Light of the Spirit Blog

4 Questions on Meditation

MeditateQ: Where is the atma (soul) located in our body?

The atma is everywhere in the body and beyond as the basis of the aura. Therefore there is no need to put the attention on any particular point when we meditate. The heart and the third eye are recommended only because of the character of the energy (shakti) and bhava accessed at those places.

Q: Should we focus on the atma when we do meditation since the atma is a tiny part of the God or the Atman?

The object of meditation should be identical with the atma itself. Otherwise the meditation will not lead to atmic experience (atmadarshana) or knowledge (atmajnana). This is extremely important for the yogi to realize. Otherwise a great deal of time and even an entire incarnation can be wasted.

Q: Whenever I practice meditation by focusing my mind at the third eye chakra, unintentionally my upper arms and other limbs get moving without being able to stop it. In addition to it especially when I put my hands on top of my head I feel something like cool breeze flows on may hair. What does it mean?

I have known two or three yogis who experienced this. In my opinion it is an indication of the need for the yogi’s further purification. No one but someone who can observe this phenomenon firsthand can really advise as to its nature and remedy. Sometimes it is a purely neurological problem.

Q: When we meditate should we close or open our eyes? Which one is better?

Closing the eyes is best because it removes visual distractions and reduces brain-wave activity by about seventy-five percent, thus helping greatly to calm the mind. A person who cannot meditate with closed eyes is in a pathological condition and needs the attention of an adept yogi he knows personally (not someone at a distance like myself) or even a neurologist.

Read more articles on Meditation:

Succession from Saint Gregorios of Parumala

August 22, 2014
Saint Gregorios of ParumalaA Photo of
Saint Gregorios of Parumala,
The Wonder-Worker

Q: Is your Apostolic Succession from the Saint Thomas Christian Church in India?

Yes, we do have Apostolic Succession from the Saint Thomas Christian Church in India.

Our succession comes from Saint Gregorios of Parumala who with Mar Julius Alvarez consecrated Joseph Rene Vilatte at the order of Ignatius Peter III, Patriarch of the Syrian (Jacobite) Orthodox Church in 1892.

Archbishop Vilatte consecrated William Henry Francis Brothers in 1913. In 1967 Archbishop Brothers consecrated Joseph Anthony MacCormack.

And in 1977 Archbishop MacCormack consecrated Abbot-Bishop George Burke, our present Bishop.

For more information about the St. Thomas Christian Tradition, read the following articles:

Pure of Deed: Good Intentions Are Not Enough

Buddha meditatingA Continuation of “How to Expand Your Glory” from The Dhammapada for Awakening: Commentary on Buddha’s Practical Wisdom

“When a man is resolute and recollected, pure of deed and persevering, when he is attentive and self-controlled and lives according to the Teaching, his reputation is bound to grow” (Dhammapada 24).

We simply have to face the facts: in spiritual life as in every other endeavor there are thoughts and deeds that hinder and thoughts and deeds that help. The idea that anyone can at any time in any condition live The Life is inexcusably foolish.

Those who refuse to believe that right and wrong, good and bad, exist, or that those classifications apply to their personal life, should take up hobbies and forget Nirvana. Otherwise they simply make a mess of things and insult the Dharma.

Those who wish may pretend that purity of intention or “heart” are sufficient, but Buddha does not think so. He does not talk about theory, but says a seeker must be pure of deed. Words and feelings are not the issue.

A definition of purity: the Five Precepts

Right away the impure and the unqualified will demand a definition of purity so they can argue about it, knowing full well what they are and what they are not–and consequently are not going to be. So Buddha enunciated five precepts that will cover everything pretty well for those who want it covered. (Those who want a cover-up will of course supply their own in the form of misinterpretation of what one or more of the precepts really mean. Here they are:

  1. Abstinence from speaking untruth;
  2. abstinence from intoxication;
  3. abstinence from sexual immorality;
  4. abstinence from theft; and
  5. abstinence from taking life.

These obviously have very wide scopes, especially since the Pali terms and their Sanskrit equivalents have broad meanings. For example, lying can take many forms, even silence. A serious student of dharma will thoughtfully consider each precept in turn and honestly figure out all their forms and applications. I will make only this observation: Although many years ago I was told by a junior high school librarian that Buddha taught “moderation,” even I could see that moderation does not come in here at all. Total abstinence is the intent. Anything less is not the dharma.

