Meditation is an art and a science, and we’ll be talking about it in both ways, and its practice goes back to the dawn of history. It is, you could say, the core of human culture, and all human cultures that we know of have been built around spiritual teachings. And those original spiritual teachings were not religious, they were simply based on the experience, or you could say the imperience, the inner realization of Truth, that then caused a transformation in someone’s life, and ability to lead a life with greater wisdom, greater love, greater empowerment, greater capacity to organize society in a beautiful win-win way, and to enable human life to flourish. And that’s why it has continued and has branched out and become part of every human culture that we know of.
The problem is, there is a kind of entropic process in history and in the human soul that causes us to lose energy the way a battery does, and then the religious traditions tend to go downhill, and they tend to have fewer and fewer saints and sages as we go on, and more politicians, and less authenticity, more hypocrisy—and then people lose faith in religion because they don’t see role models of people they can believe in. That’s kind of the unfortunate situation the world is in now, where most religious establishments are not having credibility. And that, therefore, new approaches not based on those dogmas and scriptures and religions of the past, are flourishing again from the grass roots—and this is one of those.
And so we don’t want to make the same mistake of offering you some dogma that you must believe in. Quite the contrary, but to open your mind and to discover for yourself, your inner reality, the God within, not a God image that gets implanted in your mind, or that requires some belief system. And thus that you can have as a continual reality—not something that you have to have some ritualistic relationship to, or that you need to do some very extraordinary practices in order to have moments of a glimmering of a higher dimension of reality—but that you can live in as the truth of your Being.
So meditation is a shift in consciousness, a shift in one’s frame of reference, a shift in paradigm, a shift of the level of consciousness from which you are perceiving reality. And it is that shift that opens you up to new vistas beyond the normal (or what we call the “normal”—it’s actually very artificial), but the ego-mind, that’s based on identification with the bodily organism, and to enter into dimensions of consciousness that transcend bodily identification. And therefore, are open to infinite expanses and depths and realizations of both the complexity and the simplicity of reality, and the formative fields out of which this phenomenal plane called the world, arises and is sustained.
So the resistance is that meditation will change you. People often ask me, “are there any drawbacks or dangers to meditation?” and yes, there are, and the main danger is this: you will change in a very positive way. And that positive way, which will include you becoming more empowered, therefore less under the influence of others, less gullible, less weak, more decisive, wiser, more capable of loving a larger circle of care—including ultimately the entire universe and all of nature—therefore a different relationship to the eco-system, a different political orientation, religious orientation, relationship to other people who might have wanted you to be smaller and weaker and more controllable—all of those things will change. And this probably won’t disturb you, but it may disturb some other people in your life, and that becomes a drawback, because relationships that were unhealthy will become healthier, because you won’t put up with an unhealthy relationship in your life, and that can create waves in dysfunctional family systems, so I warn you about that—if you’re happy with a dysfunctional family system, then don’t meditate too much.
So I want to talk a little bit about how meditation works, and what it is on a theoretical level, but more importantly I want us to practice, and because we only have a very short amount of time, I want to maximize the time of practice and minimize the theory. But I think without the theory, without a context in which to do it, you won’t really know what or why you’re doing it, and what the potentialities are of meditation, if you really take it up seriously, and not just as a very intermittent hobby.
And so we need to talk about meditation in terms of its phases, and the first phase we could say is the exoteric phase of meditation, that is about self-improvement, and about becoming a better person, and changing your karma, having better opportunities open up magically for you, better relationships, better health. And these things are all documented, that there are health benefits to meditation, you will become calmer, more centered, less anxious, you can be free of depression, you can free yourself from addictions, you can free yourself from a lot of the pathological aspects of the ego-mind. But you’re still within the egoic framework and paradigm. And so in phase one, the paradigm itself doesn’t shift, but it improves and it opens you then to a shift, to let’s say a dimension higher than the ego, that traditionally in religious terms we call the soul.
And that’s phase two, is the soul level, which I would call the mesoteric. And then beyond that there’s an esoteric, having to do with the Spirit. But we’ll take them one at a time.
So I’m going to do some writing on the blackboard in order to maybe make it more comprehensible to you.
Oh by the way, we actually exist! I discovered this as a surprise when I got here. We actually have a cap and a logo! I should wear it. This proves Sat Yoga exists in this reality! Unless you have a logo you’re not part of a Logos, in this world. So, “Hi! I’m not Bubba I’m Baba tonight!” In any case, it’s nice, I like it. I need a white cap, so… A sign, a symbol.. I hope we’re not going commercial. But people like an identity, right? We’re trying to get free from identities, but people want an identity of being someone who is free of identities.
