by Chinmaya

As the sun set slowly on western bank of the Ganges, tiny waves of the river sparkled in its crimson rays. The crisp air was filled with dense chirps of countless birds, excited to fly homewards. On the eastern bank, sounds of bells and musical instruments in preparation for the evening vespers permeated the temple grounds of Dakshineshwar Kali. In a small room by the temple courtyard was seated Sri Ramakrishna, surrounded by a group of eager listeners, both young and old. The group was immersed in an intense discussion on the unique signs of an Avatar. Hardly were they aware of the events in the outer world. As Sri Ramakrishna spoke, a sublime smile flashed through his face illuminating the entire room. Silence interspersing the talks charged the room with ecstatic vibrations, filling the hearts of the listeners… which also included a young boy named Chinmaya. While talking, as the benign gaze of Ramakrishna fell upon Chinmaya, he felt a thrill of intense joy! And gradually his whole being merged in oneness with Sri Ramakrishna’s Divine Being.

Chinmaya experiences this bliss every evening, when after a long day’s work as a hi-tech professional, he sits for meditation in his small apartment room in the bustling city of New York. As he closes his eyes the entire scene gets vividly enacted, breaking through the limits of time and place . . . and the deep joy of that spiritual experience stays with him all the time. This practice of meditation is often called “Leela Dhyana” – meditation on the actions or ‘leela’ of a divine incarnation and imagining oneself in that divine company.

Every day as we interact with a myriad of names and forms, personalities and events, our awareness gets completely filled with those. And at the end of such a day’s experience, when we try to meditate on God, well, we know the extent of success we achieve.

Leela Dhyana gradually conditions our mind, allowing it to smoothly transition from events and personalities of the mundane realm towards those centered on an avatar, thus imbibing his living presence. The mind then naturally concentrates on that blissful Divine form and therein lies the efficacy of this technique. Over time it strengthens the mind, revealing greater mysteries of the spiritual realm. Experiences in the sense world correspondingly evolve, thus transforming one’s life and awareness.

The style in which M. wrote the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, giving vivid descriptions of each scene, was intended to help us in this practice of meditation. Vaishnava literature describes various stages of Leela Dhyana. In Vaishnava tradition special rules are laid out for advanced aspirants to practice more perfected stages of Leela Dhyana. However for a beginner, who is trying to concentrate the mind in accordance with Guru’s instructions, the aforesaid method itself could be a helpful aid.

This technique is also a form of Yoga; can we name it as the “Yoga of Play”? Your comments are welcome.