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Παρασκευή, 10 Φεβρουαρίου 2017

The Shield of Athena

The Shield of Athena
Swami Sivamurti Saraswati

Athena is a manifestation of the divine wisdom of shakti. She sprang fully formed from the crown of the head of Zeus, her father. This would equate with the yogic teachings that she was born from the crown chakra of sahasrara, and was endowed with perfect wisdom and insight from birth. She did not need to reconcile dualities, therefore was a virgin goddess.


Symbology of the myth


In Greek mythology we usually find Athena portrayed as a warrior, in her role as defender of heroes and of the city of Athens. However, there is another image of the goddess where she appears wild and awesome, wreathed in snakes. Even when she is in her warrior role, Athena still carries the image of the snakes on her aegis (shield) with the severed head of Medusa. This image harks back to an early time before patriarchy. It refers to the Minoan snake goddesses. Snakes are not thought of here as symbols of sin and evil, as in Christian mythology, but as symbols of divine wisdom. Athena is the goddess of wisdom, so it is apt that she is accompanied by snakes as well as the owl. The snake is also the symbol of the kundalini which, in the case of Athena, has already travelled to its destination. From this vantage point she guides the destinies of her followers.

The famous aegis originally belonged to her father, and he passed it on to her rather than to any of his sons. The head of Medusa, before she was slain, turned men to stone. Her hair was full of snakes. Medusa was originally one of the guardians of a cave of Gaia. She was her granddaughter. Medusa means ‘queen’ or ‘mistress’. She protected the uninitiated from entrance to the goddess’ mysteries. Zeus gives this shield to Athena because, with her power of self-disciplined awareness, she can transform the terrifying face into a protective shield. Through the use of the aegis, Perseus was saved from being petrified by Medusa’s gaze (petra means ‘stone’). Here we can see again the use of reflection rather than direct confrontation. By reflecting Medusa’s gaze, Perseus could act with detachment and dispassion, and overcome the obstacle on his path. He did not become destroyed by being overwhelmingly involved in the situation.

Medusa did not really die however. Blood from her body was given to Asclepius, the god of healing. With blood from her left side he slays, and with blood from her right side he heals. This later became manifest in the symbol of the caduceus. The same symbol is seen in the passage of kundalini, from its base in mooladhara chakra to its summit at sahasrara. Through the nadis of ida and pingala, and via the chakras, it twists like the energies of Asclepius. These overtones of healing, as well as protection, are associated with the aegis. It was usurped by Zeus and rightly returned to the goddess Athena. One of her aspects was as Hygieia, the goddess of health.

The aegis is the symbol of divine sovereignty. It also refers to the potential destroyer aspect of the goddess, similar to the attributes of the Indian goddess Kali. Within the divine are the three energies of creation, preservation and destruction. But above all, the aegis signifies wisdom. Athena was the guiding female energy of the Greek pantheon in her role as Sophia or wisdom. She was the teacher of humanity. From her city, western civilization spread to the rest of Europe. She can, therefore, be seen not just as the goddess of Athens, but of the whole western world as well.

Athena is the principle that brings about civilization. Within her are balanced the male and female polarities. She is not only the goddess of war, but also of peace. Her gifts suit the occasion and the needs of the times. She introduced to humanity the plough and the olive, which are looked upon as part of the origins of civilized life. Her wisdom was not only spiritual, it was also immensely practical. Her energy is marked by spirit and intelligence. It comes straight from sahasrara, but embraces all the chakra energies beneath and within it. In Jungian psychology she is seen as the highest manifestation of the anima.
Wisdom, as well as artistic achievement, is also conveyed in her guidance of craftspeople, particularly women who wove her beautiful peplos or drape. Wisdom is also imaged in weaving, as the warp and weft threads mesh together to implement the vision or sankalpa of the devotee. Weaving can be seen as the manifestation of our resolve.

Athena is a personal protector to her friends and to Athens. Like other virgin deities she does not have any children of her own, so she can give all of her maternal energies to the well-being of her disciples. She is known as the goddess of nearness. This is clearly illustrated in the tales of the Trojan war and the journey home of Odysseus. The close relationship she had with her heroes was similar to the relationship many people have today with the Virgin Mary.
She is a goddess of restraint, lucidity and high intelligence. Her flashing grey eyes can see beyond the surface of the situation into the meanings that lie beneath. With her helmet on, and spear in hand, she gazes out towards the future, and helps us plan our strategy to achieve the goals of life. Metis (meaning ‘counsel’ or ‘practical wisdom’) was her mother before Zeus swallowed her. Athena has similar attributes of counsel, and thinking carefully through situations with practical foresight.

She is the image of the human ability to think rationally and give reflective judgement. To the ancients this was considered a divine attribute, as it raised humanity above the beasts. Her chastity can be seen as a symbol of the purity of this reflective faculty, which is not influenced by personal desire. She battles for principles rather than passions. This springs from her ability to hold the instincts in check, and make choices made on impartiality, reason and detachment.

Balanced femininity


How can the Athenian energy help today’s woman? Primarily she is associated with awareness, which is the prime quality advocated by yoga. With her detachment and awareness of a situation, Athena, and the woman who imbibes her qualities, can keep a clear head in conflict and, from that stance, is able to work out good tactics to solve a difficult situation. She is the epitome of vairagya, dispassion, and viveka, discrimination, the two main attributes a sannyasin tries to emulate. When a woman realizes these qualities, she has a positive and creative attitude towards a situation and the people involved. She emerges as a leader. She is not swayed by her emotions, but has developed the left side of her brain, to focus on a situation with reason and a cool concentration. Athena is the goddess of feminine maturity. She never had to experience childhood or the confusion of adolescence. She came into being as a fully mature woman, with her masculine and feminine energies harmonized so that, from that point of unity, she could inspire and lead others to victory through her mental clarity.
This Athenian energy is often used by modern women to run their homes with efficiency, so they can manage a career as well. In their work it helps them compete with men, and rise to the top of their profession. In particular, her energies thrive in the fields of law, business, academia, scientific research, the military and politics. Her logical and analytical mind helps her manage the economic side of her life and plan long-term strategies. She can further her own career, or excel as a consultant to other men and women. The Athenian energies of consultation are of the companion-advisory kind. Her advice is pragmatic as well as highly intelligent.
The energies of this goddess excel wherever diplomacy is called for. She is able to keep a cool head and listen with objectivity to all sides of an argument. She is the daughter of Zeus, the god of justice, and is able to give a sound judgement when called upon.

Discerning and moderate


The woman with well-developed Athenian energies is able to research effectively and draw conclusions. She is not preoccupied with herself, but has an overview of the situation. This attitude complements the selflessness required in seva, selfless service. She is able to work in teams and committees, and is an accomplished mentor to others. She uses her discernment and understanding to make the correct decision.
Moderation is a hallmark of yogic teaching, and it is also an attribute of the Athenian energy in a woman. She lives within the ‘golden mean’. She recognizes that intense feelings or needs belong to the passions, and are not associated with her rational nature. Her energies support others when they are in the midst of emotional chaos. With her aegis and spear she protects us, and leads us out of our quagmire to the safer ground of reason and common sense. Athena is dressed in full armour, and from that vantage coolly assesses the needs of every situation. She does not rush into situations; she is always prepared.

Goddess of sadhana and awarenss


Women who feel they may be lacking in Athenian energies can cultivate them through training of the mind. Mental training demands that we discipline the manifestations of the mind and that we also study. Discipline is also part of yoga, and yoga itself is described as a discipline. Through the discipline of sadhana or spiritual practice we progress and develop towards our goal in a gentle, but effective manner. Athena can be seen as the goddess of sadhana. She urges us forward when we slacken, and protects us when we encounter challenges. She helps us move away from only subjective and emotional thinking to one governed more by reason.
Athena is the shakti of awareness. Development of awareness is a discipline of yoga through which we can learn all there is in life to learn about ourselves, others and the world we live in. With awareness we develop the capacity to observe the present moment as it unfolds. We learn to view it as an impartial witness. This is the energy of Athena and of the conscientious yogi and sannyasin.
Restraint is the hallmark of Athena’s advice and this we learn through awareness and detachment. She was the ‘ever-near’ goddess to the Trojan heroes. She stood behind them, invisible to others. She whispered her advice; she was not possessive or manipulative. The woman with well-developed Athenian energies knows how to use her power wisely for the good of all.

