Dhyan – Contemplation
Dhyan is a Sanskrit word derived from the root ‘Dhaye’ which means to contemplate some form, to remember it, to repeat it, to think about it, and to collect the soul currents at their headquarters. Dhyan connotes both seeing and thinking. To fix the attention at any point is also called Dhyan. This leads to seeing spiritual scenes, light and radiance. If these phenomena do not appear, you may take it that Dhyan has not been successful.
Many people claim that they contemplate upon the all-pervading Lord. Omnipresence is a quality of the sky (ether). Its contemplation is that of ether. So long as the inner vision is not awakened, the spiritual scenes are not beheld.
A man cannot live without carrying on some form of contemplation. Whatever vocation one is engaged in, he thinks about it before retiring at night, and forms mental pictures of it. Simran and Dhyan are interdependent. We think of the world and contemplate one its forms, with the result that we come again and again into this world.
The question arises as to what one should think about, so that he need not return to this mundane sphere.
Kabir Sahib advices:
Undertake such Contemplation, as will end transmigration.
What is such a Dhyan?
The Sikhs Scriptures state that Dhyan signifies knowing and listening to the Divine Melody. Guru’s Shabd (Word) is also known as Dhyan. This Shabd is the Unstruck Music that created the universe. Dhyan is the second step of the spiritual ladder, and is born of Simran.
So long as a person has not seen God, how can he contemplate upon His form? God is Shabd. He is Love. It is a language of silence. He alone attains Him who loves Him. In the first instance, it is essential that we should contact a Master who is Shabd and Love incarnate; who has merged himself in the Lord; who is no longer a drop but has become the ocean. Soul is in the Lord, and the Lord is in the soul. Therefore, so long as we do not see the Lord, we should contemplate upon the form of a God-Man.
Whenever we close our eyes, we behold scenes of the world such as family and children, hearth and home, wealth and possessions; we constantly dwell upon the world and its objects with the result that every cell of our mind is immersed in it. It is for this reason that we are firmly tied to the world.
We do not know how to contemplate upon the form of the Lord. The one we have to contemplate upon is beyond the three worlds. So long as we do not meet Him, on whom shall we contemplate?
Let us examine the objects of this world to discover what is worthy of our contemplation. The entire world is comprised of the five elements, viz., Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
Accordingly, everything in this world is divided into five parts.
Those beings that have all the five elements active in them. In this category are all human beings.
Those that have four elements, namely, earth, water, fire and air, active in them. This category relates to quadrupeds.
Those that have only three elements, namely, water, fire and air active in them. This is the category of birds.
Those that have two elements, namely fire and air active in them. This category includes reptiles, lizards and the like.
Those that have only one element – water – predominant in them. These are members of the vegetable kingdom.
If a human being, in whom all the five elements are active, were to contemplate on the forms in whom one, two, three, or four elements are present, he would go down to their level, for whatever one contemplates that he becomes. Is it, therefore desirable that a man should contemplate on the form of a man? If so, why? We shall explain it by means of an example:
A room contains a number of radio sets. Only those sets that are connected with batteries or an electric current receive the news. Those that are disconnected do not do so. Similarly, only such persons as have opened their inner vision and are in communion with the Lord are the ones worthy of our worship and Contemplation.
Therefore, Sikh and other scriptures emphasize the need of Contemplation upon the form of a Master who is one with the Lord. Such a course is conducive to valuable benefits.
God is manifest in the Master, because the Master is God in human form. Therefore, the Contemplation of the Master is really that of the Lord, and His worship is true service to the Lord.
The highest form of Contemplation is that of God, or connecting our consciousness with Shabd, which is God-in Action, and listening to it is Contemplation of the person in whom God is manifest. The contemplation of God is impossible, for we have not seen Him. Therefore, we should first contemplate on the form of the Master, because we can see Him and by contemplating upon Him, we are enabled to contact Naam.
