The greatest meditator the world has ever known was my ancestor, Siddharth Gautam, The Buddha. The prince turned Divine said in his speeches some 2500 years ago that one should contemplate and meditate on 1) feelings and emotions; 2) on body; 3) on breath, and 4) on thoughts. His advice is thoroughly secular and can be followed by any one of any faith or religion. Meditation is not some sort of mystical hugger mugger of other worldly nature. It is relevant for this very world and for this life. Meditation enhances the focus , concentration and awareness. Hence nothing is said or done in forgetfulness. Every act is done and every word is spoken in full awareness. So there is no place for regret and guilt or expectations. Meditators lead successful, prosperous, happy, contented and purposeful life. They are situated in the present unlike most of us who are lost in regrets and guilt of the past and anticipations of the future. Most of us really are not enjoying our today. Meditation leads us to enjoy this very moment.
I would like to concentrate in this brief essay on The Buddha’s Body Meditation.
The purpose of this meditation is to loosen our attachment to body and, in other words, to life. After all this body and life are governed by laws of nature, of decay and destruction. So what is the purpose of having attachment to something which is so ephemeral? What has the beginning also has the ending. So why grieve ? Why not concentrate on higher and meaningful things in life ? One should live dying every moment. One should contemplate on death while living. It does not mean one should neglect body. Body should be cared of and fully nurtured. It should be kept healthy and clean. The distinction should be made between attachment and maintenance. So how should one meditate on body ? The Buddha advised that to loosen attachment to body, one should contemplate about its impurities like excreta, blood, phlegm and puss. What is the use of being attached to something filled with so much muck. It is better to think about higher things of life which are uplifting. Some monks in the monasteries of Theravada School of Buddhism meditate on various stages of decay of corpse. The Buddha Himself spoke about corpse meditation like this “ This body too decays, such is its nature, such is its future, such is its unavoidable fate.”
Does it Sound morbid and depressing ? Not at all ! This meditation teaches us that we have limited time in this world. We are not the permanent residents of this planet. So how to best utilize the time which we have before the life flickers out. This is the greatest problem of our time and contemporary civilization. We simply have no time. It is a rare privilege to have been born as a human. So do not waste this opportunity. Humans only have the power of thinking and discriminating between what is good and what is not. This is the eternal significance of this teaching of The Buddha like all other teachings of His.
The body meditation ultimately boils down to management of time. Most of us have misalignment of time. In the US an average American spends 20 times more time on watching TV, surfing web is extra, than doing fulfilling activities , like volunteering in an orphanage or hospital or in old age home or creative pursuits like music, painting or writing or reconnecting with a lost family member or a friend or social interactions. This is perhaps true in other countries also. Let us take the analogy of corpse meditation. Imagine we are going to die in 2017. We have just about one year. Very limited time and there are conflicting demands on our time. How to allocate time between activities assume importance. Are we going to spend time on watching ridiculous TV serials or seeing action films on big screen or other frivolous activities like lying at a beach like a crocodile, or constantly texting or getting depressed because no one has sent an electronic message every five seconds, that is, sticking to electronic devices ? Or we will hear Bach or Beethoven or read Gitanjali ? In 2004 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, et al, published in journal Science, Dec. 3 issue, their findings about the results of a study based on a survey of 909 employed women using the methodology of Day Reconstruction Method (DRM ) as to how they spent their time and whether they were happy with their life style. The answer was surprisingly NO. The women reported deriving more satisfaction from prayer, worship and meditation than from watching TV. They had regrets the way they were leading the life. It was filling them with guilt and emptiness.
Now think you have programmed for 2017 to visit new places. You will have to make choice of places, viz., do you want to go to a beach or a place historically important and visit museums and historical sites? It is psychologically proved that museums and historical sites visits fill us with satisfaction and happiness for days together than playing rummy and drinking alcohol with our buddies. You got the answer. Or would you spend time on philandering or taking care of your suffering father? Philandering might give you sensory joy for a few seconds but will fill you with regret subsequently. But taking care of a suffering man earns gratitude, besides satisfaction that you derive. That look in the suffering man’s eyes will convey a thousand blessings. Or think would you be so selfish and limit your concern to you and yours or widen the circle to include others.
It is again proven by research that those who widen their circle are happier and contented. If you include the whole human race you become ‘enlightened’ and called divine. Take a baby step at a time. No need to include everyone in your circle. Just start thinking beyond you and yours. May be your neighbor, or an old lonely man lying in an old age home craving for human company ? There is an internet story that an old man was lying in an old age home on his last gasp of breath. But he was not dying. His lips were moving, but no audible sound was coming. Staff of the old age home knew some where there was his son. A good Samaritan sat near his bed, held his hand and whispered in his ears “Dad, I am your son”. Miracle happened, old man died peacefully. It is connecting.
Stop misalignment of time. This will lead only to ennui and regret. You have limited quantity of this commodity. Use it wisely.