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We'll go through "M" which includes MEDITATION and MIDDLE PATH

M
MEDIATION


Meditation
What does meditation have to do with Dharma? Before we get to that question we need to understand that Dharma does not exist in a vacuum or a void. It exists relative to our existence. We are the ones who raise or lower the index that Dharma is. Our level of existence directly affects the level of Dharma index. Meditation is a process that changes our level of existence. All other changes are like a make up which is washed off with pouring water.

I am an angry person. I can find reason to be angry in any situation. I want to change. I go to a course for anger management. My mind gets training of how to deal with anger. I am happy. I can control my anger now. I have the tools. I go back in the real world. Anger arises inside same as before. I have learned to moderate it now. One day I explode because all the suppressed anger now breaks out. The scenario in case of meditation is different. Mediation deals with the root cause. Anger stops at the initial level. Anger simply does not arise. There is no need to suppress anything now and there is no question of explosion of anger one day.

So why should I meditate? What are the benefits of meditation? I have resisted answering this question in the past writings on meditation. My reason has been based on the fact that if I describe benefits of meditation, this can lead to expectations. Mediation reduces stress. You start meditation because you want to reduce stress. This in true sense may become a barrier to meditation itself. I think that meditation should be done with an open mind. Then and then only true benefits of meditation appear. So, now with this proviso, I will try to describe benefits of meditation in our real lives.

Benefits of meditation in our life :
Our life is a journey, a journey from life to death. Much happens in this journey. We grow up, go to school, graduate and then work for our living. We retire and then we head toward our death. Much happens inside as well. Change is part of our life. Yet at some levels nothing seems to change. Stress also is part of our lives. Some of us get the benefit of trying out yoga and meditation. 15-20 million people in USA practice yoga and meditation. We all go through ups and downs of emotions. What is going to balance our lives? Meditation brings this harmony to our life. Meditation is not a technique for reducing stress or dealing with stress. Meditation allows us to live a stress-less life. Stress just does not arise. If stress does arise, it does not last long.

I will try to emphasize again that this is not a reason to start meditation. Meditation brings much more to our life than just killing out the stress. Stress does bring music to our lives. It is source of rejuvenated energy; an energy that we never thought existed for us.

Benefits of meditation at time of our death :
We center our focus on our life. We forget that there is much more to us than our journey from birth to death. We ought to understand that very well. This is the reason what makes meditation worth much more than what we can ever comprehend. If we understand this little point, we can then also understand it clearly that we ought to and we must make time for meditation in our lives. Our priorities will change completely oce we understand this point clearly.

How does meditation help us at the time of death? We need to understand what happens at the time death to us and then it will be easier to understand how meditation can help our being at the time. A vivid description of these events can be found in “Tibetan Book of the dead.” Bardo is the name. The life energy leaves the physical body. There is utter confusion. The mental body or say the astral body that leaves the physical body does not understand what is happening. It is still attached to the friends and relatives around. It sees that they are crying. The body is lying still or worse being burnt or buried. This non-physical body can hear others and see them as well. But, those others can’s see or hear this non-physical body. Some loose consciousness and death just happens at an unconscious level.

A meditative man is better equipped to deal with this situation. Krishna’s message becomes much more important at this juncture when compared to its value at the time of physical body. Non-attachment is real at this parting time. You can see your son or your daughter crying around your physical body. You feel attached, yet you cannot communicate with them. Non attachment is the only reality here. You feel attached. Yet you cannot be attached. You have to move on. The move is painful to those who have not had meditative experience. The move is much easier for people who have had meditative experience.

Planning for our next life: Benefits of meditation during the journey from death to re-birth

It is a vast unknown world for us. We know our world that we exist in. Are we prepared for the after death life. We all plan for future of our life and future life of our children. We educate them and then we want them to have a better job. We do not have any plan of what will happen to us in our next life. Our journey is not limited to this life. Our journey expands to multitudes of our lives. We have been there before and we shall be there in future as well. We shall continue to explore this in our next column including the impact of this part of our life on Dharma.

Meditation (contd):
We discussed benefits of meditation in the last column and are going to continue the discussion here today. Meditation is a concept. There are various techniques of meditation. Finally there are indicators that meditation is working. A change must be obvious after doing meditation. If there is no change, the meditation technique needs to be changed. Proof is in the pudding. It must taste sweet. Something inside must change. Otherwise the technique may be only a ritual and not a meditation.