The Contemplation of the form of the Master may be likened to seeing a glowing bulb, the first perception of which is that of light, seeing which we are oblivious of the glass that holds it.
In the initial stages of Simran, the Contemplation of the physical form of the Master is necessary. After that, the disciple contemplates on the Radiant Form of the Master, which remains with him in the spiritual planes. This form subsequently merges in Shabd, its real Form.
The Master souls have their radiance spread out to extensive spiritual planes.
With the manifestation of the Radiant Form, the disciple’s devotion is half complete. When the Refulgent Form appears within, the disciple should fix his attention in it, so much so that he completely merges himself in this form and can no longer distinguish between himself and the Master.
I have become You, and You me. I have become a body and You have become my soul, my very life, so much so that none can say we have a separate entity.
According to Scriptures dealing with the soul, when the course of Contemplation is complete, the disciple, the discipline1, and the Deity all merge into one. The worshipped and the worshipper become one, as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly and loses its own identity. Such a state – Fana-fil-Sheikh – is known as merging in the Master.
But the Master has already merged in the Lord – Fana-Fillah –, with the result that the disciple also merges into Him. Whatever you dwell upon, that you become.
A peasant called on a certain Saint and the Saint asked him
Whom do you love?
He answered that he loved his buffalo. Whatever you love, reflection on it stills the mind. Before long his thoughts began to concentrate and, because of dwelling upon the buffalo, he mentally assumed its form. Thereupon the Saint opened the door of the room and asked the peasant to come out through it.
The peasant replied:
How can I come out through this small opening? My horns are too wide to pass through it.
Such is the power of contemplation!
In the Gita, Lord Krishna says:
The way I am remembered, in the same way I remember. Whoever reflects upon and worships a form with faith, he assumes that form.
Those who yearn for Me, they come and merge in Me.
In the Kathupanishad, the body of man has been likened to a chariot, of which the senses are the horses. Like unbroken horses they are always running after sense pleasures. The mind is the bridle, and safety lies in pulling and in keeping it under control, which is, however not so easy. The Gita says that the remedy lies in making the mind contemplate upon the form of the Master.
Devote thyself whole-heartedly to Me and take refuge in Me. Collecting the mind in this way, stop its going out and wanderings.
Just as we cannot scale the wall of a fort without the help of a ladder; even so, we cannot reach the Lord without Contemplation of the Master. It is concentration that takes us from the physical to the Astral, from the Astral to the Causal, and beyond the Causal to the Lord.
The Radiant Form of the Master manifests only in pure and sincere hearts. In an impure heart, it simply cannot reside.
The pure form of the Beloved can be seen only by pure eyes. Behold Him with pure and keen eyes – as a Muslim scans the sky on the Id-eve2. It is not every eye that can behold the Radiant Form of a True Master. It is the privilege of a rare and fortunate few.
The Upanishads as well as the Bhagavad Gita say:
Purity of mind and its cleanliness are regarded as essential prerequisites for Contemplation and meditation.
The purity must be both inner and outer. The outer comes first, and later, with practice, comes the inner. Those who are vile and whose mind is restless can never succeed in Contemplation, and will suffer pain and privation. So long as Contemplation on the form of the Master is not achieved, the soul currents cannot collect within.
The contemplative faculty of the soul is called Nirat; that is, the seeing faculty of the soul. The soul has two faculties. One is ‘Surat’, which means the hearing faculty, and the other is ’Nirat’, which means the seeing faculty. So long as the seeing faculty is not developed, mere listening to the Shabd does not bestow the fullest possible benefit. By fixing the attention within, one is able to behold many spiritual regions. So long as the seeing faculty does not develop, the hearing faculty of the soul does not ascend to higher planes. By developing the seeing power of the soul we achieve Dhyan. And it is this alone that leads us to true knowledge.