Becoming Athena


Today’s woman and yogini is right to honour Shakti in the goddess Athena, and include her attributes in sadhana practices to develop the goddess’ energies within herself. The energies of Athena are those associated with pingala nadi and are largely masculine in nature. By endeavouring to make these predominately male energies her own, the modern woman becomes fully equipped to take her place in today’s world, in times of conflict and in times of peace. Eventually she achieves a balance between both polarities, and becomes the type of leader the world needs today, as we move from a patriarchal culture to one less gender-orientated.
Today’s world is crying out for women with the energies of Athena. It is time for all women to arm themselves with her qualities, and step forward to serve humanity, as Athena has been doing throughout the ages. Her spear, aegis and helmet personify the same energies that are to be found in yoga. Athena used her energies to bring forth western civilization. The women of the twenty-first century should arm themselves not only with the hallmarks of western culture but also, through yoga, with those of the East as well, to bring about a world that is united not in its sameness, but in the richness and splendour of its diversity.




Τρίτη, 3 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The 18 ITIES of Swami Sivananda (Extracts)

The 18 ITIES of Swami Sivananda (Extracts)

Swami Sivamurti, Founder and Acharya, of Satyanandashram Hellas, Greece.


I am very honoured to be here at this World Yoga Convention, and to be a part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

My topic today has to do with the ‘18 ITIES’ of Swami Sivananda. These are the cardinal actions that, when practised, bring about a reprogramming of the mind and enable us to put into practice the ashtanga yoga of Swami Sivananda: Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Be Good, Do Good, Meditate, Realize. This is what Swami Sivananda called the Divine Life.

Of course, alongside practising these ITIES, which we will discuss shortly, we need to keep up with our regular yoga sadhana: asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, yoga nidra, the concentration techniques and the meditation techniques. We just add this one ingredient, because when we work with the ITIES, we are working with a sadhana in its own right.

What are the ITIES?

Swami Sivananda was often asked by his disciples and ashram well-wishers to mention the important virtues that should be developed by a spiritual aspirant. He summed these up in his song called the ‘18 ITIES’, which I heard being sung in the ashram last night, but nevertheless I will read it to you right now. The 18 ITIES are English words that all end with the letters ‘i’, ‘t’ and ‘y’, they all end in ‘ity’, so when one sings the song, it rhymes. The song goes as follows, and I’ve taken the liberty of adjusting the last line for this particular occasion:

Serenity, Regularity, Absence of Vanity
Sincerity, Simplicity, Veracity
Equanimity, Fixity, Non-Irritability
Adaptability, Humility, Tenacity
Integrity, Nobility, Magnanimity
Charity, Generosity, Purity
Practise daily these 18 ITIES
You will soon attain immortality
Brahman is the only real entity
Mr So and So is a false non-entity
You will abide in eternity and infinity
You will behold unity in diversity
You cannot attain this in the university
But you can attain this in the ashram in Munger

These are timeless virtues. What has Swami Sivananda told us? “Develop strength and quietness of mind.” This empowers us.

When you examine them, these 18 ITIES give us an aim, a philosophy and a discipline. Swami Satyananda greatly emphasized how important it is to have a goal, aim or purpose in life, whether that be short-term, mid-term or long-term. It is also necessary to have a philosophy to enable us to live and achieve that goal. The philosophy should be such that it enables us to face the vicissitudes in life, to face the setbacks in life. As we all know, life is not always smooth-sailing; there are many ups and downs. Therefore, the philosophy we establish in life needs to be such that we are able to stand firm and steady, and not fall under when we face the problems and difficulties that arise while achieving our goal.

Working with the ITIES

Swami Sivananda advised that we take one ITY and work on it, we develop it, we eradicate in toto all the negative qualities of its opposite, we meditate on that ITY, we meditate on the benefits that the ITY will bring us, and on ways to achieve the ITY. As we progress with the ITIES, they reprogram us. They become part of the process of reprogramming our minds. They adjust the way we think, the way we talk, the way we act. They change our negative and emotional reactions to people, events and things. We cannot change people; they are as they are. We cannot change events and circumstances that come into our lives, but we can change the way that we respond to them. So the ITIES are also responsible for changing our attitudes and transforming our attitudes from negative to more positive.

One of the many practices given in Satyananda Yoga that definitely helps us in developing the ITIES is pratipaksha bhavana, cultivating the opposite emotion. This is a technique whereby we learn to superimpose a positive quality over a negative quality in a strategic position. For example, if we happen to be going through the day and we notice a negative attitude, a negative thought, or a negative emotion, then we immediately try to superimpose the positive over that. Of course, there are many stages in the technique of pratipaksha bhavana, but I’m just giving you an idea of how the technique works and how it can be used to help us work with the ITIES.

It is also a good idea to understand the different synonyms, the related qualities, and the antonyms, the opposing qualities, of each ITY. If we happen to recognize a certain negative trait within us which is not directly the opposite or antonym of one of Swami Sivananda’s 18 ITIES, we can still recognize it and connect it with the ITY. We can then replace the negative antonym that we have discovered and try to eradicate it with the ITY or its synonym.

Other techniques, of course, in developing the ITIES are antar mouna, a very important practice of Satyananda Yoga–Bihar Yoga, and yoga nidra, just to mention two.

Now I would like to run through the ITIES in their succession and give a few points, on what each ITY means.

Serenity

The first ITY is ‘Serenity’. It is the foundation ITY. It is the ITY we start with, and which forms the base. It comes about through developing pratyahara, or sense withdrawal. Pratyahara is a technique where we withdraw the mind from the external objects that nourish the senses, and then the senses follow suit; they follow the mind internally and withdraw their attraction to external objects. When working with the ITIES, it is very important to work with pratyahara. Swami Niranjan has explained to us that pratyahara is not just a one-off thing, it is a process. There are five stages in pratyahara which, once learned, can be practised and applied to different ITIES as we progress.

Swami Niranjan said that the ideal way to practise the ITIES is to take one ITY each month and work on that to the best of your ability. Then the next month, take another ITY and work on that to the best of your ability. The third month, take another ITY, and so on and so forth. After eighteen months, he says, “Who knows!” We may manage to develop sanyam, restraint, of the mind. Yoga aims at developing restraint on our mental and emotional reactions. It is very important and the ITIES help us a long way in doing this.

Regularity

The second ITY is ‘Regularity’, and regularity is what you see here in this Convention. Everything is running better than a Swiss clock, it is running to perfection. That kind of organization doesn’t come about in just a few days. It has taken a long time, years actually, to bring about the event we are all participating in today. We are seeing the final product. We haven’t seen the build-up and all the work that has gone into that. So, regularity, essentially, has to do with time management, with managing our time well; making a routine where possible of the activities of the day – for example, getting up or going to sleep, or mealtimes and program times as it is here – so that it leaves our mind free, we don’t need to think about it any more, we can apply our mind to other things.

Absence of vanity

The next ITY following regularity is ‘Absence of Vanity’. Absence of vanity has to do with being without pretence, trying to be the natural you, trying to be unaffected in your behaviour.

Sincerity

From absence of vanity we move to ‘Sincerity’. Sincerity is one of the keywords of the sankalpa of this Convention: seriousness, sincerity, commitment. Sincerity develops honesty, non-deviousness, checking to see if we are sincere with ourselves, with others, with keeping our promises.

Simplicity

From being sincere, we discover that we carry a lot of baggage around with us, whether material or mental, and this leads us to ‘Simplicity’. Through simplicity, which is the fifth ITY, we try to simplify our lives. We look into our wardrobes and see what we don’t require, what we don’t need, and we offload it. There is always someone in greater need than us and we can give that away. If we look into our minds, we see that we carry a lot of conditioning, a lot of mental programming that is absolutely not necessary for our stage of development now. It may have been necessary in the past, where it helped us, but now it is no longer necessary. So we need to review our minds and ask ourselves: ‘What am I carrying around inside me that is no longer necessary?’ From there, we can simplify our lives. As Sri Swamiji used to say, “Simple living and high thinking.”

Veracity

The next is ‘Veracity’. Through simplicity we come closer to our true self, closer to who we are, and we develop veracity. Veracity is adherence to truth, being true to oneself. As it is said in Hamlet:

This, above all – To thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Equanimity

From veracity, from feeling good with ourselves – because when we are true to our nature we feel calmer and more relaxed, we feel more balanced – the seventh ITY naturally arises: ‘Equanimity’. Equanimity is the ability to handle the pairs of opposites in our lives, to maintain balance in provocative and challenging situations, not to lose one’s calm in profit or loss, success or failure, praise or criticism. It is knowing how to be balanced: when to lead and when to follow; when to talk and when to listen. This all comes about through practising equanimity.

