meditating on ghat on the Ganges in Varanasi

Meditation originated in India and evolved with Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) and yoga. The primary aim of meditation in Hindu terms is to attain oneness with one’s soul (atman) and get in touch with Brahman, the omnipresent and almighty Hindu god, with ultimate goal being to reach the state of Moksha (Nirvana in Buddhism). Hindu scriptures describe certain postures — yoga — to attain a meditative state. There are numerous references of yoga and meditation found in ancient Indian scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad defines meditation as “having become calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (atman) within oneself”. [Source:differencebetween.net ]

Hindu meditation is called “dhyana.” Jayaram V, a leading author of Indian religions, wrote in Hinduwebsite.com: The purpose of “dhyana is to become consciously aware of or investigate into one's own mind and body to know oneself. It is essentially an exclusive as well as an inclusive process, in which one withdraws one's mind and senses from the distractions of the world and contemplates upon a chosen object or idea with concentration. It is focused thinking with or without the exercise of individual will, in which the mind and the body has to be brought together to function as one harmonious whole. With the help of meditation we can overcome our mental blocks, negative thinking, debilitating fears, stress and anxiety by knowing their cause and dealing with them. In dhyana we gain insightful awareness whereby we can control over our responses and reactions. Through its regular practice, we come to understand the nature of things, the impermanence of our corporeal existence, the fluctuations of our minds, the source of our own suffering and its possible resolution. The difference between meditation and contemplation is mostly academic. According to, some meditation is an insightful observation and contemplation a concentrated reflection, with detachment being the common factor between the two. In this essay both the words are used interchangeably to convey the same meaning as dhayna. [Source: Jayaram V, Hinduwebsite.com |*|]

“Dhyana is a Sanskrit word. "Dhi" means receptacle or the mind and "yana" means moving or going. Dhyana means journey or movement of the mind. It is a mental activity of the mind (dhi). In Hindu philosophy, the mind (manas) is viewed as a receptacle (dhi) into which thoughts pour back and forth from the universal pool of thought forms. According to Hindu tradition, the human mind has the creative potency of God. You become what you think. You are a sum total of your thoughts and desires, not only of this life but also of your past lives. What you think and desire grows upon you, becomes part of your latent impressions (samskaras) and influence the course of your life here and here after. These samskaras determine the future course of your lives as they accompany you to the next world. All your mental actions are part of your karma as much as any physical action. Even the animals have the ability to evolve into higher being through their mental focus.” |*|

See Separate Articles on Yoga

Websites and Resources: Yoga National Institutes of Health, US government, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction ; Encyclopædia Britannica britannica.com ; Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development, Indian government mea.gov.in/in-focus-article ; Different Types of Yoga - Yoga Journal yogajournal.com ; Wikipedia article on yoga Wikipedia ; Medical News Today medicalnewstoday.com ; Yoga and modern philosophy, Mircea Eliade crossasia-repository.ub.uni-heidelberg.de ; India's 10 most renowned yoga gurus rediff.com ; Wikipedia article on yoga philosophy Wikipedia ; Yoga Poses Handbook mymission.lamission.edu ; George Feuerstein, Yoga and Meditation (Dhyana) santosha.com/moksha/meditation

Hinduism, Buddhism and Yoga

relief depicting seven posture of mediation near Dhamekh Stupa in Sarnath, India where th Buddha gave his First Sermon

Meditation is a central part of Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga. Jayaram V, a leading author of Indian religions, wrote: “Yoga is essentially a Hindu tradition with its roots in the Vedic ritual symbolism and its internalization. Yoga is mentioned and explained in several ancient Upanishads, long before the emergence of Buddhism. Prior to the Buddha, yoga was practiced in many forms by the ascetics and ascetic traditions of ancient India, including Jainism. The rudiments of yoga practice are found in the Katha and Svetasvatara Upanishads, while a more advanced version in the Maitri Upanishad. The epic Mahabharata makes many references to yoga. According to Edwin F. Bryant, the terms yoga and yogi occur about 900 times in the epic. [Source: Jayaram V, Hinduwebsite.com |*|]

“By all accounts, Patanjali did not invent the wheel of yoga. He codified it and standardized its teaching. During his wanderings as an ascetic monk, the Buddha practiced various forms of austerities and yoga. His enlightenment was a direct result of dhyana, an ancient form of meditation. The ascetic practices of both Buddhism and Hinduism draw heavily from ancient Yoga traditions in their respective ways to practice self-transformation. Both rely upon Yoga to restrain human nature and overcome desires and attachments. They use many common terms to explain the practices of yoga or stages in self-absorption. However, yoga has a much wider connotation in Hinduism than in Buddhism. |*|

