This nine-week course is an interfaith opportunity presented by Christians Aware, as part of its Faith Awareness programme. It is presented in association with the Leicester Serene Reflection Meditation Group.
This evening we approach the subject from a Sikh perspective. The person we'd asked to deliver the presentation has called off, so we have prevailed upon our friend Kartar Singh to step into the breech at very short notice. I can't imagine that Kartar would suffer much trepidation at the prospect though - just last week he spoke up on BBC One's Question Time when it was televised from Leicester's Curve. George Galloway was on the panel that edition - so Kartar should have no reason to fear his reception here this evening! By the way, you can watch that edition of Question Time from Leicester on the BBC iPlayer till 13 February 2014.
So as not to give Kartar too onerous a task, I've offered to prepare a handout on the topic, which attendees can read and to which he'll respond. The text of the two-page handout, adapted from an article on SikhiWiki entitled, "Meditation, the doorway to higher consciousness", is reproduced in full below:
Meditation – the door to higher consciousness
Meditation is any practice whose goal is attaining a state of higher consciousness. It is the process of retraining our awareness to operate not from the conscious or subconscious level, but from the level of the super-conscious.…
The Gurmukh attains the fourth state of higher consciousness.“To attain this higher level of consciousness, one has to disengage the mind away from mundane interactions and join it to a much higher level of awareness.”
When considering awareness, it is clear that man is more aware of his surrounding than animals. Man is conscious of his parents, grand-parents and other relatives while animals in general may not be so conscious about some of the complex relations that they may have. Most animals’ behaviour is driven by their immediate sensory needs while most human behaviour is driven by etiquette and social norms rather than sensory demands. The concept of correctness and fairness has crept in - this can be termed “consciousness”.
When a hungry animal sees food, it will not wait for its frail parents or grand-parents to eat first before it starts eating; however, with most humans, we would distribute the food so that the frail receive a fair share of the food. This highlights the better consciousness instilled in humans.
But if one does not pay regards to these “higher” human qualities then the Guru reminds us, "Those who do not serve the Primal Being, and do not reflect upon the Word of the Shabad - do not call them human beings; they are just animals and stupid beasts".
However, consciousness does not stop with material needs; many other things have to taken into consideration - emotional needs, moral support, community welfare, social cohesion, global well-being, etc.
Meditation - a way to better awareness
Meditation is a way to improve one’s awareness of the world and to become better equipped to play a better, more finely tuned and fairer role in life. The essential attitude for correct meditation is one of listening. To listen clearly one must subdue the level of interference that is exerted on ones mind in our daily life; to still the mind and to listen to the "internal vibrations" of the mind.
Without this internal stillness of the mind, listening clearly is impossible. It’s like trying to teach quantum mechanics to someone while there are very loud thunder storms all around - a completely impossible task!
Once a state of tranquillity has been reached and the chaos of everyday turbulence of random thoughts has been subdued from the mind, only then can one listen to the internal vibrations of the mind and soul. In this stillness one can tune into the natural vibration of nature - the need and requirements of the Universe.
In Sikhi, this vibration is referred to as Naam - or even God - Waheguru. So the Sikh masters require the Sikh to recognise this energy of Nature and recognise this within the person's own mind. The Sikh Gurus asks the Sikh to instil the name of the Lord within his/her mind. As Guru Ram Das says, "Listen, O mind: meditate on the Name of the Lord.”
Many consider God to be an all-knowing super-conscious Being; others consider God to be indefinable, not a Being at all. One needs to replace the chaos of random uncontrolled thoughts in the mind by only one thought - the remembrance of the Lord's name; the pure love for the Creator. "The minds of those who listen to the Lord's Name are drenched with bliss; I worship their feet continually." (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 1135).
Once this pure state of tranquility is present in the mind, the realization of the oneness of the universe becomes known. We must learn to listen to the deep voice within our "inner" mind because as Guru Nanak states in Japji sahib, "Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies, if you listen to the Guru's Teachings, even once" (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 2)
The mind must be kept totally receptive, because we can’t think our way into deep meditation. Nor, indeed, can you think your way to true guidance and inspiration. You can only receive wisdom: you cannot concoct it.
Recognise the truth within
A truth must be perceived in that calm awareness which is super-consciousness.
Meditation, then, is not creating answers: It is perceiving them. And this is the secret of true guidance. The stilled mind will be able to start functioning properly and one become more aware of the reality around us.
Most people seldom listen. They “listen” while thinking, when can I interrupt and what can I say. They’re like an out-of-tune musical instrument. Because they no longer are able to tune into their own essential nature, their inter-actions with life and other people produce only discords. They are deaf to the symphony of sounds in the world around them. They are deaf to other people, for they are more interested in speaking their own minds.
Listening deeply is necessary
They behave as though perpetually campaigning for their own ideas. However, Guru Arjan Dev reminds us that, "Those who listen with their mind and ears to the Lord's meditative remembrance, are blessed with peace at the Lord's Gate, O mortal" (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 200). So if you wish to obtain peace in this life and later, then you need to remove the randomness in the mind and replace it with love for God's name …
To understand what meditation is we must learn to listen to what is, and not keep insisting on what we think it ought to be. We must try to tune in to things as they are. Meditation is the opposite of imposing your will on the world. Try to relinquish, even for just a few minutes, the process of concocting plans and projects for the future. Be more, not less, conscious.
Guru Arjan Dev tells us, that we forget the Lord and indulge in our plans and schemes: "They do not know the One who created them; they think up all sorts of schemes and plans.” (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 297). For true connection with the Creator, one has to break this constant loop about our personal schemes and plans that are perpetually going round in our minds.
Based on an article by Swami Kriyananda, adapted from SikhiWiki: encyclomedia of the Sikhs
Kartar responds to our questions and comments (about unfamiliar terms and concepts mostly) and extemporises on themes and topics contained in the handout - and some that are not. He points out (and I acknowledge) that the handout is missing important information about Sikh worship, in particular prayers and hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib. The handout had some of this earlier in the day but it was excised, purely for the sake of the time available to us this evening.