It is very simple. There are many practices and types of meditation, there are various techniques and methods, but the first aim of meditation is to make the mind calm and peaceful. Through meditation we are also developing our concentration, which is essential in any field in this world, because without concentration we cannot do anything in life. First of all, we learn to sit and focus on one point. As a result, our mind becomes more open and efficient. We know that when we are calm and thinking clearly we are better able to make good decisions. Naturally, life becomes more enjoyable when we have a relaxed and happy mind. A peaceful mind is a creative mind. If you are meditating you will have clarity of mind. So meditation is an important tool that can help us in life.
Meditation is known in Sanskrit as Dhyana. Dhyana has meaning, it is a very complex matter, but here I am explaining everything in very simple terms, particularly for people in the Western world.
There are many questions arising in our mind. Why are some people rich, and others poor? Why are some people interested in smoking and drinking, whilst others are not? Why isn’t everyone equal? In one family, where there are several children, we can always see that each child is different. None is the same. There are so many differences in our thoughts.
In our daily lives we find ourselves having to face much stress, pain and suffering. If we want to take steps to overcome our problems, we can start to practise meditation, and then we will be better able to understand the cause of our suffering as being restless mind.
In our Indian scriptures, Bhagavad Gita, it is written that restlessness of mind is the unsteady stage of prana. Prana has two states, or conditions. The first state is constant – we call it Brahman, or Absolute. The other is unsteady, or restless. When prana becomes restless, we call it chitta, which can be roughly translated from Hindi and Sanskrit as ‘mind’, or ‘mind-stuff’. If mind is restless, creating too many waves, and there are many subjects in our mind, we experience it in the form of stress, pain and problems. The restlessness of mind is present in everybody to varying degrees.
Generally, we say that we cannot stop mind from thinking, it is not so easy, because mind is very fine. So our ancient masters or yogis realised that mind and breath are connected. Breath is more gross than mind, so in order to begin to settle the mind we can start with a practice to control our breath. Then we will begin to notice that mind will automatically become calm and peaceful.
Finally, we have to understand that the question, “What is the aim of meditation”, is closely linked to another question, “What is the aim of our life – or what is the meaning of our life?”
There must be some reason that everybody is born and after will die. Are we only living to eat, drink, sleep, have a job and a family, or is there some other purpose for our existence?
We all want to find happiness. We are searching for peace and want to experience ecstasy. We are searching for these things in the external world. But it is an inner matter. In yogic language, we give an analogy. We say that the ordinary person is like a child whose parents are separated and living in different places. We are living with our mother and sometimes visiting our father, and we feel torn between two worlds. We do not feel complete. In the same way we are wandering here and there in this material world and do not find satisfaction or happiness. By misunderstanding or confusion we think we can find peace somewhere outside. But now, we have to make an effort to bring our parents together. When we start to make progress in meditation, mind becomes a little more quiet, and the physical body becomes relaxed. Finally it is possible for us to find inner peace.