“Weapons cannot cleave the soul,
Fire cannot burn the soul,
Water cannot drench the soul,
Wind cannot dry the soul.”
– Sri Krishna, from The Bhagavad Gita
“Above the toil of life, my soul
Is a Bird of Fire winging the Infinite.”
– Sri Chinmoy, “Revelation”
On a sunny day, if we build a mud hut and close in all the windows and the doors, then inside that hut it will be dark. Remove the walls and all is light. Fear is the darkness resulting from our mind-built walls of division and ego. As aspiration and meditation gradually dissolve these walls, the darkness of fear simply disappears.
When we cease to breathe and our heart stops beating, our physical body returns to the elements from whence it came, vital energy departs and the mind winds down to a final stillness. If we were only our finite members of body, vital and mind, that would be our extinction and perhaps something to be feared.
Yet in meditation we have practised silencing the clamour and demands of our body, vital and mind. As they withdraw, so much more is revealed behind, within, around and above them. In meditation we have entered into and discovered as more real than our outer world, the inner spiritual realm of ever-transcending peace, light, love and bliss. Our real self is our infinite soul, which can never be contained by the finite, by time or space and hence can never be subject to physical death. How can we fear that which has no dominion over us?
Most of us feel that we have a soul; through meditation we realise the truth that we are the soul.
No more the fear of death: the effulgence-liberation-light of our soul is the death of fear.
“If you are constantly
Afraid of death,
Then you can never
– Sri Chinmoy
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Against fear of death, meditation is the remedy.
It is an irony of human existence, that life can be miserable for the fear of losing our miserable life. Absent the fear of losing it, our life might be worthy of the fear of being lost. Fear, misery and death feed off and promote each other – all while we are alive.
We fear the unknown and what we cannot control. Meditation erases fear by offering the light of knowledge and wisdom of control.
Meditation is self-discovery. Our physical death is as much a part of our self as our life. Only by accepting and embracing all of our existence can we fully know ourselves. Only in self-awareness is self-control, and only in self-control is happiness and fulfilment. If we fear to enter the realm of death, we can never fully know ourselves: a life thus lived is spiritually dead.
Thus in life can be death, as in death is the connecting thread of life.
Life is a constant opening of movement, flow, discovery and progress. Spiritual death is a closing of stagnation, complacence, absence of growth and aspiration.
By fearing our future physical death, we ensure our immediate spiritual death and thus cripple the purpose and potential of our life. The fear of death kills us, even while we live and breathe.
Consciousness, like a balloon in the sky is never stationary, always rising or falling. Fear reduces and drags our consciousness down, while it is lightened and raised through aspiration.
To avoid going down, meditate daily to go up, up and up.
Energy comes in many forms: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, psychic energy. We derive energy from our food and drink, from air and water, from sunlight, colour, music, art and beauty, from action, interaction, inspiration, ideals and emotions. We also expend energy in many ways: physically, vitally, mentally and psychically.
In simple terms, anything positive in our lives energises us, while everything negative drains our energy. Thoughts can inspire, enthuse and uplift us, or they can dishearten and debilitate us. They can give us wings to fly, or drag us into the pit of despair.
While negative mental and emotional patterns are our greatest energy-sappers, all pointless mental activity is exhausting. Experience shows that the clearer our minds become through meditation, the less energy is expended on mental processes, the more is available for other tasks, and the more open we are to the inflow of further energy in the form of positive, uplifting thoughts and emotions.
The more active our minds when we go to bed, the longer before we can sleep. This is sheer wasted time. When we do fall asleep, much time is still spent “unwinding” our minds and clearing the mental clutter. Only once our mental activity has calmed, are we able to enter into the deeper states of sleep necessary for our bodies’ rest and revitalisation. The less cluttered our minds to start with, the sooner we will fall asleep and the less time is needed for this unwinding phase, and consequently the less sleep we require.
The less sleep we need, the more time and energy we have to enjoy life to the full.
Meditation is the most natural, reliable method to overcome tiredness and achieve better sleep, while increasing the supply of two priceless assets: time and energy.
Time and stress are intimately related. The pressure of time is the oxygen of stress. Without time and beyond time, there can be no stress; stress evaporates. So the surest way to alleviate and remove stress is to go beyond time. To go beyond time we must go beyond the mind – to meditate.
