For the New Year, Meditation or Medication?

The word meditation comes from the Indo-European root “med,” meaning “to measure.” I do not know when and how it got into Latin, reincarnated as “meditatio,” and gained a totally new meaning: “physical and mental exercises.”

I prefer to connect meditation with medication, both sharing the same root “med.” Meditation and medication – both are the “aftermath of measuring.” Each, however, takes a different action.

Meditation leads us to the journey within, inside – whereas medication leads us to the journey without, outside. Meditation delivers its findings – the measurement – to you. Medication delivers the findings to your doctor.

Meditation, therefore, demands your total involvement. One has to be intelligent enough to decide what to do with the findings. While in medication, no such intelligence is required. For it is the doctor who decides what to do with the findings.

But who is the finder? Who is taking the measurement? What do you do when you fall sick? You make an appointment with a physician. Then, when you see him, his first question is usually, “How do you feel?”

Your doctor, your physician, is actually asking you to diagnose your illness. He is asking you to “make the measurement.” The medication he prescribes is based on the diagnosis made by you.

Both meditation and medication depend on the initial diagnosis you make, or the measurement you take. Later they take a different course of action. In meditation, you are fully responsible for the entire process of healing, whereas in the “way of medication” your responsibility ends with the initial diagnosis you make. After that point, it is your doctor’s responsibility.

What do we want to do this year, this New Year?

Are we prepared to take full responsibility of our life, i.e. follow the way of meditation – or follow the way of medication, and throw the responsibility on someone else?

I shall leave you to make the decision for yourself, for your life is, after all, your life. Who am I to decide for you? For the moment – since we are still in the process of “measuring” – let us be together.

How did we fare during the year just passed?

Are we richer? Not only materially, but also physically – am I healthier? This is the most important measurement to take. For without the support of a healthy body, you cannot do anything.

Next comes our emotions – how much richer are we? How did we respond to the emotional turbulences? And intellectually – are we getting more intelligent, or dumber?

Take the measurement, and then decide. What is it that you would like to do with those measurements? The way of meditation requires you to go within and contemplate deeply on those findings. And tailor your life accordingly.

A true teacher, a master, or a sadguru, will only point the way. You may get some useful tips from them. They may stand by you. Whenever you are about to lose hope, they may encourage and support you. But that is about it. They shall not cure you of your disease. For they know that you are both the cause and the cure of the disease.

The way of medication, on the other hand, leads you to outside resources for the cure. Such resources can make you feel comfortable, can ease your pain for some time, but cannot cure you. You will become dependent on such resources and lose control over your life.

The choice is, once again, in your hands.

Remember, it is your life.

*   *   *

Now let us move to Bali.

Bali is, at least to all of us who love the isle, our expanded identity. I am almost certain that we all share the same sentiment about Bali – for, otherwise, you would not be reading this paper, The Bali Times. There is no dearth of other times, why Bali Times?

We love Bali, yes, but I wonder how my Norwegian neighbour feels after being robbed by one of her employees, and losing all her jewellery. I would understand her resentment.

Or what do the relatives of the recently murdered Japanese woman in Kuta feel about Bali? I don’t know, and I don’t want to guess. From past experiences, however, I know this: If the culprit is caught and he/she happens to be a non-Balinese, most of my Balinese friends will take a sigh of relief, “See, they are outsiders.”

To most of the foreigners, especially those who are visiting Bali for the first time, Indonesians living on the isle are Balinese. They do not go about asking questions, “Where are you originally from?”

Any crime committed on the isle, by whoever, is a crime committed to Bali. My dear friends, your sigh of relief is self-deluding. Whoever commits the crime, it is the image of Bali that is tarnished.

At the same time, I must also advise the foreigners, both the visitors and the residents: Remain vigilant. Things have changed, are changing. Slowly but surely the disease of materialism is creeping into our society, and social system. You can no longer afford to leave your house open at all times, or your cupboards unlocked. Do not tempt the already materialistic with more matter and materials.

We all must work together to save Bali, to make her retain whatever beauty is left in her.

Later this year, Bali will most probably face its greatest challenge in decades, when Julia Roberts’ Eat, Pray, Love hits theatres around the world. I see more people, like the heroine of the story, coming to Bali out of “unripe spiritual curiosity.” And, I see more vendors responding to such curiosity. More muddy and dirty waters. God knows how long will it take to settle, although settle it must.

Bali is at a point where she must decide for herself, which road, which course of action she must take. Will it be the course of meditation, or the course of medication? Will it be the course of Paul Brunton of A Search in Secret India fame, or the course of novelist Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer of Eat, Pray, Love? Will it be the course of eating and loving prayerfully, meditatively – or the course of merely eating, praying and loving?

Eating and loving prayerfully and eating, praying and loving – these are two different courses. One leads us within. The other keeps us outside. One makes us independent, the other dependent. Again, the choice is ours. After all, it is our life.

The writer is a spiritual activist and author of more than 130 books, several in English (www.aumkar.org, www.anandkrishna.org). His organization runs Holistic Health/Meditation Centers, a National Plus/Interfaith School, a Charitable Clinic and a Public Reading Room in Bali. For more information, call Aryana or Debbie at 0361 7801595, 8477490.

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