By Satish Purohit
The Meditative Mind
The Varieties of Meditative Experience
TARCHER / Penguin
USD 14.95, 214 Pages
This is a book to be valued as much for its foreword by Ram Dass and introduction by Goleman, the author, as it is for what follows – an expansive and engaging view of world meditation traditions. The foreword sheds light on the inevitable mental gymnastics that follow when a social scientist with an academic background, a Westerner, catches himself devoting his time to the adoration of an eight-foot Hanuman idol at his guru Neem Karoli Baba’s ashram. “Ah, sitting worshipping a cement monkey idol. You have really gone over the edge.”
The book talks about ordinary absorption in music, art, a scenery, and the like as a sort of penumbra of deeper meditative experiences. In essence, Goleman understands all meditation as getting the mind to withdraw from its distractions to gather within where deeper levels of peace and clarity await the diligent one. He details the astounding clarity in the descriptions of various inner states during meditation described in early Indic texts like the Visuddhimagga and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and also shares his understanding of the same states as understood by the Tantras, Bhakta Yoga, the Christian Desert Fathers, Sufis, the Japanese, the Chinese and modern masters like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Muktananda and Gurdjieff. Goleman also points to significant differences between meditative states arrived at through methods detailed in various lineages. Overall, the book provides a fine overview of world meditation traditions that can blossom into further explorations of specific teachers and lineages in detail for the reader. This is a light, humorous and illuminating work that concedes that there is merit in the popular New Age idea of going with the flow and not holding back. However, the author also underlines that most lineages see dhyana (meditation) and shila (ethics) to be complimentary and deeply connected. So, the ‘everything goes’ approach is not really how it works once one chooses a particular path.
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