Compassion in Action – Chapter 11
This is part of the Compassion in Action series. If you just found this and are wondering what’s going on, click here for chapter 1.
Chapter 11 – Final Thoughts
“Meditate, and be Realized.” – Paramahamsa Hariharananda
In the first part of this book, there was a lot of discussion about Oneness and non-duality, the state where there is no separation. In the last two chapters, the discussion focused more on God as the Divine Beloved, which implies separation. You only get to have a soulmate when there are two, not one. Is there a contradiction here?
This is a natural question, and again, it’s the ego’s habit of always trying to sort things into lists and categories. God is either separate from us, or there is Oneness. Which is it? Which conception is the right one, and which is the wrong one? The answer is that both of them are correct.
This material world exists, and we are living in it. In this material world we experience duality. You have your body, and you get to interact with other people who have theirs. It may ultimately be an impermanent dreamscape, but can you deny that you are having this experience right now? At the same time, every being is also a temple to the same indwelling presence of divinity, and if you go deep enough in your meditation, you’ll experience that oneness. In that state, there is no separation, and it’s all You. Both states exist at the same time. Not one, not two.
Quantum physics is starting to catch up to the Yogis with this idea. They’re thousands of years behind, but everyone moves at their own pace. In modern computer systems, information is stored as 1’s and 0’s. This is called a bit. You can set a bit to a 0, or to a 1, and when linked up with many other bits, that sequence allows you to store large numbers, and names, and do math. In the cutting edge development of quantum computers, there are also bits, with the big difference that those bits can be both a 1 or a 0 at the same time. It’s the same concept as an electron being both a particle and a wave.
So it turns out that even the physicists are finding that reality is not so easily categorized into a dualistic framework. There is duality, but there is also oneness. It is all happening at the same time, multiple states overlapping.
One of my favorite spiritual works is the Ashtavakra Gita. There is a beautiful phrase there that touches on this, which reads:
One man believes in existence,
Another says, “There is nothing!”
Rare is the man who believes in neither.
He is free from confusion. 4
Ideas and concepts about the nature of reality can be batted back and forth for ages without ever being able to reach a solution. When questions like these arise, the best course of action is to meditate. All the answers are within you.
But if you don’t have a dedicated practice, how to start? The key element is regularity. You have to make this a habit. In the beginning, it will take some effort. The mind doesn’t want to be tamed. You will find that it fights against your efforts. The most common excuse is usually, “I’d love to mediate, but I don’t have the time. My life is too busy.”
Is your life really too busy to fit 10 or 15 minutes of meditation into it each day? You brush your teeth every day, don’t you? You take showers? After you use the toilet, do you find time to clean yourself off? What about eating? Do you manage to eat? Or watch TV? Or sleep? How much time do all of those things take? It’s never a matter of time, but a matter of priority. If someone offered to pay you one million dollars if you meditated for 15 minutes each day, do you think you’d still have trouble squeezing it in? And how much greater yet is the actual reward that doesn’t require a million dollar incentive!
So the first step is usually overcoming resistance to the habit. Find a time that you can meditate, and then do it each day no matter what. I like to do it in the morning after I wake up, and then at night before I go to bed. Twice is better than once, but once is infinitely better than not at all.
Go lock yourself in the spare bedroom, or in the corner, or in your closet somewhere. I’ve meditated in the closet plenty of times. Even the bathroom works in a pinch. Just get some privacy where you can focus inward.
We’ve talked about a lot of meditation techniques. What you want to do is use most of these for special occasions, or as needed, with a more regular type of practice that you do every day. For that one, I’d go for the routine that we talked about in the chapter on listening to the inner sound. Do 5 minutes of spinal breathing, then spend a few minutes listening to your sound, and then sit quietly for the rest. That’s all you have to do to start. It’s a piece of cake.
What you’ll notice is that eventually, you’ll start enjoying meditation. You’ll start getting really worked up if you have to miss a session for whatever reason. You’ll notice that you feel a little dirty on the inside if you haven’t meditated. At that point, the meditation will start to take over and run the show all on its own.
Back when Baba was around and giving lectures, those of us who were already initiated into Kriya would go and listen to the intro classes. Invariably, someone would ask, “How long do I have to meditate for each day?” At which point, he’d always respond with, “Just five minutes! Five minutes and you’re done!”
That always amused me, because that’s not really accurate. In reality, you’ll end up meditating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You are watching that subtle breath all day and night, as you are doing all the other activities. But tell that to a beginner, and there’s no way they’re going to want to take something like that on. It’s overwhelming. What if you just want to zone out and watch TV for an hour? You’re supposed to be meditating in the middle of that too?
If you start with just 5 minutes, and get into it, it starts to feel good, and you want to do more. Then you clear out your energy blockages, open up your centers, and you find that you are meditating as you stand in line at the grocery store, or as you interact with someone on the street. It’s not a burden. It becomes your new reality, and it is completely enjoyable. You can be waiting for a bus with nothing to do, and you’re happy to sit there and just be with yourself. Your life transforms, and that old agitated mind blossoms into something different. It will transform you, in the best possible way. But you have to start, and you have to practice regularly.
Above all else, don’t forget the love. If you go back over all the techniques in this book, you’ll find that love shows up as a key part of almost all of them. Love is what makes meditation work. It’s the gas that drives the car. Without love, your progress will be very slow, and your meditations won’t be any fun. I’ve talked with long term meditators that complain about their lack of progress, and describe their practice as dull and lifeless. That’s because it has become an intellectual activity for them. Don’t let that happen to you. Without love, you’re not meditating. You’re just doing mental gymnastics.
Back in our old meditation group, we’d always close by dedicating the merit of our practice. This tradition comes from Buddhism. The idea is that you’ve just spent some time doing spiritual work, and as a result, you’ve gained some good karma. But human beings are inconstant and unreliable creatures, and if you don’t dedicate the merit now, odds are you are going to just turn around and squander it through ignorance and error. Rather than let that happen, it’s better to dedicate the merit immediately after you earn it. In other words, go spend that money while you have a chance.
What do we want to spend this spiritual merit on? If you thought of using it to try and relieve the suffering of other beings, then you are starting to understand how all of this works. By helping others, you help yourself.
The following prayer is based on the teachings of Nargajuna. There are a couple words that you might not be familiar with. Bodhicitta is the desire for Enlightenment and Spiritual Realization. Samsara is this world of suffering that we all live in. We used to chant the first paragraph three times, and follow with the second one time:
By this merit may all attain omniscience.
May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing.
From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death,
From the ocean of samsara may I free all beings.
May bodhicitta, precious and sublime,
Arise where it has not yet come to be,
And where it has arisen, may it never fail,
But grow and flourish more and more.
Thank you for your efforts in reading this book. If there have been any mistakes, omissions, or oversights, please forgive me. I am an imperfect spokesperson, and although I tried to keep my own ego out of the way of getting this message through, that is sometimes easier said than done.
- Suzuki, D. T. (2014). Selected Works of D.T. Suzuki, Volume I: Zen, Volume 1. Univ of California Press.
- Ladinsky, D. J. (2002). Love poems from God: Twelve sacred voices from the East and West. New York: Penguin Compass.
- Bly, R. (1980). News of the universe: Poems of twofold consciousness. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
- Byrom, T. (1990). The heart of awareness: A translation of the Ashtavakra Gita. Boston: Shambhala.