Why Do We Need To Meditate?
—An Explanation By Ramana Maharishi….
Why does my mind keep running outside all the time—why does it not meditate by itself?
A devotee asked Ramana Maharishi:
“Why do we need to meditate? I say it is “my mind”—then should it not listen to me and meditate by itself when I tell it to? Why does it keep running outside all the time?”
Ramana Maharishi kept silent at that time.
At about the same time, a squirrel had given birth in the ashram, and unfortunately a few days later the mother squirrel got eaten by a cat. Ramana Maharishi took the job of taking care of the baby squirrels. He kept them inside a cage that was kept in the mediation hall. After a few days when everyone was sitting in the meditation hall, the same cat came inside. It so happened that the baby squirrels rushed out of the cage at the same time. Ramana Maharishi got up hurriedly, caught all the baby squirrels one by one and put them back in the cage and locked the door firmly shut.
He then turned to the devotee who had asked the above question and calmly said, “These poor little squirrels do not have the maturity to know the dangers of the outside world, that if it goes out, the cat will make a meal of them. When they get that maturity, they will go hide inside by themselves. Until they get that maturity, we have to keep putting them inside. It is the same thing with our mind. Our mind does not know that if it goes to the outside world, there is nothing but suffering. It keeps running out in ignorance. When it gets the maturity, it will withdraw within by itself. Until then, it is our job to put it inside with effort—which we do during meditation.”
There are different techniques given in different yoga (paths) for the withdrawal of the mind from the external world.
In Jnaana Yoga (path of Knowledge or path of Self-inquiry) the technique is viveka (discrimination) and vairagya (dispassion). Through intelligent, scientific, rational and logical analyses we come to the conclusion that there is no inherent joy, pleasure or happiness in the things and beings of the external world. With constant analyses in this way we develop vairaagya for ephemeral existence and are thus able to withdraw the mind within.
In Bhakti Yoga (path of Devotion), Japa is the technique for withdrawal of the mind. In the practice of japa the mind is trained to flow in a single theme of similar thoughts, like tailadhaaravat—a thin single flow of oil—avoiding all dissimilar thoughts. It helps the mind to withdraw from the external world.
In Ashtaanga Yoga (path of Eight-limb Yoga), the technique of praanaayaama (yogik breathing exercises) is prescribed leading to pratyaahaara (withdrawal of the mind from the external world).
Without the withdrawal of the mind from the external world and making it single pointed, contemplation on the higher Reality is not possible.
Concentration is the ability to hold on to one line of thinking or one thought, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. This one-pointed attention allows the awareness to pierce and enter the various depths of the mind.
Unless the mind is made single-pointed through the practices of Dhaaranaa (concentration) one can never attain the spontaneous state of meditation (Dhyaana and Samaadhi).