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Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.

Rao MD 1

Crash Course on
Meditation (Dhyana Yoga)
A Practical Manual

Dedicated to
Sri Rama Bhaktaagresara, Bhakta jana paripaala, Aashrita
jana vatsala
Sri Anjaneya Swamy
Bhakta Paramaanuvu
Sudhakar V.Rao MD.
Abridged from a previous 7-day course hosted and conducted by
The Author.
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 2

Meditation, also known as Dhyana yoga is best achieved in eight steps. These eight steps
described by Sage Patanjali constitute Ashtanga yoga. They are considered as the eight
rungs of the ladder to reach the pinnacle of meditation called Samadhi.

The eight limbs as described in the Yoga sutras (aphorisms) of Patanjali are: Yamas
(universal morality towards self,) Niyamas (morality towards others), Asanas (physical
yoga poses), Pranayama (control of prana through breath), Pratyahara (control of senses),
Dharana (concentration and stillness), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi

Yamas and Niyamas are a way of behavior modification, necessary for success in

The five yamas are:

Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya
(celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-covetousness).

Niyama (universal morality towards others) consist of:

Shaucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapa (Austerity), Swaadhyaaya (self-
education), and Iswara Pranidhaana (meditation on the Divine).

Session 1:
The first step is to decide the exact place and time for meditation in your own homes. If
any of you need any assistance I shall be glad to assist by visiting your home (free!!!!!
No charge!!!!!!!) Please do practice what we learnt in the class. Fix a place, fix a time
and stick to it! This is the first step for success in meditation.

Here is a brief recapitulation what we learnt in the first session.

Light up a diya or a candle. If you wish, you can choose a picture of your ishta devata
(favorite form God) or any picture as the object on which to meditate. This helps

The steps we talked about and practiced are as follows:

1. Sit down and relax all the muscles starting from head all the way down the feet. Close
your eyes and breathe deep and slow. Inhale slowly, hold the breath for a few moments
and exhale slowly, the way we learnt in the first session. Do this about five times
concentrating on the breathing. Let all the muscles relax. You will feel and hear your
heart beat slow down.

2.Stand up and do the stretching exercises we learnt. Do not push yourself to the point of
pain. Do only as much as you can comfortably. The idea is to stretch the muscles.
Gradually you will be able to increase the stretching, the key is persistence and sticking
to the routine. If you need to you can hold on to some sort of a support like the arm of a
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 3

chair or corner of a table etc. the idea is to be conscious of your entire body and
especially the spine.

3. Do the Surya namaskars. Again be careful not to hurt yourself. In the beginning just
do only one or two cycles. See the picture below. Do not overstretch, especially
in the second step when you bend backwards with arms outstretched and
palms held together.

4. Sit down and relax. If you can sit in padmasana (lotus pose),
it is good. Otherwise just sit up with spine straight, so that the
Kundalini Shakti (power) will travel upwards easily. Keep the
neck straight. Start breathing slowly in and out.
4. Sit down and relax. If
you can sit in pad asana
(lotus pose), it is good.
Otherwise just sit up
5.Find the frequency of the "Om" ()or the soundwithgiven to straight,
spine you by thesotechnique you
learnt in the class. Chant Om/sound in that frequency with closed eyes and try to
that the Kundalini
concentrate in between the eyebrows. Five to ten times is fine. You can do more if you
have the time. Make sure your chant arises deepShakti (power)
from the will
belly button.
travel upwards easily.
Keep the neck straight.
6.Do the pranayama as long as you can following
breathing slowly in
technique you learnt in the class. You will feel
and out. in
the lower back and you will also perspire some. This is
normal and this means your pranayama is successful. If not
you may have to work at it. Relaxing all the muscles and
keeping up the spine straight while breathing is the secret!
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 4

7.Think of a word or a mantra and start repeating in low tone or whisper 108 times or
longer. This is called Japa. It is recommended you get this from your teacher.
Try to focus your attention between the eyebrows where the Aajna chakra is located. The
mantra recited out loud or mentally, elevates us to a telepathic state and beyond that state
which is transcendental.

