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Meditation & Its Practices
Swami Adiswarananda

A Definitive Guide to Techniques and Traditions of Meditation in Yoga and Vedanta.




Swami Adiswarananda

Life in this world is not what it appears to be. It is plagued by pairs of opposites, such as pain and pleasure, birth and death, and hope and disappointment. It is subject to six changes: birth, subsistence, growth, maturity, decline, and death. Dangers and difficulties pursue us everywhere. Uncertainties at every step of life create anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. Our optimism turns into pessimism, as we grow older. Youthful dreams of happiness and fulfillment rarely come to be true. It is said that a human individual is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed. Asked by a king about the meaning of life, a sage once replied, “A man is born, he suffers, and he dies.” More than twenty-five hundred years ago Buddha said that if all the tears that had flowed from human eyes since the beginning of creation were gathered together, they would exceed the waters of the ocean.

            Responses to the problem of suffering have been various. Believers in a millennium live with the hope that some day a prophet or an incarnation of God will be born and usher in a golden age of peace and happiness. There are others who try to cope with the problems of life. Dangers and difficulties, uncertainties and changes, they say, are inevitable and nothing can be done about them, and so we must learn to live with them. Transcendentalists try to withdraw from life and seek solace and serenity on the spiritual plane. So-called pragmatists maintain that this life is the only life we have and so we must enjoy it to the full. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Progressivists believe that through the advancement of science and technology some day all evils and ills will be eliminated and then there would be only good. Hardened materialists choose to fight the ills of life solely by material means. People of faith consider life inherently corrupt and sinful, and are of the opinion that any attempt to improve it is futile. They bear with life and practice virtues, hoping for compensation hereafter. But none of the above solutions really helps us to face and overcome the problems of life.

            The hopes of the believers in a golden age end in disappointment. The golden age never comes. Coping with the problems of life is easier said than done. There is a limit to coping and beyond that limit life becomes unbearable. The transcendentalists want to escape the problems of life by withdrawing into silence and solitude. But we must not forget that the world follows us wherever we go. The so-called pragmatists also become disappointed because enjoyments only temporarily excite the senses and such excitement is followed by sorrow. Progressivists believe in progress toward good and hope to eliminate evil altogether. But as we make progress toward good, evil also increases in the same proportion; we cannot increase the one without increasing the other. The efforts of the materialists to overcome the problems of life through material means are never successful. All the ills of life are not physical. Material solutions are useless against old age, fear, anxiety, and death. For the people of faith, the rewards of the hereafter, whatever they may be, cannot take away the suffering of life here on earth. There can be no heavenly solutions to our earthly problems.

            Yoga and Vedanta ask us to face the problems of life through Knowledge of Reality. The ills of life are not created by God, or by the stars, or by luck, but by our own inability to live in the light of Reality. Good and evil move together¾one cannot be separated from the other. There is no absolute definition of good or evil. What is good for one may be bad for another. The world we live in is in our own mind.



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Copyright© 2003, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.

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