On meditation: Shun corporate gurus
by J Venkatasubramanian on 28 Mar 2014 42 Comments

A few years back, I was talking with some female employees of my company. The topic was pranayama and I was telling them the value of mudras in pranayama. To demonstrate, I asked them to close their eyes to observe the flow of breath with each mudra. These women, who were not even matriculates, eagerly did this eye closing pose and followed what I said with great attention. They always referred to that session later as “dhyanam” though it was pranayama.

That was a lesson to me. Meditation or Dhyanam has become a sure catch phrase in today’s India. Being Macaulay’s programmed children, the whole of India sees value in anything that is endorsed by the white man and Meditation is on top of the list.

Does Meditation play a crucial role in a Hindu’s everyday life? The answer is a clear no. If the majority is induced to meditate every day, will it bring qualitative changes in their lives and bring our society to the level it was a thousand years ago?

As I analyse this question, I get a big NO as answer. Yet today’s Hindu media is abuzz with the idea of meditation as a must for the modern person. Corporate gurus are advocating meditation to all their followers. Given this scenario, is there truth in the statement that meditation or dhyanam is the key for spiritual progress of an average man? I offer my own case as a study.

Meditation and Myself

in 1984, then 20 years old and a keen student of Vivekananda and Ramakrishna, I attended Swami Chinmayananda’s lectures on the Gita when he toured Coimbatore. With a seat in the last row on all days, I could only see him from a great distance. He discussed the 6th chapter, Atma Samyama Yogam, also called Dhyana Yogam. The language was flowery, the contents seemed so beautiful that I felt I had received some great messages those evenings.

Within a month the euphoria vanished as all attempts to ‘meditate’ failed. I tried to follow his guidelines: Sit down, close your eyes, let the thoughts flow by, do not interfere with them. I tried desperately to succeed and was confused whether this was correct or wrong. Every time I sat down to meditate, I emerged more confused person than before. The peace, the experience of yourself alone were simply words I could hardly even begin to experience.

I experimented with other meditation ‘techniques’ like Transcendental Meditation, simplified Kundalini Yoga of Vedaththiri, and the Brahma kumaris. I immediately rejected the latter two due to their absurd philosophies and because their meditation sessions were just eye-closing ones; somehow they had nothing for a person of burning spiritual ambition like me. Vedaththiri’s SKY gave me some headaches too.

Then my professional life took off and these experiments went on the backburner, though I kept reading and searching for a good meditation technique. At some stage I became a great admirer of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, We the living, etc. I was oscillating between materialism and spiritualism. I still believed in the “Supreme Brahman” since I had read the grand lives of Vivekananda, Ramakrishna and Ramana.


Then I got married and had two children over a span of six years. At around this time, I restarted hatha yoga and tried to do some meditation at the end of each session. My family complained that I had become very irritable. On close observation, I noticed I was irritable only on days when I meditated. Some days I even flew into a rage. On one such day my blood pressure was 160/120!!! One fine day, my wife banned my mediation sessions.

But I had started reading the Gita regularly due to some divine circumstances and a change crept on me. I was experiencing Bhakti for the first time in decades. I had painful sessions, tearful prarthanas and many stunning experiences during this time. I was very peaceful till I came to the 6th chapter and attempted the dhyanam as mentioned and all previous troubles like rage and restlessness came back with a fury.

I kept questioning many Gurus who claimed to have knowledge about this. Their ‘remedies’ only worsened my condition. All the modern gurus said that spiritual progress is impossible without meditation, and here I was, not able to close my eyes for a few minutes. I became frustrated and totally abandoned meditation.

Many friends reported similar experiences. My brother-in-law said he got raving mad at anyone interpreting him during his meditation. Another person reported sleeplessness, another friend had headaches. Every time, the picture of Buddha in the famous dhyana pose kept teasing me.


Many years later, I read two very important works which changed the way I looked at Dhyanam. They broke the halo around the word ‘Dhyanam’ and destroyed many misconceptions I had about it. The first was The Orange Book of Meditation by Osho; the second and more important book was Meditation by Swamy Bhajananda (of Ramakrishna Mission).

