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Concentration, relaxation and meditation

Last 200 years have changed whole life. The communication technology is so much advanced, the world is just a 'point & click' away. Yet, man has remained all the same craving for love and affection, aspiring to achieve a goal, trying to understand the world around him. The world is fun, challenging and at times horribly frightening. The other side of life produces stress, anxiety, worry and several psychosomatic disorders. Body and mind can tolerate these to some extent but after saturation point, they tend to go out of order. The perpetual stimulations of senses from out side world causes over dose of Beta state (activity state) of consciousness, in the brain. Brain has difficulty in switching to relaxed mode of Theta, Delta or even Alpha states. Meditation increases brain's capacity to produce these waves which restore health benefits. Normally, meditation refers to concentration exercises to harness mental faculties or to relaxation exercises that give a 'break' from anxiety and tensions. Devoted Christians conduct 'prayer' meetings. In Hindu act of worship, dhyana is done after invoking God. At the tend of pooja, a silent prayer (prarthana) is rendered. In Hindi, 'dhyan do' means 'pay attention'.

The success in life depends on the ability to follow a well chosen subject and to exclude others. Right choice of subject is important. Suppose the concentration exercises are done with a negative mentality of violence, hatred and worry etc., they lead to further mental weakness. As such, one should have a proper creative aim before embarking concentration exercises. Trataka (gazing a lit candle) could be strenuous to some and they can gaze at a fixed object in the eye level. A Buddhism inspired cult guru advocates 'empting' the mind to find peace. It would be a daily routine to 'remember what should be emptied'. This will never give real peace, but the other method of filling the mind with certain constructive thought is productive and leads to peace and happiness.

The brain waves:

There are four states in brain waves measured by EEG. Beta (14-30Hz), Alpha (8-13Hz,) Theta (4-7Hz) and Delta (less than 4Hz). Beta waves dominate in the waking state, Alpha in relaxation, Theta in mild meditation and Delta in deep meditation as well as in deep sleep. Alpha waves reduce unwanted stress level, Theta waves accelerate learning and healing process. Delta waves produce large quantities of healing and growth hormones. It does not mean that all the brain cells produce the above waves simultaneously. Some will be producing Alpha, some Beta etc., at the same time. The ability or otherwise to enter and maintain certain favorable frequencies by most of the brain cells determine the level of health. Meditation gives long term health benefits. Dr. Herbert Benson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School said, "All I have done is to put a biological explanation on techniques that people have been utilizing for thousands of years." Binaural Beats can also induce Theta state. Human ear can recognize sounds between 20 to 20000 Hz. If the difference in wave lengths between the two speakers is kept at a level lower than 20Hz, though the ears can not hear, the brain perceives the difference and responds by producing Theta waves. Mantras are useful in this respect.

The pitfalls in concentration...

Theta waves are associated with subconscious mind - the layer between conscious and unconscious mind. All the memories, emotions, expressions, aspirations and suppressed desires are held in this state. Activating Theta waves may also bring up suppressed memories, deep and painful experiences to the attention of conscious mind. They can give

deep insight to the personality as well as cause mental problems. It is like taking laxative once in a while to clean the body. If persistently "devils" creep from subconscious to conscious level, one should suspend his psycho venture and seek help from a qualified psychiatrist. One should not resort to this method of giving life to the "zombies" from the past to surface in conscious kingdom. Everybody is a blend of Jekyll and Hyde. The more one tries to understand his Hyde-side, he will become one! One should not try to take laxative every night, in his over enthusiasm to be super clean!

Relaxation -Modern methods & cults:

Concentration is the process of sharpening the mental faculties while relaxation is the one which gives a break to mental activity. There are several techniques like Jacobson's Progressive Muscular Relaxation, Cognitive Therapy, Electyromyographic BioFeedbacK and Thermal BioFeed bacK. In these processes the therapist and client work together to understand the source of problem but the method is practiced in client's own environment. PMR uses muscular exercises to create a more relaxed state of awareness. Yogabhyasa can also be employed for this purpose. This has good effect on psychosomatic (bodily problems triggered by anxiety). CT uses counseling and hypnotism to groom the client properly. EMG BFK and T BFK use electromagnetic and thermal feed back to locate the causes for his anxiety and worry. Drugs can also induce a state of relaxation. But, the effects wane away quite early compared to other methods and have severe side effects. During deep sleep brain cells produce Delta waves and so sound sleep is truly a good form of relaxation. In meditation, one can be in relaxed mood (as in sleep) and also be intensely awake. There is growing evidence that it is possible to attain Theta and Delta states and maintain consciousness. An experiment on the people practicing meditation for long period showed that they can produce Theta and Delta waves even while carrying out day to day affairs. Brain being very adoptive organ, would become proficient to produce Theta and Delta waves when the meditator is wide awake also, if the practice is done repetitively. Meditation practiced regularly will result in well being of body and mind. If one desires to sharpen his mental capabilities or achieve relaxation, he need not have to come near God. A beautiful picture, good music would of course assist him - just like yantras and mantras for a Hindu spiritual practitioner. As the modern man is moving away from our respective religious practices, he is unaware of inner peace. He wakes up on day and finds his life hallow. Keeping these people in view several cults, yogis have been in circulation. You may find many management gurus, breathing therapists, guitarist-meditation gurus these days. These programs from such cult gurus are mere personality development programs teaching concentration, relaxation etc., that you may get the next promotion! These cult gurus sprinkle some spirituality on these personality development programs. Some of the modern gurus introduce advanced methods like Kundalini (Meditation on chakras). I have seen all men and women between 16 to 60 years of age shaking hands, moving eye balls and their posteriors in all directions in the name of yoga in a certain program of a cult. Mind you, these devotees did not shed 200gms of fat even after prolonged practice! Exercises (be yoga or anything) should be devised on body needs, age of the participant, his in put calories etc., and there can not be same exercise 'effective' for all. One should be very careful when he selects a particular group.