How can meditation take us beyond time? Thoughts, sensations and desires are the footsteps and markers of time. When we go beyond thoughts, sensations and desires, we are liberated from the awareness of time. Time measures the finite; when we fly into the infinite, we rise beyond time for nothing can measure the infinite. In pure meditation, the simple act of silencing our thoughts enables our ascent beyond the confines of the limiting mind and simultaneously frees us from the reach of time and its attendant, stress.
The regular practise of meditation not only takes us beyond the reach of time, it also creates time. The more time we have at our disposal, the less susceptible we are to stress.
How can meditation create time? Regular meditation enhances our capacity to focus, to concentrate our attention on one thing at once, to the exclusion of all else. When we can absorb ourselves utterly in one task, without the constant distraction of extraneous thoughts and desires, we are able to accomplish each task much more quickly and effectively. An activity that might take us one hour when we are being distracted, might take only 10 minutes when we are fully present and wholeheartedly immersed in the task: hence we have more time at our disposal. We have effectively created time, time for the fuller enjoyment of life.
Regular meditation = better concentration = extra time = diminished stress = more happiness.
The question is often asked: which technique is best for meditation? Should I practise mantra, breathing and counting, concentration on a candle, creative visualisation, singing or gazing at the sky?
We might as well ask, which is better – Lebanese or Thai food, Irish or Hungarian folk music, judo or karate, green or blue, sunrises or moonrises? There is no right or wrong, no better or best: they’re all good, and the one we choose is a matter of our personal preference.
Those with a good ear are more inclined towards singing, those with a good eye do better with visualisation. Basketball tends to favour the tall, rock-climbing the short. We can enjoy equally Indian, Italian, Guatemalan and Ethiopian food; we might play cricket, scrabble, frisbee and water polo. Our preferences might also vary according to our mood and circumstances.
For a beginner, the only essential thing is to start. Far more important than technique is attitude: the sincerity, eagerness and enthusiasm we apply.
Technique is the means to reach our goal, our road leading to Rome. We might walk, run, ride a bike or horse, drive a car, take the bus, the train or fly – all that matters is that we arrive.
It is tempting to obsess with technique, forgetting its purpose is to take us beyond itself, like the rocket engine that is ejected once it has powered us beyond the atmosphere. Technique is the usher who shows us to our seat and then withdraws; if the usher remains chatting, we cannot enjoy the concert.
Technique absolutely matters, as the means to reach our goal. Which technique, absolutely matters not. To gaze at the sun we must open our curtains. While gazing, the colour of the curtains is an irrelevance.
The pathway to the greatest treasures of the universe is absolutely free.
Meditation affords us the richest of riches – peace, love and happiness.
All of us have an inner yearning for fulfillment. We look around us and see a world dominated by economics, status and possession, where the standards of worth are material wealth, prestige and social standing. So it is natural for us to assume that the inner yearning we feel will be satisfied according to these measures; that the pathway to happiness lies in accumulating more wealth and property, getting an ever better job and acquiring name and fame.
Yet no material wealth – be it money, gold, land or property; no status, prestige or reputation can ever satisfy our inmost yearning for fulfillment, for all of these can disappear in an instant. Being finite they are always temporary and therefore insecure, tenuous.
Our yearning is infinite, for we are infinite: an infinite yearning can only be satisfied by an infinite, eternal source.
That source is within us, always. We house infinite and eternal peace, light, love, bliss, wisdom and power.
In terms of inner wealth we are all multi-millionaires already – yet we do not have access to our wealth because we are so preoccupied with searching for happiness via means outside of ourselves and beyond our control. We may have millions of dollars in the bank, but we have forgotten the PIN number or password to our account, so we cannot access our money.
Meditation is the PIN number, the password to our inner account of wealth infinite.
The wonderful thing about our inner account is that the more we rely on and draw from it, the more funds become available – exponentially and unendingly.
When we concentrate and meditate, outwardly we are statues of the Buddha: all calm, poise and serenity.
Yet inwardly we must be samurai warriors: all focus, vigilance and intensity.
Here is an exercise for next time you sit to concentrate and meditate…
Imagine you are a samurai. Your duty is to protect your master, your daimyo as he sleeps through the night. You are the solitary guard of the castle, your post its only entrance.
A thousand ninja warriors are eager to capture or kill your master. They are poised to attack, likely to appear from any angle and in any guise.
You are expert in all the martial arts and weaponry. The ninjas know and respect this, and they will not attack as long as they see you are fully alert and on guard. So they wait. But the moment you let your guard down, the moment you are distracted, lose focus or nod off, they will pounce from any and all directions… your master’s fate sealed, you would either be killed directly or live a life of shame.
