Atmavedi Meditation is an age old, timeless meditative technique mentioned several times in the Vedic texts. However, it was refined, revived and brought back into the modern world by the greatest saint of this century – our beloved Sri Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, as Transcendental Meditation. It is due to the efforts and charisma of Maharishi that majority of the people all over the world have at least heard that there is something like meditation - even though they may not completely understand what it means or may have never tried it. Today I try and attempt to explain Atmavedi Meditation (AM) in my own words and from my perspective. I beg the great Maharishi to bless me as I attempt to write on a science brought to the world by Him. I also beg for the blessings of my own Guru, Sri Visvamitra, who has very lovingly taught me AM and has always guided me through my journey towards my God.
Armed with all these blessings, let me attempt to explain to the reader what is AM. Since this meditative practice is called “transcendental” meditation, it is obvious that someone “transcends” something to reach somewhere. “Someone”, tries to go beyond “something” to reach “some destination”, “somehow”. So in the minds of a beginner the following questions are very obvious:
1 - Who is transcending?
2 - How it is transcending?
3 - What is being transcended?
4 - What is the final destination after transcending?
5 - Why transcend at all?
I will try and answer all the above questions one by one and I promise you that by the time you reach the last question, you will not need an answer for that! So let’s fill our hearts with love and devotion for God and go down together on this most exciting journey of understanding AM.
Question 1: Who is transcending?
Hidden in the answer to this question is a very big truth. Let me ask you a question – who do you think you are? Are you a collection of bones, cartilages, ligaments, blood vessels? Or are you more than just a sack of these items? Are you just this physical body? If yes, then what happens when one day you “wake up” from slumber and find that you are floating close to the ceiling while your relatives moan over your physical body? Now who is this guy floating close to the ceiling-he seems to be pretty alive and who is this physical body that seems quite dead? The truth is that you are not this physical body, even though the body belongs to You. You are the “immortal conscious awareness” that resides within this physical body. The awareness of “I am” is what you are. This consciousness is the living force within the physical body and animates the body, vitalises it and makes it do things. This consciousness is the real you. The real you is immortal while the physical body that you reside in is mortal, it degenerates with time and finally when it becomes unworthy of use, you discard it like an old ragged garment only to take up another new, fresh garment. So the real you is this free, immortal, conscious awareness. It is this conscious awareness that transcends during AM. It is the real you that transcends. While the physical body remains still and at one place, the “real you” ie the conscious awareness transcends the physical and travels to its destination. As you transcend you experience the “real you” ie your conscious awareness.
The one who transcends is your own conscious awareness-the real you!
Question 2: How it is transcending?
So now we understand that it is our own conscious awareness that transcends during AM. A beginner would normally worry as to how he can ensure that he transcend successfully. The truth is that transcending is a very natural and spontaneous phenomenon. Just like falling asleep is a natural event or waking up from sleep happens naturally similarly we also transcend very naturally. We can transcend in many ways. Some of us can even begin to transcend with open eyes. However, in AM we transcend with the help of a very special and powerful sound vibration. This sound vibration, called the sacred “Mantra” is repeated mentally as a thought in mind. This vibrating thought naturally and spontaneously takes us to the origin of the thought which is our destination during AM.
To explain the thought process in the mind Maharishi would often use the analogy of a bubble on the surface of a pond. The surface of the pond is not the place of origin of the bubble even though the bubble is experienced in its full form on the surface. This bubble actually has its origin deep within the surface of water and gradually travels upto the surface and presents itself there. A thought in mind follows a similar pattern. The thought originates in the deeper more subtle layers of the mind and travels to the conscious mind where it is experienced by the person. In AM it is possible to trace backward the origin of the thought (in this case the Mantra). When conscious awareness is attached to this single, powerful, vibrating sound (thought) ie when attention is placed on the repetition of the mantra within the mind, then very naturally and spontaneously, the mantra takes us to the origin of everything.
This mantra is very special and unique to the individual who is meditating. Several factors are taken into consideration before this confidential sound can be chosen for the person desiring to learn AM. The mantra does not have any specific meaning yet it is the powerful vibration that resonates best within you.
