The technique of Manana to first internalise a task in one's mind before ever implementing it is an essential part of Hindu philosophy.
The final few months of my college life were pretty stressful in many respects. The pressure of completing my final year project and the realization that I was going to enter a world unknown to me were preventing me from thinking rationally at times. There were many moments where I doubted my capabilities and my place in the world. In those circumstances, an invitation to go on a short road trip was just the lift I needed. The place we were going to was unknown to many, the Hridayaleeswarar Shiva Temple. It was quite surprising to me that I had not known about this place, as I was quite a regular visitor to temples as part of my pursuit to examine and admire ancient Indian architecture.
While on the way to the temple over the weekend, the usually facetious friend of mine who had planned the entire journey, told us about the history of the temple and the reason he wanted to visit it. According to legend, Poosalar was a saint of little material wealth but great devotion towards Lord Shiva. He wanted to build a Temple for the Lord but didn’t have the resources to do so. So he started constructing the perfect Shiva Temple in his mind. At the same time Rajasimha Pallava the king of Kanchipuram had also undertaken the task of erecting a Shiva Temple. A date for the Stapna (consecration) of the Moorthi at the Temple in Kanchi was decided and due process was followed to invite the Lord to the consecration ceremony. One night while in the middle of a satisfied sleep, the Lord appeared in the king’s dream and told him that he couldn’t attend the consecration ceremony as he had already been invited to the Stapna Divas of Poosalar’s Temple. The perturbed and curious king sent his men to find out more about this Temple that was apparently superior to the one he had built. The men returned with the news that no such Temple existed and that Poosalar was a man of meager means who couldn’t afford to undertake such a project. The utterly dumbfounded king now wanted to meet Poosalar and ascertain the veracity of his dream. On meeting and conversing with Poosalar, he learned of how he had built a Shiva Temple in his mind due to lack of resources. This prompted Rajasimha Pallava to undertake the construction of the Hridayaleeswarar Temple in Tirunindravur, exactly replicating the Temple Poosalar had built in his mind. One of our professors had apparently prompted my friend to visit this Temple on the pretext that writing code is similar to the construction of this temple, your algorithm is first built and fine-tuned in your mind and then you use the tools available in the programming language to put them into practice.
At the time of the visit, this story only seemed to scratch the surface of my mind but I had underestimated the deep imprint it would leave on my thought process. By the grace of Lord Hridayaleeswarar, I had started to formulate some of my work in my mind first before putting it unto paper. This led to the reappearance of a thought process that I had forgotten in my final years of school, the process of Manana (internalising). Sometimes you just need to put your pen down and make your mind the canvas of your thoughts and your intellect starts acting as your pen. This is the ideal zone achieved rarely by most of us. This technique is called Analytic Meditation as explained by the 14th Dalai Lama. The Sanskrit phrase for this is Gnana Yog. In this technique, as the Dalai Lama elucidates, “one needs meditate on the information accumulated by the mind from various sources and use reasoning to decode and decrypt it”. This reasoning causes positive mental development while alleviating thoughts and emotions that cause negativity and suffering. The path of Gnana Yog isn’t dissimilar to the path of Shravan-Manana-Nidhidhyasana, prescribed in the Advaita Vedanta which helps lead people to Moksha by listening (Shravana), internalising (Manana) and the final state of Nidhidhyasana is where you gain the knowledge of the Supreme by rationally analyzing the knowledge gained by Shravana and Manana.
There is also a basis of this thought in the Mandukya Upanishad that talks about the four states of consciousness. The first state called the vaishvanara (Gross body) is the outward-looking body that we use most of the time when we are awake. The second state named the Taijasa (subtle body) is described as the dream state where our consciousness is turned inwards into the subtle aspects of the mind. The third state which is central to this concept of internalising your thoughts to enable better action is the Sarvajyna (causal body) or the knower of all. The fourth state is the supreme state Turiya (nothingness) that unites us with the Para Brahman. The Para Brahman is the indescribable but can be explained as the basis to everything in the universe, that which inhabits the entire universe and that who’s created the universe.
The idea of internalising takes you closer to the third state of consciousness and your thoughts are more connected to the causal body. The causal body is the basis of the gross and subtle bodies and the closest to the Atman. By doing any task while being connected to the causal body makes it much easier to execute it at the subtle and gross levels. It can be hypothesized that this is what Poosalar did. But not everyone is as great a Saint or Yogi as Poosalar and hence not everyone can make a connection to their causal body, but what Indic philosophy through its Dharmic paths teaches us is that there is a way to achieve the third and fourth states and that humans & Gods are only separated by their effort. It is also seen that there are multiple ways to attain this state and each is designed to suit different people at different stages of development.
The Gnana Yoga path aims at achieving this state of mind by conducting thought experiments and discussions. This has been the primary aim of scientists of the West such as Stephen Hawking or Rishis in the Indian case like Adi Shankaracharya. The simple steps one can take towards achieving this state include having proper timely sleep, eating healthy food and most importantly constant reading and challenging of one’s mind. This is one way of attaining a meditative state. One can also meditate over an idea of God as prescribed in Bhakti Yoga or over the course of constant single-minded action as prescribed in Karma Yoga.
If ever we have the privilege of attaining this state permanently, our efficiency will increase manifolds and the true power of our mind will be unlocked. Thus, the next time you are assigned a great task, just remember that you have to do the task twice, once in your brain and then in the real world. The logic that two steps will take longer than one doesn’t hold true here, as two efficient steps are much more nimble than one inefficient step. It also needs to be remembered that every action performed with a deeply meditative first step is an evolution towards attainment of the supreme state of consciousness and intellect. The thought that strikes me now is that had I visualized my final year better, I would have been able to partly bypass all the anxiety and tension. I might also have been better equipped to attain higher states of consciousness but regretting the past is one of the biggest mistakes a seeker of higher states of the mind can make.