Those who follow the precepts will thereby always be pure of deed.


Perseverance is included in “resolute.” Just why Richards uses that term here I have no idea, but four other translators understand it as meaning someone who acts with careful consideration, with due analysis before acting. In his teachings Buddha insists on the need for appropriate reflection before acting or speaking–a counsel we transgress untold times each day. But our folly increases rather than diminishes the relevance of Buddha’s admonition.


We have just considered what is meant by this, needing only to add that heedfulness should become continuous in our thoughts and deeds, “Watch yourself” being very good advice.


Many of us suffer from–and suffer because of–what I call the Pinochio Complex. Pinochio lived in the continual hope that one day he would wake up and find himself a real boy instead of a puppet. We think that if we just wait long enough and lounge around the vestibule of spiritual life (reading the magazines in the Dharma Waiting Room) we will one day find ourselves out on the track and on our way–and soon at the goal. We are not really lazy, otherwise we could not even sustain our life on earth, yet effortlessness appeals to us endlessly, especially in spiritual matters. Any yogi who adopts the soap-commercial line about how quick and easy–“just like magic”–it is to meditate and attain enlightenment will sell very well. His customers will not get anything in the long run, but maybe they did not want to, anyway.

Before we can know our true, inmost self, we must first gain control over our untrue, outer “self.” It is this control that is meant by “self-controlled.” And when we attain that control we restrain the false self in all its aspects. Moderation is not the purpose here, either, but eventual effacement so the true self can resurrect, ascend, and reign (the real meaning behind the same events in the life of Christ).

Living according to the Teaching

“Living the Dharma” is a better translation of dhammajivino. This indicates a life based fully on the precepts and extending to all the details that make up the Holy Life. It is much easier to believe, accept, discuss and even teach dharma, but Buddha tells us to live it. Excessive involvement in philosophy, theology, and scriptural (textual) study is an evasion of dharma in its only meaningful form: as a way of life.

Putting it all together, Buddha still says it best: “When a man is resolute and recollected, pure of deed and persevering, when he is attentive and self-controlled and lives according to the Teaching, his reputation [glory] is bound to grow.”

Dhammapada for Awakening coverThis article is an excerpt from The Dhammapada for Awakening: A Commentary on the Buddha’s Practical Wisdom, by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri), available at in print and Kindle formats.

Here are excerpts of some of the Amazon reviews:

★★★★★ Great Authority, Great Topic  

“There is no modern scholar who in my opinion has a better grasp of these topics than Abbot George. Highly recommended for the sincere seeker who is not content with labels, but wishes to understand. You will find no better living teacher than this one.”

★★★★★ THE translation you NEED to own!

“…I would go as far as to say this is a must read for anyone trying to further their understanding of not only the teaching of the Buddha but the teachings contained in Christianity and Hinduism as well…. If I was teaching a course on Comparative Religion, Buddhism or any religious studies course I would have this on the must read list.”

★★★★★ My summary of The Dhammapada For Awakening 

“…Full of no-nonsense wisdom along with the insights of a lifetime, I get a clear sense, not only of the Father’s personal knowledge, but also of how well he blends it in with the enduring knowledge of the Dhammapada itself. This is a valuable read.”

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Samadhi by “Giving the Life to God”: Ishwara Pranidhana

Ishwara PranidhanaSutra 23 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

23. Or by total giving of the life to God.

This could legitimately be rendered: “Or by total merging of the life with/into God.” This is NOT a mere: “Here, O Lord, take my life; I give it to you.” That is a noble aspiration if intelligent understanding is behind it, but otherwise it is a meaningless sentimental ramble. But Patanjali is speaking of the actual transformation of life which naturally culminates in union with God.

In the ancient yogic tradition–that of the Gorakhnath and the Nath Yogis–the process of transformation is called Samarasya, which means oneness–especially of essence–which results from the elimination of all differences. It is also the process of bringing the human being on all levels into a harmonious resonance with the Divine that will automatically result in perfect union with the Divine. It is not a making of the yogi into something, but a removal or erasure of all differences–which include conflicts–with the Absolute. When this occurs the individual is naturally merged in Brahman and his eternal, divine nature is revealed in that union. This is an extremely important point, for it not only determines the nature of authentic yoga, it reveals nearly all “yoga” to be artificial, and therefore of temporary effect, and ultimately productive of nothing but illusion and illusory change.

