The Way to Inner Calm and Clarity
The Value of Solitude
Self-Mastery and Drugs
Meditation Cures Pressure
Buddhism and Mysticism
The Way to Inner Calm and Clarity
Meditation forms the very heart and core of the Buddha's teaching. As the subject is vast, this work will discuss some aspects of Buddhist meditation with special reference to Satipatthana, "setting up or application of mindfulness."
The world today is not what it was half a century ago. Ideas of good and bad are changing fast, moral attitudes are in flux and the general outlook of people is very different.
We live in an age of rush and speed. Tension is everywhere. If you stand at the corner of a busy street and scan the faces of the people hurrying feverishly by, you will notice that most of them are restless. They carry with them an atmosphere of stress. They are mostly pictures of rush and worry. Rarely will you find a picture of calm, content and repose in any of these faces. Such is the modern world.
Today's world is characterised by inordinate haste leading to quick decisions and imprudent actions. Some shout when they could speak in normal tone, others talk excitedly at a forced pitch for long periods and finish a conversation almost exhausted. Any kind of excitement is a stress in the physiologist's sense of the word, and stress causes the speeding up of bodily processes. It is not seldom that a person driving a vehicle gets agitated on seeing the green colour of the traffic lights giving place to amber. The anxious man regards even a minor event as if it were a crisis or a threat. As a result man is worried and unhappy.
Another feature of the modern world is its noisiness. "Music hath charms," they say, but for many today, even music is not agreeable if there is no noise; the louder the noise, the greater is the music to them. Those who live in big cities have no time to think of the noise, they are conditioned by it and accustomed to it. This noise, stress and strain have done much damage by way of ailments --heart diseases, cancer, ulcers, nervous tension and insomnia. Many of our illnesses are caused by anxiety, nervous tension, economic distress and emotional unrest -- all products of modem life.
Our nervous exhaustion is increasing with the speeding up of our life. People often return home after work with their nerves on edge. As a consequence their concentration is weakened and mental and physical efficiency are lowered. Man becomes easily irritated and is quick to find fault and pick a quarrel. He becomes morbidly introspective and experiences aches and pains and suffers from hypertension and sleeplessness. These symp-toms of nervous exhaustion clearly show that modern man's mind and body require rest -- rest of a high quality.
Let us bear in mind that a certain aloofness, a withdrawing of the mind from the busyness of life is a requisite to mental hygiene. Whenever you get an opportunity, try to be away from the town and engage yourself in quiet contemplation, call it yoga, concentration or meditation. Learn to observe the silence. Silence does so much good to us. It is quite wrong to imagine that they alone are powerful who are noisy, garrulous and fussily busy. Silence is golden, and we must speak only if we can improve on silence. The greatest creative energy works in silence. Observing silence is important. We do that in our meditation. Hear these words of the Buddha:
"When, disciples, you have gathered together there are two things to be done: either talk about the Dhamma (the doctrine, what is righteous) or observe noble silence." 
The Value of Solitude
People are so used to noise and talk that they feel lonely and out of place if they do not speak. But if we train ourselves in the art of cultivating silence, we will learn to enjoy it.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember that there is peace in silence. We must take time off to go into retreat in search of silence. We must, now and then, break away from motion to remain motionless. It is a peaceful form of existence. In lonely retreat we experience the value of silent contemplation. We make an inward journey. When we withdraw into silence, we are absolutely alone to see ourselves as we really are and then we can learn to overcome the weaknesses and limitations in ordinary experience.
Time spent in secluded contemplation is not wasted; it goes a long way to strengthen a man's character. It is an asset to our daily work and progress if we can find the time to cut ourselves off from routine and spend a day or two in quiet contemplation. This is surely not escapism or living in idleness, but the best way to strengthen our mind. This is beneficial introspection; for it is by examining our thoughts and feeling that we can probe into the inner meaning of things and discover the powers within.
Modern man is starved for solitude. A little solitude every day, a little aloofness, a little cutting away from the "madding crowd," is very necessary to give balance to the mind which is greatly upset by the rush and speed, din and turmoil, clash and clang of modern life. It is in and through solitude that the human mind gains in strength and power.
