The Beetles and Meditation

This feature was published in Psychology magazine just after the Beetles declared themselves pupils of the Maharishi. While it is dated in some ways, the information about meditation is still applicable.

The Beetles publicly declared themselves pupils of a Yogi. His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi practises his theory of transcendental meditation.

You do not have to be a Beatle to gain the benefits of inner experience through meditation. Neither do you have to travel to the remotest parts of the world. All you need is a place to sit-and the will-power to persevere.

NOW that the Beetles have taken the – latest step in their search for satisfaction, and publicly declared themselves pupils of a yogi, there is bound to he something of a rush to be “in” and meditate.

Unfortunately for the commercial market, meditation is not something like hash, that can be taken, or the mini skirt that can be bought in the fashionable parlours. But no doubt commerce will find a way round this.

As commerce moves pretty quickly, I feel it would be helpful to the prospective customers, to give a brief outline describing just what meditation is and does It is my hope that in this way a few at least may be spared the futility of buying shoddy goods.

Getting back to the Beetles, their particular teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, promulgates one of the time-worn eastern methods of meditation known as Mantra Yoga. Starting from this, we can begin to see what meditation is all about. The word mantra designates a holy word or sentence, and yoga, translated, means union. Our English word yoke has more or less the same meaning, and has probably arisen from the same source.

In the Srimad Bhagavatam, one of India’s literary classics, it says “Seated in a secluded place, free from all disturbing thoughts of the world, one must first repeat in one’s mind the sacred word OM (AUM) with understanding – of its meaning. By this practice alone one gains control of Prana and of the mind. With the discriminating faculty as a – guide, one should, with the help of the mind, draw the senses and the sense organs completely away from the objects of the world. Let the devotee now meditate upon the Lord. Let him be absorbed in him. When absorption comes, there arises a great calmness, a transcendental bliss. That is the supreme goal, the abode of Vishnu, the kingdom of heaven.”

Mental repetition

This, simply, is the type of meditation the Beetles have been taught. It is the mental repetition of a sacred word or sentence. Their teacher does not use the word OM, but one of the other classic sentences such as Om Tat Sat, or Klim, Krishnaya, Govindaya, Gopi-jana, Vallabhaya, Swaha, or even the well known Om Mani Padme Hum.

The sentence should be repeated quickly over and over for twenty minutes. Do not try to understand it, for the aim is to push the practitioner beyond thinking into another level. It can lead into a waking sleep state where you lose awareness of your body. This is where transformation can take place as the dregs of mind empty out till you reach the clearness within.

In reading the instructions in the Srimad Bhagavatam, however, we have to realise that it is a translation. It is also an expression of a culture extremely different to our own, using some words that are not even directly translatable. As language is an expression of a society’s psychology, we must realise from such untranslatable words that we must not hasten to project our own philosophy upon what we read. Two words in particular stand out Om and Prana.

As Om is often written Aum, and pronounced as such, we can see with little difficulty its lingual connections with our own word AMEN. Amen, in our present usage, may in fact have been borrowed from the Far East. Described briefly, the word Aum means the positive and negative forces in the universe joined in manifestation. In human terms, we might say it describes the mother and father joining and forming a child. But Aum signifies them not as individuals, but as an essence behind the complete process.

Thus, if one is to practise this type of meditation properly, apart from the mere repetition of the word, one has to realise and experience the meaning of the word in relation to oneself. Briefly, this may be done by seeing one’s body as a receptive and directive vehicle (the mother) into which the forces and potential of life (the father) enter and express as personal consciousness (the child).

The other word, Prana, has been translated as bio-energy, vital life force, or Cosmic Solar Energy. The text says one gains control of Prana through meditation. This would mean that one brings under greater control the life forces within one’s body. Also mentioned are “the Lord”, “Vishnu” and “the kingdom of heaven”.

Three basic forces

In the Hindu trinity, we have Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. These are the three basic forces or processes of the universe. In order, creation, preservation and destruction. To meditate on the Lord, and to become absorbed in the Lord, would possibly refer to Brahma, or the creative forces of the universe, as they enter into oneself i.e. one’s very life process in the body. The abode of Vishnu is, I think, self explanatory, and the Kingdom of Heaven leads us to an attempt to understand the whole goal of meditation and yoga.

I cannot be sure, but it is fairly certain that the term Kingdom of Heaven is a translation of the word Samadhi. Simply put, this means that one experiences a conscious merging into the universe as a whole. For reasons stated later, it is almost impossible to describe this experience. The results of the experience, however, are easier to describe. It appears to remove all sense of sin or shame. Fear of death disappears under the certainty of life. There is a stream of love, wisdom and power springing up within. This does not have to be produced. A door has been opened, and it pours out spontaneously. Health improves, peace descends and there is a sense of belonging.

This type of meditation attempts to go beyond thinking, into the realm of direct experience. For instance, when a baby looks at a book, it experiences it directly, and differently to an educated adult. Because of our associations with reading, and the other concrete ideas we have gained about books, we experience the book largely through our ideas about it. The same applies to the process of our life. Life itself, in the baby, is self satisfying. In the adult, the personality is the slave of various ideas, fears, ambitions, ideals, and social pressures. In deep meditation, one breaks the chains of these enslaving forces picked up during growth. In rising from our meditation, we carry some of this freedom, vision and detachment with us. For instance, as a very simple example, it is one thing to like nice clothes or a car, but when we are dejected without them, irritable, or even driven to criminal activities, we are the slave of the desire. Because meditation has the possibility of taking us beyond concrete thought, which expresses itself in words, the difficulty of description arises, also the possibility of release.

