From before the Big Bang to Now
Western science tells us that the universe as we know it began with the Big Bang. However, the obvious question is, “What was there before the bang?” The Vedic answer to this question is Pure Consciousness. An eternal, silent field which is nothing in itself but holds the potential for everything and, out of which, everything arises. The Absolute.
Being eternal, the Absolute is timeless, an eternal Now. It is also Pure Silence. However, within its eternity, the Absolute decided to experience. All experience is by contrast and as nothing else existed except the Absolute, it moved within itself to experience itself. Movement creates friction, which creates sound. However, by definition, the Absolute is Silent so the first sound had to be forced out of the field of Pure Consciousness, becoming conditioned consciousness or all the manifest creation we experience every day. This first sound is OM.
OM is the original Primordial Sound emerging from the unmanifest silence and
diversifying into creation as we know it. This transformation didn’t happen just once, it’s a continuous process. If it stops for a fraction of a second, the whole Universe as we know it would disappear. This Vedic explanation is echoed in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word (the sound of OM), the Word became flesh” (manifest creation), the One became many”
Vedic concept of creation
The Vedic scriptures tell us that the non-dual OM emerged from the Supreme Unmanifest Absolute originally expressed as the three letters A U M. From these emerged the gross physical (Bhuh) and subtle (Bhuvah), celestial (Suvah) universes. These gave rise to the great Gayatri Mantra. From the Gayatri Mantra emerged knowledge of the transcendental nature of the Cosmic Being (Purusha) giving us the entire meaning of the Vedas. And finally, from the Vedas, Brahma created the manifest Universe.
The Universe is a projection of Consciousness an Evolution from Pure Universal Consciousness to individual consciousness to ego, to the intellect and mind, to the senses and finally to the physical body. Meditation is an Involution, a return journey from the gross, manifest world to subtler and subtler levels until we arrive back Home in Pure Consciousness. The good news therefore is that in our essence, we’re all already Enlightened, perfect in every way. Unfortunately, the bad news is that we’ve forgotten it and live these less than perfect lives. Meditation reconnects us with our essence, our perfection.
The Four Yugas
In the Vedic concept of evolution there are four great time periods known as the Four Yugas – Sat, Treta, Dwapara, Kali.
Sat Yuga – This was the Golden Age, a time of purity and goodness. A time of harmony and balance, where conflict and disease were unknown. Where people had access to yogic powers (siddhis). A time of no limitations, infinite possibilities, where everything was perfect so desire was unnecessary. Peace , compassion and kindness were the only goals of life. It was a period of enlightenment, wholeness and unity.
During Sat Yuga, people lived Vedic lifestyles, respecting the balance between humankind and nature and embracing the natural forces such as fire, wind, rain, night, dawn, sun, moon, etc. The whole of nature was like a beautiful garden where each tree and plant was a different expression of pure knowledge.
The Great Vedic Rishis (enlightened beings) taught that our true destiny is enlightenment. Their meditations were different from how we practice for ourselves, they meditated for the salvation and enlightenment of the world. The Rishis recognized the subtle vibrations in everything and opened their hearts to them, so as to experience their inner meanings and pure light. These vibrations were the origins of the thousands of mantra which are available to us today.
Although Sat Yuga lasted for hundreds of thousands of years, gradually distractions began to creep into people’s lives, leading to a loss of purity, the beginning of ignorance and forgetting our true essential nature.
Treta Yuga – Now we had the start of moral decay, conflicts and wars. A physical world of land masses, oceans and deserts are formed, activities such as agriculture and mining began.
This was the beginning of separation, leading to the emergence of a personal God, deities and religions.
In every age, enlightened redeemers manifest to support those willing to listen. Treat Yuga was the time of Lord Rama and the teachings of the Ramayana and also when the wisdom of the Upanishads became known.
The teachings of the Upanishads brought about the beginnings of meditation practices where we strive to understand the inner rather than the outer world. The Upanishads gave us a science of the mind and a process of learning by direct experience. They introduced us to the concept of the need for an experienced and qualified teacher to guide our journey back to purity. The Upanishads give us the opportunity to step out of the world of illusion we create and recreate for ourselves and reawaken the memory of who we really are.
Shvetashvatara Upanishad – With the mantra echoing in your heart, cross over the dread sea of birth and death
Mundaka Upanishad – The Mantra is the bow, the student is the arrow and the Lord is the target. Draw the bowstring of meditation and hitting the target, be one with Him.
Beyond the reach of the senses is He, the Lord of Love, but not beyond the reach of a mind stilled through the practice of deep meditation
Isha Upanishad – Those who combine action with meditation, cross the sea of death through action and enter into immortality through the practice of meditation
During this time, meditation practices would have used mantras such as the Gayatri, the Maha Mrtyunjaya and the names of the various deities.
As purity diminished, we had the advent of Karma, the law of cause and effect. The soul began to gather its karmic burden and its evolutionary journey to wash (release) that Karma came into being. Everything that happened to the soul from this point was the result of its past thoughts, actions and desires. Meditation is the door out of the karmic prison.