Fixity

Through equanimity we develop a certain steadiness of mind and this leads us to ‘Fixity’, which is the ability to focus on one goal and ignore all the rest. One can learn this well in antar mouna: just focus your mind on the thought or the appropriate thoughts to achieve your goal.

Non-Irritability

From fixity we move to ‘Non-Irritability’. We mustn’t become too fixed, because if we become too fixed and things don’t go our way, we can easily become irritable. With non-irritability we develop patience, tolerance, knowing when to let things go; when to let them pass without making an issue of it.

Adaptability

Then comes ‘Adaptability’. Adaptability arises when patience and tolerance have developed through non-irritability. Here we learn to adapt, adjust and accommodate, that famous saying of Swami Sivananda, “Adapt, adjust and accommodate, bear insult, bear injury, this is the highest sadhana.” We learn to adapt to people, adapt to events, adapt to circumstances as they come; adapting to different types of personalities. As people trying to practise the 18 ITIES, we have to find a way to adapt to the person rather than expect that person to adapt to us.

Humility

‘Humility’ follows. Humility comes about when we recognize the importance of everyone and everything. We realize no one is inferior, and that comes through developing gratitude, by being grateful for everything that has been given to us, by taking time to consider first how very fortunate we are. How very fortunate we are, for example, to be here today. In time, through humility we develop the ability to recognize the underlying divinity that is within each and every one of us.

Tenacity

From humility we move to ‘Tenacity’, the ability to ‘hold on’, especially to all the previous ITIES that we have developed. We learn to not let them go; we hold on to the ITIES that we have already developed. We add one to the other. So tenacity is holding on to what you have got, not letting go. Being tenacious is not giving up until your goal is reached.

Integrity

This is followed by ‘Integrity’. Integrity is holding on to one’s principles and values, being a person of high moral principles, a person of character. This develops through integrating the head, heart and hands, which is very much a part of our system of Satyananda Yoga. Integrity has to do with following dharma,the natural law in one’s life, doing what is righteous, what is appropriate according to the time, place and circumstances that we find ourselves in.

Nobility

Integrity and abiding by dharma develops what we call ‘Nobility’, which is the fourteenth ITY. A noble person is loyal, dedicated to virtue, serious, sincere, committed; a person of character.

Magnanimity

This is followed by ‘Magnanimity’, which is nobility in its broadest sense. Being very broad-minded, being open-hearted, and seeing the positive qualities in a person, not the defects. A magnanimous person doesn’t dwell on insignificant things. They see the larger picture.

Charity

The sixteenth ITY is ‘Charity’, which is a natural outcome of magnanimity. Under­standing that one’s wealth, whether it is material, mental or spiritual, is not ours; we are only its trustees. We are there to share it, to give freely whatever we have with others.

Generosity

Charity necessarily moves on to ‘Generosity’, which is the seventeenth ITY. It is being liberal in our giving, being open-handed and unselfish. It is the ‘give, give, give’ that we hear from Swami Satyananda: giving without expectation, giving without thought of receipt, giving without thought of any form of ‘thank you’ or gratitude, giving because it is your very nature to give, and never resisting a generous impulse.

There was a great Greek man named Epiclesis who had the famous saying, “Whenever a generous impulse comes, do it now. Don’t resist, don’t allow the mind to come in and prevent that generous action taking place.”

Purity

Then we come to the final ITY, which is ‘Purity’. Of course, from giving and being generous, and from the outcome of all the other ITIES, purity develops. Purity is the expression of the true self – in motive, thought, word and deed, and it is the final outcome of all the other ITIES. It is the quality of an innocent person, a childlike person. It is the innocent and childlike person that can come close to God and who has the ability to feel the guru and perhaps get a glimpse of what he really is, behind all the appearances on the surface.


— Address, 26 October 2013, Polo Ground, Munger



Παρασκευή, 2 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

Antar Mouna (Inner Silence)

                                             Antar Mouna

                               Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Talk at K.C. College, Bombay, in February 1963, originally printed in YOGA, Vol 2, No. 1, 1964.

When you concentrate and try to unify the vagrant tendencies of your mind, sometimes you feel strain. Because of that strain, you get a headache or some other complaint. Therefore, while practising concentration, you have to evolve a method by which there may be no strain. Just as a tired person goes to bed and falls asleep without struggling with restlessness or insomnia, even so there are various methods for achieving spontaneous concentration and meditation.
The best method of concentration starts with prayer. When we start concentration directly and abruptly, the influx of blood abruptly increases in the brain. Various ideas keep on haunting the mind and hamper meditation. All the impressions of the actions done during the day come rushing up to the surface of the mind. If you want to meditate on Om, you naturally desire that nothing else should come to your mind. But for various reasons your daily experiences and impressions come to you during meditation. Therefore, the best time for meditation is brahmamuhurta, between four and six in the morning.
It is also necessary that the mind should slumber partially when you start the practice of meditation. If there is controllable drowsiness, concentration will be keener and better. At night, when drowsiness overpowers you, if you meditate on your ishta devata, you will definitely succeed. You should not start concentration before you have entered into a state of partial drowsiness. It is better to meditate in the early morning hours. You are not fully conscious although you feel that you are.
Some people meditate at odd hours of the day. This is good, but you must have experienced that while practising concentration during these hours, some tension is felt by the brain. Meditation should be effortless and spontaneous. If you practise the right technique of concentration from the very beginning, you will have no difficulty. The first practice to bring about this state is inner silence, or antar mouna.

Relaxation


Inner silence has many graduated stages. In the beginning you should relax yourself mentally. If you do not understand what mental relaxation is, imagine how you feel when you return home from a hectic business round in the scorching sun and relax on a soft sofa in an air-conditioned room. You have to be aware of this type of relaxation.
Sit in any comfortable asana with your spinal cord straight. Close your eyes and try to relax yourself mentally. The technique is to feel that you are going to take a rest. Do not entertain any strenuous thought in your mind as you generally do. Experience peace and a feeling of rest, joy and comfort. The more you are able to relax, the more you will be able to practise concentration. Be aware of yourself and of your position. This is called self-awareness. Your limbs should also relax. This may take some time. Relaxation is a process which requires an effort in the beginning, but afterwards it is effortless.

Witnessing the thoughts


Try to visualize the chidakasha, the space in front of the closed eyes. Is the chidakasha changing its colour or not? Do you see a star or anything else there? What do you see in chidakasha? Some see stars, some see colours, some see light, some see only darkness. Never mind whether you see anything or not, but keep concentrating on chidakasha. Many thoughts will arise. Let them come. There may be thoughts, sounds or different feelings. You may experience an itching sensation or a tremor in your system, but try to remain a witness of all that. Do not identify yourself with any sound, sensation or thought that arises in the mind. When visualization of chidakasha is over, you should begin introspection of the thoughts.
In this process, you do not fight with your thoughts but maintain an impartial attitude towards them. Whatever thoughts come to your mind, let them do so. With closed eyes remain a witness of the various thoughts coming into your mind and do not try to consciously control the thought process. Do not get disturbed when various thoughts overwhelm you. Nor should you try to trim or eliminate the thoughts. Just become a witness and feel the thoughts passing before you slowly like a freight train. After some time this practice becomes very interesting.
In this process, you should be aware that “I am thinking.” This consciousness has to be kept alive in the mind constantly. The only caution to be taken is not to identify with the thoughts. Awareness of the thinking process should be maintained throughout. “I am thinking” should be the constant awareness.
This method works subjectively to bring about a state of cessation in the process of thinking. In case of impure thoughts, awaken an awareness that you are only witnessing them while they are passing through your mental plane. If you do not identify yourself with such thoughts, they will be suspended without any effort. You should not be disturbed by bad thoughts or elated by good thoughts. Do not think that your meditation is very nice when good thoughts only come to your mind. Thoughts of any type, shade and dimension, whether good or bad, should be merely observed without any involvement.

Thought regulation


Many thoughts arise in the mind. Sometimes they arise with compelling force and it seems as if some unseen force within us is causing their upsurge. We may be averse to certain thoughts of passion, we may not like to enter into worries and brooding, but in spite of all our sincere efforts we fail to check the waves. This is proof that we lack control over the mind and we must evolve some effective method for settling these vagrant forces in their proper place.
If this is not done, mental exhaustion will result and sedatives will have to be introduced to ease the mental tension. When thought waves are not regulated, they become part of our habits and under their hypnotic sway many years of our life are wasted. The series of thoughts assail us unawares. We wake up at the instance of nervous breakdown, mental fever, neurosis and the like, when it is too late for us to overcome them. It is beyond the power of any physician. If care is taken well before the crisis takes place and thought regulation is rendered a part of our mental habit, then we can keep away various mental ailments successfully.

