Meditation in the Modern Age

Meditation has been around for thousands of years but is just as applicable now as ever.

The practice of meditation began thousands of years ago, and was perhaps first documented in the ancient Hindu texts called the Vedas. Passed from teacher to student in an oral fashion, it is uncertain when exactly they took birth. Indeed, some argue that they have existed through eternity. In ancient times, it was common for yogis to practice meditation in remote areas such as the forest or mountain caves. They would perform tapas, austerities, for countless decades, sometimes depriving themselves of even simple food or water. It was also common for kings and other nobles, when approaching the end of their life, to retire to the forest to focus on spirituality in preparation for death. Meditation was a practice that required tranquil surroundings and enduring focus without the distractions of duty or responsibility.

This view was changed more recently by spiritual masters such as Sri Chaitanya and Sri Ramakrishna, who asserted that householders could maintain a meditation practice alongside their conventional lifestyle. Since most people had to work to support their families, it was not possible for them to disappear to remote caves to perform tapas. But they did not have to be without spirituality. Sri Chaitanya asked one of his greatest disciples to take up the role of a householder to demonstrate to the world that it was possible to lead a spiritual life whilst carrying out day to day responsibilities.

Sri Chinmoy Centre in New Zealand furthers this view by asserting that the days of meditating in Himalayan caves are gone, and now it is time for us to live in the world as ordinary citizens whilst carrying out our spiritual activities. We should in fact be able to meditate anywhere, even in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sri Chinmoy has proven this is possible by living and meditating in one of the world's busiest cities - New York. Meditating in a noisy city is no doubt more of a challenge than retiring to a peaceful retreat in the forest, but it gives the student an added strength. Besides, the main obstacles in meditation ultimately come from within in the form of our doubts, fears and attachments.

Many of us do not have a few hours a day spare to practice our meditation, but this is also unnecessary. What really matters is the intensity of our focus and the strength of our inner hunger for spirituality. Luckily, our modern lifestyle can be of some help to us in this regard. In today's society there is a tremendous dynamism and forward movement. Often it is misdirected, but if we can learn to channel this energy in our meditation then our progress can be quite substantial. A certain amount of intensity is needed to move forward and overcome inner obstacles, and this intensity we see more in today's fast-paced lifestyle than in more carefree eras.