“Modern man is a very new phenomenon. No traditional method can be used exactly as it exists, because modern man never existed before. So in a way, all traditional methods have become irrelevant. Their spirit is not irrelevant, but their form has become irrelevant because this man is new.”1 Osho
In the first part of this series, Don’t Just Sit There, Osho goes into more detail about why we have changed so much since these traditional methods were created that new approaches are needed.
In contrast to Osho’s understanding of the particular needs of contemporary people, most of the approaches to meditation that are being taught or written about today are still presenting the traditional methods that were developed eons ago for people whose life experience was totally unlike ours.
Just imagine how different our lives are today compared with then.
When Patanjali was creating his sutras and Buddha presenting his vision of enlightenment about 2,500 years, the total population of the world was about 60 million, fewer than now live in one country, Italy. Or the same as the combined populations of Tokyo and Shanghai today.
Add to that our recent understanding of neuroplasticity. Once we appreciate Marian Diamond’s contribution to “a paradigm shift for scientists when she was the first to prove that the brain shrinks with impoverishment and grows in an enriched environment at any age,”2 the point is clear. The human mind that emerges while living in a simple hut in a village over 2000 years ago is going to be totally different from the mind created by life in a modern city with a brain-full of almost continuous distractions.
The whole point of meditation is to navigate our way from mind to no-mind. So, obviously, the effectiveness of the strategies that support that journey will depend on the nature of that mind.
Can you imagine someone as creative as Gautam Buddha turning up today and looking at us modern people and not immediately realizing that we require a totally different approach to transformation than was appropriate for those people of millennia ago? Not to mention the possibility that he watches one news program and realizes this amazing species on its deathbed and concludes that Vipassana is not exactly touching the spot!