“Hindu yoga aims to achieve liberation through union with the inner Self and in some yogas through union with the Supreme Self, whereas in Buddhism it is meant to suppress the modification and disperse the formation of ego. In Buddhism self-absorption denotes the end of all desires and modifications and an experience with emptiness. In Hinduism also it denotes the end of all desires and modifications but an experience with transcendence or union with the transcendental Self.” |*|

According to a verse from Briahdaranyaka Upanishad 7:6, a Hindu text: "Contemplation is assuredly greater than thought. The earth contemplates as it were. The atmosphere contemplates as it were. The heaven contemplates as it were. The waters contemplate as it were, the mountains contemplate as it were. Gods and men contemplate as it were. Therefore he among men here attains greatness, he seems to have obtained a share of (the reward of) contemplation. Now the small people of quarrelsome, abusive and slandering, the superior men have obtained a share of (the reward of) contemplation. Meditate on contemplation."

Tibetan mandala

Hindu holy men use meditation to escape from the confines of ordinary. Some are said to have achieved miraculous power by practicing meditation. One yogi old National Geographic, “You have to go through the boredom of repetition until an energy arises of itself” and “then you will find yourself entirely free of wanting anything."


Tantrism is a highly ritualistic religion that combines beliefs in magic and esoteric philosophy and emphasizes mystic symbols, sacred chants, and other esoteric devotional techniques. Based on ancient animist religions, it uses shaman to dispel demons and appease the gods, and incorporates a number of mudras (ritual postures), mantras (sacred speech), yantras (sacred art) and secret initiation rites. Tantrism is practiced by both Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists. Among Hindus it is closely associated with Kali.

Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “In the seventh century, Hinduism and Buddhism were influenced by Tantra, a new religious movement that employed esoteric knowledge to speed the believer toward spiritual liberation. The Hindu pantheon of gods expanded to include shaktis, female counterparts to male gods and personified as their consorts. Shakti is female energy, which activates the powers of the male gods and emanates from the goddess Devi. Many other goddesses represent aspects of Devi's powers, for instance, Parvati, the beautiful, loving, and obedient consort of Shiva, and Durga, Chamunda, and Kali, whose actions and moods indicate anger, ferocity, and the horrific. This range of emotions symbolizes their multiple purposes and the variety of forms female energy and power can assume." [Source: Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]

Hindu Tantrism is based in part on a text called the Tantras, written between the A.D. 7th and 11th centuries but believed to be based on ideas that are much older. Much of text is written as conversations between Shiva and his consort. Hindu Tantrism has millions of followers and they include Buddhists and even Muslims as well as Hindus.

Hindu Tantrism involves seeking orthodox dharma , siddhi (spiritual or supernatural power) and bukhti (pleasure in higher worlds). Followers view the body as a microcosm of the universe and worship shakti (female energy), which they believe is especially powerful when united with the male energy force, which itself is powerless without the presence of shakti. Some sects classify their members according to their spiritual capacity. Many Tantric practitioners serve as healers.

Tantric Views on Meditation

According to the Yamala Tantra: “Meditation is of two kinds, gross and subtle. In the subtle form meditation is done on the "body of sound," that is, the mantra, of the deity. In the gross form meditation is on one image with hands and feet. . . . The suprasensory can seldom be reached by the mind; hence one should concentrate on the gross form.” [Source: Translation by Alain Danialou, in his Hindu Polytheism (New York: Bollingen Series LXXIII, 1964), PP. 377-9, Eliade Page website]

Hindu Kali yantra

Siva Candra Vidyarnava Bhattacharya wrote in the Principles of Tantra: 'The worshipper should engage in meditation, gradually concentrating his mind on all the parts of the body of his chosen deity, one after another, from the feet to the head. He can thus acquire such an intense state of concentration that during his undisturbed meditation the whole body of the chosen deity will appear to his mind's eye as an indivisible form. In this way the meditation on the deity in its formal aspect will gradually become profound and steady.'[ed. Woodroffe, I, (1916), 134, or p. 874 [1952 ed.], quoted with slight changes.)

