The Non-Doing of Meditation

I don’t think anyone knows why they meditate. As a matter of fact I’m not even sure that we do meditate. All we know is that we don’t know. That’s all that we can be absolutely certain of.

Meditation is not a doing.

We think of meditation as something that we have to do, something that we have to accomplish—to do, to accomplish, to be. This is emblazoned on our consciousness by our lives.

That’s why I think essentially people have difficulty with meditation. They try and do it. You can’t.

If there was no world, no time, no space, no condition, if none of us existed,

Pure and simple.

To say that we have to meditate implies that we have to accomplish or do something, that by following a planned series of actions we will reach a destination point. We like to think that all we have to do is know how to implement that knowledge and voila! We’ve done it.

That’s not meditation.

Meditation has nothing to do with building a building, taking a journey, not even setting ourselves on fire.

Meditation always has been, is now and always will be.

I think it would be a good idea, as you’re setting your sails for the land of meditation, to consider wisely, O Nobly Born, before you venture forth into the bardo of experience, what it is that you’re trying to do.

Not so much why, because I think the why eludes us all. We may come up with reasons as to why we meditate, why we live, why we die.

But ultimately those reasons will not affect what occurs. Those are just panaceas, things that perhaps make us feel better, inspire us. They’re neither good nor bad, it depends on their usage.

Think of meditation as a summer night.

Life is all there is.

Beyond this plane, this plateau that we stand on that we call life, there are infinite planes and plateaus.

Beyond the physical, there’s a subtle physical; astral worlds extending—forever.

All of this is intertwined in the web of nirvana,

How is it possible that we are all eternal and

They call that maya

We sit here on the shore of existence watching the boats go back and forth. Sometimes there’s a vast ocean liner out on the horizon. It approaches us, perhaps it comes right to where we are. We watch the people get off. They embrace each other. People meet them.

Whole lives pass before our eyes, emotional whirlwinds, the people who work on the boat. Then the boat leaves, the people go away. The ocean is the same.

Where do these images come from and where do they return to?

It takes us to a point where

Meditation is not a journey. It’s not an arrival. It’s not an action.

Meditation is just awareness.

You don’t have to do anything to meditate.

Everybody wants to do something. You’re so used to doing or to undoing

And that’s what you’re asked to do when you meditate. To just sit. And that’s all.

That’s all, physically.

Well, first our awareness is in our thoughts. We’re sitting down to meditate and the thoughts are chasing each other around—thoughts of

This is what the personal self thinks.

Meditation has nothing to do with that—the personal self, that is.

Meditation is “timeless awareness.”

You don’t have to do anything to make it happen. You don’t have to rub two sticks together vigorously to create fire. The fire is already burning inside.

To become aware of that which is,


There is a place for action and

It’s not necessary to become anything to become enlightened.

You don’t have to build up to some marvelous pinnacle. You don’t have to fulfill someone’s expectations of what you should do or be. It really doesn’t matter what type of work you do.

It doesn’t really matter where you live or even why—to meditate that is—

Meditation is the cessation of thought.

It’s simply letting go.

And for people who try to hold on to life, who try and push away from death, it’s very difficult.

The formula approach was quite popular for a while, fostered by certain groups.

They decided that the way to introduce meditation to people in the West was to tell them what to do, to give them a schematic drawing.

this doesn’t have anything to do with meditation. It’s a doing. It may get you used to sitting down; it may focus your attention in a new way. It may prepare you for meditation, but it’s certainly not meditation.

Meditation just is.

You don’t have to do anything. You don’t even have to undo anything.

Meditation exists with you constantly.

You don’t have to go to the air; you’re breathing it already. You may be unaware that you’re breathing; your attention is elsewhere.

Well, of course, your attention is on things other than the air. But you can easily become aware of the air. So you can easily meditate.

Now, when you’ve been conditioned all of your life to do things, to accomplish things or to avoid things, it’s difficult just to breathe. Of course, it’s not just breathing, this meditation, because it’s endless.

Life is endless. Eternity is endless. The universe is endless.

