Swami Vivekananda, in his lectures on Raja Yoga, describes what we may call the “mind stuff”, citta, which tends to be always disturbed as impressions, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, emotions create ripples, as a breeze will create ripples on the surface of a lake. He goes on to describe the need to bring this “mind stuff” to a state of quiescence as an essential condition for gaining control over the mental processes. This is a preliminary stage to the eventual development of concentration and samadhi, the ‘yogic trance’.

Meditation is not dependent on outer conditions of the world so much as the inner reactivity to the impulses which reach the mind from outside. A newcomer to the practice of meditation will certainly want to have a quiet, undisturbed location, if possible, but then he is faced with all of the thoughts, emotions, ideas, feelings, concerns, etc. that arise internally to disturb the “mind stuff” in any case. The outer quietude is a support for gaining the poise needed for the practice of meditation — eventually this becomes no longer necessary as the poise becomes more or less automatic regardless of circumstances.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “There are no essential external conditions, but solitude and seclusion at the time of meditation as well as stillness of the body are helpful, sometimes almost necessary to the beginner. But one should not be bound by external conditions. Once the habit of meditation is formed, it should be made possible to do it in all circumstances, lying, sitting, walking, alone, in company, in silence or in the midst of noise etc.”

“The first internal condition necessary is concentration of the will against the obstacles to meditation, i.e. wandering of the mind, forgetfulness, sleep, physical and nervous impatience and restlessness etc.”

“The second is an increasing purity and calm of the inner consciousness (citta) out of which thought and emotion arise, i.e. a freedom from all disturbing reactions, such as anger, grief, depression, anxiety about worldly happenings etc. Mental perfection and moral are always closely allied to each other.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Work, Meditation and Love and Devotion, Sadhana through Meditation, pp. 146-149

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.