Long ago, a humble Indian prince named Siddhartha walked the path of Dhamma, in search of life’s meaning and bring an antidote to suffering millions. In the process, he became a fully enlightened one, the Buddha. He brought Dhamma back into the lives of millions of ordinary citizens and the elite alike. A lost science, that became unknown for thousands of years was re-discovered again, by Buddha.
But this journey from being Siddhartha Gautama to becoming a Buddha was not easy. It was a long and tenuous journey, that is bound to give insights into our own journeys. As more and more people choose mindfulness today, it is important that people know about this path, else there is a danger, that one may get deceived and starts the journey on a path completely opposite to mindfulness.
Many a technique developed for healthy, free, and mindful living got commoditized in the name of religion, social customs, and traditions. Wonderful techniques developed by wise sages, like Samarpan (Surrender), Kayopasna (mastering the body), Anarambh (being a non-starter), Vipashyana (especially gazing internally), Mantra Chanting Techniques, and many others became tools in the hands of a few – to bind people, rather than free them, by self-proclaimed masters.
The techniques were taught to their disciples by several great sages like Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Nanak et al, over-ages, but slowly these techniques were corrupted to control the masses, by a few in the name of religion. This happens to great teachings and techniques all the time. In their effort to gain power and control the masses, some corrupted people, corrupt the technique.
But who can corrupt truth? It cannot be corrupted, it rises again and again from the ashes, to free people of their agony.
“Paritraṇaya sadhunam vinashaya cha duṣhkṛitam, dharma-sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge“
Meaning: To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma, I appear on this earth, age after age, so said Krishna to Arjun in the Bhagwad Gita.
Many times, I have seen people say and feel, that Krishna, is so egoistic – he says he will come to protect. But this is not the case. Here “Sambhavami” does not mean “I appear” in the sense of a God appearing, but it means the rise of self, the rise of dharma to annihilate darkness. Truth reappears. It re-establishes its kingdom. It destroys darkness. I see that such a time has again risen today. The next few centuries are about the rise of this truth, and as more and amongst us choose mindfulness-related practices, we and our next few generations will benefit immensely by reaching higher levels of being and even salvation. Awareness and mindfulness are new names of the same Dhamma preached by Buddha 2500 years ago, or Dharma as taught by Krishna 5000 years ago.
In this context, it is important to understand Siddhartha Gautam’s journey to get insights into our own personal journey of mindfulness. His life story is a great source of insight, on how to choose the path, how to persistently discover self and remain away from people, systems, and techniques that are more designed to confuse us in the discovery process rather than help. He was a great experimenter, and in his initial experiment with his own self and techniques over 20 tenuous years, helped him to find a path that helped him reach His salvation.
What Buddha did, and what we can learn from it? Buddha of course, propagated the eight-fold path of living. However, in his journey, there were a few interesting decisions – that helped him break barriers and continue on an onward journey.
The First Step – Choose Your Teacher in Complete Wisdom
While every teacher tests students, Buddha taught us to test the teachers as well. He continued to change teachers, as he realized, that he has either got no more to learn, or there is nothing much to learn. A simple technique in today’s time to know whether your teacher, (and nowadays one has so many teachers and even apps to teach mindfulness and awareness) is worthy of teaching you or not is to know the teacher’s interest in teaching you. S/he maybe not worthy of teaching if a) the interest is in increasing his / her followership. b) he/she tries to attach you to a symbolic identity over and above your current one, like religious affiliation, or a certain kind of community, a uniform, or some symbols to augment your appearance, et al. Symbolism is the greatest bondage, stay as far away from people who advise you to follow symbolism. c) the interest is purely commercial, with no other motivation or purpose.
Such teachers are likely to cause more damage to you than the benefit you, and you must be alert and aware of your choice of a teacher. Ancient wisdom guides us – your intention presents the Guru. The right guru will come to you, with just your right intention. If your intention is materialistic, that is the kind of Guru, you would attract. And therefore, like Buddha, work on your intention to be mindful – not to gain something (like health or wealth), but just for the sake of mindfulness itself.
