Q&A with Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya
Visualization during Meditation

Question: Swamiji, during meditation we often are asked to visualize things. For example, visualize a light above your eyebrows, or white flowers falling on us etc. If one is unable to visualize, what techniques can be used to make this visualization possible?
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Answer: The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and make it completely calm and thought-less (without thoughts). Right now when we sit for meditation, we cannot truly say that we are involved in deep meditation. Our mind has not reached the thought-less state yet. So, we are trying to remove the unwanted thoughts from our mind and attain concentration or a thought-less state. If you look at how the mind is composed, you will see that it is nothing but a flow of thoughts, one after the other. It is the intrusion of undesired thoughts that disturb us when we sit for meditation. For example, thoughts like, ‘did I turn off the stove?’, ‘what are the children doing?’, ‘what is my husband doing?’, ‘I have to finish that important project’, etc. tend to come up. And from there, your mind gets distracted and by the time you even realize that your mind has drifted away, it would have been half an hour or so. You can just sit there for quite some time thinking that you meditated, whereas really you were engaged in random thoughts.
In order to gather the mind that is wandering away, we need a strong thought. It is just like a strong gust of wind that blows and removes the drifting clouds. Visualization helps us eliminate all the other thoughts and focus on one single thought. That is why mantra chanting, visualization etc. are recommended. When we chant the mantras or when we think about something divine – even though this is also a thought, we are not wasting our time as we are still dwelling on the divine form. Ultimately, we have to go beyond that and go to the formless aspect, but we need to begin where we are, which is in the world of names and forms. That is why these techniques are given to us. Amma says that we need a thorn to remove another thorn. Similarly, we need a strong divine thought to remove our vagrant thoughts.
How to focus on a single thought? It is not easy – in the beginning, there will be plenty of distracting thoughts. When you become aware that the mind has been distracted, you should come back to the visualization. The one thought – the divine form or the divine mantra is like a tree that we can hold on to and swing around and even when we realize ‘Oh! We have wandered away’, we can come back. This is the center. We have to understand that when we lose our concentration, our thoughts will stray and wander but the moment we become aware we should come back to the visualization. Through constant practice, we will gain the awareness almost all the time and will be focused on the visualization and the mantra.
Amma has given us many techniques to become aware; like chanting mantras, visualization etc. Amma says that when you are traveling in a car/train/plane etc., you should imagine your deity standing right next to you. When you are traveling, look at the sky and think about the deity sitting up in the sky or when you are by the seashore, think about the deity sitting in the middle of the ocean. These different techniques given by Amma, are to bring our mind to its center.
We have to understand that while practicing the visualization techniques, we will not be able to see the deity or the object of our visualization right away, but we should persist and keep trying. Only by constant practice can this happen, but it will certainly happen; and as we keep progressing, the distractions will go away and finally we will be able to gain perfect awareness.
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