Happy For No Good Reason explores the practice and philosophy of meditation including traditional techniques of mantra (the repetition of a phrase) and witness-consciousness (watching the thoughts). You will see how to apply these teachings in every day situations, by developing a moment to moment awareness of the love, joy and peace that unfolds from the center of your being. This yoga of `natural happiness' is one of the most effective means of living a full, rich life.
SWAMI SHANKARANANDA is an internationally respected author and Guru who has been teaching meditation for over thirty years. He met and studied with India's greatest yogis and saints and attained self-realisation under his Guru, Swami Muktananda.
Swami Shankarananda is an internationally respected author and Guru who has been teaching meditation for over thirty years. He met and studied with India’s greatest yogis and saints and attained self-realization under his Guru, Swami Muktananda.
ONCE IN A while a special voice speaks old truths in a compelling new way. Such voices belonged to J. Krishnamurti and Sri Ramana Ma harshi. Another such voice is, I feel, with Swami Shankarananda. While Swamiji is a traditionalist who has made a profound study of the ancient yogic scriptures, including Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism, he is also a modernist. He sees the great importance and value in their application to modern life. He has a talent for taking the eternal truths and making them relevant to every aspect of life. Swamiji is also an innovator who has developed and expressed unique spiritual ideas in his distinctive style. Here is a short list of some of his characteristic ideas:
• We live simultaneously in two worlds.
• The inner Self, the source of peace, love and wisdom, is our essential nature and can be attained by meditation and Self-inquiry.
• Thought and feeling are intimately related.
• Feeling should be taken inside and resolved into the Self rather than dumped.
• "Tearing thoughts" and "inflating thoughts" are wrong movements in "self-talk".
• Self-talk is purified and uplifted by Accurate and Beneficial Statements.
• Asking empowering questions is Self-inquiry.
• One should learn to recognize and follow the upward shift of energy in daily life as well as in meditation. Turning inward and asking the right questions. This simple practice will eventually lead to the goal of all yogas, Self-realization. Swamiji is a master of the great spiritual tradition of Shakti, the powerful and compassionate energy dormant within every person. In the book he explains that spiritual energy is the substance of meditation. It is the mysterious force that enlivens and gives bliss to life. It electrifies everything we do. When we nurture the energy of meditation our inner world blossoms like a radiant garden. The book is divided into two parts. Part I, Meditation on the Self, is based on the successful "Learn To Meditate" course where Swamiji imparts the fundamental techniques and understanding of the practice of meditation. Here he directs us to commit to a meditation practice and discusses the various ways to do that, with personal anecdotes, stories and instructions based on his many years of practice. Part II, Meditation in the world, teaches us how to integrate the teachings into daily life. We learn to use the meditative energy in the world. He is deeply committed to the idea of yoga in the world. He says the real test of meditation and yoga is when we can overcome difficulties in our "real" life - at work, with our dear ones or when life becomes difficult. At the end of the book there is an appendix with a written version of the Chakra Meditation, a glossary of Sanskrit terms and a selection from the Bhagavad Cita, translated by Swamiji, relevant to meditation and the teachings in this book. Part I, Meditation on the Self, concentrates on the basics of meditation-the "inner" world, the inner Self, the goal of meditation and the obstacles to recognizing the inner Self. Meditation is the single most important spiritual practice. Without it we remain at the mercy of habits and tendencies that cause suffering. Swamiji gives various classical meditation techniques and contemplations to deal with that which prevents us from seeing the inner Self, the "villain" of the saga - the mind. Everyone has an inner Self, a place deep within which is the true resting place of the mind. Swamiji reassures us that meditation is as natural as sleep and that the ability to enter deep states of peace is as easy as falling asleep, once you know how. He calls it "sleep sitting up" and believes that everyone can learn to meditate. His years of teaching have shown him that not everyone \Ill resonate with every technique given, and so he offers an "arsenal" of meditation techniques and yogic practices. You can experiment with each one to discover the techniques that give you the peace of the inner Self. It is important
Swamiji's yearning for inner wisdom led him to India where he studied for 12 years under Baba Mu ktananda, an enlightened meditation master. This is the traditional length of time a seeker spends with his or her spiritual mentor when seeking self-realization. With the blessings of his teacher, he was one of the first Westerners to be given the title "Swami" and to establish an ashram in the West. He immersed himself in the philosophy and practice of yoga and emerged as a guru in his own right. Swamiji describes the state of enlightenment as one of "becoming present".
