What are the difficulties on the path of meditation and how can we overcome them?
There are only two difficulties on the path of meditation: one is the ego. You are continuously prepared by the society, by the family, by the school, by the church, by everybody around you, to be egoistic.
Even modern psychology is based on strengthening the ego. The whole idea of modern psychology, modern education, is that unless a person has a very strong ego he will not be able to struggle in life, where there is so much competition that if you are a humble man anybody will be able to push you aside. You will always remain backward. You need a very strong steel ego to fight in this competitive world. Then only can you become a success in any field. It may be business, it may be politics, it may be any profession – you need a very assertive personality. Our whole society is geared to produce an assertive personality in the child.
From the very beginning we start telling him, “Come first in your class.” And when the child comes first in the class, everybody praises him. What are you doing? You are feeding his ego from the very beginning. You are giving him a certain ambition: “You can become the president of the country; you can become the prime minister of the country…” And he starts the journey with these ideas. His ego goes on becoming bigger and bigger as he succeeds.
In every way the ego is the greatest disease that can happen to man. If you succeed, your ego becomes big – that is a danger, because then you will have to remove a big rock which is blocking the path. Or if the ego is small – you have not been successful, you have proved to be a failure – then your ego will become a wound. Then it hurts, then it creates an inferiority complex. Then too it creates a problem: you are always afraid to enter into anything, even in meditation, because you know you are a failure, you are going to fail. That has become your mind because everywhere you have failed. And meditation is such a great thing, you cannot succeed.
If you enter into meditation with this idea that failure is bound to happen and that is your destiny, that is your fate, then of course you cannot succeed. So if the ego is big it prevents; if the ego is very small it becomes a wound, then too it prevents. In each case the ego is one of the problems.
The second problem… and after stating both the problems I will tell you how to get rid of them. It is not difficult, but first you have to understand the problem in all its complexity….
The second hindrance on the path of meditation is your constantly chattering mind. You cannot sit even for a single minute. The mind goes on chattering: relevant, irrelevant, meaningful, meaningless… thoughts go on. It is a constant traffic and it is always rush hour. Whenever you close your eyes there are so many thoughts running in all directions, that if you sit down for ten minutes and write down whatever is going on in your mind – without any editing, because you are not going to show this to anybody, so don’t be worried…! Close the door, lock it from inside so that nobody comes in, and just write exactly what goes on in the mind for ten minutes. And after ten minutes read it.
And you will be surprised: “Is it my mind or has somebody gone mad?” Just because you have never looked at it, you have never thought about what is going on.
And if you try, as many people try, because studying books on meditation they think that if you can stop the thoughts by chanting a mantra or the name of God then perhaps the mind can be vacated from thoughts… The books are mostly written by people who have never meditated. I know many people who have written books on meditation. They came to me to ask how to meditate, and I said, “But in my library I have your book.”
They said, “Yes, we studied a few books on meditation and wrote the book just to help others.”
I said, “But first you should have tried what you have written. If you cannot help yourself, on what grounds do you think you can help others? You may have destroyed many people’s peace of mind.”
And there are so-called teachers of meditation who will also give you a mantra, that chanted, chanted fast, or any name… Close your eyes, do a certain ritual, take a bath, sit in a lotus posture, start the meditation, and go on as fast as you can – faster and faster, repeating the same name, “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna…” Do it as quickly as possible. After five to seven minutes, you will be in a state of what is scientifically known as autohypnosis. It is not meditation, but it does no harm. After ten to twelve minutes, when you come out of it you will feel a certain peace, a certain well-being; you will feel good, but this is not meditation.
I am not against it if you are trying to do it only to feel good. You can do it, but don’t think that by doing it you are going to realize your godliness. That is not possible because this is simply a deliberately created sound sleep. When you repeat a certain word continuously, fast, the mind has no way to go on chattering. You don’t give it any gap to put its thoughts into. Your chanting is so fast that the mind has to remain almost in a situation of a crossroads where the policeman has stopped the whole traffic. Your continuous chanting creates the situation of a policeman stopping the whole traffic, but the traffic is still there, it has not gone; in fact, more traffic has gathered on all the roads.
And the moment you come out of meditation your mind will have such a rush as it has never had – naturally, because all the traffic that you have stopped will have to pass. This is not meditation.
One more thing before I tell you what exactly is the problem with the mind. A few teachers of meditation – and particularly in this part of the world, in the East – are saying, “Keep your mind fixed on something. Start from something outer – a black dot on the wall – and then slowly, slowly close your eyes, and with closed eyes look at the black dot.”
