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Real vs fake meditation || Acharya Prashant, with DU (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
18 min
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Questioner (Q): My question is about meditation. My problem is that whenever I sit to meditate, you come to my mind and your videos come into mind, in which you say, “No, that's not spirituality. Sitting and closing your eyes or breathing—that's not spirituality.” But in some way or the other, it is benefitting me. But still, when I am meditating, or even when I am thinking of meditating, your videos come into my mind and you say that such practices are not right, and that disturbs me. So, I want to know from you why is it bad. Why should I not do it?

Acharya Prashant (AP): I don't want to spoil the party. If it's working for you, absolutely fine. Ultimately, it must work, right? If it's working for you, I’m happy for you, so, feel relieved. And I have never denied that these things don't work, they do work. The problem is actually not so much in the methods of meditation but our mind that misuses them. All methods are designed to work to an extent. They are designed to give you a glimpse of something that's beyond your usual experience. The thing is, that glimpse must encourage you and charm you into making it your constant state. Instead, most people are just too satisfied with getting an occasional glimpse as compensation for the very disturbed and dull lives that they lead. So, that's my grudge against these meditation practices. Otherwise, they were designed for a purpose and the purpose is noble.

See, I have given this example earlier, I will repeat: you go to a sweet shop, the normal Halwai (confectioner) that you have. And if it's not very professionally run, or if it's a small-town thing, there is still the culture that they will give you part of a sweet to taste. In fact, people take it as a given, as a set privilege, to ask for stuff to taste. So, that vendor has like twenty different units of sweets available; there is Gulab Jamun (Indian sweet), there is Rasmalai , there is this, that, that, 20 different names. And you go there and you say, "Chakhao!” (Let me taste it), sometimes, you don't even need to say that. You just go there, and he says, "Oh, this is just fresh from the kadhai (Indian Frying Pan), you take it." And you take a little bit of it and you put it in your mouth. What's that meant to do? That's meant to give you a taste of that thing, right? It's obvious. What is the taste of that thing meant to do? The taste is meant to charm you into purchasing a large quantity of that thing, right? “Tasted it, found it nice, please give me two kilograms of this or at least 500 grams of this sweet.” Right? That's what the entire exercise is for—that you ultimately buy it.

But what has our wicked mind done with meditation practices? So, there is this practice—I taste a little of it, there is this practice—I taste a little of it, there is that practice—I taste a little of that, and when the shopkeeper asks me, "So, what do I pack for you?" you say, "Oh, I am already well-fed.” I have already tasted so much that I don't need to buy anything, because buying entails paying, and I don't want to pay for anything. So, you taste everything, you fill up your stomach, and you go back. Next day, you again come back right at 7 am—that's your meditation time. And here begins your meditation. You again taste something and then, without buying anything, you go back.

You are just satisfying yourself with glimpses, and that is what I just don't like. If you really found it good, why didn't you make it your life? And then the standard response is, ‘Because it is impractical.’ You said, “You watched the movie and you couldn't stand the movie, so you came back and started meditating.” My question would be, “Why were you not meditating during the movie?” That's when you need meditation, and that's why meditation has to be a continuous affair—continuous, twenty-four hours, seven days a week. That's the reason I am annoyed by people who engage in thirty minutes of meditation every day, because that is cheating.

Meditation has to be a love affair, and you cannot be a lover just for thirty minutes a day. If you really have fallen in love with Silence, with Truth, with Peace, how can it last only thirty minutes? And if you have really fallen in love, why will you continue to require those thirty special minutes? Those thirty special minutes are meant as an introduction. They are there to introduce you to Truth. And this introducer, this intermediary, this middle-man cannot last forever.

Somebody takes you to a girl and he introduces you. Wonderful! You are grateful to him, right? He is introducing you, and he says, "Meet her, meet him." And the two of you have started talking—you and the girl. Now, what if this middle-man continues to stay put? Wherever you go with the girl, he trails you. He says, "No, I am the one who introduces, so I will continue." The method is the middleman. The method must introduce and vanish. How is it that people continue to feel the need to persist with the method even 20 years down the line? The fellow has been meditating using the same practice since the last 20 years. How is it that your practice has still not become redundant? Surely, your love has no depth and that's a problem.

Meditation via practices is good for beginners, and I'm not against that. If you have never known even physical stillness, I will definitely advise you to sit still and close your eyes and be with yourself. But I will not want you to continue doing this even after two years. Very soon, it must graduate into a deeper love affair; a deeper love affair in which you do not need to carry the practice along.

