ABHYASA (Practice)

ABHYASA (Practice)

Devotee: What is the method of practice?
Maharshi: As the Self of a person who tries to attain Self-realization is not different from him and there is nothing other than or superior to him to be attained by him, Self-realization being only the realization of one's own nature, the seeker of liberation realizes without doubts or misconceptions his real nature by distinguishing the eternal from the transient, and never swerves from his natural state. This is known as the practice of knowledge. This is the enquiry leading to Self-realization.

D. Can this path of enquiry be followed by all aspirants?
M. This is suitable only for ripe souls. The rest should follow different methods according to the state of their minds.

D. What are the other methods?
M. They are stuti, japa, dhyana, yoga, jnana, etc.
Stuti is singing the praises of the Lord with a feeling of great devotion.
Japa is uttering the names of the gods or sacred mantras like Om either mentally or verbally.

Dhyana: When one is in dhyana the mind does not contact the objects of the senses, and when it is in contact with the objects it is not in dhyana. Therefore those who are in this state can observe the vagaries of the mind then and there and by stopping the mind from thinking and fix it in dhyana. Perfection in dhyara is the state of abiding in the Self.

Yoga: The source of breath is the same as that of the mind, therefore the subsidence of either leads to that of the other. The practice of stilling the mind through breath control is called yoga.

Fixing the mind on psychic centres such as the sahasrara (lit. the thousand petalled lotus) yogis can remain any length of time without awareness of their bodies. As long as this state continues they appear to be immersed in some kind of joy. But when the mind emerges (becomes active again) it resumes its worldly thoughts. It is therefore necessary to train it with the help of practices like dhyana whenever it becomes externalised. It will then attain a state in which there is neither subsidence nor emergence.

Jnana is stilling the mind and realizing the Self through the constant practice of dhyana or enquiry (vichara). The extinction of the mind is the state in which there is cessation of all efforts. Those who are established in this spontaneous effortless state have realized their true nature, the Self. The term 'silence' (mouna) and inaction refer to this state alone.

All practices are followed only with the object of concentrating the mind. As all the mental activities like remembering, forgetting, desiring, hating, attracting, discarding, etc., are modifications of the mind they cannot be one's true state. Simple changeless being is one's true nature. Therefore to know the truth of one's being and to be it, is known as release from bondage and the destruction of the knot (granthi nasam). Until this state of tranquility of mind is firmly attained the practice of unswerving abidance in the Self and keeping the mind unsoiled by various thoughts is essential for an aspirant.

Those who follow the path of enquiry realize that the mind which remains at the end of the enquiry is Brahman. Those who practice meditation realize that the mind which remains at the end of the meditation is the object of their meditation. As the result is the same in either case it is the duty of aspirants to practise continuously either of these methods till the goal is reached.
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D. Why do thoughts of many objects arise in the mind even when there is no contact with external objects?
M. All such thoughts are due to latent tendencies. They appear only to the individual consciousness (jiva) which has forgotten its real nature and become externalized. When particular things are perceived, the enquiry 'Who is it that sees them?' should be made; they will then disappear at once.

D. Since the Self is free from the notion of knowledge and ignorance how can it be said to pervade the entire body in the shape of sentience or to impart sentience to the senses?
M. Wise men say that there is a connection between the source of the various psychic nerves and the Self, that this is the knot of the heart, that the connection between the sentient and the insentient will exist until this is cut asunder with the aid of true knowledge, that just as the subtle and invisible force of electricity travels through wires and does many wonderful things, so the Force of the Self also travels through the psychic nerves and pervading the entire body, imparts sentience to the senses, and that if this knot is cut the Self will remain as it always is without any attributes.

D. What is dhyana (meditation)?
M. It is abiding as one's Self without swerving in any way from one's real nature and without feeling that one is meditating. As one is not in the least conscious of the different states (waking, dreaming etc.) in this condition, the sleep here is also regarded as dhyana.
The excellence of the practice (sadhana) lies in not giving room for even a single mental concept (vritti).

D. What are the rules of conduct which an aspirant should follow?
M. Moderation in food, moderation in sleep and moderation in speech.
M. In the question 'Who am I?' by 'I' is meant the ego. Trying to trace it and find its source, we see it has no separate existence but merges in the real 'I'.

D. Should I go on asking 'Who am I?' without answering? Who asks whom? What is 'I', the Self or the ego?
M. In the enquiry 'Who am I?' the 'I' is the ego. The question really means, what is the source or origin of this ego?
M. Yes, any puja is good! 'Om Ram' or any other name will do. The point is to keep away all other thoughts except the one thought of Om or Ram or God. All mantras or japa helps that.
The mind turned inwards is the Self, turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world. But the mind does not exist apart from the Self, i.e., it has no independent existence. The self exists without the mind, but never the mind without the Self.

D. When we enquire within 'Who am I?' who enquires?
M. It is the ego. It is only that which makes the vichara also. The Self has no vichara. That which makes the enquiry is the ego. The ' I' about which the enquiry is made is also the ego. As a result of the enquiry the ego ceases to exist and only the Self is found to exist.
M. Everything we see is changing, always changing. There must be something unchanging as the basis and source of all this. It is the Self.