One day I was interacting with a friend of mine in Rishikesh. He said he was learning yoga and meditation. When I asked him the difference between yoga and meditation and he said, “Yoga is a sort of physical training and meditation is the training of mind”. When I told him Yoga and meditation are not two different things, he interrupted me and asked a question why we chant 'Oum' before a mantra and 'Shantihi'three times after meditation. I replied 'Oum' is the first and foremost sound in the universe, there are in fact three sounds 'aa', 'o' and 'ma' within 'Oum'. These three sounds represent three types of characteristics named 'Sattwa', 'Rajas' and 'Tamas' which make our nature and behavior. These three attributes are present in everything. While meditation we chant 'Oum' and try to balance these three Gunaas (attributes) in order to achieve 'Yoga'. 'Shantihi' means patience, control and constant. I am sharing the main points of that conversation about meditation and a true Yogi.
“Yatha Deepo nivatastho nengatey sopama smritah, Yogino yatchittasya yunjato yogamatmanah”.
Srimadbhagavadgita (chapter 6, 19th shloka)
Meaning: – As light of an earthen lamp does not flicker in a windless place, just the yogi meditating on God wraps his mind from all directions to attain his ultimate goal of life.
Explanation: Here lord Krishna is teaching Arjuna that a Yogi's mind must be standing still to practice meditation on God just like a lamp in a windless place where the flame does not flitter and illumens that place.
This particular Shloka tells us about the balanced state of meditation as well as achieving one's target. When we talk about meditation we think of sitting in the right posture, breathing slowly or chanting a mantra. This is in fact the first step to control your mind. Meditation however is to enable one's mind to do something. Our mind receives energy from different sources and reacts promptly. When we sit to meditation, we close our eyes so that things can disappear but our subconscious mind gets active and things start dancing in front of us. Our guru teachers us to start it with some 'Pranayama' and it looks to be a little easy. If you ask people their experience about their meditation classes they say that it is difficult in the beginning but very soothing after some time. Meditating on god is in fact the seventh step towards the Moksha (the ultimate goal of life). According to the 'Asthanga Yoga' (eight parts of Yoga) one has to go through the eight different stages to attain the 'Raj-yoga' (the complete yoga). These stages are:
The above 'Ashtanga Yoga' seems to be difficult to understand and follow but if you do not want to practice meditation to attain the ultimate goal; 'The Moksha', you can at least enjoy each and every moment of your life by doing meditation provided you understand the first six steps of the 'Ashtanga Yoga'.
The first step (Yama) is to purify your behavior by eliminating the notions of malice and strife as this step yields you to real humanity.
The second step (Niyama) is to follow one of principals rigorously to purify and strengthen one's mind and character.
The third step (Aasana) is to remove the volatility and indensity in order to balance your life style. By practicing Asanas (postures of Yoga) you become healthy.
The fourth step is to slacken your breathing which bestows you with patience and endurance.
The fifth step teachers you to balance your food and diet in order to poise your thoughts and mind.
The sixth step (Dhaarna) is to mature your Chitta (mind) in order to ponder the target.
The seventh step (Dhyana or meditation) is to sojourn one's Chitta (mind) to realize one's beingness. Here you are the king of your body, mind, senses, feelings, circumstances and fate. Nothing may move until your permission.
This seventh step of meditation makes you so strong that no distraction or temptation can hurt you without your consent and the tranquil flame of will power enlightens your soul, mind, body and character. Your soul is a reflection of god which blesses and nourishes others. As you become the king, you enjoy your kingdom without any war. The eighth step (Samadhi) is to join oneself to the almighty.
Therefore one has to contemplate on the first six steps in order to be a Yogi.