Why Suffer from Depression?

Meditations on the Practice of Meditation

Modus Operandi of Meditation

The Art of Real Meditation

Nothing either Inside or Outside

Be Mindful Always

Why Suffer from Depression ?

Dear Catherine

It is my intention to address myself to the specific problem posed in your letter.

You have stated that ‘I am struggling with manic depression. I have just started taking Lithium and will soon begin talk therapy as well, yet I am far from optimistic that I will ever be free of this debilitating illness. For this reason, I have come to you for advice. Are there any particular prayers, meditations, or other treatments, such as homeopathy, which you personally could recommend in order to come out from under this dark cloud which hangs over me? I feel desperate for a solution, and while I know that this isn’t exactly your field, I consider you a learned man of great wisdom, and would like your opinion.’

It is a well-known fact that even wise and learned persons are prone to depression!

On those rare occasions when I feel very unhappy and lack any enthusiasm for anything, I know how to handle it, and the depression disappears before long.

I am only a Doctor of Letters --- not a medical practitioner: it would be presumptuous and dangerous to treat you medically.

At the outset I wish to dispel the fairly widespread belief that there is a permanent and satisfactory pharmaceutical remedy. There are numerous medicines, pills and drugs for sale but do any of them provide a lasting solution? Is there a medical remedy that can prevent the recurrence of the condition?

Over the years I have successfully helped several friends to deal with this difficulty. I did so without resorting to drugs, medicines or pills.

Strictly speaking, depression is not an illness but a passing psychological state of being in low spirits or feeling blue. But by regarding it as an ‘illness’, or ‘disease’, it is often the case that the poor patient becomes even more depressed! So the first requirement is a radical change of attitude to what is called ‘depression’.

This morning I woke to a terrible day. It was cold and rainy. The skies were all grey. What a depressing sight! For here in the Provence, which is rightly famous for her deep blue skies and bright sunshine, one usually awakens to the sound of birds singing. I was in low spirits for about two minutes but that emotion quickly disappeared the moment I realised that such weather is only natural in the autumn as the northern hemisphere is now further away from the sun. Seeing that simple truth enabled the mind to disentangle itself from depression. Facing reality is the factor that liberates the mind. This point needs emphasising because I often noticed in depressed people a certain ingrained reluctance to see things as they truly are.

There is the world of reality and the world of illusion. The term ‘world of reality’ refers to the gloomy actualities of everyday life --- facing facts, seeing things exactly as they exist, and especially the non-avoidance of what is ugly, painful or unpleasant. In contrast, the term ‘world of illusion’ means the tendency to prefer what should be to what is; it is the unfortunate habit of holding onto memories that are pleasant instead of dropping them; it also refers to living in a fantasy world.

Many persons suffer from depression when their hair starts greying. They are horrified when they suddenly discover that they are no longer young. They start dyeing their hair. I have had no difficulty whatsoever accepting the fact that my hair is grey. What is the point of being pathologically concerned about my appearance? I do not want to look like a young man, as I am no longer one. Since I prefer the world of reality to the world of illusion I do not get depressed.

Depression is a form of unhappiness, especially when it persists for a long time. In this connection I must refer to that famous playwright and writer --- ‘GBS’ as he was known throughout the world. Once George Bernard Shaw was filmed giving an interview. He was requested to give his recipe for happiness. Shaw immediately replied that if one were very active all one’s life, there would never be a free moment when one would ask the question, ‘Am I happy or unhappy?’ When a man immerses himself in his work, hobbies, politics, social welfare programmes, reading, writing, sport or any activity whatsoever for that matter, it is certainly possible for him to escape from depression. But then his life will be nothing more than a constant search for escapes. Escapes are only short-term palliatives that do not solve the cause of the difficulty called depression. Escapes temporarily reduce distress without actually curing the cause of depression. The vast majority, I find, are easily satisfied with palliatives for which there is a tremendous market! But those who do not have such a superficial outlook on life would much rather directly confront depression and thereby discover its cause. We shall discuss this question in due course.

What nearly every depressed person lacks is joie de vivre or a feeling of great joy or happiness. They no longer enjoy life. In their eyes life has become nothing more than a terribly boring series of actions or duties that have to be performed. In extreme cases this absence of enthusiasm for living results in their viewing life as a horrible ordeal. Even simple daily routines, such as getting out of bed, performing one’s ablutions, having a shower and dressing oneself, are seen as daunting tasks, hence their lives move slowly. Therefore in offices and factories depressed workers tend to be considerably slower than their co-workers. Whenever there is a period of retrenchment in the economy these unfortunate depressed workers, on account of their slowness compounded by their low self-esteem, are usually among the first employees to get the sack. So in their own interests depressed persons must get rid of their disorder.

In Colombo I used to know a very interesting English theosophist called Peter Harper who spent much of his life in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Whenever any of Harper’s employees suffered from depression, he would strongly advise against eating any food. He said, ‘a fast lasting twenty-four hours, or several days if necessary, will pep you up. When you’re feeling down you should avoid food. Please understand that the temporary absence of the mysterious life force, which is normally within you, caused your depression. But once your starving stomach starts growling with hunger, you will find that the life force suddenly returns. All of a sudden there will be a great zest for life. Then you will start working with a certain elan.’

During the decade spent in Australia I met many depressed people. My overall impression is that far more women than men are afflicted with this condition but I may be mistaken. Whoever is a worrier runs the risk of becoming mentally depressed. Once an Australian colleague was feeling very depressed. Holding his hand, I said, ‘Cheer up, cheer up. Life is too short to be burdened with silly personal problems! What do you do when you are feeling tired after a game of tennis? You take a rest, don’t you? Then you recover from your tiredness. Similarly, when your mind is tired, what you need is a rest. Take a rest!’

He listened to me carefully. No sooner had he followed my advice than the fellow was back to normal. The moral is that whenever there is an onset of depression it is better to be alone so that one has the opportunity not only to relax and recover quietly but also to reflect on the important psychological factors in the crisis.

A young and innocent-looking woman by the name of Geraldine was my typist when I served as a librarian in the Parliament of South Australia. Hers was a single-parent family. Single-handedly she tried to raise her little son. She had grown extremely fond of the boy. She not only felt very let-down by her partner’s desertion but was also locked in an acrimonious dispute over the custody of the child. Custody was awarded to the child’s father on the grounds that Geraldine was a drug-addict. The subsequent separation from her beloved son resulted in Geraldine suffering from manic depression. Never did she recover from the parting. It was a terrible blow.

