Two Key Words for Meditation

Two Key Words for Meditation

Both Vishnu Sahasranama and Bhagavad Gita provide a succinct meditation technique 

The standard question many people ask at the end of any discourse on Bhagavad Gita is:

Who is the doer – experiencer that Gita repeatedly mentions,
if it is not 'Me'?


The answer that any learned expositor would provide is: It is the one who thinks he is the doer- experiencer.

 Transactional and Transcendental 

This brings to mind the beautiful quote from Vishnu Sahasranama (sloka 2) that says,  

 ūtātmā paramātmā cha
muktānām paramāgati|
avyaya puruha sakshi
kshetragno akshara eva cha.


The words 'eva cha' appear twice in the entire Vishnu Sahansranama. 'Eva' means 'only' in Sanskrit, with a focus on the context. 'Cha' is the connective article 'and' or 'also'. One of the most enlightening commentaries of Adi Sankara is on Vishnu Sahasranamam. Sankara remarkably delves deep into the context, and gives special meanings to the above two words eva and cha. Vishnu Sahasranamam provides multifarious ways in which you can think of God. And in the above sloka, it says kshetrajnah as well as akshara

Kshetra is the material universe born of prakriti and its creations. Kshetrajna is he who is aware of this kshetra. We as individuals seem to be aware of all the kshetra around us, so he agent of this awareness in us is kshetrajna. Akshara is the imperishable self within us who is only a witness to whatever happens, but nothing more. Vishnu sahasranamam says God is ultimately both kshetrajna and akshara

The text of Vishnu Sahasranamam adds the epithet 'eva cha'. 'Eva' to denote that the two are certainly one, but 'cha' to denote the definite difference between them in the transactional world. It is wise to remember the difference between the 'transactional' world and 'transcendental' world. When we go to a temple, we worship the deity we see there. In another temple, we worship another deity, perhaps with a different name. In the transactional world, the two deities are different.

But that single moment when we realise that both the deities are the same in reality, we have touched the 'transcendental' world. The subtle difference between kshetrajna and akshara can be understood with reference to the nuances of the concept of Self. We have a psychological self, with body and mind, all amenable to the medical world. We have a jiva because of which we are alive. Vedanta says there is an internal Self which is nothing but the Absolute Supreme. We do not realise this. 

The jiva which has come to reside in this body, wrongly identifies with the body mind complex and the outer physical self, and this is what creates the problem.

We feel the pleasures and pains of the body because of this. But if the jiva identifies with the Absolute Eternal Supreme (which is everywhere and so also within us), then we are the real Self. This is the real Self which is declared by Vedanta to be 'aham brahma asmi'.  

Now the kshetrajna is what operates when the jiva identifies itself with the outer self. When the jiva identifies itself with the Supreme Self, then it is 'akshara'. That is the difference.


Practising the Oneness 

How do we get this practice of identification with this outer self or the inner self?

 Bhagavad Gita gives a beautiful hint in sloka 5-13, beginning
sarva karmani manasa sanyasyaste sukham vashi.’


The sloka means that the self-controlled yogi, doing nothing himself and getting nothing one by others, rests happily in God. He mentally relegates all actions to the body with nine openings. The key word here is 'aste' (sanyasyaste in above). Aste means one who 'sits' or is 'Stationed'. We are supposed to be 'sitting' in this ninegated body. 

But we never realise, or even say we are 'sitting' in this body, because we never feel we are different from the body. We may say we 'sit' on a sofa or chair, but we never say or feel that we 'sit' in the body, because intrinsically we feel we are one with the body. Now the true Vedantic practice starts by thinking, and sustaining that thought, that we are a 'resident' of the body, and we are 'sitting' in the body as a resident. Gita advises us to practice this thought as a strategy for spiritual growth. In sloka 6-19, it advises that as a light does not  flicker in a windless place, such is the picture of the disciplined mind of a yogi practicing meditation on God. 

What are you supposed to think steadily without flickering?

Again, Vishnu Sahasranama comes to help. With a bang, it starts:

'Viśvam viṣṇur vahakaro bhūta bhavya bhavat prabhu'.


Visvam is indicative of the immanence of the Absolute, and the second word Vishnu is indicative of the transcendence (beyond every frontier) of God. He is the master, and beyond the past, present and the future. He is the creator and destroyer of all existences in the universe. He is the essence who supports or sustains or governs the universe. So, when you meditate, hold on to these two characteristics of Immanence and Transcendence.

Coupled with the conviction that you are 'sitting' as a resident in the body, it takes you on the rare spiritual journey to the realisation of the Absolute!

Chinmudra Posture

Countless seekers practise this meditation with chinmudra posture of the fingers. As readers may know, the jiva or kshetrajna is symbolically represented by the index finger in our right hand. The index finger indicates the jiva because it is the index finger we use to point out ourselves, or to point out another person before us.

The absolute brahman is indicated by the right thumb and so it represents the 'akshara'.

When the right thumb and the (right) index finger are made to touch each other's tip, with the other three fingers (sattva, rajas and tamas) not in touch with them, that is what is called jiva-brahma aikyam, known in yoga sastra as chinmudra.

-        Prof V. Krishnamurthy

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