I want you to do something today. I want you to get rid of all the things that you have heard about meditation so far – everything – all those things about focus, attention, sitting upright, closing your eyes, focusing on breathing, sound, this and that – everything – even the things that you have heard from me. Let’s try it shall we! Let’s start afresh. Let’s take a fresh look at meditation. What is Meditation? Forget everything you know about meditation and simply think. Meditation simply means – thinking over – to think over something – to put your whole attention on something without pressure – anything. That is the simplest explanation for meditation. Meditation is simply thinking over.
Today meditation has become a kind of hectic practice where you sit upright and do a lot of breathing exercises, this and that – and they call it Raja Yoga, Vipassana or something else. They need to call it that way, because this way they can keep it mystical. And the more they can keep it mystical, the more they can gain from it. Simplifying it doesn’t make the whole business of yoga, meditation and all that, profitable, does it!
So let’s simplify it, shall we! Meditation has been proposed as a means to psychological well being – and that means usually comes along with specific methodologies. The Buddhists have their Vipassana technique – the Hindus have their Kundalini nonsense. I am calling it nonsense because of all the mysticism it brings along. The mystical advocates of all that kundalini stuff, truly believe that there are actual energy centers throughout the human spine, and by unlocking them one could attain glorious spiritual potential. The Hindus also call this method of unlocking the kundalini centers of chakras, Raja Yoga, as if its something supreme, and not an ordinary mental state to be attained by an ordinary human. So, when the very practice of Raja Yoga proposes the notion, that it is something not ordinary, and basically unattainable without a teacher – that it is something higher than normal human practice, you naturally feel like you are supposed to go an expert. This makes it profitable. Hence rises countless spiritual institutions upon the edifice of the primitive elements of human mysticism.
Now let’s throw all that mysticism away and look without judgement and preconceived mystical illusions of intellect. Meditation simply means focusing on something, thinking over something. Now the question is, do we need to sit upright and practise meditation the conventional way – closing our eyes, focusing on breathing or chanting or say Aum and going through a million other rituals! Is it necessary? Well, if it suits your taste then of course it’s okay – nobody is condemning it. It will bring you obvious health benefits, surely. But it’s only the way of the novice, also the most robotic way. Meditation means thinking over. But think over what? Do you have something to think over – something that you’d just think over, simply to take the pleasure from it – to simply be yourself in it – anything – a practice, a habit, a hobby, an idea, anything – something you can think over without any pressure of technicality, ritual or norms – that you can pay your whole attention to, simply because you love it, not because some great so-called guru tells you to practise it or some great scientist tells you to practise it! Do you have something like that – do you – anything – painting, writing, going out for a walk of contemplation, filmmaking, photography – any human activity that you can engage yourself in, without all the pressure that comes along with the very term “method”!
When you love doing something, there is no method, there is no risk, there is no fear, there is no insecurity of failure, there is just doing it. You just love it and do it. Often we also use the term “passion”, but I think, the word “passion” is a petty human attempt to justify the activity in front of the society. Why do you need to justify it! You simply love it and you do it. When you love it and do it, you are basically meditating upon it. And when the humans have something they love to do, and they do it, which means meditate upon it, they give a certain amount of time from their daily schedule to that activity, not out of pressure, not out of the insecurity of psychological obscurity, not out of a revolting attitude against the social norms, but simply to be themselves in that activity. When you do that on a daily basis, or find time to do that every now and then, every week, you are basically engaging your brain almost in the same manner as anybody else does in practising the conventional way of meditation – sitting upright, closing their eyes and focusing within. The brain functionings in both cases are basically similar – and they bring the same kind of inner emotional stability, same kind of inner content more importantly – basically the same kind of internal well being, which is sustained in the long run, if you can simply do what you love to do on a regular basis. This way your brain goes through a kind of unique refreshment – that basically is the product of meditation – the simplest meditation – meditation upon the activity that allows you to be you.
Meditation is a method-less act – an act of contemplation – an act of being. And this contemplation or this being is not a buddhist thing, a hindu thing or a jewish thing – it is simply a human thing. No pranayama, vipassana or kabala has any kind of exclusive authority over meditation whatsoever. All these ways are merely the means of the novice to begin the journey. But the means is not the real act itself. Seeing the method of meditation as meditation itself, is like confusing the menu for the meal. The real journey takes place when there is no means whatsoever – when the self does not need to make efforts to be the self – that’s real meditation – the meditation where you simply are who you are and do not seek methods to attain a superficial state of mind.
If you find something you love and make that your profession, then you’ll never need to practise the conventional meditation in your life, in order to be psychologically well, because your very profession would be the best meditation for you. If you don’t exactly have that dream profession, then simply taking time out from your daily schedule to do what you love to do, would still be a better meditation for you than the conventional one. And if none of these is an option for you, then you can resort to the conventional form of methodical meditation. The final call on this matter, would be made by nobody else but you. But bear in mind, kids meditate on things, the adults meditate on the self. Meditation on the self is the highest form of true method-less meditation, for it brings self-awareness – which is beyond the everyday joy and sorrow. True meditation does not put you in control of your sorrow, rather it takes your mind beyond that very sorrow, as well as joy, into the kingdom of contentment – a kingdom without ideology – without cognitive extremes, such as radical rationalism, radical romanticism or radical emotionalism. In that kingdom, you simply are a human, with no name, no nationality, no tradition, no culture, no religion, no gender and no social image – simply a human.
