By U’un Arifien (Kwee Ping Oen)
Here I need to write once again about MEDITATION. Because in my opinion, many relatives and close friends still have a misconception about MEDITATION or SEMEDI (in Javanese)
The first time I had the intention of participating in the 10-days retreat of Vipassana meditation, my relatives criticized me and asked me why I bother participating in SEMEDI, being at home has been nice, gathering with my children and grandchildren and being happy dining together, joking and so on. Now I want to go and do 10 days of solitude…. How ridiculous it is.
Children and grandchildren who came from Singapore and the United States were being left instead, even though it is just for 10 days. It is such an unfortunate thing that I do not gather with the family.
At that time, I informed my relatives that I wanted to know and feel what Vipassana Meditation is. My grandchildren had 1 month vacation in Yogya while I would just go for 10 days only, and the opportunity to join a retreat in Central Java came only twice per year. So then I forced myself in order to participate in the Vipassana meditation retreat, which took place in Klaten (at that time).
That was a short dialogue about meditation. The ignorance about meditation makes people have the wrong idea, which seems logical, but it is actually really unfortunate because of the ignorance.
There are some misconceptions about meditation that I have been practicing and persevering at for nearly 7 years now:
Various systems of meditation has been introduced by “teachers” with a variety of concerns, even there is a commercialized meditation. The Vipassana meditation that I follow does not teach us to concentrate on an object that is considered sacred or heritage, does not use secret mantras, is not used to defeat spirits or control unseen energies, nor is there a “colored belt” to assess our achievements, neither do we have to shave our head. In fact there is no cost, no request for us participants to donate any of our money to the committee or the board or temples/monasteries.
The Vipassana meditation as taught by S.N.Goenka which I follow is not ensconced on a sect or religion, so there were many participants made up of several different groups of faith. On average many Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, and the rest are Buddhist.
There are misunderstandings about meditation such as:
- Meditation is a relaxation technique.
Meditation is not “just” a relaxation, although it is one of the important components, but in Vipassana there is much higher purpose than just relaxation.
- Meditation is like entering into a state of trance (unconscious) or hypnosis or we are in control of another person or creature.
Vipassana Meditation actually teaches one to be aware at all times or cultivate awareness or pure attention.
- Meditation is dangerous. We should not take part or become involved. Just avoid it!
This world is actually full of danger. Just walking alone carries the risk of being hit by a car or a motorcycle driven by a drunk or reckless driver. Even when you are sleeping you could be struck down in a large earthquake by the roof of your house falling on you. Traveling by airplane is dangerous too. Where is there a place that is completely safe in this life?
But Vipassana meditation is precisely the development of our consciousness.
Of course it is not dangerous, just the opposite. The increased awareness is an effective protection in any of our activities.
- Meditation is only for the elderly or retired, if you are a teenager it is not time yet to participate in meditation, there is no time, still busy!
These are some of the misunderstandings, which is very unfortunate.
When I was young I also had the same sense. This is because we actually do not understand what meditation is.
Easily the reason that we are still busy becomes an excuse to reject meditation. Rejecting meditation is not a problem because it is the right of each person, but if it is rejected out of the ignorance, that is unfortunate.
For example, we were invited to go up the mountain. We were asked to bring coats but we refused, and after arriving at the top of the mountain we complain of suffering from the cold weather whereas before we had been asked to bring warm clothes. That is rejection based on ignorance.
My experience after a meditation retreat, I was 73 years old at the time, I felt very regretful that I did not know meditation long before. If I had started meditation since the age of 50 years, I would not have needed to experience the life that I lived with some degree of stupidity, which I so often suffered in those 20 years.
Meditation is very much needed for teenagers and young adults who are still young and still have enough energy to advance his business or his career with more stability, calmly dealing with business problems or career. It helps them to be more prudent in making decisions. No need to live in a rush. People who rush do not yet understand that there is actually no need to.
In life there is no need to get angry or stressed. People are often angry or stressed, which is clear indication that the person does not understand how to actually work smoothly without anger or stress.
Meditation teaches us to live with morality, safety and peacefully living in the household, in the community or in your business or career, in any and all circumstances.
- I was once reprimanded by my relatives; you are Catholic why do you learn meditation of Buddhism? In the Catholic religion there is also a meditation or contemplation or prayer….
I replied that I did not learn meditation “Buddhism”. But I learned meditation taught by the Buddha. Too often people misunderstand the meaning of religion.
I will give an illustrative example:
I want to go to Bali, to see or learn the Balinese culture, which is actually known as a place of Hindu religion in our country. I buy the maps of the island. Maybe the map was Hindu made… I hire a Hindu Balinese tour guide also. After a look around at all the beauty of the scenery and temples in Bali, I see Balinese dances and some of the places that are considered sacred by the Balinese. A few days later I also visited art galleries to see carvings of Balinese Hindu culture and became interested in it. When I went back to Yogya, I try to carve out exercises such as the Balinese, but I do not have feel allegiance to the Hindu religion, and I do not have to convert to Hinduism to learn Balinese wood carving, right? If I am good at carving, I will be satisfied, my life will be happy.
The same applies to learning meditation as taught by the Buddha. I am happy because the Buddha taught high moral, taught to watch ourselves in order to get to know who we are, observing the way of our minds so it can be controlled, we observe the emotional upheaval that can be muted or made to be not so wild, teach honesty to ourselves and watch the rise and fall of our ego and its manipulations. We learn about consciousness at all times and can learn a lot from the lessons. I am very interested, so I studied Vipassana meditation seriously without having to leave my Catholic religion.
- There is a question.
If later I joined a meditation retreat for a few months, could it eliminate all my problems?
Well, it is not like that, meditation is not like a “panacea” that can cure the disease immediately. Indeed, if we follow the Vipassana meditation, we can control our mind and understand what consciousness is and at least we learn patience, all problems look clearer and gradually will be resolved with a relieved and satisfied heart.
So it was a short passage about a few misconceptions regarding meditation, which I have experienced before. Hopefully understanding meditation can be achieved but whether we want to learn to meditate or not is completely up to each of us.
Translated by Sefly Parkit, edited Maurice P. Smith