Barada Kantha Majumdar wrote in Principles of Tantra: Japa, the Repetition of Mantras: “'Japa, as the repetition of a mantra, has been compared to the action of a man shaking a sleeper to wake him up.' (Woodroffe, The Garland of Letters, P. 211, with slight changes.) 'Once the image of the chosen deity has been formed in the mind by concentration, the seed-mantra should be repeated, withdrawing the mind from all other thoughts....... Japa is of three kinds, audible, articulate but inaudible, and mental....... Japa concentration by this -means is perfected, the consciousness of the worshipper is transferred to the deity represented by the utterance and he ceases to have an individuality distinct from that of the deity.' [cd. Woodroffe , II 1916, 77-8, or pp. 648 ff 1952 ed.]

Hindu and Buddhist Meditative Practices

Jayaram V wrote: “Apart from some similarities, there is a main difference between Hindu and Buddhist meditative practices, although they share a common history and geographical influence. In Buddhist meditation and contemplative practices, the focus or the emphasis is mainly upon the Not-self, which in Buddhist parlance means anything other than the Self. It includes the mind, the body, the world and all the objects in them such as thoughts, feelings, emotions, images, objects, etc., which we experience through our mind and senses. According to Buddhism, the not-Self is just a temporary formation. It exists both externally and internally. By knowing it and dissolving it from within, one can reach Nirvana. [Source: Jayaram V, Hinduwebsite.com |*|]

“By practising mindfulness upon the Not-self (objective reality), the monks realize the impermanence of things and the important aspects of Dharma such as the Four Noble Truths. Thus, the Buddhist contemplative practices are outward. They keep the mind engaged with things through mindfulness practice, until peace and happiness are attained through equanimity, discernment and enlightenment. |*|

painting from 1630

“In contrast, the Hindu meditative practices are inward oriented. They are meant to know the subjective reality, or the reality which is self-existent and free from objective reality. Therefore, they focus the mind upon the Self rather than the Not-self and aim to disengage the mind and senses from the Not-self or the world within and without. By withdrawing the mind and senses from worldly things (the Not-Self) and silencing them, a yogi concentrates his mind upon the thoughts of the Self or God to experience peace and equanimity. Thus, in Hinduism Samadhi is achieved by silencing the mind and senses, rather than keeping them mindful and actively engage with the objective reality. |*|

“It is true that over the centuries, both the religions influenced each other in many ways. Hence, presently you may see similarities between them in their contemplative techniques and spiritual practices and the use of both passive and active meditation techniques. However, their primary emphasis upon the Self and not-self can still be discerned in them.” |*|

Hindu Meditation Techniques

The meditation techniques described in Hindu texts are very difficult to master. There is hierarchy of techniques and in many cases it takes years to master even the lower level meditation techniques.There are descriptions of Hindu monks in ancient Indian and Chinese texts performing miracles and attaining superhuman powers like flying, astral projection, altering their basic body functions and breaking objects by looking at them. [Source: differencebetween.net ]

To successfully practice meditation using the Hindu method one is expected to follow a set of rules in association with yoga. These are physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayam), one-pointed concentration of mind (dharana), ethical discipline (Yamas), rules (niyamas), meditation (dhyana), and finally salvation (samadhi). Very few can reach the stage of dhyana without the training from Guru, and only a handful — including the Buddha Gautama Siddhartha and Sri Ramakrishna — are said to have achieved the final stage of samadhi.

The Upanishad mentions a higher concentration technique (parasya dharana) of seeing Brahman through contemplative thought (tarka), known as lumbika-yoga. It consists of holding the tip of the tongue down the palate, restraining the speech, the mind and the breath and seeing the (shining) self through the (elemental or impure ) self. [Source: Jayaram V, Hinduwebsite.com]

According to the Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 6, Verse 11 to 14: “To practice Yog, one should make an asan (seat) in a sanctified place, by placing kush grass, deer skin, and a cloth, one over the other. The asan should be neither too high nor too low. Seated firmly on it, the yogi should strive to purify the mind by focusing it in meditation with one pointed concentration, controlling all thoughts and activities. He must hold the body, neck, and head firmly in a straight line, and gaze at the tip of the nose, without allowing the eyes to wander. Thus, with a serene, fearless, and unwavering mind, and staunch in the vow of celibacy, the vigilant yogi should meditate on me, having me alone as the supreme goal.” [Source: holy-bhagavad-gita.org]

Hindu Meditation Chants and Mantras

Sri Vyadeshwar mantra

Chants and mantras are a fixture of meditation, rituals and other religious activity. Technically they are not prayers but are reminders of the beneficence of The God. Hindus have traditionally used mantras to call their gods before prayers. Repeating chants is said to relax the body and refreshes the mind.

