Meditation and Culture
As many honest Buddhist monks say, they have no problem meditating, but that is mostly because they are separated from this stressed out and anxious society which provides everything but the conditions for meditation and inner development. Meditation is made easy for monks because it is a scheduled activity, they have no other things to manage on their own, but it also may be beneficiary that Buddhism has grown out of a culture, Hindu culture, that was already versed in meditation.
Even if it always gets emphasized that the goal of meditation is to separate yourself from your society, culture and tradition, it is not true that you can start meditating easily, especially if your culture has no notion of meditation. Even if you respect other traditions, you are still rooted in your own, and you will have to be uprooted – which is the goal of meditation.
The practice of meditation is linked to Eastern cultures, but it is becoming more and more popular in the Western world. There are even traditions in the West that are very similar to meditation – for example, in Christian Orthodox monasteries, there exists a certain practice called “tihovanje” which can be roughly translated as “being silent”, and these two words describe both the purpose of meditation and its method. But, the origin of this kind of practice in Christian monasteries is under dispute, and it might be that it was borrowed or taken from some Buddhist monasteries ages ago.
Meditation method which is the most popular in the West is the Buddhist one – no deities, no mantras, just a silent observation of your own breathing process. Buddhist method, as well as the Buddhist worldview, seem to be fit for contemporary men which live in secular societies, because it excludes all superstition and enables freedom of multiple life choices. Nobody is a saint, no single activity can make you a saint, there is no vice that can make you dirty or unfit for meditation. It respects even your religious background but emphasizes the need to meditate on a daily basis.
Discipline is needed in every aspect of life. We all know that the Western civilization became neurotic to the point of unsustainability. But, where should we begin with the recovery? Do we need to start wearing colorful rags and change our names into something that sounds more Hindu-like? Of course not, because even "worldly" men are able to meditate and be aware of themselves! Sure, it will be much harder for those people, including, perhaps - you, to start, because your whole tradition was always praising the extroverts -so, people who start meditating might start thinking of themselves as worthless because the whole society sees them that way. Even if that might be an obstacle in the beginning, by jumping over that obstacle you will gain more inner strength and determination then people who live in a society which approves meditation. And by being able to handle both, the worldly and the inner, the spiritual, you will make a complete person out of yourself!
So, things keeping you back can also be used for your progress – that’s how true spirituality works! If your society demands of you to wear tight clothes, then wear them, but try to see it as a method of achieving discipline. If your society and your family need you to work twelve hours a day on a stressful job – then work, but try staying focused and aware while performing that job! Although it can be tough at the beginning, and it always is, you will benefit from it later, because these experiences will make you a complete human being, or at least boost your efforts to achieve "completeness".
We often say that meditation requires you to calm your mind, but it is, in most cases, futile – what you really need is make your mind work for you and not against you! Most people let their minds lead their lives, thus ruining them – with the help of meditation as a method for disciplining your mind and making it work for you (not against you), greater results can be achieved and experienced in all fields of human existence, both worldly and inwardly!