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Ancient Teaching In A Modern World

History and Practical Application

Brahmananda Saraswati (affectionately known as "Guru Dev") was at that time (1941-1953) the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math in the Himalayas, a seat of spiritual leadership in northern India that traces its descent directly from Shankara, the great Indian philosopher of the classical period. In turn, the line of Shankara has its roots in the Vedic culture of ancient India, a continuity of living tradition from ancient to modern times that modern scholars agree is without parallel in the world today. The Shankaracharya tradition, furthermore, is considered in India to be the official custodian of the body of techniques and practices that constitute the physiological and experiential side of India’s Vedic philosophy, especially those techniques that collectively may be called "meditation" . This tradition has preserved and protected the formulae of these techniques through uncounted generations of oral transmission from teacher to student, always under the strictest selective control and supervision.

From him, his students (disciples) absorbed this timeless value, a breadth and delicacy of awareness that allows the full range of states of consciousness available to the human nervous system to be directly experienced in a systematic way.

His students taught that the common idea of what meditation was supposed to be was in fact a complete distortion of the original meaning of the ancient procedure. Procedures of concentration or of forcing the mind to be free of content, with or without the use of a sensory medium such as an auditory or visual focus, seemed to them to lead away from, rather than toward, the desired result, to allow the mind and body to experience the silent bed of pure consciousness.

The ancient teaching became clear - maximum naturalness and simplicity alone would identify the correct direction; the mechanics of the technique could be explained in a way that was both clear in itself and consistent with ancient Vedic sources on the nature of the mind.

In practice, then, an effective form of meditation should come out to be an easy, automatic process and not a constant struggle involving concentration or control of mind. On this basis, the masters recognized quite simply what the mechanics of the original systematic procedure had been, not by means of textual scholarship alone, but by working with constant reference to fresh personal experience of the state of pure consciousness, the aim and endpoint of meditation.

There are many systems of what is called meditation that attempt to refine the mind by controlling it in one way or another. All such attempts are difficult and tedious, and, far from achieving anything, tend to take away life. Because of the difficulty and inefficiency of these methods of mind control the idea has become accepted that the path to pure consciousness is difficult. This is a fallacy and stems from ignorance of the nature of the mind. There is a great difference between directing the mind in a particular direction through concentration and directing it by permitting It’s natural affinities to operate. We know that it is the natural tendency of every mind to flow towards a field of greater happiness. By turning the mind inwards we point the mind towards the field of absolute bliss, creativity, and wisdom. It is upon this principle that our system of meditation is based, and consequently its practice is not difficult.

The whole process is one of direct experience; the journey is a precise undertaking in which, at each step, the validity of the process is put to the test of direct experience. Meditation is an intellectually satisfying exploration, in which the wisdom behind meditation is illumined by the result at each succeeding level, including the ultimate level of direct experience of the state of absolute Being. It could be said, in fact, by analogy, that this is an exploration of inner space where the real jewel of life is to be found, and that its scientific value and promise far exceed that of the exploration of outer space.

In the light of his discovery, the ancient texts suddenly began to make real sense to the teachers, and other technical details began to fall into place. As one example, it came to light during these studies that there were originally two distinct classes of meditation practices: those for the recluse, or monk, and those for the active, involved person with family responsibilities. As time passed the former class was preserved in monasteries, while the latter evidently was lost, accounting for the popular impression that meditation leads to a life of withdrawal.

The TSM Meditation technique, as taught to the public, is of the class designed for an active, involved life; thus, it has been literally unavailable in any part of the world for an unknown period of time. More generally, once having a clear picture of the mechanics of the technique, teachers were able to find a clear and precise interpretation of the very core of Vedic literature, which constantly refers to these mechanics implicitly and explicitly, being essentially the story of the evolution of consciousness. This view led to a fresh look at celebrated texts whose meaning had become subject to a large number of widely varying interpretations.