Meditation in spiritual sense:

Meditation is same as concentration but the object of concentration is God. It works wonders for those who have devotion and love towards God. Otherwise, it becomes more strenuous exercise. Meditation need not give relaxation at all

times, it may even increase anxiety. It is easy to meditate (i.e. on God) when you receive a promotion. But, if you have missed your promotion, meditation becomes hard and increases your anxiety! Meditation should be ventured by those who have firm faith (achala vishvasa) in God. One young girl did meditation to such an extent there was no time for any other activity in her life! She discontinued her education also. Her parents brought her to a renowned psychologist. She discovered - it was neither love nor devotion that drove her into spirituality but an unknown fear. She was advised Jacobson's PMR. Now, she is a distinguished student of medicine. Once, I went to a modern spiritual cult gathering along with a friend. He had joined this cult because many luminaries in the society were also in that. I recognized many men who had amassed wealth by illegal means. There were several well placed low characters. One should verify the principles and should not give importance to the social standing of the guru or the fellow disciples. When I need a plumber, I would go for the one having necessary qualification and experience and care least if he is a PhD in philosophy! All the religions implore much importance on codes like morality, cleanliness, satya (truthfulness), ahimsa (non-violence), aparigraha (non-corruption), asteya (not stealing) brahmacharya (following the path of God), pranayama (proper breathing), pratyahara (control over senses), asanas (postures) etc., Without following these codes, doing pooja or meditation would be futile. If kundalini is awakened without these practices, it would play a havoc. For more details regarding moral codes and the procedures for meditation, learned readers may refer to: slokas 11 to 14, 16, 17 & 35 of Atmasamyama Yoga in Srimad Bhagawad Geeta; Slokas 30, 32, 36, 37 to 39, 46, 47, 52 of Sadhana pada & slokas 1 & 2 of Vibhuti pada in Patanjali Yoga Sutra; Ayat 153, Sura II and Ayat 43 Sura IV of Holy Quern; complete ch.5 & 6, v7 &8 ch.7, v15to 35 ch18, v35-46 ch26 of Mathew, v28 to 31 ch12 of Mark in the Holy Bible. Offering prayers is not limited to individual needs. Collective prayers are offered to Varuna, God of Rain by doing Parjanya Japa. It is inspiring to see all Muslims lined up in strict discipline to offer namaz. Prayers are also offered on behalf of sick and needy. Shanti kriya for planets should be undertaken on behalf of another only when that person is unable to do the same. When a shanti kriya is being done on behalf of another person, it is imperative the client participates within his own limitations.

Cult gurus and miracle men:

Buddhism rejects the idea of soul and super soul (God), even though it recognizes rebirth. According to Buddha, it is the consciousness which goes to next birth. Let it not mean that I am criticizing Bhagwan Buddha. There was much of racism, cruelty to animals, and atrocity by priesthood that made Prince Siddhartha to take up the great cause. Though Buddha antagonized Hindus, they did not crucify him but he is accepted as God Incarnate. Bouddhavatara is one of the dashavataras of Maha Vishnu. Many religions raise their prophets to God-head making other gods or prophets subservient to him. But in Hinduism, there is no God head above God. Hinduism does not call anybody 'son of God' or 'last messenger' Buddhism has two principles for meditation; Samatha - where one concentrates on inhalation and exhalation. This would merely give relaxation, according to Buddha. The other is Vipassana - concentrating on the sense of breath where it touches nostrils. Buddha held that Vipassana gives prefect bliss, Nibbana. One cult guru who heavily relies on Buddhism is propagating Vipassana method. Unfortunately, his followers do not know how Buddhism differs from Hinduism. After constructing many meditation centers that