The power of contemplation is innate and natural. Even the turtles and the swans are known to possess great powers of contemplation. It is said that through contemplation they hatch their distantly laid eggs.
Among Hindus, gazing on the rising sun is regarded as a means to contemplation. Some people dwell upon the pictures of ancient Saints. This is contemplation of material and lifeless objects. In Dhyan, one may see pictures with frames, but these cannot lead one upward. Both pictures and idols are lifeless. They cannot draw one upward. Therefore a picture cannot pull us up. He alone can draw us to the spiritual regions who frequents them himself. Contemplation on the form of ancient Saints can do us little good. Most of the pictures of such Saints are not true to life and are mere figments of imagination. Worship of the lifeless is prohibited in the Holy Scriptures.
The pictures of Saints help to keep alive their memory, but they are unable to give us what a Living Master can.
Tulsi Sahib goes so far as to say:
Even if you should make a picture of the wishing-tree and pray to it a thousand times, you would gain nothing.
He further says:
If in place of a money-lender, you place his picture in his shop, it can never perform his tasks.
The New York American newspaper dated 30th March, 1933, reports a newly-invented instrument which can determine from a photograph whether the person had died since the portrait was taken.
The paper adds, It detects the movement of ‘life waves’ or ‘Z waves’ on a photographic plate, and the stillness of these waves after the death of the subject was reported today by E. S. Shrapness-Smith, an authority on chemistry.
Life, like a radio-station, emits a distinct type of wave. These human waves are transmitted to and fixed in a photographic plate. While the subject of the photograph is alive, the movement of the waves is lively. The moment the person dies, no matter how far distant from the photograph, the life waves cease to emanate from the plate. I am unable to reveal at present just what the instrument consists of. But it is based and depends on:
- static electricity and
- current electricity.
There is nothing psychic or mysterious about it. It is the result of a new application of the laws of science.
This proves that the pictures or photographs of Saints who are not alive today will not help us. Another factor is that most of the pictures of Saints who have long since departed are not exact replicas but are mostly the result of the imagination of the artists who produced them. Besides, the worship of a lifeless thing is prohibited. The pictures or photographs of a Saint certainly remind us of our Master, but they can give us nothing more. It is only the Living Master who can bestow His Grace on us.
Among Muslim Saints many methods are used to develop the seeing faculty of the soul – Nirat. They are called Nazri or Basri, namely, relating to eyesight.
They term this shughal or practice. The well-known among them are:
Shughal-i-Aftabi – In this the attention is fixed on the rising sun, and it is best done during winter. One gains miraculous powers. Amongst the Hindus, this practice is known as Tratak Dhyan.
Shughal-i-Mansur –In this a person lies flat on his back on the ground, with his face turned up. He relaxes his entire body and fixes his attention within at the eye centre. The yogis call it Shavasan.
Shughal-i-Barzakh-i-Akbar – In this, while controlling the breath, the attention is fixed at the Third Eye. Many Muslim Saints practise this method, which was also a favourite with Prophet Mohammed. This is equivalent to contemplation on Trikuti – the second stage in spiritual transport – and is done while sitting in the Padam Asan.
Shughal-i-Barzakh-i-Kabir – In this, the seeing power of the soul is fixed within and without on the form of a Master. As a result of the practice, one is able to achieve certain supernatural powers and also unravel hidden secrets.
Shughal-i-Isme-Zat – In this the disciple fixes his attention on the light within and is thus able to merge within himself.
Shughal-i-Iena – In this a mirror is placed in front of the practitioner. He fixes his attention on the pupils of his own eyes as reflected in the mirror. By gazing steadfastly, the pupils of his eyes turn inwards and he gains access to Nukta-i-Saveda or the Third Eye.
Shughal-i-Nim-Khwabi – in this, one has to keep his eyes constantly open to avoid sleep. The result is that even in sleep a person remains half awake.
Shughal-i-Basait – In this, the seeing power of the soul, Nirat, has to be collected at the eye focus.