Modern man seeks happiness outside himself instead of seeking it within. Thus he has brought the external world under his sway. Science and technology seem to promise that they can turn this world into a paradise. Today there is ceaseless work going on in all directions to improve the outer world. Scientists pursue their experi-ments with undiminished vigour and determination. Man's quest to unravel the hidden secrets of nature continues unabated. Modern discoveries and methods of communi-cation have produced startling results. All these improve-ments, though they bring their rewards, are entirely material and external. In spite of all this, man cannot yet control his mind. Therefore, for all his scientific progress he remains discontent, anxious and tense.
People are searching for solutions to their various problems in vain because their approach, their method, is wrong. They think all problems can be solved externally. Most of the problems, however, are internal. They spring from the world within, and so the solution, too, is to be sought within.
Those interested in protecting the environment have raised their voice against air, sea and land pollution. But what of our mind pollution? Are we equally interested in protecting and cleansing our minds? As the Buddha points out: "For a long time has man's mind been defiled by greed, hatred and delusion (ignorance). Mental defilements make beings impure; mental cleansing purifies them."  The Buddhist way of life is an intense process of cleansing one's action, speech, and thought. It is self-development and self-purification resulting in self-realization. The emphasis is on practical results and not on philosophical speculation or logical abstraction. Hence the need to practise daily a little meditation, to behave like the hen on her eggs; for we have been most of the time behaving like the squirrel in the revolving cage.
Meditation is not a practice of today or yesterday. From time immemorial people have been practising meditation in diverse ways. Yogis, saints and enlightened ones of all ages have gone on the path of meditation and have attributed all their achievements to meditation. There never was, and never will be, any mental development or mental purity without meditation. Meditation was the means by which Siddhattha Gotama, the Buddha, gained supreme enlightenment.
Meditation is not only for
All religions teach some kind of meditation or mental training for inner development. It may take the form of silent prayer, reading individually or collectively from some holy scriptures, or concentrating on some sacred object, person or idea. And it is believed that these mental exercises, at times, result in seeing visions of saints or holy men, engaging in conversation with them, or hearing voices, or some mysterious occurrences. Whether they are illusions, imaginations, hallucinations, mere projections of the subconscious mind or real phenomena, one cannot say with certainty. Mind is an invisible force capable of producing all these phenomena.
"Trance is carried so far by certain yogis and mystics that it becomes anaesthetic, and they do not feel anything."  We have seen people in "meditation" postures who have fallen into a kind of coma and seem to be lost in thought. Others witnessing such occurrences wrongly think that this is a kind of meditation (bhavana).
Buddhist books tell us that through meditative absorption (jhana), through the development of mental faculties, man is capable of gaining psychic powers. But it is very important to bear in mind that the Buddhist jhana is not a state of auto-hypnosis, coma or unconsciousness. It is a state of mental purity where disturbing passions and impulses are subdued and calmed down so that the mind becomes unified and collected and enters into a state of clear consciousness and mindfulness.
It is interesting to observe that these phenomena have gained some acceptance through recent research in parapsychology. Interest in the subject of extra-sensory perception, in experimental psychology, is slowly gaining ground and the results obtained seem to be beyond ordinary comprehension. These are, however, only side-products which are of minor significance when compared with man's final deliverance, his release from bonds, from mental fetters. At times these paranormal happenings may even act as fetters and retard realization and enlightenment.
The meditation taught in Buddhism is neither for gaining union with any supreme being, nor for bringing about mystical experiences, nor for any self-hypnosis. It is for gaining tranquillity of mind (samatha) and insight (vipassana), for the sole purpose of attaining unshakable deliverance of the mind (akuppa ceto vimutti) -- that supreme security from bondage attainable through the total extirpation of all mental defilements. All may not be able to reach such heights as unshakable deliverance of the mind, but failure does not matter so long as we are sincere and pure in our motives. Let us strive on, falter not. It is worth striving again and again. Some day, if not in this life, we may reach the summit that those who really strove have reached.
Even if we fail to attain full enlightenment, we will surely be rewarded in our efforts. A fast-moving society needs a little meditation to ease the stress and tension and to withstand the vicissitudes of life. Through meditation we can overcome most of our psychological or psychosomatic problems and anxiety disorders, emotions and impulses, and gain mental calm and peace.