(Simultaneously published on Goodreads.)
You don’t really get to the truth, you walk on it everyday.
A new talk discussing the nature of the so-called truth.
What is Mind?, 2016
“For self-educated scientists and thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Leonardo-da-Vinci, Michael Faraday, myself and many others, education is a relentless voyage of discovery. To us education is an everlasting quest for knowledge and wisdom.” – The Education Decree
In this talk, Abhijit Naskar discusses the nature of what you call Education, in context of modern human society.
The Education Decree, 2017
“Even though the term “feminism” is founded upon the basic principle of gender equality, it possesses its own fundamental gender bias, which makes it inclined towards the wellbeing of women, over the wellbeing of the whole society. And if history has shown anything, it is that such fundamental biases in time corrupt even the most glorious ideas and give birth to prejudice, bigotry and differentiation.” – The Bengal Tigress
In this talk Abhijit Naskar discusses the deeper cognitive implications of the ideology of feminism, in the path of global harmony and progress.
The Bengal Tigress: A Treatise on Gender Equality, 2017
The name is Sapiens – Homo Sapiens. That’s what we are called in the scientific circle – in the intellectual circle. Homo Sapiens – the name given by humans to the humans – a name, that by the look of it, exudes a hint of wisdom, because the term sapiens means wise. So here’s the question – are we wise? Are you wise? Is humanity wise? And how do you know that you are being wise at a certain? What kind of behavior would be true measure for wisdom? Perhaps I am asking the wrong questions here.
It is easier to tell when you are not being wise, than to tell what the measures for wisdom are. For example, a fundamentalist who argues about his religious supremacy with a fellow religious person from a different religion, based on simply his own scripture, is as dumb in terms of wisdom, as a scientist who arrogantly boasts about the supremacy of reasoning over all kinds of sentiments and beliefs, both good and bad.
I am a scientist, and an educator of science and reasoning, yet, I do not advocate for the supremacy of reasoning. I advocate for conscience – and conscience is part reasoning and part compassion. To quote from my treatise on parenting, entitled “Human Making is our Mission” :
“Modern society is modern because of its mental cocktail of reasoning and compassion. Turn the compassion network in the brain off, and it will be a society of heartless robots. On the other hand, turn the reasoning network off, and it will be a society of dumb sentimental apes.”
So, being wise means, not talking about what you think is true, whether you are a scientist, a plumber, a trucker, or any kind of professional. A layperson can be a hundred times wiser than a young doctorate at times, because wisdom has less to do with information, and more to do with the ability to see through the information and look at the big picture. A layperson is more likely to be wrong about factual things than a scientist, but a scientist on the other hand, also runs the risk of becoming cognitively more blind than a layperson to the significance of human sentiments in human existence driven by his radically rational mind. Hence, wisdom is not an exclusive possession of the intellectual parts of the society. Being articulate is not the same as being wise. Truth devoid of conscience, is worthless in human existence.
A smart person speaks out the truth. A wise person doesn’t care about speaking it out, as much as he or she cares about utilizing that truth in the society, in a way that brings most progress – in a way that brings most human development. And that’s what wisdom is about. Wisdom is not simply about progress – it is about collective humane progress.
Now the question is – do the definition and characteristics of wisdom itself keep changing through time! Like all other cognitive processes, the mental process of wisdom goes through change as well. And this change is relentless. For example, more than a century ago, a wise man would be the one who would give his wife at home taking care of the household chores and children, the same amount of respect as he’d give himself. But, the norm of that time was that men were superior to women. So at that time even thinking about a housewife to have the same amount of basic dignity as the husband who was the guardian of the family, was a sign of wisdom. But today, we have crossed that boundary of wisdom, and taken wisdom a few steps ahead, by constructing or at least attempting to construct a society of gender equality, where women are equal of men in all aspects of not just private life but also social life.
Likewise, a century ago another wise movement was afoot – the movement of religious toleration, hugely carried out by the Parliament of World Religions. But in this case as well, toleration was the wisdom of the past. Acceptance is the wisdom of today. Nevertheless, “acceptance does not mean accepting those who disregard humans on the basis of race, religion and sexual orientation” (quote from Either Civilized or Phobic: A Treatise on Homosexuality).
So the point is, wisdom evolves, but one core principle in it does not. It is the principle of becoming better, by demolishing the shortcomings of today and building the benefits of tomorrow. And that’s what makes us a wise species. And as long as we are ready to recognize the shortcomings in ourselves, in our culture, in our traditions and in our ancestral heritages, we shall keep on deserving the title of “Sapiens” or “A Wise Species”.
(Simultaneously Published on Goodreads.)
Message to those who believe, their religion, their scripture, their prophet and their God are the greatest of all.
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A smart person speaks out the truth. A wise person doesn’t care about speaking it out, as much as he or she cares about utilizing that truth in the society, in a way that brings most progress, in a way that brings most human development. And that’s the purpose atheism should have.
The focus of atheism should be on rational thinking, not on disbelief in God.
This is a message from the celebrated Neuroscientist and Humanist Abhijit Naskar, to all the conscientious atheists in the world, on how to take humanity in the path of collective progress.