The next step is our method of meditation. What do we mean by meditation? Meditation cannot be the same for every man. Though the same in principle, namely, the steadying of the mind, the method must vary with the temperament of the practitioner. Suppose that you are a strong-minded and intelligent man, fond of reasoning. Suppose that connected links of thought and argument have been to you the only exorcise of the mind. Utilise that past training. Do not imagine that you can make your mind still by a single effort. Follow a logical chain of reasoning, step by step, link after link; do not allow the mind to swerve a hair's breadth from it. Do not allow the mind to go aside to other lines of thought. Keep it rigidly along a single line, and steadiness will gradually result. Then, when you have worked up to your highest point of reasoning and reached the last link of your chain of argument, and your mind will carry you no further, and beyond that you can see nothing, then stop. At that highest point of thinking, cling desperately to the last link of the chain, and there keep the mind poised, in steadiness and strenuous quiet, waiting for what may come. After a while, you will be able to maintain this attitude for a considerable time.
For one in whom imagination is stronger than the reasoning faculty, the method by devotion, rather than by reasoning, is the method. Let him call imagination to his help. He should picture some scene, in which the object of his devotion forms the central figure, building it up, bit by bit, as a painter paints a picture, putting in it gradually all the elements of the scene He must work at it as a painter works on his canvas, line by line, his brush the brush of imagination. At first the work will be very slow, but the picture soon begins to present itself at call. Over and over he should picture the scene, dwelling less and less on the surrounding objects and more and more on the central figure which is the object of his heart's devotion. The drawing of the mind to a point, in this way, brings it under control and steadies it, and thus gradually, by this use of the imagination. he brings the mind under command. The object of devotion will be according to the man's religion. Suppose — as is the case with many of you — that his object of devotion is Sri Krishna; picture Him in any scene of His earthly life, as in the battle of Kurukshetra. Imagine the armies arrayed for battle on both sides; imagine Arjuna on the floor of the chariot, despondent, despairing; then come to Sri Krishna, the Charioteer, the Friend and Teacher. Then, fixing your mind on the central figure, let your heart go out to Him with onepointed devotion. Resting on Him, poise yourself in silence and, as before, wait for what may come.
This is what is called “meditation with seed”. The central figure, or the last link in reasoning, that is “the seed”. You have gradually made the vagrant mind steady by this process of slow and gradual curbing, and at last you are fixed on the central thought, or the central figure, and there you are poised. Now let even that go. Drop the central thought, the idea, the seed of meditation. Let everything go. But keep the mind in the position gained, the highest point reached, vigorous and alert. This is meditation without a seed. Remain poised, and wait in the silence and the void. You are in the “cloud,” before described, and pass through the condition before sketched. Suddenly there will be a change, a change unmistakable, stupendous, incredible. In that silence, as said, a Voice shall be heard. In that void, a Form shall reveal itself. In that empty sky, a Sun shall rise, and in the light of that Sun you shall realise your own identity with it, and know that that which is empty to the eye of sense is full to the eye of Spirit, that that which is silence to the ear of sense is full of music to the ear of Spirit.
Along such lines you can learn to bring into control your mind, to discipline your vagrant thought, and thus to reach illumination. One word of warning. You cannot do this, while you are trying meditation with a seed. until you are able to cling to your seed definitely for a considerable time, and maintain throughout an alert attention. It is the emptiness of alert expectation. not the emptiness of impending sleep. If your mind be not in that condition, its mere emptiness is dangerous. It leads to mediumship, to possession, to obsession. You can wisely aim at emptiness, only when you have so disciplined the mind that it can hold for a considerable time to a single point and remain alert when that point is dropped.
The question is sometimes asked: “Suppose that I do this and succeed in becoming unconscious of the body; suppose that I do rise into a higher region; is it quite sure that I shall come back again to the body? Having left the body, shall I be certain to return?” The idea of non-return makes a man nervous. Even if he says that matter is nothing and Spirit is everything, he yet does not like to lose touch with his body and, losing that touch, by sheer fear, he drops back to the earth after having taken so much trouble to leave it. You should, however, have no such fear. That which will draw you back again is the trace of your past, which remains under all these conditions.
The question is of the same kind as: “Why should a state of Pralaya ever come to an end, and a new state of Manvantara begin?” And the answer is the same from the Hindu psychological standpoint; because, although you have dropped the very seed of thought, you cannot destroy the traces which that thought has left, and that trace is a germ, and it tends to draw again to itself matter, that it may express itself once more. This trace is what is called the privation of matter — samskara. Far as you may soar beyond the concrete mind, that trace, left in the thinking principle, of what you have thought and have known, that remains and will inevitably draw you back. You cannot escape your past and, until your life-period is over, that samskara will bring you back. It is this also which, at the close of the heavenly life, brings a man back to rebirth. It is the expression of the law of rhythm. In Light on the Path, that wonderful occult treatise, this state is spoken of and the disciple is pictured as in the silence. The writer goes on to say: “Out of the silence that is peace a resonant voice shall arise. And this voice will say: ‘It is not well; thou hast reaped, now thou must sow.’ And knowing this voice to be the silence itself, thou wilt obey.”
What is the meaning of that phrase: “Thou hast reaped, now thou must sow?” It refers to the great law of rhythm which rules even the Logoi, the Ishvaras — the law of the Mighty Breath, the out-breathing and the in-breathing, which compels every fragment which is separated for a time. A Logos may leave His universe, and it may drop away when He turns His gaze inward, for it was He who gave reality to it.
He may plunge into the infinite depths of being, but even then there is the samskara of the past universe, the shadowy latent memory, the germ of maya from which He cannot escape. To escape from it would be to cease to be Ishvara, and to become Brahma Nirguna. There is no Ishvara without maya, there is no maya without Ishvara. Even in pralaya, a time comes when the rest is over and the inner life again demands manifestation; then the outward turning begins and a new universe comes forth. Such is the law of rest and activity: activity followed by rest; rest followed again by the desire for activity; and so the ceaseless wheel of the universe, as well as of human lives, goes on. For in the eternal, both rest and activity are ever present, and in that which we call Time, they follow each other, although in eternity they be simultaneous and ever-existing.