In the present age of uncertainty and confusion...
...when progress in the last 50 years has far exceeded progress in the last 5 million years, mankind has found itself somewhat lost for meaning. Amidst this scientific and material advancement, mankind has never felt more spiritually empty. Unlike the old days, when the spiritual authority of churches was seldom questioned, today we are seeing the difficulties the churches have in providing a meaning convincing enough for its followers. Even the historical existence of Christ is being questioned! Today we are facing a crisis never seen before in history - we can term it the crisis of meaning.
This crisis of meaning heralds a tremendous interest in religious and spiritual matters. In the West, one can find the emergence of new religious cults ever so often; the bookstores are full of books on spiritual and metaphysical issues. Never has the world seen so many self-proclaimed gurus and prophets coming out with revelations and divine messages for the masses. Holy men from India, China, and Tibet are in hot demand. Others prefer to stick to Christianity, and give their loyalty to new divine interpreters who claim to be given new directions by Christ himself. Or perhaps one can relate better to God's opponent, Satan himself.
Without doubt, we are witnessing a major upheaval in man's spirituality as he comes to grips with the meaning of his very existence. To give this state of confusion some respectability, the term New Age has been coined to describe the present spiritual goings-on. To add insult to injury, no one knows exactly what New Age really means; except that it is a sort of an umbrella term that seems to cover almost everything spiritual or metaphysical that is not mainstream Christianity. It is basically a meaningless term, probably coined by opportunists who are in need of a screen to cover some of their weird and dubious activities. One should not be blind to the fact that the New Age guise is often used to exploit the hearts, minds and purses of many unsuspecting victims
It is not surprising therefore to find that meditation is one of the most used and abused word in New Age jargon. Countless books on meditation have been written, and what is one of the simplest and most natural acts a person can do has now become an act of great complexity, requiring a proper understanding of the "correct" method. And as is usual in this New Age, we have a mushrooming of a great number of meditation "gurus"; each proclaiming a different and better method. Meditation has become a commercial product. Because meditation has been so commercialised, with each school selling their style or method, people are amazed when told that Tao Meditation has no method. To many, this is incomprehensible, because any formal activity must have a procedure. But the misconception that many of us have is that meditation is a formal activity. This misconception probably arose from the way mediation has been marketed in the books and the media. It gives one the impression that it is a technique that some Eastern mystics have invented, and therefore to understand meditation one has to learn the technique.
In the Tao of Meditation...
...one starts to understand that meditation is a very natural activity and that it is nature's way that man meditates. Meditation is as natural as breathing and eating. We do not have to learn how to breath or eat. We call it the Tao of meditation because it is one of the many manifestations estimations of the Tao. As described in the Tao Te Ching , the Tao is NOT subject to definition: it is nature itself, it is infinite; it has no boundaries and cannot be methodised. It is therefore shocking to find many authors and self-proclaimed masters methodising meditation and insisting, among other things, that it is the "correct" way to meditate.
The essence of the Tao is the Tao Te Ching (a compilation of the teachings of Lao Tse, the founder of Taoism, and consisting of about 5000 words divided into 81 chapters). As one talks about the Tao, one must also bear in mind that this is also a very widely abused and misused word. Writers tend to use the word whenever it suits their purpose. Also, one must realise that even in its country of origin, China, the word Tao started to degenerate a few hundred years after Lao Tse. The Tao Te Ching lost its relevance as the country became engulfed in wars and internal strife. Taoism was revived, but in a different form. There were many faces of Taoism, from alchemy (turning base metals into gold), to the study of longevity to prolong the emperor's life.
Finally, Taoism became a religion in its own right, with its own gods and temples. The Tao Te Ching was almost forgotten. The Shin Tao Society was formed to ensure that the Tao remains the Tao, and the Tao is the Tao Te Ching. The word 'Shin' is used to ensure that one does not confuse the society with other forms of teachings and practices that wrongly use the name 'Tao'. The word 'Shin' has a very broad meaning, but it is often used to convey a spiritual experience; a feeling of higher consciousness; a perception of true reality. So when the two words Shin and Tao are combined together into Shintao, the word becomes a reflection of the Tao Te Ching. The Tao as we know it through the Tao Te Ching is not a religion or a philosophy. It is just an experience of reality. Therefore, the Tao can never be institutionalised. There is no hierarchy, no rites and rituals; nor does one need to resort to practices to better oneself. The Tao is nature. The Tao is reality as it is, not as it should be. To experience the Tao is to be able to see through this illusion of a synthetic reality. So long as we continue to live in this illusory world, we can never find fulfilment or happiness.
The Tao sees this man-made world as one of constant effort and doing. As the worldly pressures increase, we inevitably seek a way out of this, and often without success. Then we turn to alternatives, hoping that they may get us out of this rut. Some may turn to chemicals, only to realise that neither drugs nor alcohol can help; in fact, they make the situation worse by making addicts of them. Others turn to counselling, only to find that solving one problem does not mean an end to other problems. Still others may turn to some religious cult, only to discover that the guru was a former patient of a mental hospital. Perhaps, meditation is the best solution. Checking through the Yellow Pages, one can find numerous meditation schools. So one decides to enrol in one ; and, after a few regimented meditation sessions, one starts to question whether there are other easier means to relieve stress. So it is not really hard to see why the Tao questions this whole idea of effort and doing. An old Taoist sage sees man as a rope with many knots. To return the rope to its normal state nothing more needs be done. But there is a lot of undoing to be done. One needs to undo those knots. This process of undoing, of freeing, of letting-go, is of great importance to the Taoist. Known by the word Mu in Japanese, or Wu in Mandarin, this experience of freedom or letting-go forms the basis of Tao Meditation.
There are no rules to follow...
...as there is no set procedure. There are no goals to accomplish because they only bring anxiety and frustration. Broadly speaking, there are 3 levels of experience in the Tao of Meditation.
The Tao Meditation is essentially the Tao experience. Meditation becomes a part of our being, not an activity you indulge in. You do not set aside a time for meditation. You do not practice it, because for one to practice, one needs an activity with rules to adhere to. To allow meditation to become just another product, with a set of instructions enclosed, is to insult our very being. As we experience the Tao, living itself is meditation. We live our lives in a continuous flow of balance and harmony, because our consciousness has opened out. Our consciousness is no longer confined to its mundane contents of set belief patterns and concepts. We feel free, both in our thoughts and actions. We are experiencing living meditation.