by Christopher Calder
A student helping student project
Meditation is inner astronomy. You discover the stars, the Moon, and the Sun are all inside you.
[This is the complete and final version of Meditation Handbook approved by the author.]
What is Meditation?
Most dictionaries define the Western (Jewish, Christian, Islamic) meaning of the word 'meditation,' but usually do not describe the Eastern (Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist) concept of meditation. One typical dictionary definition of meditation reads as follows. "If you meditate, you give your attention to one thing, and do not think about anything else, usually as a religious activity or as way of calming or relaxing your mind." This definition implies that meditation means thinking about something, be it religious or mystical in nature, and that a constant thought process goes on while one meditates. The true Eastern definition of meditation means not thinking at all, but rather focusing consciousness on the cosmic whole, "the all and the everything," as George Gurdjieff called it, without thought, judgment, or distraction.
We can define meditation as the art
consciousness becoming aware of itself on the grand and cosmic scale.
Meditation cannot be called a science as yet, because science
testing with objectively proven methods and results. Meditation
on the road to becoming a real science, however, and not just an
art veiled in mystery.
Meditation brings a sense of fullness and completion, and is the only long-term source of tranquility available to human beings. All other forms of serenity are temporary and dissolve into conflict and chaos over time. The euphoria of drugs quickly lead to misery and self-destruction. The wholesomeness of love, so beautiful and ethereal, is a relatively short lived and fleeting experience. As J. Krishnamurti said, meditation brings order and "That order is the order of the universe. It is irrevocable and doesn't depend on anything." Meditation is the eternal essence of nature taking on conscious form within the mortal human frame.
Meditation is an adventure of self-discovery. How can you live without knowing who or what you are? If someone asks you who you are during the day, you may state your name, as if a temporary label actually means something important. Ask yourself who you are when you are in deep sleep, unconscious, and without even a dream to prove that you exist. Ask yourself who you were ten months before you were born, and who you will be just one moment after your body dies. Meditation increases awareness of the natural phenomenon that is actually going on behind your own eyes. Self-knowledge has intrinsic value, even without the indescribable bliss nature unleashes in those who practice meditation with sincerity and patience.
Classic sitting meditation is a vital part of all meditation traditions and has taken many forms, some more effective than others. Some traditional approaches demand that the student sit motionless for hours on end, as if becoming a frozen human statue is the key to enlightenment. A more scientific approach does not make the human body our enemy, but rather works with our natural physiology to allow more intense meditation with less effort and discomfort. Masochism is not an effective path to self-realization.
Begin by finding a relatively quiet place to meditate where you will not be disturbed. All forms of classic sitting meditation should be done in silence with no background music. You can sit cross legged Asian style on a meditation pillow on the floor, or use the Recliner Chair Method described below. Eyes may be fully open, half open, or slightly open, letting in just two small slits of light. Meditating with eyes fully closed is fine as long as the room remains brightly lit so that enough light passes through the eyelids to keep your brain alert.
Meditating in a darkened room presents fundamental physiological problems. When you sit quietly with your eyes closed in darkness, your brain interprets this situation as a signal to start shutting itself down for sleep. Sleep inducing hormones such as melatonin are released at the same time your heart rate and circulation are reduced due to lack of movement. You feel swept away on a sea of quiet relaxation. This pleasant experience may be light sleep state hypnosis, not meditation at all, and thus does you little more good than taking a nap. Meditation means that you are relaxed as if sleeping, but your consciousness is fully and intensely awake. Therefore, if you meditate with your eyes closed the room must remain brightly lit so that a significant amount of light passes through the eyelids.
The Recliner Chair Method
See 1 minute YouTube video instructions on how to sit.
Sitting for long periods of time in the traditional Asian cross legged position is uncomfortable for most Western students of meditation. This physical discomfort, which does nothing in itself to aid meditation, can be entirely eliminated through the use of a recliner chair. The Recliner Chair Method is the most healthful method of sitting as it avoids blocking vital blood circulation in the legs, yet has 100% of the benefits of sitting on the floor in the full lotus position with back held rigidly straight.
