This article by Sri Acharyaji first appeared in the February 2003 issue of “The Edge” Magazine: Madison, WI, and the January/February 2003 issue of "Yoga Chicago" Magazine.
The basic process of meditation is found, in one form or another, in many of the world’s diverse religious traditions. All authentic spiritual paths agree that the way to attain true and lasting happiness is to come to a deep and substantial knowledge of oneself and one’s place in the world. The only way to know one’s inner self is by means of the science of meditation. As the most ancient and systematic spiritual tradition known to humanity, the process of meditation is found in its fullest form in the Yoga system of the Sanatana Dharma tradition.
For as long as there have been human beings, there have been people doing what only human beings do best: Asking philosophical questions. Such questions include:
- Who and what am I, really?
- What is life’s ultimate meaning?
- Is this world that I see around me, and which I take to be so real, the only reality there is?
- Or is there something infinitely greater?
Inevitably, in order to help find the answers to these and similar questions, men and women throughout the ages, and in many spiritual traditions, have turned to the process of meditation. Meditation, however, is not just for a few special seekers dedicated to unraveling life’s deepest mysteries. Meditation has a lot to offer every one of us. Maybe even you!
The BenefitsThere are many wonderful benefits that you can experience by taking up the practice of regular meditation. These benefits include: inner calm and peace of mind; reduction of stress and anxiety; greater control over your own mind and its activities; keener intelligence and sharper concentration; becoming more centered and balanced; increased health of body, mind and emotions; discovering who we truly are within; a deepening sense of communion with God; the joy and happiness of spiritual enlightenment and liberation.
Beginning Meditation with Breath Concentration
The following is a simple, yet very effective, guide to beginning the practice of meditation.
In order to practice meditation, you first have to find a quiet and uncluttered spot to sit. Such an environment contributes to a quiet and uncluttered mind. Once there, sit in a comfortable, yet alert, position. Have your back and spine straight, but not strained. Don’t slouch or recline, or else you might fall asleep – and the goal of meditation is not to sleep, but to be very much awake!
As you sit in your comfortable position, try to put aside all negative thoughts and anxieties that may be bothering you at the moment. Allow your thoughts to be on hold for just a little while. Tell yourself that you can always come back to them later.
Listen with relaxed, yet keen and alert, attentiveness to the rhythm of your own breathing. Feel, and even hear, the life-giving air as it enters and leaves your lungs. Concentrate all of your attention on nothing other than the sound and the feeling of your breath. With every out-going breath, allow the stress and anxiety hidden in your body and mind to just be released. Allow fears and doubts to simply leave. With every in-coming breath, imagine the calm and peace of a love-filled universe entering your lungs, and into the deepest levels of your very being. If your mind temporarily wanders away - and it will! - then just gently and patiently bring it back to its task of focusing only on the breath.
Try this for about 10 minutes as a preparation for mantra-meditation, slowly increasing the time over the next few weeks. After you have calmed the mind with breath concentration, you can now move on to the more spiritual aspect of meditation by using a mantra.
There are many different techniques of meditation. Of all the various forms, however, the most popular, effective and easiest is known as "Mantra Meditation." This type of meditation uses a mantra, or a transcendental sound vibration, to achieve its goal. The word "mantra" comes to us from the ancient Sanskrit language and is actually composed of two words. "Man" means "the mind," and the word "tra" means "to liberate." A mantra is thus a sacred sound frequency that frees the mind from anxiety and illusion.
While there are a wide variety of mantras, not all mantras are equal. In order for a sound vibration to be considered a real mantra, it cannot merely be a made-up string of sounds, but rather must have been directly revealed in the Vedic scriptures. The most effective mantras for achieving the specifically spiritual goals of self-realization and God-consciousness are those Sanskrit mantras that have the names of God included within them, and which are directly designed to bring about a state of bhakti - or devotional consciousness.
The MantraThe most powerful of all mantras that one could use is known as the Tiru-mantra:
Aum Namo Narayanaya
Which literally means: "I offer my respects to the Absolute, the Sustainer of all beings."
It is said in the Vedic literature (Narayana-Upanishad) that if one recites this mantra in deep meditation, sincerely and with devotion, one will achieve peace, fulfillment and self-realization. More, you will also achieve God-consciousness, an immediate awareness of the presence and grace of God in your life.
A Full Mantra Meditation Session
A full mantra meditation session consists of three steps: a) breath, b) mantra, c) breath.
