The Power of Listening, Contemplation and Meditation
What is it that takes place when the disciple meets the Master? Why does one often see changes in his lifestyle, behaviour and thinking? Why does it seem like a miraculous transformation? Pujya Gurudevshri explains how the disciple surrenders, blossoms and attains enlightenment in the presence of a realised Master.
The entire spiritual journey unto the truth can be summarised in just three words; Shravan (listening), Manan (contemplation) and Nididhyasan (meditation). For the one who goes through the process of these three stages in the right way, there is nothing more that remains to be done. The fruit of this process is the experience of the Supreme Truth. Therefore, it is essential to understand each of these words with great precision and depth.
ShravanThe first word is shravan. This means listening intently to the teachings of the Enlightened One. It is not merely hearing. Hearing is a mechanical act wherein sound waves from outside strike the eardrums and then sounds are heard. For listening ears are necessary but they are not enough. The essential component in the act of listening is your presence during the very act.
While listening, there should be no thinking of any kind going on in the background. Thinking during listening takes the attention away from what is being said, to the thoughts within. Only when you are completely available for listening can you correctly comprehend what is spoken. Usually, you get distracted at the time of listening and much of what is being said is missed. You then try to bridge the gap in information based on your assumptions, imagination, understanding, past impressions and experiences. Then, you become responsible for your understanding of what has been said and not the speaker.
Listening is to bring your attention to the ears and there is no concurrent thinking or debating going on within you. This does not mean that you must accept whatever is said without deliberation. It only means – right now, just listen. In listening there is no process of acceptance or non-acceptance involved. Listening is only listening.
The acts of listening and thinking cannot go hand in hand. If, while listening to someone, you are simultaneously evaluating and judging the correctness of what has been spoken, you completely miss out on listening for that amount of time. Instead, if you listen intently, completely, exactly the way it is said, then the right decision will naturally follow.
You fear that if you do not deliberate while listening then you may end up imbibing the wrong things. Therefore you keep your censors turned on. However if you keep these censors on, you will listen according to your understanding and wishes. You will only allow that to be registered which matches your opinions. Your insistences will prevent some things from going in. In this process of filtering, you will miss listening. For the right contemplation to follow, you must first listen properly. Having listened properly to what is being said, deliberate upon it, and then accept or reject it, but not while listening. Right listening is the first stepping stone of the spiritual journey. While listening, pay complete attention to listening alone and do not focus on forming opinions. This is the right method of listening called shravan.
MananThe second step is contemplation. It is a process of logically thinking about what has been listened to. Logic plays an important part in the process of contemplation.
Logic by itself is neutral. Just as a sword can be used to kill someone or protect someone, logic can become violent if used by a mind filled with antagonism and friction; while if utilised by a mind filled with compassion, love, and yearning for the attainment of truth, it becomes a guardian. Hence, do not refrain from using logic for it is neither bad nor harmful in itself.
Many people listen to discourses for hours, but pick up only parts of them, quote them incorrectly and criticise them completely. There are so many things that can be understood only in reference to the given context. Taken out of context, they could have a completely different meaning. Finding faults can never lead you to inner growth. He who is enthusiastic about his own spiritual evolution will not be interested in finding faults. He is only interested in seeking the truth.
Where logic is used only to find faults, contemplation can never begin. Logic becomes helpful only when the inclination is to seek the truth, not otherwise. He who seeks darkness, will remain filled with darkness. His mind will become negative. His speech will become bitter. He may be deliberating a lot, he may also be using logic, but he will not reach anywhere close to the divine state of absorption in the Self. This is because he does not contemplate. Instead he uses all his strength to make him negative.
Thus the one who logically contemplates upon what was said with the right attitude in order to determine the nature of the truth reaches the third step of Nididhyasan.
NididhyasanIf you move forward in the sequence of listening and contemplation in the right manner, then meditation is bound to follow. Steadying the mind in the truth that has been doubtlessly derived from listening and contemplation and getting absorbed in it is meditation. Having listened to and contemplated that, ‘I am not of the nature of the body and the body, wife, son etc. are not mine. I am the Self that is of the nature of indestructible, Pure Consciousness’; determining that alone as true and becoming steadfast in this feeling, is meditation. With no distinction between the understanding and behaviour, living in accordance with what has been understood as the truth, is nididhyasan.
When you accept your ignorance about the nature of the soul, it is then that your conceited self-will and concepts, are reduced, and because of this, it becomes possible for you to truly listen to and contemplate upon the teachings of the Enlightened Ones. With firm resolve and determination of what is contemplated upon, you gradually progress to meditation.
Once there is a conviction about what truth is, then the efforts to continuously abide in it become natural. Even if the seeker finds it difficult and at times is unsuccessful, he does not get disturbed. He changes himself but does not change his path because there is a firm belief that, ‘this alone is true’.
The meaning of nididhyasan is to transform your life according to what you have listened to and understood as truth. This process will take some time to become easy and spontaneous. The body, mind etc. will raise obstacles. But once the truth has been listened to and rightly understood, the efforts will continue, they will not stop.
Even if you feel you have become slow, do not give up, move forward in the direction of the truth. Once you begin moving in the right direction, sooner or later, you will certainly reach. Such an endeavour to attain oneness is called meditation.
Attaining SamadhiLet the mind get absorbed in the truth. Let it not remain just as a concept. Let the truth become the state of the mind. Let it not be only a thought but let it become a direct experience.
At first, the truth may arise as one of many thoughts, then gradually many thoughts arise to determine that truth, later there remains just one thought upon the truth. Thus, truth slowly starts influencing other thoughts, inclinations, activities and in the end it results in constant unbroken oneness with the truth.
The truth is soon reflected in every activity. The seeker becomes witness to all activities, whether standing, sitting, walking, eating, drinking etc. From being the doer and enjoyer of these activities, now he remains aware of being a witness to all the happenings. Thus the truth that entered as a thought, slowly spreads to every activity and takes a grip on his entire life, that is, it becomes a state of the mind. Every action is aligned to the Supreme Truth.
In this manner, through the process of listening, contemplation and meditation, the mind slowly begins to dissolve and the divine state of absolute absorption in the soul called samadhi is attained.