He says that no matter how painful or happy the past, or how painful or happy we think the future may be, it is the present moment, the now, that holds the key to everything. The method for attuning to the 'now' is Self-inquiry, turning to go with what works and to not struggle with what does not. Swamiji tells an amusing story about his mother, who had come to India to visit him while he was living there with his teacher. One morning she approached him concerned that she was falling asleep during meditation. He reassured her that she was not sleeping, but meditating. At first she was filled with disbelief but she soon realized it was true. She quickly learned the difference between meditative sleep and normal sleep. She and her husband, Herbert, became avid meditators.
My first meditation experience happened in 1974 when I was working at the University of Michigan Counselling Centre. A friend and I were invited to meet Baba Muktananda at a meeting for health professionals. I had never met a swami or a guru and was intrigued by the idea of the "mystic" East. I walked into the room where he was sitting, sat down on the floor cross-legged, looked up at Baba. Our eyes met and he nodded. The last thing I remember is my head falling forward onto my chest. I was suddenly awakened to a poking on my shoulder. Twenty-five minutes had passed. My friend was standing over me, telling me it was time to go. I reluctantly stood, keenly aware that I had touched a place deep within myself. As we drove away, I turned to him and said: "I don't know what it is, but that man definitely has something."
A few months later, pulled by a number of synchronicities and the meeting with Baba, I returned to where I had met Baba, which was now a meditation centre run by Swamiji. At an Intensive a few months later I again had that deep experience of meditation. I learned that meditation like that only happens around great beings, spiritual masters, who are established in the inner Self.
Meditation is at the heart of these teachings and practice. However, it is also important to "think deeply" and "love abundantly". In Part II, Meditation in the world, Swamiji teaches us how to do that. He gives a brilliant path that uses meditative awareness to become more "awake" and happy in daily life. His method is groundbreaking because it successfully manages negative emotions like anger, fear, sorrow and depression.
Usually when we are caught in a negative emotion we want to "blame" or "dump" the feeling. The impulse to express the negative emotion to others or to act irresponsibly is something we all do. Swamiji is adamant that the way to navigate negativity successfully is to not push the feeling outside, but to turn within and investigate it by means of Self-inquiry. By looking at what is hidden within the negative emotion we can see what we are doing. I have an understanding and return to peace.
I FIRST MET Swami Shankarananda in 1981 but it was a good 12 months before I tried to pronounce his name. I had just completed a lengthy cabaret tour of "Can't Stop the Gunston", a groundbreaking show about man's need to pay his outstanding tax bill. I had decided to say farewell to Norman, the mainstay of my career for six years. I was excited about the future, relaxed and relatively free of debt. During the last days of the tour I'd picked up a copy of The Bulletin magazine. The cover story was on stress and it had a picture of a businessman sitting on his desk meditating. Now I'd always been quite keen to learn to meditate since the Beatles took it up because ... well, because the Beatles took it up. Then I met up with a Melbourne friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in ages. He said that he was in Sydney to give a talk on meditation and that I should come along.
So I went off to this program called "Meditation and Creativity" It was held in the Sydney Masonic Hall and upon entering I thought I had mistakenly gone to an Actors Equity union meeting. It was full of actors. I felt very comfortable. Just like a night at the Logies except tonight we were all going to win. David made his speech and then introduced a Swami Shankarananda. "Swami" I thought to myself.
David didn't mention anything about a swami! Then out comes this European guy with a shaved head - before it was popular - he's wearing orange robes and he's got a red dot on his forehead. "Oh my God," I thought. "This is terrible, what has David got himself into. What's he trying to get me into?" But it got worse, much worse. This swami opened his mouth and he was an American! Now remember this is 1981, well and truly before Australia signed the World Trade Organization treaty and we got used to the yanks dumping all their surplus swamis on our fair shores.
