Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Éric Baret

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Extract from an interview with Éric Baret, Montreal, September 20, 1999, viewable on-line at Éric's website.

Q. What is the value of meditation as a deliberate practice?

A. Its only value is to create a sense of separateness from what is not ‘meditation’. It cuts one off from life. There cannot be any intent in meditation. Meditation calls to you, you don't call it. It is like asking something of a teacher: it is an insult to the teacher. The teacher tells you what he needs to tell you - you just keep your mouth shut and listen. You don't ask him anything. If you ask him, there is no room for an answer, because you are full of expectations. When with a teacher, you just listen; you ask nothing. In the absence of asking, in the absence of grabbing, there is space for the teaching to be expanded upon. Of course the teacher we talk about can be called ‘life’ too. Meditation calls to you at certain moments of the day. You have completed one activity and you are not yet engaged in another one: you sit quietly, or you lie down quietly, or you stand on your head quietly. You just face what is here now. Immediately your body becomes the obvious object of observation. First, you encounter the gross elements: fear, anxiety, heaviness, tension. These dissolve rapidly into vibration, into light, into heat. What remains is a feeling of space, of vibrating light, and it resonates in your silence, in your presence. You are happy, you have no needs, you have no future. Meditation calls to you.

But to meditate has meaning only if you have the same attitude towards it as you have towards going to the toilet in the morning. You don't do it to get enlightened. You do it because it is natural, like when you wake up, you go to the toilet, you brush your teeth, you take some water in your mouth, you chew it, and you spit it out. It is totally normal. You have nothing to do at four in the morning. If like most people you have neighbours you cannot make any noise. If you are sane of mind, you don't turn on an artificial light; for this would be an insult to beauty. You don't want to burn down your house with a candle, therefore you don't light one, therefore you cannot read. Nor will you put on any music because the neighbours are psychopathic. Your dog is still sleeping, your wife lives with the fantasy of having a husband. You have time on your hands. What can you do? Nothing! So, you remain still.

The normal position for a happy body is the sitting position, so you sit. You don't meditate, you just don't do anything. The moment the thought ‘I meditate’ comes, it is pure fantasy. Why do you stay there, why don't you do something else? It all comes back to exactly the same thing. You never meditate; you are just receptive to whatever presents itself, to the body feeling. There is nothing to think about. You are brought back to this resonance, to this openness. You will feel the sun rising in your openness, and then you go on with your life. But meditating every morning and knowing that you are meditating is like trying to be humble for half an hour. Jean [Klein] used to say that meditating is like somebody who does not want to take a train. If you don't want to take the train, you don’t have to do anything about it. You just don't take the train! If your life is such that you live in a peaceful country free from war, if you live alone, if your dog is dead, then in the morning you find yourself regularly going to the toilet, brushing your teeth and sitting: it is just a matter of being practical. After that, some people will do some exercises — life is movement — called yoga. But to think that at six o'clock I must meditate is just like thinking that at six o'clock I must not take the train. There is nothing to be done about it. In a certain sense it may even cut us off from real meditation, that is to say those moments in life when silence beckons to us.

It reminds me of a friend of mine who became a famous guru. Another friend went to see him and told me: "I feel that he has reached some silence but that silence hasn't reached him…" I thought this was a particularly bright comment about this ‘realized’ friend. If you meditate with a purpose, at a certain time, you may reach silence, but silence will never reach you. True meditation envelops you in silence. It can happen at any time, when you are making love, drinking, watching TV. So when you feel silence enveloping you, there is no more TV for you, there is nothing else, just silence. So, you give yourself to this silence more and more often. If it happens in the morning, it is beautiful. When our lives are in harmony, we wake up from deep sleep, not from the dream state. Normally, in the morning, there is a kind of humility left over from deep sleep, a call to remain still. You can call it meditation; in the Kashmir Tradition, they just call it living in a natural way. But if one goes into the dream state after deep sleep, of course meditation has to come as a decision, because in the dream state we are already in the becoming process. Living harmoniously you go from deep sleep to meditation or the waking state. So, in a certain way you acknowledge the waking state, the light, the physical world, from the point of view of deep sleep, from the point of view of silence.

The duration of meditation is irrelevant. You cannot ‘meditate for one hour’ nor for one second. But the body lives according to certain rhythms. If one has the chance to eat regularly, to sit regularly, to sleep at the same time each day, in a certain way it may become more easily evident to you that meditation does not depend on a sitting position. But very few people are lucky enough to always eat at the same time and sleep at the same time. So, for a yogi to sit at two in the morning is not a practice, it is just what happens. There is nothing to it. When you become old and weak, you wake up later; nothing is lacking. When I met Jean Klein, he used to sit in the morning from three to eight, doing yoga, pranayama and meditation. Later on, he was confined to a wheelchair and he could not do it any more, but nothing was any different. There are just moments in life when the body is ready to sit regularly and can thus express the beauty of life, provided the sitting is effortless. If there is somebody to make love with, if there is a fight to be fought, if there is something else to be done, it is all exactly the same. You should not strive or push to do it. It resonates, it comes from inside. When a musician feels a calling for music, he gets up at five o’clock and he writes music. It is for the joy of the music. Sitting is purely for the joy of sitting. Otherwise it is reduced to this fascist fantasy as in the Zen tradition, where you want to attain something. This led to Soto and Rinzai involvement in the Manchurian and Second World wars. The contributions of the Zen monasteries to the fascist expression of the Japanese army in China were sustained by the Zen attitude of wanting to reach satori, to do zazen. This was very clearly an example of wanting to ‘do meditation’. It is a form of war, it creates war, if it is done with the slightest intention. If it is something you don't know about and you are just drawn to sit happily and later on you are happy swimming, it is beautiful.

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