meditation and meditation

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Decryption of a practice put in all samsaric sauces and making the big difference between secularism and spirituality.

Meditation is very fashionable. We talk about it a lot on the radio, on television, in magazines. It is the subject of a multitude of works. She is guided through towns and villages by a host of teachers who have appeared like mushrooms in the woods in the fall.

But what are we really talking about? Ah yes, “secular” meditation. And the whole problem is in the coupling of these two words. “Meditation”, theoretically, is a term of the spiritual life and “secular” means that one puts oneself away from all spirituality. The meeting of the two is at best strange or wobbly, at worst an oxymoron that has nothing poetic about it, contrary to “this obscure clarity that falls from the stars” of our good Corneille.

One wonders what prompted the association of these two terms, which should normally have stayed at home. Is it to elevate secularism to the sphere of spirituality, or to lower spirituality to the level of secularism?

Until very recently, the word "secular" had little meaning in Tibet, at least in its contemporary use of "who is independent of the clergy and the Church, and more generally of any religious denomination. Translators have indeed adopted the expression “lay faithful” to name someone who makes spiritual commitments without being a monk, but the usage stops there. There was not the slightest trace of secular philosophy in Tibet, much less of secular meditation.

Don't confuse meditation with relaxation.

So the West invented the thing, or the concept. It all started in the XNUMXth century. We then leave the Middle Ages, to enter the Renaissance, with a new ideal, that of humanism. The Middle Ages placed God at the center of all things and the Renaissance thought, without evacuating God, that it was necessary to restore man's place, which was done, for example, by Montaigne, whose thought is almost entirely human-oriented. Gradually, however, this humanism moved away from God, even more so during the Age of Enlightenment, where science and secularized philosophy triumphed, to finally lead to "atheistic humanism", the hegemonic philosophy of our contemporary world, the one that taught at school and from which it is fashionable not to deviate.

Is God dead, as Nietzsche claimed? For some, definitely. And if this is not quite the case, it only occupies a corner of the picture. Far from being the main subject, it is only an option, so to speak. He lies, it seems, under the shroud laid down by ideological propriety.

On the one hand, we want to be secular; on the other hand, we seem to want to keep a scent of spirituality, a little something that would link us to the Buddha or the wise men of India, when this is not the case at all.

It is without a doubt in this ferment of unbelief, desacralization, atheism and impiety that secular meditation germinated, which seems to be very close to atheistic humanism. Far from God, far from heights or depths, she stands wisely at ground level. Far from God, that's normal, some will say, but would she be far from the Buddha, since he does not refer to God and teaches meditation? And if it is close to the Buddha, it is because it belongs to the spiritual!

This is probably where the greatest confusion arises. On the one hand, we want to be secular; on the other hand, we seem to want to keep a scent of spirituality, a little something that would link us to the Buddha or the wise men of India, when this is not the case at all. Confusion would be avoided if the word meditation had not been taken up again and if one had chosen, for example, “relaxation” or “relaxation of the mind”, or any other term entirely devoid of spiritual flavor. Relaxation or relaxation is indeed in the purely secular. But it's much less attractive, less seductive and less enchanting or, to put it another way, much less selling. From a marketing perspective, meditation is much more profitable than relaxation. Especially since it is adorned with an additional aura by qualifying it as " mindfulness », which seems to promise us a very rewarding experience. Mindfulness meditation! We feel that we are touching something deep, which takes you out of the routine of ordinary life, leads you towards an unknown light. At least, that's what they want to sell us.