He spoke. I didn't listen to a word of it. I was irritated and couldn't get past my initial reaction. Then he said: "We'll chant the mantra for five minutes and meditate by silently repeating it for 10 minutes," Well this is what I came for, so I decided to try it. I immediately had a response. I felt very pleasant and started seeing coloured lights. This was good! Afterwards I asked David what to do next. He suggested I sign up for this two-day intensive that Swamiji was coming back to Sydney for in 10 days. I thought for a minute. "He dresses like an Indian, talks like an American and has a skinhead haircut. It can't get any worse."
I was certain that I didn't want any of that Hindu stuff. I decided to buy a book on meditation, although it was nearly impossible to buy such a thing in a mainstream bookstore in those days. I went into a Christian bookstore and was nearly thrown out. "We don't sell books like that here!"
There was no way around it, I had to go to the Theosophical Society bookshop, but I made it very clear that I wanted a sensible book on meditation. Preferably written by a doctor. I found the perfect one, a "Learn to Meditate" primer. As I was paying for it my eye caught an Om Namah Shivaya chant tape. This was the mantra we used at the introductory program. I grabbed that as well. I practiced every day and I thought I was progressing pretty well. So when the day of the intensive came around I was pretty excited. I walked into the hall and they had done it to me again! What had been a normal lecture hall 10 days ago was now Little India. The chairs were gone and everyone was sitting on the floor. The men and women were segregated. There were big pictures everywhere of an Indian man I didn't recognize. The air was sweet with incense and Indian chants were playing softly on the sound system. I started to wish I'd had my typhoid shots. Various speakers got up and talked about the inner Self, Kundalini energy, the spiritual awakening and something about Swamiji blessing us in the traditional manner with peacock feathers. I couldn't take any of it in and I was feeling slightly uncomfortable. Then I noticed that I was sitting next to George Ogilvie the well-known theatre director.
Now I'd never met George but his reputation as a director was excellent. I began to feel reassured by his involvement. In fact, I was thinking, "Maybe this is a chance to make an impression, I'll play it cool now but after the spiritual awakening I'll let him know that I'm available for work." Then Swami Shankarananda spoke and introduced the hour-long meditation but he changed the technique. Great! I'd been practising Om Namah Shivaya for 10 days, I was practically Olympic standard and now I'm back to square one. What is it with these people!
Anyway I closed my eyes and began to meditate. Then a few minutes in I heard moaning coming from the women down the front. And it was getting louder and louder until this moaning and wailing was filling the whole hall. It was as though they were all auditioning for Meg Ryan's role in When Harry Met Sally! I could have sworn I heard someone yell out: "I'll have whatever she's having!" It was extraordinary, bizarre. "What a mob of hysterical tossers," I thought.
Then I heard this swishing sound coming towards me and wondered if these guys were into flagellation as well. But my Scottish ancestry came to the fore, the $80 course fee was non-refundable, so there was no way I was going to open my eyes and leave. I told myself to ignore it and stick to my technique.
A few minutes later the swishing got closer and a strong, beautiful smell wafted over me. My heart suddenly started racing. It was pounding. I felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. "This is crazy," I thought. "I don't believe in any of this stuff. Why is this happening to me?" Then I was whacked on the head with the peacock feathers and Swamiji's hand brushed my forehead twice and pinched the bridge of my nose. In the next moment an extraordinary rush of energy went up my spine and exploded into white light in my head. I started to sob, great big heaving sobs. I wasn't sad but I was sobbing. Oddly enough a Norman Gunston line popped into my head from Norman's Dreamtime stories. "Kookaburras laugh because they know it's all a big joke." Well I found this hysterical. I started laughing and laughing and laughing. Everyone else disappeared and there was only me in the hall. I felt like my being had expanded to fill the room, there was nothing but me.
