Chapter 54 — Uddalaka’s Meditation and Samadhi

Vasishta continued:—

Thinking himself raised to this state of his transcendence, the saint sat in lotus posture with his eyelids half shut and began to meditate in his translucent mind.

Then he thought that the syllable Om is the true symbol of Brahman, and that he who utters this monosyllabic word rises to the highest state. He uttered the word with a raised voice and high note which rang with a sound of a ringing bell. His utterance of Om shook the seat of his intellect in the cranium and reached the seat of the pure soul in the topmost part of his head. The pranava Om, consisting of three and half letters [“a for waking, “u” for dreaming, “m” for deep sleep, and bindu (dot) for super consciousness, see Mandukya Upanishad], fills the whole body with the breath of inspiration by having its first part or the letter “a” uttered with an acute accent.

He exhaled the breath from his body and it became as insubstantial as the sea after Agastya sucked it up. His vital breath was filled with the vitality of the intellect and rested in the outer air by leaving his body, like a bird leaving its snug nest and floating in open air. The burning fire of his heart burned away his whole body and left it as dry as a forest scorched by the hot wind of a fire.

He was in this state at the first step of his practice of pranava yoga by chanting Om. He did not practice hatha yoga at all because it was physical. 10 Then he attended to the other parts of the mystic syllable and remained unshaken by suppressing his breath by the kumbhaka breathing. 11 His vital breaths were not allowed to pass out of his body, nor were they allowed to circulate up and down in it, but were shut up in the nostrils, like water pent up in a drain.

12 The fire consumed his body and was blown out in a moment, like the flash of lightning. He left his whole frame consumed to ashes, lying cold and grey on the naked ground. 13 The white bones of his body seemed to be sleeping unmoved, lying in quiet rest on the bed of grey ashes looking like camphor powder strewn on the ground. 14 These ashes and bones were carried aloft by the winds and covered his body which looked like the body of Shiva smeared with ash and wearing a garland of bones. 15 Afterwards the high winds of the air, flying to the face of the upper sky, bore aloft and scattered about those ashes and bones, resembling an autumn mist in the air. 16 The saint attained this second or middle stage of his pranava yoga, and it was through kumbhaka breathing and not by hatha yoga.

17 He then came to the third stage of his pranava yoga, the inhalation which confers a quiet rest to the yogi, and is called puraka for its fulfillment of his object. 18 In the process of this practice, the vital breath is carried through the intellect to the region of emptiness where it is cooled by the coldness of its climate. 19 From the region of vacuum, the breath ascended to the lunar sphere. There it became as cold as when the rising smoke turns into a watery cloud in the upper sky. 20 Then the breath rested in the orb of the full moon, as in the ocean of ambrosial waters, and there became as cool as in the meritorious samadhi meditation.

21 The respiring breaths were then exhaled like cooling showers of rain and were brightened by the moonbeams into the form of fine wires of gold. 22 These fell like a dew drop on the remaining ashes, like the stream of the heavenly Ganges fell on Shiva’s head, and resuscitated the burnt body to its former form. 23 The body became as bright as the orb of the moon. It had the four arms of Vishnu. It glistened like a parijata tree on the shore after the sea was churned by Mandara Mountain. 24 The body of Uddalaka competed in beauty with that of Vishnu Narayana. His bright eyes and lotus-like face shone with a celestial light.

25 The vital breaths filled his body with a humid juice, like a lake filled with sweet water and trees supplied with moisture from a spring. 26 The internal airs filled the lungs and heart cavity like seawater flowing into a whirlpool. 27 His body was restored and regained its natural state, as when the earth regains its prior and pure state after it is washed by rain waters.

28 He sat in lotus posture and kept his body fixed and firm in a straight and erect position. The five organs of his sense were bound as tightly as strong chains on the feet of an elephant. 29 He strove to practice an unshaken samadhi, wanting to make himself appear as clear as the autumn sky. 30 He controlled his breath and restricted his heart from its inclinations, tying it tightly as if by a rope to the post of his bosom. 31 He forcibly stopped his heart from running madly into the pits of its affection, just as they stop the course of over-flowing waters with embankments. 32 His eyes were half hidden under his half-closed eyelids. His eyeballs remained as fixed and unmoved as the contracted petal of the lotus against buzzing bees fluttering about and seeking to suck their honey.

