I have been meditating for at least 30 years or longer. In the last few years I have decided to change my focus to only doing Japa instead. Here is why:
Thoughts on Dhyana
There are several benefits accrued from doing Dhyana, one being the ability to become self-aware of ones biological functions and having the bio-feedback to get into the top form or health in the needed moment.
One the other hand so many people who do meditation don?t seem all that great. So I am trying to find what is the aspect of it that works. The above is a deep listening skill, but having this deep listening to one?s self is a listening to ones body. Then there is a deep listening to ones emotions, but objectively. The mind stops chattering and then listens. But it does not last and it does not bring enlightenment, which is a false goal anyway. You just want to be able to listen really well more than anything. People in nature do this automatically, maybe even better. The farmer culture in India includes some incredible listeners who do not meditate; they do rituals instead.
When you empty the mind or concentrate intently, you are only hypnotizing yourself. What you really want to do is to be able to listen to yourself and your surroundings and be aware that there is more to listen to than just voices and words.
The next useful part of meditation is the visualization. You can feed yourself energy just by imagining it. This is pretty amazing. You can imagine yourself warm and walk in the cold. You can imagine health. You can also imagine things that don?t come true or affect you. So at what point do you take the imagination in you?
Most importantly, who has meditation helped? In a larger context or picture there isn?t much improvement. Using ones brain deeply does help, or even not deeply if it is just being used efficiently and intelligently. A myriad of thoughts is not efficient; you need the right thoughts at the right moment. But does meditation help? And if so, why are so many people who don?t meditate using their brains most efficiently?
Think about Leonardo Da Vinci or Albert Einstein. These are two people who use visualization to think efficiently. You can do visualizing anywhere and people have been doing it all over the world all through the ages. It?s that imaginative faculty that allowed us to invent tools and appreciate art. Some archeologists have even surmised that this is the facility that defined the Homo sapiens.
I have to say, I have meditated a lot and I have been less aware. I had also been passive and less engaged in the world around me. This is not good. I want to be engaged and listening. At other times my full engagement was there as in the times I had nearly drowned. I was wondering why my brain worked so efficiently. Many times I thanked my meditation practice. But is this really the reason for this efficiency?
I did calm down in both incidences, almost as if knowing that there was no point in worrying. I attempted what seemed to be the best solution I could think of and went into action trying it. This was listening to my surrounding acutely and also listening to my biological self and then visualizing a possibility. There was also a deep faith in myself that I can come up with the best solution.
The people with the greatest acuteness, awareness and listening skills are the hunters, the hunted and the martial artists. This is why there are so many stories in India on the wisdom of the hunter. When in battle or even when sparring one is forced to think as efficiently as possible and this includes being aware at such an acute and sharp level as to what your state is, what your opponent is doing and how your body will react. There are experiences in real life that reach these skills not only faster but functionally better.
For many, the idea of ?Providence? pulled them through, that is the belief that they would win. This is pure confidence in ones self. We have genetically evolved to survive and our bodies know what to do from the genes we inherited from our ancestors. That is why ancestor worship makes sense. Since we are formulated from the elements created in the Sun, this is our oldest ancestor in this solar system. This is the reason sun worship makes sense. We are all energized from the sun, the source of all food and nutrients on earth. Providence knows you will win, that winning is pre-ordained. This actually makes your listening, visualizing and thinking of the moment more efficient. You are already at the end point and you are just connecting the dots.
I am looking for ideas that are universal. If the idea has a founder and only evolved in one place, than it is not a natural providence of human greatness. We see greatness everywhere, and those who are great are people who made the most out of their lives and moved other people around them. Buddha is not great because of his ideas; he is great because he and his ideas had a profound affect on history as much as Hitler and Einstein did. He influenced John Cage, who made his mark by being controversial, but that does not make his musical ideas valid. I would rather listen to Mozart or the Beatles over anything Cage has ever done. I would rather look at a beautiful painting of a landscape than a Damien Hurst piece.
That is why I see Buddha as the Ayn Rand for his generation. He put the focus on the self, and created many vegetables thinking they were getting freedom to think for themselves. In reality they were not thinking for themselves at all, but following the leader. They also make people less observant and able to learn, the opposite of the hunter. They are especially bad for social skills.
DJ Spooky is the John Cage for the Hip Hop generation. It is all in the head, so to say, where it?s applicability to a good experience in this life is non-existent. The Bhagavad Gita resolved some of the ideas of ?detachment? by making it useful. In the end we want to listen to a good song, and a good song has healing properties. Noise, just annoys, possibly at the subtle level that the convincing brain isn?t aware of.