The Vedas declare that sound is the origin of everything. God can be experienced best as a powerful sound vibration –the ShabdBrahman or the Word is the purest description of God. The ShabdBrahman is the Sat-Chit-Ananda. Everything around us whether manifest or unmanifest is a form of sound or vibration. In AM we have the wonderful opportunity of witnessing the entire spectrum of sound – all the way to its origin – the ShabdBrahman or Sat-Chit-Ananda. Para, Pasyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari are the various gradations of sound. Para is the primal sound. It is the first manifestation of voice-the root of all ideas. In AM I have witnessed this sound actually as a loss of all sound – just a very faint idea of the presence of the mantra – but really no audible sound. As we move to Pasyanti, Madhyama the sound quality changes. It becomes louder more audible. It is very interesting to witness the changing quality of sound in meditation. You start with this loud mental repetition of the mantra and gradually as you transcend deeper and deeper the sound quality changes and becomes more and more faint until all sound disappears and there is just this “idea” of the presence of sound – yet no sound. This “loss” of the sound actually happens at the place of origin of the sound. At the deepest layer.
Just as one would board an airplane and then the airplane naturally takes the person to the scheduled destination similarly all that is needed is to attach the conscious awareness to this airplane called mantra and the mantra will automatically and very effortlessly take the awareness to the root. This is why the AM technique is called a natural and effortless meditation.
As we will proceed to read further, we will get more and more clarity on the sound vibration that is used as a transcending aid.
We use the vibrational sound energy of the specific mantra in order to naturally transcend
Question 3: What is being transcended?
As mentioned before during AM, our conscious awareness transcends the physical body. Most of us are used to thinking that the physical body is the only body that we possess so in that case transcending the physical body is what AM is all about. However, this is not true. We have many more bodies apart from this physical, visible body. Those bodies belong as much to us as this physical body. Just as God has granted us this physical body for our exclusive use, He has also granted us those other bodies for our use and benefit- only it’s a pity that those bodies are subtle and so not visible to the naked eye and hence we go through our entire lives not knowing about them and never using them. Some scientists have now been able to get some pictures of one of our other bodies that they call the “Aura” or the “Bio-sphere”. However, I do not think that they are able to successfully completely photograph this other body and they certainly do not understand the fabulous uses of this body!
Let me explain, one by one, these other beautiful bodies that each one of us possess!
Around the physical body like a covering and also permeating the entire physical body is what the modern science calls the Bio-sphere or the Aura that has been photographed by many scientists. The Vedas call it the body of prana or the pranic body or the vital body or the pranamaya kosha, kosha meaning sheath (see figure on the right - click it for a full-sized view). This is a highly vibrating body of light. My initial experiences of the pranic/vital body during AM were like minor vibrations on the surface of my skin especially the edges of my skin until with practice I was able to experience the pranic body more as a continuous, fluid sheath all over me. Some more refined experiences of this body were when all sensations of the physical body were lost and I felt like existing only as a fluid medium – not solid at all.
It is a beautiful body and trust me, each one of us own one such body. It belongs as much to us as the physical body- only we cannot see it with naked eyes although we can easily experience this body in AM. It is this pranic body that vitalises the physical body by infusing it with living vital prana (the living force). This pranic body permeates every single cell of our physical body and gives life to it. As long as the pranic body remains attached to the physical body, the physical body stays alive. At the time of death, it is this pranic body that leaves the physical body and the physical body becomes useless as soon as this living, vibrating body departs. As mentioned, normally the pranic body remains permeated in the entire physical body. At the time of demise of the physical body, the pranic body contracts out of every cell of the physical body and reduces itself into a point within the body. It is said that the wriggling of the physical body just prior to death happens due to the receding of prana from the different parts of the body. Ultimately the physical body is clinically dead when the prana collect to a single point within the body. This pranic body departs from the physical body a few seconds after the clinical death of the physical body as a point of light. Hence you can now see the importance of this pranic body. It keeps the physical body nourished and alive. Just like the physical body has channels called blood vessels that carry blood that nourishes the physical body, the pranic body also has a complex network of channels, though very subtle, called “nadis” through which the life giving fluid prana flows that gives life and nourishment to the physical and the pranic body.
Importance of the pranic body can also be understood from the fact that the health of the pranic body determines the health of the physical body. All diseases/ailments whether physical, emotional, psychological impact the pranic body first and then the physical body only experiences the manifestation of the breakdown that has happened in the pranic body. The pranic body functions best when the life supporting prana is gushing freely through the channels (nadis). The presence of negative energies within the pranic body blocks the flow of prana and also impacts the frequency of vibration of this body. Compare these negative energies with parasites/harmful bugs within the physical body. They can cause damage to the pranic body which can be witnessed in the physical body in the form of some discomfort or ailment or disease. However, the pranic body can be easily repaired. If we could catch the breakdown quickly enough in the pranic body itself and repair the pranic body then the physical body will never fall sick! It is very possible to be able to catch an ailment in the pranic body itself and repair it right there without impacting the physical body at all! That is once again an advanced science.