Your master is your silence-heart of meditation, which you must guard and protect with all your being, capacity and will.
The thousand ninjas are all the thoughts, ideas, plans, desires, regrets, grievances, distractions, disturbances, temptations and impulses that lie in wait to attack, disrupt, capture or destroy your heart’s peace, poise and bliss.
These ninjas work together to distract or disturb you by flattery, trickery or treachery. Yet as long as your focus is absolute, you are invincible, you are more powerful than the entire ninja army.
Never fear, doubt or waver. You are only for your daimyo’s safety and protection – nothing else matters.
When the light of dawn breaks, all the ninjas fade and evaporate.
The goal of our outer quest is to have; the fulfilment of our inner search is to be.
What we have is material, which is immaterial; what we are is spiritual, which is real.
Peace is born in what we are, not what we have.
Love flows from what we are, not what we have.
Happiness radiates from what we are, not what we have.
Fulfilment blossoms in what we are, not what we have.
When we are in the finite consciousness of our body, vital and mind, our focus is on what we have, what we do not have and what we would like to have.
Even our identity and personal worth is derived from what we have: our physical appearance; our possessions; our profession; our income; our intelligence and qualifications; our family, friends and relationships; our social standing; our emotional state; our desires, both fulfilled and unfulfilled; our ideas, concepts, prejudices and beliefs; our allegiances; our land, language, race, religion and nationality; our outer achievements and experiences, successes and failures.
When we are in our infinite consciousness – in our spiritual heart and soul – our focus is on our being and becoming.
Our material self has; our spiritual self is.
We desire to have; we aspire to be.
We have the finite; we are infinite.
We have time; we are eternal.
We have life and death; we are immortal.
Having ends in loss; being never ends, ever transcends.
We think having is being; we know being is having.
Having smothers being; being liberates having.
Having is illusory; being is reality.
Having takes and impoverishes; being gives and enriches.
Having dances with not having; being transcends with becoming.
Having leads nowhere; being is already everywhere.
We go outside to have; we come inside – we meditate – to be.
Though the drops may have forgotten their source, they retain always an innate and compelling urge. Their urge is ultimately to return to the ocean from whence they came. Yet because they have forgotten the ocean, initially the urge presents itself simply as a yearning to transcend their drop-limitations, to grow, learn and explore, to join and become an ever-larger entity.
When drops flow and join together they become streams, lakes and rivers. When a drop joins a river it ceases to indentify as a mere drop: it identifies as the river, a being vastly greater in capacity, beauty, strength and purpose. Rivers flow into larger and larger rivers, their significance, power and glory increasing all the while.
Every river is aiming for the same destination – the ocean. That innate urge is now a powerful unstoppable current. Rivers will shape landscapes and literally move mountains to reach their goal.
Once a drop has entered a powerful ocean-bound river, its chances of being re-evaporated are almost nil. It is now focused squarely on the end-game – re-immersion in the ocean.
As each drop is a soul, so each great river is a spiritual Path, a vehicle carrying countless drops back to their ocean. As there are many rivers, each with its own character, charm and beauty, so there are many spiritual Paths, all appearing different yet all bearing the same underlying current.
According to our many perspectives, we give the ocean different names, yet the God-ocean was, is and will forever be one.
Once the drop merges finally in the ocean, it is no longer a drop, no longer the river: it is once more the ocean itself.
The drop has achieved its original and ultimate purpose.
Within its tasks and adventures, each drop is fully occupied. There is no apparent connection between the drop and the ocean. The drop’s provenance from the ocean is a remote, ancient occurrence, now obscured and lost in the all-consuming necessity of the moment.
Yet every drop is forever one in essence with its parent ocean. As the sun casts forth its rays and both experiences and fulfils itself through its rays’ light, warmth and power radiating and acting in the universe; as a flower experiences and fulfils itself through the beauty and fragrance it emits; is not the ocean actually experiencing and fulfilling itself in and through each of its children-creation-portion-drops at every moment?
In all their myriad forms and activities, is it not the God-ocean secretly sustaining, being and becoming all life, activity, history and progress of the world through its agent-portions, its soul-drops?
My finger and thumb are preoccupied with their own roles and do not know me, yet I know them, for they are of me. Similarly each busy drop may forget its source, yet the ocean remembers and knows each and every drop, for each drop, no matter how remote it travels, is always of the ocean. Separated in form, function and distance, they can never be apart in essence.
