“Change naturally occurs and happens spontaneously anyway, and frequently we give credit about what caused change, to something that was perhaps a proximate cause, but not an actual ultimate cause. The ultimate cause of change is a raising of the state of consciousness of the society, and this has to happen on a person-by-person basis.”Thom Knoles
We’re turning over the content of the podcast to our listeners once again, with another Ask Thom Anything episode, this time with a recurring theme of ‘effectiveness.’
Protest has become fashionable in recent years but Mary from Australia wonders how effective it is, especially in the absence of ‘worthy inquiry.’
Saskia, also from Australia, asks about the effectiveness of Nadi Shodana and the correct use of ‘Rounding’ to support our Vedic Meditation practice.
And Sophia in the USA wants to know if Japa Meditation has the same effect as, or could be considered to be a type of, Vedic Meditation.
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Is Protest Effective?
A – Less Outrage
Change Naturally and Spontaneously Occurs
Large-Scale Social Backlash
Raise our Own Consciousness
Q – What Are the Benefits of Nadi Shodana and How Many Rounds Are Ideal Before Meditation?
A – Pranayama
Q – Is Japa Vedic Meditation?
A – Some Resemblance
Bija Mantra Moves in the Direction of Being
Effortlessness, Not Concentration and Control
Jai Guru Deva
Protest – Enhancing Vedic Meditation – Japa Meditation
[00:45] Is Protest Effective?
Hi, this is Mary from Sydney. My question is, what should we do when a regulation is passed that we don’t agree with? For example, in this last year, there’s been regulation around the requirement for vaccination. There’s also been, other emotional issues like the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, and I see a lot of people turning to protests in the streets as a mechanism to try to affect change or strongly-worded posts on social media.
And on the one hand, I can see how this can raise visibility for an issue, which is a positive thing. But on the other hand, I’m wondering if ultimately it’s creating division when there isn’t a worthy inquiry from the person receiving the message who holds the opposite viewpoint? So I’m wondering when we want to be effective, in bringing about progressive change, what is the best mechanism to do so?
[01:44] A – Less Outrage
Jai Guru Deva, Mary, thanks for your question. Beautifully phrased by the way, and, the styling of your question, gave me openings that are very helpful, thank you. I think we need to do all of it, perhaps with less outrage, because screaming with outrage and maintaining rage has been proven not to be very effective historically.
So if we look historically at what really causes stable and progressive social change, it is sufficient numbers of people whose consciousness is raised enough that they can empathize with the needs of the needy, while at the same time themselves, not trying to win a neediness contest or a suffering contest.
What tends to happen, as we continue to practice our meditation, is we start to find ways of being the exemplary one whose opinion is sought. You know, being the exemplary one whose opinion is sought, sounds like, “Oh gosh, that’s gonna take a lot of time and we have to get this thing changed urgently and we have to all get out in the streets or we have to shout in the social media, make a big noise, and then, we’ll get change that way.”
[03:13] Change Naturally and Spontaneously Occurs
I think change naturally occurs and happens spontaneously anyway, and frequently we give credit about what caused change, to something that was perhaps a proximate cause, but not an actual ultimate cause. The ultimate cause of change is a raising of the state of consciousness of the society, and this has to happen on a person-by-person basis.
And the first person who needs to be the one who has become changed, is the one whose personal life reflects all of those values, that the majority of people would look to you and say, “I want to know that person’s opinion and hear all the reasoning.”
So then, the ability to state an argument or a position— let’s not call it an argument, even though we’re using the word argument here in a proper academic context, but, not argumentative, but literally presenting a different position— to be able to present a position in a way that is absolutely persuasive, which is desirably persuasive.
I’m always saying to people who have a particular axe to grind on a subject, that it’s incumbent upon them topresent a style of thinking that is highly attractive, a highly attractive style of thinking to all of those who are complacent or who take an opposite position.
