A global collective meditation!?
by Swami Janakananda
One Sunday in August, 1994, a collective meditation took place the world over, from Europe to Australia. In London, for example, thousands of people gathered at Wembley Stadium to chant OM continuously from 12.00 midday to 12.08. We also took part. At Haa Retreat Center, we were just ending a month long Kriya Yoga course, so this meditation was to be the last before departure.
After this meditation, I received a letter with a question on another meditation that was also to take place simultaneously in different parts of the world. The intention was that, with thoughts, one could repair the earth's energy grid of lines that run through the landscape, and make contact with lost civilisations. Thereby, from what I understood, we would be able to avoid global catastrophes. Other similar meditations are done to reduce pollution, some to end the war in Bosnia, etc, etc. I answered the letter with the following:
"Concerning the interesting stuff about energy grids, Lemuria ( a prehistoric continent, older than Atlantis, supposedly situated in the Pacific Ocean) and so on, fine, if it will do the individual participating, and the rest of us, any good.
In the meantime, I will teach a few more students yoga for their daily and their spiritual lives, to help them in the here and now - whilst everyone is waiting for the great miracle. What they are waiting for, I know not. Life itself is the great miracle."
Certainly, one can direct energies towards a cause and manipulate thoughts and project them with good intent, but it is a question of whether one can call such an activity meditation. Therefore, one must discriminate. I am forced to explain that - what traditionally is called meditation, which we, together with many others, do - is the deepest and most penetrating meditation. A meditation definitely worth daring: it requires only to let go of all demands to reach results, whether it be therapeutic or psychic, or to want the meaning of everything explained; instead to have a strong desire to just be, to rest in oneself and take part in life and experience it...
To make sure that what we do is not based upon figments of the imagination, and to reach that deep and intense awareness we call meditation, we use a tried and tested meditation technique. To really meditate is so much stronger than the other, which I will here refer to as wishful thinking and hypnosis.The state of pure being has nothing to do with thoughts, it is something you experience; not limited to expectations, it is something you are.
When you rest in yourself, yes, even when you are on the way to this, and you feel that you can let go of tensions, old attitudes and states, then everything falls into place around you and harmony arises. By manipulation, on the other hand, you use your energy on small details far removed from the essence of your being. You, therefore, never come close to real peace and energy.
Meditation is definitely of current interest
Editorials in magazines and newspapers concern themselves with current events and tendencies. Can there then at all be an editorial in a periodical about yoga and meditation - isn't yoga timeless?
The answer to that is, that at all times, the original, the artistic and effectual, the genuine and deep, is threatened by misunderstanding, by dilution, by negligence and fear; these creep in when something becomes fashionable.
Time and again throughout history, an original mystical tradition has been watered down by people who want something to cling to, rather than wake up and expand their consciousness and get to know themselves. Through the sensationalism and misunderstanding of such people, the precious becomes inaccessible for the many. The so-called "easy" solutions, whereby one makes up things instead of learning more than one knows already, narrows the scope and blurs the picture.
Euphoria is easy to bring about, and explanations and mythologies can always be invented - but profound peace, inner strength, and a knowledge of one's own being, is something quite different.
Action creates change
Action creates change, was a political slogan of the 1970's, but the expression is valid inwardly as well. When you act, you also change. If you want to grow and discover more about yourself, then dreaming and making plans is not the best solution, if they are not immediately followed up by action.
I came by this insight when, for a period of my life, I decided only to make those plans that I meant to carry out. That resolution cleansed my mind and had an unbelievable effect on my ability to act.
Real meditation, in itself, is also an act. It does not build upon dreams or fantasies, but leads to a place where deep calmness, tolerance and a keen awareness reign. There is no talk of ideals or beautiful thoughts here, but of experience. The paradox, however, is that such a meditation rubs off on life and becomes the starting point for outward strength and action.
If one avoids taking part in life's many activities and believes that to dream and produce thoughts for an external purpose is to meditate, then one easily ends up in a no-man's land, where nothing happens apart from one's own imaginary and conceptual world (and then it doesn't matter if these thoughts are shared with others).
Certainly, there is something called creative visualisation, and apparently, it can bring about results - at least in the short run. But, what is there to compare it with, if one hasn't experienced the essence of meditation?
Transformation of the personal life
I have frequently seen people end a course and go home with an entirely new radiance. A radiance that they perhaps do not perceive immediately, but at home things fall into place around them and what they need seems to come by itself.
Naturally, this is due to the old secret - when I really have the desire and the will to do something, then providence appears at my side. The inhibitions that hindered me from taking initiatives, I have removed through yoga. I see what I want, or in which direction I want to go, and opportunities present themselves....
Transformation of the surroundings
A few years ago, the organisation Transcendental Meditation arranged a large collective meditation in The Globe, Stockholm. I thought this was a good initiative, but I was surprised when I heard a couple of participants relate what they themselves had done. They had sent out good thoughts into the world - thoughts of peace, etc.
Once in the 1970's, TM did an experiment in Atlanta, USA. Over a period, a group of people met every day in a house in a slum quarter and meditated. The method they used was genuine meditation, in the sense that they did not try to manipulate with or influence the surroundings. They just devoted themselves to the technique they used, namely a mantra. Briefly explained, it is a sound they repeat mentally in the mind for about half an hour, once or twice a day, with good results for their well-being.
At the conclusion of the period, after they had left the slum and the house where they had meditated, they allowed some qualified researchers to study whether the meditation had had any effect on the surroundings. Statistics of serious crimes such as murder, rape and assaults were compared before, during and after the period of meditation. The research revealed that during the period of meditation, the serious crimes had fallen to a minimum, but returned to "normal" for the area after the conclusion of the meditations.
Therefore, I was greatly surprised to hear that the TM participants in Stockholm had been occupying themselves with thoughts and conceptions.
Good thoughts - evil thoughts
Are "good" or "positive" thoughts of any use? Yes, if they do not foster guilt, shame or tensions, when trying to suppress the "evil" thoughts, then at least the "good" counter balance the "evil" ones. If we fight the thoughts, we end up getting entangled in them, and they do not let go. In meditation, you avoid fighting the thoughts - for example, by looking at them attentively without clinging to them - and eventually, you realise that you are not the thoughts. Thus, the interest for them is lost and the mind calms down. Of course, this is not done by willpower or with effort, but by the meditation method used. Thoughts are dropped and awareness is maintained with the meditation object. The state is concentrated and deepened.
It does not mean that one should not think good thoughts. Some people send good thoughts in all four directions, and up and down, before they start their meditation, but this belongs to the ritual with which they surround their meditation, and not to the meditation itself. This is the equivalent of religious rituals and meditations where the gods are first called upon to awaken energy and protection, before commencing with the actual meditation. I have nothing to say about this, only that it has my respect. I know that if one meditates on God with no other purpose than love and a desire to do it, then the meditation is irresistible.
However, I prefer the attitude that Lao Tze expresses with these words:
"...when Tao is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is kindness. When kindness is lost, there is justice. When justice is lost, there is ritual. Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion. Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao. It is the beginning of folly. Therefore the truly great man dwells on what is real and not what is on the surface. On the fruit and not the flower. Therefore accept the one and reject the other..." and he continues: "Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, and it will be a hundred times better for everyone; give up kindness, renounce morality, and men will rediscover filial piety and love; give up ingenuity, renounce profit, and bandits and thieves will disappear." (Tao Te Ching; translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English.)
The depth achieved when nothing other than meditation is sought, is vast and cannot at all be compared with "positive thinking" or hypnosis, which describe many of the methods in fashion today. Just as the past thousand years or more have suffered from too much discipline and blind authority, so will the future suffer from a lack of discipline and of not being able to stay with one thing. A great deal of confusion will arise as a result of this, when one forgets oneself and runs from one sensational method to the next - the goal is lost from sight.
Behind the thoughts
I can also compare the way I have talked of meditation to the effect of yoga poses, as I experience them. When various yoga poses are used in a programme, then the individual exercises have, without a doubt, a specific effect on certain organs or functions of the body. We can see this from the research we publish in our articles. But the use of a yoga programme also has a general effect. An effect, which is not about details, but an overall state of harmony. That which we experience as well-being, energy and concentration when we have done the exercises.
It is this general harmony I am interested in. I am certain that when it arises, possible disharmonious areas in the body or in the body's energy field will be affected by the whole. When the exercises are repeated regularly over a longer period, then sickness will disappear.
To me, there appears to be a paradox in the "modern" way of curing sicknesses. To be able to cure, one must first and foremost, according to the prevailing opinion, know all about sickness, and not of health. In the Tantric tradition, we start from the diametrically opposite point, that is, of the fit and healthy person. A cure does not happen by "fighting" the sickness, but by returning to that optimal health, which in Sanskrit, is defined by the word swastha, meaning both: to rest in oneself, to be oneself - and - to be fit and healthy, in one's natural state.
With this definition in mind, it can be understood why one should not manipulate in meditation, but seek the highest goal, which I can only describe with these modest words: a total letting go - and being.
No doubt, it could also be expressed in other ways, religious, philosophical, etc. And not claiming that I have the only definition that comes close to describing the essence of one's being without straining, I shall again cite Lao Tze, and let him say it in his way:
"Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub; it is the center hole that makes it useful. Shape clay into a vessel; it is the space within that makes it useful. Cut doors and windows for a room; it is the holes which make it useful. Therefore profit comes from what is there; usefulness from what is not there." (Tao Te Ching)
Now, it is a question of whether non-effort is easy or difficult? Both; it must be learnt, and yet it is simple, like in the twilight hour. But for that disciple who wants to achieve non-effort, the training principally involves giving up straining and learning to receive, or rather to realise that everything comes by itself, if the goal is held in sight and one stays on the path. When one has learnt not to follow all impulses, all desires to assert oneself and say something, instead of listening and experiencing, then great inspiration is gained. When one has realised silence, then one's speech has greater effect. The journey can be straightforward and easy when one knows surrender, but it can also be painful and full of resistance; and at times, the one who pretended to be a disciple runs away, when expectations and ideals are larger than the ability to experience the obvious and simple.
I follow a method in my meditation that safeguards, that it does not turn into ideas, expectations or self hypnosis, but provides a real experience, so the relaxation becomes genuine and consciousness is expanded harmoniously...
All the same, I would like to support the idea of collective meditation, globally or just in our school. If you are or have been a student of ours, you are welcome every Sunday at 8 pm (European time), when we meditate in the various yoga and meditation schools. Or you can join us at home, wherever that is.