“As the body becomes steady and at ease, the breath begins to come under control, the mind begins to experience peace and the journey to our true self begins…”

Our Search For Lasting Happiness - by Sri M (Final Part)

The next question is – "Is there a difference between meditation and introspection?"
The word meditation is very very loaded. I’d say that when I use the word meditation it includes the word introspection. You can’t meditate without introspection  Now when I say Introspection, it means give complete attention to something. To an idea or to a  form or to an icon or to an image or even to a sound.
To give complete attention or what you call 'shraddha' is known as introspection, which means one is exclusively thinking and unraveling the different layers of one’s own mind.
This requires a great deal of attention and attention comes through meditation. So that’s what I mean by meditation.
The process by which, one pointed attention is developed, I am deliberately not using the word concentration because usually what people think of concentration is that you strain and try to fix your attention on something. But one pointed attention means one is completely relaxed and yet fully alive and sensitive – so from this  point of view – there is really not much difference between meditation and introspection. Except that it is true meditation only when one is clear and not confused.
Now the next question - "Is it necessary to have a personal guru or a spiritual teacher to start meditation?"
This question has been asked a number of times and it’s a very important question. You can start meditation by reading a book or by listening to somebody or just yourself sitting down and looking at the river flowing by.
When I was a student, and was wandering in the Himalayas, with my Baba Ji (Master), one of the meditation practices he gave me was to sit quietly and watch the river as it flows.
In today’s world when you really find it difficult to choose a Guru – maybe it is a good idea to start meditating without a Guru. Don’t do anything complicated, just sit down quietly, relaxed and let your mind settle down first.
But,  there is a great advantage if you have a real teacher, a real spiritual teacher. I’m not talking about the spiritual teacher who is in the race of trying to collect disciples; I am talking about a person, a spiritual teacher who is seriously interested in leading one from confusion to understanding, from unhappiness to happiness and from uncertainty and illusion to reality. If one fortunately finds such a teacher and if one develops a relationship – a personal relationship with the teacher then it would certainly be a great advantage. There is a spiritual law. That when a person, an aspirant, a seeker, really and seriously searches for a spiritual teacher or longs for spiritual guide, a teacher appears. One does not have to run around the Himalayas looking for a teacher.
The question is, is one ready? Is one really serious, as one could get as one is trying to build up a bank balance.
Then there is the fourth question which is being asked, "I have tried meditation, but when I am alone, I only seem to dwell on my problems and cannot concentrate on anything else".
I have an answer for this, which is that you probably haven’t tried the right kind of meditation. The meditation that is suitable for you. Therefore, I would suggest that you sit down with a teacher, a spiritual teacher, quietly talk to this teacher, ask your question, and reveal your psychological make up to this person. Let the teacher explore your psyche and then give you the right kind of meditation. If that is done I am sure that you can meditate when you are alone.
Here is the last question – "I've started sadhna (spiritual practice) or meditation. How do I know that I am making progress?"
This is a very important question, I have been meditating for many years and am still the same. I have been meditating for so many years my heart is as it was. I have been meditating for so many years; I have no peace of mind. So if these are the questions, that you encounter … then you are definitely, not making progress.
So how do I know, if I am making progress in meditation?
First I am able to sit down quietly even if it for a short period, with my mind settled peacefully, without distraction. Fixing my attention on own inner self.
The moment, I sit down to meditate, I am able to cut off all the disturbances of the world and go deep within – quiet and calm. I am now able to deal with serious problems of life without getting upset or confused, or without fearing what is the solution or without the fear that I might not succeed in handling the problem.

I am now in tune with the whole of nature – with the rain, with the wind, with the clouds, with the earth. I can no longer hate. My mind is peaceful. In short, I am a better person now, than I was, before I started meditation.
If that is happening, then you are making progress. And, as one proceeds deeper and deeper into one’s practice – one begins to also be in tune and open up to dimensions which are usually unknown to the ordinary mind.