[05:07] Thought Police
Otherwise, we see the history of large political movements. We have a particular snapshot of a 100-year period in Europe from 1900 to 2000 roughly, where groups of people demanded that everyone think in a particular way. There were, demands like that being made socially in what became known as the Soviet Union. And demands like that about thinking in particular ways that were made on the opposite end of the political spectrum in, Western Europe. All in orbit around the behaviors of the Germans, particularly in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, up to the middle of the 1940s.
And the idea that we’re going to succeed by being thought police, we’re going to succeed by being language police, we’re going to succeed by shaming people, or we’re going to succeed by shouting and demanding that our particular point of view be responded to.
What it does is, it does create an immediate social change in the people who are cowed by the shouting, or by the demanding, or by the assertive and aggressive approach to taking a message, but actually, that’s just the superficial behavior on the surface.
What tends to really happen is that the negative thinking, the negative behavior, the behavior that’s not desirable to the ones who are activists, simply goes underground. Underground behavior creates more subversive and destructive change than what people normally measure.
[06:59] Large-Scale Social Backlash
When you get underground behavior, then you get large-scale social backlash and you get entire societies moving in ways that were not predicted by the pollsters. We’ve seen this in recent times, where a surprising number of people suddenly elected somebody to office who all the polls said couldn’t possibly ever have been elected.
But, why did the polls get it wrong? Because when you create a fear-based administration of an idea, when you create a fear-based administration of any kind, even if the fear that you’re creating is, you think, for the good. When you make people afraid to disagree with you, then you’re driving their misunderstandings and their lack of consciousness underground.
And then that underground has a way of organizing itself into a backlash that ends up being politically very undesirable. This is why, what we have to do is be far more intelligent than those who oppose us. We have to be far more persuasive, far more charming, far more desirable, far more living a life that is enviable, and having a consciousness state that’s enviable, and then addressing the inquiry on that level, as someone who, and this is really properly the term for it, becoming an elder statesperson of sets of ideas.
[08:46] Raise our Own Consciousness
And this is what historically has been shown to work. But that doesn’t mean that, when I said all of it, we can certainly express ourselves. You know, it’s good to, if you feel rageful, get things out. That may be a tactic, but it’s not a strategy.
If we want to be strategic, strategy means raise our own consciousness and raise the consciousness of as many people around us as possible. Raising consciousness doesn’t mean raising rage or raising anger. It means raising the capacity to be super stable, super adaptive, super intelligent in the way that if you really believe you have a better idea, then that better idea should naturally be more attractive to a larger number of people, if only you can express it well. And so a greater ability to be like that.
Jai Guru Deva.
[09:45] Q – What Are the Benefits of Nadi Shodana and How Many Rounds Are Ideal Before Meditation?
Hi Thom, it’s Saskia here from Bundjalung Country in Australia. I was hoping that you could talk about Nadi Shodana, the benefits of it, before meditation and either alone, and also how many rounds you would suggest before meditation? Thank you so much for your podcast, I love it.
[10:03] A – Pranayama
Thank you, Saskia, for your inquiry. What you’re referring to as Nadi Shodana, in the Vedic worldview jargon we refer to as pranayama. Pranayama, which in this particular case is alternate nostril breathing of a specific kind that you learn in a retreat setting, when you’re under the care of a qualified Initiator of Vedic Meditation.
Prana, the life energy that is in the atmosphere, is turned into prana the moment it meets our nostrils and our body then converts the atmosphere into a life-giving substance, we call that prana. Yama means to administer a thing, pranayama. Pranayama is the proper way of pronouncing it. Pranayama, that final A is dropped. Pranayama, the administration of prana in the body.
Pranayama can be done either eyes open or eyes closed for a few minutes prior to Meditation but the pranayama should be properly learned from a Vedic Meditation instructor because there are hundreds of different types of pranayama and there’s only one that we recommend for people to practice prior to Vedic Meditation, called sukha, happiness pranayama.