During AM we naturally transcend our conscious awareness from the gross physical body to this first body sheath beyond the gross physical body. Ultimately negative energies/stress within the pranic body are responsible for all kinds of discomforts in the physical body. As the powerful mantra vibrates within the pranic body it begins to cleanse this vital body of its negative energies. The negative energy, stress is experienced in AM as blockages when the mantra moves deeper. As the mantra begins to transcend each time it hits a blockage, it imparts its powerful pure vibration to clear the passage. This release of stress is experienced in AM as a random occurrence of any thought within the mind which causes the meditator to surface back from his descent into the deeper region. So the experience is that of suddenly coming back into the physical awareness from the deeper pranic body. The meditator is advised never to pay heed to these random thoughts because they occur everytime stress is released by the mantra vibration. The entire vital pranic body starts to undergo a major cleaning exercise where sometime even bigger chunks of negative energies get dislodged! Sometimes when bigger blocks of negative energies are released due to the impact of the mantra we can have other experiences like a nightmare. I once experienced such a release of stress which caused me to have a very “real” and scary nightmare.
As the pranic body begins to revitalise with the pure mantra vibrations, every cell of the physical body begins to experience this new vitality because the prana fill and provide life to every cell of the physical body. So AM is not just a way to calm your mind. In fact, it is a way to cleanse the entire physical body by beginning to get rid of the negative energies in the pranic body.
So now you have transcended beyond the physical body into the pranic body. Once in the pranic body, I have had some very interesting experiences. I have been able to feel the pranic body as this continuous sheath and have also been able to move my pranic hands, legs, head etc. With further practice it is possible to lift the pranic body out of the physical body in the form of an astral projection to have the most wonderful “out-of-body” experience that many people talk about. Learning to transcend is the basic key to this “siddhi” or perfection.
A siddhi is a perfection attained in anyone of our bodies. Take an example of a 10 months old child. When he looks at his mother run and jump or use her hands dexterously then he is amazed at the abilities of his mother. But as adults we know that with some maturity and practice everyone can “use” the physical body to serve any purpose that we need. Similarly it is very possible to make use of the other bodies that belong to us too. So, for example, we can “use” the pranic body to travel to different places. This is a “siddhi” or perfection attained in the usage of the pranic body. Keep in mind the pranic body belongs as much to you as the physical body. If you have, over the years, learnt to use your physical body to fulfill your needs, you can similarly learn to use your pranic body as well. It just takes a little bit of practice and perfection can be attained soon. Learning to transcend is the basic first step.
Beyond the pranic body is the mental body or the manomaya kosha. See the picture on the right for a representation of the manomaya kosha. After transcending the physical body and the pranic body our conscious awareness reaches this body. The pranic body should provide enough “clear passage” to the mantra before the awareness can transcend into the mental body. This means that a certain level of cleaning of the stresses in the pranic body have been carried out. The meditator would normally take time and practice before he can transcend into this body. The time could vary from a couple of days, to weeks or even months/years! However, meditating effortlessly is the key. One would find that he very naturally transcends to this body.
As the name suggests this is the body of the mind or manas. Most of us are used to thinking of the mind being the same as the brain. However, the two are different. Brain is the physical tool through the which the mind, which is a subtle entity, functions and interacts with the physical body. The brain is lodged in the physical body. A small portion of the mind is also present in the physical body. However, the major portion of the mind is tucked away in the manomaya kosha and remains mostly un-accessed in the waking state of consciousness. This is the body of the dreams or the plane at which the dream world functions. During dream sleep our consciousness naturally transcends into this body. Most dreams are a result of unwinding or stress release. In AM we use the powerful mantra vibrations to transcend into this body allowing the vibrations to begin the process of purifying this body of negative energies. This body can be best experienced when our conscious awareness becomes the witness itself. My personal experience has been that at one point in meditation I am able to completely detach myself from the sound of the mantra and witness the sound as coming from a source “different” from me. So it feels that I am quiet and witnessing and all this mental mantra repetition is actually being performed by an entity that is not me!! And this is true. You are not the mind. You are not your thoughts. You are the one who witnesses the functioning of the mind who thinks the thought. In AM you experience this reality so beautifully!
Transcending the mind can be one of the major hurdles for the meditator. Here resides the habitual pattern of thoughts and emotions. Both the pranic and the mental bodies are highly distorted with negative energies picked up by the individual during his lifetime. These negative energies are like bugs and parasites that feed onto the energy of the individual for their survival. They create habitual patterns for the individual causing the individual to react in a particular way or think in a particular way. A lot of these energies have deep roots within the physical body and can and do feed onto and destroy the cells in the physical body. It is these ungrounded negative energies that can create abnormal cell functioning within the physical body leading to tumours/cancers. Almost all the malfunctioning of the physical body can be attributed to these negative energies. If these negative energies were not present within our subtle bodies then the physical body would never fall sick! It is not possible to completely free the subtle bodies of the negative energies and then maintain those bodies in that pure state without proper guidance and blessing of the Guru. However, it should be the endeavour of every individual to free their subtle body of as much ungrounded, negative energy as possible. AM is the simplest, natural and most effortless way of cleansing the pranic and mental bodies of these negative energies.
