What is Meditation? How to do it? (1)
Conversations from “Talks with Ramana Maharshi”
Lady: What is the difference between meditation and distraction?
M.: No difference. When there are thoughts, it is distraction: when there are no thoughts, it is meditation. However, meditation is only practice (as distinguished from the real state of Peace.)
Lady: How to practice meditation?
M.: Keep off from thoughts.
D.: What should one think of when meditating?
M.: What is meditation? It is expulsion of thoughts. You are perturbed by thoughts which rush one after another. Hold on to one thought so that others are expelled. Continuous practice gives the necessary strength of mind to engage in meditation.
M.: What is meditation? It consists in expulsion of thoughts. All the present troubles are due to thoughts and are themselves thoughts. Give up thoughts. That is happiness and also meditation.
D.: How are thoughts given up?
M.: The thoughts are for the thinker. Remain as the Self of the thinker and there is an end of thoughts.
Mr. Ekanatha Rao: How is dhyana (meditation) practised – with eyes open or closed?
M.: It may be done either way. The point is that the mind must be introverted and kept active in its pursuit. Sometimes it happens that when the eyes are closed the latent thoughts rush forth with great vigour. It may also be difficult to introvert the mind with the eyes open. It requires strength of mind to do so. The mind is contaminated when it takes in objects. Otherwise, it is pure. The main factor in dhyana is to keep the mind active in its own pursuit without taking in external impressions or thinking of other matters.
M.: If you go the way of your thoughts you will be carried away by them and you will find yourself in an endless maze.
D.: So, then, I must go back tracing the source of thoughts.
M.: Yes; in that way the thoughts will disappear and the Self alone will remain. In fact there is no inside or outside for the Self. They are also projections of the ego. The Self is pure and absolute.
Another pilgrim asked: I am a man with a family. Is it possible for those in a family to get release from bondage (mukti), and if so how?
Maharshi said: Who are you? You include three aspects of life, namely, the waking, the dream and the sleep states. You were not aware of the family and their ties in your sleep and so these questions did not arise then. But now you are aware of the family and their ties and therefore you seek release. But you are the same person throughout.
D.: Because I now feel that I am in the family it is right that I should seek release.
M.: Because you think that so-and-so is your wife and so-and-so are your children you also think that you are bound to them.
These thoughts are yours. They owe their very existence to you.
You can entertain these thoughts or relinquish them. The former is bondage and the latter is release.
D.: It is not quite clear to me.
M.: You must exist in order that you may think. You may think these thoughts or other thoughts. The thoughts change but not you. Let go the passing thoughts and hold on to the unchanging Self. The thoughts form your bondage. If they are given up, there is release. The bondage is not external. So no external remedy need be sought for release. It is within your competence to think and thus to get bound or to cease thinking and thus be free.
D.: But it is not easy to remain without thinking.
M.: You need not cease thinking. Only think of the root of the thoughts; seek it and find it. The Self shines by itself. When that is found the thoughts cease of their own accord. That is freedom from bondage.