Meditation Begins After the Mind is Silent

Meditation today has become a tool, a technique. People talk about meditation as a way of controlling their mind, or calming their mind. There are hundreds of techniques that masquerade as meditation techniques. And there are dozens of teachers teaching meditation and several hundred books on the subject.

Is the goal of meditation really to achieve a silent mind?

It is possible some people might experience a stillness in their mind during meditation as thoughts die down. This is what they assume to be the fruits of meditation. But can they carry that stillness through the day? It is difficult. The daily life once again creates disturbances in the mind, stokes the fires of thought and the mind is once more in chaos. So the person thinks he must deepen his meditation practice and meditate harder, put more effort in his meditation, resolve more strongly to silence the mind, and so on. Then there are those people who cannot achieve any form of stillness of mind during their meditation and they think meditation is useless or they are useless.

In all this merry go round, somewhere the essence of meditation has been lost.

For a moment, let’s keep the word meditation aside and look at life in a simple way. If your mind is agitated due to some reason, will you be able to sit quietly for some time? It would be difficult. Thoughts would come and go and suddenly you will find yourself acting on some thought or saying something or thinking even more. Your mind is not silent. This is the normal life. We go through our day from one thought to another, from one action to another, fueled by inner thoughts or external stimulus of what you see, what others say to you, what they want you to do, and so on.

Now supposing, it is early morning or late evening or a time where you are not disturbed and you are all alone. And you are not doing anything special. How long will you be able to sit like that without your mind wandering all over the universe? It is certain that suddenly you will find yourself doing something. Most people don’t like that aloneness with their own minds and want to keep their mind occupied – for instance watching television or watching movies or doing some hobby work.

Is your mind really silent during these activities? No, it is not. It is merely guided by the flow of images and sounds so it does not have to be on its own. The television soap or the movie is telling a story and your mind is following that. If you are working on your hobby, your mind is working on a goal and therefore is seemingly silent.

But as soon as that external support is over, the mind is active once more and starts to wander and feel agitated. This is the normal human state and nothing to worry about. But some people’s minds are too troubled by old memories or habitual emotions that their mind wants to do something about it – to put an end to their suffering.

This is where, the mind starts to believe that meditation will help silence their mind. But this is a big mistake.

Meditation just becomes one of the ways to keep the mind occupied, like TV or movies. The mind wants to struggle with itself and quieten itself. So it goes around like a dog trying to catch its own tail. So for some time, the mind becomes still but as soon as the meditation session is over, its back to the normal monkey mind once again. It’s like you had put a monkey in a suitcase for 20 min and now opened the suitcase. The monkey would go crazy as soon as it is out of the suitcase. Sometimes, the monkey falls asleep in the suitcase but wakes up after some time.

The point is, so long as you have a monkey, there is no meditation.

There is meditation only when there is no monkey mind. This is the meditation after the mind is silent. This is the real meditation. It is sitting quietly doing nothing.

Dogen, before he became enlightened, had a doubt as to why masters even after attaining enlightenment still practiced sitting meditation. He was totally confused and it because a big koan for him. If meditation is to attain enlightenment, then why meditate after you have attained it? And then he cracked the koan and became enlightened.

So if you can understand this point, you will have a completely different view of meditation. True meditation can happen only after you have a silent mind. It will be difficult to accept this view because the mind then has no recourse to silencing itself (keeping itself occupied in other words) but to face the monkey within.

All efforts to silence the mind, including so called meditation are simply the work of the monkey mind. So now how will you attain a silent mind? I will leave you with that question. Best wishes.

May you realize your enlightenment.

Zen Counseling Training

This is a famous zen poem and has been one of my favourites for the many years that I have been studying zen. I really thought I had penetrated to the core of this poem. But that was not true and I realized the true meaning of this poem in the Zen Counselling course I attended during 15 to 18 Aug at the Integral Space, Lower Parel, Mumbai.

