Why meditate and how?

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The human mind is the grandest marvel of the entire universe. The entire knowledge, the entire mystery of the universe are hidden in its depths. It is important for us to understand how the mind functions. 

First, the mind is nothing like a computer—it is certainly not an object that we can manipulate as we please. The mind was already created when it came to us, and it has been influencing us well before we became aware of how it functions. The mind of an individual is also not an isolated unit. It is part of a vast cosmic mind and functions according to some specific universal principles. The mind of an individual receives impulses of cosmic energy, which are called prana.

Let us hear Swami Vivekananda on this: 

All minds are identical, and are at the same time different parts of a unique mind. Whoever knows a lump of clay knows all the clay in the universe. Whoever knows and controls his mind, knows the secret of all minds and has power of each of them.” 

Second, the mind operates in accordance with several cosmic laws. Patanjali’s yoga system, which codified the science of the mind, is known throughout the world and continues to attract much interest. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the twenty-first century will be more focussed on the science of the mind than on the science of substance. 

Let us try to understand the five fundamental principles of yoga.

1. The first principle is consciousness. This consciousness belongs to our true Self. In the Vedanta, the Self has many names: purusha, atman, jiva, etc. The rest – the material universe in its entirety and each individual mind – belongs to prakritiPrakriti is neither matter nor consciousness. It is a primordial ante-substance—substance prior to its manifestation. Our mind and all other matter are manifestations of prakritiPrakriti has no consciousness, but it is neither dead nor inert. It is an unconscious power that animates the entire universe. However, prakriti is not luminous in and of itself, and thus it is known only when the light of purusha falls on it. In contrast, purusha, or atman, is luminous on its own—it is luminosity itself. 

The distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness is fundamental for the practice of meditation. Only the Self is conscious—being unaware of this truth has the consequence of rendering all mental and physical activity unconscious. Yes, one can say that blood flowing through the body, the digestive process, the assimilation of nutriments by our body, and other physiological activities continue without our consciousness. Indeed, a large part of our mental life takes place automatically. But if this automatism also creeps into our meditation, how could we then hope to master ourselves, our emotions, our instincts, and our mind?

The more we establish ourselves in the Self, the more we become conscious. And, the more we become conscious, the more effectively we control our thoughts and our actions. This consciousness of the Self is essential in all aspects of our life. The Self is where our consciousness lies. We must open ourselves and allow our consciousness to flow, not only in the activities of the mind, but also in each activity of our daily life. The clearer and more pure our mind, the more intensely shines the light of the Self and the more our consciousness of the Self and our self-mastery are developed.