A few times Geraldine attempted suicide. After one such attempt I got into a long conversation with this distraught woman. On that occasion I said, ‘Oh, Geraldine! Why do you say that the afterlife would be happier for you? Come off it! We don’t really know what the afterlife holds in store for us, do we? It might be paradise. It might be bloody hell. One can never be sure about it. So don’t be dissatisfied with your lot. Life on planet Earth isn’t that bad after all. In a world with millions of homeless refugees, you at least have a roof above your head. In an overpopulated world in which the vast majority rarely enjoy a square meal, you at least have plenty of food and drink. As regards the custody of your child, you haven’t actually lost him. He is alive and well. He lives in another part of Australia where he will grow up happily. Someday you will surely meet him again. Aren’t you a lucky mum? Geraldine, don’t take your life! Don’t kill yourself, I beg you! Those who kill themselves and thereby experience an agonising death might be reborn as hungry and restless ghosts. Do think about these things and don’t behave stupidly!’

All my heartfelt words did not come to anything. She was absent from work for a few days. Then one morning the staff of Parliament House in Adelaide received the devastating news that Geraldine had suddenly died the previous night following an overdose of heroin.

One of the interesting characters I met in Adelaide was a woman in her thirties who told me that out of the sheer goodness of her pure heart she spent all her time taking care of those helpless men and women who were the victims of chronic depression. Somewhat surprised, I asked Jill (not her real name) a few questions.

‘Is that all you do? Tell me, what do you do for a living?’

‘Sir, I suppose you have to work,’ she remarked, smiling in a superior manner, ‘because I don’t have to --- you see, I’m quite rich now, although I was penniless when I first came to Australia.’

Jill provided me with a detailed description of the various selfless services that she was rendering to the depressed.

‘There are literally thousands of depressed folk in this city but they are somehow reluctant to admit that they are desperately lonely and much in need of human company. In my list I always have about 50 depressed people whom I regularly meet every few days.’

‘Do they like you?’

‘Yes,’ replied Jill with an enthusiastic smile, ‘because they thoroughly enjoy my company. I’m the only one who gives them flowers. I’m the only friend who kisses them on both cheeks and gives them big hugs. They feel loved. They are painfully aware that they have to live in a loveless world. I crack jokes and their sad faces brighten up. I take them out to restaurants on their birthdays. We go for drives through the Adelaide hills. When it’s very hot we sunbathe together on the beach. We hold hands and walk great distances together. Once a month depressed persons have the pleasure of accompanying me when we go to local concerts. There is something else that I do which is important. I make them talk. They love to talk, as ours is a world in which hardly anyone has time to listen to another’s personal complaints. During our long chats I draw out from them all their hidden worries. After every conversation they feel extremely well. Their silly depressions are no more! Many of them are so old that they lack friends or relations. I play the role of friend and relation. Between us there is a very strong emotional bond.’

‘And when they die,’ I asked, ‘don’t you feel sad?’

‘Why should I feel sad?’ she remarked casually, ‘I’m never sad but happy. It always gives me a thrill when I discover that in their wills I’m the sole heir to their fortunes.’

Australia is truly the land of opportunity! The less said about wealthy Jill the better. The moral of this account is that society must beware of those who are hell-bent on exploiting the plight of the depressed to gain financial and other advantages.

In my experience, a sense of physical well-being is helpful to keep my short-lived low spirits at bay. A good night’s sleep of eight hours and a twenty-minute siesta after lunch is a sine qua non for the regeneration of the body; thirty minutes of hatha yoga every day keeps the body supple and retards the ageing process; a healthy vegetarian diet is not only nutritionally superior to all other foods but also ensures peace within oneself because of the awareness that one is not a party to the killing of animals; rising early at the crack of dawn and seeing the sunrise and the crimson skies is an exhilarating experience; having a quick cold shower each morning and doing breathing exercises in the fresh open-air not only improves the circulation but also oxygenates the system; solitary walks in the woods provide opportunities to commune with nature; growing flowers, plants and organic vegetables in your garden is excellent for relaxation; keep the usage of your car (assuming that you really need one) to an absolute minimum and go for long walks instead, thus activating the muscular system; never destroy the delicate sensitivity of the organism by polluting it with alcohol, tobacco and dangerous drugs. The interrelationship between body and mind is amazingly close. When the body is healthy, sensitive and vibrant, it will not fail to make a beneficial impact on the mind, and consequently curtail the tendency towards depression.

A writer who is prone to depression told me that some of his best books were written when he was feeling low. ‘Depression is a tonic,’ he observed, ‘it is a forceful spur to write well. I can’t write if I’m feeling proud or if there is self-satisfaction. Creativity flows from the depths of despair.’

When I first heard Beethoven’s music it suddenly struck me that the inward state of the great composer was anything but calm, peaceful and happy. The erratic movements in his music stand out clearly. It is a feature that has not diminished in any way the quality of Beethoven’s works. Many great musicians, artists and writers have suffered from severe depression. It is not clear whether or not their achievements were the outcome of their depression. It is significant though that depression was not an impediment to creativity.

In this connection I must mention the case of a professor whom I used to know. He managed to keep his depression well under control, never allowing it to get the better of him by uninterruptedly listening to the soothing and inspiring music of Mozart. In his study Mozart tapes would be played all the time, even when he was reading, writing, researching or simply thinking with his eyes closed.

While the professor’s fondness for Mozart was certainly in good taste, he need not have resorted to this escape, nor to any other escape for that matter, had he taken the trouble to discover for himself the underlying causes of his depression, and thereby eliminate the disorder once and for all. In addition to reading many books, the learned man could well have done his homework by reading the most important book of all, which is the book of himself. This unprinted ‘book’ is about the exploration of the inner world of the psyche. We shall be discussing this question of meditation and self-knowledge at the end.

In recent years I have been closely associated with two manic-depressives. Both of them are friends. Their coldness and distance has resulted in a superficial friendliness on their part. The flower of friendship has never really blossomed as they keep themselves aloof from me. Although they never reciprocate the kindness that I have at all times unfailingly shown to them, the warmth of my friendship with them has never abated. For the reason that they are obsessionally attached only to themselves, rarely do they take an interest in the welfare and happiness of others. Occasionally they try to do selfless deeds but on the whole they are self-centred. They wallow in self-pity. They are full of self-doubt and they lack self-confidence. This is only an incomplete description of them.

I first met Annienella (not her real name) on Thursday market day. A tiny bespectacled old lady, she was standing outside the post office and crying her eyes out.

‘What’s troubling you?’

‘Hypertension! Death is around the corner!’ she complained tearfully.

Realising that Annienella was making a great public show of her so-called suffering in order to become the centre of attention, I immediately gave her some grapes. She suddenly smiled and her depression was in abeyance.

Central to Annienella’s condition is an intense and irrational sense of loss and the fear that she lacks the capacity to survive her self-centred emotional crises. This sense of loss is sometimes real but often it exists only in her fertile imagination (I should mention that the lady is an accomplished linguist and an excellent teacher of Spanish and Italian). Religious and conscientious, Annienella always criticises herself by saying ‘I’ve forgotten to do this’, ‘I should have done that’, ‘I wasn’t careful enough’ and ‘I should have foreseen this problem’. She is always conscience-stricken.