And if you have been staring at the black dot for a few minutes, naturally with closed eyes you will see the black dot. Just the impression takes time to disappear. It is the negative of the positive black dot; it is part of the science of photography. It is the negative that you have created inside. Now look at this negative black dot and if you can continue looking at it, the same thing will happen after five to seven minutes – auto-hypnosis. You will feel good, and that is the danger. Because you feel good, afterwards you feel a certain well-being; you think you are on the right path – not necessarily.
And these things are also not easy – chanting continuously for five to seven minutes is not easy. A few thoughts will enter in and disturb it.
Keeping your mind fixed on one dot is also not easy. Thoughts may come, move across and disturb you. And if you ask your teachers they will say, “This is your past karma; you will have to wait.” There is no question of past karma, your method is simply wrong.
If you are learning to ride a bicycle and you go on falling again and again, and you ask somebody and he says, “It is because of your past karma…” It is simply that you don’t know how to ride the bicycle. It has nothing to do with past karma or past life. You simply need the right technique.
I have heard of a story….
A man was very much interested to attain miraculous powers. Wherever he went they said, “First you have to learn meditation. Without meditation you cannot have miraculous powers.”
Finally, he found a very wise old man about whom he had heard, “He is the greatest meditator alive, but you will have to serve him and not to be in a hurry. You just serve him; whenever the time is right he will give you the meditation and his blessing. You should not ask for it.”
The poor man served the man for one year and he was getting tired: “This is too much. The second year has begun and the old man still says, ‘No sign.’” He was getting fed up and thinking of running from that temple. The day he was thinking to run, the old man said, “Listen. I was waiting for the right time, but you cannot wait. The time is not right, but because of your hurry I will give you the method. It is very simple and very suited to you.”
The man said, “My Lord, my God!” He touched his feet. He said, “I was waiting for this day. I am a fool for having such bad thoughts about you. Just forgive me.”
He said, “Don’t be worried about it. This is the method; you go home” – he had written on a small piece of paper just a small mantra and he gave him that. “This is the mantra. You have to chant it for ten minutes. Just remember one thing: while chanting, don’t let any monkey come into your mind.”
The man said, “You must be mad! Monkeys have never come into my mind. In my whole life not a single monkey has come into my mind – why should a monkey come into my mind?”
The old man said, “I don’t know, but this is the condition that goes with this mantra.”
The man said, “There is no problem.” But he was worried. As he was coming down the steps of the temple, he already started seeing monkeys. He would close his eyes – and there were the monkeys.
He said, “My God! I have not even started!”
He went home. He took a good bath and sat in padmasana. But as he closed his eyes, and before he could start the mantra, the monkeys started coming – not one! In a line… giggling…!
The man said, “What happened?” He tried hard, but by the morning he was utterly tired. He went to the master. He said, “Take your mantra back. If this is the condition then I cannot fulfill it ever because of those monkeys. There is not one – you had said one – I don’t know how many there are.
I have been counting – they go on coming! And I am going mad! I simply don’t want any miraculous power, and I don’t want any meditation. I simply want to go home. Just help me to get rid of the monkeys. I am giving your mantra back – but who knows about the monkeys?”
If you try forcibly to keep something out of your mind, it is bound to come. This is a universal law.
Seeing the false methods, understanding that the mind is a constant process of thought, I want to explain to you something very simple, without any conditions. All that you have to do… no special posture is needed; whether you have taken a bath or not does not matter. It does not mean that at a certain time, at a certain place you should do it. No, you can do it anywhere, any time. I want it to be so easily possible for you that it mixes with your ordinary life and you don’t have to take some time out of your life specially given to meditation.
The process is witnessing.
The thoughts are moving in the mind – you have nothing to do with those thoughts. You are not to prevent them, you are not to chant a mantra, you have just to be a watcher. You have just to see that thoughts are passing, and you are standing by the side of the road looking at the traffic, unconcerned. Whether a bullock cart passes or an elephant passes or a camel passes… it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to make any judgment. You are just sitting by the side watching the whole scene.
It takes a few days, because of your old habit to make judgments. Something comes, you say, “This is very good” – and you have lost your capacity of being a watcher, you have already given judgment.
Something comes and you say, “This should not come, this is evil” – you have already fallen back.
Good or evil, beautiful or ugly, you are separate. You are the witness, you are just a mirror. Anything that passes by does not affect the mirror at all. Something good – the mirror reflects. Something bad – the mirror reflects. When they have gone, the mirror is as empty as ever.
Your consciousness is a mirror, and your consciousness is neither good nor bad. Your consciousness may have lived thousands of years, but not even a scratch is possible on your consciousness. It only reflects; its function is reflection. That’s why I say the divine between you and me is the same – there is no difference at all. I just have recognized that the witnessing is a pure mirror, eternally pure – and you get identified, you forget. […]
Once you get the knack of witnessing without judgment you will be surprised: the moment you are utterly a witness all the thoughts disappear. There is simply a plain white screen and no thoughts.
