There is very famous Zen anecdote of a disciple asking his master, “Master, Master, what were you doing before your enlightenment?”
And, the Master answered, “I was tending my garden.”
“And,” the disciple asked again, “what did you do after your enlightenment?”
“Don’t you see,” the Master asked back, “I am still tending my garden.”
We can change the phrase “tending my garden” to anything. It can be “looking after my business” or “working in the office” – anything. The point is this. Meditation does not take you away from your world. Meditation does not change the outer routine of your life. Meditation colours your world, and your life.
Meditation fills your being with a fresh aroma. You are the same person, and yet you are not. From outside, nothing changes. You are still you. You may change your outfit. You may wear a robe instead of trousers and a shirt – that does not change your body, your physique. The body is still the same. Your physical needs are still there.
And yet something changes. The change is inner – it is not outer. Outwardly, no change is dictated. Inwardly, you are a new being.
“What” you do before and after meditation is not important. It is “how” you do that is important. A businessman can still run his business; a diplomat remains a diplomat; and a professional does not have to leave his profession. Meditation changes the way you run your business, and profession.
Many people have a wrong notion of meditation and meditators. They feel that meditators should be in tattered clothes, and living in a hut, deep in the forest. Well, if you choose to live so, then that is your choice. But there is no rule that a meditator should live such a life.
In fact, living in the forest does not prove how meditative you are. Your meditation is proven when you live amidst the madding crowd of the world and remain sane.
By withdrawing from the crowd, you cannot test how meditative you are. It is by remaining amidst the crowd that you can test your meditativeness.
Mahatma Gandhi listed seven traits of people living unmeditatively. These are:
1. Accumulation of “Wealth without Work.” I define the word “work” here as skill, diligence and efforts.
Do not believe in making easy money, by whatever means. Do not cheat. Do not accumulate wealth for yourself and your family at the expense of other people’s suffering.
2. “Pleasure without Conscience”: Look around; look at the suffering of humanity. Look at those who do not have enough to eat, drink or wear. Look at the children dying of hunger.
Are we reaching out to them? Are we doing something about them? Are we doing anything to lessen their suffering?
Enjoy all the pleasures, and all the comforts you have, but do not forget your brethrens living in misery.
3. “Science without Humanity”: Use scientific progress and development for constructive purposes, and to enhance life – not for destructive purposes.
Use nuclear energy for life, and not for death.
4. “Knowledge without Character” – the end of all knowledge is character, morality. Nowadays we use knowledge for living, not for life.
We have turned our degrees into begging bowls to beg for jobs. Our definition of life is reduced to material comforts. We cannot see beyond matter. We cannot penetrate into matter, and find the core energy, the spirit.
Indeed, we live superficially. We live at the periphery, and this is the reason of our stresses, tensions, depressions, anxieties and distresses.
5. “Politics without Principle”: Politicians who believe that there is no permanent hostility and no permanent friendship in politics – are very, very unmeditative.
Unfortunately, however, such are the politicians all around us. States and nations are mortgaged to people with money. Puppets playing to the tune of their masters run governments.
6. “Commerce without Morality”: This is the principle of the non-meditative masters, the puppeteers referred to in the previous trait.
7. “Worship without Sacrifice”: Religion is reduced to rituals by the non-meditative. Charity is reduced to giving alms to the poor. The principles of sharing and caring are completely forgotten. The spirit of religion is lost.
Meditators share with the less privileged. Now, by sharing with the less privileged, I do not mean that you should be carrying a bagful of change and distribute it among the poor on certain days, or when you fancy. No, such charity does not help. Such charity makes people lazy.
There is an old saying here across the archipelago: “Instead of giving a fish, teach one to fish.” Share your intellectual skills. Share your experience. Share your knowledge. And, yes, if need be share your wealth as well. But do not go on distributing your wealth unskillfully, and indiscreetly.
Living meditatively is living consciously, aware of one’s weaknesses and strengths, of one’s shortcomings and potential.
Living meditatively is living harmoniously with nature, with the environment, with fellow human beings and brother animals on the land, and sister birds in the skies above.
Living meditatively in living in peace with oneself, and with others. Living meditatively is living worshipfully – it is living in God Consciousness. It is seeing the Face of God in the West, and in the East, and discovering the temple of God within one’s own being.
The writer is a spiritual humanist and author of more than 170 books, several in English (www.aumkar.org, www.anandkrishna.org). 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