There are four kinds of Japa or Meditation:

1.Vaikhari: reciting mantra aloud.
2.Upaamsu: whispering or humming.
3.Maanasika: the mental repetition of the mantra.
4.Likhita: when mantra is written 108 times or in multiples of 108 times.

Beginners should use chanting in low tone (Vaikhari type).

As a rule the practitioner receives a Mantra from a Guru (a spiritually liberated individual
with sublime thoughts-) beware of impostors who charge you enormous
amounts of money or ask favors!!)

It is important to adhere to one mantra. Do not keep changing this.

Japa is an exact science. For this purpose, one can use a mala, a string of prayer beads
like a rosary. It consists of 108 beads. You may use one with only 54 beads, but I
recommend one with 108 beads.

This will increase the stage of Dharana (one-pointed concentration of mind)

8.AS you increase dharana you will automatically stop whispering and uttering the
mantra or the word mentally, while your concentration is in between the eyebrows and
your eyes are closed. The muscles are relaxed and the heart rate is low.

9.Then you will enter the stage of dhyana (meditation).

Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 5

You will learn more in the next session.

Sudhakar Rao

Session 2:
I want to keep these write-ups short so that you will not be tired of reading. Yet this
information is essential to reap the full benefits of the classes.

The seven sessions are meant to give us an insight into the seven steps of Patanjali Yoga.
The first class was an overview so that you could have something to practice and be
steady on the path of Dhyana yoga or meditation.

Remember, sticking to the routine and commitment is the secret of success.

After being in practice of yamas and niyamas, the asana or the posture is the third step.
Today we practiced the entire seven steps but paid more attention to the asana. It is the
third rung on the ladder of practice of yoga. Asana also means a seat and this is
appropriate because you have to sit before going into meditation. The muscles are all
relaxed and if you stand, you tend to fall and if you lie down, you tend to sleep. A proper
asana helps you remaining conscious and yet be in meditation. Remember, Meditation is
heightened awareness. . Asana is the initial step in Yoga, whereby the bodily structure is
set in unison with the cosmos. .

Most important step in asana is to sit comfortably. There should not be any discomfort,
pain or tightness of muscles. But there are some minimum requirements, although there
are some allowances.


1.You should not sit on the bare ground, because the earth is a conductor of electricity
and the energy liberated during meditation may leak out, and this may become a reason
for the temptation to discontinue your sadhana or practice. A non-conductor of electricity
is good material to spread on the ground. In olden days a dry grass mat was used, called
the Kusa Asana over which a deerskin, and a cloth, both non-conductors of electricity,
were spread. You don’t have to spend a lot of money buying these. An ordinary thick
piece of cloth or cotton mattress will suffice.

2.The Gita prescribes that the seat should not be too high or too low. You may fall down
if the seat is very high, and if it is too low, there is the likelihood of insects and reptiles
creeping into the seat.

3. The spine, too, should be kept straight. It should be at right angles to the base. One
should not be leaning against any support or be bending forward. The reason is that
if the spine is straight the nerves get relaxed and no part of the body
exerts influence on another part. The flow of Prana through the nerves is
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 6

smoothened. There is a free movement of energy in the body when the

whole system is in a state of relaxation. This also helps the Kundalini
Shakti travel upwards through the Sushumna nadi easily.

Padmasana Siddhaasana Swastika asana

4. When you sit down, the legs could be positioned in one of three or four ways. There
are Padma-Asana, Siddha-Asana, Swastika-Asana and Sukha-Asana. We reviewed these
during the class. Choose the one most comfortable for you.