Some of those pranayama techniques can be too stimulating and are designed for immense amounts of excitatory activity after the pranayama and we want to do the type of pranayama that has a de-excitatory effect prior to meditation. Pranayama also can be done in the context of a full round.
A round means, for those listeners who don’t know, it means doing a specific set of about 10 to 15 minutes of Vedic asanas. An asana, A-S-A-N-A, asana means a posture or position. These frequently are referred to in the West, incorrectly as yoga. “Yoga” has become the name that people use for describing asana.
Asana means these physical postures. You bend and stretch your body in particular gentle ways that are beneficial to help release stress in the body in advance of meditation. And it’s supposed to be something that you do prior to, in the lead up to meditation, although most people who practice ” yoga” in the West don’t really have a meditation practice that they do after they’ve done their yoga. So the specific asanas that are taught by a qualified instructor in Vedic Meditation and the pranayama that goes along with it, followed by a meditation session, of Vedic Meditation specifically, followed by lying down for 10 minutes.
[13:24] At-Home Program
All of that takes the better part of an hour to do, and we recommend that unless you’re in a retreat setting, the maximum number of rounds that you should be doing, the optimum number and maximum is two. That is to say one full round, asana, pranayama, meditation 20 minutes, and then lying down for 10 at the commencement of the day, before the day’s activity. And then again, late afternoon, early evening, one more round, asana, pranayama, meditation 20 minutes, lying down 10 minutes.
This would be the maximum and optimum amount of rounding to do. We have special settings, in retreat settings that are run by qualified Vedic Meditation Initiators, where you can do multiples of rounding, more than one in the morning, one in the evening.
For those who have learned properly how to do rounds and would like to continue doing them at home, if you can’t do one in the morning and one in the evening, then you may do, either the morning meditation or the evening meditation can be replaced by doing a full round, and the other meditation can just be a regular sit down in the chair and meditate for 20 minutes, kind of meditation.
[14:53] Industrial-Strength Meditation
So like that, we can use rounds in that way in a home setting, in a domestic setting. But I’d like to emphasize that we do not recommend people do beyond one in the morning and one in the evening rounds, in a domestic setting without supervision from a teacher, simply because rounding is very, very powerful, particularly at digging out our deepest stresses.
And digging out deep stress is very valuable but it’s not something we want to do in a domestic setting. We want to do that in a special environment where we can do some industrial-strength meditating, but with supervision and the ability to call upon the expertise and wisdom of an experienced teacher of Vedic Meditation, who’s right there in case we start to experience stress release at a level that makes us uncomfortable. Then there is a way of changing the program to make comfort reappear.
It’s all very important. Jai Guru Deva
[16:08] Q – Is Japa Vedic Meditation?
Hi Thom, this is Sophia from Maine, and I would like to ask you if practicing Japa Meditation with mantra given by a Guru, is that considered to be a Vedic Meditation? Thanks.
[16:24] A – Some Resemblance
Hi Sophia, yes, they say that Vedic Meditation, as we practice it, as taught to me by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, as taught to him by his Guru, the Shankaracharya, Guru Deva, coming down through a tradition, bears some resemblance to what is commonly known as Japa. Japa, J-A-P-A, in Sanskrit it means repetition. But, this kind of meditation that we are practicing, Vedic Meditation, we do use a mantra, a specific kind of mantra, Bija mantra.
[17:07] Bija Mantra
Bija mantra is distinguished by having no intended meaning. In other words, it doesn’t work on the level of meaning. It works on the level of sonics or sound. The quality of the sound of the mantra is considered essential for that to resonate with and to match with the thinker of the mantra.
And so, as a starting point, one of the differences between what commonly is known as Japa, where, as you put it, a Guru gives a mantra to a student and asks them silently to repeat it. Sometimes using a string of beads like a rosary, which in Sanskrit we call a Mala, mala, M-A-L-A, to enumerate and count how many times one is repeating the mantra, with one bead representing one repetition, like that.
And there are indications that sometime Guru Deva, the Master of my Master, taught Vedic Meditation in this way with the use of beads, but we have a different approach and an approach that was passed down from Guru Deva.