Most chants are in Sanskrit. Many mantras incorporate the word om , a powerful and mystical word. It is "a combination of three Sanskrit sounds that sum up the three-in-one nature of the universe. These chants are so sacred that just writing them or carving them in stone...is regarded as much more pious than putting up statues."

Deepak Chopra, a writer and prominent figure in the New Age movement, wrote: “As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose. Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe.”

The most common Hindu-Yoga meditation chant is “Om” — The Primal Shabda. Pronounced "Aum," “Om” is an affirmation of the Divine Presence that is the universe and is similar to the Hebrew "Amen." There are many ways of chanting Aum. It is regarded as a device to pursue the path of sound toward wholeness and higher states of consciousness. “Lokah Samastha” — The Chant for Wholeness goes “Lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu,” meaning “May this world be established with a sense of well-being and happiness. [Source: yogajournal.com -]

meditation hall, Dhamma, Anuradha

Gayatri — Being Illuminated by Sacred Sound — goes:
Om bhur bhuvas svaha [We worship the word (shabda) that is present in the]
Thath savithur varaynyam [earth, the heavens, and that which is beyond]
Bhargo dheyvasya dhimahih [meditating on this glorious power that gives us life,]
Dhyoyonah pratchodhay-yath [we ask that our minds and hearts be illuminated.] -

Found in the first sacred Vedic scripture, the Rig-Veda (3.62.10), the Gayatri is perhaps the most revered of all Hindu mantras. Gayatri literally means "song" or "hymn," but the word also indicates an ancient verse meter of 24 syllables, typically grouped in three octets. According to yogajournal.com: “This mantra is addressed to the solar deity Savitri, the Vivifier (and so also called the savitri-mantra); originally its motive was to petition for the god's blessings. Gayatri is personified as a goddess, wife of the creator god Brahma, and mother of the Vedas, because it's believed that its syllables gave birth to and so embody the essence of these sacred texts. Every upper-caste (male) Hindu repeats this mantra during both morning and evening devotions, and on certain other special occasions.” -


Chanting is an important part of Hindu meditation as its is with Buddhist meditation. Hindus often chant ancient Vedic scriptures, some of which date back to 1500 B.C. During the last years of his life, Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) — an influential teacher and one fo the founders of modern yoga — introduced Vedic chanting into yoga, always adjusting the number of verses to match the time the student should hold the pose.

Tradition The of Vedic chanting was inscribed in 2008 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to UNESCO: “The Vedas comprise a vast corpus of Sanskrit poetry, philosophical dialogue, myth, and ritual incantations developed and composed by Aryans over 3,500 years ago. Regarded by Hindus as the primary source of knowledge and the sacred foundation of their religion, the Vedas embody one of the world’s oldest surviving cultural traditions. [Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage |+|]

Vedic school student chanting Vedic texts

“The Vedic heritage embraces a multitude of texts and interpretations collected in four Vedas, commonly referred to as “books of knowledge” even though they have been transmitted orally. The Rig Veda is an anthology of sacred hymns; the Sama Veda features musical arrangements of hymns from the Rig Veda and other sources; the Yajur Veda abounds in prayers and sacrificial formulae used by priests; and the Atharna Veda includes incantations and spells. The Vedas also offer insight into the history of Hinduism and the early development of several artistic, scientific and philosophical concepts, such as the concept of zero. |+|

“Expressed in the Vedic language, which is derived from classical Sanskrit, the verses of the Vedas were traditionally chanted during sacred rituals and recited daily in Vedic communities. The value of this tradition lies not only in the rich content of its oral literature but also in the ingenious techniques employed by the Brahmin priests in preserving the texts intact over thousands of years. To ensure that the sound of each word remains unaltered, practitioners are taught from childhood complex recitation techniques that are based on tonal accents, a unique manner of pronouncing each letter and specific speech combinations. |+|

“Although the Vedas continue to play an important role in contemporary Indian life, only thirteen of the over one thousand Vedic recitation branches have survived. Moreover, four noted schools – in Maharashtra (central India), Kerala and Karnataka (southern India) and Orissa (eastern India) – are considered under imminent threat.” |+|