Find your samsaric balance

However, on closer inspection, secular meditation, which probably leads to little more than a moment of calm which one is not sure is closer to clarity than torpor, is entirely samsaric. Let's explain. Samsara is characterized by attachment: to pleasing appearances, to human relations, to comfort, to pleasure and to well-being. Well-being is precisely how we attract shoppers to secular meditation, by giving them the promise of psychological well-being while wrapping it in a mysterious veil of spirituality. Well-being in the modern sense, that which is displayed in the salons of the same name, is nothing other than samsaric. To tell the truth, a large part of our activities are governed by samsaric motivations: we want to be happy, to feel good in our family, our work, our surroundings, to be in good health, to have holidays and time "for ourselves". , etc. Is there anything wrong with it? Probably not. We are neither great bodhisattvas nor great yogis nor great sages and we need a certain samsaric balance. So why not accept that meditation contributes to this balance? Precisely because it is samsaric and the goal of meditation, the real one, has nothing samsaric about it. On the contrary, it only serves to get out of samsara. And to misuse it is to misuse it. The sacred teaching gives us a wonderful remedy to gradually access true happiness, the one that does not depend on time, space or circumstances, and we make a sweet liquor of it for a little well-being. . What a pity !

The whole, as we have said, is sold to us in a coating in the colors of spirituality. We believe that we are taken to heaven while we are confined in a cocoon.

Secular meditation is very much like a hobby. But, spirituality is the opposite of a hobby. On the contrary, it is supposed to permeate our entire existence. It would be quite funny (at least for the moment, but beware…) to hear a dialogue like:

– What do you do to relax?

– I like to play tennis. And you ?

– Oh me, I do spirituality.

However, this is the impression that emerges when people talk about meditation. We “do” meditation like we do watercolours, African dance or walking. Would meditation be on the same plane? Let's leave aside the almost inhuman trials that Naropa and others went through Milarepa, or even the life of the monks entirely devoted to the quest for the sacred, no doubt too far from us, but let us only remember that meditation – the real one – is one element of a whole where ethics, compassion , devotion, purification, accumulation of merit, deep understanding and sacred commitments. We are far, very far, from a pleasant little "extra" that improves life.

Beware of counterfeits

The objective of the two meditations is totally different: one, the secular, wants to offer us a moment of rest, relaxation and well-being. It in no way calls into question the reign of our individuality. She only grants him a little relief. The other, the spiritual, is the sword that cuts the knot of individuality, the torch that dispels the darkness of ignorance, the ship that lands us beyond the ocean of samsara. Meditation does not seek inner well-being, but the truth of what we are, beyond the ego which claims to be the center of all experience, the center of the world, or at least the center of "our " world. One is a rhinestone, the other a diamond. One is a herbal tea, the other a nectar of life. One gives a light breath of air in the prison, the other opens the door for us.

Meditation – the real one – is one element of a whole where ethics, compassion, devotion, purification, the accumulation of merit, deep understanding and sacred commitments work together. We are far, very far, from a pleasant little "extra" that improves life.

“Yes, it is often pointed out, but secular meditation can be a bridge to spiritual life. It is by no means impossible, but it is not certain either. We must rather consider the hypothesis that it would be a trap, keeping its followers in a bubble where the ego is comfortable, while giving it the illusion of doing something deep. Why look any further, since this soothing exercise is quite sufficient for the comfort of our ignorance? And that he commits to nothing: no master, no devotion, no rules of conduct. So he leaves us free. Yes, free to remain prisoners of samsara, from which no one forces us to come out.

Some still think that secular meditation is a spirituality adapted to our times. That would be wonderful ! Except that it is not connected to awakened masters and does not lead to awakening. So a very meager and very poor spirituality, well lost in the desert of ignorance, well digested by the insatiable atheist humanism.

Let us not deduce from what we have just said that secular meditation is blameworthy in itself. If it clearly displayed itself as a samsaric lullaby, we could not blame it. The problem lies in the ambiguity it conveys: it implicitly suggests, through the use of identical words and postures, that it is similar to true meditation, that it transmits a certain spiritual depth. In this sense, it is a deception that risks deceiving many people who might otherwise turn to an authentic path. A kind of counterfeit, in short, which, unlike the counterfeits of luxury brands, costs more than its model.

photo of author

Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

Leave comments