What if you have trouble with the knees? You can then sit on a wooden chair with a
flat cushion and a straight back. In the beginning you may rest your spine on the back
of the chair but not lean on it. The back of the chair should be straight and not curve

The purpose of a fixed Asana is to enable the mind to slowly forget that
there is a body at all. The body will attract attention, somehow. But the mind
cannot, in meditation, afford to remain conscious of the body. You will
gradually lose sensation of the limbs. You forget that you are seated, that
you have a body or limbs. The first sign of successful practice in Asana is a
sense of levitation. But this takes time and depends on how often you
practice sitting in the pose daily. The Prana is so harmonious that it does not
create sensation in the body. It is disharmony that creates sensations of
things. When the highest harmony is reached, there will be no external

With extremities locked; with fingers kept one over the other in gnana
mudra, with spine straight; head, neck and spine in one line, and at
right angles to the base of the body; the Asana is perfect. The Asana
should be effortless. If you have trouble with asana, sit in the pose and
then take long deep breaths and relax all the muscles while
contemplating on the object of meditation, your ishta devata (beloved
form of God.) Close your eyes and concentrate between the eyebrows. .
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 7

This technique invariably works well. This is my trick and has helped me
immensely in the beginning stages of my dhyana several years ago.

Choose the seat facing east or north. As we learned in the earlier class the magnetic
forces of earth, according to Vaastu help the body immensely. The correct time to do this
is early morning. The room temperature should be comfortable, not too hot or too cold.
There should be no other noises or distractions. Do not use a timer. Close the door of the

When you sit in the proper pose, with a calm mind, there is harmonious flow of the Prana
through the nerve-channels. You are at the gates of meditation. While in Yama and
Niyama you are in preparation, in Asana the gates of Reality are reached, though they
are yet to be opened. The soul is there ready to meet the Sovereign of the universe. This
is the first step in actual Yoga.

Session 3
After learning about the asana, today, we concentrated on learning about Pranayama or
regulation of vital energy. I do want to keep these communications short, but in the effort
to make it brief, I do not want to overlook important practical points. So if these write up
seems very long, please bare with me.

The practice of Asana and Pranayama go together. There are different types of
Pranayama. We need to learn only one method, which is easy and beneficial towards
achieving our goal of learning meditation. I shall therefore summarize in this short write
up, the essential and practical points we covered today in the class.
Prana or the vital energy acts as the medium between the mind and the body. It pervades
the entire physical system and is subtler than the body but grosser than the mind. It
can act but cannot think.

We learnt that body without this energy is in the state of tamas (laziness, mode of
ignorance or darkness) and needs the energy to become active. Being the medium
between mind and body, it is restless like the mind. Prana is always in state of Rajas
(mode of passion). Controlling Prana therefore helps in controlling the mind and puts the
body at ease. For practical meditation, we need not know all the details of the 5 kinds of
Prana. We dealt with this in the slide presentation and the lecture on meditation.
Here are the practical steps we covered today in the class:
After the initial preparation of relaxing the muscles and sitting in the asana you
learnt, once again, clear your mind of all thoughts and tensions. Take slow deep
breaths relaxing all the muscles, starting from head and neck all the way down to
the toes. Steady should be the posture of sitting, free from emotions of mind, and slow
should be the practice of Pranayama. The breathing should be mild, so that it does not
produce any sound. One should not sit for Pranayama in an unhappy condition of
mind, because a grieved mind creates unrhythmic breathing. No Pranayama should be
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 8

practiced when one is hungry or tired. When everything is calm, then one may start
the Pranayama. Be seated in the pose of Dhyanasana with gnana mudra, relaxing
the shoulders, arms, forearms and hands.

In the initial few minutes, just breathe regularly and slowly. There
should be no retention of the breath, but only deep inhalation and exhalation.
Concentrate on breathing slow. The Prana has first to be brought to accept the conditions
that are going to be imposed on it, and hence any attempt to practice retention should be

The next stage is going through the three phases of Pranayama. These are: Pooraka,
Kumbhaka and Rechaka. Pooraka is the intake of air as much as you can comfortably
by deep inhalation. . The next stage is Kumbhaka, retaining the air in the lungs as long
as you can without becoming uncomfortable and without a sense of suffocation. . The
third stage is Rechaka or slowly exhaling out.