Stillness must dawn upon the meditator. The vibrations around must be peaceful. I learned recently about three kinds of people similar to the colors of the traffic light. A red light means that you should stop. A person with red light personality is someone who you do not want to feel like interacting with. There is a stop sign written all over this person’s face. A yellow or amber light means that you may proceed with caution especially if it is flashing. Such people have caution written on their face. A green light means you can proceed. You feel comfortable with such people with green lights. Welcome is written all over their personality. A change from red light to green is an indicator of a meditative personality.

We have discussed already about how meditative processes help us in this life. We learn to become stress-less, peaceful and live in harmony with existence. This in turn makes us more successful compared to ourselves without the presence of this technology. I also believe that we become luckier; the L-factor favors a meditative person throughout his life. Let us explore this more in form of a real person.

Touchy Feely Das
Let us talk about two people one is Mr. TF Das Sr. and the other is TF Das Jr. They are both friends and young in age. Life is full of land mines for both of them. Every step of life is explosive. Life is so hard. It is full of obstacles. Touchy Feely Das Sr. is going with his family to a cinema. He is so excited to go to this movie. It is a new movie. It is getting late. The traffic is busy and congested because of an accident. TF Sr. is having problems. He is changing lanes all the time. The wife can’t take it any more. She had it. TF Sr. could have taken another road and avoided this traffic jam. The scene inside the car is getting ugly. The arguments are heating up. The traffic jam does not care about their arguments. TF Sr. is also getting road rage. The wife is not helping. The two kids in the back seat are also victims of the whole scene. They are fearful. They have seen this before. They do not know what will happen next. The traffic jam clears up. TF Sr. puts his feet on the gas and drives fast. Fortunately, he makes it without getting stopped. The atmosphere inside is charged still. The kids start crying. The parents are now angry with the kids. They reach the cinema in time, but the arguments continue. They all go to the movies in a very angry mood.

This is the life of many of us; life is full of traffic jams and unexpected obstacles. The landmines are all over the place. We are ready to explode. TF Jr. is no different. He has a similar life to the one describes above. Life continues and so does explosion of land mines every now and then.

Intelligent Das
TF Das Sr. one day meets a friend. This friend talks to him about meditation and a Guru who teaches meditation. TF Sr. is getting fed up with his life as it is and wants to check it out. He meets this Guru and starts meditation. He learns about Sanyas and wants to take this sanyas. The Guru gives him a new name. The name now is Mr. Intelligent Das. ID now realizes that the land mines were not all there. In fact most of them were placed by his own mind. The touchy feely mind is placing the land mines itself. Mind is playing games all the times. Traffic jams will happen. There is no need of road rage. One has to deal with traffic jams without getting disturbed. The disturbance is not coming from outside. It is coming from inside. Meditation helps him deal with this so effectively. Because he is now Mr. Intelligent Das, he takes time to study traffic jam patterns beforehand and is able to avoid them as well.

This is what Krishna talks about when he says that there are fewer obstacles on the path of nishkam karma. More than half of the obstacles disappear the day you transform to Mr. Intelligent Das. The rest get better because you now act intelligently. Touchy feely people still complain. They say that Intelligent Das has lost emotions (bhavana). There is a difference between emotions (bhavana) and being touchy feely.

Awareness Das
TF Sr. whose new name is Intelligent Das continues to meditate. There comes a subtle transformation in his personality. He becomes Awareness Das. He is getting to understand many things. His level and scope of awareness is getting broader and deeper. We will focus on three aspects of his awareness:

1. Non attachment
2. The soul is indestructible
3. Out of body experience.

Time is running out. Time is running out for all of us. Every day of our life is bringing us closer to our death. Both, TF Das Jr. who did not go on the path of meditation and Awareness Das (TF Sr. who followed path of meditation), are coming to meet the eventuality of death. We will explore the journey of these two further in our next column.

Mr. Toucy Feely Das Sr. has now become Awakened Das. TF Jr. continues to be the same. His life is always up and down. Emotions abound. It is not that TF Sr. has lost sensitivity; he has grown to be wise. Life continues. Time does not stay put. Both are getting older. TF Sr. would have liked to become Enlightened Das but time is running out for him. He is also not ready for it to happen. Both are coming close to the time of their eventual death.

