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Re: advice on "dhyAna" for a novice?

From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian (ramakris_at_erols.com)
Date: Thu Aug 27 1998 - 15:21:34 PDT

Mani Varadarajan wrote:

> These days, the only time I seem to have for any
> sustained contemplation is during my morning
> and evening sandhyAvandana.  Even these are
> limited to a few minutes, the period during
> which I do the gAyatri or ashTAkshara japa.

I know exactly what your situation is, being in it myself. 

> I would like those among you who engage in
> any kind of contemplation, no matter how "simple",
> to give me suggestions on (a) how to concentrate,
> and on (b) what to concentrate.

This is a technique which has helped me, YMMV. In my reading of the
bhagavad gItA, for a long time I did not pay too much attention to the
phrase samprexyaM nAsikAgram svaM dishashchAnavalokayan.h (chapter 6).
Similar phrases are to be found in many other places including
upanishhads. Sha.nkara's commentary on this verse is very useful, in a
practical sense. He points out that it's not gazing at the tip of nose
which is enjoined, but just the convergence of sight. 

After contemplating on sha.nkara's explanation, I observed that even
when the eyes are closed (in meditation), the eyeballs move around and
this state of a "convergence of sight" is not reached. In the beginning
I found it useful to keep my eyes slightly open and direct the gaze
downward, _as if_ looking at the tip of the nose, so that a "steady
gaze" can be obtained. Also, in the beginning some conscious effort may
be necessary to make the gaze steady. But later it becomes more natural.
For some reason looking down helps make the gaze steady, but looking
straight ahead the eyeballs tend to move around. Making the gaze steady
helps calm the mind. This helped a whole lot for me. 

This is not the same as some haTHa yoga practices where the person
stares at some thing without blinking for a long time. I have tried it
and it only dulls the mind and makes it sort of blank. Does not serve
much purpose IMHO. What I mean is holding the gaze steady is not the
purpose. However, holding the gaze steady _during_ contemplation on
Ishvara helped me a whole lot. If you try this out, one caveat. When
looking downward there is no need to exactly look at the tip of the
nose. There will be one particular position of the eyes where you'll
notice no discomfort and also the gaze becoming steady. Also don't force
things too much. Otherwise you may get some headaches. Holding the gaze
steady can be practiced at other times also. Eg, while walking etc.

Rama