Every living cell in your body produces energy, and when you increase blood flow to your legs you increase the amount of energy produced by the living cells in your legs. This is significant because during meditation sessions you become acutely aware that your entire physical energy output is one unified phenomena. Using this method, students who cannot comfortably sit for twenty minutes on the floor are often able to sit for one full hour or even longer without back pain, numbness, or leg cramps. I highly recommend the Recliner Chair Method as the first choice sitting method for all Western students of meditation.
Contrary to popular belief, sitting with the back held rigidly straight does nothing to aid meditation. The energy that we may subjectively feel rising up the back during meditation sessions is like water in a garden hose. If you gently bend a hose into a mild arch, the flow of water will not be affected in any perceptible way. With the Recliner Chair Method, the back is held fairly straight in relationship to itself, but rests at an off-angle in relationship to the floor rather than exactly perpendicular to the floor as in the full lotus position.
In addition to our solid physical body that has weight and form, human beings have a second body of energy created by the active energy content of the total human nervous system. The energy of the second body is constantly being washed out through our hands and feet. This energy loss can be stopped by locking the hands and feet together, creating a closed loop of energy that builds up over time. This conserved energy is needed to strengthen the second energy body and push us higher into meditation. The Recliner Chair Method is more effective than the full lotus position in recycling second body energy, and is therefore the fastest acting and most powerful sitting method available.
With this method you sit in a recliner chair that is set to a medium reclined position. Shoes and socks should be removed for best results. If your feet get cold, drape a towel or light blanket over your feet to keep them warm. The bare soles of your feet should be pressed against each other and your legs relaxed, knees pointed out to the sides of the chair. Hands can be locked together, laying comfortably in your lap, or pressed against the center of your chest, one on top of the other over the center of your emotional heart. Energy that is normally washed out through your hands can be channeled directly into your heart center, which fortifies both your heart center and your hara (belly center) simultaneously, as all of your centers are connected. The exact internal wiring of your centers and their electrochemical relationships to corresponding nerve bundles in the brain are not currently understood. Fortunately, you do not have to scientifically understand the phenomena of internal psychic centers to enjoy their benefits.
What do you do while sitting?
The most basic approach to meditation is to relax, let go, and do nothing. Surrender to the moment and watch yourself as a silent witness. If thoughts come to mind, then observe the thoughts without adding to them by your active participation. Be a detached and passive observer and simply feel your most basic fundamental being. This immense entity has been called 'the ground of being.'
The enlightened teacher J. Krishnamurti used the term "choiceless awareness" to describe his own meditation method. This means being conscious without the thought process choosing something smaller than your vast fundamental being to focus on. Consciousness is like a glass ball floating in the depth of space. Light and sensory input flows into the field of consciousness from all directions. When you think, you focus your attention on just one area of sensory input, or you create a thought from memory stored within the brain. With choiceless awareness, you are not thinking or remembering, just floating and letting sensory input flow through you from all directions without manipulating that input with the thought process. You live in the moment and become totally open. This openness attracts energy from all sides of the universe, which pushes you even higher.
Krishnamurti's choiceless awareness is the same methodless method that Zen monks call 'mindfulness.' Hindu yogis sometimes call it 'one pointed vision.' A more accurate term might be one object vision. This means that you observe yourself, the sky, the trees, and the entire universe as one object. You no longer see the world as a multitude of parts and disconnected events. Instead, you accurately perceive the observer and the observed as exactly the same thing, with no artificial wall of separation blocking the limits of consciousness. This singular entity becomes acutely aware of itself in all its vastness. The one cosmic being, as Krishnamurti said, is "beyond time" and is "untouched by thought." The revered sage Ramana Maharshi described it as "infinite" and "bigger than the human race."
Another useful method is to lend special awareness to the breathing process felt in the belly. Just behind and below your navel (belly button) lies the Hara, which is felt as an ethereal ball of energy. The Hara is a natural balancing point of your consciousness which can be thought of as the center of your being. Subjectively and poetically speaking, the Hara is where man and universe meet. It is the gateway where we merge and become man-universe and universe-man. No one really knows what the Hara actually is, but we can use it to our full advantage. Consciously developing a powerful Hara center is the most important secret of meditation.