33 He practiced raja yoga, at first by remaining silent with a graceful countenance. 34 He abstracted his senses from their objects just like they separate oil from sesame seeds. He contracted the sense organs within himself like a tortoise contracting his limbs under his hard covering. 35 With his steady mind, he cast off the external sensations afar from him like a rich and brilliant gem casts off its outer coating and rubbish, then scatters its rays to a distance. 36 He compressed his external sensations without coming in contact with them, like trees contracting their sap in the cold season. 37 He stopped the circulation of his respiration to the nine openings of his body and their passing through the mouth and anus. By means of his breath control he compressed the winds in the internal cells of his body.

38 He held his neck erect like the peak of Mount Meru in order to receive the light of the soul which irradiated in the form of flowers before the vision of his mind. 39 He confined his subdued mind in the cavity of his heart just like they imprison a big elephant in a cave of the Vindhya Mountains after being captured by some artifice. 40 When his soul gained its clarity resembling the serenity of the autumn sky, it forsook its unsteadiness like the calm ocean when it is full and not agitated by wind.

41 The mist of doubts which sometimes gathered in his breast and hid the light of his reason and truth fled from before him, like a flight of gnats driven by the wind. 42 As crowds of doubt rose repeatedly in his breast of their own accord, he dispersed them boldly by the sword of his reason like a hero driving the enemy before him. 43 Upon the dispersion of the thick mists of doubts and all worldly desires from his mind, he saw the bright sun of reason rising in his breast from the parting gloom of ignorance. 44 He dispelled this darkness by the sunbeams of his full intelligence which rose in his mind like a blast of wind and dispersed the clouds of his doubts in the skies. 45 After this darkness was dispersed, he saw a beautiful collection of light shining upon him like morning twilight alighting upon his lotus bed.

46 But this clear light of his soul was soon after removed by the worldliness (rajas, the principle of action) of his mind which consumed the light like a young elephant feeds upon red lotuses, and like vetala demons lick up drops of blood. 47 After he lost this heavenly light, his mind turned flighty from the giddiness of his passions. He became as drowsy as sleeping lotuses at night, and as tipsy as a drunken sot over his drinks. 48 But his reason soon returned and made him shake off his sleepiness, like winds dispersing clouds, a snake inhaling air, an elephant devouring a lotus bush, and sunlight dispelling the darkness of night.

49 After his drowsiness was removed, his mind saw the broad expanse of the blue sky filled with fancied forms of animals and flights of peacocks and other birds. 50 As the rainwater washes blackness off tamara tree leaves, a gust of wind drives away the morning mist, and the light of a lamp disperses darkness, so his spiritual light returned to him and removed the blue emptiness of his mind by filling it with its benign radiance. 51 The idea of an empty void was replaced with that of his self consciousness. His idea of the mind was absorbed in it, just as the drunken frenzy of a man is drowned in his sleep.

52 Then his great soul rubbed out the impressions of error from his weakened mind, like the bright sun driving the darkness of night from the world. 53 In this way, his misty mind, free from its shades of light and dark and from the impurity of its drowsiness and error, obtained its rest in the state of samadhi which no language can describe. 54 In this state of calm and quiet repose, his limbs dropped down as in the drowsiness of sleep. Their powers were absorbed in the channel of his self consciousness, like a flood flows to its basin when blocked by an embankment.

55 Then by means of his constant inquiry he advanced from a state of consciousness of himself to the state of intellectuality, like gold molded into the form jewelry is reduced to the pure metal. 56 Then leaving his intellectuality, he thought of himself as the consciousness of his intellect. He became another form and figure, like clay made into a pot. 57 Then leaving his nature of a thinkable being (or objectivity), he became the subjective thinking intellect itself, and next to that, as identical with the pure universal consciousness, just as the waves of the sea create mist in the common air. 58 Losing the sight of particulars, he saw the great One as the container of all. He became as one with the sole empty consciousness.

59 He found his joy in this extra-phenomenal state of the ideal which, like the ocean, is the reservoir of all moistures. 60 He passed out of the confines of his body and went to a certain place where, leaving his ordinary form, he became like a sea of joy. 61 His intellect swam over that sea of joy like a floating swan, and remained there for many years with as serene a light as the moon shining in her fullness in the clear sky. 62 His intellect remained as still as a lamp in the still air and like the shadow in a painted picture. It was calm as a clear lake without waves, like the sea after a storm and as immovable as a cloud after it has poured out its waters.

