disinterested in worldly affairs as he was established in Bhagavat-Dhyana (contemplation of Bhagawan).” Therefore, Shukhachraya is an ideal guru and his teachings are direct representations of Bhagawan.