It will be helpful to look at some extracts from the book Philosophy of Gorakhnath by Askhaya Kumar Banerjea. In fact, I strongly recommend that you obtain a copy of the book and study it carefully, for it reveals aspects of yoga that were virtually unknown until Banerjea did his research and wrote the book.

First, there is the following from the Prefatory Note by Sri Gopinath Kaviraj, who during his lifetime was considered the greatest scholar of modern India:

“This Ideal is described in one word as Samarasya, which implies obliteration of traces of all kinds of existing differences, not by a process of transcendence as in Sankhya, or of sublation as in Vedantic Mayavada, but by a positive process of what may be described as mutual interpenetration. This ideal underlies the principle of unification between Purusha and Prakriti, or between Shiva and Shakti. The attainment of this ideal is the Supreme Unity of Parama Shiva, where Shiva and Shakti are one undivided and indivisible Whole.…

“A cursory glance at the ancient spiritual literature of India would reveal the fact that in almost all the systems associated with Agamic [scriptural] culture we find a strong insistence on the ideal of Samarasya in some form or other.…

“The Swacchanda-Tantra which is one of the earliest Agamas available to us furnishes a detailed account of the several stages in the process of the unification which ends in Supreme Samarasya. In this process seven grades are mentioned and described.…

“…Henry Suso, the disciple of the great German mystic Meister Eckhart referred to the union of the soul and God. He spoke of God as saying, “I will kiss them (the suffering saints) affectionately and embrace them so lovingly that I shall be they and they shall be I and the two shall be united in one for ever.” Elsewhere it is said, “The essence of the soul is united with the essence of the Nothing and the powers of the one with the activities of the Nothing.” (The Little Book of the Truth, edited by J. M. Clark, Page 196). This is exactly like the union (Samyoga) of Linga or Paramatma with Atma of the Vira Shaiva School.

“From what has been said above it is abundantly clear that in some form or other Samarasya is the ideal, not only of the Agamic Culture, but also of many other spiritual sadhanas.

“It now remains to be seen how the Natha Yogins conceived this highest consummation of Oneness. It is said that the true process of Samarasya begins only when the Sadguru’s grace has succeeded in effecting Mental Quiet (chitta-vishranti). The real sadhana cannot commence until the mind is rendered quiet and free from disturbances incident on a sense of identity with the body. The mind being at rest, the Divine Bliss and an experience of Pure Infinite Glory dawn on the soul which is awakened from its age-long slumber. The sense of duality disappears in the serene Light of Undifferentiated Unity. This Light, unbounded and one, brings out the powers of Consciousness. The Universal Consciousness being once awakened produces in the yogin a perfect knowledge of his own Body, which results in the illumination and stabilization of the Body concerned (pinda siddi).

“In other words this Body becomes immortal and immune from the ravaging effects of Time. The Yogi is now an adept (sidda). This Luminous
Form which is the essence of Chaitanya has to be made, as a further step, one with the Universal Uncreated Light of Paramapada already revealed. This is done through a continuous process of investigation into the real nature of the Atma. It is to be remembered that Samarasya should not be a momentary attainment, but a permanent possession, in the sense that no reversal (vyutyana) may ever occur. Before this state (nirutvana) is made permanent after Samarasya is once attained, some successive moments in the Supreme Experience are noted:

“(I) The Transcendental Reality is revealed as the Universe. In other words, the difference between what is Formless and what has Form disappears forever and it is co-eternal with the vision of the Universe in the Atma.

“(II) In the transitional stage there is a tendency in the Powers to move out. This has to be restrained and the Powers kept as contained within the Atma.

“(III) The Atma is realized as a continuum of unbroken Prakasha with
Supreme Dynamism.

“(IV) As a result of all this there is a unique Vision of Being which is unborn. This is the Supreme Integral Vision which marks the stage of Nirutthana. It is a Vision of Eternity when infinite varieties are seen as an expression of the One and when the One reveals Itself in every point of the Infinite.…

“The Natha ideal is first to realize Jivanmukti through pinda siddi which secures an Immaculate Body of Light free from the influence of Time, i.e. a deathless undecaying spiritual body and then to realize Para-Mukti or the Highest Perfection through the process of mutual integration (samarasi karan).”