When your consciousness is centered in the Hara instead of the head, your thinking process slows down, and you can relax in the expanded world of being. Trying to stop distracting thoughts through will power alone leads to more thoughts and a self-defeating inner struggle. By transferring your center of awareness to the Hara, thoughts gradually disappear on their own without inner conflict. That is why you see Buddha statues with a big belly. It is a message in sculpture that the Hara is the key to meditation.
Sit quietly and focus on your belly as it
in and out as you breathe. Over time the Hara point will become
noticeable as your meditation grows stronger. Sudden emergencies,
as near collisions on the highway, tend to activate the Hara center.
often get a 'gut reaction' from sudden danger. You can nourish
feeling of the Hara by simply paying passive attention to it.
relaxed concentration is very close to doing nothing, yet it is still a
effort. Drinking herb tea or hot water before meditation sessions
the gut and facilitates awareness of the Hara. Overeating and
cold drinks tends to make Hara awareness more difficult.
One can also concentrate on the heart center or the forehead center during formal meditation sessions. The forehead center may simply be the frontal lobes of the brain, which are known to become activated by meditation. I refuse to use the corny old "third eye" label. The Hara, heart, and forehead center are all somehow connected, but I suggest you maintain healthy skepticism as to the old Asian explanations of exactly how they are connected. If you activate the heart or forehead center, the Hara will automatically become energized.
The Sit-Stand Method
A healthful meditation method that requires no chair is to break up your formal meditation into three fifteen minute sessions that are easy for your body to tolerate. Sit on the floor or on a pillow in quiet meditation for fifteen minutes. Then stand for two minutes. Then sit for another fifteen minutes. Then stand for two minutes. Then sit for a final fifteen minute session. This forty-nine minute technique can be done once, twice, or three times a day for intense practice. You can time yourself by making a recording with the sound of a bell or a gong to let you known when to stand up, sit down, and begin and end meditation sessions.
The sit-stand method largely eliminates the problem of cramps, soreness, and numbness in legs often experienced by students attempting to sit for longer periods of time than the body was naturally made to sit. The standing breaks increase blood circulation which helps wakefulness. Comfort is maintained and we avoid the light sleep state hypnosis problem mentioned earlier.
The transitions between sitting and standing in this method are an opportunity to practice meditation in action. Normally, unless we are physically ill, our waking lives are spent in motion and activity. Meditation must not be thought of as something that is only done in a physically rigid state, far removed from the world of work and play. The goal is to become meditative continuously, so that your very being becomes cosmically conscious permanently and irrevocably. When you stand up and sit down during meditation sessions, feel the inner flow of meditation continue. Observe that your body is moving, but your basic existential identity remains the same.
This easy technique is designed to quickly sweep the clutter of thoughts from your mind. It is one of my favorite techniques, and I am continually amazed at how much it helps with so little effort. It can be used at the start of formal sitting meditation sessions, or you can continue repeating the method every ten minutes during the meditation session itself.
Begin by placing both hands behind your head. Rest your hands at the point where the neck and head meet. Then quickly sweep your hands over the top of your head. Imagine that your hands are gathering up all your thoughts as they move across the top of your skull. When your hands reach just below your forehead, use a flicking motion to throw your hands away from your face. Feel as if all of your thoughts are being swept out of your head and thrown out into empty space. Repeat this between ten and twenty times as needed. While accomplishing the sweeping motion, feel that your center of consciousness is dropping down from your head to your Hara center in your belly. Immediately after all of the sweeping part of this exercise is complete, place your right palm (reverse hands if you are left-handed) on your upper forehead and place your left palm on the back of the right hand. For a few moments, feel the warm energy and stimulation of your hands on your forehead center. Rest in your Hara center as you continue to meditate.
