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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

Obstacles to Meditation

One of the most valuable and practical books in Theosophical literature is the interpretation by William Q. Judge of The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. It is well recognised by all students of Theosophy that the attainment of abstract meditation has to be achieved by one means or another by all who intend to make Theosophy a living power in their lives.

In Book I, verse 20, of the Yoga Aphorisms, Patanjali lays it down that in the case of those who are able to discriminate as to pure spirit "their meditation is preceded by Faith, Energy, Intentness (upon a. single point) and Discernment"; but recognising that the majority of men find difficulty in attaining to this state of meditation he shows how devotion may be used as a means to the end in view and analyses the obstacles that have to be overcome by the devotee.

Verse 23: The state of abstract meditation may be attained by profound devotedness toward the Supreme Spirit considered in its incomprehensible manifestation as Iswara.

It is said that this profound devotedness is a pre-eminent means of attaining abstract meditation and its fruits. "Iswara" is The Spirit in the body.

Verse 24: Iswara is a spirit, untouched by troubles, works, fruits of works, or desires.

Verse 25: In Iswara becomes infinite that omniscience which in man exists but as a germ.

Verse 26: Iswara is the preceptor of all, even of the earliest of created beings, for He is not limited by time.

Verse 27: His name is OM.

Verse 28: The repetition of this name should be made with reflection upon its signification. . . .

Verse 29: From this repetition and reflection on its significance, there comes a knowledge of the Spirit and the absence of obstacles to the attainment of the end in view.

In the verses above quoted there is hope and encouragement for every Arjuna who stands upon the battlefield of his being. During those periods when the mind of the student becomes darkened by doubt and uncertainty Patanjali shows clearly just where the cause of the trouble lies, and in a most practical way provides the remedy for those who can see it and are willing to use the means suggested.

In Verse 30 he states that

The obstacles in the way of him who desires to attain concentration are Sickness, Langour, Doubt, Carelessness, Laziness, Addiction to objects of sense, Erroneous Perception, Failure to attain my stage of abstraction, and Instability in any state when attained.
Verse 31: These obstacles are accompanied by grief, distress, trembling and sighing.
All students who are doing their best to take themselves in hand, striving to live in the light of the Higher Self, will at some time show forth one or other of the symptoms of that searching diagnosis. These are the "enshrouding veils of the lower selfhood," and the fact that Patanjali mentions them in this ancient scripture shows that they have application to all men and all races; and therefore those who discover these obstacles in themselves at once realize that they are not alone in having to face such difficulties, but on the contrary they are simply proving for themselves the universal experience of all aspirants. When the mind is unstable, and for the time being is unable to reflect the calm power of the guiding spirit within, it is always because one or all of the obstacles to meditation as defined by Patanjali are active. For the prevention of them he recommends that one truth should be dwelt upon, and there is the added comment that by this he means "any accepted truth of which one approves."

In the periods of the greatest spiritual darkness we can always find something in our spiritual experience which we really believe in because we have proved the truth of it. When such a truth is dwelt upon to the exclusion of concepts about which there is uncertainty, the mind immediately becomes steady. The particular truth dwelt upon will vary according to the nature of the student. With one it may be the profound conviction of the reality of the Higher Self; with another it may be the knowledge of the existence of the great Masters of Wisdom, or the essential truth of the Theosophical teaching as a whole, or of some particular sacred scripture or book or part of a book. Then the cure is completed, and the mind becomes purified "through the practising of Benevolence, Tenderness, Complacency, and Disregard for objects of happiness, grief, virtue, and vice. . . ." (Verse 33)

If these things are practised with aspiration and faith in their efficacy, combined with some regular daily study of some of the classics of Theosophical literature, the student will find the greatest possible inspiration and help coming to him.



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