In this interview, Jagad Guru answers many questions people commonly ask about meditation.
QUESTION: People often talk about meditation. Can you please explain what it is all about?
JAGAD GURU: Usually when we think of meditation, we think of someone sitting quietly with his eyes closed and not having anything on his mind at all. Others talk about meditat¬ing on a dot or some object. But in fact, this is not really what meditation is. Meditation is the placement or the focusing of a person's consciousness - his mind, his heart, his entire being - on the Supreme Person or on the Absolute Truth. According to the yogis and ancient scriptures, meditation specifically means having your mind focused on the Supreme. Meditation is not your mind focusing on anything. This may be concentration - concentrating on a tennis ball or a form of a woman. But that is not meditation. Meditation means the object of your attention or consciousness is the Supreme Absolute Truth.
QUESTION: Is sitting in a yoga posture and having your eyes closed conducive to meditation?
JAGAD GURU: Having your eyes closed can be conducive to meditation because if your eyes are closed and you're not seeing the things of the world, then your mind or consciousness may be directed to the Absolute Truth. But that doesn't mean that you can equate meditation with having your eyes closed and sitting with your legs crossed because I could be sitting here with my legs crossed, my eyes closed, and I could be asleep. I would be sleeping but you might think I was meditating. Or my eyes could be closed and my legs crossed but my consciousness dwells on all the money I am going to make or on a beautiful woman. So this is not meditation. Meditation means having your heart, your mind and your entire being really immersed in the Supreme Person.
QUESTION: Why should I meditate? Why should I apply medita¬tion to my life? What are the benefits? What is the gain?
JAGAD GURU: Let me throw the question back to you. Why do you think people meditate?
QUESTION: Health, physical well-being or even mental well-being.
JAGAD GURU: Yes. You go to the doctor and he says you are overstressed. You go in there with an ulcer, high blood pressure or something and the doctor says, "Change your diet, start to jog, swim or meditate."
And so you say, "Okay, I think I'll learn how to meditate." You don't really know what meditation is but you're thinking that you're going to meditate. So this is one reason.
In fact, if you recognize the connection between your physical well-being and your consciousness, then you'll recognize that the practice of meditation can lower your levels of stress and therefore have a positive, physical effect on your body. It can have positive effects both physically and mentally. This is one reason - to alleviate stress. Meditation can help anyone whether he is a businessman who is uptight or a student under stress. They can engage in the practice of meditation which will help them to cope with living. What's another reason why people take up meditation?
QUESTION: Anxiety and depression.
JAGAD GURU: Yes. People are in anxiety. Anxiety is deeper than stress. Stress is superficial. Stress can be caused by a traffic jam, by business or by your kids screaming and yelling, etc. Meditation can help alleviate this stress.
But there is a deeper type of trouble that a person experiences. This can be called anxiety or depression. What do most people do to get rid of this inner emptiness?
QUESTION: They take drugs or drink alcohol.
JAGAD GURU: Yes. People drink to forget. They are very unhappy inside so they drink to forget their inner unhappiness. Or they take so-called anti-anxiety drugs. They take Valium or Librium. They take them because they're trying to wipe out their anxiety, their inner spiritual void. They want to forget how unhappy they really are.
Through meditation, a person can actually overcome this anxiety. He can actually begin to fill this void in his life. He would not fill it up artificially but would actually begin to experience inner happiness and inner peace. He would feel freedom from anxiety, depression or spiritual void.
So more important than using meditation for overcoming stress is taking up the practice of meditation to overcome anxiety, depres¬sion or spiritual emptiness. People don't know the meaning of life. Through meditation a person can experience the meaning of life. They begin experience actual fulfillment.
QUESTION: What are the other reasons why someone should begin to actually practice meditation.