To meditate, then,

But for a mind that is habituated to thought, to action, that’s enslaved to ways of seeing, this meditation will not come naturally.

No, rather it’s necessary in such a case to do remedial work, to uncondition ourselves.

Therefore, we learn gazing.

This is another type of doing.

But as Sri Ramakrishna used to always say,

So we use one doing to remove another doing, and then we let go of both.

We practice methods and forms.

You’ve all been living one way. You’re so fixated in living in one way, whatever the way may be, that we present other ways for you to live. Each way that we present is less demanding than the previous way.

You have one self, one personality.

In self-discovery we dissolve that self and we go to another personality that’s not as structured, that’s freer, more evolved.

Then we dissolve that self, and we have a thinner self and a thinner self, until finally the self is so thin that it barely exists.

But each doing must be more universal and less finite. Then one can get attached to doing also, even the higher doing.

One can get attached to practice. But first, one must practice. After practicing, if you get attached to practice it will be easier to undo that doing because it’s more universal.

The self is a perpetual mystery.

Only because we think that we are.

It isn’t.

There is no one listening.

Meditation is white noise. We know that we can listen to individual sounds, but if we blend all the sounds together, all the tones, it’s called white noise. No distinct sounds—all of them at once.

Meditation is listening to all of existence, not listening as a “doing”, but in the sense that one arrives at a point of departure that one had left sometime before without knowing that one has arrived. Or one goes forward to a point of return, not realizing that one has gone forward.

The doings of meditation—those formless forms that we use to go beyond our arrival, which is yet to occur in some future existence—are many.

Love, discipline, shock, awareness, self-giving, joy and exuberance, dance, pain—

Each one of us will find—if we don’t look too hard—exactly the right way to meditate.

To meditate, you need to feel, … and feeling is a lost art.

You need to feel the stillness of existence and also the sound of existence. You need to feel


Essentially one day you’ll see that they’re not particularly different.

But first we have to extend ourselves. Because within the pattern of our experience and our doings we haven’t found the air that we breathe.

Meditation is perfect peace.

Well, what else could there be without a self but perfect peace?

When you’re sitting in deep meditation and there’s

you’re not doing something, you’re not even experiencing something

How can there be upset? How can there be torment? How can there be pain or frustration?

To say that you’ve gone above it all implies that someone has arrived.

But all of these things were only a dream—all the doings. These are the ways we prop ourselves up in the universe and support ourselves.

We give life a shape and meaning, which it does not necessarily have.

We create it with


But unfortunately

Those of you who seek to meditate, you must be aware of a strange duality. That duality is that you have to try very hard; you have to “do.”

There are many things to be done.

You have to deal with your lifestyle, your diet, your habits, your thoughts, your feelings, your memories—


It just is.

One day you will arrive at a station on the “train of existence” that you’ve always known has been there.

To say that you “realized the self” is absurd.

These are useful terms, at some point.

So know that one day you will go beyond duality. You will find that you’re at the station.

We say that everyone is self-realized, everyone is enlightened. But we know, obviously, that we’re not; we can look at the condition of people in the world.

By that we mean that in another theater,

We’re all sitting there,

But here,

That’s existence.

To become

When you meditate, know that one day you will arrive. But you didn’t go anyplace to arrive. We can say that you’re always there, but not yet, it wouldn’t be true. Because you’re not there yet.

But once you’ve arrived—you will have always been there.

In other words, the self that exists now, that you’re living with and sharing your moments with, will not be … for all time.

Rather, you will find that there’s something else. And once that something else is, there has never been anything else.

I would suggest to you that at this moment you are the only self that you have ever had,

You may say, “Well, I remember.”

I’ll say, “Well, show it to me. Does it really exist?”

“Well,” you say, “”here’s the scar I got when I was a little kid. It’s on my hand here. Now that proves…”

So I’d say, “Well, it proves that you’ve got a scar on your hand. That’s all it proves. It doesn’t prove that it came from anywhere.”

You say, “But I have photographs. Here, I’ll show you. This is me when I was a little girl. This is me when I was graduating from high school.”

I’ll say, “Interesting pictures, who’s that?”

And you’ll say, “Well, it’s me!”