What is the remedy? Yoga prescribes a method by which one can become the master of the thoughts. You need not control your thoughts. You need not kill your mind. You must only attain complete mastery over your thoughts. One who has attained mastery over the mind keeps it as a trained servant. When the mind is properly kept under control, it can help you in many ways. One of the methods to train the mind is thought regulation. This consists of creating a particular thought voluntarily and dwelling upon it for some time, then rejecting it altogether.
Here you voluntarily create any thought of your liking and after thinking over it for some minutes you set it aside by your willpower. It is much better if you begin with lower thoughts. Voluntarily create and dwell upon themes of jealousy, anger, greed and the like for some time and finally set them aside with a mental stroke. It is easier to begin in this way because the mind is used to lower thoughts and such thoughts in fact act as centres of gravity for our consciousness.
Pious thoughts are soon forgotten and the mind finds it easy to slip away from such thoughts, while it is almost a task to detach its interest from thoughts of jealousy, anger, greed, fear, passion, pride and so on. The mind seems to have a greater affinity for lower thoughts while peace, compassion, love, forgiveness and the like are usually missed by the mind during meditation. Good resolves are always forgotten while evil intentions remain in the mind for long periods of time.
Practise in this way. Pose a particular thought. Retain the same thought in the mind for some time with vivid imagination, then dispose of it. If you practise this method for some time, you will learn a technique of removing any permanent thought that haunts your mind. This method is extremely useful. You can choose any thought you like, but be careful not to identify with the thought. Be conscious throughout of what you are doing. Do not allow any thought to come without being willed. Reject such thoughts which come to you of their own accord. Do not get attached to the thought. Practise with detachment. Have a vivid imagination of what you are thinking.
Sometimes while thinking there will be confusion. You will not be able to observe what you think. When this happens, you must meditate upon your ishta devata at once. Keep a few important points for meditation on your ishta devata in view. Try to think of the particular deity through general observances. Think of the whole picture of your ishta devata, the place where it is kept and the surroundings. Have a vivid imagination of this from the general to the particular. Thereafter, the same practice of thought regulation may be repeated according to your convenience.

Thought suspension


Now let us discuss the third process of antar mouna, inner silence. Concentrate on chidakasha. You will experience various shades of light, stars, illumination and astral figures. You should remain a witness of these experiences. The chidakasha or the astral plane is before you. You can project your subconscious mind over it if you have a deep sense of meditation.
Throughout this practice you should remain conscious of the incoming thoughts and set aside every thought which comes to you. You are engaged in setting the thoughts aside. At the same time you are aware of what is taking place within the astral realms. If you can do this, you can step into meditation without any effort. Then visions of astral events will follow. You are standing at the gate. You are seeing your thoughts coming to you. Your inner chamber is open from all sides. Thoughts can enter from any side. You have to take a central position and from there have a look everywhere. From which side is the thought coming? When you see a particular thought lurking, stop it.
Have a constant awareness of chidakasha. See the astral patterns forming in it. If you observe them for some time, you will understand what is meant by astral patterns. You will experience various invisible vibrations floating across chidakasha. Gradually try to become more and more aware of chidakasha. Let your consciousness become so deep and intense that you do not feel like taking your mind away from chidakasha even for a moment.
There should be no analysis of the experience of the astral plane whatsoever. Thus, when you continue to observe the state of nothingness, you will realize various astral realities which so far have remained out of sight. There comes a state of mind when the vast fields of astral realization are left open to you and the whole stock of latent knowledge is apprehended. When astral figures start floating on chidakasha, start meditation on your ishta devata in calmness and silence.
However, if you have even a little success in this sadhana, you will have no necessity to meditate on the ishta, The form of the ishta will automatically arise from within. If you practise this faithfully, you will attain the stage of nirvichara, thoughtlessness. You can repeat the whole process again, but a beginner should never overdo this practice because it is quite different to relaxation. With this practice you complete the preliminaries and enter into the first phase of meditation. It is only after perfection of this practice that you should take up further meditations which are higher and deeper.

The problem of sleep


I wish to give a warning, however, to all those who are keen to pursue meditation to the extent of realization and samadhi. Meditation should only start after the scientific process of relaxation has been completed. If not, they will always talk of sleep, lethargy and failures that follow entering meditation abruptly.
During the practice of meditation, the main problem is sleep, which you experience as you relax. First drowsiness dawns and then deep slumber. For those who want to remove tensions, sleep is necessary, but those who seek spiritual evolution will have to find a solution for this problem. If you want to attain samadhi or to contact the astral body, the mysterious kundalini and other higher forms of meditation, it becomes all the more essential to know the technique to overcome this difficulty.
The complaint of all aspirants is that when they succeed in attaining inner silence, they fall asleep and realize it only afterwards when the awareness revives. No doubt they feel fresh, but spiritual evolution is arrested there itself. Even in the case of earnest aspirants, their spiritual progress is arrested because they enter into slumber. Householders who have to discharge various duties remain ever busy and are under continuous strain. Naturally they fall asleep even with a little concentration.
The other difficulty is that if the consciousness does not slumber partially, inner silence is difficult to achieve. So, there is difficulty in both ways. The mind has to be drowsy to a certain degree and, at the same time, one has to be careful not to sleep. Therefore, it is necessary for those who want to avoid sleep during meditation to keep a few points in mind. First, you will have to practise detachment. You will have to reject the continuity of thought by constant and persistent practice. This is the first solution.
The second solution is asana and pranayama. When you get up in the morning, have a wash and practise some asanas like sarvangasana or sirshasana. This will check the tendency to sleep. Deep breathing as in ujjayi pranayama decarbonizes the system, removing drowsiness while increasing introversion. When you feel that you are about to sleep, start nadi shodhana pranayama with kumbhaka, using the ratio 1:4:2. Practise five rounds and then concentrate. This is beneficial for those who face waves of depression due to tension and continuous thinking. If you can minimize the degree of depression, you will be able to visualize the object of your meditation very clearly.
Some people sit in padmasana and meditate for hours at a stretch, feeling themselves to be in samadhi. This is not samadhi, however, it is the after effect of the day’s strain. Of course, you can remove your mental depression by this suspension, but you cannot go forward on the spiritual path. If you practise asana and pranayama before meditation, then there will be no suspension.
Some aspirants sit for meditation, but they do not know what they are doing. Having heard about kundalini, they desire to awaken it and apply extra pressure to that point. There is bound to be depression. Therefore, it is essential to practise meditation under the guidance of a master. Meditation is a scientific process and it must be learned properly. Just as you require a map and guidance before starting any external journey, especially if you do not know the way, the same principle applies for the internal journey which is undertaken through meditation.
Along with sleep, visions are another disturbing factor in the primary phases of meditation. When you meditate with closed eyes, visions begin to appear, then there is temporary suspension of awareness. Again visions, then suspension, and once again visions. All this happens because samskaras float upon the mental surface. You want to forget many unwanted things, you reject them, and therefore they go into the background. In due course this brings about bad after effects.
If you dislike a person, it does not mean that he has gone out of your mind. Rather he is very much in your mind. His memory will disturb you in meditation. So whatever difficulties you may have, you should annihilate these impressions either by rationalizing them or sublimating them through detachment. If you want to attain higher meditation, you will have to go beyond sleep and also the expression of astral contents in the form of visions. This can be achieved by the practice of inner silence, which is a method of purging the accumulated samskaras from the mind and a first step towards actual meditation.