JAGAD GURU: Self-realization. It is not the most common reason but it is the main spiritual reason. According to the ancient Vedic texts and the great spiritual teachers of meditation, the most important reason for beginning the practice of meditation is the desire for self-realization—to understand who you really are. What is your real essence? What is your real purpose in life? What is your relationship with the Supreme Person? This is so important. Nothing is more important than knowing who you are. If you don't know who you are, how are you going to know what is your purpose in life? How do you know what to do? How do you know what your normal or natural function should be? Who are you really?
Most people identify themselves as being their body. "I am male, Filipino, young, handsome, macho, etc." They think, "I am the material body. I am flesh and blood." But in fact, our real identity is spiritual. In fact, we are spirit soul, the life particle, the spark of the Supreme Soul only temporarily in this body. I am living in this body but this body is not me. I am a child of the Supreme Person — spiritual in essence. This means that I need spiritual food, spiritual happiness. I can't be satisfied by material wealth, fame, power, etc. What is going to make me really happy? What is that spiritual food that I need? My connection with the Supreme Spirit. Union with the Supreme.
Meditation means union with the Supreme Person. The word "yoga" also means union with the Supreme, when the individual spirit soul links up with the Supreme Soul; when the individual spirit soul is focused com¬pletely on the Supreme Spirit—his mind, body, heart, his entire being is immersed in the Supreme. This is the meaning of yoga. This is the meaning of meditation. It is also the meaning of prayer. Real prayer is meditative. In other words, in deepest prayer, a person is in meditation. He is linked up with the Supreme Lord. Real meditation is prayer and true prayer is meditative.
For the living entity or individual to be happy, he needs to be linked up with the Supreme Person. That is what meditation is. Meditation is that union or connection with the Supreme. When I'm hooked up to the Supreme Person in that way, I'm meditating upon the Supreme. I'm not worried about whether my business fails or succeeds. I'm not worried about whether or not people like me. I'm not worried about so many things.
It's not that I become forgetful of everything else just because I am focused on one thing. In other words, if I focus my mind on a dot temporarily, I may also forget my troubles. Or I may drink a lot of alcohol and forget my problems. But this is different. In linking up with the Supreme Person, one is experiencing full comfort, full protection, full security and full consciousness. Meditation does not put you in a state of diminished consciousness but full, joyful consciousness. It is stated in the ancient text of the Bhagavad-gita that in this condition of trance or samadhi, the living entity is joyful.
The stage of perfection is called trance, or samadhi, when one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.
BHAGAVAD-GITA CHAP. 6 TEXT 20-23
The individual is fully awake, fully alive and experiencing a type of inner joy. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is also stated that the sage or yogi is happy within. Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure or external objects but is always in trance, enjoying the pleas¬ure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.
BHAGAVAD-GITA CHAP. 5 TEXT 21
He is satisfied within due to meditation or the condition of being linked up with the Supreme Lord.
QUESTION: You've been explaining how self-realization is the most important reason why a person should take up meditation. In this connection, what can a person achieve through self–realization?
JAGAD GURU: A person can conquer the fear of death. You see, if you are immersed in meditation, then you are also talking about being in full con¬sciousness of who you are—that you are spirit soul, you are eternal. Eternal means you don't die. Full consciousness of your real identity means you fully know and appreciate that you are not your body. Your body dies but you don't die. So if you know that you don't die, that means you can't be afraid of death. Why are you not afraid of death? Because you know you are eternal. How can you be afraid of death? We are reminded of the verse in the New Testament, "Oh death, where is your sting?" To everybody, death has a sting. It is very painful. But for one who knows, "I am eternal," death has no sting. The only sting that might be there is the sense of fear. What will my future be? I will continue to exist but what will protect me?
When a person is immersed in meditation, however, he is linked up with the Supreme Protector. He is linked up with the Supreme Support. He is supported and cannot fall. There is no question of being unprotected. An ordinary person may feel, "Where will I go? What will happen to me after I leave my body?" These fears are not present in a person who is in a state of meditation because he is linked up with the Supreme. He is fully protected. He is experiencing inner happiness and inner protection.