The training was organized by Loving Foundation’s Dr Ronak Gandhi, a four times black belt in Zen Archery and who is on a mission to spread love. Zen is not so well known in India and apart from Osho’s followers, not many profess to follow it. There are no zen monasteries to talk about, no zen masters as such, although I remember having been to Bodhi Zendo, a zen monastery near Kodaikanal and met Zen Master Ama Samy, but that’s the exception.

So I was really intrigued with the Zen Counselling course that I came across on Google and instantly felt like I should go there. But I had my reservations. Because I knew I had a deep understanding of zen from my study and practice over 15 years and so had a doubt whether this was true zen. Seeing that the teacher was a Japanese person added to the mystique of the course. After speaking with Dr Ronak, I confirmed my participation.

Kenichi Ishimaru is the founder of Zen Counselling and there are only a few videos with him speaking on You Tube. The thing that caught my attention was the premise of Zen Counselling that every client is a Buddha. And this is a high class understanding, in fact the highest understanding in Zen. So I went for it.

With Dr Ronak Gandhi and Kenichi San and Kyoko

And what a time it was! Those four days with Kenichi San and the 22 fellow students. I solved all my problems, hesitations, mental blocks, diffidence, attitudes towards women and discovered my true way. I learnt more from the live experience of listening to the master, watching his demonstrations and his answers to our questions than in all my readings of zen of the last decade. Kenichi san lives zen and teaches zen. And he does not teach theory because zen is a matter of experience so all the teaching was actually learning through personal experience. 

Standing from left: Rinkal, Kyoko, Aabhas, Alpana, Meghna, Ridhima, Sanjeev, Ashish, Mona, Shruti, Pankti, Reyes, Dixit, Subodh. Sitting from left: Zia, Geet, Gauri, Antara, Kamalika, Reet, Namrita, Aditi

Zen Counselling is the most powerful technique (if one can call it a technique) to solve any problem of any individual. When an individual has a problem, he suffers. When the problem is solved, he is happy and free. But in contrast to other forms of counselling, in Zen Counselling, the counsellor does not give any kind of advice. The premise is very clear and it is non-negotiable – the client’s problem can be solved only by the client. The counsellor can only support with a few intelligent techniques based on listening, being relaxed and asking questions to clarify the problem. In the process of Zen Counselling, the client solves the problem for himself by clarifying it in his own mind with the support of the counsellor. And I have experienced this magic of solving problems without doing anything, in all my practice sessions.

This experience of Zen Counselling has given me the power and confidence to go out and help others. I had reached a conclusion long time back that people are not listening. And therefore, I always hesitated to speak to anyone about zen and my work on Big Picture Zen. But now with all my problems solved, I am free to talk and free to listen.

I have always been a good listener but that was not enough. But the listening approach that I learnt in Zen Counselling was nothing short of magic. And I realized that the way to another person’s heart is through our ears – through listening. There is no value I can place on this skill and technique. This is priceless. This skill is what makes a real loving human being.

To me, this clarified to me many zen stories and also the way Buddha would have helped people, and not just theoretically but now I can also do it. All the disconnected pieces in my mind have now connected into a whole. Now I can truly see with my ears and listen with my eyes.

Ever since I had my awakening experience around 2003, I have been very keen to share it with others and get others to become curious about it and strive for it. But nobody listened. And I had almost given up. I was also thinking upside down about helping others. The reason I was reading all kinds of books on human psychology was to be able to learn how to help others. But that’s not the real way.

My zen mind was always against learning things to teach others because the end goal was to drop all knowledge. So how can I help someone drop all knowledge by giving him knowledge of any kind – zen or otherwise? I was caught in this koan for many years.

Zen Counselling opened me up to direct experience and then at last, I reached the point where I had nothing to say anymore. This was like a second satori to me. It became a clear fact not a statement of belief that every person is a Buddha. Now knowledge or no knowledge is no hindrance. Everything is perfect as is.

