The upanishad indicates that sakara meditative practice leads to a specific level of understanding and experience, while nirakara meditative practice leads to a different level of understanding. Both of them have their place in expanding consciousness as the next sloka explains: “He who knows that both the manifest (formed) and the unmanifest (formless) are really one overcomes death through the manifest (sakara) and obtains immortality through the unmanifest (nirakara)”. (sloka 14)
This sloka indicates the purpose of all mystical and religious systems: perfect oneness integration of the infinite with the individual. It indicates that one should eventually see the formless in all forms, and all forms in the formless. One should see consciousness in matter and matter in consciousness. But this understanding can only come after intense sadhana and the gradual awakening of wisdom through experience. It comes after the practice of sakara and nirakara meditative practices. It is the state that is described in the Bhagavad Gita: “When one sees eternity in things that pass away, unseparated yet separated, then one has pure knowledge.” (v. 18:20)
Sloka 14 above indicates the order and means to be used on the path to wisdom:
- One should adopt and utilize a psychic symbol or any other focal point for awareness (the manifest). Continuous practise of this type of meditation will eventually enable you to ‘overcome death’. That is, it will lead you across the river of death – the barrier of unconsciousness. This will lead to perception of the deeper reality of one’s being.
- Then, having obtained this insight, there should be reflection and identification with the formless, the unmanifest (nirakara). Actually, this reflection will arise spontaneously – there will be no choice. Only at this time, not before, should there be reflection on those abstractions which are beyond intellectual understanding.
Eventually there will arise the unification of both the manifest and the unmanifest. The sloka says: “.. . both the manifest and the unmanifest are really one.” That is, one will realize that, in the highest sense, the formed (manifest) and the formless (unmanifest) are actually one and the same. This state of consciousness is called ‘immortality’ in sloka 14.
You, the reader of this book, are almost certain to be at the stage of sakara. Do not, therefore, do nirakara practices; you will only be led into laya. Firmly fix your awareness on a chosen focal point prescribed by the meditative practice that you are doing. After some time when you gain reasonable mental purity and one-pointedness, you can adopt and use a more subtle psychic symbol. This will take you deeper into your being. Leave abstract meditations for the future. Follow the wise words of the ancient rishis.