The Truth cannot be achieved through tricks, but the ego wants to trick even the Truth. Meditation practices are kind of tricks, are they not? You're tricking yourself. Truth is not something you can achieve through tricks. You fall in love in the most conscious way possible; you don't trick yourself into falling in love. That's like getting drunk, so that you can be loving towards a person. You have to approach the Truth in the highest state of consciousness possible, and that consciousness is pure willingness. A method of meditation is a trick. How can you apply tricks in a love affair?

There are people who say, “You know, but practices are like medicinal pills. Do you know how a particular pill operates within your body? You don't know, but the pill still acts,” and then they smile. They feel that the point is proven. Sir, we are not talking of physical cures. We are talking of the mind falling in love with its own dissolution and that has to be a very conscious choice. That, you cannot do by chanting a particular mantra or doing some particular antic. There are people who think of even psychedelics as means to meditate, and they succeed; I am not surprised. So, if you feel a great need, you can have a preferred method of meditation to begin with and there are a thousand methods.

In fact, I say that meditation comes first and method of meditation comes later. When you really want to be meditative, when you realize the worth of being meditative, then you look for the right method of meditation. And that right method of meditation is something that you discover for yourself in a very dynamic way throughout the day. Right now, you need one particular method because right now, life for you is in a particular way at this moment. Once this session is done, then you will require another method of meditation. Right now, probably just listening to me is meditation. Once I am not there, you will require something else and that you will eagerly, easily and quickly discover only if you are in, first of all, love with meditation.

So, meditation comes first. And when meditation comes first, then, on your own, you discover the right means of meditation continuously and dynamically. Otherwise, life is so diverse; it's a flux. How can one method work at all hours in the day? You will have to say, "Now, at this point, this is what I need to do and this is my meditation." What is the basic definition of meditation? The ego's love for the Truth is called meditation. The ego needs to be meditative for its own health, and that love has to be, we said, continuous—it is not one of the activities in the day. You cannot say, "I do this, I do that, and I also meditate." Meditation has to be the light that shines on everything that you do throughout the day. Just as there is the light of the sun. Irrespective of what you are doing, the sun is there and the light is there.

Similarly, meditation has to be continuous, irrespective of what you are doing. Listening to me, you are in meditation. You are driving, you are in meditation. You are playing, you are in meditation. Eating, you are meditating; speaking, you are meditating; listening, you are meditating. A point comes when even sleeping, you are meditating, but more of that later. Right now, it is enough for you to be in loving meditation in your waking hours.

Meditation is not an activity in the foreground. It is a love affair in the background. It is always there, irrespective of what is happening in the foreground. And being in the background, it guides what is happening in the foreground. Because it is out of that love in the background, that you decide what to do in the foreground. Fundamentally, I am in meditation; fundamentally, I am in love, and it is that love that is deciding what I must do throughout the day. This is a meditative life. A meditative life is a far bigger thing than the activity of meditation. But to begin with, if you need to get introduced to meditativeness via an activity, so be it, no problems, but that should not last long.

Q: I wanted to say that if I am sitting in meditation or if I decide to watch your videos on Upanishads or if I decide to read Vivekchudamani , these activities themselves say that I want myself to be dissolved in Truth; I don't want to be here. Even if I require meditation to do neti-neti as you say—Not this, Not this—even if meditation is bringing me there and if I'm not getting that sweet glimpse right now, so what's the harm of doing it for even a year if I’m not getting that taste of sweet? So just take that sweet, I can do it till then.

And as Osho used to say that even if you get a small bit of peace in your meditation, remember it throughout the day, celebrate it like you have got everything, and you will stay in that space, and then slowly that will increase, and then you will not need those kinds of things. When I watched your videos, I got to know about Upanishads , I got to know about Advaita , I read Adi Shankaracharya, but the only thing which I was confused about was what should I do now? “Okay, I know that, I know this too, but what should I do? Acharya Ji has said that don’t meditate, it's a false thing, it's just tantrums and showing off." That's what I used to think. So right now, if I say, "I will meditate for one hour using one of the thousands of methods, and my main objective is to get a glimpse of that thing which you said is the Truth. I am sitting with the intention of me getting dissolved, and rest of the day I am remembering that glimpse. Is it right? Like Mahavira says, "Be in the present." Buddha says, "Life is now, and now is meditation" If I do this, is it correct?

AP: You are saying that you get a glimpse of that thing for half an hour or one hour, and then the rest of the day you want to remember it.