Self-Mastery and Drugs
The Buddha says: "Though one may conquer in battle a million men, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself."  This is nothing other than self-mastery.  It means mastering our minds, or emotions, likes and dislikes and so forth.
Control of the mind is the key to happiness. It is the force behind all true achievement. The movements of a man void of control are purposeless. It is due to lack of control that conflicts of diverse kinds arise in our mind. And if conflicts are to be controlled, if not eliminated, we must give less rein to our longings and inclinations and endeavour to live a life self-governed and pure. Everyone is aware of the benefits of physical training. However, we are not merely bodies, we also possess a mind which needs training. Mind training or meditation is the key to self-mastery and to that contentment which brings happiness.
Of all forces the force of the mind is the most potent. It is a power by itself. To understand the real nature of life, we have to explore the innermost recesses of our mind which can only be accomplished by deep self-introspection based on purity of conduct and meditation.
From the Buddhist point of view the mind or consciousness is the core of our existence. All our psychological experiences, such as pain and pleasure, sorrow and happiness, good and evil, life and death, are not caused by any external agency. They are the result of our own thoughts and their resultant actions.
In recent times people have been busy examining and investigating psychic phenomena, the study of which seems to reveal the hidden resources of the human mind. The urge in man to seek spiritual guidance, his desire for inner development, is on the increase. This is a good sign. Western interest in Indian thought, yoga and meditation is increasing at an amazing rate. The reason is not far to seek. There is a mounting feeling of restlessness among the people the world over. This feeling is prevalent mostly among the youth. They want a quick remedy for the turmoil of the materialistic world. They are in search of peace and tranquillity.
The problem of youth finds no solution in the dogmatic creeds of hereditary religion. The question of the inner world remains unanswered. The value placed on the material aspects of life which are taken so much for granted by modern man, seems so superficial to the searching mind. The problems of the Western world are basically psychological. Obviously material knowledge and scientific and technogical know-how have not brought man the answer to world problems, to man's problems. This type of knowledge has only led to the multiplication of problems.
Young people who took to narcotic drugs in the belief that it has the answer to their mental frustration, are now turning to yogic discipline and meditation. Surely narcotic drugs cannot do for us what true meditation can do. Drugs are no substitute for true meditation in the search for a quiet mind. Drugs weaken the mind rather than strengthen it.
"The world is beset by a new plague, a disease which is incurable for most of those it touches, fatal for many, a pestilence which promises a flight into the world of dreams away from a life which is allegedly devoid of purposes and value, a disease which above all threatens the children of our technological age: narcotics. Millions of young people are already infected with this disease, thousands of them are condemned to an early death, hundreds of thousands are addicted or psychologically dependent on the soft-drugs, such as hashish, which cause brain damage, impair efficiency and lead to character disintegration ..." 
There is indisputable evidence that meditation can produce physiological changes that may, in turn, have beneficial psychological side-effects. Attempts have already been made to measure these effects. Dr. Herbert Benson, who experimented with meditation for nearly a decade, was mainly interested in finding out how factors that are psychological in nature come to exert physical effects on the heart, blood pressure and other aspects of the circulatory system and its functions. His ideas and research are fully presented in his book, The Relaxation Response. Research done at
Meditation Cures Pressure
Meditation is not a voluntary exile from life or something practised for the hereafter. Meditation should be applied to the daily affairs of life, and its results obtained here and now. It is not separated from the work-a-day life. It is part and parcel of our life. This fact becomes clear when we study the four-fold setting up, or application of mindfulness (satipatthana). When free from the rush of city life, from nagging preoccupation with the world, we are not so liable to lose control. It is only in society that it takes some effort to check such lapses. Any meditation we do is of immense help in enabling us to face all this with calm. If we ignore meditation, life lacks meaning, purpose and inspiration.
There was a time when many thought that meditation is only for the recluses, yogis and forest dwellers. Things, however, have changed, and now there is a growing interest in meditation. If by meditation is meant mental discipline or mind culture, it goes without saying that all should cultivate meditation irrespective of sex, colour, creed or any other division. Modern society is in danger of being swamped by distractions and temptations which can only be controlled if we undertake the dificult task of steadily training our minds.
It is very difficult, indeed, for people to turn away from accustomed modes of thought and conduct, but meditation can help to ease the burden of chaotic cares in life. The ultimate aim of Buddhist meditation is to gain full enlightenment, self-mastery and complete mental health or Nibbana through the conquest of mental defilements. But apart from this ultimate aim there are other advantages and benefits that can be derived through meditation. It can inspire us to discover our own intelligence, richness and natural dignity. Meditation can also stimulate the latent powers of the mind, aid clear thinking, deep understanding, mental balance and tranquillity. It is a creative process which aims at converting the chaotic feelings and unwholesome thoughts into mental harmony and purity. It is the most meaningful therapy for the problems of modern life. When the mind is trained through meditation, it can perceive things that are beyond the range of normal senses. All these benefits can be obtained through meditation, not all at once, but gradually, through systematic training and practice.
In addition, meditation has physical ramifications. Meditation can relax the nerves, control or reduce the blood pressure, make us zestful by stemming the dissipation of energy through tensions, improve our health and keep us fit. The medical profession has taken cognizance of the use of meditation as is shown by this article:
"It has now been proved that high blood pressure and other diseases connected with the heart could easily be cured by Buddhist meditation. Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhina-yake, Consultant Psychiatrist, Harley Hospital Essex, UK, and Postgraduate Tutor of the British Medical Federation in charge of doctors' appointments in
"It had been scientifically proved through electro-encepholograph (EEG) readings that the Anapanasati meditation was capable of synchronising the working of the two sides of the brain. This reduced the patient's oxygen needs, reduced the heartbeat, blood pressure, and the breathing rate. Fifteen minutes of Anapanasati meditation had the effect of three Aldomat tablets (250 mg) on a high blood pressure patient. Dr. Bodhinayake said that it had also been proved that this meditation could be used to get people out of drug addiction. It also greatly helped brain development, thinking capacity and retentive power.
"A large number of students of
Buddhism and Mysticism
Even some psychosomatic ailments can be cured by meditation. We can use meditation in treating emotional and stress disease as well as to break the vicious addiction to drugs. Meditation, relaxation, and other types of mental therapy can be used with advantage in chronic illnesses.
Meditation is a way of living, a total way of living and not a partial activity. It aims at developing man as a whole. Let us strive for perfection here and now, not in some golden age yet to come. It may not be impossible to get what we really want in life by unlocking the psychic powers within us, the wonderful power of our mind.
Meditation is a distinctively human phenomenon, and therefore, should be dealt with from a human point of view, with human feelings and human understanding. Human problems and their solutions are basically psychological in nature. True meditation and mysticism do not co-exist. They are two different things. While mysticism takes us away from reality, meditation brings us to reality; for through real meditation we can see our own illusions and hallucinations face to face without pretence. This brings about a total transformation in our personality. It is more of an unlearning than a learning. We have to give up many things that we have learnt and hugged in great glee once we realize that they are hindrances and obsessions.
All of our psychological problems are rooted in ignorance, in delusion. Ignorance is the crowning corrup-tion (avijja paramam malam).  Our greeds, hates, conceits and a host of other defilements go hand in hand with our ignorance. The solutions are to be found in the problems themselves and hence we should not run away from them. Analyse and scrutinize the problems, and you will see that they are all human problems, so do not attribute them to non-humans. Our real problems can be solved only by giving up illusions and false concepts and bringing our lives into harmony with reality. This can be done only through meditation.
 Majjhima Nikaya 26/ I 21
 Samyutta Nikaya iii, 100
 Alexandra David-Neel, With Mystics and Magicians (London; Penguin, 1940) given interesting accounts of Tibetan mystics.
 Dhammapada, v. 103.
 Buddhism denies a permanent soul, self, indestructible ego, or any permanent entity, because there is nothing, animate or inanimate, that is permanent, stable, fixed, or lasting. All things change, not remaining the same for two consecutive moments. In Buddhism the word "self" is used as a reflexive pronoun, like oneself, myself, yourself, himself, etc.
 International Scala, Nov. 1971
 Time, Vol. 100, No 17 October 1972.
 Edward Arambawela, "Meditation Cures Pressure", Sunday Observer (
 Dhammapada, v. 243