SUNYA LECTURE: WHAT IS SUNYA?
Updated: Jan 28
With this, we are going into the formal teachings of Sunya. Right from the basics, all the way up to the advanced level. Sunya is based on the teachings in Maha Anapana Smrti. Maha means great or advanced, Anapana means breathing in and out, and Smrti means to hold your mind in focus without exerting any effort. It is the spontaneous focus of our minds. This could be mistaken for the word “mindfulness,” which has a completely different meaning.
If you are exerting a substantial amount of effort to carry out meditation, then you must be doing it wrong. Smrti is a compressed word, but when we expand the meaning, it actually means Samatha Vipasyana. Samatha is a practice that leads to a tranquil and serene state of mind. Vipasyana is the act of observing introspectively. You must never put in a great deal of effort to practice Vipasyana. It is used to calming down your mind. The more effort you put into it, the more confused your mind gets, and this completely beats the chief principle of Vipasyana.
Unfortunately, due to the erroneous interpretation of these words, many meditation schools practice a stern and rigorous method, including sitting with your legs crossed for hours together. They force students to spend a great deal of time in meditation. Due to their training rigidity, many practitioners tend to be filled with emotions and do not have a calm state of mind.
In basic Samatha Vipasyana or BSV, we focus on harmonizing our mind and body. This is the real form of yoga. After synchronizing your mind and body, you need to do your duty and interact with the surrounding environment. That is called Maha Samatha Vipasyana or MSV. By environment, we mean anything outside your mind and body. The right practice of Sunya does not involve any excessive effort in any practice.
Practicing Sunya is like tuning a guitar. If you tune it too hard, the string may break. But if the string is too loose, you cannot play music. Meditation is not to train you to go to sleep, but on the contrary, it is to train you to stay awake. Therefore, the right amount of effort is crucial and pivotal. So, what is the right effort in Sunya training? Initially, we ask our students to reverse the count from 99 to 0. One count for every breath they take. This takes around 12 to 15 minutes. For those who cannot do it, we ask them to reduce the count to 30 and reverse the count from 29 to 0.
Many people ask me what the best time is to practice Sunya. Any time of the day that you feel is okay to dedicate to Sunya is the best time. You should avoid doing it before or after a shower, before or after a heavy meal, and before or after a heavy exercise session. During Sunya, the pores on our skin open up to breathe in and out and detox waste. The most important lesson and advice that I will give you today are not to put too much effort while practicing Sunya. Another common question I get is if a woman on her period could practice Sunya. The answer is definitely yes, as Sunya does not harm the body or the menstrual cycle.
As claimed by modern-day gurus, miraculous abilities do occur with the power that your mind releases when you detach yourself from disturbances in mind. But these “miraculous abilities” are not possible in real life. Sunya’s only aim is to attain peace and prosperity. How far can you go if you practice Sunya regularly? According to Buddha, you can go very far. In this life, you can achieve Arhant's state, meaning a person who is free and can enter and leave this world as per his wish.
Achieving peace of mind and showing love to your fellow beings is what Sunya stands for. Words like Samatha Vipasyana have been derived from Sanskrit, but you do not need to learn the language. Any language cannot describe the peace and serenity that we obtain.