                                  Antar Mouna (stages)

                          Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Lectures given at Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, November 14–22, 1967, during the First International Yoga Teachers Training Course


Stages of Antar Mouna

1. Awareness of sense perception: Breath consciousness, hearing and smelling without conception of sense object
2. Awareness/visualization of spontaneous thought process or thoughtless state: First thoughts of subconscious
3. To pose and dispose of thoughts at will: Selection of theme, impartial analysis, disclosure/removal of fears
4. Awareness of spontaneous thoughts and disposal of thoughts at will: Subconscious affairs of deepest sphere, awareness of random perceptions
5. Thought freeness (pratyahara finishes): Solitary beams of unconsciousness, tendency to enter laya (non-consciousness)
6. Awareness of sleep state of consciousness


STAGE 1: AWARENESS OF SENSE PERCEPTION

Antar mouna belongs to the fifth step of raja yoga. The fifth step of raja yoga is classically and academically called pratyahara, which literally means withdrawal or retreat. It is very interesting when we realize just how unscientific we are in our approach to spiritual knowledge, when we see how most of us would like to practise dhyana (see Footnotes 1) immediately, without any proper understanding at all. We fail to understand that it is not possible to be in dhyana without the help of the senses and the mind. Unless we are able to withdraw our senses in a systematic manner without any touch of suppression, it will not be possible for us to go into dhyana. Therefore, antar mouna, being one of the practices of pratyahara, is a wonderful practice to learn.
By the practice of antar mouna you achieve mastery over a great part of your mind. Various other techniques are dangerous for some people. These people dive into concentration without having voluntary control over their mind. They have not mastered their mental functions sufficiently to be able to enter safely the state of consciousness they are not accustomed to. When they come to the point of concentration in meditation, they fall down unconscious as though struck by a peculiar kind of sickness. For example, I recall the time when I gave concentration exercises to a large gathering of people. Hundreds of them fell down unconscious. From this experience I can assure you that if you practise pratyahara first, you will be much better off. It is essential to master certain sense functions first and then certain functions of the brain up to a certain level before attempting higher practices.
Withdrawal of the senses is pratyahara. But what is withdrawal of the senses? There are five senses, five sense experiences and five sense objects. How is it possible to withdraw the senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching? First you close your eyes and become aware of the remaining sense experiences around you, however disturbing they may be. For example, there may be a sound in the next room. You must try to analyze the sound, understand it and grasp its significance. You must separate the sense from the sense experience and only become aware of the experience of sound vibration. To illustrate further: a bell is ringing. First we consider the ear, second the bell, and third the sound of the bell. You must be aware of the sound which is the sense experience. The bell, the sense object, belongs to the outer world. By realizing it, you accomplish the first step of sense withdrawal.
It is very important to realize that it is not an absent-minded comprehension, but a present-minded awareness of the objective reality that you are trying to grasp. You may take one experience and analyze it fully, or you may take many, one right after the other. But sooner or later you must come to the point where you are able to analyze and understand the perception. Then the experience alone remains – devoid of the object, and later it is devoid of the subject as well. If you can achieve this, then you have perfected the first stage of antar mouna where you get rid of external experiences.
Now let us see how we practise the first stage of antar mouna. It is possible to practise the first stage anywhere. For instance, if you are a passenger in a car, you just close your eyes and try to remain outside of your experiences. Now, try to observe mentally what you feel, hear and smell. You will find that in a short time all external sounds and objects have disappeared from your mind. Your senses have become withdrawn, although of course not completely. This then is the first step of antar mouna which, as pratyahara, is the fifth limb of raja yoga. It is the first step in esoteric life and the first step to samadhi. (2)


STAGE 2: AWARENESS/VISUALIZATION OF SPONTANEOUS THOUGHT PROCESS OR THOUGHTLESS STATE

When the sense perception of which you have now become aware comes to you consciously without any feeling of disturbance, it means that you are able to understand it. If there is a disturbing sound and you practise awareness of it, it will become less and less disturbing. It will become little more than an ordinary sound. It will convey no meaning to you as to what is producing it, why, where, when, etc. Your mind will turn inward and become indifferent to the external sounds. After this, you must be aware of any spontaneous thought that may arise. You must have the awareness that you are thinking certain thoughts under compulsion and also that there are thoughts that are coming to you without your wanting them. The thoughts coming to the conscious level from the subconscious level are called samskaras (3).
If you sit for a while, a number of thoughts will come to you without any reference or context. For example, you may be eating a delicious dinner, and suddenly a thought comes to you that the previous night you did not have a good rest. This thought is irrelevant. While resting in bed various thoughts may suddenly come to you. These are called spontaneous thoughts. They are embedded in your personality and do not necessarily need any external stimuli. If you see a church and a pious or evil thought comes to you, it is not spontaneous. But if the thought of a mango comes instead, then it is a spontaneous thought, because it was not stimulated by the sight of the church. It is a voluntary expression of a certain part of your personality, which modern psychology terms subconscious. In Vedanta it is referred to as the sukshma sharira or subtle body.
Sukshma sharira, or the astral body in the doctrine of karma, is known as a samskara, the latent impression embedded in your life. Just as smoke comes out of a coal fire in a kitchen, in the same manner a few thoughts come out of all the accumulated thoughts. What we usually do the moment these thoughts come to us is take them up if they are good ones, and send them back if they are bad or painful. The bad thoughts that are sent back are not exhausted or used up unless, of course, you are a ‘jnani’ or a ‘viveki’. (4)
Practically all bad thoughts are sent back to the subconscious while most of the good ones are exhausted, the result being that the subconscious vessel is filled with bad thoughts and devoid of good ones. In the practice of antar mouna we concentrate on calming down the disturbances of the indriyas or senses (which is natural on account of your circumstances and environment) and become aware of spontaneous thoughts which arise from the subconscious. The best way to accomplish this is to make your mind aware that you are going to practise being aware of your thoughts. Say to yourself, “I am trying to be aware of my thoughts.”
Usually it is different with each individual. Here are a few examples. You feel that you are sitting in a corner of your mind and looking at the inner space or chidakasha, constantly repeating the mantra (5) “I want to see my thoughts. Which thought is passing through me? Am I thinking or am I not thinking? What am I thinking?” Sometimes even while you are aware of the entire thought process, a thought slips by without your noticing it. Only when it has passed the area of your observation do you become aware of it. For example, “I was thinking about a mango, but while I was thinking about it, I was not aware that I was thinking . . .”
Sometimes there is momentary absent-mindedness. To correct this there is another practice. If you sit down on your veranda, for example, and look down the road – and the road is clear, no one is on the road – think that it is your consciousness. Then someone appears on the road. You see shadows moving. They are the shadows of your thoughts. That is the higher state of antar mouna. This will be possible only for those who are good at visualization. Then the road disappears and the shadows remain.
The third way is to act as a witness or sakshi as it is called in Vedanta (6). We say, “I am a witness and I want to know what thoughts are in my mind.” Now, sit down and try to remain aware of your spontaneous thought process. You may experience that the whole chidakasha is empty and there is no thought. Then you should say to yourself, “Now, no thoughts are coming, and I am only aware of the empty space.” This practice becomes more and more inspiring and enlightening as you proceed further and further. If you practise this for about two months, you may even see yourself in the lap of your mother at the age of two. In this process the mind usually goes back into the past and never into the future. Women find this practice easier than men.
It is good to study Vibhooti Pada in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (7) is good to study. It is a method by which a yogi is able to go back as far as his previous life. In our practice, we are able both to analyze our psyche and uncover our subconscious mind.
So, in the second stage of antar mouna, when you are supposed to witness carefully the spontaneous flow of your thoughts, you may be able to observe your thoughts either before they come to the conscious plane or while they are on the conscious plane or after they have left the conscious plane. It all depends on the careful observation and attitude of the mind. If you are very alert, you may be able to predict a thought before it comes to the conscious plane, but if you are absent-minded, you may not be able to detect the thought until the next day. An average person is not only able to think one thought at a time, but can think of many thoughts in the fraction of a second.
Outwardly we feel that we think, but actually the thinking takes place in the subconscious plane of the mind. It is like looking out at a crowd of people where you are able to see all the faces but not any one individually. You may, however, remember them the next day. A thought does not take much time, especially if it is spontaneous. A conscious thought takes longer. While practising this, an aspirant should be constantly alert, never moving the body, never scratching, never sleeping. One should be aware of whatever one does physically, mentally, subconsciously, voluntarily, and involuntarily, at all times.
This is the path of introspection. It is not a good experience for most of us. You must always remind yourself of this in advance. In practising introspection, the impurities come up. It is only in samadhi, and not in dhyana that all the purities such as peace, bliss and light appear. The practice of antar mouna expels negative thoughts because it is a kind of self-eliminator of the negative impurities. You will either enter a state of chidakasha where there are no thoughts, a vacuum state, in which you will only remember bad acts or see all the people who caused you pain or trouble. The longer you practise, the more experiences you will see. It only becomes clear in the end. Symbolic expressions come up. Things that your conscious mind hates to remember appear. This will only happen when you have stepped into the subconscious.
If you have these subconscious explosions during antar mouna the best method of eliminating them is to write them down in a diary or to tell someone whom you trust. That is very important. The most common experiences are snakes, good food, hundreds of people moving everywhere, jungles, swimming in water, the fear of being drowned and flight in space. We now have the conscious manifestation of all the thoughts, desires and experiences that we do not want to know. They must constantly be analyzed. For example, if you have the thought of fear of drowning, it is not sufficient to say that you just have a fear complex. Rather, it may be looked upon as a symbolic manifestation of some action or actions in the past which you do not want to remember. There must be interpretation of these thoughts.
The next questions are, “When should we practise this and for how long should we continue? When should we proceed on to the next stage?” The moment you find the subconscious manifestations becoming greater and greater, then you should go on to the next stage.
When should we give up the second stage and go on to the next? Thoughts come and go; that is the second stage. Next, visions appear and you cannot understand them; you are afraid of them, and conscious thoughts become less and less. Now is the time for the yogi to go on immediately to the third stage. The reason why the yogi does not continue on and on with the second stage is because he knows that all his thoughts can never be exhausted. To a certain extent you have to manifest them and then you must check them.