Here is how it is done:

Exhale with a slow and deep breath. Close the right nostril with the right thumb.
Inhale slowly through the left nostril. Close both the nostrils with the thumb and finger.
Hold the breath as long as you can. Then release the right thumb from the right nostril,
and exhale very slowly through the right nostril. Then, reverse the process commencing
with inhalation through the right nostril. This is one cycle of pranayama. The proportion
of inhalation, retention and exhalation is supposed to be 4:16:8. If you take four
seconds to inhale, you take 16 seconds to retain, and 8 seconds to exhale. . There
should be no haste in increasing the time of retention. Whether you are comfortable
during retention or not is the test for the duration of retention. There should be no
feeling of suffocation in retention or headache or tightness in chest etc. The rule
applicable to Asana is valid to Pranayama, also. They both should be Sthira and
Sukha, (easy and comfortable,) without strain or pain of any kind. They both
should be slow and gradual in progress. The length of pranayama should
be increased gradually.
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 9

Pranayama is not to be done on heavy stomach. It is better done before

food, on empty but not hungry stomach. No sound should be produced
during inhalation and exhalation. In sitting, facing the East or the North
is beneficial.

There are certain signs, which indicate one's success in Pranayama. These
signs, no doubt, cannot be seen in persons who practice the technique for a
short while, or are inconsistent or do it with skepticism. A luster in the body
and face, new energy, unusual strength that cannot be easily diminished
by fatigue, and absence of heaviness in the body, are some of the
indications of progress in Pranayama.

Session 4: Pratyahara.
This is an important limb of ashtanga yoga. This deals with control of senses, which are
like tentacles of consciousness. They run in different directions trying to see, hear, and
feel everything around you. This practice deals with withdrawing those tentacles, like a
tortoise withdrawing its limbs into its shell.

This allows one to achieve the ability to see in subtle and the subtlest layers of
multidimensional space, as well as to exit from the material body into them and settle in
them, accustoming oneself to their subtlety, tenderness, and purity.

Not much is written about this limb except in Sanskrit slokas of Patanjali etc. Most
teachers do not like to talk about it and most students of yoga do not like to hear about it.
This is because it is indeed difficult to explain.

I therefore showed a small slide presentation about this limb in an effort to speed up our
understanding of this complicated subject and make it easier for beginners of meditation.
Seeing the slide presentation makes it easier for us to practice this important limb of
Ashtanga yoga, essential in the ascent to Dhyana practice
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 10

The senses are said to follow the mind in the same way as bees follow the queen bee.
Wherever she goes, they will follow. Similarly if the mind truly goes inward, the senses
will go inward racing behind.

Controlling senses means gaining mastery over the senses: Our senses seem to drag us
around in the external world, whether pursuing material objects, food or circumstances
related to professional, social, or economic life. Through routine practice of pratyahara at
daily meditation time, we gradually gain positive control over the mind preventing it
from being drawn obsessively towards all those objects and related thoughts.

To do this, first step is the proper posture and breath. Sense withdrawal, pratyahara, rests
on the solid foundation of steady, comfortable meditation posture and smooth, deep, quiet
breathing. Without these two steps, sense withdrawal becomes a battle. With posture and
breath regulated, pratyahara comes much more naturally.

We talked about the control of mind and senses and although we all know this to be most
important, we do not try to practice it. We tend to indulge ourselves. I therefore presented
some aspects, which helped me immensely in my earlier years of practice of meditation.
The Laya yoga or Kundalini yoga as it is sometimes called, is very beneficial.

But for now, I would suggest that you stick to the simple postures that we covered.

Once you stick to a comfortable posture, the next step is to practice withdrawing the
senses from material surroundings. This is not easy and is not clearly explained in many
texts. I shall try to explain this in a simple way how to do this.

The key to this problem lies in taking a positive approach to the senses rather than a
negative approach. If you are trying not to hear a noise, you are in effect, fixating on it.
The harder you try not to hear it, the louder it becomes. What ever you pay attention to
becomes brighter, louder, more intense. The solution is to pay attention to the subtlest
sound/sight. /sensation.

I recommend you begin the practice of sense withdrawal by focusing on sounds. With
eyes closed, covered, or lights turned out, listen to all the sounds in your environment. Of
all the sounds you can hear, choose to focus on the most subtle. As you improve your
ability to focus your mind, the most subtle sound will become louder, and louder. Then
ask yourself, is there a subtler sound beneath the one you are focusing on. Shift your
attention to this new sound until it becomes louder.

