• About Meditation: An Interview with Bhashkar Perinchery

    As initiator of IMU, Bhashkar Perinchery’s wisdom, philosophy and spiritual guidance have played an important role in the approach to meditation we share. In this interview, Bhashkar provides insight into his perspective on meditation and the role it can play in leading us to a life of greater compassion, joy, and fulfillment.

    What is the heart of meditation?
    The very word ‘meditation’ simply means ‘attentiveness.’ Attentiveness is one of the most simple and mysterious phenomena of our human nature. Each of us carries the potential for attentiveness.

    Meditation is basically a support for the human being to come in touch with reality. We have certain concepts, beliefs, ideas, and values. On the basis of this we label. But when we are being with the meditative process we are not merely ‘seeing’ what reality is, but relating to some experience of reality.

    For example, when you see a flower, the mind gets the impression through the senses, and interprets it and compares it to the knowledge and beliefs that we already have. According to our beliefs, it may be a good flower, or such-and-such a flower. The flower then has a utilitarian purpose. This may be important for day-to-day living, but what is this flower? What is its reality? What makes the flower a flower? What is its basic nature?

    Meditation makes it possible for us not to follow the automatic tendency to judge and to categorize, but to be with something directly, wakefully, in a quality of silence.  

    What is the greatest misperception about meditation?
    The greatest misperception is to make meditation into a concept, and imagine that we can really understand it, and limit ourselves to an intellectual connection with it. Meditation has to be experientially gone into, and in a deeper sense is connected to consciously allowed silence.

    There are ways to check to see if the meditation is going in the right way. For example, it probably isn’t if you are feeling superior to someone else, more special than someone else, or if it becomes a competitive, combative process. It’s going well if people are more sympathetic and loving toward each other, and there’s more silence.

    Tell us about the type of meditation you teach.
    It is a combination of earnestness, and lightness and playfulness. I don’t limit myself to any particular method. We want to see what can be applied carefully without bringing complications and misunderstanding, and what helps the person go deeper. For example, there is a method we use that comes from an ancient Sufi tradition, which uses language as a child does who has not yet learned language, a sort of gibberish. This is actually a meditative process, a way of expressing without limiting the expression to the intellect. It may look absurd, but when you allow the playfulness, and go with the energy—wholeheartedly, with the moment—it becomes a certain way of being with moment.

    So techniques exist that can be in different ways supportive, to enable a certain energetic process which makes it lighter, easier to be with the silence.

    These are preparatory techniques, techniques from various traditions, from traditional to modern. For example, another technique often practiced is called ‘Flowering of the Heart,’ using the process of breath. Another one is called ‘Inner Letting Go,’ which is inner questioning, asking oneself what is the idea of 'me,' or 'I,' then noticing the answer and letting it go. If people are using techniques with the right intention and guidance--then fine. However, it is not just to remain on the level of technique.

    For example, I started using the phrase ‘Silent Sitting’ years ago [to talk about our daily practice of seated, silent meditation]. I didn't even want to use word meditation. I wanted to just take away the idea of doing, just to say you are doing nothing, you are not trying to reach somewhere. Basically, we use what helps one to not try to achieve or manage something, but to just become available to life.

    Freud said his criteria for mental health were 'love and work.' What does meditation teach us about love? About work?
    Our body, our mind, our spirit is one process. It is just for practical understanding that we say ‘This is body,’ ‘This is mind, ‘This is spirit.’ But the fact remains that we don’t really know where the body ends and the spirit starts.

    We don’t know where the boundaries are so it’s very important to look at the wholeness of the human being. So if you approach love and work without consciousness, you can just go from your head with ideas, and miss the point.

    For example, you can go on repeating things that you think are love but if you’re not in touch with your heart, they won't be really loving.

    To be loving in a conscious way gives your love the right quality. And work will not just be engagement, or to prove something to your ego, but in accordance with life. Love and work will be a celebration in a conscious way. I call it the three C’s for fulfilling living: Consciousness, Compassion, and Creativity.

    How can meditation help us with difficult times in life, loss, death, failure?
    One has to start with where one is. Many of our reactions happen automatically. However, we can start to see that we have the possibility to not get trapped in these automatic reactions, whether our anger, disappointment, depression, bitterness or hatefulness when things are not going the way we think they should. We can recognize that we have these automatic reactions, and start to not get blindly caught in them.

    Through an understanding that can arise in meditation, we can get some distance and freedom, and see the interconnected factors more clearly. When we bring sympathy and compassion and try not to feel superior, then there is a quality of love.

    What if someone already feels peaceful and happy in her/his life, why meditate?What are some of the benefits of meditation?
    Someone has said that there are four kinds of human ways of going: one is moving from darkness to light, the second is moving from darkness to more darkness, the third is moving from light to darkness, and the fourth are those who are moving from light to more light.

    So it is not enough to have a comfortable or pleasant situation. We have to very consciously see where our energy is going. No matter how exciting or pleasurable the moment may be, it is also a transitory process. The body always goes on changing, and life and our personality goes on changing. We cannot hold onto any of these things.

    What can make me fulfilled even when things change my peacefulness, for example? How can I know that my wellbeing-ness will not be destroyed, or taken away? If I only rely on outer factors, then when I don't have the same prestige or power, I can feel very lost, very depressed and disappointed. This, for example, often happens in retirement when you don’t have a role to play, when the body changes.

    Unless one has considered reality beyond usefulness versus uselessness, beyond power versus weakness, you cannot find real peacefulness. It is very important to find what is deeper.

    You offer online live streaming sessions where people can ask questions and also make Q-and-A a part of every retreat. What is the significance of asking questions? And out of all the various questions that come up in our minds every day how can one know what questions are of value to ask?
    Ask what is valuable to yourself—close to your own heart. Don’t just ask questions for questions’ sake, but ask ones that show a readiness to go deeper and to allow receiving help. It is a very valuable thing when one can accept help. You are then connecting and interacting. Everyone can support each other in this life process.

    It’s important to realize that meditation is not just collecting data and information and filling your head, but that meditation is an awareness process right from the beginning. You are beginning to be in touch with something new, to look at reality without being trapped in the usual labeling process.

     

    Join IMU and Bhashkar for a meditation retreat in the pastoral Wisconsin countryside this November. For 5 days, you'll enjoy meditative walks in nature, plenty of time for silent sitting as well as guided active meditation and breath awareness exercises, and group and individual question-and-answer sessions with Bhashkar

     

    Consciousness, Compassion, Creativity—For a Life of Fulfillment (the three C’s)

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