Annienella is full of self-criticism. Once she was weeping that the prices of fruits and vegetables in France were much higher than those in her native Italy.

‘I should have done all my shopping in Genoa,’ she would say with much sadness.

‘Stop grumbling,’ I said, ‘and pull yourself together! Are you facing starvation? You are a rich woman with properties in France and Italy! Why worry about high prices?’

That comment helped her to calm herself down, especially because it reminded her not to be out of touch with reality. She was prone to making herself miserable and depressed by believing that she was poverty-stricken. This terrible feeling of insecurity was a hangover from her younger days in Italy when her family were not well-to-do. Her past was haunting her. She became the prisoner of her unpleasant memories.

One day Annienella was weeping because her husband’s daughter by a previous marriage was on the verge of total blindness. The daughter was a chronic diabetic patient. It took a long time to convince her that she was not personally responsible for the illness. Annienella was feeling guilty and full of remorse that she had personally done little or nothing to prevent the blindness. She had to be reminded that she had over the years tended her daughter with loving care. The blindness, I remarked, was caused by the daughter’s bad karma in her present life or in a previous one. That explanation helped to calm Annienella down but only temporarily.

The trouble with Thomas (not his real name) is that he is always full of harsh fault-finding of himself. He likes flagellating himself. He does not beat his body of course, but he, so to speak, enjoys beating his mind mercilessly. I have associated with this manic-depressive for over thirty years, which is a long period. Most of the time he is so depressed that getting out of bed is quite a struggle. Much time is spent in bed. Seldom does he answer letters. An emotionally disturbed man, Thomas loses his temper with friends who give him presents. He feels that he does not deserve gifts because of his moral degeneration. He eats frugally and feels guilty every time he is given a sumptuous meal.

Thomas was an ardent communist in his student days. His country in which he continues to live is a mixed economy. Thomas holds himself personally responsible for the fact that a socialist revolution never took place there! He thinks that he has only himself to blame for the problems of poverty, unemployment, crime and corruption in the land of his birth! His hatred of society is directed against himself. Although he regularly reads the daily newspapers, Thomas has very little interest in the world outside himself. The pathologically melancholic world in which he dwells begins and ends with himself. He is almost incapable of love or affection for anyone. His efforts to feign affection are motivated by the desire to ensure that others take an active interest in him.

Ours is a dark age in which sexual promiscuity has become more the norm rather than the exception. Not surprisingly, Thomas is inextricably addicted to sex. At first his sexuality found expression in masturbation; later in his youth he preferred homosexual acts to any other form of carnal indulgence; in his adult life he changed over to heterosexual acts; now in his old age he has reverted to masturbation or autoeroticism. After every sexual act of whatever form, Thomas experiences not only a considerable depletion of energy but also manic depression. He has a guilty conscience following every sexual act. He worries himself sick and feels thoroughly miserable. Then he asks me to put him out of his misery as though I were capable of waving a magic wand and making him happy instantaneously.

My advice to Thomas has always been as follows: ‘Sex is neither sinful nor non-sinful. But since the purpose of sex is procreation, not recreation, it would be better if you can try and abstain from sex altogether and lead a pure life.’

Then he would protest, ‘You are attempting to take away the last remaining pleasure in life.’

Next I would explain, ‘You are trying to escape from manic depression by means of sex. That is what you have been doing for years. But the day you free yourself from manic depression you will find that you are no longer enslaved by sex.’

All my concerned advice fell on deaf ears and the man stopped writing to me.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used the word ‘melancholia’ to describe depression. Sigmund Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia is a seminal work on the subject.

Can psychotherapists and psychoanalysts really help you? They are all capable of assisting superficially but not profoundly. They touch the periphery of the problem and not its centre. Their approach is fundamentally flawed because they insist on using the mind without first of all unconditioning it. As the mind is our only instrument of inquiry, its purification via meditation is a sine qua non of investigation. What is the point of investigating with a distorted and conditioned mind, since everything we perceive will inevitably be distorted? To understand the mind one must never turn outwards. By never regarding the mind as an external object for investigation, but by turning inwards it is possible to understand the nature of the mind and its manifold tendencies. This subjective approach to the mind automatically takes place when one starts meditating.

The onset of any form of depression is a sign that the inner house is in a state of disorder. Meditation is the best means of bringing about order and sanity. Every human being has the innate capacity to put his or her house in order. Do not permit anyone to cash in on your condition.

If you turn inside your own mind, the mind gets turned inside out, revealing all that is hidden and hitherto unknown. The memories of a thousand yesterdays, including the unresolved problems and your personal traits going back as far as your previous lives, will begin to surface. You can do this yourself without seeking the assistance of anyone.


You are your own saviour,’ taught the Buddha.

It seems to me that meditation is the only solution to manic depression.

There are two forms of meditation --- Occidental Meditation and Oriental Meditation. We shall consider both types of meditation, which nicely complement each other. Occidental Meditation consists in ruminating over certain stimulating questions. Oriental Meditation consists in self-observation; it is the path of self-knowledge.




Occidental Meditation

Distressing traumas do result in manic depression. It is possible that you have forgotten or suppressed them. So long as they remain dormant, these traumas will adversely affect your mental health. Just to jog your memory, please permit me to pose several questions:



Is there in you a lifetime of pent-up anger?


Within you is there a boiling sense of the injustices of life?


Are you a victim of parental neglect?


Is your present suffering caused by not having had the basic necessities because of war or natural catastrophes?


Did you ever suffer in silence when those who were near and dear to you failed to show any affection?


Have years of unhappiness or poverty, if such was the case, left their mark in your mind?


Have you had a love-hate relationship with anyone?


If you have ever been jilted, does it still upset you?


Are you really happy in your present country of residence?


Concerning your decision to marry a foreigner, was it met with the approval of your parents, relations and friends?


Do you have any other psychological scars?



Oriental Meditation





As I have examined this subject in depth in a recently published book of mine titled Nirvana the Highest Happiness (Delhi: Vedams, 2003), please permit me to include an excerpt therefrom:

Non-judgementally watch the flickering flame that is the mind

The constant undistorted observation of oneself results in the exposure of the hidden depths of the unconscious. Such observation or awareness is that pure flame which alone will burn away all our psychological complications. While it is comparatively easy to observe one’s thoughts and feelings superficially, it is far more difficult to be aware of the hidden forces underlying these thoughts and feelings --- the unknown fears, hopes, ambitions and urges that shape our day-to-day behaviour. Meditation then is the golden means whereby the conditioned mind becomes unconditioned. A life that is not dedicated to meditation soon becomes superficial, miserable and dull; on the other hand, the person who cares to meditate becomes psychologically cleansed. Only in this state of inner purity, declared the Buddha, does one experience the bliss of Liberation.



