Saturday, October 11, 2008

Papaji on Buddhist Meditations

The following in a Conversation between David Godman and Papaji on the efficiency of formal buddhist meditations with regard to self enquiry .

David: You are telling people to ‘Be still’ and to ‘Be quiet’. This is the classic instruction of Ramana Maharshi. Many people from the Vipassana tradition came to see you in the late 80s and early 90s, and most of them had done years of meditation practice which resulted in a deep quietening of their minds. You generally say that formal meditation is not useful, but are not these Buddhist meditators better equipped to follow your ‘Be quiet’ advice than those who have done no meditation at all?

Papaji: No, and I will tell you why not. When you meditate, you set up a goal or a target that you want to reach or attain. You have an idea of what the Self or God might be; you have another idea that you are separate from that God or Self; so you then plan a journey from where you imagine yourself to be to the state that you imagine to be the Supreme. It’s all imagination, including the experiences you have as a result of your practices.

The ego is very clever and very tricky. If it sees that you are striving towards a state you call ‘silence’ or ‘inner quietness’, it will create a mental realm inside you where you can go and experience, dualistically, a place where peace and silence seem to prevail. While you are in that realm, stray thoughts may be absent and you may be experiencing some peace and happiness, since these are the properties that you imagine the Self to have. But this realm of quiet is a mental state created by your idea of the Self and sustained by your intense concentration on it. That is why everyone says that the peace of meditation goes away when this kind of meditation stops. It may last for half an hour or so as a kind of after-effect, but sooner or later it vanishes. When the effort to sustain it ceases, the state itself vanishes.

The peace of the Self is something completely different. It doesn’t come and go according to how hard you focus on it. It’s there all the time. It reveals itself when the effort to focus on objects – physical or spiritual – ceases.

These Buddhist meditators have learned, through hard work, how to dwell in pleasant inner mental states. If I tell them to ‘Be quiet’, they go off into this mental realm and think that they are following my instructions. What I am actually saying is, ‘Give up the thinker, the one who wants to meditate on an object’. When that thinker goes, the peace of the Self remains. People who, through effort and desire, enjoy mentally induced experiences rarely want to give them up because they think they are signs of great progress.

In ancient times the rishis could create whole, apparently-real, worlds through the power of their imagination. In meditation you create inner spiritual worlds that you take to be real because they conform to your idea of what the Self might be.

Physical efforts produce physical results and mental efforts produce mental results. Since the Self is neither mental nor physical, it cannot be attained by mental or physical activity.

Poonja alias Papaji

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