Then we have this from the text by Banerjea:

“For the actual realization of this Ideal of Samarasa, the body and the senses and the vital forces and the mental functions have to be brought under control and thoroughly systematized and the intellect has to be refined and enlightened. The consciousness has to be elevated to higher and higher planes. The Yogi school asserts and practically demonstrates that man has got in his inner nature the capacity to exercise perfect control not only over his own physical and vital and sensuous and psychical nature but also over the forces of outer nature. It is also demonstrated that control over one’s own nature is the surest and most effective way to the development of power to control the forces of outer nature. Through self-control the will-power of a man is extraordinarily developed and this development has practically no limit. A man with perfect self-control can develop such will-power in himself as to conquer all the forces of the world. But bis nature becomes so calm and tranquil and so perfectly adjusted and harmonized and all-assimilative, his individual nature becomes so wonderfully attuned to the life of Cosmic Nature, that he usually enjoys the magnificent unity and beauty of all the diversified self-manifestations of Saccidananda in the world and seldom finds any occasion for exercising his personal will for bringing about any revolutionary change in this world-order. It is to be remembered that the human individuality and the cosmic process are evolved from and regulated by the same Supreme Power of the same Supreme Spirit.

“The Yoga-system, which is as old as the spiritual culture of Bharatavarsha [India] and which has been greatly expatiated and widely popularized by Gorakhnath and the monastic organization founded by him, is not conditioned by any metaphysical theory or any particular religious belief or creed. It is quite compatible with every philosophical and religious system. It is open to all those who earnestly seek for the fulfillment of their life and the attainment of peace and bliss and perfect adjustment and harmony and unity of all internal and external relations. It is the most scientific and comprehensive method of self-discipline for the attainment of perfect mastery over the body and the senses and the vital functions and the mental tendencies as well as the forces of external nature and for the progressive purification and enlightenment and universalization and harmonization of the human consciousness till the highest plane of absolute Samarasya is reached. The system never becomes too old and antiquated for any modern age and in any modern circumstances. One may be a man of action and an advocate of Karma-Marga, or a man of emotional temperament and an advocate of Bhakti-Marga, or a man of philosophic temperament and an advocate of Jnana-Marga, the Yoga system of self-discipline is suitable for all and it strengthens the character and develops and refines the mental and intellectual and spiritual powers of everybody to march forward more easily and quickly in the path he chooses.”

Previous: Who Is Nearest to Samadhi?
Next: Who Is God According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?

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Who Is Nearest to Samadhi?

nearest to samadhiSutras 21 & 22 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

21. It [samadhi] is nearest to those whose desire [for samadhi] is intensely strong.

Vyasa simply says: “They soon attain samadhi and the fruit of samadhi.”

Two interesting words are used here: samvega and asannah.

Samvega means intense ardor derived from long practice. So Patanjali is not saying that samadhi is near to those who for some reason or other have an intense desire that is just a flash in the pan. Rather, it is the ripening of the fruit of long practice, practice that has been moving the yogi closer and closer to the Goal. It is a matter of magnetism: the closer the object is to the magnet the stronger the pull toward it.

Asannah literally means “sitting near,” or near at hand, the implication being that samadhi is always present in potential form, but is “near” only to the ripened yogi who yearns deeply for union with God. It is not at all a matter of mechanical practice, or of a “super yoga” technique. It is in the will of the yogi, for that is the most divine force any of us possess.

22. A further differentiation (arises) by reason of the mild, medium and in­tense (nature of means employed).

There are three aspects to this: quality and intensity of practice, aspiration, and method. For optimum success we need the maximum amount of actual practice, the most fervent aspiration which impels us to the practice, and the maximum efficiency/effectiveness of the method(s) employed. A mixture of qualities of these three elements are a guarantee of lesser accomplishment. A wise yogi will consider this seriously and continually gauge the quality of these three aspects of his sadhana. Especially he will consider the inherent value of the method(s) employed.

Shankara says: “It is as in the world, where the prize goes to the one who runs fastest in the race.”

Previously: The Four Qualities Necessary for Samadhi
Next: Samadhi by “Giving the Life to God”: Ishwara Pranidhana

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The Surest Way to Realize God

Krishna-realize God at the time of deathThe easy way out

The attainment of liberation (moksha) is very simple in principle–and in practice, as well. Perhaps it is its simplicity that keeps people from managing it. However it may be, Krishna explains the whole matter in a very simple manner:

“At the hour of death, he who dies remembering Me, having relinquished the body, goes to My state of being. In this matter there is no doubt” (Bhagavad Gita 8:5).