Mental and pranic bodies are also repositories of the karmic energy (though the karmic energy also resides within the physical body). The law of the karma and its functioning is a very vast and complex science. For the present article it may suffice to understand that every thought, word or action generates an influence which remains trapped within the bodies of the individual in the form of a karmic vibrational pattern. When the external environment is conducive this karmic energy is released to balance itself out and a good or bad event is experienced by the owner of this karmic energy. We are responsible for every single event that we have ever experienced in our lives. The seed of every good or bad event is right inside us! The event that plays out in the physical/material world is a mere manifestation of the seed that is right inside us. We are responsible for our own happiness or sadness, prosperity or poverty, parentage, looks, appearances and behavioural patterns. We are responsible completely for who we are. Our thoughts and actions determine our karmic load and our karmic load in turn fashions our destiny from right inside of us!
One should note that good and bad karma are only relative terms. Every karma leads to another karma and the individual remains ever trapped in this abyss of action and reaction. The true state of existence is possible only in a state od NIL karma. This does not mean that one becomes actionless. This means that every action performed by the individual is in such harmony with the Nature that no out of balance influence is generated that would need to be balanced out by the environment at any later stage. Such a state of existence is only possible when an individual is Enlightened and living in Brahman Consciousness. Such Enlightenment is the end goal of the AM.
The simple yet very powerful vibration of the sound (mantra) cleanses the impurities as it penetrates deeper and deeper into our subtle bodies. This sound of the mantra, very naturally and effortlessly, awakens the Evolutionary Power of Nature that is dormant within each one of us. At the base of the spine, in the pranic body, coiled like a serpent, sleeps the divine cosmic energy that the vedas have called Kundalini. This inconceivably huge mass of cosmic energy lies dormant within each one of us. When the vibrations of the mantra stir up this mass of energy (wake up the Divine Mother), she begins her beautiful ascent up the spine through the subtle pranic channel called the Sushumna nadi devouring any negative energy that comes in Her way. At this point begin major purifications of all the bodies discussed so far. I have experienced the ascent of the Divine Mother as hot flow of lava through my spine. One must ensure that one is in the company of an enlightened master (the Guru) once the Divine Mother Kundalini is awake. From this point the meditation sessions turn into major sadhana routines (spiritual practices) as much higher levels of purifications are experienced by the practitioner. The entire nervous system begins to change and evolve to be able to experience the subtle. All blockages begin to get cleared. One now experiences what is called the “heat of sadhana”. I had one major experience of Mother Kundalini. As I was meditating upon Her in my normal sadhana routine, She presented Herself within me with immense heat. My lower body felt on fire. For days after that I remained very sick. Even when I sat on the chair my base felt as if it was rocking furiously. The Divine Mother was moving up and down my spine very rapidly hitting my crown and my base each time. I fell very sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea. My Guru had to then help me by balancing my Kundalini and calming down the super active chakras.
Note that this stage however, is very advanced and normally experienced only under the guidance of a Guru by individuals who have surrendered themselves to the sadhana routine. Majority of the meditators who meditate “casually” for just some basic relief do not normally reach these advance stages. They are very content with purifying the pranic body most of the time or the pranic and mental body.
The Divine Mother Kundalini, thus awakened with the vibrational sound of the mantra forms the vehicle for Enlightenment. She purifies and cleanses the bodies until sufficient energy/shakti is generated for the sadhak (person performing sadhana or spiritual practices) to transcend into the next body called the Vigyana maya kosha or the body of intellect through the mantra as the vehicle (see picture the right). This body of intellect is the casual body. This is most important body. In this body one can experience “time-travel”. He can witness the past, the present, the future. He can learn and know about his past lifetimes. This is the body that has the final germinating seeds of the karmas (called Sanskaras) which fashion everything else for us. This is the body of wisdom. Everything knowable can be known by the individual who can transcend and reside permanently in this body. Normally our conscious awareness always functions from the physical body. But the goal of life is that with sufficient practice of transcending into the vigyana maya kosha our consciousness awareness should begin to permanently function from this level. This level gives us the “bird’s eye view” of all other bodies. All other bodies are under the command and control of this body. This is the body in which resides the Higher Inner Intelligence or our own Atman. Directions received from this body are the purest and the most beneficial. “Enlightenment” dawns when the conscious awareness is permanently situated in this body and functions from here. The wisdom and the Absolute Knowledge are experienced and attained by those who are able to permanently reside within this body. Through AM and the guidance of the Guru one can experience this body. I have had beautiful and very blissful experiences of this body and meditating from this realm. If one can fix one’s consciousness awareness in this realm and then meditate from this realm then that meditation is very powerful! This is also the realm where God assumes a body. God can at once be embodied as well as bodiless. He is the formless One who, at will, can assume a form. The personal God who exhibits a form resides on this plane.
