A Summary of the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana -5.9
Discourse 5: Narada Instructs Yudhisthira on Ashrama Dharma-9.
The meditational process that commences in the Vanaprastha stage begins with what is known as upasana, which is placing oneself in the juxtaposed context of what is called ‘nearness to Reality’. Nearness to Reality is possible not through any physical means, but through the mind only. The mind, when it is charged with the consciousness of the Atman, adjusts itself to the need to keep itself in harmony with not merely the physical Earth or human society, but even with the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether. The Vanaprastha contemplates not merely the world of people but the very elements that control all life. It is a higher meditation which is upasana on the whole of creation—God manifest as this world.
It is called upasana because there is a devout pouring in of oneself to the objective, which is all creation itself. Various techniques of contemplation on this creational process are described in the Aranyaka portion of the Vedas, and the assiduous practice of upasana in this manner has to continue for a long time until the mind is able to concentrate on something still higher.
What is that something that is higher? It will come gradually. In the beginning, we expose ourselves to coming in contact with the whole creation. The Grihastha has no time to do that because he has other duties. The Brahmachari is not concerned with it at all, as he is concerned only with the accumulation of energy and the study of the Veda, etc. Here is the time when we become a friend of all—sarvabhutahite rata? (B.G. 12.4). We are not merely a friend of people, but even the very elements will bend before us.
Upasana in this form is very difficult because the mind has to expand into the arena of the performance of the five elements. We have to place ourselves in the context of all things in the world, so that we are not only sitting and meditating in one place; the five elements are meditating with us. It is mentioned in the Chhandogya Upanishad that the Earth itself is meditating. The position in the equilibrium and the precision that the elements maintain is itself considered as a meditation. The elements are not acting chaotically; a method is maintained.
Whether it is sunrise, moonrise or sunset, or whether it is the ocean, the wind or anything else, everything is maintaining a maryada, or a norm of behaviour, so that they maintain the required harmony among themselves—into which the upasaka enters because the five elements are also the constituents of one’s own body and personality. There is a great cosmic meditation taking place, as described in the Aranyakas. The world itself is the object of our contemplation.