This is quite straightforward and easy to understand. The moment of death is perhaps the most important moment in our life, equalled only by the moment of birth. Dr. Morris Netherton, formulator of the Netherton Method of Past Life Recall, has found that the most significant factors in our life can be either birth or death trauma.

The same would be true of positive experience during birth or death, which is why in India sacred mantras are recited during both times–at least by the spiritually intelligent. In this way the individual both comes into incarnation and leaves it accompanied by the remembrance of God. In a few verses we will see that the way to fix our consciousness in God will be the repetition of Om.

The principle

Sanatana Dharma is never a matter of “shut up and accept what I tell you.” So Krishna explains to us how it is that if we are intent on the remembrance of God at the time of death we will go to God.

“Moreover, whatever state of being [bhavam] he remembers when he gives up the body at the end, he invariably goes to that state of being, transformed into that state of being” (Bhagavad Gita 8:6).

All translators I know of have translated this verse to mean that whatever we think of at death, we will go to that thing, to whatever world in which it exists. The conclusion is then that if we remember God in life we will go to God at the time of death. Sounds, simple, easy, and certainly noble. But it is not true, as no simplistic formula is ever true. Sargeant alone, as far as I know, translates this verse correctly.

State of consciousness

It is not “who” or “what” we merely think of intellectually that determines our after-death state, but the state of mind and being, the bhava, that we are in at the time of death. A Brief Sanskrit Glossary defines bhava in this way: “Subjective state of being (existence); attitude of mind; mental attitude or feeling; state of realization in the heart or mind.” In short, it is our state of consciousness, and that is a matter of evolution, of buddhi yoga. Religiosity and holy thinking fail utterly; it is the level of consciousness that alone means anything.

When we die, we gather up all the subtle energies that comprise our astral and causal bodies–energies that ultimately are seen to be intelligent thought-force. Then we leave the body through the gate (chakra) that corresponds to the dominant vibration of our life and thought. If our awareness has been on lower things we will depart through a lower gate and go to a low astral world. If we have been spiritually mediocre (the ignorant call it being “balanced” or “following the middle way”) we will go to a middling world.

But those who have made their minds and bodies vibrate to Divinity through authentic spiritual practice, tapasya, will leave through the higher centers. Those who have been united with God even in life will go forth to merge into Brahman forever.

Cheating Death

Some people pay attention to the first part of this verse only, and think that they will cheat the law of karma which operates mentally as well as physically. They think that if at the moment of their death they will say a few mantras, then off they go to liberation (or at least heaven) no matter how they have lived their lives. Others, not quite so crass, decide that after having lived in a materialistic and spiritually heedless manner they will “get religious” during the last few years of their life and then be sure to be in the right state of mind and being as they die.

But there is no cheating or cutting corners. What we sow that we reap–nothing else.

The outspoken Ajann Chah, a meditation master of the Thai Buddhist forest tradition, said that many people pester their grandmother at the moment of death, calling out: “Say ‘Buddho [Buddha],’ grandma, say ‘Buddho’!” “Let grandma alone and let her die in peace!” said Ajahn Chah. “She did not say ‘Buddho’ during life, so she will not say ‘Buddho’ during death.”

Sri Ramakrishna said that even at the moment of death a miser will say: “O! look how much oil you are wasting in the lamp! Turn it down.” He also said that you can teach a parrot to constantly say “Radha-Krishna!,” but if you pull its tail feathers it will only squawk. In the same way, when death pulls our “tail feathers” we revert to our swabhava, our real state of mind and consciousness.

The lesson we must learn

There is a lesson here for all of us. As Jesus said: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” in the realms of higher consciousness, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Matthew 6:20, 21) even at the time of death.

“Therefore at all times remember Me and fight with your mind and intellect fixed on Me. Without doubt you shall come to Me. With a mind disciplined by the practice of yoga, which does not turn to anything else, to the divine supreme Spirit he goes, meditating on Him” (Bhagavad Gita 8:7, 8).

This is the necessary bhava we must cultivate at all times, fighting the battle of life in the conditions and situations dictated by our karma.

More from the Bhagavad Gita:

  • The Bhagavad Gita (arranged in verses for singing) — The text of the Gita posted at this page is arranged according to the meter of the original Sanskrit text so it can be sung–as it is done every morning in most of the ashrams of India.

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