This, monks, is Nanda’s mindfulness

And clear comprehension.

Here, monks, for Nanda

Feelings are understood as they arise,

As they remain present,

As they pass away;

Perceptions are understood as they arise,

As they remain present,

As they pass away;

Thoughts are understood as they arise,

As they remain present,

As they pass away.

This, monks, is Nanda’s mindfulness

And clear comprehension’

Anguttara Nikaya viii 9


Mindfulness consists in the immediate understanding of feelings, perceptions and thoughts as and when these arise. It is not that one understands them later, retrospectively, through a process of recollection, with closed eyes and seated cross-legged, which is the traditionally accepted posture for meditation.

One can, of course, recall feelings, perceptions and thoughts long after their occurrence. But, evidently the Buddha has recommended the awareness of feelings, perceptions and thoughts right here and now.

Awareness takes place only in the present, from moment to moment; it is seeing ourselves with detachment all the time; this is the simple and impartial observation of all aspects of ourselves all the time; it is watching the current in action, as it happens, as opposed to watching or examining it later, which would be like carrying out a post mortem of feelings, perceptions and thoughts long after they have passed away.

Of all the books in existence, the most important one is the book of self-knowledge. The really ignorant are not the illiterate folk but those who never read this marvellous book. This tome has never been published. Even if you were to live to a ripe old age and acquire a reputation for your remarkable achievements, your life would still have been lived in vain, if you have failed or forgotten to read this book. ‘Reading the book’ and ‘meditating’ are one and the same.

Allowing your thoughts and emotions to present themselves fully and unimpededly --- and watching them at the same time non-judgementally --- is far better than bottling them up, which is often the cause of depression. By the powerful searchlight of awareness one can clearly see all one’s anxieties, fears, frustrations and jealousies as well as everything that is negative and troublesome. Thus you can cleanse yourself and prevent the recurrence of depression.

In the same way that you observe the flow of heavy traffic on a highway, can you not watch the seemingly endless procession of thoughts and feelings? This you can do all the time, regardless of whether or not you are calm. When you are engaged in any activity, be it eating, drinking, exercising, reading, bathing or walking, can you not simply watch yourself as you do these things, neither approving nor disapproving of what you see within yourself? Do not interfere with your reactions. Do not say ‘this is a good thought’ or ‘this is a bad thought’. Do not make any comment whatsoever about any thought or feeling. All you have to do is to observe impartially everything that is taking place within you. Just look at yourself without taking sides! Look at the activities of the inner stream from the vantage point of inactivity! In other words, look at action within from the state of inaction!

As you observe your thought process you might see in a flash the faces of various persons who in the past caused you much pain or much joy. It might be the face of a teacher who unfairly punished you in school, the face of a schoolmate who hated you because you were seen as a rival, the face of a shopkeeper who cheated you and deprived you of money, or even the face of a jealous brother or sister. Now, as you see these faces, take note of your feelings of resentment towards them, but do not tell yourself ‘how awful! I shouldn’t harbour such grudges’, or ‘I must rid myself of such ill will’. Never condemn your thoughts or feelings. Never be critical of your thoughts or feelings. All you have to do is simply to observe them in a neutral way, and then let go of them. Then you would be purging the mind of its impurities.

The very recognition of the existence of those thoughts and feelings will automatically result in their dissolution. It is the honest acceptance of the truth of what you actually are, or the innocent and undistorted observation of yourself exactly as you are, that will liberate you from this bothersome burden of resentments. Otherwise, your psychological luggage, so to speak, will cripple your mind and pervert your pure perception as well as leave you embittered for a lifetime.

In the above-mentioned manner, you can also observe your reactions when, for example, someone flatters you, or pays you a compliment by saying ‘what a pretty face!’ or ‘what a sweet girl!’ Observe how your ego expands when there is praise; observe how the ego gets hurt when there is blame. When pride and vanity have also been discarded you will become an inwardly transformed human being who is clear-sighted.

Meditation is not a self-inflicted torture or a punishment; those who are always in a meditative state realise that meditation is actually the joyous experiencing of constant self-discovery and self-rediscovery.

Dear Catherine, in this long letter I have requested you to get involved in meditation. I have no doubt that diligent meditation will help you to overcome manic depression. Meditation is not merely a therapy, but it is also the path to Enlightenment.

Yours sincerely





Now you are like a withered leaf,

The messengers of death are at your side.

Though you are about to depart,

You have no provisions for the journey.’

Dhammapada, 235

Make yourself an island,

Work hard,

Be wise.

Purged of impurities

And free from craving,

You will reach

The abode of the Ariyas.’

Dhammapada, 236

‘The abode of the Ariyas’ refers to Suddhavasa or the Pure

Abode, wherein live the Anagamins or Non-Returners.


---The First and Best Buddhist Teachings

Sutta Nipata Selections and Inspired Essays

New Delhi: New Age Books

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Meditations on the Practice of Meditation

Meditation involves the passive, impartial, neutral and non-judgemental observation of one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations, doing so as these arise, as these stay for awhile and then as these slip away. In the Dhyana Mudra the hands are relaxed in the lap, the right hand is placed over the left, the palms face upwards and the two thumbs touch at their tips.

Nothing in life is more important than meditation. A life that is devoid of meditation soon becomes dull and superficial. Unless meditation is the be-all and end-all of life, there is the risk of degenerating into an animal-like existence that is centred around eating, drinking and mating. Persons who do not meditate tend to overestimate the things of this world and underestimate spirituality. But those who meditate realise that changes for the better keep on taking place in their inward nature. As they progress spiritually they can also observe that their day-to-day problems are no longer as burdensome as they used to be in times past. Above all, by meditating correctly they begin to experience a stress-free state of physical and psychological well-being.

I meet many men and women who have an aversion to meditation. They say that they are too busy with mundane matters and cannot afford the time and energy to meditate. What an excuse ! A committed materialist once remarked that only simple-minded folk are given to meditating because “meditation is just a pleasant escape from life’s sorrows and trials”. But meditation, it must be understood, is not necessarily an escape, for it has traditionally proved to be the quickest path to Enlightenment. Regarding persons who stubbornly refuse to meditate, they deserve to be pitied. They know not what they are missing ! Moreover, meditation is surely one of the best ways of spending your time, particularly because birth as a human being is such a rare event in our sorrowful samsaric cycle of births and deaths. Needless to say, those who for whatever reason fail to dedicate themselves to the supreme purpose of life, which is right meditation, are only wasting their precious lives. Now is the time to start meditating.

I was born in Sri Lanka where people set great store on meditation. Fortunately I studied Buddhism in two of the finest Buddhist colleges where students are instructed in meditation. The methods of meditation are too numerous to mention. Who am I to sit in judgement over these techniques ? Nevertheless, by a process of trial and error I have discovered that I cannot subscribe to any system of meditation. But I grant that others might find them quite helpful in obtaining some degree of inner tranquillity. However, does inner calm necessarily result in Liberation ?