This is the most important aspect of this practice...Try to block the louder sounds. . Let
them come and go. They are of no consequence. Stay focused on the subtlest. An example
of this is comparing the auscultation of a sick child’s chest for diagnosis of a heart
murmur. How do you, a physician, do this in a crying restless, wheezing sick child along
with parents asking different questions, and other kids crying in the room? What you do
is auscultate for a long time, trying to separate the breathing, crying and other sounds
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 11

from the chest and the examining room. Then you concentrate on heartbeat and the first
and the second sound. As a last step, you concentrate on the murmur and the timing, the
intensity of first and second sound, the pitch, the conduction etc. In other words, the
sounds from the chest of a crying sick child are like a symphony or orchestra. By
concentrating on other orchestra, you can distinguish the different musical sounds from
different musical instruments. Similar is the case in pratyahara. You block all other
sounds and go deeper and deeper. As you step back further and further along this chain of
sounds you eventually hear your own breathing, beneath that perhaps your heart, beneath
that... eventually you are hearing imaginable sounds, sounds of consciousness. Of all of
these imaginable sounds, which is the subtlest? Focus on that. Eventually they say that
you hear the sound of creation. The echo left over from the big bang, and when asked
what does that sound like the sages would reply AAAUUUMMM.... AAAUUUMMM....

Other, practical techniques we covered were Shambhavi mudra and Yoni mudra and
some other physical postures we learnt.

The merit of these simple postures is that they provide you with clarity of mind almost
immediately and you do feel getting your senses under control. You should practice
these whenever you have time, during the day even for a few seconds or minutes.

Session 5:
This is the fifth class of Meditation. I will keep this short and focus only on practical
aspects. This is about the sixth limb of Ashtanga yoga called Dharana. Dharana is
learning to focus our attention in one direction. This is not the forced concentration like
trying to solve a difficult mathematics problem; rather dharana is a form of receptive
concentration. . This should therefore be not stressful.

Once you master this technique of concentration, you find that you move through
society and its problems easily. You will feel that the world is at your command and you
are not subjugated by any influence.

. Dharana brings about the capacity to control the mind instead of the mind controlling
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 12

. Dharana, (from the Sanskrit root dhri, meaning to hold, to keep fixed, to direct towards,
to confer) consists of different techniques for developing one-pointed concentration.
The methods of Dharana and Pratyahara are outwardly very similar, with a subtle
difference. In Pratyhara the attention is focused through the senses but the energy is
drawn inward into the mind. In Dharana, the energy is focused on various objects,
which can be external or internal.

There are several methods of improving your concentration or dharana. If you read about
it, you are likely to get confused as to which method you should follow. I therefore want
to make it simple. We learnt some methods while learning Pratyahara, like Traataka
(candle gazing),

Trataaka: candle

Shambhavi mudra and Yoni mudra. Other techniques include concentrating on a yantra,
on an image of a deity or guru, on a mountain, tree, or other natural object. It can also
involve focusing the mind on an internal point, light, sound, or concept.

Essentially there are five steps in Dharana:

1) Decide on what to concentrate.
2) Exclude all other thoughts from mind.
3) Gather only those thoughts relevant to the object of concentration.
4) Start focusing your mind.
5) Do not keep changing the object of concentration, because the object is
irrelevant as long you like it!

These are the steps we take in doing a pooja or praying. WE decide what kind of pooja.
Then we avoid all other unnecessary items. Thirdly we gather all the necessary items for
the pooja. Then in the fourth step we sit down and do the pooja. This is the reason I
stress that you must prepare everything before sitting down for the pooja/worship. Once
you sit down, there should not be any need for getting up again until the pooja is
completed. Let not your attention be distracted. Concentrate only on the pooja/worship

In summary we learnt a simpler method of practicing/achieving dharana.

Today, we learnt a simpler method of dharana.

