Meditation as a means to attain mental poise, face life’s problems with equanimity and ensure one’s well being is a much practiced activity today.
It would be of interest to understand what Indian philosophy says about this subject and to draw parallels between the spiritual gains to be attained that are outlined there and the benefits that accrue to the practitioner in the present world.
Adi Shankaracharya’s treatise Vivekachudamani throws light on this subject.
Shankara speaks about the mind that is beset with desires.
That object must be got somehow.
Therein lies the key to our happiness.
Or so we think. Thus, to the deluded mind, there is no peace.
It runs behind objects continuously.
Therefore there is an incessant swirling of emotions – desire, anger, frustration, moments of joy, sadness and so on.
Or, in more contemporary language, the rush to meet deadlines, that mad race to get things done etc. Not that all such activity is useless.
But, Shankara says that control of the mind and senses will go a long way in differentiating between that which is really necessary and that which is just ephemeral, that which will lead us on the right path as compared to the transient pleasures that will slowly but surely lead to trouble.
Very pragmatically, Shankara says that life is full of dualities. Pain and sorrow, happiness and grief, good and bad.
Shankara says that he is the wise one who controls his external propensities, limits his fruitless activities, learns to endure the dualities of life.
In this condition, the spiritual seeker is able to discern the divine effulgence within himself, to attain to a state of beatitude.
For the man of the world, his mind becomes calm, enabling him to see and think clearly, to distinguish between right and wrong, to rid himself of wrong ideas.
If in spiritual parlance this is called attaining bliss, in everyday language, it is emotional stability.
Is it not said that a few minutes of meditation in the morning enables one to face the day with fortitude?
Thus, a calm mind is conducive to attaining the right knowledge about things. Shankara employs here the well-known rope-snake example.
When a man sees a piece of rope on the ground in twilight, he mistakes it for a snake. But when it is properly illuminated, he recognises it for what it really is. Thus, on attainment of the right knowledge of the rope, three things are accomplished.
Removal of the concealment of the rope, destruction of the delusion in man’s mind about the snake, and thirdly, the removal of the fear in the man’s mind about the snake.
Similarly, a calm mind resulting from meditation helps man to see life’s problems in a better light and take appropriate decisions.
As Shankara says, the intellect becomes sharper.
Shankara gives the example of gold heated in a crucible, removing its impurities. So does meditation rid the mind of its undesirable qualities.