Sitting quietly doing nothing, the Zen Counselor listens relaxed, the client shares his problem and the solution appears by itself

Two Sides of a Coin?

What if I fall?

Oh, but my darling what if you fly! 

Erin Hanson

Essentially this line spells one thing, that there are two sides to a coin. One is the dark one, the negative and scary side, while the other, is the bright one, the positive one that is so encouraging and reassuring. 

Life throws a million chances and opportunities at us just like this one, where we either fly or end up falling. So what is it that life is trying to teach? Is it sheer luck or is there something more to it? The answer probably lies in the way we try to perceive each incident. Every situation can be seen from two sides – the positive as well as the negative. 

For instance when we experience happiness on winning a game or gaining a promotion do we really think of the flip side of it? Probably not, because we are too immersed in the happy moment. The flip side of a win can be that we may have to double the efforts to make sure that we keep winning the game which means more hard work. The flip side of a promotion can be that we must handle greater responsibility and work more at proving ourselves as a worthy choice. We might fail at these things can’t we. On the other side when we suddenly lose someone dear to us, we fall into a grief so deep that we hardly realise that it is strengthening us from the inside and making us resilient to stand up again even when we are hurt. That is a powerful positive side to a bad incident. 

So in effect, what we must learn and appreciate about each experience is that every time it happens, it teaches us something. What use is anything that happens in life, if we do not rise up higher in our understanding and realisation through the experience? Just like a coin even life has two sides and we must accept each with grace. 

We must always remember that the good times come for a price that must be paid and the bad times come with lessons that must be learnt. 

#nehaismNeha Joshi

One fine day, I explained about the two sides of a coin to Neha and asked her to write about it. While, what she has written above summarizes what I explained to her, she did not think about it deeply and thus missed the essence. The two sides of a coin is an oft-used analogy to help people understand that life is not one-sided. It is used especially to advise people who are habituated to look at life from a single viewpoint or who are caught in a specific life situation. The fact that reminding people of this analogy gives them relief is the proof they need that they were stuck in one sided views.

However, the point that this analogy misses is that a coin does not have two sides (surprised!?). It just appears to have two sides. It actually has more than 2 sides. Consider the thickness at the circumference. That’s the third side. Further, if you observe the coin under a microscope, you will see infinitely more surfaces and sides.

So the point is not to jump to the conclusion that life is colorful and not black and white, which is fine to a certain extent. But what is more difficult to do, and what is needed, is to stop counting the colors or the sides.

Now, one might quickly jump to another conclusion (a conclusion is a kind of a solidified hardened view and most people like to jump to it) that we should take life as it comes. Unfortunately, that too is a view that can be countered by its opposite (two sides of the coin view – take control of your life) or the multi-color view of life (experience everything that life has to offer).

While these views can help us in many ways, ultimately, they are mere views. Is it possible to be free of all views? Because only when you can be free of all views, can you see life in all its pristine beauty and know you are ‘that which views’ and ‘that which is viewed’.

BPW – The Left Hand Column Exercise

From Left: Nilesh, Mukesh, Karishma, Bharat, Amee

This mini workshop was dedicated to the left hand column exercise. This exercise was designed by Peter Senge and Chris Argyris to help individuals uncover the assumptions behind their communication so as the make their communication more effective.

It is quite obvious that while communication between people happens through verbal and non verbal means, there is a whole iceberg below that which is visible. This iceberg is the thoughts, assumptions and beliefs that drive the external manifestation of the communication.

The left hand column is a great exercise to sensitize people to this hidden aspect of our daily communication.

 

 

BPW – The Journey to NOW

BPW The Journey to NOW
From Left: Pratik, Kunal, Saurabh, Nidhi, Nilesh, Urmi, Amee, Karishma & Bharat

From morning till night, we are driven by the terror of the clock. The various deadlines at work keep us under stress. We are unable to live freely because one or other time pressure makes us do things. But we never investigate the real nature of time and whether it really exists.