During my schooldays I made friends with a Dutch Buddhist monk called Bhikkhu Dhammapala (Henri van Zeyst) who had previously been a Benedictine Catholic priest. A thin tall man with an ascetic face, Dhammapala once related a revealing incident in his life as a monk : “Along with twenty other monks, I was invited to an alms-giving in Kandy when we all took part in a feast. After the sumptuous lunch the donors requested me to preach a sermon. Among other things, I said, ‘There is no harm in making charitable donations. You will certainly acquire merit by giving food to monks but if you want to attain Nirvana you must meditate.’ After we had returned to the temple that afternoon, some of the monks scolded me. They said, ‘You were right in what you said, but if we all start saying such things, who will give us food ?’ ”

In nearly every method of meditation, alas, there is a doer who does the meditating. The existence of this doer or I is what keeps us in samsaric servitude. The more the “I” is activated, the stronger it becomes. Will the “I” ever be a party to its own destruction ?

When, for instance, one practises loving-kindness (metta ), believing that one is thereby radiating thoughts and feelings of goodwill in all directions to beings both visible and invisible, naively wishing every creature happiness, don’t all these actions subtly spring from the ego ? Is the ego given to doing anything that is not egocentric ? Besides, are persons who have envy and hatred and malice ever likely to treat others with genuine loving-kindness ? In other words, given one's evil and beastly nature, is one ever likely to behave compassionately ?

Whatever I do, the “I” or the ego is always there. It is like the inseparable shadow from which one can never escape. Now, is there a spiritual practice (sadhana) wherein the “I” is totally absent ? As the doer is always present in all one’s thoughts, words and deeds, it is very clear that doing nothing, which is the state of inaction, is certainly preferable to the self-centred state of action. All our thoughts, words and deeds are not only strongly influenced by the selfish demands of the ego, but also originate in the ego itself. Therefore any so-called spiritual practice that is even slightly tainted with the ego must be regarded as highly suspect and unreliable.

Would not all the pious practices of the doer of meditation inevitably result in dismal failure since the doer is incapable of impartial and undistorted perception ? Has the mind the ability to observe its own nature disinterestedly because, given its subtle desires and latent tendencies (vasanas), the mind is inevitably an interested party ? Our conditioned psyche is doomed in the sense that there is nothing that it can really do per se in order to progress spiritually. Now, what happens when this terrible predicament of ours is clearly understood ? Naturally there is helplessness and one realises that the state of inaction is the only possible sadhana. Then there is stillness. It is a natural stillness, not a discipline-induced artificial stillness that is temporary. In the past the hyperactive doer tried hard to become still, whereas now there is the supreme state of being still as the dangerous doer has died. This inner transformation is an effortless happening.

This is the disciplineless discipline, the methodless method, the pathless path, the systemless system, the wayless way of turning within and discovering the Absolute and eternally resting therein.

What happens in the supreme Kingdom of Pure Awareness ? All the activities of the mind will be seen as a mere series of shifting scenes on the changeless screen of pure awareness. It will come as a complete surprise to realise that all one’s past problems and sufferings had resulted from the terrible mistake of relying upon the mind for happiness, instead of discovering that peaceful and pristine source --- pure awareness --- and settling down once and for all.

The deceptive ways of the mind can be comprehended only from the vantage point of pure awareness --- the unsullied substratum on which the mind comes into existence and into which it must eventually merge. Whereas the mind is just a temporary resident of this Kingdom of Pure Awareness and a proudly troublesome one at that, this holy realm remains outside the sphere of the mind. The mind dwells in it but not vice versa.

The bright light of pure awareness is Liberation itself. Can this light be suddenly switched on, so to speak, by making a determined effort on the ego’s part ? Would the “I” be willing or cooperative in this matter ? That hardly happens for the existence of the “I” is the major obstacle to noticing the light. Actually that light was always there in all its splendour. It is simply that all these past years we have been foolishly unaware of its perpetual presence.

When the torch of pure awareness focuses on the operations of the mind, at once there is undistorted perception and the flowering of intelligence. Then it will be seen that thoughts and feelings are like short-lived waves that are breaking on the seashore, making it very clear that “consciousness” or “mind” is just a haphazard collection of thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations and the like. The contents of the mind keep on changing. One combination of thoughts, feelings and the like are soon followed by another one. The mind certainly seems to exist but in reality there are only streams of images that quickly appear and soon disappear. Therefore one of the greatest discoveries that meditators make is the startling realisation that there is no such thing as “mind”, which is just a concept or a figment of the imagination. Similarly, it dawns on the meditator that there is no such thing as the “I” either. The cherished belief in the existence of a “personality” springs from the erroneous impression in the thought process that there is an everlasting entity called the “I” which exists separately from all other things. But, as already described, there is nothing in the field of consciousness that is unchanging or constant.

Many are the theories relating to the emergence of the ego. Some say that the “I” thought was the first thought ; others maintain that on account of the mind’s kaleidoscopic unsteadiness, which results in a sense of insecurity and uneasiness, the mind cunningly invents the “I” that helps to generate a sense of undisturbed security and comfortable continuity. Be that as it may, it is more important to dissolve the ego than to speculate about its origins.

Why do we fail to see that thought distorts the perception of reality ? Man’s enslavement to thought is the root cause of his misery. Spending one’s entire life with a cluttered mind is one thing ; using thought only when the situation so demands it and then disentangling oneself from thought, is quite another. The sages use thought only when it becomes necessary to do so, such as for purposes of communication, but immediately afterwards they revert to their natural and primordial state of pure awareness.

The liberated sage, observing all phenomena that arise from the senses, watching without judging, saying neither “this is good” nor “that is bad”, simply seeing how thoughts and feelings come into existence and then drift away like the passing clouds in the sky of pure awareness, remains forever in this state of deep meditation. This silent sphere is utterly blissful as he is no longer troubled by the doings of the doer. Having discovered that abiding and exalted state of egolessness, the sage has boundless compassion for one and all.

Moments of quietude prevail in the period of time between two thoughts. These are our sacred seconds. Whereas some human beings occasionally catch a glimpse of pure awareness, thereby experiencing a few fleeting moments of blessed calm, spiritually emancipated sages are permanently in this rare realm, hence peace and joy and freedom from sorrow and depression is for them the norm rather than the exception.

Today it has become fashionable to say that one practises meditation. Consequently one can find a bewildering variety of methods of meditation that are all attributed to the Buddha. I do not know if these techniques are authentic. Can anyone be very sure about them ? I have heard it said that the Buddha did not stick to any particular method, but recommended ones that were appropriate for the special needs of individuals. The matter is unclear and confusing ; be that as it may, what the Buddha actually did himself is far more significant than what he is supposed to have instructed others to practise. Surely his deeds express the truth more accurately and eloquently than any words. How did the Buddha himself meditate ?

