The one wishing to know the ultimate reality, who lives in the discipline of sannyas, has cleansed the body, who sits in sukhasana – a comfortable body posture – in a lonely place, keeping his head, neck and spine aligned and erect, converging the faculties of all the sense organs at one point, who having bowed down to his master in trust and devotion, has dispelled all impurities of the heart and moved beyond sorrow and suffering, contemplates the essence of devotion thoroughly.
In this sutra there are some important indications about meditation. If we try to understand each indication separately and then read the whole sutra, it will be easy to comprehend.
The first indication is:
…a lonely place.
You might feel that you already know what this means, but what you call a lonely place has nothing to do with meditation. You call a place lonely where no other person is present. You call a place lonely which is desolate, where you are alone. Someone going to the mountains, sitting in a Himalayan cave, thinks he has found a lonely place. But this kind of lonely place has no real relationship whatsoever with meditation. Sitting in this lonely place, a man will not necessarily be able to move into meditation.
Even if the people on the outside are dropped, they will still be there inside you. Even if you move away from the crowd, it is still hidden within you. It is also possible that while sitting in the middle of a crowd you may still be in a lonely place, in solitude. And it is also possible that you may be sitting in a lonely place and still be in the middle of the crowd. If one sits down quietly and remembers oneself even in the middle of a crowd, all others will be forgotten. If one is filled with his own self-remembrance even in the middle of a crowd, the remembrance of others will disappear – because it is one of the intrinsic qualities of the mind that in any given moment, only one thing at a time can be present on the screen of the mind. If I can fill my mind with my own presence, all other presences will disappear. The presence of others continues to be there because I am not present in my own mind.
Your understanding of what a lonely place is is shallow, very superficial. The true meaning of “a lonely place” is to be seated within yourself. This is less outer and more inner, to sit within…. This space where the other is not present is less outer and more inner. Even if someone is sitting in the marketplace but there is no other in his mind, then that person is in a lonely place. And remember it well, that if you cannot be alone while sitting in the marketplace, then too you cannot be alone in a lonely place.
Another law of the mind is that the mind will miss whatsoever is not there. One wants to be where one is not. Hence it often happens that a man who is sitting in the marketplace thinks about how beautiful it would be if he were in a lonely place, and a man sitting in a lonely place is filled with a desire for the marketplace.