One Hindu wrote: “When we chant we try to involve our mind, ears, mouth, nose and breathing. This is to bring sync among our body and mind. it is done to burn any materialistic desires, get peace, clear obstacles etc. The next level of chanting is Yajna, in which we involve eyes and body (touch) too. This will multiply the effect. When we wish and offer something into fire we are fully involved and get the feeling of accomplishment. When we deeply believe in the result with such an involvement, the theory of attraction starts working and we get the results. [Source: Quora.com, June 16, 2015]

Differences Between Buddhist And Hindu Meditation

Buddhism and Hinduism employ similar methods of meditation but the aims are different. Hindus meditate to get in touch with Brahman, the ultimate, Hindu god. Some Buddhists use meditation to realize the Wisdom of selflessness. Some argue that their ultimate goals are the same — enlightened bliss —Moksha to the Hindu, Nirvana to the Buddhists. [Source: interfaith.org, December, 2005 =]

Buddhist meditation techniques are generally much simpler than those prescribed in Hindu texts. In addition, The range of purposes and techniques of meditation found Hinduism is much larger that found in Buddhism. In Hinduism, the ideology behind meditation is more spiritual than religion. The purposes of meditation in Hinduism are varied, like physical, mental, and spiritual enhancement, and also control of mind. In the extreme sense Meditation is the way of getting in union with the creator or Paramatma. Buddhists on the other hand do not believe in God, but considers meditation as an integral part of their religion. The main purpose of meditation in Buddhism is self realization or Nirvana. [Source: differencebetween.net]

A Buddhist wrote in the interfaith.org bulliten board: “In my own case, when I begin the meditation, I focus on the sensation of breathing until I am able to calm my mind which I then turn to analyze certain aspects of the teachings, such as the lack of an inherent self nature...In the Pali canon, Buddha Shakyamuni extols the virtues of breathing meditation, i.e. taking the breath as the focus until one is able to achieve an "unwavering concentration" at which point we can shift our focus to examine other aspects of the teachings.” =

Another Buddhist wrote: “You must keep the mind empty, the intent must be focused correctly. Emptying the mind is most important to meditative state of mind in Buddhism. It is easy for thoughts to flow through the mind, the best method is to not ignore them but accept them and flow with them until they no longer manifest in your practice. After you have emptied your mind of all thoughts all that remains is awareness, when you can build on your understanding of awareness many things become clear. This is the mind set needed for shaolin gung fu practice, not only because of the intertwined philosophy of Chan Buddhism but the self introspection and awareness of the environment, the bodies physiological processes and the task at hand are a basic requirement for advancement in the said art. In the end, the buddhist focus on becoming void, understanding this state and how it relates to the manifestation of the reality we are presently living in.” =

Rishikesh on the Ganges, where The Beatles learned to meditate

A Hindu wrote: “ In Sanatana Dharma, we employ two basic methods for calming the mind and concentration: japa and pranayama. The japa method involves slow repetitive chanting of a short mantra (vocally or mentally) using a rosary of 108 beads. The simplest of mantras is AUM. AUM is the seed mantra that forms the first part of most other mantras. Pranayama is slow rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing which is a very important technique, and is given a lot of emphasis in Hindu meditation. Focus on the in-breath and out-breath helps cessation of transient thoughts and gives the mind the concentration necessary for deeper meditation. The in-breath and out-breath itself is considered a mantra, more specifically an unchanted (ajapa) mantra. Hindu texts speak highly of this unchanted mantra that we are unknowing reciting 21600 times a day. =

“There is an esoteric meaning in Hinduism about the unchanted mantra. When we breathe, the sound produced by inhalation is “sooooo”, and that by exhalation is “hammmm”. Alternatively, one can also say inhalation sounds like “hammmm” and exhalation “saaaaa.” When we join these two syllables, we get so-ham or ham-sa. The Sanskrit meaning of so-ham is “That I am” and of ham-sa is “Am I That”. So, it is taught that with every breath we take, we silently recite the ham-sa or so-ham mantra asking, then acknowledging that we indeed are That which we seek. The principle of ‘you are That which you seek’ is an important Upanishadic edict. In pranayama, therefore, one may mentally concentrate on the inspiration and expiration using the sounds so-ham or ham-sa as a guide.” =