This is the first experience, that you have come to the door of meditation. Just go on looking at the white screen. Don’t do anything. Consciousness has a nature – if it cannot find any object which prevents it, then it goes round and comes back to you.
In existence everything moves in a circle. Remember that: nothing moves in a straight line. If there is no obstacle, the consciousness comes back to its own source. And the consciousness coming back to one’s own source, for the first time sees who is there, who has always been there. That is your real being.
You can call it godliness, you can call it divineness, you can call it truth. Any name will do because it has no name; it is a nameless reality. But once it is realized then there is nothing else left. You have attained to the ultimate flowering of your being. This is enlightenment.
So put your ego aside – whether it is big or small, don’t be worried – and just be a witness to your mind. Wait and be patient. Don’t be in a hurry. It may take a few days for you to get the knack. It is a knack! It is not an art!
If it was an art, it would have been very simple to teach, but because it is a knack you have to try. Slowly you get it.
How do you learn to swim? It is not an art. If it was an art you could have learned it in your bedroom. Just on your bed you could have done all the exercises that are prescribed in the book. But it is not an art; you have to go to water. And you will have to face death a few times, but that is part of the progress. Each time you face death, each time you learn something – the knack slowly comes to you. Within two or three days you will be able to swim.
One Japanese professor of psychology is trying to teach six-month-old children to swim, and he has succeeded. Then he tried with three-month-old children, and he has succeeded. Now he is trying with the newly born, and I hope that he succeeds. There is every possibility because it is a knack. It does not need any other kind of experience, age, education… it is simply a knack.
And if a six-month-old or a three-month-old baby can swim, that means we are naturally endowed with the idea of how to swim. We just have to discover it. Just a little bit of effort and you will be able to discover it.
The same is true about meditation… more true, than swimming. You just have to make a little effort.
And if you don’t succeed, don’t be worried. You are losing nothing – just a little rest.
And whenever you are going to sleep you can try – just lying in bed, or in the morning when you are awake, wait for a minute. Give it a try and then wake up. While taking a shower you can try it, because it is a question of witnessing.
You can witness anything, and anywhere.
There are one hundred and twelve methods of meditation, exhaustive. No more methods can be added to them. And these one hundred and twelve methods are written by Shiva himself perhaps ten thousand years ago. The name of the book is Vigyana Bhairava Tantra. It simply describes one hundred and twelve methods, each method in two lines.
I have tried all the methods, and the most surprising experience was that the basic thing in each of the methods is witnessing. Their strategies differ, but their soul is just witnessing.
So I have reduced the one hundred and twelve methods of Shiva into a single method. I am giving you the essential method which no meditation can afford to drop – it is the most essential. You can add any other structure to it, but I have dropped the whole structure. I am giving you the very soul of meditation. You just try, give it a chance. And if I can succeed, I don’t see why you cannot succeed.
Millions have succeeded in the past. We have just forgotten completely the greatest science of discovering ourselves. It has to be rediscovered and it has to be again spread all over the earth if we want the world to be saved, if we want the world not to be destroyed.
One of my professors, Doctor S.K. Saxena, loved me very much. Most days I used to stay with him instead of in the hostel, because he would not allow me to go to the hostel.
I asked him, “Why do you insist…? Because I am of no use to you – I simply sit in the garden and meditate.”
He said, “That is the reason I want you to be here. I am getting old, I have never meditated. Most of my life I have been a professor in America. I have never given any thought to meditation.”
Despite this, he had written for his doctoral thesis a book, History of the Evolution of Consciousness. He said to me, “When you are here I feel something settling in me. When you sleep in my house” – he lived alone – “I have a better sleep. I don’t know why, but just your presence somehow helps me to be more together.”
I said, “I can tell you why. But rather than depending on me, why don’t you start meditating?”
And by chance, today it happens that his son is present in the audience. S.K. Saxena is dead. I received a message that he wanted to see me before he died. He wanted that I should be present by his side when he died. But I received the message after he had died, months after. Perhaps he wanted to die in the same peaceful silent atmosphere that he had found around me. I feel sad for him, sorry for him, that what he could have attained himself he unnecessarily depended on somebody else for.
Meditation is something that is your birthright. Claim it! Make it a decision, a commitment that whatever happens, you will not die before you have attained to a meditative state. It is only a question of a firm determination. And if you can attain to meditation, your life will become real life, and your death will become a door to the divine.
It will no longer be a death; it will no longer be an end. It will just be freedom from the body and entering into the universal, unlimited, infinite.
From The Sword and the Lotus, Chapter Eight
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