I’ll say, “Who? Well, you don’t look like that, you’re right in front of me. Obviously, it’s someone else. Listen, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, but you’re not going to fool me. I know I’ve got the genuine item in front of me. Interesting person, though. I admit there is a slight facial resemblance, but this is obviously you [right here].

“You’re trying to tell me that you’re here and you’re someplace else at the same time? It sounds interestingly metaphysical, but I don’t believe it for a second. No, you’re here now, that’s all we know.”

Then you might say, “A moment has gone by, and now I’m here, and of course we were both there a moment ago, so there is a past, and what I am now is an outgrowth of that past, you see?”

And I’ll say, “What? What past? What moment ago? What are you talking about? This is all there’s ever been.”

“History books,” you’ll say, “look at the history books.”

I’ll say, “Yes, they all exist right now. I see them. Here they are. Wonderful histories. We can read them. As we read them, history will exist—for that moment in our imagination. Where else can it exist?”

You’ll say, “Look at this tree. Now, let’s cut the tree down. It’s got fifty rings. That means it’s fifty years old.”

I’ll say, “Well, it has fifty rings now, of course it has, how could it be any other way? It’s always been this way. It couldn’t be any other way. Not now.”

There is no future and there is no past. There never has been. There never will be, you just think there is.

Imagine a number of stage sets. They’re all set up. You go and run into one. You run into another—adolescence. You run into another—maturity. You run into another—old age. You run behind the curtain—death.

You think it’s all changing.

You probably think the earth is round. How do you know? Have you been on the other side? Once you were on the other side, was there this side?

These are ridiculous questions.

But they are to bring you to a point, and that’s to undo your doing.

In other words, the framework you’ve set up, to view time, space, experience, and so on, is just a framework.

It’s like writing a computer program. We’re going to create a program, and it’ll be an interesting way to process information.

But then to suggest that

when it is

is ridiculous.

But that’s what everyone does.

Meditation then, is simple awareness. But simple awareness is eternity.

It’s endless,

Meditation is not in time.

It doesn’t take place here because in meditation “this” isn’t here—the “this” that you are familiar with. The program dissolves. The information floods away, and it’s impossible to say what there is or what there isn’t. White noise. Completion.

Why do we meditate?

Doesn’t it seem rather self-destructive to try and take everything we’ve worked so hard for, this awareness that we’ve amassed, this knowledge, this sense of self that we’ve gradually put together over the years—

Why would we want to do that?

It’s because

It may be a nice dream, but it’s just one of many.

And then there’s dreamless sleep, nirvana.

The dream that we live in is very limited. There is not much happiness in it.

Travel the world and try and find someone who’s always happy; it’s very difficult to find one,

A moment ago I said everything always is. Now I say it changes.

There’s only difference in the mind.

“Change” is one state of being, it’s one idea. “Permanence” is another. But they’re both just ideas. They’re little equations that we’ve written on a blackboard, but that’s all they are, just little chalk lines.

What is existence itself?

When you meditate you are free.

In the beginning when we start to meditate, we think that meditation means mastering our environment. Putting our life into a certain order, saying the mantram,15 and everything will be all right. That has nothing to do with it.

But we need to think that in the beginning, and we need to do those things.

But eventually you’ll find out that all of the battles—the Napoleonic wars of existence—occur within yourself. You don’t have to conquer the world, you don’t have to change or transform anyone else.

The mat is inside yourself. Your opponent is circling you; you’re circling each other on the mat of existence. And each one of you is looking for a grip.

We fight the self

I watch spiritual seekers do it all the time.

We try and throw ourselves to the mat.

And that’s what I watch spiritual seekers do. That’s what self-discovery seems to mean to most people. You’re going to beat yourself up!

You’re going to reduce what you’re supposed to be, into a set of rules so you can defy them, or so you can perform them and feel smug.

Either way you’re beating yourself up. You’re missing meditation, which had nothing to do with any of that.

Yet I have the nerve to say that all your battles are within and that you have to fight,

It seems pointless and I agree that it is, but I know that until you’ve done it for a long time you won’t be convinced.

