Connecting with the Source
Another week, another bloody confrontation between Arab and Jew in the Middle East. “This war between Jews and Arabs will continue for years and years to come,” I said glumly this morning as I scanned yesterday’s paper.
It doesn’t have to be so. It is difficult to imagine, with each side’s positions so implacably held, but I believe that anything is possible, including peaceful coexistence, under the right circumstances.
What would these circumstances be? My answer may not be what you are expecting.
When I was deeply involved in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation organization, I remember Maharishi talking about the obligation and potential of religion to teach people how to contact the Divine and integrate that into their ordinary lives. He said that the word “religion” meant originally the concept of “return’ – a return to one’s inner Self or God. (I always feel like putting God in quotation marks due to the word’s ubiquity and different meanings and understandings in different traditions, religions and societies.)
Looking at the Online Etymology Dictionary, the closest that I can get to Maharishi’s definition of “religion” is this, among many: the word’s “…interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.”
If there is something to blame for many of the conflicts in the world, I think, the enormous stresses that people feel on a daily basis and many other seemingly unrelated problems, I would say that it is the failure of religion to accomplish what it is really supposed to do: help bind people to their inner source, their “soul”, which is a very purifying experience of Unity and Bliss and Oneness.
“It’s like having a computer,” I explained to Naomi, remembering another analogy that I think Maharishi used many moons ago, “with tons of power and potential, and people are stuck on studying the manual instead of using the computer.”
The problem is that religious leaders are overly concerned with external behaviour, the moral lessons, as well as abstract philosophical ideas, not to mention the much more negative stressing of how “we” are “saved” while “the others” are damned, etc. etc., instead of seriously learning how their particular religion tackles the issue of binding their followers to the heaven within & without, along with the necessary purification on the level of the nervous system that accompanies such an experience.
I’m a good example of what I’m talking about. I learned meditation when I was 16. I like to say that there are two groups of people who learn to meditate, two different sets of needs. The first is the “sufferers”. To them, as it was with me, a person is desperate for a cure for what is ailing him or her, mental, emotional or physical. Meditation becomes the life preserver that he holds onto to pull himself out of his particular form of despair. Tons of research has shown that meditation brings a myriad of benefits in the areas mentioned above due to the daily release of stress that results when a person personally experiences the binding of his self, his mind, with the inner Silence not hitherto experienced. And on a daily basis, too, if practiced correctly.
The second group seems to be those who are extremely successful, the Oprah Winfreys of the world —and there are a great many celebrities these days talking more and more often about their meditation practice– who feel a need to balance their outer success with inner development.
But, going back to me again, now that I’ve been meditating for almost 44 years, I feel that I can say that if religious leaders rediscovered the “computer” of the above analogy, stopped reading and rereading the manual but actually practiced the mental techniques that are found in all religions and, most importantly, began teaching to their followers the correct, natural techniques inherent in their religious traditions regarding how to bind oneself to the Divine — that World Peace would descend on Planet Earth the following day, even in the most impossible places like the Middle East.
That’s how powerful meditation can be, particularly when practiced by groups of people as opposed to an individual here and there.
One problem in the mystification of meditation, the belief that only special people in any specific religious tradition can attain a divine experience and experience “God”. People give up before they try, thinking themselves not “deep” enough or “holy” enough. Err, so-called mystics, while lucky to come across their particular meditation technique, are just ordinary folk like you or me. The heightened experience that they talk and write about can be an everyday thing for you or me. We just need to do it.
I practice three techniques derived from three religions traditions: Hindu (or Vedic), Jewish and Buddhist with the odd foray into Christian. Binding oneself to one’s inner divine nature is like sitting with a powerful CEO: much more can be accomplished doing this than by walking outside reading the CEO’s newsletter.
Listen to what David had to say in the very first psalm:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
I italicized two lines which I find particularly meaningful. Peace between Hindu and Muslim, Muslim and Christian, Arab and Jew, stressed non-religious people and other stressed non-religious people, in fact, everyone, can actually become a reality if they discover the truth to the line that Jesus is supposed to have said: The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.
This is not just talk. You need to walk the walk with daily practice. The so-called Kingdom of Heaven that is supposedly within you is there for you to discover.
It does take time, not only the 20 minutes twice a day that you do it, but the many years of practice and “unstressing” that precedes clearer and clearer experiences of inner bliss. The experience is worth the work, I think, but, most importantly, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, in this case, taking a stressed and unhappy person (as I was) and turning him, over time, into a calm, mindful one. If my anger can dissipate over time, anyone’s can.
It’s too bad that religion and religious leaders are failing humanity so badly.