Our Search For Lasting Happiness - by Sri M (Part 3)

Continued from - Our Search For Lasting Happiness (Part 2) - by M 

Is ‘meditation’ or ‘sadhana’ (spiritual practice) essential for happiness? Is it necessary to meditate? Is being good or kind to others not enough to attain happiness?
First of all, I’d say, if you are happy, if you really are happy,if you are fulfilled, if you are happy within yourself, if you are independent of anything external and still exude happiness, then you don’t have to do Sadhana.
There is no necessity for doing sadhana because the very need for doing sadhana arises because one finds that one is not happy.
Even if he’s happy – the only problem is, if you look carefully enough – you’ll find that this happiness that you’re talking about is usually fleeting. It is not with us all the time. Therefore we think, it is essential to find that happiness and peace which is lasting and not fleeting. Only then one looks for sadhana.
All sadhana is not mere meditation.
Sadhana has to be complimented by one’s activity in the outside world. How one deals with other human beings and so on. That’s also an essential part of sadhana, not merely sitting with closed eyes and pretending to meditate.
In fact my master used to tell me that if you can sit down with closed eyes without moving for a full hour everyday and can do it for ten years in the same way and you don’t hear the crying of a hungry child in your neighbourhood, all your meditation has gone waste.
Which means meditation – the search for happiness – is successful or shall we say is most effective only when mind begins to change.That is essentially sadhana and meditation, not merely the mechanical practice of sitting down.
Of course there are meditation techniques that are practised to calm the mind and make one turn inward. But the real meaning of sadhana is to begin by wondering if there is an essential being in us? Our true consciousness – a spark of the divine! And if it is so, the same spark of the divine has also to be in all other human beings.
Therefore the true saadhak (spiritual aspirantnot only meditates in the way his Guru has taught him to, depending on his needs. He also begins to function in the world with the understanding, although weak in the beginning, that the divine spark which is in him, is also in all living beings.
And, therefore to serve, to help, to be kind is also a form of worship of that divine spark in other living beings. So kindness and doing good to others should go side by side along with one’s meditative practices. They are not against each other, rather they complement each other.
Now to the question, ‘Is being good to others not enough to attain happiness?’
I would say that if you really, by doing good to others, by recognizing the divine spark in others, if you really feel happy, then you are already an advanced soul who needs very little of any other kind of meditation. But if you look carefully enough , you see that this is not always so. Sometimes you are kind , sometimes you are not. You are not uniformly kind all the time.
Most of what we call kindness that takes place or is expressed – is only when we are not threatened or when we don’t feel that something is going to be taken away from us or that our rights are being trampled upon.
One must note that kindness doesn’t always mean giving something to somebody who is in need. Sometimes it is necessary to make the person who is in need to understand the need to stand on his/her feet and find out what he is looking for himself. That may sometimes require a little bit of unpleasantness. When the child who is not doing well is scolded by the mother or the father, it is not being unkind. It is kindness. So one has to be very careful when one defines in being kind. 
But I can tell you that anyone who meditates, anyone who’s moving towards the spiritual goal – by the very nature of one’s sadhana - becomes more kinder, more helpful. He does good to others and definitely at least not cause harm to others.
Most people are themselves not full of happiness. So what will they share with others? It is only when you are complete that you can give. When you are  not complete what will you give to others?

Therefore what  I mean by sadhana is first to find that completeness, which doesn’t mean that while you are trying to find that completeness, while you’re performing your sadhana, you should not be doing good to others. This is not what I mean. You should (do good) because that completes your meditation. If you have done one good deed and sat down and meditated, that day’s meditation is 100 times better than when you have caused harm to somebody.

As you go deeper and deeper into your sadhana, whatever be the sadhana , that’s taught to you personally by your personal teacher, you’ll find that you’re becoming not only happier, but also a kinder, more caring and a better person.
- To be continued