05 August 2019

Dr Ainslie Meares, Shivapuri Baba and meditation

How many people would you say you owe your life to? Interesting question… Mother first and foremost. Father naturally. But after that???

One of the people I owe my own life to is Dr Ainslie Meares. He taught me meditation in a way that made it possible for me to endure all that cancer threw at me, and even more, to overcome it altogether.

But Ainslie’e knowledge of meditation had its genesis in a 3 day meeting in Katmandu with the venerable and ancient Hindu yogi Shivapuri Baba. This little known figure was truly remarkable, truly extra -ordinary. Recently I met up with Cliff Woodward who has been studying the life and works of Shivapuri Baba for many years and actually visited his ashram in Katmandu.

As part of this guest blog, Cliff has kindly shared some of the key points of Shivapuri Baba’s life and teachings. Enjoy, plus a reminder my new meditation book Blue Sky Mind is now available, but first




       Thought for the day

          If you can see your path 
          Laid out in front of you step by step, 
          You know it is not your path. 

          Your own path 
          You make with every step you take. 
          That is why it is your path.

                        Joseph Campbell





From Cliff Woodward…
Shivapuri Baba’s remarkable life spanned an astounding 137 years from 1826 to 1963. (This is based on British records - and they were meticulous!) Probably one of the greatest human beings of recent times, Shivapuri Baba remains one of the least known and least celebrated.

This slight, little man who lived a life of ascetic, utter simplicity, was a giant of the spiritual life, sharing a teaching that is absolutely relevant to our lives right now, and could rightfully be seen as the antidote to the path of blind, egotistical self –destruction that our species has got itself onto. He called his teaching Right Life.



The external facts of his long life are indeed remarkable and worthy of a full-length movie film, although I sincerely hope it is never made!

The fact that he walked every continent [except Antarctica] on his world pilgrimage beginning at around 60 years of age, lasting over 30 years; he met many of the great men and women of the early 20th century [such as Einstein, the Curies, Marconi, Tolstoy], had eighteen audiences with Queen Victoria – but about all that he wanted nothing said, no publicity at all.

He consented to only one book being written about him towards the end of his lifetime, by the great English philosopher and spiritual seeker, J.G. Bennett, called “Long Pilgrimage,” which was published in 1965.


And his unambiguous instruction to Bennett was “You must write a book about my Teaching, not my life.” He himself, though seeming to have read everything of significance, wrote no books. He shares this in common with some other teachers of universal significance like Socrates and Jesus of Nazareth.

So what is the essence of this Teaching, Right Life? The first thing to say is that S.B. never suggested that this Teaching was his invention or his ‘intellectual property’, only that he had made accessible, to the contemporary mind, what was at the core of all the great Teachings of mankind, since time immemorial. Why would this be so?

Because the fundamental challenges that face how we live our lives as human beings have never been any different and never will be. All of the great spiritual traditions can be seen as different attempts to guide us into the solutions to these challenges, with greater or lesser success as we manage to despoil them.


It is interesting to note that there are many accounts of people from different spiritual/religious backgrounds meeting S.B., and each of them thought that he was the most perfected Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim - whatever background they were coming from - that they had ever met!

This was surely because S.B. could go to the core of any of these Teachings and speak its Truth.

He was completely free of dogmatism or any narrowness of perspective – a Universal Man.

Right Life is structured around three fundamental Duties.

With the First Duty, Right Life begins by acknowledging the fundamentals of our human life.


We have certain inescapable obligations or duties: the need to maintain our physical body, feed it, clothe it, keep it in health; and the need to earn a living in some way. This is a baseline that none are exempt from. We could see the First Duty as centred on the fundamental ‘Laws’, physical, moral and societal, that we have to obey. If we neglect them our lives end up in a mess of one kind or another.

The Second Duty focuses on our inner or moral life. It is about removing or overcoming our ‘defects in character’, our anger, resentment, jealousy etc. These things have to be seen, accepted and gradually eliminated from our lives. Further, we can consciously cultivate the positive qualities that may be missing from our lives, or at least not playing a strong enough role. So things like forgiveness, humility, empathy, kindness, need to be deliberately cultivated in our lives, must manifest in our lives – not just be ‘good ideas’ to aspire to.

These positive virtues can be found spelled out in any of the great spiritual teachings, for example The Sermon on the Mount in the Christian tradition, in Chapter 16 of the Bhagavad Gita in the Hindu tradition.



These Duties, according to Right Life, are not just to be acknowledged/accepted, they are to be perfected.

They have to be mindfully engaged with and worked on with perseverance.

We need to be consciously directing our lives in these directions, even down to the most basic practical tasks; for example, if I am failing to pay my bills on time, how do I get better at this?

If I can’t remember where I put things, how do I improve on this?

We do not accept or indulge our failings or weaknesses in little things or big.


Our constant aim is to make small, achievable changes that we can build on; like radical, sudden-weight-loss diets, attempting too much change too soon, will just rebound on us.

Of course we are going to fail, especially in the beginning, but we are enjoined to learn from our mistakes and keep at it – this is a life-long process! Ask yourself, what is the alternative to this? Surely the answer is to keep making the same errors and not evolving.

Shivapuri Baba described Right Life as “Your self-promised life”, meaning the life that you have set for yourself. So, for example, if I recognize that anger plays too strong a role in my life {at home or at work} and I have set myself to make some changes around this, this is my promise to myself.

It does not require the approbation {or the condemnation} of anyone or anything else – not THE church or THE faith or THE dogma. It is my deal, my promise, with myself. This places the teaching of Right Life in a very different space than we are accustomed to. It is not immediately obvious to most of us just how unique this is – it dawns over time!

But there is more!

The Third Duty is concerned with our Spiritual or Soul life, our deepest connection with ourselves, the Universe, God; express it as we will. S.B. said that eventually, to any sane human being looking at the basic facts of Life, there must arise a question such as:

What is the source of all this?

What is my significance in all this?

Does it all die with me?


The satisfactory answer to such a question, for you or I, is the basis for our deepest sense of peace or fulfilment – my answer, or anybody else’s answer, will not cut it, it must be YOUR answer. S.B. taught, again in line with all the great traditions, this is what we are here for on planet earth, to find such an answer – nothing, absolutely nothing, material success or power, will suffice. We can fill our lives with all sorts of things, all sorts of distractions, but the fundamental question will never go away.

So clearly the Third Duty relates to our practice of Meditation and Prayer. Note that S.B. never taught that there was one way into this: he encouraged people to follow their Christian way or Buddhist way, whatever they are connected to, but follow it with the correct understanding of its foundation in Right Life.

We need to attend correctly to all Three Duties, not any one of them, in order to succeed – truly a three-legged stool. Can you see how important this is? This Teaching is telling us, insisting, that, for example, you cannot just plunge into Meditation or diverse religious observances, leaving your practical life and moral life a total mess, and expect any success. It just does not work.

The other clear implication of this Right Life Teaching is that it encompasses the whole of your life. The very living of your life, on a day by day, minute by minute basis, is your Spiritual practice, is your life’s significance.

This is not a Teaching for the spiritually immature, for the ‘spiritual thrill seeker’; this is a Teaching that asks everything of you, but delivers Everything in its place.



AND A REMINDER

Blue Sky Mind, my new meditation book is now published and coming into bookstores and on-line stores everywhere.

If you do go into a store that does not have it, please ask for it as booksellers these days respond very directly to feedback.

Signed copies of the book are available through the Foundation - and you support their work …

CLICK HERE 

Enjoy deepening your meditation