Meditation is the gateway to inner awakening. It is the door that opens up the possibility of self-realisation. It is the sword that destroys all ignorance forever. Imagine being free of all bondages and sufferings, not enslaved to anyone or anything, supremely happy and content, mind in perennial peace, having complete clarity of one’s real identity and the meaning of life being crystal clear…can there be anything more precious than this achievement in life? Can any worldly pleasure ever match this attainment? If your answer is no, then the path of meditation is definitely for you. See, I am reiterating this because, before you embark upon this journey, you must be sure why you want to undertake it and how desperately you want to succeed in your endeavour. Without unwavering conviction and dedication, even worldly achievements are not possible. A medical student whose goal is to become a fine doctor, he or she stays focussed on this target and puts in the required effort unceasingly for five to six years. He or she works hard, day and night as their eyes are set on the day they are awarded the coveted degree. The same is true for every worldly achievement-be it sports, arts, science, commerce, theatre and so on…success comes only with strong conviction and hard work.

Spirituality is no exception. In fact, it is even more relevant in the context of spiritual evolution. It is not an easy path by any means. And how can it be? Precious stuff comes at a hefty cost, isn’t it? And here we are talking about something, whose worth cannot be measured because it is priceless. Hence, the first requirement for meditation is the firm and unwavering desire for the ultimate truth. A strong desire for liberation, a desire to eradicate all ignorance is mandatory on this path. Else, you will falter on the first hurdle you encounter and give up even before you have started. So be clear as to why you want to meditate, what you want to achieve and how keen you are in doing so. Then you are ready to do whatever it takes to succeed on this path.

One needs to understand that without a qualified guide, this difficult journey becomes even more difficult. Presence of a mentor is exceedingly important. It is not that you cannot learn by following books, but that is no replacement for a living master-someone who has reached the destination you aspire to reach. Books cannot tell you where you are going wrong, books cannot suggest ways to circumvent problems encountered and books cannot individually tailor your path as per your aptitude and capabilities. Moreover, there is a dangerous possibility that your ego will start asserting that it knows everything. And this becomes the biggest obstacle on the path of inner evolution. Dead books cannot kick your ego. This can be done only by an enlightened being, for no one knows the path as perfectly as the master. Moreover, no one other than an enlightened being knows the pitfalls and the tricks played by a treacherous mind. In Sanskrit, the word for such a man or woman of self-realisation is: Sadguru-A self-realised master who has attained the highest truth. He has attained the highest state of perfect bliss. An enlightened master alone can guide you out of deep ignorance. Practising under the guidance of a Sadguru, with a firm conviction, you are all set to do the necessary groundwork for meditation.

Now, you may ask, what is the need for any preparation at all and why can one not directly sit down for meditation and readily enter a meditative state? Well, when you want to plant flowers or vegetables in your garden, do you straight away plant the seeds in the soil, expecting them to readily grow into sturdy plants? Will the seeds grow in an infertile soil full of stones, gravel and wild grass? Hardly! Much before you can even think of planting, you will spend days if not weeks, preparing the soil. You have to pull out the weeds, remove the gravel, ensure there is a fence so that animals do not rampage the garden, prepare good quality compost…so much preparation is required. And then, when you sow the seeds, you still have to continue looking after the seedlings-ensure they are watered properly, they get adequate sunlight, fertilizer and so on. The same holds true for meditation.

One cannot meditate if the instruments of body-mind are broken or in a disarray. These have to be in ship-shape. The seed of meditation will sprout only in a mind which is clean and fertile. The master’s words of wisdom are the catalysts which act as an invigorating fertilizer. And when you have the combination of an able unit of body-mind and the guidance of an enlightened master, the flower of meditation blooms in all its glory.

Now you may ask: what to do first? Work on the body and then the mind? Or first listen to words of wisdom, then start the practice? The answer is: do both simultaneously. Keep on listening, keep on reflecting and along with that keep on working on your body and keep on purifying the mind-each will help the other. Just as, to get from one place to another, you lift one leg first then the other, keep one foot down and then the other, the same is true for the spiritual path. You have to start somewhere. Combine theory with practice, then even if you take small steps, it doesn’t matter-for you are going in the right direction. Perseverance is the key.

Extracted from the book ‘Art of Meditation’ by Anandmurti Gurumaa