Beyond this plane is the body of Pure Bliss or the Anandamaya Kosha or the Sat-Chit-Ananda or the body of the Bright Blissful Light that most religions refer to (see the last picture above). This is Siva-The Absolute Truth. This is the bodiless ocean of light in which our awareness floats being one with the Divine, experience absolute Bliss. This is the final destination of our conscious awareness - the goal of AM to become one with the Divine. Lost in this Bliss sages experience the state of “Samadhi” or becoming one with the divine.
When guided by the mantra (or with sufficient practice guided by a simple intention) the sages transfer their conscious awareness to this body of Bliss, the very high vibrational frequency of this body generates a state of extreme ecstasy not tolerable by the physical body causing the physical body to slip into a state of suspended animation or a “stunned state”. Such a state when the physical body is in suspended animation stunned by the very high frequency of the body of Bliss and the conscious awareness is afloat in the Bliss is called the Samadhi. It is the most beautiful and most ecstatic state! Those moments of Samadhi are moments of absolute freedom. Freedom from all underlying bodies, freedom from thoughts, actions, reactions. Freedom from the needs of eating food, drinking water….. freedom from even the obligation to breathe. In those moments you realise that to exist one needs nothing other than the company of God Himself. This Bright Ocean of Light is the formless God, the impersonal version of God. This experience of Samadhi should be the aim of the sadhak.
Hence through the process of AM one very naturally cleans and repairs all his four bodies of anamaya (Physical), pranamaya (pranic/vital), manomaya (mental), vigyana maya (intellectual) reaching the final formless ocean of Bliss called the Anandamaya. This is the process of Enlightenment – cleaning and repairing all the bodies, making them fully functional and supporting and finally becoming situate in the body of Intellect where the wisdom is and being able to traverse to the formless Bliss upon wish. The miracles performed by Enlightened saints are nothing more than putting to use these other super bodies.
Everybody should attempt to repair their bodies and make them functional. This however, beyond a point, needs the guidance from an Enlightened master and a complete state of surrender from the individual.
We transcend our own bodies (physical, vital, mental and intellectual) that stand in between our own conscious awareness and the Pure Divine Ocean of Bliss from where all life has sprung to witness the union of the soul with the Super Soul.
I am sure that by now the reader has answers to the fourth and fifth questions of “What is the final destination after transcending” and “Why transcend at all”!
The beautiful, powerful yet simple practice of Transcendental Meditation is the crux of everything. AM touches everything and can be used to explain everything – that which is obvious and meets the eye and that which is subtle beyond our visual limits and even that which is beyond the subtle and rests in the casual realm. Of all the animals, the human being is the only animal that has the potential to experience these beautiful higher states of existence. These subtle and causal bodies have formed especially for us just like the physical body and are meant to serve us just like the physical body. These higher states of existence are meant for our travel and experience. They were created just for us. What a pity it is that we chose to ignore these and only cling to and protect the physical body when the entire existence and well-being of the physical body depends upon these other subtle bodies!
Just like we find time to exercise the physical body to keep it healthy we must try and find time to “exercise” these other bodies through AM and keep them healthy and pure. By not doing this we quickly begin to degenerate our other beautiful bodies causing them to become weaker and distorted due to the accumulation of negative energies. Are we not sad when we lose limbs and hence lose the ability to walk or lose eyes and lose the ability to see or lose the ability to hear? Imagine how many other abilities you have lost by losing your ability to function in any one of the bodies of your choice! And now imagine what you have lost by losing your ability to stay in company of that Supreme Power that manifests itself as that Ocean of Pure Bliss and Bright Light. It’s like losing trillions of dollars and remaining attached to a couple hundred. This is our plight at the moment.
Everyone must learn the Atmavedi Meditation even if one is not interested in any higher state of existence. Even performing AM casually without wanting to have any higher experience is an extremely purifying exercise for the individual.
Everyone must learn to consciously transcend and purify their own self. This is the best gift that you can give to yourself.