When I first visited Hungary a decade ago I was stuck by the great eagerness of local people, especially youth, to learn pranayama and meditation and to open up to the spiritual life of India. This hunger to kindle the spirit had been discouraged for many years earlier but nothing can really suppress it, for the nature of spirit is to seek itself.
A volunteer who experienced this inner blossoming through doing a course on meditation brought her husband to meet me. “Persuade him”, she said, “to sign up. He needs to smile much more”. Her husband was a successful executive, a great spouse and a wonderful human being. But people have different goals; she was seeking to fully blossom in knowledge whilst remaining a successful businesswoman; whereas he had his own issues.
He asked, “I would like to learn your breathing techniques and meditation but why do I need these? I enjoy hunting and in the forest I am eyeball to eyeball with the bear, alive and in the moment. So why do I need meditation?”
Our spiritual brainstorming was spread over several sessions. What we both came to respect was that multi-cultural and multi-religious dialogue bears its own unique fruit. What is the spiritual aloneness of the seeker and how is this different from the solitude of the hunter? Can we even compare meditation with hunting; to answer this we need to know what is meditation? And all these questions lead to a profound thought: do questions really bring answers or just generate more questions? Is there an answer to this question?
Meditation is unique and quite unlike any other activity. Meditation is not an action, certainly not in any profound sense, so we cannot compare it with any other action. Meditation is doing absolutely nothing. Can you do that for a few minutes: sit still, kick out the world and do nothing. There are three Golden Rules to follow during meditation time: to be nothing, to want nothing, to do nothing. After this you can get up and get on with the world. But these few minutes of de-concentration and deep rest are the most precious moments of life, for these we spend with our Self.
What we learned together was that spiritual practices are not just about busting stress or calming the mind; there is an inspirational aspect also, of caring and sharing and being there for people. This is the aspect of seva that is so central. We recall Mahavira and the Buddha and the great tradition of rishis and masters who showed the path of ahimsa. Hunters are not the only ones who venture alone in the forest; many tribal people and forest folk show the same fearlessness and heroism but they don’t hunt for fun. Some of them are conservators or wildlife wardens. We can experience the forest and its magic but why not just leave the bears alone? Let them be. Closer to home surely we can extend this discussion to the practice of animal sacrifice for religious ceremonies.
It is ironic how a discussion on hunting can be a catalyst to enquire into the nature of spirituality and the primacy of non-violence. Spiritual dialogue amongst nations and peoples can also spill into the realm of social activism for spirit respects no boundaries. So questions will continue to beget questions and answers beget more questions but there is hope of another dimension. Meditation has to be experienced. Silence cannot be talked about.
~ By: Sanjiv Kakar