There was a vigorous debate last year whether yoga and/or meditation were part of certain religious rituals, belief systems, science or some sort of physical training.

The census among those who raised the issue was that as long as yoga was done for physical wellbeing only, and without any chanting etcetera, it was safe for practice by people of their faith.

The census, however, was not clear on the issue of meditation. Many still felt that meditation was a ritual, involved the chanting of mantras etc, and therefore part of a certain belief system.

Must meditation involve chanting?

I didn’t know that… anyway, okay, fine.

Surprisingly, one of my friends commented on this by stating that the “chanting part” could be changed to comply with any religion, thus implying that meditation indeed involved chanting; hence a ritual.

Now, here, the word “ritual” can be very scary. There are rulings and edicts that people are not supposed to attend the rituals of religions other than their own.

O Meditation, what luck!

Then there are people who project meditation as a form of hypnosis, and a tool to brainwash the practitioners. Interestingly, hypnotherapy is not only accepted, but also practiced by some of these accusers. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy. One is for brainwashing; the other is not!

It is like saying that physiology is brainwashing, and physiotherapy is not. Or psychology is brainwashing and psychotherapy is not. Interesting, indeed!

No matter what Psychology Today, or top experts in the field of neuroscience like Dr Andrew Newberg have to say about meditation, some of our adamant friends remain against meditation. Perhaps they see meditation as competition. That could – I repeat: could – explain their fears.

Dr Newberg has written extensively on meditation, its affect on the human brain and its efficacy. Go to any bookstore on the isle, and you will find books written on the subject. I have myself co-authored two books in Indonesian with medical practitioners, psychologists and a neurosurgeon. In fact my third book on the subject will soon be in the stores.

What is brainwashing?

Is it really possible to brainwash someone? How do you define the word? What does the word imply? Brainwashing – ah, so my brain must be so filthy that it needs to be washed. Would you wash your clean clothes? If not, then why you, in your senses, would allow your clean brain to be washed?

“You, in your senses” – yes, you in your senses.

The brain is one of the sense organs, entrusted with not only the job of thinking, reflecting and analysing, but also of governing the functions of all other organs, or at least assisting them.

The brain is smart.

“You” are as smart as your brain is. “You” need the organ to express your smartness (Daniel G. Amen MD, Healing the Hardware of the Soul). The question is: Who are you?

Medical science has only lately been researching on this “you.” And it is taken aback by the findings of the ancient scientists called rishis, or seers. Thousands of years back they had already discovered that beyond the physical brain is the human mind (see the findings of Bruce H. Lipton in The Biology of Belief).

This mind is the entity making use of the physical organ called the brain. Therefore, it needs a good and healthy brain. Now, the health of our brain does not entirely depend on the food we eat, or the vitamins and minerals we consume. As the research of Newberg, Lipton and other scientists indicate, more than the food and supplements we consume, it is the health of our mind that ensures the health of our brain.

Meditation is the science to keep your mind healthy. Meditation, as further indicated by Newberg, makes us creative, innovative and efficient. A healthy mind is bold, brave, courageous and fearless. A weak mind is fearful, weak. One may try to hide his or her fears by pretending to be fearless – that does not help. Indeed, that weakens you further, for you are consuming a lot of energy pretending to be what you are not.

What weakens the mind?

These are the conditionings imposed upon our brain during our childhood – the so-called golden years, i.e. from birth to the age of 12. How a child is raised during those years conditions the mind for the rest of his life.

Meditation recognizes this, and therefore it suggests a series of exercises to first de-condition the mind. A de-conditioned mind is your true self, the gift with which you were born – this is your original self. Meditation does not add anything to you. Meditation takes away all the dirt that you have gathered over the years. Meditation rids you of all imitations, and leads you back to your originality.

Meditation takes you through a process of cleansing, through kriyas or exercises such as pranayama or the regulation of breath.

Once the mind is clear – this is definitely not brainwashing – it decides for itself how it wants to reconstruct itself. The end result is boddhichitta – the awakened and conscious mind.

Boddhichitta is not achieved through drugs, hypnosis or hypnotherapy, and certainly not through brainwashing. It is achieved through one’s own awareness, one’s own consciousness. It is the result of self-awakening.

Now, the difference between hypnosis and meditation – if any. Hypnosis affects the human brain. It can create a sleep-like state. It can temporarily block certain parts of brain. It can or may do many things to the brain – but it cannot affect the mind. The mind remains unaffected.

I have never heard of a hypnotherapist – no matter how good at his job – who can lead one to self-awakening. Hypnotherapy, or hypnosis, stops at the physical level. Meditation begins where hypnosis and hypnotherapy stop.

Some people may need hypnosis or hypnotherapy to prepare them for meditation. An already weakened brain may need to be strengthened first before opening it to meditation. Hypnosis or hypnotherapy can be used as tools to open one to meditation. But that is it. It cannot do more than that. It is NOT meditation. Again, hypnosis and hypnotherapy are not the only tools; there are several other, much safer tools, including but not limited to certain yogic exercises.

Enough for now; more next week.

The writer is a spiritual humanist and author of more than 170 books, several in English (, His organisation runs Holistic Health/Meditation Centers, a National Plus/Interfaith School, a Charitable Clinic and a Public Reading Room in Bali. For more information, call 08788 511 1979 or (SMS Only) 0811 14 4959

February 19, 2010 By Anand Krishna