In a previous post we talked about the temporary nature of the world and our place in it, and how any attempts to find permanence and security in worldly interests, which are temporary by nature, will inevitably lead to frustration and disappointment at the very least, and oftentimes, emotional trauma much worse than that. Does this mean then that a spiritual seeker should just immediately drop everything to go and meditate in the mountains or some forest or the desert? No.
In most cases, the attempt to go cold turkey on materialism ends in failure. Many people who are reading this article would have tried that in one way or another, to one degree or another, and even in the very best case scenario – some temporary relief is the only gain, and most people invariably fall back into their old habits.
The situation is nicely described in the ancient Yoga texts of the Bhagavad Gita 3/5-6:
‘ All souls are forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature, therefore no one can refrain from doing anything, not even for a moment.’
‘Those who restrain the senses and organs of action, but whose minds dwell on sense objects certainly delude themselves. They are pretenders.’
In this day and age, when most of us are indeed ‘pretenders’ (if not in intent, then certainly in practical effect), we don’t need to take up the difficult and drastic measures of the cold turkey (restrain the senses and organs of action) approach to meditation and yoga practice, that was more suitable in past times. The true way of Yoga specifically given for this age is much easier. It is simply to gradually immerse ourselves in the spiritual by meditation – specifically, the practice of kirtan or group chanting meditation. Of course there are some fortunate people who fully dive into meditation and never look back, but generally those cases are few and far between. For most of us, even with regard to the easy method of group meditation, the operative word is ‘gradual’ – steady as she goes.
When I first began to meditate many years ago I had a problem with drugs and drinking – my life basically revolved around these two destructive habits, and although my meditation teacher knew this, he never told me to try to stop those habits. He simply told me to continue to regularly meditate and to develop the ‘higher taste’ of spiritual experience.
The lesson was simple but profound. Don’t try to give up all the various kinds of material enjoyment, but rather, gradually gain the taste of spiritual experience through meditation, and then the desire for the inferior taste of material happiness will gradually and naturally subside. As it is put in the Bhagavad Gita 2/59:
‘The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, but the taste for sense objects may still remain. By experiencing a higher taste however, the soul’s consciousness is fixed, and one no longer desires sense enjoyment.’
In other words, instead of wrestling and battling with the negative, we do something positive, and the simple math is there for anyone who wants to take advantage of it. If we conscientiously meditate for even five or ten or twenty minutes per day, etc, then that is five or ten minutes of positive gain. In this way, according to the degree of our desire for spiritual experience we can arrange our meditation schedule, and hopefully, preferably, gradually increase our meditation time.
Now all this does not mean that we should make no effort whatsoever to give up some destructive habit – we can and indeed should make at least a little effort – that is basic common sense. But the point is that the positive influence of spiritual meditation can make a real, lasting difference.
To listen to beautiful recordings of Kirtan, view these videos: