5 Types of Meditation

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Mediation is a state of being, it is an anubhavah (experience) which arises from a bhavah (emotion). To define meditation is like defining an emotion, an experience. It is like trying to touch yourself through a mirror. Hence it is futile to put in words the definition of meditation, however we can define and examine the process of getting into a meditative state.

How do you meditate?

The process of Meditation, is the process of gaining a less scattered consciousness. A meditative state of being arises when the consciousness is either acute, one-pointed focus on one object (ekagrat), or in complete harmony towards all objects (shamath). Therefore, to experience meditation one must attempt at achieving either of the above mentioned states. You don’t need to sit in cross-legged position and shut your eyes to meditate. You could be meditating while appreciating a fine piece of music, intensely lost in a book, or while staring impassively at the horizon. How you meditate depends on your current state of being and your environment.

Types of Meditation

There are different types of meditation techniques one can practice and develop based on one’s character. These meditation types can be divided into two broad categories

Supported Meditation

We have 5 senses, so there are 5 different types of sense based meditations. The Sense based meditations again can be divided into two – Externalised, the object of meditation is externally present, and Internalized, the object of meditation being the mind generated.

The Senses being cognized by the mind, the last of the supported meditations are the Mind based meditations. So the total primary categories of supported meditations number six- 5 sensory ones and 1 mental, these 6 being divided into two-Externalised and Internalised.

When one practices supported meditation, the mind is made to hold on to an object, which keeps it from scattering away. The object of meditation can either be internal or external. Below are the different types of supported meditations –

  • Anapanasati Meditation – This is probably the most refined and simplest method of meditation to attain Shamatha. ‘Ana’ means incoming breath, ‘Pana’ means outgoing breath and ‘sati’ means mindfulness. Hence Anapanasati meditation means mindful meditation of the incoming and outgoing breath. The breath is used as the object in this form of meditation.It is the core meditation practice of the Theravada tradition of Buddhism.
  • Mantra Meditation – The word Mantra is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘man’ which means mind and ‘tra’ which means crossing over. Hence, mantra is the crossing over of the mind BY the mind. Like the grains of sand adjust themselves in harmonic patterns when exposed to certain a frequency, the mind also transforms itself to the vibrations of the mantra when the mantra is internalized. One starts with Japa – oral recitation of the mantra. Japa helps to fix the mind on a single thought. Once the mantra is internalized through Japa, it becomes contemplation or Ajapa.
    Mantra meditation is not to be done superficially; it should be practiced with a feeling of devotion. The aim is to experience para nada, sound without vibration.
  • Trataka Meditation – In Sanskrit, the work trataka means ‘to look or to gaze’. Trataka is form of meditation in which an object is held continuously by the mind or the eyes. Usually one starts by gazing at a point or a stable, motionless flame (preferably a diya). After some practice, trataka meditation can be performed on a Yantra. Once you can hold on your gaze with eyes open, practitioner moves into internal Trataka meditation. The object is now held with the eyes of the mind. The process of inner visualization is called antar dharana. 
    Lahiri Mahasaya in Tratak posture

    Lahiri Mahasaya in Tratak posture

     

  • Awareness of Awareness – This kind of meditation is quite popular in the Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism. Cognition or awareness is made the subject of meditation and the self is allowed to rest in awareness itself. This is also the first level of Samadhi experience. It is the very nature of human awareness to become aware of its own self. The first step is to let go of the analytical mind, and become aware of the any thoughts, feelings sensations and memory. The mind becomes aware of these experiences and watches them rise and fall like a fountain. Next, the gaze is turned inwards towards awareness itself and one then embodies awareness.

Unsupported Meditation

It is futile to explain in words unsupported meditation. The state is beyond the cognition of the mind and hence cannot be put to words. It is the form of meditation where the duality of subject-object has been removed completely. The state where ‘all is one and one is all’.

Books recommended for practicing/learning about the various kinds of meditaion – Vigyan Bhairava, Siva Samhita, Sri Vidya Tantra, Prana Vidya, Swara Yoga

Content and Image ©AryaMarga Society

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