How to Use Meditation for Inner Peace, Intuitive Guidance, and Greater Awareness
by Swami Kriyananda
I began meditating nearly fifty years ago, in 1948. Since then I haven't, to the best of my recollection, missed a single day of practice. No stern-minded self-discipline was needed to keep me regular. Meditation is simply the most meaningful activity in my lifeindeed, the most meaningful activity I can imagine. I seriously wonder how people live without it. Meditation gives meaning to everything one does. As India's best-known scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, states, "To the peaceless person, how is happiness possible?" Inner peace is like lubricating oil: It enables the machinery of our lives to function smoothly. Without mental peace, our emotions, and the various demands placed upon us in our lives, grind together and create inner stress, leading eventually to some kind of physical or nervous breakdown.
Psychometric studies have shown that meditation produces a healthy ego, that it expands a person's world view and enables people to cope better with the stresses of life. Meditators, in addition, have shown significant gains in overcoming depression, neurotic behavior, and feelings of social inadequacy.
Meditation develops concentration, so essential for success in every activity. Often I have found, by meditation-induced concentration, that I can accomplish in an afternoon what others have required days or even weeks to complete. In three days, some years ago, I wrote melodies for eighteen of Shakespeare's lyrics; in a single day, more recently, twenty-one of the thirty-three melodies for my oratorio, Christ Lives, which has had hundreds of performances in America and in Europe. In one day, recently, I wrote thirty-one melodies for an audiotape of my mini-book Secrets of Happiness; and in one day also, my entire book Do It NOW!, which has a different saying for every day of the year. (I did need a month, later, to edit the book for publication.)
Before taking up meditation, I would sometimes stare at a page for days before I could write down a single word. Even then, I doubted whether what I'd written was what I really wanted to say.
Inspiration, which many highly creative people consider out of their hands, can be summoned at will by one-pointed concentration, and by magnetizing the flow of thoughts and ideas in meditation.
Physical fatigue can be banished also, by putting ourselves in tune with inner abundance, flowing to us from infinity. The deeper this attunement, through meditation, the greater the abundance we experience in every aspect of our lives.
It was from a great master of yoga, Paramhansa Yogananda, that I learned the art and science of meditation. I read his Autobiography of a Yogi* in 1948, and was so moved by it that I took the next bus from New York City to Los Angeles, where he had his headquarters. The day I met him, he accepted me as a disciple, and I lived with him as a monk for the remaining three and a half years of his life. I have been his disciple ever since.
The path of yoga that he taught was not that of the physical postures of hatha yoga, but the ancient meditative path of raja yoga. Of raja yoga, the highest technique, mentioned in several places in his autobiography, is kriya yoga. This present volume is based on the ancient raja yoga traditions and on his teachings. It serves as a preparation also for kriya yoga initiation. My own spiritual name, by which I am known in many spiritual circles, is Kriyananda, meaning "divine bliss through kriya yoga."
The teachings of raja yoga are the best guide to meditation that I know. They are completely non-sectarian, and can be practiced with equal effectiveness by anyone regardless of that person's religious affiliation or lack of affiliation. The goal of these teachings is superconscious realization: the realization of who and what you are in your highest, spiritual reality. It is, as you can see, a very personal goal for each seeker. I have therefore tried to explain it in a spirit of humble respect for your own deepest spiritual needs.
This book is for several audiences.
First, it is for the beginning meditator that wants an easy-to-follow, self-consistent system based not on scholarship or on desultory reading, but on the practical experience of a great master, supplemented by my own personal practice and experience.
Second, I've written for experienced meditators, to bring them to a new and deeper level in their practice, and to offer them helpful pointers as well as answers to problems they may have encountered during their own practices.
Third, this book is for people who are on other spiritual paths but don't realize the importance of direct spiritual experience. As Paramhansa Yogananda put it, "Meditation is to religion what the laboratory is to science."
Fourth, this book is for people generally who, without necessarily realizing it, seek deeper meaning in life.
Fifth and finally, this book is for those who, while not ready to take up meditation, desire deeper understanding of the phenomenon of consciousness.
I have aimed to make this book as deep, and at the same time as clear, simple, comprehensive, and enjoyable to read, as possible.
I am aware that some readers prefer to omit God from any effort at self-improvement, including the practice of meditation. I show in this book that, without aspiration toward some higher reality, one is left meandering mentally in a labyrinth. Whether you call that higher reality God, Cosmic Intelligence, or your own higher Self, it is infinitely above your normal waking state of awareness.
I refer to God as "He" for the reason that, in English (as in many other languages), the masculine pronoun is also the impersonal. Something precious would be lost if we referred to the Godhead as It. For though God has no gender, God is not a thing. God is conscious; God knows us; God loves us. But one cannot keep on saying "God . . ." this and "God . . ." that without giving the impression that one is clumping about on stilts in an iris bed. Any attempt to be exact in one's references to God is almost laughable: How can the human mind even begin to grasp Infinity?
My practice has been, when referring to human beings as individuals, to use the impersonal pronoun, "he," in cases where my reference is to the forever-sexless soul encased in a human body. "It" obviously wouldn't do. To follow the modern convention of saying "he/she" would be stylistically cumbersome, and (worse still) would force the reader's attention to a lower level by emphasizing superficial and spiritually non-essential differences.
* At that time published by Philosophical Library, New York; later, by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles. Recently, the first edition has been reprinted by Crystal Clarity, Publishers, Nevada City, CA 95959, which also publishes most of my books.