Sweeping House with a Kicker
A variation of the sweeping house technique is to add a breathing stage after the sweeping stage is complete. Place your right palm (reverse hands if you are left-handed) on your upper forehead and place your left palm on the back of the right hand. Now take four to seven deep breaths through the nose and feel as if you are drawing the air all the way down to your belly. Fully exhale in a normal and relaxed fashion after each breath. This breathing technique is not the bastrika method used in traditional yoga. It is ordinary deep breathing done with intensity and fullness. After exhaling the last breath, sit motionless for a few moments with your hands still on your upper forehead. Cooperate with any upward flow of energy you may feel. This energetic method can be done every ten minutes during a sitting meditation session to create a safe and effective kundalini technique.
Prayer is a natural part of human psychology, and it can be used for good or evil, for war or peace, for taking lives or saving lives. You can use prayer to open yourself up to the universe like a camera lens going from narrow focus to a wide angle that takes in light from all directions. Sit with your arms stretched out horizontally and speak out loud; Give me the power and I will change the world. Say this three or four times. Feel that your arms, the palms of your hands, and your fingers have become antennas absorbing vibrations and energy from the vast reaches of the universe. You may find that spreading out your fingers like opening a paper fan may help promote this energy sensation. You are embracing the universe and the universe is embracing you. Be silent a few moments and feel that you are opening your mind and drawing in energy at the same time. Then put your hands together in the prayer mudra in front of your heart. Now repeat again; Give me the power and I will change the world three or four times. Rest in meditation.
Combining the Recliner Chair Method with the Sweeping House meditation and the Prayer meditation makes a surprisingly effective combination. Start by meditating silently for five minutes using the Recliner Chair Method with your hands on your heart and feet pressed together. Then go into the Sweeping House method while still seated with feet pressed together. Then transition into the Prayer Meditation while remaining seated. Then resume five minutes of motionless silent meditation using the Recliner Chair Method and repeat the entire process. Using this technique you can easily center yourself in your Hara and energize your brain at the same time.
Mantras: What they are and how to use them.
Avoid the use of mantras and long repetitive chanting when you wish to directly expand consciousness. Repeating the same words over and over is a method of forgetfulness that will bore the mind and leads to light sleep state hypnosis. I would define a mantra as the repetition of words for a period of one minute or longer. Mantras have traditionally been used for hours on end by students who become mentally calmed and dulled by their use. I strongly suspect that mantra use produces euphoria by shrinking the number of brain cells involved in the complex creation of consciousness. Opioid pain medications make you feel bodiless, heavenly, and comfortable, and they work by blocking some of our cells that are normally involved in awareness. Real meditation produces its mind expanding high by increasing, rather than decreasing, the quantity of brain cells involved in consciousness.
Mantras have proven to be medically useful because they unleash hormones, such as melatonin, that temporarily calm the mind. Mantras are far healthier and safer than taking tranquilizers, and I wholeheartedly recommend their use if you are stricken with a painful and/or frightening illness, or are just passing through a tunnel of fear for any reason. I suggest students use a calming string of sound-words as a mantra. An excellent example is ome home nema. You can sing this mantra in your mind or internally hear it as simple spoken words. Silently repeat the mantra with eyes fully closed for 30 minutes and you will be tranquilized, at no cost, and without a doctor's prescription. These are not Sanskrit words, just sounds that soothe the mind and calm the nerves. Mantra Yoga meditation may be better for fighting anxiety in some people than Zen mindfulness meditation, which in some circumstances may be too stressful and actually increase anxiety. There is no cosmic law that says you cannot practice both styles of meditation for different reasons.