Q: No, I am not saying that. I'm saying that I will do meditation till the time I get the glimpse, and when I get the glimpse, I will stay in love with it in the background, and then I will choose my works according to it, and I will stay in the love, and slowly and slowly that love will expand, and then I will not need any method. For example, this is particularly my meditation room and I come here only for meditation. I can come here and do other stuff, but I will still be in meditation. In meditation, that Truth is always with me. Like Swami Vivekanand used to say that he had an " Akhand Samadhi " throughout the day.

AP: What exactly is the question?

Q: Can I do this or not? Can I stay in meditation for one hour, and then whatever I get, I can stay in love with it and stay in the present as Mahavira and Buddha said?

AP: Step by Step. So, you meditate for one hour and in that one hour, you are free of your usual mental nonsense, let's say. And that one hour is a special time when you are using a special trick against your mind. Now, you get up and walk out of your room. Also, don't keep dropping in names—Buddha, Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekanand; talk about yourself. You said you meditate and you find that one hour was a pleasant experience. And that one hour is now over. In that one hour there was proximity to the truth. In that one hour, there was proximity—closeness to the Truth. Right?

Q: Yes.

AP: That one hour is now over. Now what?

Q: Now, I will try to stay in that state.

AP: How is that hour be over now?

Q: Just the time period is over; my state is not over.

AP: If your state is not over, even after the hour is over, why did you need that hour in the first place? If you can maintain that state even after that hour, what was the need of that hour?

Q: Because I am practicing to do that. I am not able to maintain it to hundred per cent.

AP: Exactly. So, this means that the closeness to Truth does not remain after that hour.

Q: It remains to a certain extent, but due to my weaknesses, it gets lost because I had to shout on someone or I had to react back if someone was yelling at me. And at that time, I am not in love. At that time, that background goes somewhere. After that happens, then I realize that, “Oh, Acharya Ji had said to be in love.”

AP: That's exactly what the entire world uses so-called meditation tricks for.

Q: But by practice I can be perfect, can't I?

AP: No. Love cannot be practiced. Love is a decision. You do not practice love. Whosoever is teaching you to ‘practice’ meditation, has never known a moment of meditativeness in his life; one single moment that person has not known if he is talking in terms of practicing meditation. It is not something you can practice. This is something you just give yourself to—“I have given myself up.” There is a great difference. You know you can practice flying. You can practice flying. But when you just jump off a cliff, that's giving yourself up; you don't practice that. Flying is something you can practice. In practice, there is the need for security, right? I am practicing flying, and I need to be secure as I fly. But what when you are jumping off the cliff, do you practice that? No, that's love. Meditation is love; you don't practice it. If you are practicing meditation, you are defending your ego.

Q: So, what should I do then? This is the state where I was before coming here.

AP: Meditate so hard that you forget all about meditation. Meditate so hard that a point comes when you just don't feel like sitting to meditate, when meditation techniques feel like an insult. You are talking of something so immense, how can you approach it via something so small? It's a humiliation. Meditation tricks are a product of the mind—something very small. You must come to see that you cannot use this small thing to approach the 'immeasurable'. You then, forget to meditate. That's when you are truly meditative.

What happened to your meditation time? ‘I forgot. I forgot.’ The day you forget is the day you are meditative. You forgot to turn it on.

Q: I was so in love with you that's why. So, as you said, I will forget to meditate, but for that, too, I have to meditate, right?

AP: Obviously, obviously. But there is a difference between using a crutch to come to a point where your legs have gained enough strength to run versus a situation in which you make the crutch a substitute for your legs. Don't you see a huge difference? Meditation techniques must be used only till the point where they are needed. The meditator must seek to be free of them sooner than later. Two months, six months, one year must be sufficient. If you continue to need meditation methods and techniques even after one year, then you are simply deceiving yourself; you actually have no love.

Q: And how should I measure it, like, two months, three months, six months or one year? How would I know that now is the time to stop the methods?

AP: You don't need to measure it; you need to forget it. Forgetfulness is measurement. You don't care to meditate, that's when you are in love with the Truth.

Q: Now, it's a bit more clear. So, I want to round it up in a small sentence. Please correct me if I am wrong over here. I will meditate for an hour a day, okay? And I will meditate as if I’m practicing being in that state for the rest of my life. I will meditate, and I will treat it as a support, not as a substitute for my legs. I will do that, and then the whole day I will try to stay in that state until I forget to meditate, until I forget that I still have to come into that state.

AP: You don't have to conspire to forget. That 'forgetfulness' must be something on its own. We are not talking about ordinary forgetfulness. We are talking about such deep immersion in love that makes any technique very redundant. We are not talking of something worldly taking priority over meditation, and hence you forget to meditate. Such a situation is not what we are referring to.

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