In May of 2001 Wellington's City Voice Newspaper published an article about the Sri Chinmoy Centre and its' ongoing community service in the form of free public meditation classes. The article was written by Centre member John Gillespie.
Over the last several years, few people can have failed to notice the advertising for Wellington’s Sri Chinmoy Centre’s free meditation classes. While by no means possessing the largest advertising budget around—they may even be candidate for having the smallest—the sheer scale and persistency of their advertising effort is perhaps unique amongst voluntary organisations, adding up to a quite prolific presence amongst Wellington’s many purveyors of harmony and spiritual prosperity.
So why free classes and how is this achievable? “We see meditation and the inner poise and spiritual benefits it confers as an essential ingredient in any lasting outer harmony in the world—it is the establishment of a lasting harmony in own lives that must proceed the creation of a more harmonious world. Our classes are free at Sri Chinmoy’s own request—he sees meditation as our birthright, something as natural as breathing”, says Uddipan Brown, chief classtaker and meditation instructor with the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
The Centre owns and operates Sonar Tari Vegetarian Café in Cuba St, and in keeping with the philosophy of running a business to spiritual ideals, profits from the café are recycled into funding the Centre’s class taking activities.
By offering free meditation courses to the public, the Sri Chinmoy Centre is introducing people to what it terms a “direct hotline” to the qualities of harmony, happiness, and satisfaction, qualities that it feels many of us either need or are searching for, and qualities without which the establishment of a truly lasting and far-reaching sense of peace are impossible.
The philosophy that informs most forms of meditation is the belief in our spiritual and divine potential, with meditation itself then being a practice and technique to develop and reveal this. Instructor Uddipan Brown describes this philosophy as a different yet highly profitable way of viewing our lives and the world around us, explaining that “most of us think of ourselves in terms of personality, profession, body and mind, female or male, large or small, but these aspects mask a deeper reality – for we are not just a human being having a spiritual experience but a spiritual being having a human experience.”
Meditation then is said to work precisely because it is the key to understanding both who we really are and how we can be truly happy – goals that at heart most people are striving for in one form or another.
A simple meditation exercise to try:
Find a quiet place in your house where you will be undisturbed for the next ten minutes, remove your shoes and sit with your spine reasonably straight. Simply notice your breathing for a few minutes and when your mind is calmer breathe in tranquility, a feeling of serenity and calm and imagine all your restlessness and negative qualities leaving you. Don’t be disturbed by external sounds—these will always be there—just dive within. Cultivate an absolute stillness in your body, mind and breath. Let your mind be like a clear calm sky; if thoughts come don’t attach any significance to them. If you can empty your mind even for a short while you will feel more peaceful and meditative. With practice all your life can be your meditation. But you have to make a start!
The Sri Chinmoy Centre sees its role primarily as offering an easily accessible introduction to meditation to anyone who has an interest, thereby serving the goal of a more harmonious society. While the pursuit of this ends means they come into contact with a considerable number of seekers of harmony and spirituality, the Centre is the first to admit that their particular approach to meditation is far from being the only one, and that their introductory courses are often the first step people take towards finding the particular path that they are best suited to.
Rather than being in conflict or competition with other styles of meditation and approaches to achieving inner harmony, course-instructor Uddipan Brown sees them as all being complementary, and uses the analogy of a mountain having many different paths to the summit - each path a valid approach for the person who takes it.
As in the seven years of the Centre’s existence in Wellington literally thousands of people have been introduced to the practice of meditation, one can be reassured by the thought that countless people around us are silently establishing a more harmonious society, an achievement that will surely be of benefit to us all.