The School of Philosophy teaches practical philosophy, so why does it also offer meditation?
The practical side of the School is very important because it’s a philosophy which you use, or can use, for every aspect of your life and it’s to be used on a daily basis. So it goes into your life in that sense. The meditation adds to the practicality because it connects you with your inner Self, your real Self, your Being, what you really are in truth. So the meditation adds to the whole sense of Being, of living, and allows you to be what you are, rather than what you are not
Is that an inner journey, rather than an outer journey?
It is an inner journey but it also has its extensions in the other form as well. For example, when you meet somebody having meditated and, as it were, gone within, and from that point of rest you can meet somebody within that same rest and that can have a profound effect. It can bring the person in front of you to themselves in a very pleasing way. That connection is very natural and it puts the person at ease immediately.
So how long has the School offered meditation?
The School has offered meditation from the early 60’s. In the early 60’s the School was presented with the opportunity of offering it to their students or the students of the School at the time and it was taken up because at that time it was seen as the next important step for the development of the School, and for the development of the students within the School. And it has proved such an important step that I think it has been all a downhill run so to speak, from there on. It’s just become so much easier to connect with the reality of life really
The meditation technique used, is an internal mantra-based meditation. Why was that particular type of meditation chosen, or how did it come about?
This form of meditation is widely regarded as the most potent. There are many forms of meditation and most of them are useful, but some more useful than others. All of them, except for a few, have beneficial effects and, in that sense, they are useful to practice. But the internal mantra transcends all the barriers – the physical, mental and spiritual – on the journey, if you like, that one meets. So there is a transcendent quality about it whereby all these impositions, all these hurdles that one might meet in the life are transcended and, in that sense, it is very potent and very powerful – and profound.
Does this technique have advantages over different types of meditation?
Yes. It has the advantage of being most profound and therefore takes the aspirant, or the meditator, much deeper into their own Being than other forms are capable of. And, as said before, that doesn’t mean to say other forms are not useful. They are, and science has proved that there are benefits from all forms of meditation, but science has also shown that mantra-type meditation gives the most profound effects both physical and mental.
Right, so there is a scientific basis for this claim?
Absolutely. You only have to look at meditation or the science of meditation on the Net, and then read some of the websites that are there and it is absolutely full of scientific and medical information on the benefits of meditation.
And, in particular, the benefits of mantra-based meditation?
Yes, some of the research has looked at different sorts of meditation and that’s where they found that all forms, or most forms – there are some forms which aren’t useful. They just create more energy than they need to. – So the mantra-based meditations produce a much quieter and more settling, calming sort of effect which is the whole purpose of meditation – to instill in the aspirant stillness, quietness and peace really.
In a way you have probably answered this but what actually is meditation?
That’s not an easy question to answer and I don’t know that I can because meditation at its most profound level is really beyond concept. You cannot really conceptualise what it means. The dictionary gives numerous meanings like, “concentration”, “perseverance”, “study”, all of that type of thing. But, really, meditation is beyond that. It is none of those things. It is really just an inward journey into your inner Being where there is this transcendence and it is a transcendence of the physical and the transcendence of the mental.
So we can really understand readily the benefits and the effects, but to actually say what it is, is a little more difficult. It may even be beyond language?
Yes, beyond language, and really it is beyond experience in a way because for there to be experience, there has to be two and meditation takes you beyond duality. So who is there to experience when there is not duality?
Let’s talk a bit about the School of Philosophy’s support for meditation. There is a general interest in meditation in the community. If somebody would join the School of Philosophy, is meditation available as soon as they join?
Generally speaking, it’s not. It’s recommended that people joining the School do at least a year of the classes that are provided before meditation is given. This is really to just prepare the student and put to right all the erroneous thinking that the mind has accepted because a lot of our education and a lot of our hearsay – the stuff that we believe – is erroneous. And meditation needs a fertile mind and it needs to have the “weeds” removed, as it were, so that it can get a proper and fertile start. So it is necessary that the students be prepared in a way and let the mind be cultivated so that the “seed” of meditation can begin to “germinate”.
How long have you been meditating?
I’ve been meditating for at least 40 to 45 years, I’ve been practising meditation and yes it seems a long time and none of it has been fruitless. It’s all been well worthwhile because the practise is one thing, meditation is another. It’s a bit like a pianist. He practises but because he practises doesn’t make him a concert pianist. He has to really make the music his own. It is the same with meditation. It takes a while before the meditation actually becomes your own. In other words, it’s not different from your own life. It’s not different from your own existence. It’s not different from your own Being. It’s all part of what you really are and the practise is to bring the meditator to that point where really there is no difference. Now it doesn’t mean to say that everybody has to practise for 45 years before that happens. It doesn’t have to be like that at all. It depends entirely upon what the student brings to the meditation in the form of dedication and with the dedication and with the belief really that meditation works, then the journey can be quite quick, quite fast.
I would think that having the support of a strong group of people who have practised the meditation for decades would be of enormous benefit to somebody coming new to it?
Absolutely. The support is vital really and it needs the support of experienced meditators to give the support so that the true path of meditation is maintained. There are many people who have gone through the School, probably thousands, and the School is able to give them all the support they need. That is a lifetime support from the School. And if students need that support or feel like they would like that support, then they only need to contact the School and that can be arranged. But, yes, the support is absolutely vital, particularly in the early years, till the path is, as it were, well and truly established.
Would you say that the School of Philosophy probably has a most consistent and substantial experience in offering meditation, say within New Zealand?
I haven’t really looked at what other methods there are but, from what I’ve heard, the School certainly provides one of the best environments for meditation to thrive.
If it began in the early 60’s, and we are now half a century on, and meditation has been a main offering in the School for all time, this tends to suggest that there is a credible body of experience in this particular kind of mantra-based meditation?
Yes, I think that’s right. I don’t know of any other organisation where there has been that continuity of meditation as part of the everyday running or everyday activity of the organisation. So, yes, I think that certainly the School of Philosophy provides that atmosphere and that richness of activity, if you like, that meditation can thrive.
Can anybody initiate another to this kind of meditation?
No, that’s not possible. The initiation process, where the student receives the mantra, is a very special situation and only specialist people, qualified in the process, can present the meditation.
The initiation is brought about by some sort of ceremony?
Yes, there is a short ceremony which is traditional and for the meditation to be effective, it is absolutely vital that the student goes through that initiation ceremony. It is a very beautiful ceremony. It’s uplifting and, in its own way, quite profound.
Is meditation for everyone?
Everybody who wants or feels as though they would like to meditate can meditate. There are no barriers to this. Just the desire really to meditate that’s all that is required. It is very important that there be that desire. Nobody should be forced into meditation because it is a completely voluntary practise and exercise.
In your own life, what difference do you think the meditation has made? If there is one thing that comes out most strongly, what would that thing be?
Well, let me say firstly that meditation has become probably the most important thing in my life in that it affects everything I do, everything I say, everywhere I go and it’s there with everyone I meet. It is just so profound really in the way it has affected me. Probably the way it’s affected me most is it has given me a much greater understanding of the people I meet. It’s removed a lot of the separateness that was formerly there that people feel when amongst others. There isn’t any sense of being different or separate or superior or even inferior. It brings about this great sense of equality and it’s an amazing place to start from because everybody is treated as not different from yourself and everybody receives the same treatment in that sense. And, to me, that’s brought a great deal of ease and, from that, just simple friendship.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Well yes. I think there is a great need in the society that we live in… and the community that we live in…. for meditation… It brings about such a change in one’s capacity to live a natural life and it connects one with one’s own Being, one’s real Being, the essence of what one is, which is not different from the essence of other people around us and it brings an ease of life which can help with all sorts of situations that people find themselves in. It makes life just that much more natural. These days a natural life is not readily found because of the pressures and the requirements that people are placed under. To find a more natural way of living and yet live in the world without, as it were, having to sacrifice anything, but to meet things, deal with things as they are and to have the capacity to just deal with it from one’s own inner Self, it’s own inner Being, from one’s natural way of living, to me is a very important need in the community. It deals with so many issues – physical, mental and spiritual. All these issues are met with the aid of meditation. Sure, there is guidance needed. Of course, that will always be the case but there is plenty of that available, particularly if one works with the School of Philosophy where these things are provided readily and on demand, as it were. All one need do is ask and help is there.