In the Indian tradition, the goal of one’s life is to attain yoga. Patanjali defines yoga as the ‘cessation of fluctuation in consciousness.’ Yoga is the state of consciousness where nothing arises nor passes away – a state without a beginning or a deathless state. Deathless means amrit in Sanskrit, which is the state the Bhagavad Gita asks us to attain, and also the aim of Buddhist meditation, although it is also called nibbana by the Buddhists and brahmanirvana in the Gita (2.72). The word used by the Jains is anarambhi, which means ‘without a beginning.’ From this it is evident that all the ancient Indian traditions are asking us to make the efforts to experience the same state of consciousness where nothing arises nor passes away.
The way to attain this state of consciousness in the two most ancient religions of the world, Hinduism and Buddhism, as we have seen above, is also the same Indian Meditative Technique. This technique, given in Anthony de Mello’s book Sadhana, has been highly praised by the Christians – on the cover of the CD Sadhana, Anthony de Mello has been acclaimed as “A Guru For The Twentyfirst Century.” This technique is also regularly taught at a Vipassana Meditation Center in the Islamic State of Iran. As this meditative technique has been accepted by all the major religions of the world, it can go a long way in uniting the people of the different religious faiths.
This meditative technique helps us to experience and know the things going on within our body. Within the body every second, millions of cells are dying, which is just pain and suffering. When we can experience and know how much we are suffering within, we can also understand how others are also suffering. This realization makes us more altruistic and helps us to have more understanding for others.
Each of the trillions of cells in our body is constantly craving and attracting nutrients and avoiding and expelling toxins. Thus it is our very nature to instinctively crave for the things we need and avoid things that harm us. When we observe the sensory experiences of the activity within the body, and continually refrain from reacting to them with craving and aversion in our meditation, over time, we gain the ability to control our instinctive and impulsive nature. Thus the Indian meditative technique can help us to curb our impulsive behavior.
The sensations we experience within the body tell us what we need in order to survive and we use our external sense organs to find and get what we need. When we are unable to observe our inner body sensations we are unable to figure out what we actually need. And we go out and get much more than what we really need; our wants far exceed our needs. And when we all live in this manner, it creates a scarcity of our needs in our environment, which leads to not only the overexploitation and degradation of our environment, but also to all sorts of social problems, including ill-will, conflicts and wars. The Indian meditative technique of observing our body sensations can go a long way in getting rid of all these problems.
The Indian meditative technique has been tried and tested and found to be highly effective. After a successful trial on a batch of SSC students few years back, the Vipassana Research Institute now teaches the breath awareness exercise of this meditation technique, annapana, to all children in the schools of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. The Breath Sensation Exercise from the Sadhana book, or CD, can be used to help children improve their attentive capability.
The scientific Indian meditative Technique is so very effective in improving our lives and in changing human nature that it is even used to help hard core criminals. Regular 10 Day Vipassana courses are now held at various correctional institutions, including the Tihar Jail at Delhi and the maximum security Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama, USA.[i]
After being dejected by the bloody Kalinga war, the great Emperor Asoka took up the practice of dhamma, which is what this Indian meditative technique – Sanatana Dharma, the great Indian Heritage – is called by the followers of Gautama Buddha. His edicts say that he had ‘entered the sangha,’ which according the Buddhist Tipittika scriptures means that he had ‘experienced nibbana.’ And thereafter he eschewed war and dedicated his life to the dhammavijay – victory by means of dharma. In all his edicts he shows us how dhamma has benefited the people, and finally in his last edicts he tells us why he had engraved the edicts in hard rock: “I have done this, so that among my sons and grandsons, and as long as the sun and moon shall endure, men may follow dhamma.” [Seventh Pillar Edict]
“Over Great areas of the world it still survives; it is possible that in contact with western science, and inspired by the spirit of history, the original teaching of Gautama, revived and purified, may yet play a large part in the direction of human destiny.” – H. G. Wells, The Outline of History
[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dhamma_Brothers and http://www.prison.dhamma.org/ussummary.htm