All of these methods are doorways to the unconscious . . . the Pandora’s Box which contains all man’s hopes and fears, beauty and disillusionment.”

Seeking union with life

Mantra Yoga is but one form of seeking union with life as a whole. It is but one of the methods that slowly initiates our conscious self into the seven tenths of our mind which lies outside of our normal awareness. Other forms are Raja Yoga, Prana Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Gnani Yoga, Karma Yoga, and others. Despite the fact that we in the west have not been entirely left behind in having traditional “yoga” methods, I use the eastern terms because they include all our own methods.

Raja Yoga is the development of the mind and its powers. Prana Yoga – the control of breath and vital forces. Hatha Yoga – the physical discipline of exercises and the evolution of one 5 body. Gnani Yoga – the attempt to understand life. Karma Yoga – the method of activity based on universal knowledge. There is also Bhakti Yoga, the union through prayer and adoration, or absolute surrender.

It is not necessary to describe in detail these various methods and the meditations they prescribe, for each one encroaches and is mixed with the others – and none are completely distinct. The great Yogi, in fact, combines aspects of them all. One’s personal characteristics will, by themselves, incline one more strongly towards one type. For instance, one may be naturally devotional, or else inquisitive of mind, socially active, or given to thought, or physical expression. Thus, one of these may be one’s forte -but the other sides should be practised to balance one’s personality.

Out of all of these, certain methods stand out, all of them classical and almost universal.

One of these is called by the Tibetans “Going Beyond” to find transcendent insight. This is a direct attempt to take one’s awareness beyond its limitations of concrete thoughts. In sleep, one quite naturally goes “Beyond”, into the realm of primal consciousness, but one’s spark of self-awareness lit during the day, does not survive the journey to enjoy the view. Wilhelm Reich, in his book The Discovery 0f the Orgone (Reich being one of the outstanding modern psychiatrists), says, “The character structure of man today, who is perpetuating a patriarchal authoritarian culture some four to six thousand years old, is characterised by an armouring against nature within himself, and social misery outside himself. This armouring of the character is the basis of loneliness, helplessness, craving for authority, fear of responsibility, mystical longing, sexual misery, of impotent rebelliousness as well as of resignation of an unnatural and pathological type.”

Cease all thoughts

To practise going beyond, one attempts to allow, not force, all thoughts to cease, and yet remain conscious. Imagine yourself dropping every thought and feeling into a deep well, and keep doing it as each thought arises. This direct method is extremely difficult, and other methods, such as Mantra are used. Nada, Prana and Hatha are all used in a variety of ways. Nada, for instance, starts as Mantra meditation, but instead of using a word or words, one listens to internal sounds, and through degrees learns to become immersed in them, experiencing beyond thought. If one presses one’s thumbs on the ears, closing them, a ringing sound, or various other sounds may be heard. The sound of the heartbeat or breath is also used.

In Prana and Hatha, which are much linked, a variety of breathing exercises and body postures are used. These are of immense value to those who find themselves a prey to their own mind and emotions, and cannot control them in normal attempts. A simple but

effective Prana-Hatha method is to breath as slowly and smoothly as possible, meanwhile keeping one’s awareness on the act of breathing while sitting still.

To the devotional temperament, Bahkti, or the complete abandonment to the will of God, is a short-path. Such practitioners must remember, however, that complete abandonment presupposes that they come without preconceived ideas as to what the Divine Will may ask of them. If they come laden with traditional rules of conduct, they are not free to the will they supposedly are surrendering to.

One of the best known and presently acceptable methods of meditation, is the practice of self-questioning. Instead of repeating a sentence, one repeats the question WHO (or what) AM I. The practice period should last at least ten minutes, attempting to break through the limitations of self-awareness.

A warning…

These are but a few of the meditational methods, briefly stated. Most practitioners of meditation suggest, as does the Beetles’ teacher, using the meditation once or twice a day. No mention of meditation is complete, however, without a warning. All of these methods are doorways to the unconscious. As the unconscious is not merely a magic password to Utopia, but is the Pandora’s Box which contains all the hopes and fears, beauty and disillusionment men and women are heir to, dangers exist. A teacher with experience of meditation is a great help, as is a serious review of one’s reasons for practising. As a further aid to meet the various experiences on the long road of meditation some knowledge of present-day psychology is a boon. Also, one should have at least an intellectual contact with the doctrines of one of the major world religions. It must be remembered that such religions were, at their inception, living expressions of a direct contact with the unconscious. It must also be remembered that present-day religious attitudes, in many cases, are purely self-conscious attempts to copy what were direct contacts with the Beyond. The reason I suggest having this background is because all the ancient landmarks of inner experience can be found when read with eyes of experience.

I leave you with the thought that you do not have to be a Beatle to benefit from meditation. Neither do you have to travel to remote parts of the world. There is a saying that to practice. all one needs is a spot to sit, and perseverance. Then consider the words “Be still, and know that I am God”.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved