Meditation is not what you think it is
Meditation is attracting lots of attention in the western world, like never before. And the western approach to what used to be an exclusively eastern affair, is scientific. Meditation is under rigorous scrutiny: scientists search for objective data, measurements and demonstrable facts. On the one hand, the scientific endorsement of meditation is precisely what is making it acceptable and popular in the West, on the other hand it leaves room for misunderstanding. It seems that when it comes to meditation and spirituality, the gap between East and West remains unbridged.
Meditation originated in the East as a pathway to enlightenment. What enlightenment is, it’s the subject for a separate article but we let’s define it here as “ultimate freedom”. You may have heard about Gautama the Buddha. Borne as the son of a powerful king, with all the privileges a man could desire, he left everything in search of that ultimate freedom which no kingdom can provide; that state of being which is not dependent on status, wealth or material possessions.
Now let’s fast forward to our present days. Nowadays in the West, meditation is presented as a way to reduce stress, sleep better, perform better, improve focus and concentration. Meditation is practised for its scientifically proven health benefits and as a tool to enhance performance. We can say that meditation is a natural strategy to cope with modern (stressful) life. As you can see, what motivates people to meditate today in our modern western culture is very different from what has motivated Buddha and many other eastern spiritual seekers down the ages. Let’s put it this way: today meditation is a sort of natural complementary therapy to better cope with stress and a sense of being overwhelmed by events.
Of course there is nothing wrong in this and it is certainly better to chant a mantra or focus your attention on an object than taking medications, which inevitably carry side effects. However, we might need to coin a new term to differentiate meditation is its original sense and meditation as complimentary therapy to survive the fast-paced modern life.
In its original form, meditation has been conceived as an inner revolution, rather than a tool to function better in society. It is the path to realise the illusory nature of the ego, and not a tool to sharpen your mind and make you more focused and productive. Meditation is about sharpening awareness, and awareness is not a mind’s function. This is a subtle but fundamental difference that, if not understood, creates lots of confusion. Today everyone has suddenly become a meditation expert; to me we are in a situation where blind is leading the blind.
Osho says that meditation is not concentration or focusing on an object, sound, word, mantra, etc; it is not about training your attention or anything like that. That is exactly the opposite of what all the “meditation experts” advise you to do. That is more like “brain fitness”, gym for your mind. It is not a bad thing in itself, but it has nothing to do with meditation. It is the western misinterpretation of meditation.
Meditation belongs to the realm of the no-mind; it is pure silence, a dimension beyond the mind. Only those mystics who inhabit that realm of no-mind can help others achieve the same state. It is very rare to find such mystics and there is no scientific certificate for it.
So if you are looking for some complementary therapy, for a natural sleeping pill or a natural performance-enhancement-tool, then western meditation in the form of brain fitness is good. However, if you are searching for an answer to your deepest existential quest; if you are looking for self-realisation beyond personal and professional achievements; if you are interested in the “ultimate freedom”, then you will not find that in the scientific papers about meditation that keep popping out.
If you are interested in meditation in its real meaning, then beware of the all the “meditation experts” out there and only read or listen to authentic spiritual masters. Osho is my guide and to me he is the most useful guide for modern people. If you feel Osho is for you, my heart rejoices. Osho is a mad phenomenon and if you are crazy enough to be with Osho, then welcome and enjoy the ride!