We take it for granted that time exists and we live in time. But on closer examination, we discover a very counter-intuitive and liberating insight about time and our relationship to it.

What time is it now? – this should be our starting point as we discover that time is different at different places on the earth right now. By doing a few thought experiments, we come to the realization that time is merely an agreement between all of us to adhere to a certain way of measurement of our activities.

And when we deeply see and grasp the truth of this matter, we are free to either agree or disagree to deadlines that come our way or negotiate them. A man who has mastered time, defines his own terms on this matter and is truly free of time.

 

BPW – What Makes You Tick?

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From Left to Right: Dhrupit, Shravan, Sonali, Urvi, Pratik, Shaily, Bharat, Kunal, Saurabh

What makes a clock tick? Its battery. The energy from the battery runs the machinery of gears which makes the hands of the clock tick.

What makes a tree tick? What makes it work? Roots, soil, water, air, sunlight, and photosynthesis in the leaves which creates the energy

What makes a car tick? the engine, tyres, driver and the whole mechanism of transmission, not to forget the fuel.

What Makes a Fountain Tick?

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While we only consider a few links in the chain of connected energy flows that make a thing work, the example of a fountain is illustrative. A fountain needs water, hydraulics, a network of pipes and a supporting software program. It also needs electricity which flows continuously through the wires which reach all the way through the grid to the power generation facility. We know that electricity cannot be stored and therefore it has to be continuously produced to meet the demand. Assuming a hydroelectric power station, we need water to flow through the turbines, and in turn rivers to flow and if you keep going this way, we need the whole weather and climate to work in order for our fountain to work.

It is not just the fountain which is dancing but the whole world which is dancing

What Makes You Tick?

So one must inquire what makes oneself tick. What makes energy flow through you?

Are You Aware of Your Assumptions?

assumption

In life we are making assumptions of all kinds all the time. We assume that the milkman will come on time, the product you bought online will turn out to be good, the traffic will be as usual on the way to the office, and the spouse’s mood will be normal in the evening. And because on most days, these things turn out to be according to what we assumed, we tend to take these assumptions for granted.

So when, the next time we are caught in an unexpected traffic jam, we either curse ourselves or wonder how the city life is deteriorating. Next time when the maid does not come on time, we pick up an argument. Next time your boss overlooks your report, you become uneasy and start to worry about your impression.

Assumptions in themselves are not a problem. We need to make assumptions to keep our life running. If we had to live our life without any assumptions, then we would be living in a constant state of panic and fear, not trusting anyone around us.

The mistake we make is that we are not aware that we are making assumptions.

When you sit in a cab, you make an assumption that the driver will take you to the destination you told him. It is possible that the driver will take you somewhere else. The possibility, however small, does exist. And when that happens, you panic, you begin to shout, become angry and later start to wonder why it happens to you only.

There is another assumption at work here – your assumption that the world moves according to how you think it is supposed to work. The truth is that the world moves in mysterious ways and despite all the patterns and laws we have superimposed on reality to make it more predictable, we encounter situations where our assumptions turn out to be false.

To stop taking reality for granted, we need to develop awareness of our assumptions, even when they seem to be serving the purpose.

Reality is not following our assumptions but it is the way it is.

If we observe reality keenly and accept whatever it presents to us, we will be in a better position to navigate through life.

Whenever you are in a situation which makes you suffer, try to discover what assumptions you made about something or someone and instead of blaming the situation or another person, realize that it was merely your assumption.

Alternatively, ask, clarify, investigate and inquire about the cause of the situation. This will help you to update your assumptions. For instance, if you notice that your spouse is in a bad mood, ask what is the problem instead of reacting to the mood. You might think this is difficult to do but who knows it might be another assumption you are nurturing.

The ability to become aware of our own assumptions is a skill that can be developed with some practice. You will realize that your experience of life moves several notches up when you are more aware of what assumptions you are making about your life and are able to realize them as assumptions and not laws of nature. You will then be able to learn every moment and enjoy life every moment.