Maintaining awareness of your Hara center while repeating your mantra can increase its effectiveness dramatically. You can almost feel as if the mantra is coming from the Hara, and this produces a very safe and comforting sensation. One easy way to feel your Hara is to adopt a fetal position, either laying on your back with you legs gently pressed against your chest, or sitting on a bed with your legs gently held against your chest, or in a semi-reclined position while in a recliner chair or laying in an electrically powered recliner bed. When you are resting in the fetal position, repeating a mantra while feeling your Hara becomes easy and natural. It is a good way to welcome in the morning upon awakening. You can also deeply relax by laying on your back and rubbing your abdomen in a circular motion around your naval (belly button). Repeat your mantra as you rub and you will feel your Hara relaxing, which lowers stress and tension throughout the entire body.
fetal position while sitting
Cathartic Dancing Meditation
Cathartic Dancing Meditation is a cosmic powerhouse that can be practiced by students in good health with a normal cardiovascular system. As it is a physically strenuous exercise, one should get a physical examination by a competent physician before experimenting with this technique. Explain the method to your doctor and ask if it would be physically dangerous for you to do. He probably won't understand your motives for wanting to do it, but he can tell you if he thinks your heart can handle it safely. As with jogging or mountain climbing, you must practice this method at your own risk.
Most young and physically healthy students of meditation will benefit from doing Cathartic Dancing Meditation daily for a period of between one to three years. After three years it has usually done its job, and the student can then concentrate on more subtle meditation methods. Cathartic Dancing Meditation changes you from head to toe, and benefits all the other meditation methods you practice. It also helps develop a powerful Hara center. I am reluctant to bring up the subject of kundalini because of the common misrepresentations of its manifestations. I feel compelled to inform you, however, that this physically vigorous meditation method is the most powerful kundalini awakening technique I know of. Cathartic Dancing Meditation has three stages and lasts for forty minutes.
Stage #1 (ten minutes) Start by standing with your eyes closed and breathe deep and fast through your nose continuously. If you are only physically capable of doing deep breathing for five minutes, then reduce the length of the first stage. Remember that you are doing this method to help your meditation, not to physically injure yourself. Allow your body to move freely as you breathe. You can jump up and down, sway back and forth, or use any physical motion that helps you pump more oxygen into your lungs.
Stage #2 (twenty minutes) The second stage is a celebration of catharsis and wild and spontaneous dancing. Totally let go and act as an ancient human dancing in tribal celebration. Energetic, nonverbal background music is recommended. African tribal drum music works especially well. You may roll on the ground and do strange spontaneous body movements. Allow your body to move within the limits of not hurting yourself or others. Screaming is encouraged. You must act out any anger you may have in a safe way, such as beating the earth with your hands. All of the suppressed emotions from your subconscious mind are to be released. If at anytime during the second stage you feel that your energy level is starting to decline, you can resume deep and fast breathing to give yourself a boost.
Stage #3 (ten minutes) This stage is complete quiet and relaxation. Flop down on your back, get comfortable, and just let go. Be as if a dead man totally surrendered to the cosmos. Enjoy the tremendous energy you have unleashed in the first two stages, and be a silent witness to it. Observe the feeling of the ocean flowing into the drop. Become the ocean.
This spontaneous dancing meditation technique is intended to grow with the student and change as the student changes. After a few years of vigorously practicing this method, the first two stages of the meditation may drop away spontaneously. You may then begin the meditation by taking a few deep breaths and immediately enter the deep tranquility of the third stage. If practiced correctly, this method is health-giving and fun.
Almost all Westerners are head oriented and emotionally repressed, so a chaotic, spontaneous, and emotionally cleansing technique like Cathartic Dancing Meditation is vital for serious progress to be made quickly. The physical benefits of this technique obviate any need for hatha yoga or traditional kundalini yoga methods. I strongly recommend that the Cathartic Dancing Meditation technique only be used in combination with traditional quiet sitting meditation methods. While active meditation methods can be very helpful, they are not complete systems in themselves. If you practice active meditation techniques exclusively, you will only be doing half of the internal work that needs to be done.
WARNING Obviously, one must practice Cathartic Dancing Meditation in a safe location and not near the edge of a cliff or on a hard surface where one might fall and break one's skull. A large room or hall with thick carpeting is good. Outdoors in the early morning on a soft and well tended lawn with group participation is best. Do it on an empty stomach and avoid falling into dangerous objects such as windows. It is allowable to briefly open one's eyes occasionally to maintain your location. Create a safety zone around your dancing and spontaneous body movements. Be courteous to neighbors and delete the screaming if it will be heard by others.How long should I meditate?