So people have different reasons for wanting to meditate. You may want to conquer death; you may want to be self-realized; you may want to overcome your deep, inner spiritual fears or anxieties; or you may simply want to reduce your stress which is so in¬significant in comparison to the real problems of life. Stress is nothing. Like a little headache is no big deal. It's nothing compared to being afraid that your plane is going to crash. Will you be worrying about minor stress when your plane is five thousand feet in the air and going down 1,000 feet every five seconds? In such a situation, will you worry about a little indigestion? No.
You can begin meditating for other reasons, that's all right. But meditation actually brings a higher spiritual, inner happiness or pleasure to a person. This is the most important reason why a person should begin the process of meditation.
QUESTION: I’m interested in learning meditation but how much is it going to cost?
JAGAD GURU: Nothing. If a person says, "I'm going to teach you meditation on such and such a date. Come and bring $50," he's a fake. Any bona fide process of meditation comes from the Supreme. And if it is coming from the Supreme Person, it is a gift of love. Anyone who is actually the representative of the Supreme will be passing on that gift as a gift of love. He is not going to be saying, "Pay me $50 and you can sit in my presence for two minutes". What is this nonsense? A bonafide representative of the Supreme Lord will never charge money for teaching meditation.
Nobody buys or sells mantras. Mantras are really names of the Supreme Lord or glorification of the Supreme. Nobody can buy or sell the Supreme Lord. So if you think you've bought a mantra this is false. In fact, you've bought an imitation. It has no spiritual potency. No so-called mantra, process or anything else which you have paid for is going to have any spiritual effect. It might have some hypnotic or psychic effect but it's not going to have any actual spiritual benefit to you.
QUESTION: Some psychologists try to teach people to meditate on numbers 1 through 10. They claim that this will relieve people’s stress or tension. Is this right?
JAGAD GURU: As we said before, meditation means focusing one's mind, one's entire attention and one's entire being on the Supreme Person. This is the meaning of meditation. Now, the Supreme Person is Number One. But that doesn't mean that number 1 is the Supreme. And number 10 is not either. And neither are numbers 1 -10 the Absolute Truth or the Supreme Lord.
Now if you focus your attention on the numbers 1-10 or the number 1 and you say over and over, "One, one, one," this may help drive things out of your mind temporarily. But in fact, it is not going to give you the inner happiness that you need as a spiritual being. It is not spiritual food.
As a spark of the Supreme Lord, you need the Lord. When you meditate, you actually experience union or connection with the Supreme and you taste spiritual satisfaction. In other words, real meditation is not just a temporary alleviation of your troubled condition. Meditation means you gain positive satisfaction and joy. It means your life is actually focused on a source of great happiness.
Now the numbers 1-10 are not the source of great happiness. This doesn't mean that you can't relieve a little bit of stress due to some superficial cause, by thinking of these numbers. If the cause of your stress is superficial, then you can alleviate a little of your stress via this technique. But you can be rid of stress by running around the block. You can jog a bit or do some kind of exercise. You can even change your diet and this will also help alleviate your stress.
In other words, we are not saying that the process of medita¬tion is the only way a person can relieve some of his stress. There are other ways. But relieving of stress is a very superficial effect or one, small benefit from the practice of meditation.
The real benefits from the practice of meditation go much deeper than relieving stress. They are more important: You can overcome your fear of death; you can actually achieve the highest joy and inner peace—the freedom from anxiety. This is the real fruit of meditation. These are the real benefits.
QUESTION: Do I have to join or change my religion?
JAGAD GURU: No, you don't need to join anything. You don't need to pay money. You simply need to apply this process of meditation to your own personal life. If you apply this process in a regular fashion, then you will actually experience the fruits. If you think it is simply a matter of joining something, this is not going to help you. You can join something but that will not have any effect. Everybody is joining and quitting things. Some people are changing their religion from this to that, thinking it is going to make a big difference. It does not. It is not going to help you.
QUESTION: Swami Muktananda teaches that I am God, but I have forgotten; and that if I meditate through his system of meditation, the siddha-yoga process, then I'll remember my true identity as God. You seem to be saying that we are not God.