63 As Uddalaka was sitting in this full blaze of light, he saw the aerial spiritual masters (siddhas) and a group of gods advancing towards him. 64 The groups of spiritual masters were eager to confer the positions of Sun god and Indra upon him. They assembled around him with groups of heavenly gandharvas and apsara nymphs from all sides of heaven. 65 But the saint took no notice of them, nor gave them their due honor. He remained in deep thought, continuing his steady meditation. 66 Without paying any regard to the assembled spiritual masters, he remained still in that blissful abode of his bliss, just like the sun remains in the northern hemisphere for half of the year. 67 While he continued in the enjoyment of his blessed state of living liberation, the gods Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma waited at his door, together with groups of spiritual masters, disciples and other gods.

68 Uddalaka remained in his state of detachment which lies between the two opposites of sorrow and joy, neither of which is of long continuance, except the middle state of detachment which endures forever. 69 When the mind is situated in its state of neutrality, and whether it is for a moment or a thousand years, it no longer has any taste for pleasure. It already sees its future joys of the next world as already begun in this. 70 When holy men have gained that blissful state in this life, they no longer look upon the outer world. They turn aside from it like men avoiding a thorny bush of brambles. 71 The saints who attain this state of transcendental bliss do not stoop to look upon the visible world, just like one who is sitting in the heavenly car of Chitraratha, the king of the gandharvas, never gets out to step on a thorny khadira bush. 72 They who enjoy this joy of the invisible in them take no account of the visible world, just like a self-sufficient rich man takes no account of the condition of the miserable poor. 73 The wise heart that has found its rest in that blissful state either keeps from the thoughts of this world or shrinks from it with disgust and hatred.

74 Uddalaka thus remained in his holy seat for six months, after which he awoke from his samadhi and moved to another place like the sun gets out of the mists of frost in spring season. 75 He saw before him an assembly of bright beings of enlightened minds who, their faces shining like the bright moon, hailed the hermit with great veneration. 76 They were fanned with fans flapping about them, like swarms of bees smeared with the white powder of mandara flowers, sitting on their heavenly cars decorated with flags waving in the sky. 77 Sitting in the aerial cars were great saints, like ourselves, decorated with ringlets of sacred grass on their fingers and accompanied by vidyadharas, gandharvas, and damsels ministering to them. 78 They addressed the great soul and saintly Uddalaka saying, “Consent, O venerable sage, to look upon us. We have been waiting here with our greetings for you. 79 Please mount on one of these heavenly cars and come to our celestial abode. Because heaven is the last home where you shall have the full gratification of your desires after this life.”

80 “Remain in heaven to enjoy your desired pleasures until the end of this kalpa age. Pure heavenly bliss is the inheritance of saints and the main aim and object of ascetic austerities on earth. 81 See the vidyadhara ladies waiting for you with fans and flower garlands in their hands. They have been hailing and inviting you to them, like a young elephant cow entices the big elephant towards her. 82 The main object of riches and good acts is only the desire for rewards, and the greatest of our enjoyments is the company of fairy ladies, just as flowers and fruit are the desired products of the spring season.”

83 The hermit heard his heavenly guests speaking in this manner. He honored them politely without being moved by anything they said unto him. 84 He neither complemented them with courtesy nor changed the even course of his even and unexcitable mind. He bid them to depart in peace and returned to his tapas.

85 The spiritual masters honored him for his devotion to his practice and for refusing the desires of carnal gratifications. Then they left to return to their paradise abode, after tarrying there in vain for some days hoping to entice the hermit to their romantic fields.

86 Afterwards the saint continued to wander about at pleasure in his character of a living liberated yogi. He frequented the hermitages of ascetics at the edges of woods and forests. 87 He roved about freely over the mountains of Meru, Mandara, and Kailash and on the table lands of the Vindhyan and Himalayan ranges. He travelled through woods and forests, gardens and deserts and to distant islands everywhere. 88 At last the saintly Uddalaka chose his home in a cave lying at the foot of a mountain. There he dedicated the rest of his life to secluded tapas and meditation.

89 It was then in the course of a day, then of a month, and sometimes after the lapse of a year or many years, that he rose once from his meditation. 90 After his yoga was over, he came out and mixed with the world. Though he sometimes was engaged in the affairs of life, yet he was quite reserved in his conduct and abstracted in his mind. 91 Being practiced in mental abstraction, he became one with the Divine Mind and shone resplendent in all places, like broad daylight. 92 He was habituated to ponder on the community of the mind until he became one with the universal Mind which spreads alike throughout the universe and neither rises nor sets anywhere like sunlight.

93 He gained the state of perfect tranquility and his even mindedness in all places, which released him from the snare of doubts and the pain of repeated births and deaths. His mind became as clear and quiet as the autumn sky, and his body shone like the sun everywhere.