Redefining “Purity of the Teaching”
by Kelvin Chin
Meditation Teacher & Life After Life Expert
I have been meditating for almost 50 years, started when I was a teenager, have taught thousands worldwide to meditate for the past 46 years, led group meditations as large as 600 people, and have taught 50 meditation retreats.
There’s a saying in teaching: “The teacher always learns more than the student.”
With all that teaching experience has come the realization that meditation — and the teaching of meditation in particular — is not dependent on rules, ritual and dogma.
Most meditation teachers, regardless of which technique they teach, base their teaching on one or all of those elements. I think that emphasis is misplaced.
First let’s look at the objective of meditation.
Why do we meditate? There are many reasons. But here are the overarching reasons:
Knowing oneself (in the ancient Greek sense)
Experiencing the mind in a different way than normal waking state (outside of the limited way we think of our minds — I call it the 8” plastic bucket we incorrectly limit ourselves to)
Reducing stress and turning on the parasympathetic nervous system (the “opposite of the Fight or Flight response”)
Here’s the rub:
You can’t turn on an automatic switch by control.
It is antithetical.
You can’t allow the mind to experience itself outside the 8” plastic bucket by focusing it in the 8” plastic bucket.
So effortlessness is key. No focus. No control. No concentration.
But is the teaching of a meditation technique that involves rules, ritual and dogma consistent with the idea of effortlessness? I think not.
It is “cognitively dissonant.” That means it doesn’t make logical sense. The theory and the practice don’t match. It’s like saying, “I’m a peaceful loving person.” But then you do cruel and hurtful things. Your statement is inconsistent with your behavior. You don’t “walk your talk.” That’s cognitive dissonance.
I would argue that if you inspect the teaching of even the meditation techniques that claim to be easy, that those teaching practices and techniques are not consistent with that objective.
Rules, ritual and dogma are three red flags of practices that are not walking the “effortlessness” talk.
Because if we’re talking about the human mind, there is no ritual or dogma needed for it to “experience itself,” even in the different way that we happen to be labeling and calling “meditation.”
Let’s discuss the “how” of meditation.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting a technique of simply closing your eyes and “Be.” Sort of the be here now approach is not a helpful technique for most people. Most people would go, “What the heck does that mean in practice?” Maybe it would work for a few, I’d estimate less than 1% could run with that minimal instruction.
Most of us need a bit more guidance and instruction. Perhaps even starting out with a technique.
So I am by no means against learning techniques. I am suggesting that “how” that technique is taught is crucial.
And that the teaching should also include the instruction that once the pathway to turning on the parasympathetic nervous system and expanding our conscious experience outside of that 8” bucket has been familiarized, the technique itself will start to fall away.
It’s like learning how to hit a ball with a baseball or a cricket bat. At first there’s technique. Put your feet like this, hold the bat here, pull your arm and shoulder back this far, swing, etc. Then after you get the hang of it, you just hit the ball. The technique drops away.
It’s no different with meditation. Eventually the mind just experiences itself in this different way and the body turns on the parasympathetic. Automatically.
But most of us need a technique first to get us from Point A to Point B.
So, back to the teaching of the technique and red flags for you to watch for in selecting a good teacher.
Unfortunately most meditation teachers define “purity of the teaching” in terms of following the rules, ritual and dogma they were taught by their teacher. Following them exactly, following them without interpretation, following them “by the letter.“
However, I’ve observed that that definition tends to create rigidity in those teachers, inflexibility and in some cases an authoritarian approach to the teaching. I think this is inconsistent with the whole concept of meditation in the first place. Meditation should be about allowing the mind to experience itself in this different way as I said earlier. The key word is allowing. But then you need a technique around that concept that is consistent with the idea of allowing. And importantly, a teacher who is able to teach in a way that is consistent with that idea of allowing. That teacher needs to know where the boundaries are of course, where “right technique“ and “wrong technique“ reside. But within those boundaries, does that teacher give instructions and teach in a manner that is consistent with that “allowing approach“?
That is important because that will affect the teaching of the technique, and therefore the practice of the technique by that teacher’s students.
So instead, I propose a re-definition of the concept of “purity of the teaching.“
I think purity lies not in whether all of the teaching rules, ritual and dogma are followed verbatim, but whether the teacher teaches a technique in a way that is as easy and effortless as possible and has an attitude towards that teaching that is relaxed, easy-going and open and receptive.
Because that attitude by the teacher will inevitably be perceived by the student, whether consciously or subconsciously, and is therefore an integral part of the teaching. Whether intended or unintended.
That is the reality.
So purity of the teaching primarily resides within the teacher him or herself. Their attitude. Their knowledge of the technique, of course. But their attitude supersedes even the rote teaching of their technique.
So as a meditator seeking a good meditation teacher, keep these principles in mind. And if you are a meditation teacher yourself, perhaps these principles will help you become an even more effective teacher of your students.
My hope is that sharing these principles, which are fundamental to the continued effective practice and teaching of meditation, will help ensure its continued longevity over the millennia to come.
You can read more about Kelvin Chin’s meditation background at: http://www.turningwithin.org/kelvin-chin/
Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within Meditation and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.TurningWithin.org.