Answering the Need of the Times
by Eknath Easwaran
by Eknath Easwaran
In Berkeley, California, in the 1960s, when hundreds of students attended my talks and classes on meditation, skeptics told me, “These young people are here because of the need of the times.” I said, “Exactly. The need of the times is a deep spiritual hunger, and it is to that need I am responding.”
I have come to the careful conclusion that many, many people in this country – not only the young, but also the not so young – are ready for the challenges of the spiritual life. But unfortunately they don’t know it; and even if they know it, they don’t know where to go or what guidelines to follow. This is where modern civilization is at a loss. In order to bring meaning into our lives, we have to unify our desires, and that can be done, as far as I know, only through spiritual disciplines.
This is the importance of our work. I don’t have any modesty where our mode of meditation is concerned; I think it is perfect for our times. It is practical, precise, and profound; and it is universal. You don’t have to accept any philosophical claims to practice it, and you don’t have to adopt a different religion. When I came to this country, I went about systematically looking at all the methods of meditation available. But I have never found a method so open to everyone and suited to the temper of our times.
In every religion, whatever it is called – meditation, contemplation, interior prayer – meditation is concentration. This has nothing to do with concentration on an external object. The aim of meditation is to still the mind, and concentration on objects of the senses cannot still desires. If you concentrate on a shop window, you want to go and buy what you see. In meditation you want to get detached from such cravings more and more, until the mind is still.
This is the kind of unified desire I want all of you to develop, for the sake of an anguished world that desperately needs a spiritual renewal to lead us out of darkness into light. Everything in your life can flow into a mighty river of unified desire. Restless desires are one of the best signs of being prepared for the spiritual life, and there are a lot of restless people in this country. You can pour all that energy into this channel of meditation. The motivation should be the highest: to see the tremendous drama that is celebrated in Christmas enacted in your own heart. When you have an overwhelming desire to see the birth of the Messiah or the birth of Krishna or the birth of the Buddha in your own heart, it has to take place. There is a saying in our scriptures: where there is a crying need, that need itself contains its fulfillment. But it doesn’t come automatically; you have to practice it every day.
The whole world needs our work now. And each individual’s contribution becomes effective to the extent his or her desires are unified. Everyone has a part to play, and anyone who doesn’t play that part is contributing to the problem. But when we do play that part, we are contributing to the solution.
Just as there was a cultural renaissance in Europe six centuries ago, the world needs a spiritual renaissance. Just as there was a great revolution in this country two hundred years ago, our country needs a great spiritual revolution here and now. And the wonderful feature of a spiritual renaissance is that it has nothing to do with governments or corporations. It can be brought about only by little people like us – every man, every woman, every child – changing their personality from selfish to selfless, from human to divine.
This article comes from our Blue Mountain Journal archive.