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How Spiritual Teachers Control
the Attention of Their Students

 

By George A. Boyd ©2001

Many aspirants experience difficulty concentrating their attention and keeping it fixated on one point. Their minds tend to readily wander away from a focal point even in bands of the Conscious and Subconscious mind close to the surface of waking awareness. Going to profound states of absorption in the Superconscious mind is extremely difficult for these beginning meditators.

Spiritual teachers use seven primary methods for helping focus the attention of meditation students on the key inner centers of the ensouling entity, the spirit and the attentional principle. In some cases these methods may actively lock the attention of the meditator in an altered state of consciousness for long periods of time. These are:

Breathing Absorption – called remembering the Holy Name, Ajapa Japa, or Pranava Laya in various traditions, the attention is kept focused on subtle aspects of breathing. The attention may be variously abstracted through these methods into union with the attentional principle (mindfulness), with the Self in the Metaconscious mind (centering), with the ensouling entity (Atma Samadhi), or with Satchitananda (Brahma Vidya). A spiritual teacher's insistence upon continual use of this method may condition a student's attention into habitually remaining in a specific altered state of consciousness and identifying with it.

Remembrance – also called simran, zhikir, or mantra japa, the attention is focused upon the spirit by a contemplative mantra. The mantra is repeated by the attention or "tongue of thought," as opposed to speaking it aloud, whispering it, or breathing it. Different contemplative mantras may be used to focus the attention on varying octaves of the spiritual path. The more advanced and powerful method is when the spirit uses this mantra to keep the attention fixed at its feet. Teachers who require that aspirants continually repeat this mantra during every waking moment and as they fall off to sleep may habituate these students into perpetual union with their spirit. Teachers in the Transcendental Sphere commonly train their students in this method.

Guru Mantra – chanted aloud or silently within the mind, this transformation or bija mantra can become an unbroken focus for the attention, resulting in full identification with an altered state of awareness. Teachers from lineages anchored in the Supracosmic Sphere often use this method of control of the attention

Horn of the Prophet – Cosmic Masters utilize a method to lock the attention into union with the Astral Soul. Once the attention has been brought into union with the Astral Soul through Light Immersion or Absorption in the Kundalini (see below), one of 12 secret mantras is used to permanently fixate the mind in the presence of the Astral Soul. This method has been poetically referred to in esoteric teachings as the horn of the prophet or the Beloved's locket.

Absorption in the Kundalini – by rousing the Kundalini through various means, the attention becomes passively absorbed in the inner vehicles, one of the nuclei of identity, or in one of the ensouling entities. Masters of Kundalini Yoga gain the ability to determine the depth to which the Kundalini Shakti is raised in their students. The upward force of this current keeps the attention temporarily from returning to normal waking awareness. When the kundalini comes back down to the ground state, typically the attention is brought back with it.

Prayer Without Ceasing – this method is used in the Christian faith to hold the mind in union with the Moon Soul, the nucleus of identification for the First Planetary Initiation. One form of this method is to repeat a ritual prayer such as The Lord's Prayer or Hail Mary continuously. Another variation, called glossolalia or speaking in an unknown tongue, encourages the ongoing repetition of mantramic syllables that arise from the unconscious mind to raise the attention into union with the Moon Soul.

Light Immersion – this method temporarily guides the attention to inner centers within the vehicles, or into union with the attentional principle, the spirit or the ensouling entity by holding it in a ray or beam of Light. It is the primary method used in the Subtle and Planetary Bands.

Teachers of the Mudrashram® lineage primarily use the Light Immersion method to temporarily lead the meditation student's attention onto the inner Planes, but then return it to the ground state of awareness. They also teach contemplative mantra to focus the attention upon the spirit, but similarly advocate the return of attention to normal waking awareness.

Some spiritual teachers do not favor the grounding of attention after the meditation experience, but have the meditator remain absorbed in the focal point for extended periods of time. Use of the methods of Breath Absorption, Guru Mantra, Horns of the Prophet, and Remembrance (particularly the advanced form where the spirit repeats the mantra) keep the attention in an altered state of consciousness indefinitely. This leads to a state of detachment from normal personality functioning, a witnessing of the activity of the mind from a higher vantagepoint, and often, identification with the focal point of the method used to control the attention.

These methods of sustained absorption facilitate the shunting or sublimating of energy from the personality and channels of the unconscious mind. While this may permit better control of passions and behavior from a deeper stratum of the mind, it may also produce certain symptoms that alarm researchers who study cultic groups and psychotherapists who must deal with the disturbed individuals who emerge from them. These symptoms include:

Automatism – robot-like behavior, acting like a machine carrying out inner "instructions" or "revelations," or obeying "directives" or "commandments" of the teacher. The admonition is blindly followed without critical thinking or contemplation of the consequences of the action. Individuals may be led to devote 12 to 16 hour days in "service" or proselytizing activities without any consideration for their legitimate personal needs.

Psychic Numbing – deadening of feelings leading to an inability to recognize emotional reactions. This is commonly coupled with the assumption of a false, spiritual persona, which is always cheerful and happy.

Suspension of Critical Thinking – the faculty of reasoning is turned off. This results in failure to examine statements for veracity and reality. This produces a condition of extreme suggestibility and gullibility. Doubt and criticism are suspended; complete "faith" and "trust" take their place. Unscrupulous teachers readily exploit seekers in this vulnerable state of mind.

Preconscious Blocking – this is a shutting down of the impressions that well up from the Subconscious mind, which leads to mental blanking, or periods when the mind is completely still. While this state is restful, remaining in this state for long periods of time can slow mental response to environmental stimuli. This produces a kind of torpor, a zombie-like "sleepwalking through life."

Depersonalization – disidentification from the ego and its life history mediated by memory leads to a state where the experience of the ego seems unreal or dreamlike. Individuals experiencing this state may feel like they are out of their body, or that they are watching their activities from a detached viewpoint.

Loss of Ability to Make Decisions – sublimation of the volition by absorption in higher centers can lead to the suppression of the ability to make independent decisions. This can produce confusion, inability to make commitments, and dependence on the teacher to give guidance for all matters of life.

Samadhic Trance – activation of the Kundalini Shakti without its subsequent return to its ground state can produce samadhic trance. This is a catatonic state in which an individual is unable to move, speak or think.

This catatonic suspension effectively paralyzes all activities of the personality. Individuals who remain in samadhic trance for more than a few hours may need ongoing care by others.

Legends say that yogis in samadhic trance remain in yoga postures until birds built their nest in their hair. Fakirs are alleged to maintain such a profound state of suspended animation that they can be buried alive for days or weeks.

Perceptual Illusions – attempting to function with the sensory faculties of the higher mind activated for long periods of time may wreak havoc with normal perception, giving rise to perceptual illusions and multi-sensory hallucinations. Failure to terminate meditative absorption at this point can lead to persecutory hallucinations, or even a psychotic breakdown.

Controlling the attention is primary to developing spiritually and making progress on the inner path. We caution the aspirant and disciple, however, that injudicious suspension of normal personality functioning by remaining in altered states of consciousness for extended periods of time can lead to frightening symptoms that disrupt behavior, perception, cognition and volition. We suggest that the Higher Planes are a nice place to visit, but you may not want to stay there until you have made the natural transition to these states during death. In other words, visit Heaven, but please come back: you are also needed here.

 

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