As we understand it,”Meditation,”essentially, is a mental exercise involving the complete concentration on one’s breathing, or on an object or a repeated mantra, for the purpose of attaining a higher level of spiritual awareness.
As is known, the concept and practice of “meditation” had its origins in Eastern-World religious practices, such as in Buddism and Hinduism. In recent times, the practice has, somehow, spread to the Western world; where, avid proponents and commercially successful entrepreneurs, claim that it has curative effects on anxiety, depression and general work-a-day stress. We have never shied away from controversial subjects, and offer this note to urge the patent inapplicability of the practice to the contextual dynamics of the Western world mindset, contrary to the claims of its many devoted partisans, philisophical and commercial.
We, admittedly, are not authorities on the subjects of mental health, depression or anxiety; we are, however, sincere advocates of the philisophy of the 18th Century thinker, John Locke. Most modern thinkers of note, agree with the Lockean theory, that man is born with a clean slate, a “tabula rasa.” It follows, therefore, that all knowledge, is acquired, or “learned” from sense experience and resultant reason. Locke’s empiricism refuted many of his contemporary thinkers, who felt that man is born with certain inspired knowledge, the latter forming the basis of his future pursuits.
If, as we believe, man is born with a clean slate, it is clear that his learning begins with his early childhood experiences including his specific ethnic acculturation. These early learning experiences and absorbed identity, can later on, be modifiable to some degree, but are, nevertheless, durable, if not permanent.
It may be fairly observed that the spiritual and religious aspirations of Eastern religious and social cultures (ex. Buddism and Hinduism) look to the ultimate elimination of the “ego,” “I,” or “self”, from philisophic contemplation; resulting in the successful attainment of Nirvana, affording the consequent elimination of temporal pain and inner conflict. The traditional, Eastern mindset, looks inside, to the inner person, for spiritual growth, self realization and peace.
By contrast, in the Western traditions and cultural mindset, the “I” or ego is not to be suppressed, but to the contrary, asserted and success- oriented; morality consists in the humanely directed ego. The aspiration for inner peace and comfort, is not to be attained by any attempted setting aside, or elimination, of the “I,” or identified “self,” as is the case with Eastern religious belief. Virtue, in the Western context, consists in good moral behavior and an empathic self-identity. The important dynamics in Western life are all external and objective.
By reason of such material (cultural) difference (both, of course, estimable) it is our view that the Western, stylish trend towards orthodox “Meditation” is interesting, but perhaps Quixotic. The Western practitioner of the attempted dynamic, cannot, culturally and effectively eliminate the “self” from his existance; even by his dedicated attempts to look inward (to an acculturated consciousness that is always self- aware and protective). He must look outside himself for fulfillment, and no attempt to rebrand this ineffective practice with the social worker appellation of “mindfulness,” can be sufficient to reconstruct the long- ago established cultural consciousness of self.