Beatles Learn Meditation at the Rishikesh Ashram

In February 1968, the Beatles famously traveled to Rishikesh in northern India to study Transcendental Meditation. Pattie Boyd wrote in “Wonderful Today”: “The Beatles were enrolled on a Transcendental Meditation teachers' course, which consisted of 90-minute lectures from 3.30pm and 8.30pm, with the students describing their meditative experiences and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi answering their questions. Much of the time, however, was spent in a series of meditation sessions which became progressively longer. The two who were most engrossed in Maharishi's teachings were John and George. They would meditate for hours, and George was very focused. I loved meditating, but I can't sustain that sort of intensity for long. Sometimes I would leave George meditating and make a foray to Mussoorie and Dheradun, Tibetan trading posts. At that time China was slowly taking over Tibet, whose people were being pushed out of their country as their culture was destroyed. [Source: “Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd”, Headline Review, 2007, beatlesbible.com ^]

meditation chambers in Rishikesh, built fater The Beatles were there

Paul McCartney said: “ Ever keen to put his faith in others, John Lennon proved particularly eager to learn from Maharishi. One day Maharishi needed to get to New Delhi and back for something, so someone suggested a helicopter. When it arrived we all trooped down, a bouncing line of devotees, coming down a narrow dusty track to the Ganges, singing, being delightful. Very like the Hare Krishnas, marvellous, chatting away. We got down ot the Ganges, the helicopter landed and then they asked, 'Does anyone want a quick go before Maharishi takes off?' John jumped up. 'Yea, yea, yeah, yeah!' John got there first, and there was only room for one. So later I asked John, 'Why were you so keen? You really wanted to get in that helicopter.' 'Yeah,' he said, 'I thought he might slip me the answer!' Which is very revealing about John. I suppose everyone is always looking for the Holy Grail. I think John thought he might find it. I think it shows an innocence really, a naivety. It's quite touching really. [Source: “Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles, Holt Paperbacks, 1998 ^]

“The Beatles' group was three weeks behind the other students, so they received extra tuition and lectures every afternoon. These were mostly held in the open air, sometimes on the roof of Maharishi's own bungalow, or inside if the weather was cooler. The meditation sessions were increasingly long, they were as long as you could handle. It was a very sensible thing. He basically said, 'Your mind is confused with day-to-day stress so I want you to try and do twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening.' That's what they start you on. Twenty minutes in the morning is not going to hurt anyone. You sit still, I suppose you regulate your breathing and, if nothing else, you rest your muscles for twenty minutes. It's like a lie-in. That's pretty good. The meditation helps your productivity that day. And then twenty minutes in the evening; I used to liken it to sitting in front of a nice coal fire that's just sort of glowing. That sort of feeling, that very relaxed feeling, a twilight feeling which I quite like. Are you dreaming or are you awake? There's a nice little state that they recognise halfway between it...

After one of those sessions, I remember having a great meditation, one of the best I ever had. It was a pleasant afternoon, in the shade of these big tropical trees on the flat roof of this bungalow. It appeared to me that I was like a feather over a hot-air pipe, a warm-air pipe. I was just suspended by this hot air, which was something to do with the meditation. And it was a very very blissful feeling. It took you back to childhood when you were a baby, some of the secure moments when you've just been fed or you were having your nap. It reminded me of those nice, secure feelings. And I thought, Well, hell, that's great, I couldn't buy that anywhere. That was the most pleasant, the most relaxed I ever got, for a few minutes I really felt so light, so floating, so complete.

“The difficulty, of course, is keeping your mind clear, because the minute you clear it, a thought comes in and says, 'What are we gonna do about our next record?' 'Go away!' Meditate, mantra mantra mantra. 'I still want to know what we're doing on this next record.' 'Please go away, I'm meditating, can't you see?' There's inevitably all sorts of little conversations you can't help getting into."

Westerners Flock to Rishiksh, Where The Beatles Studied Meditation

Maharishi Yogi in 1967

Reporting from Rishikesh in northern India,Beatrice Le Bohec of AFP wrote: “ Stressed in the West and looking for peace in the East, increasing numbers of tourists are heading to Asia for meditation or yoga classes. India, home to all the world's major religions and a world center of spiritualism, draws tens of thousands each year hoping to nourish their souls in ashrams and other retreats dotted around the country. Hundreds gathered earlier this month in the small town of Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges for an international yoga festival set against the backdrop of the Himalayas. The town, made famous by The Beatles who visited for meditation classes in 1968, teemed with Westerners along with long-haired yogis and gurus who led classes and gave advice on the importance of self-reflection. "I came here to be near the source of spirituality," Christel Pierron, a French yoga teacher based in Cape Cod in the United States, told AFP. "So many great yogis came here to meditate that it creates a sort of energy flow." [Source: Beatrice Le Bohec, Agence France-Presse, March 25, 2011 /+]