Krishnamurti Workshop: Living Without Fear

“If one has observed, this problem of fear has existed from time immemorial. It has existed with man. And man has lived with it, both consciously or hidden deep down, its roots very, very deep. And either we have escaped from it through logic, through analysis, through any form of entertainment that helps us to avoid coming directly into contact with it and holding it, or we have suppressed it. Right? We do this. Or we neglect it. We say, ‘What, we have lived with fear for million years, so what does it matter now?’ And one knows the consequences of fear: physical shrinkage, a tendency to be hypocritical, resistance, an avoidance of the fact that one is really afraid. So if one really profoundly wants to be free from that reaction called fear, one has to go to the very root of it. There is biological fears: the body, the organism which must protect itself, and the fear of disease, old age, death, and the fears of past memories. So fear is again a common ground upon which all human beings stand. So, either we deal with it superficially or enquire into it very, very deeply.”

– J. Krishnamurti

I once again had the opportunity of participating in a workshop organized by the Krishnamurti Education Trust, facilitated by Kishoreji. As usual it was a wonderful experience to be with people who are seekers in their personal lives and who bring the deepest questions to the table for discussion. The topic for the day was “Living without Fear – understanding the nature and structure of fear”

The workshop is a weekend affair. People come on a Friday night or Saturday morning and spend two days. There is a basic facility for staying with tasty simple vegetarian food. The day is not demanding. There is time for discussing together which is mostly structured around participants raising questions and Kishoreji giving some answers. And a video of Krishnamurti, relevant to the topic is played.

I reached in the morning around 10.30 and joined the people already having a lively discussion around the breakfast table. The topic was on after life and whether something survives after death. Kishoreji was of the opinion that something does survive after death and you may call it energy or whatever. He gave an example of someone dying in an abnormal situation like in an accident or in battle. In that situation, the residual energy stays in that location and keeps performing the same action again and again till it dissipates.

IMG-20180819-WA0019

Another gentleman asked why is it that only some people are attracted to seek for the truth while others are not. Kishoreji pointed out the theory of resonance. Just like a tuning fork resonates to the frequency of vibration, we as people who are fundamentally vibrations or carriers of vibrations, resonate with certain things and do not resonate with certain things.

Something in my mind connected the above two things and it seemed to me that the reason why certain locations are more prone to violence, take for example the Kashmir region or the region of Delhi where millions of people died and thousands of women were raped over the centuries of plunder and wars that took place in that area, is that the energies of those happenings and their vibrations still resonate even today and when people whose frequencies match with those violent vibrations end up performing acts of killing and rape.

Come to think of it, there is no place on the earth where violence would not have happened. So we are all prone to emotional disturbances that make us do things, which later we wonder why we did them. It could be the reason that some resonating frequencies make us do those things.

Anyway, moving ahead, we began our first session on discussing fear and Kishoreji spoke about the experiment in which mice were treated with something that put their fear center to sleep and the result was that the mice roamed around cats freely without showing any fear. I later researched on the topic and found the following

Kobayakawa developed the fearless mice by shutting down receptors in their olfactory bulb – the area of the brain that processes information about smells – which would normally induce panic as soon as they get so much as a whiff of a cat. Source

So is fear just located in a center in our brain and can we become fearless just by switching off that center? Obviously not. The mice which became fearless were easy prey to the cat. So fear is some sort of intelligence that protect us from harm. However what Krishnamurti points out repeatedly is the psychological fear that we carry around with us which is the fear that we live without. Psychological fear prevents our full functioning and limits our actions.

Then post lunch we saw a video from the Krishnamurti archives where he spoke of the various causes that lead to psychological fears. Any movement away from what is causes fear; any comparison with an ideal or with others causes fears, time – past and future thinking leads to fear; and the deep insight that the pursuit of pleasure is always accompanied by fear – these were some of the themes that he spoke of.

