In real yoga, you directly experience what’s behind the changing body and mind.
You discover the part of you that’s not touched – and never has been -- by any thought, feeling or sensation. You are not your abuse. You are not your trauma. You aren’t even your joy and happiness. These pass through you.
You become a yogi when you ask the question – “If not these thoughts and feelings, then who am I?” This is meditation.
And you know you’re in meditation when you are simply witnessing thoughts, feelings and sensations.
Patanjali himself admits there’s no better way to experience meditation than by repeating a Sanskrit mantra – OM, in fact. (See Yoga Sutras 1:27 and my last blog!)
In the Sanskrit alphabet, each syllable is a mantra. Consisting of two parts – man (“mind”) and tra (“to expand”), mantra expands the mind. It’s like a stone you drop in a pond. Or a feather floating down from space. When you think or speak a mantra, you become conscious of seven distinct layers of the mind:
- Manas = Instinctual body
- Manas = Instinctual breath
- Manas = Instinctual mind
- Buddhi = Discriminative intellect
- Smriti = memory
- Ahamkara = ego
- Purusha = self
In my last blog, I taught you the right way to chant OM. Now practice repeating it at least 27 times. (108 times is preferable -- the reasons to be shared in a future blog! -- but any multiple of that number can also work.) This practice will allow you to discern the seven layers of the mind yourself.
You’ll first notice your body feels uncomfortable. You may not have observed the pain in your hip, for example, until you decided to do this exercise. Or your body may release spontaneous “jerks.”
You may also notice that your heartbeat slows down. Your breath has become deep and full. Your fight-or-flight response relaxes.
By repeating the mantra, you’ve encountered the first layer of the mind, called manas. Manas is the part of your mind that controls your body, breath and instincts.
Chanting the mantra has awakened a conscious perception of what you had previously been unaware.
Then as you continue chanting, a doubt may appear. “Why am I wasting time doing this? Is this working? I’m feeling bored.”
The next layer of your mind has become conscious. If you don’t react to it, you can see that there’s a part of you that labels, discerns and decides. This is called buddhi, the discriminative intellect.
What allows you to discriminate is prior experience. You know something is hot because you’ve experienced heat before. This is because you can remember.
As you continue to chant the mantra, memories may surface – of all kinds and varieties. Your awareness can literally be swept away by memory, or smriti, the next layer of the mind.
The only way you can wake up from the sleep of memory, is to become conscious of the part of you that’s recalling the past. It’s your sense of “I” or ahamkara, the next layer of the mind, that wakes you up.
As you continue chanting, you may suddenly become aware: “I am chanting this mantra.”
Deeper than memory is the sense of “I” or ahamkara. It’s the subjective part of your mind/body, known also as ego. It’s the part of you that says, “I feel.” “I think.” “I remember.” “I exist.”
Then if you’re lucky, something amazing happens. The “I” drops away. Yet there is still awareness. There is Being. There is Presence. This is the Self, described by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as Purusha or drastuh, “the Seer.” (see Yoga Sutras 1:3)
There’s a part of you that is simply witnessing the cycle of the mind, which fluctuates from feeling, thinking, remembering, and asserting separation. It was there when you were born. It’s with you now. And it will be there when your body drops.
The Purusha is eternal, non-changing, being. Its realization is the goal of yoga.
But just as soon as you’ve experienced this sublime state, the “I” re-appears. Your hip hurts again. You remember you’re chanting this mantra. You decide it’s time to end.
(For more detailed instruction in the use of Sanskrit mantra for meditation and attaining the goal of yoga, enroll in my NEW online course -- Feeling the Shakti of Sanskrit. You'll discover how even chanting the 50 syllables of the Sanskrit alphabet leads you to deep meditation. To sign up, visit: http://www.SanskritCourses.com/ftsos/)