Japa Ajapa, Japa Ajapa, A is the Sanskrit word for negation. So when we want to negate something, supposing knowledge, Vidya, knowledge is Vidya, not knowledge or ignorance is Avidya. Vidya Avidya, knowledge not knowledge. Gyana, another word for knowledge and then Agyana, another word for ignorance, like that.
[19:11] Japa Ajapa
And so, Japa Ajapa, what can it mean? For a period of time, effortlessly, the Japa of the Bija mantra given by a teacher who’s been inducted into our tradition, the Shankaracharya tradition, using a mantra that’s been given by a qualified teacher of Vedic Meditation, one does use effortless silent repetition without using beads, without using a rosary or anything like that. And the mantra is repeated effortlessly, and what happens is, the quality of the sound of the mantra in the mind begins to become more refined.
That means fainter, vaguer, softer, quieter, and that’s because the mantra that is given by a teacher of Vedic Meditation, someone from my tradition, is a mantra by nature, by its own nature, will spontaneously become more refined, softer, and quieter, as it becomes softer and quieter or subtler, the mantra is moving back to the source of thought.
See these Bija mantras have a quality that other thoughts don’t have. A regular thought is a thought, which is about an action. You know, “I want water. It’s a little hot in here.” Some thought to do with some way of mobilizing in order to increase happiness.
[20:59] Bija Mantra Moves in the Direction of Being
Thoughts all move in the direction of action to increase happiness through actions, whereas a Bija mantra moves from thought in the direction of the source of thought, in the direction of Being. And as it does so, instead of becoming clearer, instead of becoming well-defined, a Bija mantra when properly used effortlessly, will spontaneously become less clear, less well-pronounced, more subtle, fainter, vaguer, less distinct boundaries of pronunciation.
And as it does so, it increases in its vibratory characteristic of charm, it becomes more charming with each repetition. This is because a mantra that works properly is taking the mind into the subtle, and the subtle is closer to the field of Being, which is in fact a state of supreme inner contentedness.
That supreme contentedness in Sanskrit, we call it Ananda. Ananda means bliss, supreme inner contentedness, not ecstasy. It’s not an ecstatic state. It’s a state of supreme inner contentedness. And as the mantra begins to move in the direction of Being, it becomes more and more attractive, and our mind is built in such a way, that without any effort, always the mind will move in the direction of greater happiness.
So what happens with this mantra, through Japa, through repetition, easy, effortless, repetition, comes Ajapa. Ajapa means moments where the mantra disappears. When the mantra disappears, the mind is left in a state where there is no mantra and because of the bliss, no thought replacing it.
A state of no mantra, no thought, is the state of Being or transcendence. In Sanskrit we say Samadhi. S-A-M-A-D-H-I, Samadhi, Samadhi means that state of pure, inner, absolute contentedness. It’s the contentedness that causes thought to stop.
[23:35] Effortlessness, Not Concentration and Control
When the mind has reached that state of bliss, the saturation of it is so great, that one cannot conceive of anything that would be better than this. And so thinking, which is all about conceptualizing, getting happier, thinking stops.
And so this moment of Being or Samadhi transcendence, can only come about when the mantra that we’re using has that quality of perfect resonance with the thinker, and the technique of using it is one of effortlessness, not one of concentration and control.
So what is very often taught today, in the name of Japa, outside of my tradition, is to concentrate, to control, or to try to keep the meaning of a mantra in one’s mind or one’s awareness. And these are all methods that are quite foreign to the method of Vedic Meditation.
So Vedic Meditation, Japa Ajapa, that means some repetition followed by mantra stopping, followed by some more repetition, followed by mantra spontaneously stopping as transcendence occurs. Japa Ajapa Samadhi, Japa Ajapa Samadhi, some repetition followed by mantra disappearing, followed by that deep inner silence, pure consciousness.
So these are some differences for you to contemplate.
Jai Guru Deva.