STAGE 3: TO POSE AND DISPOSE OF THOUGHTS AT WILL

While you were practising the second stage of antar mouna, you visualized shadows in the form of visions or dreams. If these shadows come to you in a horrible way, that is, if they are very bad experiences, it is time to proceed to the third stage of antar mouna.
It will not be difficult for you to understand the third stage, because you do the exact opposite of the second stage. You may say that it is a counter-pose. Unlike everything being spontaneous in the second stage, in the third stage everything is done at will. You should not allow any spontaneous thought to arise unless you want it. If a spontaneous thought does come, then you should immediately try to dispose of it. Do not allow it to occupy your mind. This is very important.
How do you get rid of a spontaneous thought? Close your eyes and start thinking about some theme. It must consist of a sequence of events that were thought by you in a conscious manner. For example, you might say, “I have misplaced my notes. Now, where did I see them last? At home? No, I remember that I took them from home in the morning.” You see, you must invite a thought and then expand it in a definite way. But do not let a thought come of its own accord. If, for instance, a thought comes and says, “‘Please think about me,” you should reply, “No, I do not want you, I want only thoughts that I will think of.”
This is an exercise to develop a conscious thought and then to eliminate it. If any conscious thought or experience that has taken place in your life is not eliminated, or at least not immediately analyzed, it will proceed directly to the subconscious mind. Once it enters your subconscious, it becomes a samskara and is a ‘behind the scenes’ influencing factor in life.
Therefore, in spiritual life you must be able to recall at will all the past experiences of your life. And if you are looking at impulses, you must give all the thoughts to them. The whole thing should be clear before you. For example, you should be able to see nervous excitement when you see yourself in a mob attacking someone’s home. You just cut off your mind and say ‘get out’. This is how we eliminate the conscious thought. Psychology also accepts the idea that if any conscious experience is properly analyzed, it loses its force, and that is the purpose of this exercise.
I feel that when you are given the freedom to express any thought of your choice, you should select a bad thought rather than a good one, because it is very easy to think of good thoughts and it is also very easy to get rid of them. But it is very difficult to get rid of bad thoughts. Therefore, we should try to develop a method or technique by which we are able to throw out the negative thoughts from our mind.
For example, a good thought comes to you about a certain person, and you start to think that he is a good man, a wonderful friend, etc., and then you think one very bad thought about him and it destroys all the good thoughts. Now, you wish to throw off this bad thought and resume all the good thoughts, but you find that you cannot. It usually happens this way and people spend sleepless nights and restless days worrying about the bad thought. They have probably tried several ways of getting rid of the bad thought, but almost always fail.
Therefore, I have used this third exercise in antar mouna in which we invite a bad thought or at least a thought that we consider as bad. We dwell on the thought for a while and become one with it, then we give our mind a jerk and throw the thought out. A stage of vacuum should arise in the place of the thought; that is, there should be no thought in the mind.
At this time you should invite another new thought to your mind and start the exercise again. When the bad thought comes, think it over, dwell on it for a while and then throw it out. I must remind you again that it is no use thinking of good thoughts during this exercise. You must only think of those thoughts that have a destructive influence on your mind.
In spiritual life, eliminating bad thoughts is a very useful practice. This is the only way that you can know the fundamental nature of a thought. If this practice is continued for fifteen or more days, you can develop a spontaneous psychological conditioning with which you will be able to set aside any thought at will. At least you will not spend any sleepless nights or restless days. You will know how to set aside the bad thoughts.
I can tell you of my personal experience. I can bring any thought to my mind and then at will I can get rid of it. I can throw out the most important and burdensome thought. It does not even take me a second. I just perceive it and then throw it away. I do not have to think, “Oh, this thought is coming and I do not want it.” If it is not something new, I do not share the thought with my will. It is something that is given to the mind when you practise this third stage. But you must practise it many times. You must remember one important thing while you are practising, which is that you are practising antar mouna and not just merely thinking.
There are also thoughts that have no form. They do not have any particular dimension. You will not have any trouble disposing of them. I am only concerned about good and bad thoughts, divine and undivine. The formless thought such as “I must take a bath” or “I must go to the toilet” etc. are called nitya karma or routine thoughts. They do not create a samskara. You must not concern yourself about these thoughts. You must always take thoughts of a very heavy dimension. A typical thought would be “I have an enemy who has been troubling me for so many years. Whenever I am conscious of him I feel terrible and want to kill him.” This is the type of thought you must dwell on and then dispose of at will, quickly.
I believe that if you think of more than three thoughts in one practice, it will be too much for you. But you must complete one whole theme, and the theme must be of your own planning. By this I do not mean that you should complete the theme right up to the present – that is, think up to a certain extent and then cut it off.
Do not repeat the same thought twice, because that is known as brooding. When you think about a certain place in one thought scheme and then the place returns in a later thought, you should say, “What is the use of this same thought again?” The mind has a certain brooding tendency – it likes to return to the same thought again and again. This tendency is very dangerous as far as the development of neurosis is concerned. When modern psychology analyzes the causes of neurosis, it finds that this brooding over the same point over and over again is one cause. When you become aware that this brooding over one point again and again is the nature of the mind, you should be especially aware of it in your practice of antar mouna.
When you finish a theme you must tell yourself, “Yes, now this thought is finished, this will not be thought of again.” If you like the topic very much, you will not stop thinking about it completely. Then you must say, “I am going to think about this topic again,” and so on. There will come a certain movement in your thinking process and your mind will say, “Enough,” and the thinking about the topic will be finished. Possibly some portion of the thought will remain. There may be a mild suppression of the topic, but it will be only mild because most of the topic will have been analyzed. Part of the topic will again return to you. But why should there even be a mild suppression? You should analyze it thoroughly by the method of being the impartial witness, witnessing at will. The thought does not come up on its own, you must bring it up.
This third exercise will help you a little later in the future planning of things because, after all, future thinking and the materialization of your future thoughts depend upon your present correct thinking. You should be able to fulfil any future plan within a few months or years after practising this third exercise. It depends on the individual. But future planning should be controlled; it should not be spontaneous. You must form a definite pattern to follow. The point is that you should only include the item of the future planning after you have gained a certain control over your psychic dimensions. Then the mind will lead you to the right point. You cannot practise this without having attained perfection in the previous exercises; they are interdependent.
The first stage is to be practised until an undisturbed attitude to outer objects has developed. The second stage should be practised until the horrible dimensions of the psyche have appeared. Then and only then should you proceed to the third stage.
The third stage is very important. It is one of the meditations that can be found in a differently expressed way in Buddhist meditation. It is constant self-analysis; we call it atma vichara. This third exercise is the preliminary stage of atma vichara. Modern psychology has something similar, but I believe that when this particular technique is introduced into the psychological field, it will be much better. Some scholars from both the East and the West have assimilated some of it, but of course not in toto.
This method is only helpful for those having an independent psychic system; that is, having their psyche and thinking system under their control. It is not for those who are unable to think or are suffering from neurosis. It is only when you have developed the power of imagination and become aware of your difficulties and when you come to know that there must be a method that will help you, that this practice will help you. Diary writing is an important method that can be added to this practice.
Again, you should pose a thought, dwell on it for some time and then get rid of it. This process must be strictly followed. If any other thought spontaneously comes to you, it is your duty to reject it immediately. After this you should practise a state of thoughtlessness for a few moments before you take up another thought.
Sometimes you will find (if you are realistic, of course) that you are thinking about a thought that came spontaneously. The spontaneous thought gets mixed up with your conscious posing of thoughts. Therefore, it is better if you choose more than one thought and then pick out a certain thought with which you will develop a theme. In this manner you will make sure that you will not select a spontaneous thought. For instance, you may say mentally, “Now I am going to think about this trip or that trip or my friend,” etc. You must also remember that you must choose the thought that is the most difficult for you to get rid of. It is no use choosing an easy thought.
During the practice of antar mouna you will find yourself, for a short time, engrossed in a state of momentary depression because the mind revolts against analysis. Every mind does not like to be analyzed. The more you try to practise the more resistance you will meet. Minds that are attached to worldly pleasures do not like to be analyzed. Therefore, it is best if you practise this exercise simply and as naturally as you can.
You will also come across the experience of rejecting a thought without completely analyzing it. This may take place for any number of reasons, depending on what your thought was about. Here part of the thought becomes suppressed. It will remain unexpressed in your subconscious mind. You will not be able to help it, as you know that vasanas (8) are endless. If you think that you should think of a thought completely, you can be sure that you can never finish it in this life. There is no end to it; one thought leads to another and that thought to another and so on. What I am trying to explain is that it is better to think a thought two-thirds through and then get rid of it, rather than brood over the same thing day in and out.
If you continue brooding, the thought will only embed itself further and further or deeper and deeper in your subconscious. You must think then that a thought must be checked at a particular stage and not be allowed to continue further. The third practice of antar mouna is now over.