The time a person needs to spend in formal meditation sessions to gain maximum benefit depends on ever-changing individual circumstances. If you are meditating with a group, you will gain from the group energy and go further with less effort. If you are fortunate enough to be living close to an enlightened teacher, you may be able to absorb some of his high energy without any effort at all. If you are meditating alone, without support from others, then you will have to do all the heavy lifting yourself.
If you just wish to become more relaxed and take the hard edge off of life, one or two fifteen minute sitting meditation sessions every day will certainly help you. For those who want to explore the inner worlds to the fullest, my general recommendation is that forty-five minutes of meditation every day is a minimum effort. You can meditate with a single forty-five minutes session, or break up the time to three fifteen minute sessions that easily fit your schedule. Scientists have found that amount of meditation is enough to physically enlarge portions of the brain involved in awareness. A specific recommendation for young, physically fit beginners would be to practice Cathartic Dancing Meditation in the morning and one of the quiet sitting meditations at night.
It is of paramount importance to practice mindfulness throughout the day. To be of any real value, meditation must become a full-time way of living rather than a strictly segregated activity. Choose methods that make you feel more positive. Meditation should be a form of cosmic hedonism, not a penance one must perform as an obligation.
The wanting mechanism
What keeps us diverted from meditation in the here and now? Look inside your mind and find the wanting mechanism. The wanting mechanism continuously constructs images of new experiences the mind desires derived from memories of the past. The mind becomes enamored with these new fantasy images and is diverted away from what actually is here and now. The eternal cosmic consciousness exists right now, never in the future, and never in the past. Future and past are illusory and do not exist in any real physical form outside of projections of our own minds. What exists now is everything and you already own it.
Wanting is part of life, creativity, family building, wealth creation, and the survival instinct. In the sense of preserving the human race on planet Earth, wanting is a very good thing. For an individual trying to go deeper into meditation, it is a hindrance. Wanting creates duality, the wanter and that which is desired. Siddhartha Gautama taught that desire is a root cause of suffering. The questions is, how many of us can and should take the last steps to enlightenment by dropping the wanting mechanism entirely?
Not wanting means not wanting anything, not just dropping the desire for sex, money, and power, but also dropping the desire for justice, family, and nation. It is not what you want that matters, it is the wanting mechanism itself that is the barrier. Deep meditation is a giant leap beyond logic and the norms of society. It is dissolving into infinity and oblivion and not coming back. Ending the wanting mechanism brings time to a halt, annihilates the future and the past, and expands consciousness to the far reaches of the universe.
If everyone in the world suddenly became enlightened, in my opinion, the human race would come to an end. There would be a lack of sufficient desire to keep people motivated enough to have families, raise children, grow crops, and protect society from all the natural threats, from disease to ecological disaster. That said, I certainly believe that enlightenment is a desirable goal for those who really want it, but you can see the impossibility of the situation. When you want enlightenment your wanting mechanism is still active and enlightenment will not happen to you. So we can all breathe easy that everyone in the world will not become enlightened, all at the same time, anytime soon.
Ask yourself these questions:
1) If you want something, how can you stop thinking about it?
2) If you don't want anything, what is there to think about?
3) If you don't want anything, is there anything to be angry about?
4) If you don't want anything, is there anything to make you unhappy?
Rocks and other inanimate objects do not want and they do not suffer, but they are unconscious and dead. How does a living human being enter a no-wanting state while fully conscious and filled to the brim with life energy? That is the incredible contradiction and difficulty of becoming enlightened, and just one of many reasons I believe full enlightenment is a genetic oddity of unique brain construction, not a goal one can achieve through the practice of meditation techniques.
At some point in your practice of meditation you may see that wanting is a barrier to further progress. Only when you can perceive this very clearly should you try to step back from the wanting mechanism, otherwise you will suppress desires and lead a false life. Stepping back from the wanting mechanism is a form of intense self-observation, not suppression. You drop desires when you realize they are painful; they are literally causing you pain. You find comfort and safety in the Void, its certainty and indestructibility.