The Second Step- There is No Automaticity in Meditation
Consciousness is opposite of automatic stimulus-response behavior. Being conscious, aware, and mindful requires refraining from any automatic behavior, including the practice of meditation itself. Practice every day, but practice mindfully. Do not bring automaticity into your practice. I have seen people who mindlessly chant a mantra, with a thousand different thoughts crossing their minds. That is not meditation. A lot of times mindfulness teachers will tell you to follow a routine, but in no way misunderstand them. The routine does not mean making your practice automatic. Practice consciously, whether it is observing your breath, or chanting a mantra. Conscious behavior is important in meditation, not acting with your psychomotor system. At the same time, continuity of practice is important – following routine consciously, all the time, with complete attention and awareness of practice is important. On closer observation, you would see no dichotomy here.
The moment you feel your chant, or practice is becoming psychomotor, change it – Keep changing the practice, till there is nothing but consciousness remaining – of every action, every movement, every response. One day there will not even be a practice left, it will just be a continuous flow of life. J. Krishnamurti wrote a lot on that, and his teachings are so powerful in attaining that flow of being in a continuous conscious state.
The Third Step – You are Your Own Guru
Atta hi attano natho, atta hi attano gati; Meaning, you are your own master, you make your own future. So said Buddha in the Dhammapad (380). Finally, you are your own Guru. Observe yourself mindfully, and slowly move to a practice that is fit for you. Some people like meditating by the sea, some in closed rooms, some others like to read about principles, some like to listen to meditative music. Remember, in the end, it is just your own personal journey – shape your journey the suits you the most. And know, that in the end you will have to traverse your journey by yourself alone. So one day, as you keep walking on the journey, you will anyway give up every bearing one-by-one. But till then do not worry about how others practice, and what are their likes. Follow your own path and be your own Guru – choosing the setting, time, and method that best suits you.
“Attadipa Viharath Attasarana Anannasarana, Dhammadipa Dhammasarana Anannasarana.“
Meaning: Abide with oneself as an island, with oneself as a refuge. Abide with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge. Seek not for an external refuge (Digha Nikaya, maha parinibbana sutta).
Your destination is just you. Nowhere else. So, practice to be yourself, right from the beginning.
The Fourth Step – Meditation Can’t Have Goals
Unfortunately in the way we are educated, we always start with a goal in mind. However, mindfulness is exactly the opposite of that, a goal-less mind. There is no objective to be achieved. If you meditate for an objective, you are objectifying your practice of meditation. A difficult proposition to practice, it takes time to build. However, move towards a state slowly, where you are not trying to attach your practice to anything, no objectives of health, wisdom, happiness, relationships et al. Just practice being and becoming. See yourself move from moment to moment into a new you, with no bearing of the past you. One day, as you would drop all the past you’s and with no aspiration of future you’s, with no beginning or end in mind, that will be the start of true “Sadhna” or blissful meditation. Do not even try, to make that an objective, just start your practice with being, as it is, as one is.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka, says, “Never mind what I have been taught. Forget about theories and prejudices and stereotypes. I want to understand the true nature of life. I want to know what this experience of being alive really is. I want to apprehend the true and deepest qualities of life, and I do not want to just accept somebody else’s explanation. I want to see it for myself.” Just Seeing, is the end objective in meditation. Just seeing, without any judgment and reaching back at your elemental state, where there is no programming, and your mind is still and free.
These are a few insights I found in the journey Siddhartha took to be a Buddha. And each one of us has our own journeys to walk. Do not get prejudiced by others, and in the name of meditation attach yourself to ideas and systems that convert you from one state of unknowingness to the other. Choose your path wisely, consciously, without being fooled to believe in something that you get in return. Traverse your journey into the mindful and aware realm. This journey is the most fruitful journey, that many of us are choosing today, and this is bound to continue creating a more aware society and generations.