A) Sit in a comfortable place with your eyes closed and your body alert and erect. Begin with focusing on your breath in silence, doing the breath concentration exercise described above, for about 5 minutes. This will still the mind.
B) Immediately after breath concentration, sitting in the same position, begin to repeat the mantra Aum Namo Narayanaya, out-loud and with devotion. Focus all of your attentive energy on the sound and the vibration of the mantra, hearing the mantra, and even feeling the soothing vibrations of the mantra in your chest near the heart region. Recite and meditate upon the mantra for about 10-15 minutes. This will awaken the self.
C) Then end the meditation session with another 5 minutes of silent breath concentration. Allow the purifying effects of the mantra to silently reverberate throughout your inner being.
A good meditation session lasts for about 20 - 30 minutes per day. It is explained in the Yoga literature of ancient Vedic culture, and by great Yoga masters throughout history, that if you can cultivate a daily meditation practice, and perform meditation with sincerity, humility, patience and with devotion, then one will achieve peace, fulfillment, wisdom and direct realization of God's presence in your life.
As is always true with any serious path of self-unfoldment, it is important to have experienced and trusted guidance in pursuing self-realization. In the Yoga tradition, such guidance is provided by the guru, or spiritual teacher.
The International Sanatana Dharma Soceity is here to serve you in your spiritual needs. If you would like further guidance with furthering your meditation experience, and with your spiritual progress, please feel free to contact us.
About the Author
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya is universally acclaimed as one of the world's most respected and qualified Dharma teachers and Hindu spiritual leaders alive today. He personifies what it means to be a true and authentic guru.
Dr. Deepak Chopra has exclaimed in 2002: "You've done truly phenomenal work teaching the pure essence of Yoga". In a similar manner, Dr. David Frawley has said about Sri Acharyaji, "Sri Acharyaji represents the Sankalpa [the will] of the Hindu people and the cause of Sanatana Dharma. I urge all Hindus everywhere to give him your full support, assistance, and encouragement in his crucial work. He needs and deserves our help."
Sri Acharyaji began his personal spiritual journey over 35 years ago at the tender age of ten when he read the Bhagavad Gita for the very first time. He coupled his decades of intense spiritual practice and study with advanced academic achievements, earning a B.A. in philosophy/theology from Loyola University Chicago, as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He has lectured on Dharma at dozens of top universities, such as Harvard, Columbia, Rutgers, Cornell, and Northwestern. He has also served as a consultant for such Fortune 500 companies as Ford Motor Corporation and Lucent Technology.
Explaining to his doctoral advisor that "I don't want to just study the history of religion…I want to make religious history", Sri Acharyaji eventually left academia to devote himself exclusively to spiritual teaching and to the preservation of the great tradition of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism).
Today, Sri Acharyaji occupies his full time teaching Dharma spirituality to diverse audiences. In addition to leading classes, satsanghas, seminars and lecturing on Sanatana Dharma widely, Sri Acharyaji is a renowned author, as well as a personal spiritual guide (guru) to a rapidly increasing following of enthusiastic students from both the Indian and the non-Indian communities.
Sri Acharyaji was the Resident Acharya (Spiritual Preceptor) of the Hindu Temple of Nebraska (2007 - 2009), which represents the first time in American history that a Hindu temple has ever made such an esteemed appointment. He is the Founder-President of the International Sanatana Dharma Society, a global movement dedicated to teaching Dharma in its most authentic form.
Sri Acharyaji is the real thing: an enlightened guru with the ability to deliver the highest wisdom and spiritual liberation to his sincere students.
Sri Acharyaji's teachings stress the achievement of enlightenment through the practice of meditation, Yoga, and directly experiencing the presence of the Divine. Another overarching aspect of Sri Acharyaji's teachings focuses on the importance of love, compassion and service toward all living beings.
Whether speaking to an audience of thousands, or having a heart-felt discussion with only one person, Sri Acharyaji vividly conveys a deeply moving sense of compassion, peace, humility, and spiritual insight that has endeared him to thousands of students and admirers throughout the world.
Some of his books include:
"Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way"
"Living Dharma: The Teachings of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya"
"Radical Universalism: Does Hinduism Teach that All Religions are the Same?"
"Taking Refuge in Dharma: The Initiation Guidebook"
"The Vedic Way of Knowing God"
"The Shakti Principle: Encountering the Feminine Power of God"
"The Art of Wisdom: Affirmations for Boundless Living"
His latest book Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way, is scheduled for publication in 2011.
For more information on following the life-transforming path of Sanatana Dharma, please visit his website:
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
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