The body of water we see as “the ocean” is only ever part of the ocean’s entirety: much of the ocean’s being is in the sky as clouds, on land sustaining life or invisible as vapour. When we see a cloud, a lake or a cup of tea we don’t recognise them as the ocean – yet they are all the ocean – hiding from itself, playing and enjoying itself in myriad guises and disguises.
A drop is like a soul. All souls originate in the ocean of infinite consciousness – God – and at some point find themselves magically, mysteriously or miraculously evaporated from their ocean-source. They are still one in essence with the God-ocean, yet seem now to be separate, on their own.
When a drop of rain descends to earth, it enters the field of drama and adventure. Each drop undergoes a myriad of experiences, purposes and transformations. One drop might fall as a snowflake and reside in a glacier for several million years. Another might land in a stream, which falls as a waterfall utilised by a hydro power station; another lands in an irrigation canal, is watered onto crops which are consumed by a cow to fuel its rumination and digestion. Another joins a monsoonal deluge causing flooding and destruction; another is mixed into concrete and used to build a freeway.
Another drop finds its way into your home, is made into a cup of peppermint tea, is sipped and sent to help fuel your brain, enabling your mind to perceive, read and comprehend these words. For not only physical life: the entire realm of the mind and all its awareness and achievement is utterly dependent on this miraculous commodity, water.
Like the raindrops, souls also “descend to earth,” whereon they too embark on a great series of experiences and adventures, called life.
In between adventures, from time to time drops re-evaporate, seemingly disappearing and departing the earth-scene, returning to somewhere in the sky for a while. For souls, this experience is what we call death.
Thence the vapour-droplets re-condense as new drops to embark on whole new adventures.
For souls, this reappearance into the earth-scene is called reincarnation.
Every drop originates in the ocean; and to the ocean, every drop yearns to return.
The ocean is comprised of countless drops. Yet we don’t perceive the ocean as innumerable entities: we perceive the ocean as one.
When the sun shines on the surface of the ocean, some of its surface water is evaporated. It changes its form from liquid to gas, and so apparently disappears. As the newly formed vapour rises, it cools. As it cools, it reforms into myriad tiny droplets, which together form clouds.
These clouds are derived from the parent ocean: in essence they are the same substance, only taking ever-new forms. One might imagine the ocean gazing up, watching the clouds perpetually dancing across the sky, like an artist admiring his creation or a mother observing her children at play.
When these clouds float over the land they rise and cool. As more vapour condenses into larger and heavier droplets, the mass becomes too great for the clouds to bear, gravity plays its role and the clouds release their burden as rain, hail or snow, which descends to earth. What started as ocean became vapour became cloud became rain and now becomes all manner of phenomena – lakes, streams, waterfalls, snowfields, glaciers.
Water in all its forms and functions sustains, nourishes and nurtures all life, structures and activity on earth. Every living being is comprised mostly of water. Virtually all functions and activities of plants, animals and humans require the presence of water.
Water represents consciousness. Like water, consciousness is essential to and pervades life, all living beings, functions and activities.
Like water, consciousness takes many forms and shapes and like water, all “drops” of consciousness derive from one source, one “ocean”.
I was once fortunate to stay for about 10 days at a fine hotel in Phnom Penh, which incorporated an international school for chefs. The student chef’s training included preparing meals for our large group of vegetarians. It seemed that at least one dish at each meal had to be prepared from potatoes, and that no dish could be repeated over the course of our stay. Alongside a superb array of other courses, we marveled at the inexhaustible panoply of potato presentations.
We had potato curry, potato casserole, baked potato, roasted potato, mashed potato, buttered baby potatoes, stuffed potatoes, diced, sliced and scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin, potato pancakes, potato wedges, potato soup, potato bread, potato cakes, French fries, home fries, hash browns, potato salad, caramelised potato.
Many dishes were seemingly utterly unrelated to each other, yet all were expressions of the one subterranean tuber.
Like Truth or God, the source was one, its forms endless.
The potato is a fine example of the principle of oneness in diversity. Each of us may have our own favourite form of potatoes. Again, we may prefer one potato dish at breakfast and another for lunch. Some may be happy eating only boiled potatoes from morn to eve, while a true potato afficionado will of course love and appreciate potato in all its multifarious forms, always.
Meditation brings us to the source of our being, the central still point from which all our attributes and aspirations arise. We discover this same central silence as the source of not only our being but of all being. By entering into our own meditation heart, we see and appreciate all reality as expressions and manifestations of one Light, one Truth, one Being.