[An excerpt from Gururaj Ananda Yogi (1932-1988), the founder of the American Meditation Society]
QUESTION: Is it necessary to have flashy experiences in meditation?
GURURAJ: Flashy experiences are not necessary for a person’s evolution. A person can be very, very evolved and not have any of these experiences whatsoever, because they are not a necessary must.
The five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling etc.) have their subtle counterparts within oneself. Some people are born with those counterparts and through meditational practices those tendencies are activated. Therefore they have these extrasensory perceptions. But that has nothing at all to do with a person’s evolutionary status. So whether or not a person has these experiences, it is not important at all. A person can be at a far lower stage of evolution and yet have fantastic experiences.
I don’t know if I spoke to you about a meditator in Cape Town. This chap came to me and said, “Gururaj, I’ve got a problem: I sit down regularly like clockwork to meditate, twice a day, and nothing happens. When the half hour is up, I get up and I have experienced nothing whatsoever and meditations are an absolute failure. Am I doing anything wrong? Am I not meditating properly? I hear of people talking of fantastic kinds of flashes and visions and all kinds of things and I’m getting nothing. I am beginning to doubt meditation. Please check my meditations for me. If there’s anything that I’m doing wrong, please correct me.”
I said, “fine, sit down, let’s talk about it and have some tea together.” He felt relaxed and then we started talking about the various facets of his life, his work and working day life. He is a Sales Manager reporting to the General Manager.
He said, “before I used to get so mad that my General Manager has a habit of shouting this and shouting that and not a single day would go by where I would not like to punch him on the nose. But I need the job and therefore I continue with the job. But lately, even if he shouts, I just don’t take any notice and carry on with my work.”
And then the same thing used to happen with his sales staff. He said, “they used to make me so wild that I just felt like firing them all the time. But now I don’t do that. If something goes wrong, I go up to them and say, ‘look, try doing it this way or push this product in such and such a way, or if you haven’t done sufficient coverage here then try and do it in such and such a way.’ As a result, I increased my sales and a better relationship started with my subordinates. And when my sales figures increased, my General Manager started liking me more also. So there was a two-way benefit.”
Then we started talking about home and I asked him, “how’s your Mrs, and how are things with you?”, and all these little things because the guru’s duty is not only to teach meditation. He feels responsible for every hair on the meditator’s head, because the meditator is not apart from him; the meditator is part and parcel of him. So therefore every aspect of his life is of the utmost importance and concern to a true guru.
So he told me about his wife and said, “I love my wife very much but because things were so bad at the office, I used to get home and we used to get on each others nerves and have little fights and squabbles. It was not always very pleasant but lately we don’t seem to have these little fights any more. We don’t squabble. If she says something, I just don’t take any notice. Then if I say something, she doesn’t take notice either, and you know we can turn an ugly situation into a nice laugh. We both laugh over it and nothing happens. And before, with the Sunday meal, I used to love my scotches and what have you, and then after the Sunday meal, I’d love having a nap. But now I don’t go for the scotches before the big heavy dinner any more and instead I take the kids for a drive on a Sunday afternoon. Its so, so enjoyable.” And then he was telling me, “Last Sunday we saw etc, etc, etc.” Like that he went on. His quality of sleep has improved, he feels more relaxed. He seems to sleep more deeply and he told me of his daily activity. So then I asked him, “are your meditations not successful?”
It is not the one hour spent in meditation that is important, or the flashy experiences that are important. It is how the twenty-three hours of the day go, that is important. And if in that half-hour in the morning and half-hour in the evening, you have visions and flashes and all kinds of lightning, forked lightning, that’s not important. The important thing is how the twenty-three hours, the waking state and the sleeping state, has that quality improved or not? Now if that quality has improved then be sure to know that even if you experience nothing in your meditation, that something has worked and is working, because even without those experiences, you are setting up a harmonious vibration within yourself, because your mantra, to look at mantra meditation for example, is based upon vibration. And you are tuning all the various vibrations in your body into a harmonious whole, thereby making your life a symphony, a melody. An unheard melody is of no value, a melody must be heard melodiously and appreciated in the waking state of life. So when that happens to our life, if any kind of experience comes or not, it is not important. The greatest criterion is how our daily life is improving or not. And if it’s improving, then your spiritual practices are successful. (UK 77-26)