The True Purpose of Meditation

The core subject  of this web school is “meditation”. Let us, therefore,  start by asking a very basic simple question! Why does one need meditation? If we ask this question to the general public, we will receive a bunch of popular answers, such as “I meditate for peace of mind’, “I meditate for developing the power of concentration”, “ I meditate for getting grounded and becoming calmer”, “I meditate for rejuvenation”, so on and so forth.  All these answers are indeed correct, because meditation does offer these benefits. Yet, all these are merely peripheral benefits. 

The  deepest answer to this fundamental question  is this: “ I meditate for self-realisation and for becoming one with my true state of being.” In simple words, the ultimate purpose of meditation is to find who  we really are and how to remain one with the true “I- ness” of life. The peace, calmness, ability to remain focused, rejuvenation etc are nothing but the automatic byproducts of that state of “being”.  

If we travel from “A” to “B”, the purpose of the travel is to reach the point “B” from point “A”. On the way, we might get to see many beautiful wayside sights.  We can, no doubt, enjoy those beautiful sights unfolding on our way; but watching them and remaining stuck with the wayside attractions are not our end purpose. Likewise, no doubt, we can enjoy and take advantage of  the side-benefits of meditation; but remember, our end-purpose is reaching that state of ‘self-realisation’ or state of ‘being’ and not getting stuck with the wayside attractions. It will be, therefore, vastly helpful to start with a clear understanding of the end-purpose of meditation and the need for holding that highest objective in view at all times.  

We used two keywords here. They are  “Self-Realisation” and “Being”. What do these words mean? Why should we “self-realise” at all and experience our true state of “being”?  In order to answer these questions, we first need to take stock of our lives and consciously evaluate the general nature of our own existence as well as that of all others. Once we do this,  we will notice that many common anomalies in the way life operates through us. If we unconsciously live and die here, we will not notice this anomaly. We will mistake them as the way it is. We will consequently miss  those important symptoms indicating to us that something is NOT quite right here . A vast majority of us are living unconsciously and superficially. When we unconsciously live, will only be like a slightly evolved animal living a mechanical life engaged in eating, drinking, procreating and dying.  Let us wake up from our superficial living and consciously examine the general nature of our life situations in general, as it occurs to all of us. 

Notice the  Anomaly in life

If we look around us and consciously examine our own life-experiences or that of anyone else, we cannot help noticing  few anomalies about the way life occurs to us. The general nature of these anomalies are listed below. These anomalies are universal in nature. 

Purpose of Life: 

Where were we before we were born? Do you know? Where will we be after our death? Do  you know? We have no clue! This by default means that we do not know why we are here and what is it that is  expected of us here. What is the purpose of life? We do not know where we stand today and where we want to go from here. 

Are we born here just to eat, drink, procreate and die, like the animals do? It is   illogical to assume so because for everything else we do within our lives, we can indeed attribute  one purpose or other. How is it then that our “life” itself has no purpose at all? It is illogical. Therefore, we must admit that humanity currently do not know the purpose of  its life. This is a major flaw and our life becomes meaningless as a result. 

Limitation of knowledge: 

We may be experts in one or two subjects, holding the highest knowledge on those few chosen subjects;  but we are mostly ignorant in all other subjects. One may be a nuclear scientist, but if he or she falls sick, he or she has to run to a doctor. But, no wild animals go to a hospital for anything!  It is clear that we exist here with tremendous limitations to our knowledge. The animal kingdom thrives (barring the onslaught they suffer from humans) with out any of these issues. They seem to know what is right for them by default.  We boast ourselves as the “highest” of all life-forms on earth; but we exist here with severe limitations and without any knowledge of what is expected of us here during our tenure here. . How can we be the “highest” when we have such severe limitations to our state of affairs here?   It is a paradox that collectively we may have ‘great’ collection of knowledge; but individually we have very limited knowledge. Even the ‘great’ collective knowledge is very limited in its reach and depth. The more we know, the more unknown will be there for us to know!

Changefulness: 

When we look around we can see that nothing is permanent anywhere in this world.  People, animals, plants, and things appear and disappear. Seasons come and go. Day and night keep alternating. If something makes an appearance and instantaneously disappear, we will surely call it ‘unreal’. Technically, there is no difference in its nature, if that something disappears  after 80 years. It is still unreal. A butterfly may die and disappear in a weeks time; Humans will die and disappear in a few decades after their birth. A unit of platinum and iridium alloy may take hundreds of years to corrode and disappear – but surely like anything else, all metals and alloys  too will disappear in course of time. It appears that nothing is really ‘real’ and ‘stable’ here. Everything changes and is NOT here forever. But no one wants to change or die. We all want to be eternally youthful and no one wants to die. Notwithstanding our best wishes and best efforts, we all change and die in the course of time. This is another prominent anomaly in life. 