After you’ve beaten yourself up a few times and you’ve won, you’ll begin to see things my way.

My way

Complete self-sacrifice.

As Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad-Gita, offer everything—whether you win or lose or draw—to God, to eternity; give everything.

Don’t worry about whether you should be fighting with yourself or not. You don’t really have much choice at this point.

The point is not whether you’re winning or losing, or in the heat of battle or licking your wounds.

The point is to realize that you have to give it all away.

Again, there is no way out.

Yet one day you will find that you’ve always been at the station, and you didn’t need a train to get there even though you were on a train trying to get there.

When you meditate, it’s important to remember not to think.

I would venture that most of you spend the majority of your meditation in thought. You think about how well you’re going to meditate, next time you meditate. You get wonderful ideas and inspirations for projects and plans. You think about extraneous things, but rarely do you stop thought!

I would suggest that

You feel that it’s something that you have to accomplish.

I will tell you that no one has the power to stop thought!

It’s like the Colorado River, it just flows. And you’re out there on your raft, and sometimes the flow’s smooth, and sometimes it’s white water, but it just flows on and on and on.

That’s why they say in Zen, “The bridge is flowing but the river is not.”

Don’t try and stop thought.

Or try, if you want to fight yourself to the mat, like my Monty Python friend. Ride the river, and then at some point watch yourself bring the boat ashore and get off and go for a walk and disappear. Then you’ll find yourself someplace else.

The self that you find someplace else will be a different self, because the same self never returns,

This self can never be … again. The dream fades, but another dream comes, a higher dream, a happier dream, a more evolved self.

In meditation we return to the source. The source is God. God is Godless!

“God” is an idea that we have, another construct, a prop, which doesn’t suggest that God doesn’t exist—God is existence. But your idea of God and existence are two different things … at the moment.

So when you meditate, observe.

Be neither attracted nor repulsed—to all these images that you see flowing through you and around you.

When you find yourself at the station without the train there—that’s nice. When you’re not … then you’re in the world. You’re in time and space again.

However, you will notice something, and that is—after a while—you’ll be in both.

In the beginning, we go up and down. We meditate, [after that] we’re down in the world; [then again] we meditate, [later] we’re down in the world.

There’s a seesaw.

But after a while we move to the fulcrum in the middle, and

This is enlightenment, or some stage of it—

Now, all planes and worlds are transitory. None of them last. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes the nicest things don’t last. That’s why they’re nice; we value them.

That’s what makes beauty: the transitory.

Beauty is just value, a value we assign because it doesn’t last, because it’s different. Segmentation. There’s a personal self that appreciates beauty.

Those who scorn and hate the world and hate themselves

The point was that there wasn’t one. There was no place to go to.

That’s how you should feel about meditation.

Life is a wonderful mystery. You sit and meditate, and it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful when you’re meditating, it’s beautiful when you struggle. When you go away, we can’t say anything. Then if you find yourself or another self, what’s the difference?

It’s all light. It’s all life. And death is not the end.

Because you die when you meditate

You go away and you come back. But is it you who comes back?

Who are you?

You’re God—

Beauty beyond description.

Perfection. It awaits everyone.

You don’t have to be special to realize God. The point is, people who realize God aren’t special. They don’t think they’re special because that sense of being special is what separates you. That’s the ego. But you have to fight yourself, for a time.

It’s a stage in growth, one backdrop you walk behind for a moment.

It isn’t really even taking place, it’s just a dream. But dreams have their reality too, you know.

So watch each stage, and don’t be concerned.

Meditate. Just meditate.

Meditate when you’re by yourself, when you sit in formal meditation and fight with yourself to still your thoughts. Meditate when they stop by themselves. Meditate when you’re in the office, with friends, when you’re in love, when you’re out of love, when you’re in a crowd, when you’re alone.

By meditate, I mean

Try and reach out and feel that which is beyond your framework.

Then you will know

15. Same as mantra.

16. In The Enlightenment Cycle, chapter “Reincarnation,” Rama refers to “the intermediate stage of the bardo plane, when we’re between lives, between birth, death and rebirth, in between all things.”