Dwapara Yuga – In this third of the Yugas, things continued to decline further. Ego, trickery, fraud, disease, disharmony and conflict all began to dominate everyday life.
Again there were those who came to restore balance to the world. This was the time of the great teachers of the Old Testament and other ancient religions. Meditations would have been more of a prayer or contemplative nature.
In the Vedic tradition, Lord Krishna was born, bringing us the Divine wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita, often referred to as the Song of God is a spiritual map or guide book to help us climb out of the misery and suffering we have created for ourselves. Much of the meditation practices had become ritualistic but now Krishna gave us the foundation for spiritual practices (Sadhana) which could be practiced by everyone. Krishna told us to, Work without expectation of reward; have no ego; practice non-violence; live simply; do service to your teachers and others; practice inner and outer purity; control your senses; contemplate your faults; practice silence. This he codified into what are now known as the Four paths of Yoga, Bhakti – the path of love and devotion; Karma – the path of selfless service; Gyana – the path of knowledge and self-reflection; Raja the path of techniques. including meditation. Krishna’s great statement, Established in Yoga (union) perform action is the foundation of today’s meditation practices.
Krishna not only told us what we should do, he also advised as to what to stay away from in the Six Enemies of the Soul or the Gateways to Hell – excessive desire for sensory pleasures; anger; greed; delusion and infatuation; pride; jealousy.
Kali Yuga – Unfortunately, very few heed Krishna’s or the other teachers’ advice and we have now reached our current time period known as Kali Yuga. This is the time of darkness, ignorance, lies, materialism, chaos, destruction, pollution, focus on the physical, separation. It is referred to as “God’s nightmare”. It is said that during Kali Yuga the subtle or energetic body of the planet is inverted in relationship to its physical body, causing chaos, confusion, wrong thinking, destruction of the environment and each other. Much of the meditation practices were lost or retreated into the mountain caves and forrest hermitages.
Again, great teachers came to help guide us back to Truth sharing a wide diversity of meditation practices, – Buddha, Mahavira, Christ, Muhammad, Patanjali, Shankara. It is said that in this age, the spiritual heart is blocked by three knots, Kama – excessive sensory desires; Karma – effect of past actions; Avidya – ignorance, anger, lust, greed. These knots must be loosened and eliminated for our spiritual journey to be complete. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gave us recommendations – friendship to those who are equal to us, compassion for those who have less than us or who are suffering, delight and happiness for those who have successes and more than we do, indifference to those who are hostile towards us.
If allowed to run its course, Kali Yuga will continue to deteriorate and the challenges that we see around us every day will continue to grow and multiply.
The good news
So that’s the bad news but the good news is that time is just an illusion. Albert Einstein said, The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”
The Bhagavad Gita tells us, There has never been a time when you and I have not existed, nor will there be a time when we cease to exist. The wise are not deluded by these changes
True Reality is ultimately TIMELESS. Therefore, if time doesn’t exist, Sat Yuga must still be here right now. It’s all a matter of awareness or what we put our attention on.
Fear contracts = Kali Yuga
Love expands = Sat Yuga
It’s up to each one of us to decide if we want to continue to live in the chaos and confusion of Kali Yuga or the joy and bliss of Sat Yuga. It’s all about making that shift in awareness. Meditation is the tool that allows us to make that shift easily and effortlessly.
Today there are many different types of meditation available to us. each having its own value. However, the true purpose of meditation is ultimately to reconnect us with our true essence, the field of Infinite Possibilities and Pure Love, hidden deep within us. These types of meditation involve the silent repetition of a mantra specially selected by a qualified teacher. Because mantras represent the vibrations and qualities of everything in creation, there are mantra for all purposes. However, the only purpose of mantras used in silent meditation is to take our awareness from activity to silence. These mantras are an encapsulated version of our essential self and, as such, carry us effortlessly on our homeward journey. Silent meditation is the path to Love, the path back to Sat Yuga.
Meditation has been present since the beginning of time when the primordial sound OM emerged from the infinite silence. However, it has always been up to us as to whether we made use of it or not. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program, did more than anyone to bring meditation to the West and make it a household word. In recent times many other great teachers have shared their teachings with us and we owe them all a deep debt of gratitude. Not too long ago, if you had wanted to learn to meditate, you would have travelled to India, searched for a teacher and perhaps spent months waiting to receive instruction. Now meditation is easily available to everyone, either through the thousands of qualified teachers world-wide or, in the comfort of your own home through programs such as the Chopra Center’s Primordial Sound Meditation Online program.
Paramhansa Yogananda said “When all desires are concentrated into one desire, the desire for Self Realization, the spiritual journey begins.” Throughout the Yugas there are those who have had this desire and stepped out of the illusion and into Joy. Those who didn’t or weren’t ready, continued to our present day situation. It’s a choice, to continue to be bound by limitations or to be free. Meditation draws our awareness away from the noise and activity to the silence within. Meditation frees us from wandering lost and confused and brings us home to the peace, harmony and love that we truly are. While we appear to be in the darkest period of human existence, the way out has never been more easily available. It’s your choice.