STAGE 4: AWARENESS OF SPONTANEOUS THOUGHTS AND DISPOSAL OF THOUGHTS AT WILL

After you have practised the first three stages of antar mouna you will find that after the third stage, before you are able to pose a thought, thoughts will spontaneously come to your mind. Their frequency, that is, the number of thoughts coming one after another, will create so much pressure that you will find it difficult to pose any thought at all. It is at this stage that the fourth stage should come in.
In the fourth stage you must learn to become a witness of the spontaneous thoughts. Sometimes you do not know which thoughts you have seen and which thoughts you have not. There are so many thoughts, you do not know whether you are thinking or not. At this time you should just remain an impartial witness to all the confusion. It is something like shankhaprakshalana. In the beginning, undigested food comes out and later the mixed material comes. You do not know which is rice, bread, fruit, etc. This is what the psychic confusion should be like at the end of the third stage and at the beginning of the fourth stage of your practice. You are aware that you are thinking, but you do not know what you are thinking of.
Suddenly, during all this psychic confusion a very clear and prominent thought arises from nowhere. It is so clear that you are able to pick it up easily. You must follow this thought. It is a projection of your deeper consciousness. It arises from the deepest sphere of the subconscious. Unfortunately, this thought that arises is almost always related to a bad event or experience. Because it comes from the deepest sphere of the subconscious it may be a thought from the past, or perhaps a future thought. It is a precognitive thought and is therefore spontaneous and as such, it must be got rid of. This thought should not be recognized; it should not be accepted. It is a very clear thought, but it is somewhere beyond thought dimensions.
So, in the fourth exercise we must become aware of the spontaneous thought and then dispose of it immediately. The emergence of a spontaneous thought from the confusion and pandemonium of many thoughts is in many cases precognitive and premonitory. We can safely attribute this particular thought which has arisen from the confusing system of thinking to the deeper layers of the subconscious mind. As you probably know, the deeper you penetrate your subconscious personality, the clearer and more realistic are the thoughts that appear. But the intellectual and emotional levels of your thought will become impractical. They are idealistic and not always true.
These thoughts which come up from the deeper layers of the subconscious belong to the dimensions of truth, vision and the lower class or a lower quality of prophecy. It is in this context that you should look upon and understand the psychological background of the different kinds of prophecies made by occultists, astrologers and fortune-tellers. These people have at their disposal their own method of reaching into the subconscious mind.
When you develop such clear spontaneous thoughts in the beginning of the fourth exercise, you will find that it always informs you of an imminent accident or of some difficulties that you will encounter shortly. Aspirants who want to go still further in this practice should immediately dispose of these thoughts at will. But those who wish to immerse themselves in such spontaneous thoughts and keep on thinking about them for a longer period will find their spontaneous thoughts coming through unknown areas of the past. They will be surprised. But with that the depth of the experience will end and they will have to begin their practice all over again.
For instance, the spontaneous thought of a snake arises, and it comes into your room to bite you. It is the type of thought that will make you wonder, ‘Did the snake bite me or did it escape?’ If you keep on thinking about this, you may be able to know more details of the thought, but you may not be able to find the meaning for yourself. In due course you will find that your psychic system is disturbed. You must then start the practice from the beginning.
Therefore, I can tell you that at this stage the awareness of spontaneous thoughts, however precognitive or premonitory, and however prophetic, will only prove to be an obstacle. I have seen many psychic mediums and psychic individuals stranded at this point, unable to go beyond. If you are able to wait and resist these temptations I can assure you that you will be able to go deeper and deeper into your subconscious mind. You will go deeper within the self.
Now, there will come a stage where the spontaneous thoughts will cease; there will be no more thoughts. There is a state of mental vacuum. In the case of the aspirants who can get rid of the previously mentioned temptations, this state of vacuum will come. While in this vacuum state you should have the constant awareness that ‘I am practising antar mouna.’ You are aware of yourself – ahamkara, ego remains and there is the feeling and perception of external things from time to time. You become so quiet internally that you are unable to see any thought and at the same time you hear, for example, a train passing, the clock chiming and then you may not hear them. It is an off and on type of experience. It is a state when sometimes your faculties of perception are turned inward and sometimes turned outward. It is similar to what is experienced during the first part of sleep. You call it drowsiness, when you are aware of everything and then for a few moments you lose the awareness of what has happened around you. Certain types of experiences come to you and others are blocked.
You might be awake at three in the morning just lying in bed thinking about something. You must have experienced this condition. You may be thinking about anything, spiritual or non-spiritual. While you are thinking, a train, car, etc. may pass and you do not hear them even though you are not sleeping. Then, simultaneously, there is a bell ringing off in the distance and someone is banging your door – you hear the bell but you do not hear the banging. In Sanskrit, this condition is called antar mukha vritti. It means ‘modification of internal mind’ – when the mind is looking inside. It is inert or dead to some of the experiences of the senses but is capable or receiving certain sensations.
When your mind becomes free from any kind of thought and when it is aware of only some sense experiences, then pratyahara is completed. The fifth limb of raja yoga known as pratyahara ends here. After this it becomes dharana. And so, the fourth stage of antar mouna, which is the practice of pratyahara, opens the door to dharana.


STAGE 5: THOUGHT-FREENESS

The fifth practice of antar mouna does not require much effort on your part. It becomes an automatic development of your consciousness which was prepared by the practices of the four previous stages. You cannot practise the fifth stage without having perfected the first four. Each stage must lead into the other; each must prepare you for the next.
You will have the experience similar to that of fainting. You will have the experience of soaring between the consciousness, sub-consciousness and small parts of the unconsciousness. You will be in the unconsciousness for a short while, in the consciousness for a short while, but you will be in the subconsciousness for a greater period of time. Your chitta vrittis (9) keep on floating simultaneously from this end to that end. The stage of unconsciousness becomes stronger and more permanent. The spontaneity of thought has been checked by cutting the link in the chain of thoughts.
You will now find yourself in a thoughtless and thought-free state, where you are sometimes aware of external affairs and at other times not. You will find that for a short while you are conscious, for a longer while subconscious, and for a very short time unconscious. The time you spend in the unconscious increases as you progress in this stage.
If proper methods are not followed in the fifth stage, you will find that within a few weeks you will be landing yourself in a state of mind where you become more non-conscious, less subconscious and still less conscious. You may find yourself non-conscious for about half an hour. For example, when you are practising you are aware of your surroundings and then you go to the different planes of your psyche. Then you find that you have been non-conscious for half an hour. You do not know how to check this. What will happen then? I can tell you that if it is not counter-attacked within a few weeks, you will enter into jada samadhi. Jada means inert, dead or lifeless. You develop jada samadhi in which your consciousness enters into an unmanifested state, avyakta. There are hundreds of spiritual aspirants practising this jada samadhi, never realizing that they have made a mistake. The practice of jada samadhi only leads them astray from the spiritual path and into the kingdom of tamas (10).
We are coming to the last stage of antar mouna now – the stage where prominent spontaneous thoughts arose from the depths of the subconsciousness. They were of a precognitive and premonitory nature. You were allowing them to arise from the subconsciousness and merely observing them, no matter how many came. You will find that within a few days they will cease. You are experiencing a state of vacuum, of thought-freeness.
In this stage you will find it very difficult to pose a thought or even see the manifestation of any thought. This state is known as nirvichara, and it means no thought, no contemplation, and no thinking process at all. But it remains only for a short time. It is always followed by a short period of non-consciousness lasting five to ten minutes. When this happens, you must develop an awareness of the three stages of consciousness. How will this be done? Through the sixth and final stage of antar mouna.


