Many people I meet seem to have the idea that meditation is about ‘stilling the mind’—removing all thoughts so that the mind can relax and achieve the goal of inner peace.
In this excerpt from The Science of Being and Art of Living, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi makes some important distinctions between emptying the mind of thoughts and the real experience of deep meditation as a means to achieve the goals of meditation—inner happiness, freedom from stress, enhanced creative abilities, and the growth of higher states of consciousness.
“The basis of peace is bliss. Unless one is happy, he cannot be in peace. Peace without lasting happiness is only passivity. When one sleeps in the night he feels absence of activity. This is called peace. But when he wakes up in the morning and comes into the field of thought, speech, and activity, he begins to feel miserable again. The peace felt by the absence of activity is not lasting.
The peace gained by emptying the mind of thoughts, holding the mind in suspension, is due only to the lack of pressure of thought. When such a mind returns to the field of thinking and acting, it again begins to feel the pressures of thought and action. Then the individual begins to feel unpeaceful. All such practices of silencing the mind are wrong. Such practices continued for much time result in making the mind dull.
There are many groups in the world who sit in silence and try to hear their inner voice or the voice of God, as they term it. All such practices make the mind passive and dull. Those who practice silencing the mind begin to lack in brilliance. Dullness can be seen on their faces. They are not energetic in the field of action. They look peaceful, but they are passive in life. Peace at the cost of activity is at the cost of life.
Such an experience of peace is at the cost of efficiency in life and at the cost of life itself. An attempt to silence the mind in the hope of experiencing pure consciousness is pursuing a mirage. When one keeps the thoughts out of the mind, it becomes passive because it remains on the conscious thinking level without a thought. This practice makes the mind dull.
What is necessary is not the attempt to vacate the mind, but that the conscious mind be led on to the subtle states of thinking to eventually transcend the subtlest state and arrive at the positive state of Being. Holding the mind on the conscious level is only taking it out of the field of activity and allowing it to be passive and inactive. This only helps to diminish the brilliancy of the mind and brings dullness and passivity to it.
People who practice this do feel peace in life because they are practicing suppression or negation of thoughts. When a mind that has gained the quality of sluggishness and dullness through such practices does not have a thought in a very energetic manner and does not engage itself energetically in the field of experience and activity, peace is felt because of the innate dullness of the mind. But, whenever some serious problems in life arise, the mind feels a strain because it has been trained to remain dull and passive. When the individual must become active to accomplish some work in a very precise and energetic manner, the mind feels the strain.
Such practices have also done great damage to the progress of the individual and society.
Thus we find that practices that silence the mind in the first place produce dullness in the mind, and, in the second place, the peace that is felt is not lasting. As we have said, peace can be lasting only if the mind could be made happy forever. Only if the very nature of the mind could be transformed to bliss consciousness could peace be lasting. The quest for peace should be directed to bringing the mind to the field of the transcendent, the source of all happiness through the practice of Transcendental Meditation.
When one is not peaceful, fear, lack of self-confidence, and all the pettiness in life arise and the consciousness of man becomes so abjectly miserable that he cannot think and cannot accomplish anything worthwhile. Fear is just lack of self-confidence, and the basis of confidence is in contentment which can only result from the experience of bliss. There is nothing in the world which can really bring lasting contentment to the mind because everything in the world, although it provides some happiness to the mind, is not intensive enough to satisfy the great thirst for happiness of the mind. The only field of contentment is the transcendental field of bliss consciousness. Unless one arrives at that state, one’s peace will always be threatened by everything in the world because of lack of contentment.
The only golden gate to peace in life is the experience of transcendental bliss consciousness and this great glory of life is easy for everyone to achieve and live throughout life.”