Peace, as they say is acquired by constant meditation and meditation is one of the most difficult exercises to do. While we look for the silence and the stillness, its presence brings in a strange restlessness. The mind is jumping from one thought to the next forming a wall of a million thoughts.
The great masters have recommended Japa as a stepping stone in this direction. The need of the hour is to do something and yet, not to do anything and Japa solves this problem remarkably. Japa is the art of reciting a given sacred verse like a parrot initially, bringing discipline into our lives to set the rhythm. As the mantra grows on us, the mind dwells on the meaning of the sacred syllables and from here starts the journey towards the occult.
The world of ancient scriptures coupled with the constant awareness of the Japa brings advancements to the mind of a fascinating nature. The mystic world grows larger in size, turning more real as the mind journeys through the deeper aspects of our faith. Meditation takes on various meanings, various forms, various practices which are stomach churning to the common folk out there, but when divine understanding sets in, in the form of a capsule, the belief in the occult turns that much more real.
The great books have sacred wisdom, wisdom that is read by all but understood by only a few. It shakes the apple cart; it turns mindless rituals into a living science and opens the doors to the unthinkable. Spiritualism is a journey; the travel is the fulcrum while the goal is the hunger that keeps us balanced all the time.
Spiritualism hits us at some point; it’s tougher than holding a rotten job or having a nagging wife. It shakes our thoughts and mind and forces us to contemplate and think. And if we have to move forward, it is a path that makes us face our fears, adjust with the unfamiliarity and accept the uncertainty of life beyond with comfort. It brings us face to face with our irrational bias, with our thoughts that have been influenced through childhood, and with our lack of understanding of simple philosophy.
When we have shown signs of getting over fear, where bias has no room, when we don’t make a choice of what is good and bad just because we have been taught to do so, the mind is now ready to delve into the faith with more readiness and acceptance, the mind is now ready to meditate on the self and detach from the world around us. There is room for emptiness, the quality of thought has improved with constant Japa, and now the stillness has more meaning.
While the inner self is ready to go the Great ancients have devised a way to make the environment just as conducive. The most powerful and sacred spot where the air is purer and the ambience is much more powerful is the area [sthala] beneath a cluster of 5 trees like Banyan, Vilva, Peepal, Amla, and Fig trees known as the Panchavati, which works like a pranashala and capture the energy and houses it within the shade of this cluster. With a combination of a clearer mind, the need to contemplate and the purer air surrounding the aspirant, these are greater chances of reaching supreme bliss.
Clearly, Lord Rama lived in the perfect environment in the forest; the land where he stayed is now called Panchavati, while the original area is just the cluster of trees near his dwelling.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa took this a step further in terms of the perfect location for worship. Deep within the grove of Dakshineswar, near the Kali temple, Ramakrishna not only found himself a Panchavati, but was instructed by Bhairavi Brahmani to be seated on the sacred panchmundi aasan made of 5 skulls, following the practices of Tantra.
Meditation is not just the practice of being seated in silence, it is the art of contemplation and stilling the mind with deep and stable breathing to convert the physical body into a pranashala, a house of life.