STAGE 6: AWARENESS OF SLEEP STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS


How do we develop the awareness of the three states of consciousness? Much depends on the individual. But I will give you my example. When I sit for kriya (11) number five, I sometimes find the thought process becoming suspended and I am always entering into a state of semi-sleep or drowsiness. When this happens, I immediately direct my awareness away from the spontaneous thought-freeness of kriya number five and at once become aware of the sleep consciousness. I should become aware that I am sleeping. I should think, ‘The sleep consciousness is manifesting in me.’ I should recognize these symptoms: lightness of body or heaviness of the body, loss of memory and losing all sense of the surroundings.

All kinds of symptoms may be present; physical, mental or psychic. I must then physically follow the descent of the consciousness. After all, sleep removes consciousness. It is not a startling event, but it is something usual. How does it take place? Why, for instance, when my thought process is suspended, do I see visions and then become non-conscious for a few moments? You must remain alert and keep yourself so conscious that the whole process of sleeping becomes clear.
Sleep is a mental condition where the contents of knowledge, which contain the objects of experience and thinking, are locked away from the mind. It is when the mind is free from any object or knowledge that sleep comes. It is a condition of non-objective awareness. It should be closely followed through an alert attitude of awareness. If you blink for a moment you have lost the awareness for the time it took you to blink.
If you break the continuity of consciousness for one second, it will take you 15 to 20 minutes to come to your senses. It is like a person going down into a deep well with the help of a strong rope. As long as he has hold of the rope he can go into the deepest and the darkest well without any fear or danger. He is always sure of coming back up. But suppose he loses his grip on the rope, even for a second? He will of course fall into the deepest depths. The same conditions apply to an aspirant. It is very easy to hold a symbol but to maintain an awareness of it in the sleep state is very difficultand this is the ultimate state of antar mouna: inner silence.
When the inner disturbance and modifications caused by chitta vritti are quietened, sleep comes. But we must also control sleep. In antar mouna as in dhyana, the sleep state of consciousness is not to be eliminated, but the sleep consciousness should be checked and controlled by the awareness of sleep. You do not have to escape from yourself in order to find a method by which you can control sleep. You must be able to maintain sleep under perfect control of your consciousness. It is known as a ‘sleepless state’ or ‘sleep awareness’. Therefore, we have two events taking place simultaneously: sleep and awareness of sleep.
The ultimate goal of the methods is same for all yogis. It may be antar mouna, kriya yoga, chidakasha vidya, yoga nidra (12) or anything. The inner awareness is to be evolved and the outer awareness dissolved. There is to be involution of outer consciousness and evolution of inner consciousness. That is the way of yoga. You must find a method which you are able to maintain in order to control sleep. It is not avoiding sleep. The sleep should continue. It is a condition where you sleep and remain awake. This must be practised.
Usually aspirants of meditation do not want to practise this. They want to develop concentration but do not know how. They have quite a particular notion about concentration, and become very nervous and disappointed when sleep comes. Some of them complain bitterly that when they sit for meditation, sleep comes. It is very difficult for me to make them understand that at this time they can sleep and that this sleep is necessary. If I tell them that the sleep consciousness is a necessary condition for the development of the inner awareness, perhaps they would spend all of their time sleeping! I must make it very clear that unless you know how to sleep and unless you know how to remain awake during sleep (but not without sleep), it will not be possible for you to attain the higher states of yoga.
We shall now review the whole practice of antar mouna. First we silence the senses and make a gradual attack on the mind. We give it complete freedom in spontaneous thinking. Then we gradually come to control only one part of the mind. Ultimately, we allow the mind to think whatever it wants, precognitive or premonitory, etc. Next comes the fifth stage and the controlling of the mental process. After the fifth stage comes the dangerous stage of the sleep condition.
Now we will discuss some of the methods of developing sleep awareness. When sleep comes during the highest stage of meditation, choose a symbol for yourself. This is very important. It should be your own symbol and it should not change. If you change it, it will not come during the moment of sleep consciousness. Your mental faculties will become so weak that you will not have enough memory to think of different symbols. The symbol should come spontaneously. The moment sleep comes the symbol should also come.
As long as the symbol is there you will not enter into the state of laya. (13) Laya means total suspension of consciousness. It is a very dangerous state for spiritual aspirants. This laya samadhi is a very wonderful samadhi. You can remain in this state for many hours. The body metabolism soon stops and the breathing may either continue or you may suspend it. The heart and the circulatory system go into a state of inactivity. It is all under voluntary control.
It is very easy for some yogis to stop their hearts, but as far as spiritual awareness is concerned it is not wanted, because once you come out of this laya samadhi you will be the same person as before. You will be the same type of person with the same raga-dwesha. (14) There will be no spiritual change.
However, once you overcome laya samadhi and get into the chaitanya samadhi (15), when you come out you will be a polished person. Many of the samskaras of your previous lives will have dissolved. It is said by almost all sannyasins and yogis that laya samadhi does not create any change in the individual’s mental, psychic or spiritual life. And so, this experience of laya samadhi is to be avoided. There are also many physical reasons why you should not practise it. The heart becomes very weak, the lungs suffer and because of the cessation of the metabolism, toxins are assimilated in the body instead of being eliminated. These toxins cause premature death to the yogi. He suffers heavily and thus pays a great penalty.
It is at this stage that we come to know that it is necessary to have a concrete object for meditation. I agree that God has no form, but for this stage of meditation form is a must. At this stage, when sleep is descending, it is a must to have a symbol. It must remain fixed and shining brightly in your psyche when sleep comes. It should be distinct from the black colour. The psychic colour during sleep is black. It is a dense black. You must find out the colour of your symbol; whether it is yellow, green, brown, etc. You must find it out yourself. The symbol must not be an intellectual choice. It must come from the unconscious. The symbols have mostly been put forth by great seers. Your guru may give it to you or you may see it in a dream. The symbol is also given by tradition. It is then called a hereditary symbol. For example, the same family has the same symbol passed on to it from generation to generation.
How do you know that you slept and for how long? In sleep the conception of time is lost. Of this you should be careful. The symbol should be kept during this sixth kriya and as long as the illumined symbol is before you, you will remain conscious of sleep. But, if during a certain period of sleep the symbol is switched off, then you have slept.
This completes the practice of antar mouna. For those who are keen to pursue meditation to the extent of realization of samadhi, it is necessary to continue their sadhana under the guidance of a guru. Only a guru can lead a disciple from one practice to the higher one.


Footnotes

1. Dhyana (meditation) is the seventh limb of raja yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi).
2. Samadhi (sublime equanimity) is the aim of all spiritual techniques.
3. Samskara is a past impression, unfulfilled desire, etc., which sets up impulses and trains of thought.
4. Jnani or viveki – practitioners of advanced techniques of jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge and discrimination between the real and the limited).
5. Mantra is a word or sentence having some influence when recited. Mantras are usually sacred syllables.
6. Vedanta is one of the six great systems of Indian philosophy. Literally, Vedanta means end or higher point of wisdom of the Vedas.
7. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the essence of yoga, consisting of four padas (chapters).
8. Vasanas are attachments to the objects of one’s wants.
9. Chitta vrittis are patterns of the mental processes.
10. Tamas literally means darkness, inertia. It is one of the three gunas (inherent characteristics) of prakriti (material substance of the world).
11. Kriya means an action. Usually the last three niyamas (second limb of raja yoga) are called kriyas. Here it means particular technique.
12. Kriya yoga, chidakasha vidya, yoga nidra, etc. are different techniques of meditation. Some are only taught by word of mouth from guru to disciple. They are only for personal practice and never become subject to any discussion whatsoever.
13. Laya is a state of non-consciousness. Not to be confused with laya yoga.
14. Raga-dwesha – like and dislike – are attitudes full of passions.
15. Chaitanya samadhi is full of life. It is just the opposite of jada samadhi.

"When the mind is silent and peaceful it becomes very powerful. It can become a receptor of bliss and wisdom enabling life to become a spontaneous flow and expression of joy and harmony. However…this inner silence cannot arise while there is a continual stream of disturbing thoughts and emotions. All this inner noise of thoughts and emotions has to be removed before one can truly experience the soundless sound of inner silence."
~ Swami Satyananda Saraswati


          Antar Mouna - Advanced, audio meditation technique by Swami Niranjanananda
                                            A TECHNIQUE OF SATYANANDA YOGA SYSTEM