JAGAD GURU: Well, you know, if you were God, then you wouldn't need to try to remember your true identity, would you? The idea that God needs to meditate in order to achieve self-realization is so ridiculous and offensive. God doesn't forget who He is. That is one of the meanings of the word God. God means He Who doesn't forget Who He is.
The idea of Muktananda and all the "New Agies" is ridicu¬lous. They teach the same thing, "Yes, you are God but you forgot. But if you meditate (pay me first and I'll teach you how), then you'll remember that you are God."
But we ask, "If we are God, how is it that we forgot?" God does not forget that He is God; He does not need to undergo a process of meditation; He does not need to become self-realized. We are god in a sense—little g's—because we are spirit. We are the same essence as the Supreme Person. But above us is the God with the big G. And God with the big G never forgets He is God. God does not need to pay anybody to learn to meditate.
Right now, these people are telling you that you are in ignorance. Right?
JAGAD GURU: Otherwise, why would they tell you that you've got to meditate? If you have to meditate in order to be self-realized that means that you are in ignorance. So how is it that they can say you are God? If you are God and you are in ignorance, then they are saying that God gets covered up by ignorance. This is an atheistic and nonsense idea.
If God fell under ignorance, then there would be no God. We would not have anyone to meditate upon. You must meditate upon God. But if they're saying that God fell down and is now roaming around, trying to figure out where to go, then who are you going to meditate upon? The one who you supposedly were going to meditate upon is now wandering around on the wheel of birth and death, suffering and looking for a guru. It means there's no way out of this mess at all. This is a crazy idea.
In reality, we are not the Supreme Lord and we have the tendency to be covered up by forgetfulness. We can forget who we are. We need to undergo a process of meditation so that we can clear our hearts and minds in order to be resituated in remembrance of who we are. We need to be cleansed of illusion which is now covering our eyes.
God never gets covered up by illusion. We do. Therefore, we need to meditate.
QUESTION: Do I have to radically change my behavior in order to meditate? Right now, I smoke and drink.
JAGAD GURU: Well, people may feel, "There's no use of me even trying to begin meditating because I still smoke dope and cigarettes. I still eat meat and I'm not living a perfectly spiritual lifestyle." But in fact, a person can begin the practice of meditation from any platform or condition—even if you're still drinking and smoking. Anyone can immediately begin the process of meditation. The Supreme Lord is not going to keep Himself from you or keep this method from you if your behavior is not perfect. You can't say to somebody that it is a requirement or that they have to give up certain activities before they begin this practice of meditation. It is not a necessity.
However, this doesn't mean that giving up certain things won't improve or be more conducive to real meditation. Don't deceive yourself into thinking that you'll progress in your meditation if you live however you 1ike. You may believe that you can eat, drink, make merry and do whatever you want without affecting your consciousness. No. Through meditation, you're trying to purify your consciousness, heart and mind. So what you have to do is gradually try to give these things up. Then your meditation will be really successful.
But how can you give up these bad habits? You have to experience a higher spiritual taste in order to break your bad habits. Through the practice of meditation, you can begin to experience a higher happiness within, so you can quit smoking dope. In other words, bad habits begin to drop off. But you also need a little bit of will power. You shouldn't think, "I'm going to wait till I lose my desire to smoke dope." The desire will still be there but not that much that it cannot be overcome. Through meditation, a person can come to a point where he will have inner strength, and say," I don't want that anymore. I don't need that anymore. I can give it up. I will give it up."
QUESTION: I originally began to meditate so that I could become a better and more efficient businessman and it did actually work.
JAGAD GURU: Now what?
QUESTION: Now I’m thinking that maybe I was missing the point.