I made a few notes, I don’t usually make notes, but I wanted to make sure I cover a lot of things this weekend that I would probably otherwise forget. So one definition of meditation is this: the word itself means “to be brought to your center”. Medi or middle, right, or the center of your being. But I define it differently. I would say that meditation is the primary instrument for shifting the relationship to information, and meta-information. And I think that’s important to keep in mind, because the nature of our identity, and of the flow of our lives, depend on the kind of information we receive, and how we interpret that information. And meditation changes that and gives you distance from the streams of information, and allows you to then process reality in a different way.
In India, there’s a famous holiday that occurs, well really every year, but the big one is every twelve years, and even every five hundred years, called the Kumbha Mela, in which all the yogis of India, all the holy men, the sadhus, all the fakirs, all of those strange people with long hair down to their legs and long beards (longer than Freddie’s), and they gather together by a point on the holy river Ganges, or another one of the holy rivers, where they say there is a confluence of three rivers.
Now, actually, there are only two, and the third one is a metaphysical river, but why do they do that? What’s the importance of three rivers? Well my interpretation, at least the one I’m going to give you tonight, is that they stand for three rivers of information. And we’re constantly receiving the river of sensory information, that we interpret as a world, we’re receiving psychic information that we could even call exformation because it comes from deep within, beyond the consciousness, and then enables us to understand that world from an archetypal dimension—what Carl Jung called the “archetypal plane”—it has other names, but we could say it comes from the soul, and beyond. And then there is the mental level of information that comes from language, from thoughts. And we’re always dealing with those three levels of information.
Language I would even call signi-formation, because it’s not actually data, and it’s not actually archetypal imagery of a higher nature of intelligence—but it is a way that sounds, signifiers, are used to create a sense of meaning, even when one does not exactly understand what one’s own words, or words that one hears, do mean. And so we are constantly in this river of information of language without always knowing what the implications of it are.
Now, language and linguistics is a fairly new discipline within modern science, but it goes back 150 years perhaps, the father of linguistics was a man named Ferdinand de Saussure, and he recognized that language is made up of signs. And the sign for him—which has been continued by Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst, shifting it a little bit and I’ll give Lacan’s version—is the sign is made up of a signifier and a signified.
The signifier is the actual sound of a word in your mind; so let’s say you hear the word tree, arbol, and the signified would probably be an image of a tree. But if I say the word tree probably everybody will have a different image. Some will have palm tree, some a pine tree, some an oak—right? It doesn’t really say, it’s vague. The signifier and its relation to the signified is not really clear. So you could define tree in terms of its botanical definition or in terms of its metaphoric understanding—you could think of the tree of life, or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden—and those would be metaphors. You could think of your lungs as trees, and your nervous system. So tree becomes a word that is applicable to many frames of reference. The same word can be used in many different contexts. So when you hear the word tree you don’t know: is he talking about a botanical vegetable or is he talking about a metaphor of God-consciousness and eternal life, or what?
So the signified is always somewhat ambivalent under the signifier, it’s not always clear what someone means by what they say, right? This is part of the problem in human communication. It’s also the problem in trying to communicate with ourselves, and for the most part the human discourse—conversations, and our own inner thought patterns—are totally on the level of the signifier, and we never get to the signified. One word leads to another and then to another, but we never get to what do they all mean? And the same words—because they can mean many different things to different people—lead to misunderstandings in our attempts to communicate with one another.
And so one of the byproducts of meditation, because we’re getting to the level of the signified, is that we can understand each other better. We will be able to know what each one is meaning, because we are going underneath the word to the being that the word is signifying. We could say that the signifier is the level of meaning but it’s meaning that is unclear, and this is being. [Drawing on board] Or we could say sense and reference. The problem is, the sense is never clear, the meaning is never clear. So we tend to want to believe that we can clarify things with words, but we can’t, unless we get to the level of what is real being, and what is it really referring to. And that rarely happens in human discourse.
So the first achievement of meditation is to move from the plane of the signifier to the plane of the signified. And the word that we want to define more than any other word—because it’s the core of all language—and you’ll find that all discourse spreads out from this one word—and of course the signifier of that word is different in every language—but the word in English is “I”, or “yo” or if you want “yo soy” in Español, or “Je” or “Ich” or whatever, but that term, that stands for oneself, is the foundation stone of all of language.
And the problem is, most of us have never defined for ourselves what do we mean by “I”? And because of that, everything else that we say, that is based on the I-thought, becomes confusing and unclear, and ambivalent. And so the first thing that you want to do in meditation is clarify to yourself, “What do I mean by I?”