Old School Meditation 2

Blogs inspired by the material taught at the School of Meditation, Holland Park Avenue, London; these notes are taken from the material taught at groups during early 2019…

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Infinite Source

There is a level of being which is the same for us all regardless of our social and economic circumstances, ethnicity, age and the other categories we regularly have to tick boxes for. The School of Meditation teaches the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, which sees an infinite source of everything that exists in creation.

This idea is a mystery to the conceptualising mind; but the practice of meditation can offer a direct experience of this infinity.

The material tells us to: Become still, be quiet and experience your very being, the very fact that you exist…

Let go of any sense of a separate existence.

Let go of desire.

Advaita teaches us that this practice of meditation will bring equanimity. The individual self (or Atman in Hindu parlance) merges with the Universal Self (Paramatman). The School of Meditation teaches that the practice prepares the mind to receive subtle truths that we would otherwise miss.

Two Aspects of Existence

On the surface level, everything is in constant flux. But the real Self does not change, despite the turbulence. Subtle truths are experienced at a deeper level. Advaita encourages students to identify with the deeper Self rather than the activities on the surface of life. It encourages people to return, with regular reminders, to this deeper Self.

To identify with a passing state on the surface is to invite suffering. Like a teenager seeking status in a group, with the two extremes of being puffed-up with pride and certainty when they are accepted but becoming bitterly depressed and lost when they are met with rejection.

“Come to know the One in the Presence before you and everything hidden from you will be revealed”

The Gospel of St Thomas

The Shankaracharya (Shri Shantananda Saraswati) described two aspects of existence: the mobile and the immobile. The mobile refers to creation; all the action we see and do. Immobile refers to ‘the Absolute’ (what is more commonly labelled God and was called the Paramatman earlier in this blog).

The Shankaracharya explains more: that the Absolute contains everything, that all creation is a manifestation of the Absolute.

When most people want to end their suffering, they yearn for an end to movement and yearn for the presence of stillness. The Advaita tradition teaches that the stillness is already there, always within us, where we are already – eternally in the presence of the Absolute.

When we suffer, we seek to escape the pain, and we may develop a happy knack of connecting with the stillness of a deeper experience. Unfortunately, we cannot reside in that peace forever – our eyes open and then life moves us along to the next thing.

But we can remember, and that is something worth dwelling on for a while. Remember who you are. Are you the movement or the stillness?

You can see the movement, 

But you cannot see the stillness – that is because it is the stillness that is doing the observing…

 

 

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

 

The material in this blog was inspired by the teachings at the School of Meditation, Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UH. The school opened in 1961 and was taken under the wing of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles’ meditation teacher, who introduced the school’s founders to Shri Shantananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Northern India. In a series of Q & As, the Shankaracharya provided answers to the questions of the visitors from London. These answers formed the basis of the school’s teaching material.

Old School Meditation 1

Blogs inspired by the material taught at the School of Meditation on Holland Park Avenue; The school teaches a philosophy called Advaita Vedanta, literally One without a second. These notes are taken from the material taught at groups early in 2019…

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2019’s first session was about letting go and desiring nothing. This, apparently, is the way to contentment.

The advice in the material was: ‘don’t be driven by desire’.

If I pause and think about it, I find that my mind is filled with desire: for material things, for situations to be different in the world, for a different government, for money, for pleasure, for knowledge, to be accepted and loved.

It’s easy to say ‘don’t be driven by desire’ but surely that desire helps me to get the things I need to stay alive and thrive. The point of the teaching is not that I should try to abandon desire, but it is a warning against being driven by it.

As desire falls, contentment rises. It appears to be a more natural state.

Contentment also comes from connecting with other people. The material explains that this phenomenon occurs because the people making the connection are enjoying a shared experience of the Self. The Self with a capital S is a frequently-used phrase in spiritual books and teachings. It means the same thing as Soul might to a Christian or Muslim, Neshama to a Jew, or Atman to a Hindu. Different words, same impossible-to-define thing. If it even is a thing.

Through human connections, often referred to through the ages as Satsang, but at the school called Good Company, the shared experience of the Self allows the feeling of separation to evaporate. That’s why I sometimes feel so refreshed when I leave the school – after a day of separating myself from my fellow beings around London, I connect again.

Pathless Paths

The Advaita teaching at the school presents what appears to be a path to contentment. Except that it isn’t a path. According to Vedanta teachers, we already are that contentment – we cannot travel a path that we already are. Instead of a long, complex and strenuous journey, we just come to realise that we already are everything.

Mind-bend, but it’s identified a pathless path and I’ll go with that. At this point a Zen saying appears in the material to help clarify things further:

“Paths cannot be taught. They can only be taken”

Followed by another quote, from Spanish poet Antonio Machado:

“Traveller, there is no path,

Paths are made by walking”

…copycat.

What a double-edged sword life is. The two quotes suggest liberation from looking for a way to live, but they also open us up to the chaos of there being no set course. It’s a pathless path for us all, chaos and stark realities, where pain and contentment vie.

This can be exciting or terrifying, depending on our state of mind, mood, circumstances and so on. What is a total rip-off is the idea that we have to travel somewhere or do something to be validated.  Here, Advaita provides a useful reminder that what we already are is already enough, that there is nowhere to go, and that the Kingdom is all inside.

As the school’s material teaches, all is contained in one being (you) – a oneness which emerged from stillness and remains in stillness, the basis of every thing. But more of that next time…

 

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

 

The material in this blog was inspired by the teachings at the School of Meditation, Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UH. The school opened in 1961 and was taken under the wing of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles’ meditation teacher, who introduced the school’s founders to Shri Shantananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Northern India. In a series of Q & As, the Shankaracharya provided answers to the questions of the visitors from London. These answers formed the basis of the school’s teaching material.

Night Daleks

I felt the anger

Saw hatred in your eyes

Slowly walking towards us –

like a couple of Western gunslingers…

Watching my movements

Waiting for a careless word

to justify your extreme violence

Yet there was only silence

As we passed each other like ghosts

taking our tension to another dimension

knowing I am everything you despise

my mixed race daughter by my side

the ultimate racial traitor

must be exterminated!

 

Agents of the right

daleks of the night

What was that all about Dad?

Are those men truly bad?

these times really sad?

Pulling her close – tight – tight – tighter

would have made a stand

like an old prize fighter

but I am no Tyson Fury,

Judge, or their jury!

Understood the stares – glares – unfounded fears

which will end with us all drowning

under a waterfall of tears…………

 

movie-daleks
Image from here

© M.C. Bolton, April 2019