Meditation plays as much a part in Ayurveda treatments or
Ayurveda training as yoga, massages, plants, etc. Let us discover
what traditional meditation involves.
After describing the techniques, I will quote
directly from the many works of Indian tradition. These works
are very condensed and they describe internal mechanisms with
great precision and surprising simplicity.
This expose should be read with a sense of personal connection
to one's inner dynamics, and with close attention to the master,
Patanjali, who transmits this ancient knowledge from generation
to generation, under the scrutiny of experts in the field.
This is a process of serious learning and this expose will
enable you to delve directly into these works, for you will
be familiar with the main concepts.
The popular meaning of the term meditation is based
on one of the following:
1. A cerebral activity: stop your activity in order
to concentrate, be still in order to reflect, deepen, speculate
and finally draw lessons and applications.
2. A spiritual activity: concentrate in the
same way but in order to commune on what is important, on
what is vital and cannot be attained without this exercise.
3. Supra-spiritual activity: concentrate
in order to receive, encounter, contemplate and attain spiritual
dimensions that are otherwise unattainable. At this third
level, the practices of sages from different cultures or religions
are relatively similar. What is different are the names or
inner visual representations given to the objective (an encounter
with the divine or a cosmic force; an encounter between the
individual self and the essential self; naming the supreme
objective in the singular or in the plural; viewing the objective
as accessible or as an objective that is inaccessible but
Such practices can also exist without explicitly bearing the
4. All these different forms of meditation
technically require a sense of calm in the body and the senses,
regulation of intellectual disorder and behavioral disorder,
and fine-tuning consciousness as it directs itself, stabilizes
itself, contemplates and develops in this form of encounter
What concerns us is to understand the role of meditation in
the holistic Ayurveda-yoga system, not just in theory but
in order to benefit from the treatment or training.
We shall now describe a specific ancient tradition
whose aim is to achieve tranquil, healthy, happy,
optimal, consistent wellbeing for each individual.
Below is the unanimously accepted description of Patanjali's
This psychological state of meditation (dyana),
which is the ideal desired target,
is known as "Samadhi" in Sanskrit. It consists in
placing oneself outside all the negative factors
of the mind, their number, conflicts, confusion, all of which
are known by the term "klecha."
This is a state which, like sleep (I, 10) is characterized
by unicentricity (pratyaya. Yoga-Sutra
III, 3) and abandonment of all the other functions.
While concentration on the target state is known as "Samadhi,"
the state of calm attained by focusing on the objective is
known as "shamantha" in Sanskrit or "Shi-ne"
in Tibetan. The ensuing state, when negative inner factors
are easily cast aside, is called "vipashyana."
We shall now discuss the foundational
work on this subject: Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.
The optimal target, samadhi, is described
in Chapter 3, verse 3: "when the objective ("artha")
of meditation ("dhyana") envelops the meditator
to the point that he surpasses his own self, this is samadhi.
It is a state like that of a musician in his music. Intellectual
consciousness or prayer are surpassed and empty ("shunyam").
Patanjali even equates this state (I, 26-30) to a relationship
with the divine, with the supreme teacher or guru with whom
we connect and this state becomes permanent
("anavacchedat"), continuous, unlimited, and uninterrupted
by habit or difficulties.
He demonstrates this with an example,
that of the mantra or repetition of the sound Om.
This sound represents a sequence of three sounds (A-u-m) which
cover the entire spectrum of sounds and pronunciations. An
analogy with Judaism will help us tp understand this concept:
when we say the Hebrew word "at" (feminine for "you"),
in relation to a woman or to the divine presence, it represents
the passage from the letter "aleph" (which stands
for the divine, and this is why the Torah begins with the
second letter of the alphabet "beit") to the last
letter of the alphabet, "taf." This means that,
through this one word, we connect to the other, the
feminine and the divine, in every positive way from beginning
to the end.
The function of the syllable "aum" is called "pranava."
The individual then attains a state of union with
a supreme dimension and he becomes a great self ("mahatma").
This active meditation requires repetition (japah) in order
to attain the emotional identification ("tadarthabhavanam")
described in verse I, 28.
In the following verse, Patanjali notes that this
form of repetition is a connector and it enables union
with mastery ("adhigamah").
Furthermore, it removes the obstacles ("antaraya")
to mastery over oneself as well as harmful interferences.
