Meditation and Mantras

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Meditation and Mantras
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This volume is intended to dispel the cloud of confusion that has accumulated around the subject of meditation. Those who are looking for secret shortcuts, novel innovations, exciting new trends and fads in the area of self-development may be disappointed. The methods presented here stem from the classic four paths of Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. These are given in their uncorrupted form, yet with consideration for the Western mind and scientific tradition.


"Written by an experienced spiritual practitioner, the book gives an authentic overview of the subject in accordance with tradition, with an emphasis on the practical aspects Ä will certainly provide a useful overview of the yoga techniques while giving practical hints to their practice." Prabuddha Bharata, Vol.105, No.8, August 2002 - Swami Satyaswarupananda, Belur Math

"...contains all techniques for understanding, and controlling the mind. Raja, Hatha, Karma, Kundalini, Jnana and Mantra Yoga-all are discussed in detail. The Raja Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the greatest psychologists of all time, are given in their entirety with commentary. Several modern methods are scrutinised... a psychological study, a guide for practice and source of great learning." Mother India, Vol. LII, No.8, 1999 - Anonymous

"The methods presented in this book follow the tradition from which all the four Yogic paths of Raja, Karma, Jnana and Bhakti stem out... Yogas are so well explained that even a lay reader will have little difficulty in grasping and understanding the techniques to control the mind... helps to dispel most of the misgivings of misguided souls and can be a veritable treasure to any ardent seeker." The Astrological Magazine, Vol.90, No.1, January 2001 - VSK

About the Author(s)

Born in Kerala, South India in 1927, Swami Vishnudevananda entered the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayas as a young man. For twelve years he live and worked there at the Divine Life Society, under the guidance of his master, Swami Sivananda. A large part of Swami Vishnudevanandaês's training was directed towards developing his remarkable talents in the field of Hatha Yoga. He was appointed the first Professor of Hatha Yoga at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy in Rishikesh.

At the same time, he continued his own practice, mastering many difficult and advanced Hatha Yoga techniques: asanas pranayama, mudras, bandhas and kriyas. When asked how he perfected these ancient practices, which to a great extent had been lost to the modern world, Swamiji would say –My Master touched me and opened my intuitive eye. All this knowledge returned to me from past lives.”

In 1957, Swami Vishnudevananda was sent to the West by his guru with the words, –people are waiting”. Here he became world-renowned as an expert in Hatha and Raja Yoga. Swamiji founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, with headquarters in Val Morin, Quebec, Canada and centres and ashrams worldwide.

Swami Vishnudevananda was a tireless campaigner for world peace. He piloted his own plane to the trouble spots of the globe, earning him the nickname from the press the –Flying Swami”. He had indefatigable energy, which he attributed to his intensive Hatha Yoga practice.

The author of the long-time bestselling The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga and Meditation and Mantras, Swami Vishnudevananda is the inspiration behind The Sivananda Companion to Yoga, Yoga, Mind and Body, the Sivananda Companion to Meditation, The Yoga Cookbook and many other books.

Swami Vishnudevananda entered mahasamadhi on November 9, 1993. His body was consigned to the Ganga (the river Ganges) in Uttarkashi, Himalayas. This is where Swamiji spent much time early in his life doing intensive sadhana. The work and teachings of Swami Vishnudevananda continue through the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre.


Meditation is a universal tradition which traces its origin thousands of years before the advent of today’s civilization. The science of meditation has survived uninterrupted and exhaustive testing as it has passed from generation to generation. It has endured in its original form because the outstanding and fundamental appeals of Yoga have been Tolerance, Universality, and Simplicity. Within its simple framework are contained the principal teachings and approaches which make up the substance of all known philosophies, religions, and disciplines. If one understands the four paths to meditation, it is possible to unravel the trappings and mysterious elements of any religious or philosophical system.

The shelves of bookstores are overloaded with numerous "new developments" and streamlined approaches to meditation. But many are by the blind leading the blind, with little or ‘no experience to back the methods they tout. There are one-sided fanatics, Mantra hucksters, and outright charlatans. Some promise rapid development of psychic powers. Others are modern spiritual propagandists and con men. Even the Madison Avenue contingent is well represented. There are only a handful of selfless Masters teaching true spiritual disciplines of meditation.

Real meditation is liberation from the clutches of the senses and the lower mind. By definition it is transcendental, the word not being used as an advertising slogan, but to convey the beauty of meditation, in which all fears, desires, longings and negative emotions are transcended. The meditator reaches the super-conscious state in which he or she is able to identify with the all-blissful Self. In this transcendental state, there is no awareness of body, mind, or duality, and the knower becomes one with the knowledge and the known.

There is no need for mystery or secrecy about Mantras or any other accessory to meditation. There are no spiritual injunctions against discussing one’s Mantra. A Mantra is a mystical energy encased in a sound structure. Its vibrations directly affect the chakras or energy centres of the body. It steadies the mind and leads to the stillness of meditation. Those Mantras which are suitable for meditation are included in this book.

Many concoctions of syllables which are currently being peddled in the West as Mantras are obviously bogus. These "Mantras" can lead to deep relaxation but nothing more. So can the repetition of any word or meaningless phrase. One can even slow the pulse and breathing as well as lower the blood pressure by sitting still and concentrating on a ticking clock or dripping water tap.

Life in the West has become computerized, compartmentalized and oriented towards instant results. But the tradition from which the four yogic paths stem is a holistic one. In this system science, religion, philosophy, psychology, and health are all integrated. In the same way, the various classical meditation techniques that have been in use over the ages are based on solid discipline and regular practice. Proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking are the necessary groundwork for successful meditation. These are covered to some extent in the first chapters, although for a comprehensive view of these and other aspects of Hatha and Raja Yoga, you may want to refer to my previous book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga.

If this book clarifies the methods and aim of meditation, it will have served its purpose. The spiritual quest is a thorny path that ultimately must be walked alone. My own path has been blessed by the firm, compassionate, and boundless wisdom of my master, India’s late great saint and sage, H. H. Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj. If through me as his instrument, the echo of his words and insight can guide the footsteps of seekers in the Western world, I shall have achieved my earthly purpose.

Finally, I wish to gratefully acknowledge the following people whose contributions helped to make this book possible: Dr Fritjof Capra, for permission to reprint excerpts from his speech "The Yoga of Physics" and the photomontage of dancing Siva in particle tracks taken from his ‘book The Tao of Physics; Nicholas and June Regush, for permission to reprint from their book Mind Search; Silamata Karuna, for her extensive research and editorial expertise; Silvio Paladini, for the Kundalini Chakra illustrations; and the many disciples and students of the Sivananda Yoga mission for invaluable aid in artwork, editing, proofreading, and typing.

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