Towards the end of his life the Buddha made a remarkable statement to his closest disciple Ananda :

Only on those occasions when the Perfect One stops focusing his attention on all that is external, by bringing his feelings to an end, by steadfastly remaining in the state that is detached and objectless, only then is the Perfect One’s body comfortable”

Mahaparinibbana Sutta --- Digha Nikaya ii 100


One can surmise that in this pure state he remained absolutely unaffected by both body and mind, neither sullied by emotions nor mental pictures. As he was totally withdrawn from all sense-experience, there was probably no consciousness of his own body either. There was inner peace because, paradoxical though it may seem, the Buddha’s supremely awakened state of being was full of vitality, but calm and unattached to anything nevertheless. He was active, yet inactive in this non-dualistic state.

If what the Buddha told Ananda is anything to go by, we can surmise that objectlessness is a thought-free state of nothingness in which there is no focusing of attention on anything. Neither is one under pressure to watch the seemingly ceaseless movement of the river of thoughts and feelings nor the breathing-in and breathing-out process. It is also noteworthy that the detached state has no vantage points whatsoever ; there is no special vantage point such as the ego for thinking and judging and observing, precisely because there is no “thinker” (ego) that thinks thoughts. Strictly speaking, there are no thoughts either for one is, as already mentioned, in an objectless state. Therefore the highest meditation takes place only when, so to speak, the egoless state of emptiness looks at the prevailing emptiness itself.

An American correspondent, a young lady, asked me the following question : What spiritual practices, if any, do you do ?

After a lifetime of doing various spiritual practices (sadhanas), I have ceased doing any !

One day I realised that the very desire to try doing this practice or that practice was really part of the mind’s turbulent disposition. So I stopped doing them altogether. Now I know that not doing any spiritual practice is in fact the highest spiritual practice ! What I realised was essentially the teaching of a remarkable Sri Lankan saint.

He said Summa Iru which means DO NOTHING.

Needless to say, for this profound insight I am deeply indebted to Saint Yogaswami of Sri Lanka.

I shall try to express myself in another way. The thought-process is in a state of perpetual flux. Restlessness is the basic characteristic of the mind. Understanding the restless nature of the mind is not at all easy, but when there is an insight into this matter, it will be very clearly seen that the desire to do various spiritual practices springs from this very restlessness. The mind then withdraws into itself and a state of serenity spontaneously comes into being. The ending of restlessness is the beginning of heavenly happiness.


Nirvana the Highest Happiness

New Delhi: New Age Books.


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Modus Operandi of Meditation

There is a widespread belief that resentments should be forcefully destroyed by using one’s will power. Any effort to repress resentments is doomed to failure. Yes, it is certainly possible to brush away temporarily anything that is negative in ourselves, but these dark traits, after periods of short-lived inactivity, will start surfacing again, like a temporarily subdued snake that soon coils up and is ready to strike again. That it will certainly do with redoubled strength.

Anyone who tries to use forceful methods or indeed any method for the removal of resentments will only succeed in strengthening his will power, which exists in the form of the ‘I’. The resentments are part of the ego, and the ego never wants to be a party to its own destruction. The crafty ‘I’ will never agree to its own strangulation. Exercising brute force, either grossly or subtly, which people do in the name of ‘meditation’, does not result in the elimination of the ‘I’ but only in its reinstatement. Only by the light of intelligence does the ‘I’ disappear. In the prevailing nothingness there is Metta.

Hatred cannot be ironed out by any system, method or technique, but the moment the mind intelligently and fully understands the underlying causes of hatred that had hitherto remained hidden, the mind dissociates itself from hatred. The complex structure of hatred collapses and Metta mysteriously appears. In the same way that a roof collapses under the heavy weight of snow, hatred collapses under the weight of intelligence or understanding.

Whenever anger arises, simply stay with it, observe it impartially and just notice its fleeting existence. Watch anger carefully, neither approving nor disapproving of it. Experience anger only mentally, but never express it externally (say, scolding or slapping someone). Watch its operations within, and in so doing, see its complex structure and deep origins. Anger would start revealing its ancient roots, provided there is no interference with it whatsoever. Then the once troublesome anger will begin to erode and wear itself out. That will be the beginning of the end of anger. Resentments would, however, occasionally come to the surface. When that happens, once again permit anger to arise and allow it to stay, then it will start telling its last remaining secrets. But once anger finishes relating its story, it would have run out of venom, and then like a slowly moving cloud in the sky, it will pass across the mind. Anger, which in the past was a frequent visitor, will never again want to pay a visit. Eventually, following the purification of the mind, Metta will be the norm and not the exception.

Being mentally alert is synonymous with being in a state of wakeful meditation. It is meditation, which is also called awareness, that would clear up man’s messy interior. It is a common fallacy to think that Metta can be artificially foisted on the mind by various means, especially by the process of repressing anger. Since anger can never coexist with Metta, it is first of all necessary to allow the light of awareness to dissolve anger so that the soil of the mind is made ready for the tree of Metta to grow and blossom.

Those who realise that it is unsettling, uncomfortable and unhealthy to loathe their enemies, and those who also understand that their simmering hate gnaws away at their peace of mind, which attitude, in turn, leads to sleepless nights, would all of a sudden see a sea change within themselves.

That very seeing, and that very act of changing interiorly, these two things take place at the same time. Seeing intelligently and acting intelligently happen simultaneously. The liberation of the mind from hate occurs when there is this flash of intelligence or clarity, namely the undistorted perception of the existence of hate and all its unpleasant ramifications. In the same way that a withered leaf or a dying branch drops down, our antagonism towards our enemies also drops down. The state of animosity gets automatically replaced by the state of amity, which is Metta.

So joyful a state is Metta that it precludes the possibility of the existence of any negative state. For instance, the person who is filled with Metta is capable of loving even someone who had wronged him in the past. He becomes so forgiving that he can never bear a grudge even against his worst enemies.



We are the products of what we have thought ---

We are based on our thoughts,

We are composed of our thoughts.

If one speaks or acts

With a bad thought,

Suffering will follow that person

In the same way that the wheel

Follows the ox’s foot that draws the cart.’

Dhammapada, 1

We are the products of what we have thought ---

We are based on our thoughts,

We are composed of our thoughts.

If one speaks or acts

With a pure thought,

Happiness will follow that person

In the same way that the wheel

Follows the ox’s foot that draws the cart.’

Dhammapada, 2


In these very two opening verses of the Dhammapada the Buddha shows that man’s mind is the sole controller of his destiny in the sense that there is a direct connection between the quality of the thoughts that we think and what will become of us. Although we live in a world with millions of material things around us, the truth is that we live mainly in the private worlds of our minds. Regardless of our external surroundings --- be it abject poverty or opulence --- our happiness or unhappiness depends respectively on the presence or absence of pure thoughts. Do political, social, economic and other reforms really result in abiding joy and contentment for anyone? It is seldom seen that changing the mind is the only means to the creation of a happy world.