I always thought that the ultimate benefit of mediation is having a large perspective, beyond the limiting ego. But is this really being acquired through concentration meditation? Reading about physics, astronomy, microbiology, etc. is what gives this perspective. Even Science Fiction gives this larger perspective. Meditation that dissolves the ego can be self-defeating. What you really need is to be aware that your perspective is not the only one; that everyone around you is looking at the same world from a different angle. You need to know that time moves so much further back and forward then your place in it, or that space is so much larger and smaller than your particular dimension. These seem to be acquired by reading stories and poems, and now by knowledge of science. We can visualize them to the best of our abilities as possibilities. We are expanding our minds to think beyond our immediate senses. We are making inferences through the evidence, experience and observations of the world around us.
The Vedic poems allow one to observe the things around us that are not apparent. It is also what is behind Egyptian symbolism. People observed aspects of nature that were subtler and they used poems, songs, symbols and stories to communicate this subtlety. One poet called this the Sublime, a concept originating in ancient history (possibly known as Rasa in Sanskrit), but expanded by Edmund Burke in the 18th Century.
Many of the mystical and spiritual schools around the world don?t meditate, but rather connect to the sublime through artistic expression and visualization. Many of these visualizations are focused activities either with an external ritual or an internal pattern. In either case, the brain is active. Maybe you can get the same time of focused activity in practicing a piano piece or deconstructing a math equation. There is something in the ritual or visualization pattern that is aesthetically pleasing, that is sublime and connects you to nature. Maybe there is a golden ratio or Fibonacci series involved?
Of course it is always good to break down patterns and look at things fresh and functional. This is what modern architecture is about. We can be aware of our own delusions, the Maya, or the assumptions that are limiting the possibilities. Humans are very capable in creating delusions for themselves and living in them. Today we live in a strangely accepted consumerist environment filled with brainwashing advertisements and disposable pleasures. But meditation does not make you aware of this, observation does. Plenty of people who meditate live in delusion while plenty of people who don?t meditate can see through them. There is also an underlying reality that you cannot change so easily and that is nature (or Rta/Dharma). The changes and improvements you make, will work out better when they flow with the workings of nature, both in human nature and in the balance of the natural world.
Someone who is following Dharma, is one who is taking care of their family, tribe, community, the human species, the living, the earth, and beyond when that time comes. They live for more than just themselves. This is where true happiness comes. Feeding yourself can make you happy because you are cleaning the environment and also feeding the organs and microorganisms in your body. Sex makes you happy because you are giving life to a new being as well as giving pleasure to another human being. Abstinence makes you happy in the future, because these acts become special and sacred. At one time food was a special and sacred activity done with a group and the act of feeding the spirits of nature first and acknowledging the sacrifice that is taken for that which became food added sublime nourishment to the activity.
For an animal, food is always sacred as they must hunt or scavenge for it. Humans started domesticating plants and animals, which put them in touch with working with the cycles of nature. We eventually harnessed nature to create machines and even observed the invisible through inference, which allowed us to create radiography and electrical devices. People have created these things all over the world in many different cultures, but most importantly, the people who have and are creating these things were not all doing yoga.
The people who are doing Yoga like Deepak Chopra and company on the other hand are just wasting humanities time. Most yogis? are not here. They are over there. People feel healthy with physical exercise. People feel calm when they breathe deeply. People get spaced out when they float inside their heads and don?t do anything. The calmness comes from the breathing, not from deadening of the external world. All Sramana practices are about deadening the senses, the observation, the listening and going into the ultimate subjectivity and solipsism. The ?traditions? that are spiritual everywhere else is all about singing, dancing and telling stories. Most of all they are shared experiences with other people. There is value in taking a walk by ones self in the woods, to clearly see ones own thoughts. But to close off the woods completely with everyone else is like removing the legs of a daddy long-legged spider. The walk in the woods means you will come back and share your thoughts. This is why the best work break is not doing nothing but doing something else.
So what can one do instead of meditation? Most traditional esoteric cultures sang and danced. One can compose and or say uplifting poetry to ones self. One can visualize an idea or use their creative faculties. One can drink with ones friends. One can do something nice for someone else. One can walk a nature trail or go sailing. Real life is so much more rewarding.
Visualize the sun entering your body and nourishing you. Give this nourishment to those around you. There is no need to sit idle to do this. You can do this at any moment in time and it is not a meditation away from this world. Rather it is a poem to yourself and to your spirit. It is a personal experience of art. It is the food of the spirit. And this is what poetry is. Poetry is a food for the spirit. Poetry makes you visualize the beauty that nourishes you.