We talked about certain experiences of meditation in our last column. TF Sr. has had a balanced life, a fulfilled life and has had a very content life especially since he became Awakened Das. He also had the three meditative experiences as given below:

1. He has had some experience of being out of his physical body. This way he is able to distinguish his physical body from his ethereal and astral body. Let us call it a non-physical body for simplicity purposes. He may have had only minor explosions of these experiences, yet these have been real entities for him.

2. He can truly understand the principles of non-attachment and this leads to understanding and living of nishkaam karma.

3. He also has been able to understand the true existence of his non-physical body. This cannot be burnt or cut or destroyed like a physical body.

4. This one is not an experience. Have trust (faith) in some people who you feel inside can guide you. This could be Krishna or Christ, a Guru or a friend. Learn to think about them while in this life. The pundit or priest asks you some questions in every puja that you take part in. What is your ancestry, who is your ishta (could be Ganesha, Hanuman or Shiva), what is your gotra and so on. All these start making sense while life ends and the unknown journey starts.

We are going to focus on these three properties that have helped TF Sr. live his life fully. Now the time has come when he appears to be better prepared to face the certainty of death.

Projections of mind: Before we get into further about what happens to either TF at the time of death, let us try to understand briefly why near death experiences differ from people to people. A Christian may see angels while a Buddhist may see Bodhisattvas. Hell and heaven also differ accordingly. Bardo principles talk about (and I seem to agree with them) these visions as being projections of our own mind. That can explain why the visuals descriptions differ so much. There is also a possibility to some extent that the structures are designed differently for different paths that a person follows with his physical body. I will leave this matter here and proceed further with our TF Sr. and Jr. Story.

Swargarohan: End of life as we know it.

Nonattachment :
Death is the only certainty in life. It happened to Pandava brothers as well. Yudhisthir and his brothers along with Draupadi undertake this journey at the end of Mahabharata story. Arjun was attached to his bow and arrow. It was called Gandiva. At the start of the journey, Agni personifies to him and asks Arjun to lay down his arms. Arjun is able to drop his last attachment and drop the Gandiva. This is inevitable. The last of all attachments also have to go. Whether you like or not, it will go.

Agni talks to Arjun as if he had a choice. But in reality Arjun did not have a choice. It is good if he can go on without attachment. If he has learned non-attachment in his life here on earth, he can continue his journey without the clinging on to his Gandiva further. Otherwise also, he has to carry on.

The story is told in an interesting way. They all continue their journey. Draupadi falls on the ground and dies first. Yudhisthir continues his journey without looking back. Sahadev, Nakur and Arjun fall and die in that order. Yudhirsthir continues without looking back. Bhim who has been asking questions so far also falls and dies. Yudhisthir and a dog is all that is left until the end.

The journey after death can be overwhelming if it comes as a total surprise. Meditation which has helped TF Sr. to become Awakened Das has also given him some experiences that are going to help him in the end of life scenario. He has had glimpses of out of body life while in meditation. This helps him in the final exit when the life energy is virtually removed from the physical body and kind of implanted in a non physical form. Osho has described this as ethereal body. This body lasts for 13 days according to Osho’s description. The next body which goes through rest of the journey is the Astral body.

The ethereal body can see others but others in physical body cannot see the non-physcical form. This is so painful for TF Jr. because he has never had any kind of preparation for this kind of situation. He is still fully attached to every body in the house. He did not have a will. What will happen to all the property he left behind? TF senior on the other hand is prepared. Meditation has prepared him to a great extent. He can go on without looking back like Yudhisthir. What is the point? He has to move on any way. He is willing to drop his last attachment like Arjun and move on.

In fact Yudhisthir met Duryodhana first and that also in heaven. Yudhisthir was shocked. He remembered the whole incidence of Mahabharata. The root cause of Mahabharata was Duryodhana and he is in heaven. The attachment in a subtle form is still there with Yudhisthir. Narada Muni explains to Yudhisthir again about non-attachment and then Yudhisthir was able to reconcile with the company of Duryodhana in the heaven. It is quite possible to carry our relations and attachments from our physical existence to the non-physical world. It appears quite natural. We may all need someone like Narada to remind us of the fact that it is all fresh start now. The attachments however subtle will have to go. Non-attachment is the reality of existence.