Patanjali, in verses I, 30-31, gives a long
list of obstacles which are weakened by this form of meditation
and shows the necessary and complementary role played
by this technique in relation to other techniques
of wellbeing such Ayurveda, massage, yoga, etc. It is well
worth reading this list of obstacles.
illness ("uyadhi"), inertia and lack of perseverance
("styana"), indecision and permanent doubt ("samshaya"),
lack of attention and carelessness ("pramada"),
laziness and indolence ("alasya"), lack of control
which leads one to seek solely material, sensual solutions
("avirati"), illusions and errors ("bhrantidarshana"),
disappointment ("alabdhabhumikatva"), lack of stability
("anavasthitatvani"), alternation between real awareness
and distraction ("cittaviksepah"), sadness and despair
("duhkha"), mental distress ("daurmanasya"),
unstable bodily dynamics ("angamejayatva"), irregular
breathing ("shavasamrasvasah"), distraction ("viksepa").
Through this brief expose, we can now appreciate
what Indian tradition teaches us about the unique
technique ("eka") of meditation for the
prevention ("tatpratiseddhartham") and treatment
of all forms of problems. It is therefore an essential
part of self-knowledge and of Ayurveda treatment.
The example given above uses the repetition
of a syllable. However, the process of learning and development
also comprises other techniques.
We see the connection with Ayurveda also here : Patanjali
does not say that only a few lofty beings are capable of attaining
superhuman heights or divinity (whatever this may mean to
each individual). On the contrary, he states. in verse IV,
4 and onwards that this movement of elevation is only
possible because the consciousness of every individual is,
in essence and being, of the same nature as the supreme being.
This is why it is called "asmita-matra," which can
roughly be translated as "I am, in myself." This
means that the level of "I" and "I am"
and "myself" is of the same level as the
supreme target to which meditation aspires.
This is why Ayurveda does not content itself
with making a dietary diagnosis regarding which foods are
healthy for a patient. Instead, the Ayurveda practitioner
seeks to identify the holistic nature of the person,
with all its components, and the conflicts and balance between
He does this with the certitude, underlined
by tradition, that this person's individual nature
is of the greatest value, and that it is enough to
know and manage it well, particularly through food, but this
does not mean that particular foods must always be prescribed
or prohibited. With meditation, just as with a plane that
flies in the midst of elements and winds, one must "check
one's position," deal with the elements, and be determined
Our supreme consciousness is not something
that is isolated in the skies; it lies within everyone's individual
consciousness ("citta"). This is such a
vital notion that, in Indian tradition, the Buddha accords
great importance to the connection between the two
forms of consciousness, without diminishing the lofty meaning
of the supreme consciousness.
Patanjali VI, 5 says that the unique
inner consciousness ("eka") is that which
develops ("prayojaka") all the other ("aneka")
forms of personal consciousness, between which there may be
disorder and that, here too, optimal order can be
This is the reason why the Ayurveda practitioner
accords great importance to the physical diagnosis, to each
individual's connection (in terms of guna,
doshas, etc.) with the elements of nature,
and to this spiritual way of viewing each human being. Patanjali
stresses the importance of understanding (IV, 7) each person's
individual structure. which is never totally good or bad,
"never totally white" ("asukla") and "never
totally black" ("akrsna") in its characteristics
The Ayurveda practitioner thus looks at all our complex
processes through this perspective of "uniqueness"
("ekatanata") (III, 2).
We now understand why Patanjali (II, 29) states
that, in this complex but unified context,
meditation constitutes 1/8th of the success of yoga - together
with the other requirements which are: abstinence from the
negative ("yama"), repeated observance of good practices
("niyama"), posture ("asanas"), control
of breathing ("pranayama"), sensory restriction
("pratyahara"), concentration ("dharana"),
and finally "samadhi."
Ayurveda also takes into account the pantcha-bhuta
or the five elements of nature - the manifest ("visesa")
in all its individual forms and the non-visible ('avisesa"),
the five organs of action ("karmenriya"), the manifestations
of the five senses of perception ("tanmatra"), etc.
Thus, in order to understand a patient at the diagnostic stage,
is that which develops ("prayojaka") all the other
("aneka") forms of personal consciousness, between
which there may be disorder and that, here too, optimal order
can be restored. by examining their influences on the person's
life patterns, health or sickness which results from the repetition
("abhyasa")of unhealthy practices
This helps us to understand the importance
of the lotus with its varied components and multiple petals
("aravinda-dala") as a symbol of human
nature. The chakras (energies/forces) of the body are also
represented in the form of a multi-petaled lotus.
