Meditation All Over the World

sujantra_pic.jpgTravelling the world, giving meditation classes... and not charging? Sujantra couldn't do this for a job, so he made it his life instead

Meditation has been described as one of the simplest activities, yet simultaneously one of the most difficult. If this is so, the work of a meditation instructor must be truly challenging. How does one explain an activity that seeks to go beyond the mind itself?

    The question has been asked by hundreds of Sri Chinmoy's students throughout the world, as they introduce people to an activity which is a cornerstone of his spiritual path.

    One thing to note: whatever the language or culture, the basic lessons are the same. "Below the surface, everyone is essentially dealing with the same core issue, which is essentially the individual's relationship to the world," says Sujantra McKeever, of California. "In that relationship, there can be stress, anxiety, worry. It takes all different forms. Everyone wants to be more clear, more confident, more peaceful, to have a more harmonious life. The techniques that I teach enable anyone to do that, regardless of the situation.

    In 1992, after several years of giving small classes in San Diego, Sujantra became a roving meditation teacher. He has lectured in 25 countries, to over 25,000 people, along with some 35 of the United States. He now gives 100 lectures a year.  In his spare time, he has written several books on meditation, and using meditation techniques for personal growth.

    Obviously, in his travels, he has witnessed the superficial differences between nations. Language, for example. He often works with a translator, which he enjoys. "It allows me more time to gather my thoughts and to be more concise in my speaking. I don't feel I have to fill up time." In France, where the people are very proud of their native language, he introduced himself in French, "to show the people that I have made some effort to learn French." Following his prelude, however, he gave the class with the assistance of a translator.

    "Surprisingly to me, wherever I lectured I've always been received extremely warmly. I think it's because I'm sincerely trying to offer them something that's helped me a lot. Again, I think it comes down to the experience I've had: we're all dealing with the same difficulties. As soon as I begin to address those issues. It creates a common ground between me and the audience. Those issues exist in my life, and they exist in other people's lives. The fact that I'm from California and they're from Marseilles doesn't really matter.

    While his beginner classes are usually similar, whatever the language, the more notable contrasts arise when he discusses meditation as an aspect of the spiritual life. "Some cultures are more attuned to the concept of a spiritual master. For instance, lecturing in Japan, it's very easy for me to convey the concept. The idea of a sensei, or 'teacher', is very well understood, whether it's your karate instructor, your music instructor, or your spiritual instructor - just the concept of seeking out someone who has that wisdom. In western culture, the concept of a living spiritual teacher is much more foreign, and more difficult to convey."

    Nonetheless, it was his own search for a spiritual master that introduced him to Sri Chinmoy's path in 1981, at the age of 18.

    "Sri Chinmoy taught me to meditate. Through my many years of studying with him, I've really learned to concentrate my mind, not only through meditation exercises, but also through activities such as running, creativity, [and] cultivating different skills. I've enhanced my ability to concentrate, and I apply that concentration to whatever situation I'm dealing with. So if I'm about to enter into a social environment, where I might have some nervousness or insecurity, I'll create different visualisation techniques, based on the moment.

    "For me, the intensity of stepping out in front of 60 or 100 or 200 people, whom I've never met before, and interacting with them on a very intimate level, is a really exciting, visceral experience."

    Sujantra feels "blessed" that he has the freedom to travel so much, especially as (like all of Sri Chinmoy's students) his meditation classes are given free of charge. His income is derived from a bookstore cum gift shop he owns in San Diego (staffed by other students of Sri Chinmoy during his absence), as well as a successful family business. Additionally, he sells his self-published books and guided meditation CDs at his classes. While he is travelling, his expenses are usually met by the local Sri Chinmoy Centre.

    For someone so well-travelled, Sujantra's favourite place is neither Paris nor Pago Pago. "To be very honest with you, my favourite place on Earth is California," he says. "I like the coastline, the ocean... I've always grown up by the seashore. To be able to go to the ocean, meditate on the setting Sun with the vast, extensive ocean, is for me a real peak experience in my life -- and each day I'm able to do it. My favourite places usually have an ocean. In addition, you add the life of California, and that's got to be number one for me."

    However, don't expect him to retire to a beach-house overlooking the Pacific. Not for many years, at least. "Sri Chinmoy's philosophy says joy is in self-giving. In offering what one has to others, there is tremendous joy... A genuine spiritual master is trying to help each student find the unique treasure that exists within him or herself. As I travel around, give lectures and write books, I simply feel that I am being who I am, and that is something Sri Chinmoy has taught me. I don't see him copying other people. I see him being very original and coming from his own heart. That's what I'm trying to do, and his inspiration helps me to do that."