A key observation is that fear cannot be simply dealt with by using the power of will. You cannot simply decide to be not afraid of something. The only way to deal with it is to not name it but to be with the observation and not analyze the experience. When there is no observer, no analyzer, then there is observation and watching without any center and where there is no center, fear cannot exercise its debilitating power.

Kishoreji added a couple of more points that were relevant in the discussion following the video. He said that when you are aware of the right thing to do and you do not do it, then there is fear. Also, when you are aware of the true nature of things and people as they are, there is no cause of fear.

As I see it, a certain situation prompts a certain reaction in us, expressed in the form of thoughts, emotions and instincts. If we name it as fear, then we do not experience it fully. Because then then naming of that as fear becomes another stimulus that further causes ingrained springs to get activated. However, if we allow the experience to happen and pass, we simply move on and surprisingly, we do not feel afraid in the situation. We simply act and do what we are supposed to do.

Does Rain Have A Brain?

It is rainy season. It rains, sometimes continuously for days and sometimes intermittently through the day. The news channels are busy reporting the havoc caused by incessant rains in different parts of the country where normal life is seriously disrupted.

black-and-white-clear-cool-459451

Is the rain doing it on purpose? Does it have a brain so to say? Does it decide where to rain and how much to rain? Does it see from high above the clouds, as it surveys the landscape, and then does it decide on its target audience or target city and then with great precision, commences its attack on unsuspecting people, vehicles, animals, roads and buildings and only stops when it is satisfied that the planned damage has been accomplished?

It seems childish to credit rain with this kind of intentional activity but every now and then we do speak or hear others speak of the rain in this manner. For example, it happens to many of us that we start from home to go to our place of work and we note that it is not raining when we start. But as soon as we are on the road, it rains heavily as if the rain wants to get at us, especially me. And this thought is reinforced by the observation that the rain stops as soon as you reach your destination. Even if you are the most rational person, you might want to credit the rain with a devious brain when you see it doing this the third time in a row.

So does the rain really have a brain that is somehow tracking you and all other millions of people across the country, calculating all the permutations and combinations about how much to rain and on whom to rain; which roads to convert to potholes and which cars to drown? Obviously not. We all know that the rain is a function of the elements of the ecosystem. The hotter the summer, the stronger the rains – because the sun would have evaporated a lot of water from the water bodies and now all of that cannot remain in the clouds so it comes down. Where the rain hits is a function of the wind systems around the world and the tree cover on the land. So without going into the mathematics of the climate and weather systems, it would suffice to say that these are pure elements at work and rain does not care whether it is raining on bare land or on people or on cities or on forests.

Rains simply happen because that’s the way it is. It could not be any other way on that day at that time. If you are frustrated or angry because you got wet, it is not the rain’s fault. And in the same vein, it is not your fault either. Your brain reacts to the rain depending on your mind’s ecosystem – where the wind of your thoughts is blowing when it rains, how much the summer of being lost in activities of daily life evaporated your energy, and how much forest cover you have of your own self-awareness.

When it rains, you see adults taking cover while children coming out to play and dance. Simply a difference in the ecosystems of your mind.

Rains are an invitation to experience the senses – the smell of the earth, the feel of the water on your body, the sight of the clouds, intermittent sun and the occasional rainbow, the musical sound of the raindrops falling on the ground or even on the tin shed nearby and the taste of the hot tea or hot pakodas during the rains – everything about the rainy season is deeply sensual.

The rainy season stimulates the senses like no other season, if you care to pay attention and not get caught in news reports and thoughts about how the rain is scheming to upset your plans.

Rains are nature’s way of asking you to stop and observe the beauty of creation, the impermanence of everything around us that is continuously ending something and creating something new from that – the greenery with all the flowers that come up after rains, the crops that grow from rains and supply us with food and the rivers that nourish the land until the next rainy season – the power of nature.

So while I have argued from the point that rains do not have brains, I still am crediting nature with an intention in the above paragraph. That’s the way the mind works. Can’t help it!