Fifteen Portals to the Supreme
*Meditation Techniques* *from Aparokṣānubhūti*
Obstacles in Meditation
Some of us have sincerely tried to meditate, but are unable to do so. One lady said, "The telephone rings each time I sit down to meditate." When I told her to switch it off, she said, "What if there is an important call!" The next two verses enumerate some of the obstacles one faces in meditation and how we should deal with them:
समाधौ क्रियमाणे तु विघ्नान्यायान्ति वै बलात् । अनुसंधानराहित्यमालस्यं भोगलालसम् ॥
॥ १२७ ॥
लयस्तमश्च विक्षेपो रसास्वादश्च शून्यता।
एवं यद्विघ्न बाहुल्यं त्याज्यं ब्रह्मविदा शनैः ॥
॥ १२८ ॥
(127-128) While practising samādhi there appears unavoidably many obstacles, such as lack of inquiry, idleness, desire for sense pleasure, sleep, dullness, distraction, tasting of joy, and the sense of blankness. One desiring the knowledge of Brahman should slowly get rid of such innumerable obstacles.
The ordinary man hesitates to undertake anything at the thought of possible obstacles. Others start, but withdraw when faced with challenges. The rare few feel challenged and enthusiastic when faced with difficult situations or obstacles, and put forth more efforts to reach the goal. Besides the worldly challenges that come to most of us (insults from others, loss of loved ones, natural and man made calamities, and so on) the meditator has to deal with specific obstacles in his practice. Some of these are listed
1. Anusandhāna-rāhityam — Lack of enquiry and contemplation: This could be due to insufficient clarity or doubts regarding the Truth. Listening (śravanam), study of the scriptures and deep reflection should be done before one sits for meditation. Even then sometimes one is just not in the ‘mood’, lacks inspiration or enthusiasm or the intellect just refuses to tune up. Prayer, chanting and reading inspiring scripture portions and the company of saints help us overcome this obstacle.
2. Alasyam — Laziness: Laziness is a big enemy for man.(alasyaṁ hi manuşyasya śārirasya mahāripuḥ) The thought will surely come, ‘Let me skip today’s meditation’. With determination and dynamism one can overcome laziness.
3. Bhogalālasam — Desire for sense pleasures: One man kept thinking of eating fruits whenever he sat for meditation. He concluded that his meditation had borne fruit! For many of us the inviting smell of coffee wafting from the kitchen or the pleasurable memory of biryāni eaten the day before is enough to distract the mind. Through discrimination and dispassion we can overcome this craving for sense pleasures.
4. Layaḥ — Sleep: The first and most common obstacle that one faces is that of falling asleep during meditation. Generally our body remains still and the mind peaceful only during sleep. Hence, when the body and mind are stilled to an extent, there is an auto-suggestion to sleep and before one realises it, one has nodded off. Also, when one is physically or mentally tired, one tends to fall asleep. A cold water shower, prāņāyāma and a well rested body and mind will help to overcome this obstacle to some extent.
5. Tamah — Dullness: It is the tendency of the mind to go into an unthinking state stemming from inertia. This is completely different from the state of total awareness and thoughtlessness in samādhi. One should pull oneself out of tamah by loud chanting, prāņāyāma etc.
Om. Swamini Vimalananda.,