In those who have thoughts

Such as “he insulted me, he hit me,

He subdued me, he stole from me,”

Their anger continues to exist.’

Dhammapada, 3

‘In those who have no thoughts

Such as “he insulted me, he hit me,

He subdued me, he stole from me,”

Their anger has ceased to exist.’

Dhammapada, 4

Watchfulness is the way to the deathless.

Inattentiveness is the way to death.

The watchful do not die.

The inattentive are like the dead.’

Dhammapada, 21

By closely understanding this difference,

The wise who are watchful

Rejoice in watchfulness,

And take delight

In the realm of the Pure.’

Dhammapada, 22


---The First and Best Buddhist Teachings

Sutta Nipata Selections and Inspired Essays

New Delhi: New Age Books.

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The Art of Real Meditation




Gotama’s disciples are always alert

And wide awake, taking delight

In pure meditation day and night”


The Dhammapada 301



Throughout the ages man has invented numerous systems of meditation. These methods of meditation were ingeniously devised in the belief and expectation that his strivings might somehow result in spiritual salvation. In man’s religious quest there seems to have been an underlying belief that meditation was the path to Reality. Having thus conceived the Ultimate in his imagination, man strove vainly to find ways and means of ‘discovering’ it. Seldom was it realised that the imagined Ultimate as well as all the supposed paths leading thereto were all equally the clever fabrications of the human mind.

The examination of every known system of meditation can be very laborious and time-consuming. Fortunately, however, systems of meditation, both ancient and modern, fall conveniently into easily recognisable groups. Often what is advertised as the latest system of meditation turns out to be an adaptation of an old technique by a new guru under a new name ! For the purpose of this discussion it will suffice if we examine just one representative method of meditation of each type. At the end of this survey one should be able to recognise the salient characteristics and limitations of all these methods.

There are so many fallacious systems of meditation that at the outset one is rather bewildered, not knowing exactly what to do. Nevertheless it is possible to begin by detecting the fallacies in any one of the given systems of meditation. Now, the detecting of the false elements in a system is not a waste of time and energy. Such discoveries awaken the mind and so one is cautioned against any future involvement in erroneous practices ; at the same time, by actually perceiving the false as the false one catches a fleeting glimpse of the truth. Many of man’s psychological complications spring from his mistaking the false for the true or from his substitution of illusion for actuality. Therefore the approach to real meditation is necessarily a negative one in the sense that one starts by discarding one by one all those time-honoured systems of meditation that have hitherto misled and kept us in the dark.

Some systems of meditation have been designed to quieten the mind and lull it into an artificial tranquillity. The main criticism of all such systems is that any effort to quieten the mind must necessarily not only activate the ego or the “I” in man but strengthen it as well.

The adherents of these systems rarely, if ever, pose the following very important question : Who is trying to quieten the mind ? An artificially quietened mind is full of the ego’s sense of achievement and fulfilment.

Mantra yoga is the best known technique of stilling the mind. The spiritual aspirant is either given by his guru or he selects for himself a sacred word or a syllable, sometimes even a meaningless sound which he has to repeat endlessly. Incidentally, a word is neither sacred nor profane, but that is another matter. For centuries people have repeated words and phrases such as “Ave Maria”, “Hare Krishna”, “Allah” and “Om”. The mechanical and parrot-like repetition of a word or phrase, either audibly or inaudibly, is childishly simple and easy. After a time the mind gets hypnotised by what is repeated and thereafter the word or phrase starts echoing in one’s consciousness. The surface layers of the mind slacken and quieten down for a time. But behind this facade of peace there lies the whole of the unconscious with its entire gamut of conflicts, demands and problems. Does one become any more intelligent by artificially and temporarily quietening down the turbulent mind ? Indeed the whole process of stilling the mind betrays a lack of real intelligence. An intelligent mind is not one that has been lulled into a state of inactivity, but rather a mind that is pulsating with life and vigour. Not having been drugged by words, an intelligent mind is vitally alert, sharp, quick and perceptive.

One of the supposed advantages of stilling the mind, it has been argued, is the possibility of enabling the suppressed unconscious to pour out its contents. Even if this claim were true, what would be the point of releasing the unconscious into the open at a time when one was not totally awake to observe ? In any case, the unconscious mind reveals itself at unguarded moments. The unconscious mind may be likened to a cunning thief who hides himself when chased, but comes out into the open when one is least expecting him. Therefore real meditation does not consist in the deliberate pursuit of the unconscious. The unconscious unravels itself only to him who is all the time in a state of pure meditation : in other words, a state wherein the mind is both passive and watchful.

For many people meditation means nothing more than rigorous self-analysis. This process is sometimes called introspection. The mind is used as an instrument to analyse itself. The heavily conditioned mind, alas, is made to operate on itself. In this process one part of the mind attempts vainly to investigate another part of itself. This exercise results only in the rearrangement of old thoughts in new patterns. Consequently, no new insights into the nature and structure of the mind are ever obtained. Because the mind is already conditioned, it is naturally incapable of inquiring into itself in a genuine spirit of impartiality and objectivity. One cannot overlook the fact that the self-analytical process will necessarily be influenced by the state of the conditioned mind with all its psychological complexities such as fears, obsessions, aspirations, frustrations, urges and the like. So tremendous and powerful is the psychological foundation on the basis of which one thinks, feels and acts that it inevitably influences and distorts any kind of analysis, let alone self-analysis.

Self-analysis stimulates the mind into a state of heightened activity, but not into one of clarity. The more intellectual one is the more attractive self-analysis becomes since the intellect can be given full rein.

At this point it is necessary to ask ourselves once again the following important question : Who is the “analyser” in self-analysis ? There is an illusory entity that laboriously engages itself in analysis. This entity is an invention of the conditioned mind in its yearning for permanency and security. This false notion of “I am” is the source of endless strife not only within ourselves but also in the world at large. There is a touch of irony when the “analyser” proudly and self-assertively tries to explore his consciousness, for the “analyser” is as much a product of, and is in fact of the same substance as, the twisted, complicated and conditioned mind itself, which he sets out to analyse.

There are other pitfalls in self-analysis. Through self-analysis one has the expectation of successfully uncovering the various layers of the mind, removing layer after layer until the whole structure and nature of consciousness is revealed. But the mind is too intricately woven a mechanism to be visualised in terms of layers as though it were a sort of cake with neatly discernible layers. But even if we suppose that consciousness consists of such layers, there is in this process the dangerous possibility of misdirection. After uncovering each layer, data are collected and conclusions are drawn with the help of which one tries to uncover the subsequent layers. Now, if wrong conclusions are mistakenly deduced at any one stage, this entire inner investigative process there onwards naturally gets misdirected.