Pendulum Swing of Happiness & Unhappiness in Life: 

Everyone, without exception, wants happiness all the time in their life. No one wants unhappiness or pain –  be it a human or animal or a plant. But no one can get it forever – whether rich or poor, knowledgeable or ignorant.  We do experience happiness at times in our lives – but it is extremely short-lived. The happiness of licking an ice cream disappears the moment it passes down the throat! The happiness a new car or a new material possession may give, invariably diminishes and disappears in a few months! Happiness does not stay for long. We also experience unhappiness in our lives – but unhappiness too does not stay for long. Infact , happiness and unhappiness come and go one after the other, much like a roller coaster ride. Neither of them are permanent, no matter how much we try for sustained happiness, and no matter how hard we try to avoid unhappiness. This is a great anomaly that is all too clear to any one who consciously observes. 

Dual Nature of  all phenomena: 

We see all our life-experiences are pairs of opposites. For example, light & darkness, day & night, pain & pleasure, heat & cold, birth &  death, long & short, richness & poverty, and the list is endless. They are like a banded offer. If we get happiness, it always comes with a future unhappiness.  If we are happy about someone or something, fear of its loss or its eventual actual loss gives us unhappiness. When the day arrives, it arrives with its pair, the night.  This is yet another anomaly evident to an observing person. 

What is real / unreal  here? 

Our body will age and will gradually become   weak over the years; It is subject to limitations. It looks like that  our body is functioning in one type of world, obeying certain laws that  will subject our body to changes and limitations; but our mind appears to be  functioning in another different world obeying another set of laws, and appears to function  without the type of limitations that our body is subjected to. For example, our mind can reach anywhere instantly regardless of space and time; our mind can reach here and there instantaneously, without taking any time at all. But our body takes both  space and time to reach here from there. Mind enjoys greater levels of freedom than the body. Which is real? Body is real or mind is real? Or are they both unreal?   

Likewise, in our waking state, our physical body takes time and space to do anything; but in our dream state our mind  appears to accomplish every task instantaneous, beyond the limitations of space and time while our body is totally ignorant of such activities. However,  in our deep sleep state, both our body and our mind appear to be absent. But the next day morning, we do know that we slept well even though there was no mind to witness our sleeping to  remember and report this to us the next day morning. That means, even when our mind was absent, there was something else that was active and witnessed our good sleep and “reported to us” the next day morning  that we slept well.  

So,  what is real here? Is the waking state the real state?; is the dream state the real state?  Or is the deep state the real state? Is our body real? If it is real, how can it perish eventually?  If the body is real, why is that the body’s presence is suspended from our awareness in sleep state? Is our mind real? If  mind is real, why is it not always there at all three states of our consciousness, namely wakeful state, sleep state and deep sleep state?  Why is it that both our body and mind is absent in the deep sleep state but yet we remained with full awareness? So what is really real in us? 

Ordinarily we are not aware of the above anomalies in our life. Some of us will eventually wake up to these facts, after getting beaten up hot and cold with pain and pleasure so severely for many  decades (often for many life times one after the other). We do not have to wait for such punishing experiences to wake up. We can wake up now – right here and now. We usually take it for granted, because for everyone else too  that is the way it is. It is only for an observing mind that these are taken note of. Only then they will see these paradoxes or anomalies and start insisting for an answer. 

In summary, we all want permanent  happiness in our lives and keep searching for it. But no one finds  it permanently. We notice that the rest of the life forms in our world is apparently leading a relatively care-free and fulfilling life, largely  without any of our human drama of a happiness-unhappiness cycle! Occasionally we get some happiness for some time, but it will soon be taken away and will be replaced with unhappiness. This is the experience of the whole humanity.  We all want to live forever without death; no one wants to die and disappear – but sooner or later, everyone of us will die and disappear leaving no trace for long that we had once lived here. All of us want to retain our physical beauty, youthfulness and vigour for ever, but all of us become aged and emaciated; then we die. We also know that  our body and mind both get suspended in our deep sleep and yet our innate awareness about ourselves still remained intact. The next day morning we always know that we slept well even though our body and mind both were virtually absent for the whole time of our deep sleep.. 

In a nutshell, we unconsciously (meaning, without being aware of all these paradoxes and anomalies exist in our lives) live an extremely short and pseudo, meaningless life (meaning, without knowing what for we came here and who we really are or what aspect of us is really real).  This is the problem the whole humanity faces today. This should change. We should know who we are by recognising the really real aspect of us and by recognising the purpose of our life. If we don’t, we will perish soon. 

 

Key Concepts Discussed So far:

  1. A close examination of our experiences in life will reveal the anomaly of  its transient and changing nature. We do not know what is the purpose of this transient  life. When we take a closer look of our life experiences, we become confused as to what is real and what is not  real in life.
  2. In order to resolve this dilemma we need to understand what is  considered as real. Reality is defined as one that is absolute, nondual, changeless, and all-pervading.
  3. When we examine our own life  based on the above definition, we notice  a paradox that our life is both real and unreal at the same time;  it is essentially unreal; but it has a reality-content in it, which is the reason and cause for its existence. Everything in this universe is made of matter. 

Recommended Further Reading:

Tirtha, Swami Bhoomananda. (2007). Brahmavidya Abhyasa, Sure Way to the Inner Self. (Narayanashrama Tapovanam, Venginassery, PO, Paralam, Thrissur, Pin 680575, Kerala.). India. ISBN 978-81-89588-01-4 . http://www.brahmavidya.org