It was the most beautiful, beautiful experience. The next thing I was aware of was music softly playing and the lights being raised. The hour of meditation was over. At lunchtime a friend came up to me and said: "It looks like you got it." Obviously the time was right to make myself known to George Ogilvie. As we were leaving I shook my head in disbelief and pointed back into the hall: "Pretty bloody noisy in there today, wasn't it?" "You should know," he shot back. "You were the noisiest!" The second day could not happen soon enough. Before the program commenced I made a quick bathroom stop. I got a huge shock. I rushed into the hall and sat down beside a silently meditating George. "George," I whispered, "are there any physical side effects of Kundalini?" "Like what Garry?" he asked. "Like colon cancer. I just went to the loo and there seems to be a lot of blood around, you know, around my stool."
WE ARE THE MOST educated and affluent people in human history, the most literate, the most technologically proficient. We can replace one person's heart with another's, we can fly people to other planets, and we can send tiny cameras into people's organs to inspect them from within. We are able, or will be able, to do almost anything in the physical world. However, we find this world stressful and demanding. We have trouble motivating our teenagers and keeping them away from negative influences. We find it difficult to control anger, fear or depression. We are confused by the world within ourselves.
Our situation becomes intelligible if we recognize that we actually live in two different worlds simultaneously. One is the outer world of people and objects and the other is the inner world of thoughts and feelings. Each has its own laws and each has its own form of education. We have explored the outer world in detail, however we have neglected the inner world. In my early life I was an academic, deeply involved in Western education.
I call this form of conventional education First Education or the "knowledge" tradition. The focus of First Education is the outer world, on science and technology, facts, events and history. This knowledge education embellishes us but does not transform us. We can acquire more and more information and still have the emotional sulks and tantrums of a child.
Over the past 30 years! have been involved with what I call Second Education, or the "wisdom" tradition. Second Education says that true happiness lies not in the outer world but within each of us. Not only that, it can be realized. The process of awakening to Second Education is called inner work. In all my years involved with institutions of higher learning, both as a student and a teacher, no one had ever spoken about conquering depression, overcoming fear and anger and attaining happiness and self-mastery. I learned so much about history and the stuff of the external world, but almost nothing about myself.
By contrast Second Education works on "being". It does not give much information in the usual sense, but it empowers us. It turns a weak person into a strong one, an unhappy person into a happy one, a confused person into a person of clarity and wisdom. Only through work on our being can such alchemy take place. Meditation is the bedrock of such change.
MY SECOND EDUCATION
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, surrounded by loving family and friends. My father was a well-known artist and my mother a high school teacher. Every few years I have occasion to visit New York. When I do I usually meet some of my high school friends for lunch. One of them is a CPA. Another is a wealthy entrepreneur. Another is a professional bookie.
Another is a doctor, and another owns a grocery store. In those days piano lessons were de rigueur. Arthur, the CPA and I took lessons from Mrs. Bloom. I found them discouraging and soon quit because Mrs. Bloom would tell me: "Barry plays so beautiful!" I knew Barry - he went to school with me and lived in Arthur's building - Barry Manilow. I was a good student and I am listed in my high school yearbook as "most likely to succeed". It makes me smile to remember that, and it is difficult to evaluate it without being overcome by delicious ironies. It is certain, however, that I am the only one in my neighborhood who became a swami. During the late '60s I was living on the Lower East Side of New York, studying for my PhD in English literature. On weekends I enjoyed walking over to the Fillmore East to listen to the great bands of the time-the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Ten Years After and so many others. One day some friends and I dropped in on another friend while on the way to a party. We were sitting chatting when there was a knock on the door.
Being closest to it I went to answer it. I had then what you could call "a New York moment". I opened the door to a gun in my face. I instantly became present. I looked down the gun barrel and could clearly see the bullets in the chambers. Years later, while being shown a gun collection, I identified it as a .38. I felt no fear but two powerful thoughts came into my mind. The first was: "This is it, I'm going to die, what a waste of all that education." The second thought was: "What's it all about if it can end so abruptly?"
The gunman told us to lie down. He searched for and then checked our identification. He told us he was looking for someone who had "burned me for two hundred dollars in a drug deal". When he discovered that none of us was the person he cordially said: "I've got to apologize to you guys", and left. That was a lot of money in those days, so I didn't point out that he was overreacting.
Looking back I recognize that that encounter awakened the spiritual seeker in me, the quest for Second Education. I began to search for explanations, for personal growth and wisdom. My search was intellectual and personal.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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