look like the final abode of Ferrah of Egypt, now this guru is on run - due to scams in land acquisition and association with women bhaktas. He has claimed, he had read 5000 books and believed that Rampa was a real Buddhist monk! Compared to vast literature, 5000 books are nothing. I remember a poem by Vinayaka (Prof. VK Gokak) of who low he felt when he visited a library, realizing his limit of knowledge. Theravada pantha strictly follows the teaching of Bhagawan Buddha, as they are envisaged in Tripitika, that all should renounce the world and practice meditation. Since it is not possible to renounce the world by all, Mahayana pantha emerged basing that one can be in the world, yet should relieve the sufferings of others. Then came Vajrayanapantha (Tibetan Buddhism) also known as Heenayana, wherein mandals (charkas) were introduced to meditate upon. Devotion to one's guru, methods of worshipping the gurus, occultism were fused. Buddha said that one can become 'like God' (as there is no separate existence as God) by following right paths. Today Buddha adores many homes as fat (Contented Buddha) or Laughing Buddha. He also has become a fancy doll like three legged frog! What a bad notion to present the handsome prince - a model of mercy to all. Buddhism is a 'beautiful temple without God'. As such, if you believe in God (rather existence of God), you can not use the valuable services of this Buddhism inspired guru as there are no mantras, not even 'om' chanting, no visualization, no bhajans in this cult. Buddha was accepted as God Incarnate, but Hindus refused to follow a religion without God. Eventually, Buddhism disappeared from India! There is another cult with a patented breathing technique. With great difficulty I was able to learn about this 'patented knowledge'. Here, the guru extensively uses 'ujjayi' and 'brastrika' pranayama and he has introduced the movement of hands to regulate breathing. Actually, hands need not have to be used. If you remember your childhood, you would recall that breathing does not require any force from the body and breathing is the automatic response of the body to the growing need of oxygen. Brastrika is a forced breathing practice which may stimulate an attack in asthmatic patients. Another cult has quite good asanas but the food restrictions are hard to follow. This cult has less followers. The gurus in this cult take advantage of organizational weakness and cash in extra money for their personal needs, unfortunately. Yet another cult guru directly instructs his followers in Chakra meditation. In 90 days, the course produces yet another guru! There are lots of concentration exercises on charka and above the head (this 'above' is strange to Patanjali Yoga Sutra!). Chakra (Kundalini) Sadhana should not be ventured unless the other moral codes are practiced. It is important to note that no asana, pranayama and food are suitable to all. One man's food is another man's poison. One has to select suitable asanas, pranayama, food habits based on individual needs and capabilities. To learn asanas and pranayama,, you should approach a qualified yoga teacher and not a spiritual master as we go to several doctors for specialist advice. If one confines himself to a particular cult, he succumbs to "my great cult vs. rest of the world" syndrome. One should learn from the knowledge of great men. Watching religious TV programs, reading scriptures of all religions and cults will help you to develop more love towards God. Rigveda says, "Let noble thoughts come from all sides". Some of us are very much impressed by miracles. We measure a guru's spiritual power by his miracles. The disciples of Bhagwan Buddha showed him a bowl and said that a man had brought it down from a great height without touching it. Buddha took the bowl and

crashed it under his feet. He told them never to build their faith on miracles, but to look for truth in everlasting principles. By mastering the charkas, it may be possible to perform certain miracles (i.e. if the miracle maharaj is not performing any tricks!). Miracles were performed by Jesus Christ, Shirdi Baba for the benefit of common man. They never produced Rolex watches nor gold rings for selected few nor gave some miracle honey or bhasma just to impress their greatness.

Spiritual masters - where in my guru?

For spiritual upliftment, you need not have to attend very costly meditation workshops of any Babus of Bangalore nor spend a hefty amount on membership for DVDs of a certain Sun of God. You need not have to participate in yet another tonic yoga camp to gain a '90 day qualified guru' certificate. Just look around, do whatever you could have done - but did not do so far - in spiritual life. My friend who hails from an orthodox family of priests had forsaken his daily duties of pooja, sandhyavandana etc., and went to learn spirituality from a German music-guru. This happened due to ignorance of his heritage. Hinduism does not harbor enmity against any beliefs. You will not come across any new concept that has not been explored in the Hindu scriptures. The cult gurus are not criminals, they too work for the upliftment of the society. For spiritual advancement one should not limit himself to a single school of thought. Rig Veda says, "Let noble thoughts come from all sides." Learn yoga, panayama and such fitness stuff from a qualified and well-experienced yoga scholar than from a spiritual master. When you have a severe headache, you cannot concentrate on Katopanishad! Physical fitness has its own importance. To emphasize the need of swadhayana (self-study), Sikshavalli of Taittariya Upanishad (this part is known as Swadhyana Prashamsa) uses the word 'swadhyana' 12 times. Study the literature of all the religions, sects, cults, followings and great teachers of the whole world to make your own notes, than depending on the abridged versions of cult gurus. Bhagwan Buddha told his disciples to write his teachings in Pali, a language spoken by common men. "The Parses said, why is it that your master eats with tax-gatherers and sinners?'. Jesus heard it and said, "It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite virtuous people but sinners." (v.11-13, Ch.9, Mathew, Holly Bible). Now, you know where to search for your spiritual guru!