JAGAD GURU: Yes, you missed the point. Some people engage in meditation in order to clear their minds. They want to work more efficiently, waste less energy and make more money. But what is the value of making a lot of money if money doesn't satisfy you? Through meditation, you begin to experience this higher happiness within yourself that makes you realize that this happiness is higher than any other happiness you can get, higher than anything that I can buy with all the money that I worked hard to get. So therefore, the happiness that I get from meditation is itself greater than the hap¬piness from trying to make a lot of money. Meditation no longer becomes a means to an end but becomes the end in itself. It no longer becomes a means to a materialistic end. I begin to experience that this relationship with the Absolute Truth is by itself what I have always been looking for. It doesn't mean I have to stop doing business. It doesn't mean that I can't appreciate that my business is more efficient. However, it also makes me wonder, "Why am I doing business?" Gradually, through meditation, you come to realize that everything and everyone belongs to the Supreme Person. And your rightful position and function is not simply to exploit. In other words, you can't really be happy as long as you're just trying to exploit other people— making a lot of money for yourself and enjoying the world. So then you have to see a higher purpose for business. You begin to think, “Well, you know, maybe there's a higher reason for my doing business. Maybe I can use my money in a positive way that is of service to the Supreme Lord and of service to the children of God.” In this way, doing business itself becomes a meditation. It is called karma-yoga. This is a type of meditation we also teach.
QUESTION: Sometimes I don't know whether I should or shouldn't do something. It's like I don't know whether it's right or wrong and / was wondering if meditation would show me the way.
JAGAD GURU: Yes, of course, through the practice of meditation your mind and heart become gradually cleansed or purified. Now the Lord in your heart (called the Paramatma) is continually and always giving you advice on what you should do and what you should not do, as far as pleasing Him. What is pleasing to the Supreme? How do you know? What should you be doing or not doing on a daily practical level? What is the right way to act? How do you know that? You don't know unless your mind and heart become more and more cleansed, so that you can actually hear the voice of the Supreme Lord within yourself, so that you can actually know intuitively from within what you should and shouldn't do. In other words, you don't want to be in a situation where you always have to be told to do this, do that, that's bad, that's good, from some outside sources. Rather, you should want to come to that state where intuitively, from within yourself, you know what is right and what is wrong. Meditation helps you come to this state.
QUESTION: Several years ago, I learned that meditation has to do with controlling the breath. But if I understand what you are saying, meditation means putting your mind on the Supreme Person.
JAGAD GURU: Yes. A lot of people have the illusion that sitting with your legs crossed, eyes closed, concentrating your attention on your breathing or focusing on the point beneath the navel or a point between the eyebrows, is meditation. However, asanas, sitting postures, breathing exercises, kundalini yoga practices, trying to raise the life air, are not meditation. These can be called pre¬meditation practices.
These practices may help you relax your body and mind a bit so that you can easily focus your attention. In other words, focusing on your breathing helps bring you to a more relaxed state. You're able to withdraw your senses, your mind, your attention from the world around you. After you have withdrawn your attention from the world, you're supposed to place or focus your attention upon the Supreme. You're not supposed to just focus your attention on your breath. Your breathing isn't the Supreme, neither is your navel or the chakra at your navel.
If up to now, all you've been focusing on is your breathing or your navel, then you haven't really learned meditation yet. All you've been learning this whole time are pre-meditation techniques. And you could spend all your time and all your money trying to learn pre-meditation techniques and never really come to the point where you actually start meditating upon the Supreme Person. "Okay, I've meditated upon my navel and my breath. I focused and tried to raise the life air and now I've got the life air up to my throat. But when do I actually begin meditating upon the Supreme Lord?"
The reason many people never get to that point or many teachers never take you to that point is because they don't believe in or know the Supreme Person. They just keep getting you to focus your attention on things which are not in fact the Absolute Truth or the Supreme, because they believe that you are God. That's nonsense. I’m sorry to tell you that you've wasted your time and energy. You have to learn a bona fide process of meditation. You have to learn how to meditate on the Supreme Lord. This is meditation and nothing else is meditation. Everything else is pre-meditation techniques. It is not that such techniques are bad. But they are not complete. You have to learn the proper, complete system of meditation.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Jagad Guru.