Things to do, things to avoid, and things to consider
Trees make good gurus. Buddhist legend states that Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened while sitting under a large broad-leaved fig tree, which is now referred to as the Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa). I often commune with nature while sitting in a chair under a large deciduous tree and sense its soothing pillowy vibrations. Trees don’t do anything but live. Their plant metabolism of absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen that we breathe is automatic. There is no conscious effort, and trees have no ambitions or judgments. Feeling a tree's living presence puts you in touch with the essence of life. You feel ancient, and new, and timeless. Trees can take you beyond religion and philosophy.
It is my personal belief that full, dramatic, historic "enlightenment" is largely a biological, DNA driven quality of the brain that cannot be achieved by any amount of effort. J. Krishnamurti once stated that he was born empty, while others were born full. His state of cosmic emptiness (the Void) was not the result of method, but was a free gift of nature. I also believe, however, that you can increase the power of your consciousness in the same way you increase the size of your muscles through exercise. The high energy of meditation achieved by the majority of famous Tibetan lamas and Zen monks comes largely through determined effort and practice, not from a purely natural born gift.
The fastest way to make progress toward a constant state of cosmic consciousness is to live in the company of an enlightened human being. Enlightened teachers can expand your consciousness without the slightest effort on your part; all you need to do is to be open to the spontaneous transfer of energy. Fully enlightened human are very rare. There may have been as few as seven fully enlightened teachers in the now past 20th century. I do not know of any fully enlightened teachers still living today, but that does not mean they do not exist. More enlightened teachers will be coming in the future, and it is your challenge to find them while avoiding the many fakes.
When it comes to gurus, even fully enlightened gurus, take the best and leave the rest. No human being has ever been perfect and without major flaws and limitations. Only myths can give us the illusion of perfection. That is why most of society continues to worship invented myths rather than accept reality as it is, warts and all. Enlightened humans are vastly expanded human beings, not perfect human beings.
It is my educated opinion that the traditional guru-disciple relationship is now inappropriate for Western students of meditation. The East has always had an imperial and authoritarian model for the teacher-student relationship. The West must develop its own more democratic traditions based on science and fact, not on ancient myths. Be a devoted disciple, but make your guru the total life experience itself, not just a single fallible human being. Use human teachers as temporary tools on your path to expanded consciousness, but do not allow yourself to become the captive servant of one fallible human mind. See Meditation and the Brain (6 minute YouTube video).
Copyright notice: Please feel free to copy, repost, or publish Meditation Handbook (© 1998 Christopher Calder) for educational, noncommercial use. You may repost or publish any of my essays without cost, but you must clearly state that the essays were written by Christopher Calder; you must not change any of my words or their meanings, and no one has been granted permission to use my writings to sell any products or services. This is a 100% free website, published only for the benefit of other students of meditation.
*kundalini (k¢n´de-lê´nê) My own unproven theory is that all of the "chakras" and the kundalini channel itself may reside within the human brain, with only corresponding points located in the lower body and spinal column. The real "Muladhara chakra" (sex center) may reside as a bundle of nerves in the brain, and kundalini practice may simply transfer the neural energy of our powerful sex drive to the higher centers of the brain which create cosmic consciousness. This would explain why doctors have not been able to find any physical evidence of chakras in the lower body. The latest research shows that the 'subtle body' that mystics claim is 'immaterial' is just an illusion created by the material human brain itself.
A reader asked how you know if you are enlightened. He pointed out that many depressed people have lost all wants and desires, but they are not enlightened. The reader also wondered how enlightened people can survive without desires. My answer is pasted below.
Your question is very apt and spots a hole in my essay. You have to set aside the wanting mechanism to experience satori, a glimpse of enlightenment. People who are fully enlightened are essentially born that way. Full enlightenment is a genetic oddity, not a result of great effort. The enlightened do have wants and desires even if they do not feel their own egos. Their egos are hidden to them.
