When our attention is swept away by memories, we place ourselves in a non-existent past. When we focus our attention on our hopes and dreams, we direct ourselves toward a future that does not yet exist. In both cases, our consciousness takes illusory and non-existent directions and we live in a dream. Reality, or what is, takes place only in the now. In order to live in reality, our consciousness must be focused on the present place and moment. By sitting down and directing our attention fully to the stamp in front of us, the stamp is serving as an anchor to connect us to reality.
Philatelists delight in looking at stamps. Sitting in front of a stamp that catches our eye can be a soulful experience. Meditative philately delves into the experience of observing stamps.
The sun illuminates the interior of our houses, without it being inside our homes. Its light allows us to observe the walls, ornaments, furniture, and people inside our rooms. Also, although the light of consciousness is not part of the experience, it illuminates each and every one of them. Every experience has the cognitive element that knows or grasps the experience. Human beings refer to the cognitive element that knows our experiences as “I.” We all know that we are the only ones that know our own experiences. When inquiring into this “I,” we discover that it is not “something” or “someone” but is only the cognitive element that knows each experience. This cognitive element that knows each experience is only “knowing.” It is the light of consciousness, the very basis or foundation of all experience. What we really are is the light of knowing. It is the place or space where every experience takes place, with which every experience is known, and the very substance of every experience.
It is possible to remove any object from our experiences and they will continue to exist as such. We can remove everything, even the stamp, and leave the experience completely void of content. So, we will say that there is absolutely nothing. But if it were possible to extract from the experience only the cognitive element of it, it would be impossible to imagine what would remain. If I could only extract the knowing from experience, which is the very basis of experience, there would be no experience. Because even in order to say that absolutely nothing remains, the presence of the cognitive element of experience is needed. Even if you want to say that you don’t experience anything, you need to be aware of it. In reality, the light of consciousness or the knowing of the experience is the only thing that really is. The light of consciousness or the knowing of the experience can never know anything apart from itself. All that exists is infinite consciousness and all that is experienced is that same consciousness in different shades, just like water, ice, snow, steam, and so on are just water at different temperatures. There has never been an object with an existence independent of consciousness.
To understand the foundations of Meditative Philately, some fundamental knowledge about the yantras will be necessary.
Yantra: Generally, this term is translated as “machine, tool, instrument, artifact, apparatus, or symbol.” These are geometric shapes that represent different aspects of divinity. These diagrams can be engraved in copper, silver, or gold plates or be drawn on the leaf of a bhūrja (birch tree). Devotees treat them with the same respect and devotion as the aspect of God they represent. Visualizing yantras helps transcend the dual plane.
śarīram iva jīvasya
dīpasya snehavat priye
sarveṣām api devānāṁ
tathā yantraṁ pratiṣṭhitam
“Like the body for the soul and oil for a lamp, the yantra is the seat of all deities.” (Kulārṇava Tantra, 6.87)
Yam means “control” and tra “protect.” Yantras are diagrams charged with mystical energy that protect us by helping us control the six passions. They are powerful instruments capable of awakening different powers and energy circuits in the sādhaka.
yantram ity āhur etasmin
devaḥ prīṇāti pūjitaḥ
“Because it controls all the pains that arise due to kāma, krodha, and so on (the six impurities: desire, anger, greed, pride, attachment, and jealousy), it is called yantra. The deity is pleased when is worshipped in the yantra.” (Kulārṇava Tantra, 6.86)
For a yantra to be effective and suitable for worship, it must be properly consecrated. In rituals, yantras are used for six different purposes, or ṣaṭ-karmas:
1. To control, or vaśī-karaṇa.
2. To immobilize, or stambhana.
3. To evoke hatred, or vidveṣaṇa.
4. To expel, or uccāṭana.
5. To murder, or māraṇa.
6. To bestow peace and nourishment, or śāntika-pauṣṭika.
Dhāraṇa-yantras are worn around the neck or arms. If it comes in contact with a contaminated object or a corpse, the yantra loses its power. Some of the most important yantras and their effects are:
• Gaṇeśa Yantra: For wealth and prosperity.
• Hanuman Yantra: To acquire strength and safety in travel.
• Bhadrakālī Yantra: For knowledge, strength, and health.
• Sudarśana Yantra: To relieve illnesses and drive away malignant spirits.
• Subrahmaṇya Yantra: For exorcism or expelling demons.
• Cāmuṇḍā Yantra: To kill enemies.
• Śarabha Yantra: To heal epilepsy.
Just as there are many mantras to meditate on, there are also many yantra meditations. If sādhakas wish to access the profound wisdom contained in these sacred diagrams, they must seek the guidance of a spiritual master. There are also yantras for specific deities or aspects of divinity.
During worship ceremonies and rituals, it is customary to draw a yantra on the ground. For a deity installation ceremony (prāṇa-pratiṣṭhā), yantras can be engraved on a metal plate. Yantras are a link between the gross and the subtle. Like the mantras, they are only effective if aspirants infuse them with vital energy through the power of concentration. In reality, aspirants are worshipping their own vital energy infused into the yantra.
