An excerpt from The 21 Stages of Meditation
Yogi Bhajan divided the meditative path toward realization into 21 stages. These 21 stages are composed of three journeys. Each journey has seven stages which represent the mastery of a particular meditative skill as well as the development of a particular dimension of the Self. Each stage has its own beauty, challenges, and qualities. Yogi Bhajan named each stage to reflect its qualities and challenges and described the journey that leads to happiness, and ultimately, realization.
As we progress through the stages of meditation, we acquire the resources to live more fully and successfully, and we steadily refine our ability to experience happiness in our lives—a fulfillment of our birthright.
The term happiness is used in many ways. To understand what it means within the stages of meditation, think of these three qualities: joy, happiness, and bliss. Joy is what we normally think of as happy: it’s that positive state we get when we enjoy something, feel pleasure in an activity, or leave behind our burdens and stress. Joy increases throughout the first journey as the emotional, reactive, and unconscious blocks clear from our mind. Happiness includes joy but adds an aspect of the Self; so it’s not just the pleasure of what we do but how we do it—the level of excellence, commitment, and fulfillment we bring to it. Happiness begins when we have a sense of Self. As we complete the skills of the first journey and begin the second, our experience of happiness expands and is refined and stabilized in every part of our life.
Bliss is the fruit of the third journey. The word bliss comes from the Sanskrit word ananda; it includes joy and happiness but adds a deep sense of fulfillment and clarity that only comes as we transcend the finite Self and the burdens of the ego. In the state of bliss, we become the flow of wisdom, infinite innocence at play, a presence that observes and yet participates in all things with spontaneity and grace. Ananda, or bliss, comes from within the Self and magnifies in direct relationship to the ego—less ego, more bliss.
Joy is transitory, happiness enduring, and bliss always and ever abiding. Joy often comes from outside of us, material things and other people; happiness often comes in comparison to others and our Self; bliss is found from within our Self by becoming consciously conscious in every moment and savoring the infinite variety found in all things. When we are happy, in this deep blissful manner, we radiate. We become a magnet; whatever we need to express our particular gifts and contributions comes to us; we become a creative consciousness. When we find our innocence and awaken our intuitive Self, the entire universe comes to support us.
Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, PhD, master teacher of meditation and Kundalini Yoga, has been the international director of training for Kundalini Yoga for 40 years.