We all need an ego to survive. Perhaps I should add a paragraph or two to further explain this, but it is complex and contradictory, and so far I have not been inspired to wade into that mess. The brain finds a way for the body to survive, enlightened or not. The brain is like a plant; it changes shape, form, and function to continue life, like a vine growing around an obstacle to reach the light.
In my opinion "enlightenment" and the feeling that you are "enlightened" is an ego trip. Those who think they are enlightened have become pretentious and delusional. Rajneesh thought he was a great thinker because he was so spaced out, but he was wrong about almost everything and driven by personal ambition and greed. He was full of energy and light, but that does not equal wisdom and virtue. Enlightenment in the Eastern sense of the word is a rare brain phenomena, not a "spiritual" phenomena at all because there are no spirits. As U.G. Krishnamurti said, "There is no one there to tell you that you are enlightened."
Another reader asks a series of questions about soul, the
meaning of life, and how one can be free of fear and ego.
J. Krishnamurti, Rajneesh, Meher Baba,
Gurdjieff, all had king sized egos. You cannot get rid
of ego except through physical death of the brain, or through a
massive stroke that puts your brain into a coma. Gurus have
gone on and on about the horrible ego, but without ego we
die. The gurus themselves have been tremendously egocentric,
greedy, dishonest, hypocritical, but the egoless hype they profess is a
great way to get money from disciples. We all have egos, and it
is easy to make us feel guilty for having an ego and
self-interest. When you make disciples feel guilty, it is easier
to squeeze money from them. Rajneesh even used the myth of
egolessness as a way to seduce women. He claimed that having
intercourse with him would help them attain egolessness in a future
life. There is no future life, and there is no egoless state,
only states of mind where you do not notice your ego. Ego is
there, whether you feel it or not. Hidden egos are the worst ego
trap of all. Jesus, Siddhartha, and all the other great leaders
had big egos, and they needed big egos for their own
self-promotion. That is part of what made them famous. They
all promoted themselves, sold themselves to the public.
The enlightenment of the Buddha did
not help him find truth, only cosmic consciousness, which is an
experience, not truth. Cosmic consciousness is like a giant
exclamation mark (!). It
makes everything seem realer than real. You can get a similar
heightened sense of reality from taking drugs. Even cheap street
drugs like methamphetamine make people feel like God, as if they are in control of
everything. Enlightenment is not a cure-all, and the words of the
"enlightened" have almost always been wrong and untrue. Wisdom is
more than just an exclamation point. It is many sentences containing
provable facts that tell you how life works.
You need to combine both objective,
scientifically validated facts with the openness and relaxation of
cosmic consciousness to get closer to reality. If you just rely
on cosmic consciousness and pull ideas out of your ass, or borrow them
from old scriptures, then you will become a silly fool like
Rajneesh. The things he said and really believed were
ridiculous. The ancient scriptures are 90% worthless as well.
There is no positive evidence for
either God or soul, but billions of human animals believe in
both. Why should anyone believe in something without a shred of
positive evidence in support? People believe in those myths
because it makes them feel good, but finding truth is about finding out
what really is, not in developing convenient,
self-serving lies that make us feel better. The idea of soul
is a tremendous romantic ego-trip in itself.
You have to decide what you want, the
real truth or mental opium to take the sting out of the fact that
existence has no other purpose than pure entertainment.
If we are not being entertained, then there is no point in any of
us being here. We find life somehow entertaining despite all the
suffering. Movies without suffering and conflict are so
boring they put the audience to sleep and don't make money at the box
office. Religion is phony, invented theatrics, and life itself is
organic, biological theatrics, but there is really no meaning or point
to any of it other than the fact that it is engrossing and
entertaining. It is a novel that you cannot put down, and that
keeps most of us wanting to live despite it all.
Note - Opinions expressed on this page must be viewed as the ideas of an ordinary student of meditation. While I truly believe everything I say, you should not believe anything unless you see it, feel it, and know it for yourself. I make no claims of infallibility. In fact, I absolutely claim fallibility. Also, this author suffers from dyslexia. If you find any spelling or punctuation mistakes in any of my essays, please let me know.