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The word Meditation is not Sanskrit but Latin. There is no Sanskrit word which would embrace all practices for such parts of human being as memory, attention, senses, thoughts, intellect, or individuality. Only about a hundred years ago the word meditation became connected with yoga. But now we are using it. Here we are going to express our understanding of this word.

Meditations in classical yoga - quantity and typology

What is the number of meditations within classical yoga? (And we are not talking about objects of meditation, but about different types of conscious psychological activity)

We counted around 70, regardless of synonyms.

70 techniques, each of which has its own name and a specific manner of performing, references in classical texts and a specific purpose.

In Vijnana Bhairava Tantra alone there are 4-5 different types of meditation, just like in Vishuddha Magga.

In a wide sense, meditation (psychopractice) is first of all an exercise (abhyasa). According to Patanjaly, each abhyasa (exercise) contains repeatability, constancy and duration of effort.

The most important thing is effort. Shiva Sutra says:

Practitioner (sadhaka) is one who makes an effort (yatna).

However, what should you focus your efforts and exercise on?

We can distinguish three places which are the three levels of mind, which correspond to the three levels of the psyche in the broadest sense of the word.

The first level is “physiological”, determined by the genotype and partly by activity in early childhood.

At this level, there are the qualities of various mental functions:

• speed of thought,
• memory capacity,
• resistance to emotions and their intensity,
• dynamic volume of attention and its fatigue, etc.

The second level is functional or methodical. It is not about mental physiology, but about the skills of correct performing certain interpsychic operations. Example:

• memorization or recall techniques,
• logic and methodology of intellectual research,
• techniques of argumentation and reasonable doubt,
• techniques and methods of self-control in the emotional sphere.

Correlation of levels is quite obvious – a person with a good speed of thinking is effective if he/she thinks methodically correctly. Otherwise, it drives the “processor” in vain. Although, provided a person has the right techniques, he/she is more effective than an untrained person.

Meditations at this level are the development of the internal culture of memory, thinking, emotions, etc. The practices on this level also affect the first level due to the plasticity of the brain.

The third, highest level is existential. Here we have:

• real motivation (which is the basis for actual ethical choices),
• worldview,
• attitudes towards certain types of reactions (from behavioral to intellectual) to external factors.

This level is the most important one, but is unattainable without the previous ones. No wonder the “Yoga Sutra” begins not with “subtle” meditations, but with an epistemological description of the correct methods of cognition belonging to the second level…

In classical yoga, there are sets of meditations that correspond to each of these levels.

The source is Andriy Safronov’s Telegram channel “Notes in the Margins of Ancient Texts”

Division of meditations according to the nature of influence

∎ Memory

Exercises for developing the ability to operate one's own memory.

∎ Attention

Meditations that train the ability to manage active attention.

∎ Senses

Practices that form the desired state of senses.

∎ Cognition

Methods of correct thinking with the help of which you can acquire new knowledge.
This meditation class presents searching for an answer to a question.

Effect of meditation

Can we call all actions with memory, attention, sensations and thinking a meditation in the spiritual sense ?

Can we consider wandering thoughts from object to object in a circle, learning information by heart, uncontrolled mentions, fantasizing as meditation?
If we call conscious actions that have a goal a meditation, then no, not all types of mental activity are meditation, since not all of them are conscious and most arise involuntarily. But they can also carry spiritual potential. This is true if we define meditation not by form, but by effect - the birth of existential experiences. Or, in other words, the emergence of deep and lasting transformations occurring in a person.

Meditation combines mental activity and existential experiences. That is, changes self-esteem, motivation, identity, anything that “expands” the psyche to the spiritual.

Quotations from primary sources

Meditation as medicine

Meditation is medicine. Therefore, there are thousands of meditative techniques, each of which can help with a specific problem. If the goals of a particular method are not specified, then the phrases "I practice meditation" or “research meditation” remain meaningless.
Mokshadharma on this subject:
55a vipannā dhāraṇās tāta nayanti naśubhāṃ gatim
55c netṛhīnā yathā nāvaḥ puruṣān arṇave nṛpa

O king, poor concentration (dharana) takes a person down a bad path,

As if (the current carries) into the (open) sea, a ship without a helmsman, my son.

Samdharana is concentration on pleasure in unhappiness

Among the type of meditations related to the control of attention (dharana) there is a very interesting practice mentioned by Shivapadhyaya in the commentary on the Vijnana-bhairava-tantra. According to the commentator this meditation can be called samdharana:

…duḥkhe … sukha-saṃdhāraṇam eva paramārthaḥ…

The very focus (of consciousness) on the satisfaction of unhappiness is the highest goal…
Very relevant, although a little unusual for an Indian text, from which we expect a reverse practice sooner. But this is Buddhism, this is Tantra. Moreover, Vijnana-bhairava-tantra.

Emotion control meditation

Yoga texts describe various meditations for controlling emotions. One of the quotations is given in the text "Mandukya Karika"::
3.44. If the mind is asleep, wake it up. If the mind is distracted - calm it down. Recognize passionate manifestations of the mind. Do not shake the mind that has reached equilibrium.
The result of such a meditation is the development of the ability to monitor the state of consciousness and stop destructive impulses, the ability not to screw yourself up - significantly improves life.

Meditative practices in the esoteric traditions of the world

Practices similar to yogic meditations can be found in other traditions as well.

In Latin mysticism, namely in the practices of monks, 3 main techniques were distinguished: meditation, contemplation, and cogitation. 

Meditation is a careful, detailed reflection on the words of philosophical and sacred texts to the state when it is impossible to think about anything else. In this, we recognize dhyana

Contemplation is direct feeling. Which is similar to bhavana. 

Cogitation (cogo = cum+ago — to collect together, to connect) — clarification of ideas through discursive cognition. Samadhi (sam- +ā- +dha+ i — to gather together) is a complete knowledge of an object as a result of dhyana. 

We recognize smarana in the practices of reminiscence (conscious recollection), which were described by Aristotle. 

Meditations of the Yoga Sutras

Mind Wholeness, Absent-Mindedness and Torpid Mind. Mistakes in Meditation

When we recognize that we are in a state of mudha, then we have the opportunity to activate the mind, or at least to stop activities that are no longer useful. Perhaps there is indeed fatigue and it is worth changing the type of activity or simply resting, and then continuing. Interestingly, many social institutions instill this state and "train" people to be in it. For example, the education system is obviously overloaded with unnecessary information, which "trains" to fall asleep during lectures. The TV at home works in the same way."

The Koans of Zen and Meditative Question

In one of the articles, I mentioned a fundamental aspect of understanding meditation (dhyana).
Namely, the fact that "meditation is a question." In the sense that true meditation is an attempt to find an answer to a certain question. The answer brings the person into the metacontext of the situation he is considering and changes the emotional evaluation of the situation itself.

Breath control as a method of gathering chitta

The reverse change — a change in the state of consciousness under the influence of pranayam — would be impossible to accomplish within the framework of the scientific method, because it is impossible to objectify the state of consciousness. Therefore, here we, like the ancient yogis, remain empiricists in trusting our experience, which, in agreement with Patanjali, says that when the breath is balanced, the consciousness becomes more collected.

Meditation in the Context of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

The word “meditation” is one of the brands that the mass consciousness has inseparably linked to yoga, spiritual practices and person’s development. And this opinion is justified: yoga is not yoga without psycho-practices, since it was yet in Hatha Yoga Pradipika that they wrote that “All the methods of hatha are meant for gaining success in Raja-yoga”.