Middle Path
Life is not static. Life is flux. Life is a journey. We all have to follow a path. What is that right path? We are all looking for the right path to follow. We want to know the right path because we are not sure about the path we are on. We all want to change in our lives. How do you bring about a change in your life? Schools and colleges bring education to us but they do not show us the right path. They do make us book smart but they do not make us street smart. Even when we do become street smart, we can become Donald Trump but we do not become a Buddha. We do not become a tathagata or a sthitapragya.

Middle path is something that can make us a Donald Trump on one side and a Buddha on the other. It is possible to get to both the positions at the same time. Before we get to where we can get to through the middle path, let us first try to understand what middle path is. Many Buddhist thinkers believe that middle path is unique to Buddha. This word has been coined by Buddha but the concept is also present in Gita. Krishna and Buddha are very close on this topic.

The Tathagatha avoids the two extremes
and talks about the Middle Path.
What this is, that is; this arises, that arises.
Through ignorance volitional actions or karmic formations are conditioned.
Through birth, decay, death, lamentation, pain etc. are conditioned.
When this is not, that is not; this ceasing, that ceases.
Through the complete cessation of ignorance, volitional activities or karmic formations cease.
Through the cessation of birth, death, decay, sorrow, etc. cease."
(Samyuktagama, Chapter 12)

naty-asnatas 'tu yogo 'sti
na caikantam anasnatah
na cati-svapna-silasya
jagrato naiva carjuna

There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough. (Bhagavad-Gita 6:16).

Krishna’s Samatva Yoga and Buddha’s middle path come very close. The difference may be present more so on a different level. Samatva yoga may be a concept while middle path may be a process. The principles remain the same. There is need to understand this middle path in its earnest. Clarity (ek buddhi, right knowledge, nishal tattva) is a pre-requisite for both samatva yoga and for middle path as well. Abhyas yoga is something Krishna stresses on and so does Buddha. Middle path does not mean no path as some would like to believe. There is trouble in town. A house is burning. You do not sit on the side and talk about middle path. You do not panic and you do not jump in the fire and get burnt. You do find a way to extinguish the fire. You use your head and not act out of panic or haste. This is the simple part of middle path. Buddha goes a lot further. There are two parts of the middle way. He taught the two characteristics of the Middle Path: The Middle Path of Dependent Origination and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Law of Dependent Origination explains the process of human activity. The Noble Eightfold Path shows the way of practice that enables one to uplift oneself.

The following are some quotes on the middle path. It is not easy to make any improvement on these words.

"What this is, that is; this arising, that arises" is the principle of the Law of Dependent Origination; the Conditioned Genesis that says that, "Through ignorance volitional actions or karma-formations are conditioned" is the content of the Law of Dependent Origination.

"When one is born, one will die. One who admires high status will fall one day."

This is the natural Law of Cause and Effect. It is also an inner implication of the Law of Dependent Origination. It can be called the Cessation Process of the Law of Dependent Origination.

"When the eyes see, the scene comes from nowhere.
When they shut, it goes nowhere.
Thus the eyes see unreality.
All that arises will be destroyed....
except the truth of the Worldly Law.
The Worldly Law says that

what this is, that is; this arising, that arises."
"If we can see the truth
of the causes of worldly sufferings,
we will not be attached to the view of nothingness.
If we can see the truth of cessation in the world,
we will not be attached to worldly existence.
By avoiding the two extremes,
the Tathagatha teaches us
the Middle Path, which is,
what this is, that is; this arising, that arises…"
(Chapter 12, Samyuktagama)

We have discussed a lot of these points before in some form or the other. When we are born, this whole world is born with us. TF Sr. in our last example was born on a certain day and time. This world did not exist for him before that day. “This arising that arises” is what happened when he was born. The whole infrastructure is there to support him. Health of this infrastructure is what Dharma is. There comes a time when TF Sr. dies. That is the time when this world ceases for him. “This ceasing that ceases” happens to him relative to this world. Another world starts for him that did not exist for him while he was here with us….he can see what the meaning of ‘this arising that arises’ again. Buddha and Krishna can see both the sides…”nothing arises and nothing ceases” for them. This is the missing part…There is the law of “dependent origination” that exists for us. There is just existence at the level of a Buddha or Krishna. They can see the origin and they can see the destruction; this is suma-drishti, or the the middle path. This understanding will bring that understanding.



 

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