Practice Pages: Meditation
God’s Video Screen
Dr. Lorin Roche
The other evening I was at a sports bar in Encinitas - the one just down the street from Swami’s, the surf spot in front of Yogananda’s ashram. Sipping a beer, I counted 24 large-screen TVs on the walls, showing football, soccer, tennis, surfing, skateboarding, and skiing. We were completely surrounded on all sides by glowing human bodies engaged in sports. There were screens hanging from the ceiling, so you could look up and see the action, and additionally, people were glancing down at their phones. It was a happy place, totally packed, a rapture of electronic immersion, below, above, all around.
Then we stepped outside into the post-sunset lightshow. Above us the sky was dark blue and the horizon was red-orange, and my friend said, “Welcome to God’s Great Video Screen,” and just like that, we were perceiving the world with fresh eyes. I turned in a circle, and said, “Wow, look at the resolution, the retina display of the world around us - it almost looks real.” We took a walk, and for half an hour, every sight, sound, smell, and touch of the wind felt like God beaming a great reality show right into our nerve endings.
Meditation can be this spontaneous, the nature within us perceiving the nature all around us.
In The Radiance Sutras, the Goddess Devi is teasing her lover, Shiva, who is called Yogishvara, Lord of Yogis. For the sake of conversation, and perhaps as play, Devi is pretending to be human and asking Shiva to enlighten her. Shiva gives her 112 yogas, including this meditation:
This air I am breathing was exhaled in ecstasy
By an ancient Sun.
This Earth I am standing on
Was born of cosmic fire.
The blood flowing through my veins
Is as salty as the primordial ocean.
The space permeating my body
Is infinite as the space all around.
Above, below, to all sides, within,
The elements of the universe
Are engaged in their ceremony of delight.
This is my religion.
The attraction between suns
Is the same
As the love pulsating in my heart.
asya sarvasya viśvasya paryanteṣu samantataḥ |
adhvaprakriyayā tattvaṁ śaivaṁ dhyatvā mahodayaḥ ||
- verse 57 of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra
This text is from the oral tradition, meant to be memorized, chanted, and delighted in day after day for a lifetime. That’s why it is as condensed as possible – the entire verse is only 32 syllables. Check out these definitions from the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary. It’s okay if your eyes glaze over reading them - mine do too. But people who are adept at memorizing text say that the wilder the imagery they can associate with the words, the better. Each syllable actually has its own personality and each word is full of practice tips and hints, jokes, puns, prayers, pujas, and philosophies.
- asya - of this
• sarva - everything, of all sorts, manifold, various, different, altogether, wholly, completely, in all parts, everywhere.
• vishva - whole, entire, universal, all-pervading or all-containing, omnipresent; the intellectual faculty or the faculty which perceives individuality or the individual underlying the gross body; the whole world, universe, dry ginger, a mystical name of the sound O.
• paryante - circuit, circumference, edge, limit, border, side, flank, extremity, end, extended as far as, entirely, altogether, to the end of, extending in all directions.
• samantatas - having the ends together, contiguous, neighboring, adjacent, universal, whole, entire, all, "on all sides, around.”
• adhvan - a road, way, orbit, journey, course, distance, means, method, resource, a place.
• prakriya - producing, production, procedure, way, manner, a ceremony, observance, formality, precedence, high position, elevation, privilege, characterization, a chapter, a prescription (in medicine), an etymological formulation (in grammar).
• tattva - true or real state, truth, reality, a true principle, of the truth, the 5 tanmatras, 5 mahabhutas, 11 organs including manas and purusha, the 5 elements, tattva is also regarded as made up of tat and tvam, “that art thou,” and called mahavakya, the great word by which the identity of the world world with the one eternal brahma is expressed. (Mahabhuta = the elements - space, air, fire, water, and earth.) Tanmatra = subtle element, 5 in number, from which the 5 mahabhutas or grosser elements are produced, essence or quality of the elements and the associated 5 senses or jnanendriyas, 1. sound (shabha), 2. touch (sparsha), 3. form (rupa), 4. taste (rasa), 5. smell (gandha).
• Shaivam - centered on Shiva, “The One in whom all things lie,” (kind, benevolent, friendly,) also “the faith of Shiva,” one of the main religious systems of India, along with Vaishnavam (centered on vishnu,) Shaktham (centered on Shakti), and others.
• dhyatva - meditating (dhyai - to think of, imagine, contemplate, meditate on, call to mind, recollect, to brood mischief against).
• maha - great, mighty, strong, abundant, a feast, festival, the festival of spring, a sacrifice, a buffalo, light, luster, brilliance, a cow, great deeds.
• udaya - going up, rising, swelling up, rise (of the sun), coming up of a cloud, the eastern mountain (behind which the sun is supposed to rise), going out, coming forth, becoming visible, appearance, development, production, creation, conclusion, result, consequence, that which follows, reaching one’s aim, elevation, success, prosperity, good fortune, profit, advantage, income
• mahodaya - great fortune or prosperity, pre-eminence, sovereignty, final emancipation, sour milk with honey.
When my friend and I walked out of the sports bar into the sunset, he invited us into this meditation when he said, “Look, now we are in God’s Bar, and does it have a great display.” A casual invitation, as if to a party that is underway, is the best approach to this type of meditation, because you want to bring your whole self and the natural animal in you, not just your Seeker or Student personality.
It also helps to be immersed in the elements - to put your body in the presence of green growing things, rivers, mountains, the sky, stars, waves, the Sun, and stay there long enough to be attuned to the majesty. Our love of luminous screens - all the televisions, movies, computer monitors, iPads, and phones we are continually looking at - is in essence our love of the universe around us. We are made out of the tattvas as are our senses, and the whole world is God’s sport. Now we need to go outside into nature and learn to gaze at the elements with the same rapt focus as we look at screens. The universe is maha, mighty, abundant, a festival, brilliant. The biggest surround-screen of all.