The steps are as follows:
1) Prepare the body by initial exercises and relaxation and the Asana.
2) Next prepare the mind by the technique of pratyahara we learnt.
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 13

3) Do the Pranayama about five times or more depending on when you feel totally
relaxed and tranquil.
4) Repeat the sound "Aum" or any sound called “ the manthra” given to you by your
guru/teacher with closed eyes. Picture your ishta devata or God or the Mooladhara chakra
while chanting. The Sound must start coming out of the throat, arising from deep down
inside the stomach. Chant this in "your” pitch. You learnt how find your own
frequency and pitch. The number of times you say "aum" or the manthra varies
from person to person.
5) Then let Aum or the sound reverberate in your mind and keep silently repeating
Aum/or the manthra while continuing your concentration.

For starting, chanting Aum is fine. But later when you are ready or get initiated, you can
change it. Today it was a short introductory practice, but this needs re-inforcement and
practice. We will plan on organizing get-togethers at regular intervals in future for
this reinforcement. .

Practice this technique every day. The whole process should not take more than half an
hour of your time. Do it regularly at a given time, preferably in the morning after your
morning bath before Sunrise (Brahma muhurtham). If not choose a time in the evening
when you cannot be disturbed by any external influence.

Session 6:
This is the last session in a short course on Meditation. We will talk about the last rung in
the ladder to ascent of meditation, called Samadhi. A lot of written about this eighth limb
of Ashtanga yoga. But since we just completed only an introductory course and learnt a
few basic techniques of meditation, we are quite far from the goal of achieving this
supreme state of union with the Ultimate Reality. But it is not impossible to reach
that goal with practice and faith. Patanjali sutras are quite elaborate and several
commentaries are available on this subject. I would urge you not to get confused and
waste time now reading about this. Rather continue to practice the techniques you
learnt and will know when you are ready to go into this supreme state of heightened
awareness, where you become one with the object of meditation, that is Supreme Self. Bu
here is a brief account of what we covered in this session. This is only for your
information and do not worry about this yet. We will try to arrange get-togethers for re-
inforcement. If someone can volunteer to arrange these for our groups, I will be glad
to help. This will benefit everyone and is necessary for this course to be fruitful. You
have all invested your precious time and I hate to see this wasted!

Samadhi is the ability to become one with the True Self and merge into the object of
Meditation. In this state of mind, the perceiver and the object of perception unite through
the very act of perception----a true unity of all thought and action. This is the acme of all
yogic endeavors---the ultimate “yoga” or the connection between the individual and the
Brahman, the Universal Soul! When you reach that ecstatic stage, there is unlimited bliss.
This has been called “Sat-Chit-Ananda”. It has been described several trillion fold of joy
you experience when you recover from sickness. You have the light of knowledge and
Crash Course on Meditation-Dhyana Yoga-Sudhakar V.Rao MD 14

you know everything. You have attained Moksha or liberation. I talked about moksha and
its description from Yoga VaasishTam (Gnaana VaasishTam).

Patanjali in his 195 sutras or aphorisms has dealt with this subject in great detail and goes
on to distinguish different types of Samadhi. We should not concern ourselves with these
details at this stage of learning. Besides the two main types of Samadhi, viz., Savikalpa
Samadhi and nirvikalpa Samadhi, there are the following types being mentioned only for
-Samprajnata Samadhi or distinguished contemplation
-Asamprajnata Samadhi or non-distinguished contemplation.
-Savitarka Samadhi or deliberated absorption and
-Nirvitarka Samadhi or non-deliberated absorption
-Savichara Samadhi or reflective meditation and
-Nirvichaara Samadhi or non-reflective meditation,
-Sabeeja Samadhi, where the mind continues to carry seeds of earthly impressions and
-Nirbeeja Samadhi, where each seed of earthly impressions have been erased.

In our introductory lecture and slide presentation, we talked about some degree of
behavior modification to be successful in meditation. It becomes easier if you at least
cultivate and stick to the following principles of life:
By cultivating attitudes of:
*Friendliness towards the happy, *compassion for the unhappy,
*Delight in the virtuous and *Disregard towards the wicked,
The mind retains its undisturbed calmness.

May God Bless you all

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