Shughal-i-Mukaman Mahmudan or Shughal-i-Sultanan-Nasira – In this, the eyes are fixed on the tip of the nose, and the attention is then gradually taken to the root of the nose. Ultimately the attention goes within and gains entrance into the spiritual regions. The Yogis call it Chachari Mudra.
The way to perform these practices can only be learned from a Master. If one practises them by oneself, they are dangerous.
Of all the practices, Shughal-i-Barzakh-i-Kabir, in which the Master’s form is contemplated both within and without, is the best. The Master’s form takes the practitioner to inner realms and remains forever with him.
The other practices take one up only to the Astral region or the Causal region, but not beyond them.
In Dhyan-Yog three kinds of Contemplation are enumerated:
- Asthool – Material
- Sukshm – Subtle or Astral
- Noori – Luminous or Radiant
To gaze at the picture of a Master is the asthool or material practice. When the soul currents collect behind the eyes at a point between the two eyebrows and see there the light of a lamp, and the seeing power of the soul gets focussed on the lamp, the practice is known as Sukshm or the Subtle method of Contemplation. When the attention is fixed on the Kundalini and it is awakened, the soul currents, leaving the body, collect at the eye focus and the soul, ascending above, rises into the refulgent regions. These constitute the Noori or the Luminous Dhyan. By practising this one is able to behold his astral body.
All these qualities and benefits accrue through contemplating on the form of a Living Master, in body and flesh. The Master lives in the physical world through his physical form. Through the astral form he gains access to the astral regions, and through the Causal form he moves in the luminous or Causal region. This refulgence is the manifestation of Truth. By contemplating upon it, one attains the highest spiritual development.
With every breath contemplate upon the form of your Beloved. The gift of the human form is unique. Do not tarry in carrying out this practice.
Khusro, a devoted disciple of his Master said:
Oh you renowned artist of China, look at my Beloved! Either paint an exact replica of His beauty or give up your art.
Just as a small child looks at an object with a fixed gaze without blinking its eyes, so should you accustom yourself to gazing intently at the beautiful face of your Master. Then see how your doubts vanish and how you attract Reality. By practising this method daily the disciple grows fearless. Were such a person to look at a snake or a lion, the latter would not attack him. The Third Eye of a man wields immense power.
It is the gateway to all the higher spiritual realms. It is through Satsang that this practice can be developed. It is the first step in our travels through the spiritual regions.In order to obtain spiritual wealth, we have to go to a Living Master and contemplate upon his form. In the Sikh scriptures, it is a Living Master and his Contemplation that alone are considered really and fully beneficial. The spiritual currents that emanate from him are surcharged with mind and soul force. Therefore, his company and Contemplation enable us to benefit from the waves of spiritual consciousness that radiate from him. It is for this reason that every Saint has contemplated upon the form of his Master, and that the Saints will continue to do so.
The Contemplation of the Master bestows many advantages. Through reflection, the disciple imbibes all the inner qualities and virtues of the Master. The mind of the Master is motionless. By contemplating upon him, the mind of the disciple also becomes still.
Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras:
Contemplation of persons who are free of worldly desires bestows stability of mind.
Then, too, remembrance of the Lord dwells in the heart of the Master. He even beholds the refulgence of the Lord. By Simran and Dhyan the disciple begins to remember the Lord automatically and becomes worthy if witnessing the inner scenes. The lovers of the Master’s form get tied to the Master. They become oblivious of the body and also of the world.
The Master is free from birth and death. Gurmukhs are the devotees of such a Master. One whose attention is fixed on the form of the Master, one who loves naught save the master – who can ever make such a person return to the world?
On one occasion Maulana Rumi fell ill on account of separation from his Master.
Sadruddin, another Saint, came to enquire about his health.
May god restore you to health.