“The International Yoga Festival began in 1999 when about 50 enthusiasts visited. Now in its 12th edition, more than 400 made their way to Rishikesh for a week of intensive classes from daybreak to sundown. "With the stressful lives that we have in West, we need to look after our bodies and our souls," said Pierron, adding that the next part of her trip would be a visit to see the Dalai Lama. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, who runs one of the biggest meditation centres in India, the Parmath Niketan ashram in Rishikesh, believes he knows why so many Westerners come to the country in search of the esoteric. "Everyone comes because they need peace and happiness," he told AFP. "Immediately, they get connected because Rishikesh is the birth place of yoga. Here you learn how to become noiseless." /+\

“Hunger for the simple and the opportunity for introspection has spelt good business for Eric Grange, founder of Oasis Voyages, which sells itself as the only French agency specialized in "spiritual travel." "People are suffering from the loss of their reference points in a world that is not doing well," he told AFP. "More and more, travellers no longer want to feed their digital camera, but feed their souls instead.” /+\

Meditation in an Indian Prison

On a new prison reform program spreading in India, Perry Garfinkel wrote in National Geographic: “"I'm not doing time, I'm doing vipassana," says prisoner Hyginus Udegbe. Having waited four and a half years for his cocaine possession case to be heard, Hyginus, who is Nigerian, has been kept at Tihar Jail Complex in New Delhi. It's one of Asia's largest prisons, with almost 13,000 inmates, more than twice its capacity. The overcrowded conditions, inadequate sanitation, and a staff that sometimes resorts to oppressing and dehumanizing prisoners make it a living, incarcerated hell."Source: Perry Garfinkel, National Geographic, December 2005 /-]

“But for Hyginus and thousands of other inmates in India, practicing vipassana has transformed prison into an oasis for self-reflection and rehabilitation. There are silent ten-day retreats every other week in a section of Jail No. 4, cordoned off as a permanent retreat site. Prisoners can repeat the sessions every three months, and many do. "I had high blood pressure and couldn't sleep," says Hyginus, a barrel-chested, bald six-footer who looks more like a prizefighter than the meditating type. Behind us, painted on a high wall is a yellow wheel, the traditional symbol of the Buddha's teachings, or dharma. "After my first retreat here," Hyginus says, "my pressure dropped, and I slept ten hours. I used to have quick temper. Now I feel like a dove, very peaceful. I am so much happier." /-\

Beatles Ashram, Satsang Hall, Rishikesh in 2012

“I am struck even more by a conversation with a man who has been a Tihar prison officer for 14 years. He'd done three retreats here, all voluntarily. "I just wanted to experience for myself this thing I had heard about, vipassana," he tells me. "Before the course, I used to beat the prisoners. I felt so much stress it turned me into a monster. After the course, I felt more human." Now prisoners come to him for counseling. "We are all prisoners of our minds," says Satya Narayan Goenka, an 80-year-old Burmese businessman turned meditation teacher who has spearheaded the vipassana resurgence in India. "Where better to recognize this than behind bars?" Indeed, in prisons around the world, meditation groups now meet regularly. Practicing these techniques, studies show, prisoners ease their own suffering and inflict less on others. /-\

"I'm not teaching Buddhism," Goenka tells me emphatically when I meet him at his home in Mumbai. He's a big but graceful man, with a booming bass voice. "I am not interested in converting people from one organized religion to another organized religion. I'm interested in converting people from misery to happi-ness, from bondage to liberation, from cruelty to compassion. "There's no mystery to it," he continues with a chuckle, his ample belly shaking. "Vipassana means “to see things as they really are.' After watching your breath for a few days, you begin to pay close attention to your sensations. You realize very quickly that you are obsessed with cravings---food, warmth, all sorts of desires---and aversion to unpleasant things. Then you realize the impermanence of it all. Everything changes. From these simple understandings, discovered by each person starting with Buddha himself, an entire doctrine eventually unfolds."” /-\

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: East Asia History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu , “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org, Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia, Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org , “The Essence of Buddhism” Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1922, Project Gutenberg, Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 5 East and Southeast Asia” edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1993); “ National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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