Listening, Reflection, Contemplation

Listening, Reflection, Contemplation

It is said that the non-dual teachings are to be received and absorbed in a process consisting of broadly three stages. These might be called the stages of listening, reflection and contemplation.

The Sanskrit names for these practices (one might say for these skills, or even these arts) are shravana (listening), manana (reflective thinking) and nididhyasana (steady contemplation). In the traditional non-dual schools each of these has a precise meaning.

Listening and Sat Sang

The teachings need to be heard with due respect and receptivity. Shravana does not necessarily require a particular or formal setting, but it is important to recognise that the subject is of special interest and value.

This listening is reinforced by reading about the pure teachings from an illumined source.

During the listening stage, it is helpful to keep the mind’s usual reactions in abeyance. That is, to restrain the inclination to think ‘Oh, this is just like…’. The ideal is to hear about the higher truth without smothering the teachings with associations and comparisons. This is shravana.

An opportunity to listen to the teachings from an authoritative source in an appropriate setting is sometimes called by the Sanskrit term Sat Sang.


It is at the stage of reflection, manana, that the mind should apply its own ways of understanding to what has been heard. One asks: ‘Have I understood this?, ‘Does it make sense?’ ‘How would I say that in my own words?’ ‘Does it fit in with how I have understood things up to now?’ ‘Where it does it challenge my views?’ ‘What changes does it suggest that I could make to my thoughts and actions?’


Reflection leads to a changed vision of the world that matures into contemplation. This is a steady, unbroken brooding on the reality underlying the changing thoughts and experiences. It is this stable, one-pointed devotion that is conducive to the readiness for illumination.

Read more on these three steps in Training the Mind through Yoga.