This diagnostic image and perception of oneself and others
as a lotus is a constant motif in Indian tradition, as in
Simrad Bhagavatam (VB), an ancient Vedic text.
aravinda-ak?a? - the eye like a lotus. SB 3.4.19
cara?a-aravinda - the foot like a lotus. SB 3.7.14
aravinda-nabha? - with a lotus rising from one's navel. SB
vadana-aravinda-sriya - with his beautiful face like a lotus.
aravinda-ak?a - Oh this great hero with eyes like the petals
of a lotus. SB 9.20.14.
While Ayurveda weakens and halts harmful imbalances,
yoga is the cessation of the vibrations of consciousness, while
connecting with natural, cosmic forces ("prakti").
Ayurveda examines the five koshas which correspond to the five
levels of a human being: earth (anatomical level or
"annamaya"), water (physiological level or "pranamaya"),
fire (mental level or "manomaya"), air (intellectual
level or "vijanamaya"), sky (supreme level of happiness
Concrete awareness ("antarkarana") is what unites
the self ("ahamkara") with the universal Self ("antaratma").
In Ayurveda, as in yoga, everything is done gradually through
continuous concentration ("dharana") and continuous
silence and meditation ("dhyana").
The beginning of the Yoga Sutra states: "then ("tada"),
the real self ("drastuh"), resides ("avasthanam")
in its own delicious form ("svarupe")." The word
"avasthanam" - resides - means much more in Sanskrit:
it means "to take one's place, to stay in one's place,
to inhabit and also to shine with one's own reality."
As stated in verse 1, 39, a person then attains a state of
"yathabhimata" where "that which is
desired is pleasant and tasted in this constant state of meditation
Then the fluctuations ("vrttaya") of consciousness,
which cause fluctuations and painful conditions, diminish,
are annihilated ("heyah"), avoided and
In Ayurveda, through food and massage, and with the awareness
of this connection to nature and the interplay between nature
and a person's psychological, intellectual and spiritual dimensions,
impurities ("asuddih") are reduced and then destroyed
("ksaye"). The true being shines ("diptih")
in union with the very essence of knowledge, with the glory
of knowledge ("avivekakhyateh"). This is in Patanjali,
verse II, 28. Verse 30 describes the attributes of non-violence
("ahimsa"), sincerity, honesty and disinterest in
At this level, what seemed, at first, to be a matter of technique
and repetition of techniques, becomes a continuous state of
awareness ("eketanata") in III, 2 and an inner connection
between the physical, psychological and spiritual in unison
("bandhah") in III, 1.
Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (which encompasses the trio of Ayurveda-yoga-meditation)
concludes, in verse IV, 34 with a description of true
liberation that is attained ("kaivalya") at every
level ("purusartha"), as much at the bodily
and health level, as at the level of our relationships, family
and social roles, feelings and universal human participation.
It is a liberation which can reach beatitude ("kaivalyam")
but it is one in which a person realizes that he has
returned to his true nature ("svarupa") and that
it is stable ("pratistha"). This is the
power of pure consciousness ("citisaktih").
Like the Hebrew "at" which represents union with
the other, Patanjali's work concludes with the word "iti"
which means "this is everything," not in the sense
of "this is the end or the text stops here" but
in the sense of "this is everything and it is sufficient
to stay in this state, and renew it for it comprises everything."
In conclusion, we understand from Patanjali's
teaching in the Yoga Stura and the teaching of the Bhagavad
- even if meditation begins as a technique,
- the essential thing is the inner dynamic of meditation,
concentration, connection between the different levels, and
- this can be achieved through words, sounds, activities or
- and should be played out at every level for we have seen
that we are made up of multiple levels and none is privileged,
exclusive or excluded.
Indian tradition (like Jewish tradition)
has understood three points:
- eating foods appropriate to our nature is essential. We
must therefore learn this science in order to be connected
to all our levels of being and to lead a full, meditative
life. This is Ayurveda.
- Breathing, with its alternating actions of reception and
expulsion, is what connects the body to all these levels of
- Success in these areas can only be achieved if they are
experienced from an internal awareness of self, concentration,
plenitude and stability. This is meditation.
We now move onto action with this indivisible