Sloka 12 says: “Those who worship the unmanifest reality enter into blinding darkness.” This refers to nirakara meditative practice. Many people recommend reflection on abstract concepts as being the best type of meditative practice. They say that one should reflect on reality as being beyond the mundane world of sense experience, but if one’s level of perception and understanding is gross, then this type of meditative practice is a complete waste of time. Meditative practices on such themes as ‘infinity’, ‘Brahman’, etc. tend to degenerate into intellectual speculations not based on deep experience. This leads away from the path towards meditation. Thus the upanishad says if one does nirakara practices prematurely, then one will miss the straight and narrow path. This type of meditative practice has its place, but when a person’s perception is very subtle.
This type of practice has to be in accordance with the nature and level of the individual understanding. This will be further explained shortly.
Nirakara meditation practices done prematurely lead to laya (unconsciousness and sleep). One is unable to penetrate the deeper layers of one’s being. Thus the rishis who wrote the upanishad warn us to be careful, for this laya leads directly into the deep pit of delusion. First of all there must be intense sakara meditative practice in order to purify the mind, make it one-pointed, and develop the level of perception and understanding.
It should be noted here that practices such as antar mouna have their place in exhausting gross mental impressions in the earlier stages of yogic practice. It should be practised before both sakara (with symbol) and nirakara (abstract) meditative techniques.
Both sakara and nirakara practices lead to different experiences. This is explained in the subsequent sloka: “Meditation on the manifest (sakara) brings a specific experience; meditation on the unmanifest (nirakara) leads to a different experience. This is what the wise have told us.” (sloka 13)