Aum asato ma sad gamaya
tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya
Does this ancient Sanskrit prayer look at all familiar? This prayer extracted from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad quite possibly be memorable to anyone who may have attended an Eastern meditation retreat, or may have stayed in an ashram where some of the active teachers or students recited it before beginning their sadhanas. And though the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad boasts a strong contrast of both truth and illusion, this small prayer has all the same, risen above of its objectionable limits—and in its pure simplicity, has come to represent the devotional resolve of thousands, if not millions, of spiritual initiates.
It translates simply as:
From the unreal lead me to the real
From darkness lead me to the light
From death lead me to immortality
Though it’s often chanted by itself as a stand-alone prayer, its most common place of recital is at the beginning of one’s meditation. Those who understand the deeper purpose of meditation often recount it as a means to replace an unsuitable or assuming attitude with an perspective of humble innocence, establishing the kind of effortless receptivity that’s necessary for meditating well.
The prayer could easily have included a few more lines such as, from sickness to health, from evil to goodness, or from fear to love. But the real value in this chant isn’t in the “from—to.” It’s in the mental perception that rests in, “lead me.” Impregnating the intellect with “lead me” provides it the meditator with a willing sense that there is a greater order, a higher power that can be tapped to right the wrong and bring the initiate’s life and path back into harmonic balance with the universe as a whole, and therein surrender the ego’s limited will to the grander and more harmonious Will of the high Self. Just like gravity this righting power does exist, and just like gravity, it prefers to use its own power to do so.
A little known Eastern term for that balancing influence is bhasjavirya. The bhasjavirya bears the same power that equalizes the forces of nature and maintains the world’s natural circadian rhythms. In the meditator, it incites the natural process of healing, inspires intuition, and gives direction—and in the end, it is that same light that brings enlightenment. But, it can only be as effective as the meditator is at maintaining a focus of effortless and innocent release in transcendence. —In other words, in surrendering the intellect into an inner self-directed perspective of, “lead me.” The bhasjavirya process develops in direct proportion to how long or often the meditator meditates, growing more powerful the more he or she is able to effortlessly still the unnatural distortions that occur in the ego-motivated mind, and thereby allowing the impulses that form the dharma to manifest.
There are two kinds of perceptions that disturb the inner workings of the otherwise clear mind—viparyaya, and pramana. Viparyaya are false perceptions, and pramana are correct perceptions. Viparyaya perceptions distort one’s intuitive sense of the real through asserting mental impressions that are not real. Viparyaya create the distortions that are driven entirely by ego desires, and which are nearly always motivated defense mechanisms that are either inherited or learned and integrated to form pathological tendencies that mistakenly serve or affirm one’s false sense of self. In truth, any identifiable sense of self is a false sense because the real Self is unlimited, and forever free, and therefore can’t be adequately defined by any effort. Thus viparyaya are troubled pramana perceptions that suffer the alterations that have occurred as an upshot of having taken on the resulting attachments and aversions that are directly related to one’s ego-identity. Essentially, the viparyaya-riddled mind is the unenlightened mind, limited by the fear of not having control over what affirms its misguided sense of self, or by having to endure what might threaten to invalidate it. Viparyaya represents the suffering and unyielding mind, lost inside the clutter of its habituated reactions and delusions. Viparyaya are the mental feedback loops that create the ever-pressured mentality—driven constantly by fear or ambition. It represents the emotionally riddled mind—the greedy, angry, arrogant or violent mind.
Fortunately everyone has the means to right their viparyaya distortions and bring back order and balance into their lives. The most direct means for accomplishing that is through the humble act of meditation. The central purpose of any true meditation is to unpretentiously let go.
An initiate who makes letting go his or her earnest objective can easily attain an inner silence. That attainment is the real purpose of meditation. That initiate then gains the necessary state inspires the currents of bliss to flow freely. It’s that bliss, when allowed to rise up through the heart and mind, which will bring order and healing back into one’s life. When silence is attained, the pramana perceptions arise spontaneously through the naturally occurring waves of bliss, giving guidance to the process of righting the wrong. As a result, the surrounding world benefits as well, through receiving the creative impulses generated by that blissful being—thus it too gets what it needs—the healing light of the bhasjavirya.
Yes—this simple process is the principle purpose and design in all rightful acts of spiritual devotion—to bring forth a constant divine manifestation through each of your unique expressions.