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Medical studies have shown what yogins have known for thousands of years: Meditation is beneficial to the body and mind. As it is accompanied by deep relaxation, it unstresses the body, causing a feeling of physiological and psychological ease, rejuvenation, and heightened vitality. At more advanced levels, the practitioner experiences deep peace and tranquillity, which carry over into everyday life. There is also a sense of getting in touch with one's innermost truth, which aids the integration of the personality. Finally, at the highest level of meditation, the boundaries of the subject become blurred and the doorway opens to the experience of transempirical realms of existence (the lokas of higher non-human entities, such as deities).


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Meditators are also asked to consider the right time (kala) for their efforts. Especially recommended is the "hour of Brahma" (brahma-muhurta), which is sunrise. Other auspicious times are sunset, the hour before noon and, in certain traditions (such as some Tantric schools), midnight.


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Most teachers advise beginners to meditate twice a day for at least twenty minutes, so that the mind becomes habituated to this state. Subsequently these two periods can be extended to an hour and more


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On Meditation --->

In his Bhavartha-Dipika commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita (18.52), the Marathi sage and poet Jnaneshvara says of the yogin that he "abandons buzzing and inhabited places and dwells in solitude in the woods, making the body and its organs his only companions." Jnaneshvara also emphasizes that the yogin who seriously seeks to cultivate inwardness observes strict silence. Silence (mauna) has since ancient Vedic times been recognized as a powerful means of inner development.


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On Meditation -->

Most neophytes have to battle physical discomfort, mental restlessness, and not least boredom. Hence the scriptures emphasize the need for emotional and spiritual maturity. Inner work demands a certain level of detachment from material life and a strong interest in higher values-the scriptural desire for liberation (mumukshutva). Without adequate moral preparation and genuine spiritual aspiration, meditation tends to be experienced as tedious or impossible. Hence Patanjali's eightfold path begins with the five moral observances (yama) of nonharming (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), nonstealing (asteya), chastity (brahmacarya), and greedlessness (aparigraha).


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The "great sayings" (maha-vakya) of Vedanta -- e.g., tat tvam asi, "Thou art That," or aham brahma asmi, "I am the Absolute" -- are all designed to turn the disciple's attention upon the Self rather than any external object. The twentieth-century sage Sri Ramana Maharshi, of Tiruvannamalai in South India, advised spiritual seekers to ponder the question "Who am I?" a modern maha-vakya of great potency.


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In his seventeenth-century work Dasha-Bodha (14), Ramadasa defines true meditation as the contemplation of the Divine and false meditation as the contemplation of everything else. He also states that picturing specific images with the mind's eye does not lead to liberation, because this practice merely entraps the mind in a vicious cycle of imaginings. True meditation, in his view, consists in the union of the meditator with the true object of meditation, which is the divine Self.

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