The Buddha was lying on his side. Anand Kashyap, his devoted disciple, was sad that the Buddha was passing away. Sensing this, even at that moment the Buddha advised Anand to keep working. That probably was the last lesson. But what did it mean? It was a lesson in meditation.
Buddhism has taught us many kinds of meditations—the walking meditation, lying-down meditation, Vipassana and mindfulness or full mindedness meditations. It is said that you can meditate even while working. There is no need to set out a separate time for meditation. In any case, what is the use of meditation if its impact doesn’t extend to daily living? Work reaches its perfection when it links with meditation.
Meditation means loss of self or the awareness of self. Even a simple activity like drinking tea can become meditative if done artfully or rather tastefully. There should be no goal to achieve, no attempt even to do the work tastefully, no attempt or desire to lose the self.
Even today in India there are classical schools of music called gharanas that follow the master and disciple tradition, where the disciple lives with the guru for several years. The guru doesn’t let the disciple go fast with the lesson. He doesn’t let the disciple go on stage for public performance and applause. The disciple is made to repeat a single lesson monotonously for several months or at least 40 days called a Chilla.
Typically, the lesson is a fixed combination of sounds that the disciple has to practise nonstop for several hours at a set speed and comprises a set string of sounds. Even if the disciple feels that she can go faster or do better, she’s not allowed. Temptations of doing better or faster come and go as the disciple keeps on repeating the same lesson. No goal, no aiming for perfection.
Over time, effortlessly, the desire to do better is lost. The doing becomes effortless. The awareness of self and instrument is lost; the disciple is now aware only of the doing and of the satisfaction emanating from it.
This is meditation—identification with the act itself or true Karma Yoga. It is transcending the self and the instrument or the external world. It is the hallmark of mental health. This special meditation was the Buddha’s last lesson to his devoted disciple Anand Kashyap. And also to us.
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