The Orange Book of Meditation

Osho listed 101 techniques which he called methods of Catharsis (purging). For example, Osho would tell a student to hit a pillow, kick it, bite and do whatever you like to vent your feelings or emotions (in private). Another method is breathing through the mouth in an irregular way. Another one is to run in a chaotic manner not following any rhythm.

None of these are ‘normal’ acts. You will look at them as a joke. It is not. Osho says a modern man is not fit for meditation. He is full of dirt and needs a mental purgatory technique. He prompted readers to choose any technique that suited him best. One day I tried the pillow technique for fifteen minutes and felt relaxation fully. I felt I was fit for meditation now. But my confidence level was still low to attempt it.

This was my half awakening only. The next revelation was awaiting me in the other book.

Bhajanananda’s Meditation

This book was another divine twist in my life. Nowhere in this book will you find a single line of instruction for meditation. So what is it about and why is it called Meditation? Bhajanananda was a higher soul who had some rare insights which he explained in simple words, and he drew his insights from the magnum opus “Patanjali Yoga Sutras”.

The revelation that meditation belonged to the tradition of Yoga changed my conception of the discipline completely. It is not that I did not know this, everyone knows meditation is a limb of Yoga. But the crux of the matter is – has anyone paid attention to the other limbs of yoga? Most probably not. Dhyanam is the seventh limb in an ascending order listed by Patanjali.

1] Yama: The five qualities of ahimsa, adherence to truthful ways, non-coveting of other’s property, brahmacharya, and non-interest in accumulating wealth make up the first limb called Yama.

2] Niyama: Cleanliness, pleasantness regardless of one’s status, life of sadhana, self study of works of adhyatma path, dedication of all oneself to Iswara constitute Niyama.

3] Asanam: A proper posture which can afford painless sessions of sadhana is asanam. This is also a victory over our posture which allows us to do long sadhanas.

4] Pranayama: Retaining the prana inside or outside with regard to the place, time and count are called the deergha and sookshma pranayamas.

5] Pratyahara: The stage in which the senses are withdrawn from the sense objects and dwell in the chitta is called pratyahara.

6] Dharana: Focussing the mind for quite a length of time is called dharana.

7] Dhyanam: Ability to focus the chitta further for much longer periods is called dhyaanam.

8] Samadhi: When the feeling of ‘I’ vanishes during dhyaanam and only the meditated object remains, that state is samadhi.

Thus, dhyanam is possible only after total sense control, physical ability to dwell for long periods in sadhana and subtle breath control followed by withdrawal of senses from pleasure objects.

My mistake was to have started with the seventh step without the least idea of the basic steps. How can a man drenched up to the neck in worldly affairs in an energetic manner ever succeed in yoga? My failure to meditate is a normal outcome. I thank myself for not having pushed too vigorously. I might have even gone insane.

It was Bhajanananda who so beautifully illustrated the faultlines in the modern understanding of dhyanam. His book was the first book I have read which stated explicitly that puja is a very sure and safe path for a beginner of yoga. I am in total agreement with this since for the last ten years I have been drawing much spiritual strength from my daily puja and sloka chanting. Many modern gurus do not even mention the value of puja. Some other gurus mention them in a passing manner only.

I am doing intense puja and prarthana to cleanse myself of the dross of many lives. That is the elementary step. Sense control has hardly begun. In natural progression if I then try to withdraw my senses from objects it might be another great leap. Then, and then only can I gain enough spiritual strength to do dharana and dhyanam. This is a daunting task and may even take many lives, as I now realise. But I am happy I have taken the first step.


This article is to warn sadhaks of the dangers on the spiritual path. The spiritual path is a lonely one and you have only your ishta devata for support and your guru’s diksha as the guiding post. Do not fall for high-sounding talks on dhyanam. Shun all modern day corporate gurus. All we need to do has already been given in black and white by our ancestors. We already have our traditional mutts who have preserved this knowledge.

I am humbled at the power of puja, which has given me so much. If only I had done enough of this sadhana in those years in the wilderness, I would have been a mature sadhaka by now. But I am only a beginner due to the glittering talks and books that led me astray.


The author is an entrepreneur and inventor, based in Coimbatore 

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