In India there are sacred places where yogis go to meditate in solitude, as prescribed in Bhagavad-gita. Traditionally, yoga cannot be executed in a public place, but insofar as kirtana—mantra-yoga, or the yoga of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is concerned, the more people present, the better. When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was performing kirtana in India some five hundred years ago, He organized in each group sixteen people to lead the chanting, and thousands of people chanted with them. This participation in kirtana, in the public chanting of the names and glories of God, is very possible and is actually easy in this age; but as far as the meditational process of yoga is concerned, that is very difficult. It is specifically stated in Bhagavad-gita that to perform meditational yoga one should go to a secluded and holy place. In other words, it is necessary to leave home. In this age of overpopulation it is not always possible to find a secluded place, but this is not necessary in bhakti-yoga.
In the bhakti-yoga system there are nine different processes: hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping the Deity in the temple, praying, carrying out orders, serving Krsna as a friend and sacrificing for Him. Out of these, sravanam kirtanam, hearing and chanting, are considered the most important. At a public kirtana one person can chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, while a group listens, and at the end of the mantra, the group can respond, and in this way there is a reciprocation of hearing and chanting. This can easily be performed in one’s own home, with a small group of friends or with many people in a large public place. One may attempt to practice meditational yoga in a large city or in a society, but one must understand that this is one’s own concoction and is not the method recommended in Bhagavad-gita.
The whole process of the yoga system is to purify oneself. And what is this purification? Purification ensues upon the realization of one’s actual identity. Purification is realizing that “I am pure spirit—I am not this matter.” Due to material contact, we are identifying ourselves with matter, and we are thinking, “I am this body.” But in order to perform real yoga one must realize his constitutional position as being distinct from matter. The purpose of seeking out a secluded place and executing the meditational process is to come to this understanding. It is not possible to come to this understanding if one executes the process improperly. In any case, this is the consideration of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
“In this age of quarrel and disagreement [Kali-yuga], there is no other way of spiritual realization but this chanting of the names. There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way.”
It is generally thought, at least in the Western world, that the yoga system involves meditating on the void. But the Vedic literatures do not recommend meditating on any void. Rather, the Vedas maintain that yoga means meditation on Visnu, and this is also maintained in Bhagavad-gita. In many yoga societies we find that people sit cross-legged and very straight, then close their eyes to meditate, and so fifty percent of them go to sleep, because when we close our eyes and have no subject matter for contemplation, we simply go to sleep. Of course, this is not recommended by Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita. One must sit very straight, and the eyes be only half-closed, gazing at the tip of one’s nose. If one does not follow the instructions, the result will be sleep and nothing more. Sometimes, of course, meditation goes on when one is sleeping, but this is not the recommended process for the execution of yoga. Thus, to keep oneself awake Krsna advises that one always keep the tip of the nose visible. In addition, one must be always undisturbed. If the mind is agitated or if there is a great deal of activity going on, one will not be able to concentrate. In meditational yoga one must also be devoid of fear. There is no question of fear when one enters spiritual life. And one must also be brahmacari, completely free from sex life. Nor can there be any demands on one meditating in this way. When there are no demands, and one executes this system properly, then he can control his mind. After one has met all the requirements for meditation, he must transfer his whole thought to Krsna, or Visnu. It is not that one is to transfer his thought to vacancy. Thus Krsna says that one absorbed in the meditational yoga system is “always thinking of Me.”
The yogi obviously has to go through a great deal of difficulty to purify the atma (mind, body and soul), but it is a fact that this can be done most effectively in this age simply by the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Why is this? Because this transcendental sound vibration is nondifferent from Krsna. When we chant His name with devotion, then Krsna is with us, and when Krsna is with us, then what is the possibility of remaining impure? Consequently, one absorbed in Krsna consciousness, in chanting the names of Krsna and serving Him always, receives the benefit of the highest form of yoga. The advantage is that he doesn’t have to take all the trouble of the meditational process. That is the beauty of Krsna consciousness.
In yoga it is necessary to control all of the senses, and when all the senses are controlled, the mind must be engaged in thinking of Visnu. One becomes peaceful after thus conquering material life.
“for one who has conquered the mind, the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquillity.” (Bg. 6.7) This material world has been likened to a great forest fire. As in the forest, fire may automatically take place, so in this material world, although we may try to live peacefully, there is always a great conflagration. It is not possible to live in peace anywhere in the material world. But for one who is transcendentally situated—either by the meditational yoga system or by the empirical philosophical method or by bhakti-yoga—peace is possible. All forms of yoga are meant for transcendental life, but the method of chanting is especially effective in this age. Kirtana may go on for hours, and one may not feel tired, but it is difficult to sit in lotus position perfectly still for more than a few minutes. Yet regardless of the process, once the fire of material life is extinguished, one does not simply experience what is called impersonal void. Rather, as Krsna tells Arjuna, one enters into the supreme abode.
“By meditating in this manner, always controlling the body, mind and activities, the mystic transcendentalist attains to the kingdom of God through cessation of material existence.” (Bg. 6.15) Krsna’s abode is not void. It is like an establishment, and in an establishment there is a variety of engagements. The successful yogi actually attains to the kingdom of God, where there is spiritual variegatedness. The yoga processes are simply ways to elevate oneself to enter into that abode. Actually we belong to that abode, but being forgetful, we are put in this material world. Just as a madman becomes crazy and is put into a lunatic asylum, so we, losing sight of our spiritual identity, become crazy and are put into this material world. Thus the material world is a sort of lunatic asylum, and we can easily notice that nothing is done very sanely here. Our real business is to get out and enter into the kingdom of God. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna gives information of this kingdom and also gives instructions about His position and our position—of what He is and what we are. All the information necessary is set forth in Bhagavad-gita, and a sane man will take advantage of this knowledge.
Link to this page: https://prabhupadabooks.com/poy/3