Another serious limitation of self-analysis is that it prevents total and instantaneous perception. Such perception occurs in a flash and not gradually in stages. For example, the total perception of a house occurs suddenly and instantaneously. One does not analytically separate a house into its component parts first and then notice its existence in toto afterwards. One does not separately see the windows, doors, walls and roof and then , after a time, say “ah, yes, I am seeing a house” ! On the contrary, one perceives together all these component parts which collectively go to form the house. Similarly, it is not through a long and tedious process of dissection and analysis that the nature and structure of the mind is grasped. That profound perception takes place in an instantaneous flash of pure awareness when the mind, because it has ceased chattering and analysing, has suddenly become extraordinarily still.

Some schools of meditation advocate the practice of concentration which is supposed to give the restless mind the rare qualities of stability, power and a certain single-mindedness. The object of concentration is usually a symbol, image or idea which has been selected according to one’s own fancy. Sometimes the selection is made by the guru in his supposedly superior wisdom. The exercise in concentration begins with the effort to focus all one’s attention and energy on a predetermined object, such as object A for example. The concentrator tries hard to direct his mind solely to object A, only to find it shifting away to object B. Then he struggles to drag the mind from object B to the original object A, but by then the mind has changed its areas of interest to objects X, Y and Z. Before long the mind becomes a veritable battlefield of conflicting thoughts that are pulling in diverse directions. This mass of confusion soon reduces one to a state of utter nervous exhaustion.

It is unfortunate that those who practise concentration seldom ask themselves the following key question : Who is trying to concentrate ? Is not the entity that is struggling to concentrate no other than our old mischievous and almost inseparable companion, namely, the ego or the “I” ? Is not the practice of concentration a subtle means of exercising and thereby sustaining the existence of this ego, which is always trying to survive in various ways?

Instead of trying to control the psychological process through concentration or any other kind of interference, why not leave it alone ? The stream of consciousness, which is sometimes called the thought process, may be likened to a swiftly flowing river. Surely the course of a river cannot be discovered by blocking or channelling it. The course is best understood by following it to wherever the current leads. Therefore, as the mind moves from A to B and from B to C and so on, is it not wiser to follow its course without any interference whatsoever ? The course of a stream can be very clearly seen by simply following it to wherever the current leads. When one’s attention wanders, why not allow it to wander freely ? When the mind gets distracted, is anything gained by resorting to crude methods of subjugating the thought process, such as analysis or concentration ? Why not find out everything about the factors that cause distraction ? Every distraction has a story to tell ; every distraction is a golden opportunity that opens the doors of self-knowledge ; every distraction indicates the existence of some area of interest of which one has hitherto been partially or totally unaware. Distraction is also caused by the existence of dark and unexplored regions in the mind.

The empty and unconditioned mind never has to struggle. For in that motiveless and karma-free state the mind can easily concentrate on any subject without making any effort whatsoever.

Real meditation consists in the passive awareness of all one’s thoughts and feelings from moment to moment.

It is the non-discriminatory and unprejudiced observation of all one’s psychological reactions to people, events, situations, ideas and so forth. Meditation is a passive activity because one makes no attempt whatsoever to interfere with the psychological process. It is called a passive activity because there is no repression, condemnation or justification of what one observes within oneself.

This non-judgemental passive observation of the mind may be likened to watching the passing traffic on the road. One watches the traffic on the street pass by, without doing anything about it. But such observation is not by any means easy because we have been accustomed to judge, evaluate, condemn, compare, approve or justify our thoughts and feelings. It is these deeply ingrained tendencies that have made our minds so dull and mechanical. But the pure mind --- the mind that is non-mechanical, totally unconditioned, free of karma and creative --- does not distort perception but simply and innocently observes everything in both the world within and the world without. The pure mind sees things as they are in Reality.

There is real meditation only when one is in that sublime state of being without desire. It is only when the mind is no longer volitional that it does not create karma. Such a mind is pure.

The constant undistorted observation of oneself results in the exposure of the hidden depths of the unconscious. Such observation or awareness is that pure flame which alone will burn away all our psychological complications. While it is comparatively easy to observe one’s thoughts and feelings superficially, it is far more difficult to be aware of the hidden forces underlying these thoughts and feelings --- the unknown fears, hopes, ambitions and urges that shape our day-to-day behaviour. Meditation then is the golden means whereby the conditioned mind becomes unconditioned. A life that is not dedicated to meditation soon becomes superficial, miserable and dull ; on the other hand, the person who cares to meditate becomes psychologically cleansed. Only in this state of inner purity does one experience the bliss of Liberation.

This, monks, is Nanda’s mindfulness and clear comprehension. Here, monks, for Nanda feelings are understood as they arise, as they remain present, as they pass away ; perceptions are understood as they arise, as they remain present, as they pass away; thoughts are understood as they arise, as they remain present, as they pass away. This, monks, is Nanda’s mindfulness and clear comprehension.”

Anguttara Nikaya viii 9




---Nirvana the Highest Happiness

New Delhi: New Age Books.

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Nothing either Inside or Outside


In the Posalamanavapuccha Posala seeks the Buddha’s advice.



Posala: “To the one who shows the past, who is devoid of both desire and doubt and who has transcended all phenomena, I have come with the intention of posing a question.”


“I ask you, O Sakyan, about the knowledge of the one who has gone beyond the perception of forms, who has renounced all corporeality and who also sees that there is nothing either inside or outside. Can such a person be led to a greater extent?”


The Buddha: “The Tathagata (the Perfect One)

Knows all the stations

Of consciousness,

O Posala,

He knows the one

Who is released

As well as the one

Devoted to Emancipation.

Having discovered

The state of nothingness,

He regards rejoicing

As nothing

But a bond.

Seeing this to be so,

He obtains an insight into it.

This is the true knowledge

Of the perfect Brahmin.


---Serenity Here and Now

The Buddha's Sutta-Nipata Sermons

New Delhi: New Age Books.


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Be Mindful Always


In the Mogharajamanavapuccha Mogharaja seeks the Buddha’s advice.



Mogharaja: “On two separate occasions, O Sakyan, I have asked a question but the All-Wise-Seer (Cakkhuma) did not give an answer. I have heard that celestial seers answer questions only when asked the third time.”

“I do not know how the renowned Gotama regards this world, the next world and the Brahma world with its celestial beings.”

I have come to put a question to the one with such excellent insight. How must one perceive the world so as not to be observed by the King of Death (Maccuraja)?”

The Buddha: “Mogharaja,

Be mindful always.

By looking at

The emptiness

Or the void

That characterises the world,

And by dropping the view that

The ‘self’ exists,

One defeats death.

The King of Death

Will fail to observe the person

Who perceives the world

In the aforementioned manner.


---Serenity Here and Now

The Buddha's Sutta-Nipata Sermons

New Delhi: New Age Books.

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