According to Śākta Tantra, the universe is a manifestation or expression of energy, though a common person may be not aware of this. That which is worshipped cannot be inferior to the worshipper and, therefore, vital energy must be infused into the object of worship by the worshipper. This process is carried out with the help of mantra-japa (meditative repetition of divine names), and the other four limbs of puraś-caraṇa (five-limbed worship practice).
pūjā traikālikī nityaṁ
japas tarpaṇam eva ca
homo brāhmaṇa-bhuktiś ca
“Daily pūjā at three prescribed hours, regular japa, tarpaṇa (offering water), homa (sacrificial fire), and feeding the Brāhmaṇas are the five-fold worship called puraś-caraṇa.”
(Kulārṇava Tantra, 15. 8 )
vinā yantreṇa cet pūjā
devatā na prasīdati
tasmāt kathaya deveśa
yantram asyā manoharam
dāridrayṁ naśyati dhruvam
“Pārvatī said: ‘If worship is done without a yantra, the deity is not pleased. Therefore, O lord, please tell me about the beautiful yantra, which by mere looking at it, poverty is surely extinguished.” (Gandharva Tantra, 5.1)
The Śrī-cakra symbolizes the interpenetration of dynamic female energy (śakti) and passive male consciousness (Śiva). This diagram is used in rituals and meditation to help practitioners see they are one with the goddess, symbolized by the yantra. Tripura practitioners see the diagram as a dynamic map of reality, a substrate for ritual, and a focal point for meditation.
The guru is essential on this path, since many Śrī-vidyā mantras are considered more potent when received from a guru during initiation. It is believed that an aspirant has to be Śiva himself or be in the last birth to obtain the Śrī-vidyā mantra, and that one can worship Tripura only if she allows it.
It is believed that the mantras reveal the unity of the deity, the guru, the initiate, and the mantra itself. The first mantra that the initiate receives is the bala-Tripura-sundarī-mantra, which visualizes the goddess as a little girl. The next mantra is the pañca-daśī of fifteen letters. A higher mantra is the ṣoḍaśī of sixteen letters.
The practical benefits of this sādhana are physical, mental, and emotional health, which lead to harmonious relationships at home and with the external world. This grants success in all aspects of life. Followers of this sect aspired to achieve both material prosperity and self-realization.
Each chakra is represented by a yantra (geometric diagram). The vibration of the chakra is indicated with a Sanskrit letter, or bījākṣara, in the center of the diagram. A lotus flower with a different number of petals symbolizes the quantity of nāḍīs that intersect in the chakra. In each petal, we find the Sanskrit letters that represent the specific vibration of each nāḍī. These flowers are open or closed according to a person’s particular situation.
The following is a preparatory technique for meditation that helps reintegrate the rays of our attention. This simple method can reduce mental hyperactivity and mitigate our stress and fatigue. The practice is ideal for beginners, who are only starting their journey on the path of meditation. It fits the needs of every person since it does not require a certain amount of time. As we focus our attention on the stamp’s design, our mental activity becomes balanced of its own accord. This stillness is necessary to aspire for a meditative state and allow meditation to happen.
The stamps are not made merely to send letters. Besides a practical function, their shapes and colors express thoughts and emotions. Stamps constitute conscious efforts to manifest certain themes and they have been created to be observed. Each one has its meaning and tells a story. Collectors are attracted to different types of stamps, depending on their character and personality. There are those who have a penchant for certain countries, while others choose a specific topic. In this way, each stamp represents a connection both to objective reality and to our inner world.
Before the practice, it is recommended to take a bath. It is also important to prepare an appropriate environment. The space must be clean and organized. Air the room to allow the energy to renew itself. Try to have good lighting in order not to strain your eyes. While the practice lasts, keep the TV and cell phone turned off. If you wish, you can put a meditative melody that will create a soft musical background.
The posture plays a very important role as it reflects our attitude. Sit with your back straight, elongated from the sacrum to the crown. The body is extended, but no muscle is tense. Feel a sensation of elongation without tension. You do not have to repeat a mantra or perform any kind of action. Then proceed to place the stamp in front of you in a way that does not strain your neck. This will be your object of attention.
Close your eyes. Your breathing slows down as you carefully observe the nostrils for a minute or so. Observe how the air you inhale is cooler than the air you exhale. Do not make any efforts—allow the mind to calm down on its own. When tranquility absorbs you, slowly open your eyes and rest your attention on the stamp. At first, observe effortlessly with your gaze unfixed. Then proceed to situate your attention in the center of the stamp. Slowly, allow the colors and shapes of the design to invade your mind and calm your emotions. Through observation, we can access our hidden interior. Accept the feeling of well-being, the tranquility, and the mental harmony that flows toward you through this window of paper. As we mentioned at the beginning, this technique is a preparatory step for meditation.
Every philatelist has experienced indescribable moments of peace, tranquility, and inner silence. According to Meditative Philately, each stamp fulfills the functions of a mandala, which is a symmetrical diagram, symbol, or geometric pattern. Stamps are like cosmic diagrams that remind us of our connection to infinity. They can be used as means of ceasing our mental activity when aspiring to meditative states. Stamps fulfill similar functions to mantras, but visually rather than auditory. Stamps become tools to focus our attention, and therefore, they are helpful for meditation.
Regardless of the characteristics and history of each stamp, they have been designed to be observed.
Continuous observation, while breathing slowly and deeply, leads the observer to relaxation and gradually to deep meditation. Our mind moves in circles, however, every circle has a center. The careful observation of the stamp allows us to jump out of this circle to focus on our conscious center. This practice centers us and is capable of influencing our inner world, breaking vicious mental patterns. By observing the stamps, one gets integrated and experiences well-being, harmony, balance, and peace.