At this Maulana Rumi replied:
May health be welcome to you. Between the lover and the beloved, only a thin veil (of this body) remains. Do you not wish that this veil should vanish and the light should merge in the refulgent source?
He further said:
You do not know the king, who is sitting within me. Do not look at my outer face hidden behind hoops of steel.
When Khusro became completely dyed in the hue of his Master, people commenced to taunt him as an idol-worshipper.
People are ignorant of the Reality. They say that Khusro is an idol-worshipper. Let them say so, for I have no concern with the world and its people.
When we see the Radiant Form of the Master within, the soul is able by concentration to maintain a stable position, and begins to listen to the inner music. In this way the Naam current flows and the devotee remains immersed in its enjoyment. The mind then takes to Naam with fervour.
The more you contemplate, the more you will hear the Sound Current and greater the pull it will exercise on the soul. The Sound Current draws the soul to higher regions, and through Contemplation enables it to stay there. Dhyan carries the soul to spiritual regions within. In this way the soul ascends to these regions, but it is the privilege of a rare Gurmukh – true devotee of a perfect Master. This Contemplation is in the inner sky and in consequence the soul, getting rid of sense pleasures, fears and all other fetters, gains access to its real Home.
Simran bestows concentration. Concentration leads to the Radiant Form of the Master. Contemplation enables the soul to stay there, and the Divine Melody is heard.
In this connection Hafiz says:
When I had a glimpse of the handsome and charming face of my Master within, I bowed low and prayed, God be blest that tonight I have been so fortunate.
It is a well-known fact that love beautifies everything it touches.
Laila was of dark complexion, but in the love-intoxicated eyes of Manju she was far beyond compare. If you wish to see Laila, see her with the eyes of Manju.
It is true that love makes a beloved charming.
But the Master’s form is inherently very beautiful. To add full loveliness to it, he does not have to depend upon the imperfect love of human beings, nor does he stand in need of any artificial aids such as colours and perfumes.
The Radiant Form of the Master resides within every true disciple. When the soul withdraws from without and goes within, crossing the stars, the sun and the moon, it beholds His refulgent form. It is this radiance that bestows light to both the sun and the moon. Whoever goes within sees His wondrous form.
We are wonder-struck to hear descriptions of the beautiful physical form of the Master, but if we manifest him within, we will find him a thousandfold more beautiful.
By addressing the Lord, Hafiz says:
Oh Beloved, I have heard many a tale about your wondrous beauty; but now that I have beheld you within, I see that you are really a thousand times more wonderful than the tales depict you.
Shut your eyes and you will find nothing but darkness within. This darkness is even more pronounced than a completely moonless night. When the soul, withdrawing from without, goes in, there come into view the stars, the sun and the moon. Beyond them appears the Radiant Form of the Master. The Master does not come secretly, but flashes of light emanate from his Radiant Form in such a manner that the soul is irresistibly attracted towards it. In reality, this scene beggars description.
Hafiz has attempted to portray this inner vision, but how can one describe what is indescribable?
The whole night His refulgence filled my heart with light. What a bold thief he is to come in the darkness, but with what an aura of radiance he comes!
Contemplation of the Master’s Form is wondrously rewarding. Those who think of the Master’s Form, gain honour and glory both here and beyond. All their desires are fulfilled. By merging in the Master, they attain God-Realization.
Footnote: 1) Sant Mat. 2) On the eve of Id, the devout Muslims desire to sight the geocentric new moon of the Islamic month Dhu-l-Hidja. At this point reference is made to the longing that has every devout Muslim to be the first to see the crescent moon. With the Id eve begins the Idu l-Adha – also written Eid al-Adha – which is the highest Islamic sacrificial feast. At this feast all over the world, multimillion animals are slaughtered, often even in the bathtubs of flats. In Germany, it can be applied that on religious reasons slaughtering without anaesthesia is allowed, although it is not permitted otherwise. The actual background of this feast, however, is Abraham's willingness to make sacrifices towards God.