In the most recent such talk, ZMBS spoke about the capture of Radovan Karadzic. For those who don't follow the news... Karadzic was a fugitive, charged with war crimes for supervising the murder of thousands of Muslims during the 1990s Bosnian conflict. When he was finally captured, it turned out that he'd been living under the alias Dr Dragan Dabic, and acting as a meditation teacher and New Age health guru.
There are lots of articles about Karadzic's double-life (follow this link e.g.):
In the past week, the two lives he managed to keep separate for 12 years have been brought together – the Beast of Bosnia, one of Europe's most wanted men, and the mystic healer and zealous Christian, Dr Dragan Dabic.I don't think that Karadzic underwent a conversion experience, changing himself from Butcher to Guru. Rather, I think that both somehow coexisted in this man: the fascination with meditation etc, and the brutal killer. The article linked-to above muses, "Crucially, his new profession gave Karadzic a taste of the God-like power over people's lives which he had been able to wield during his years as a warmonger."
For those who knew Dr Dabic, one question has dominated the past five days: was Karadzic's career as a New Age health guru just an act, or had he become a true believer in the meditation and healing techniques that he wrote and lectured about so passionately?
ZMBS brought up the matter to warn of the dangers of charisma, how we need to be very careful about "following" any teacher, based on his/her skill in talking about meditation. Even a great teacher is like someone with a flashlight. We can make use of what the light reveals, but it's best to avoid faith in the guy who happens to be holding the flashlight.
If Zaradzic could be a successful meditation teacher, and simultaneously be seriously lacking in compassion... it leads me to wonder whether we can consider the simple practice of meditating, per se, as a necessarily beneficial thing. Perhaps the practice itself is not good and not bad; it's a tool, with the effects dependent on the intention we bring to it.
Today while visiting the Guruphiac blog, I followed one of those Google ads on the page to the "Bliss Music" storefront, where they sell CDs touted to bring quick enlightenment:
...after a great spiritual awakening and many years of research into spiritual enlightenment, I found something that can make it easy for you to experience incredible states of peace and bliss, helping you move very quickly into enlightened states of awareness.In my youth, I pursued meditation to get special states and blissful feelings, and may have been part of the target audience for Bliss Music. Now, any sort of meditation practice like this (which feeds "I want to get something" while ignoring doubt and inquiry) feels like an incorrect path.
But I dunno. Maybe even the most dull-witted stab at meditation can be better than nothing. Maybe any attempt to still the mind for any reason is a necessary first step, and stuff like contemplating "What am I? Why am I alive?" can be left to arise in due time. That's how it seemed to work in my own life, anyway.
In short, how important is the technique one uses in meditation, and how much is it all about intention? I'll ramble some more about this next time.