The Cult of Secrecy
Thousands of mantras are available on the internet. And before the internet, in the 1930’s on, there have been hundreds of paperback book with titles like, SECRETS OF TIBETAN BUDDHISM and SECRETS OF TANTRA and SECRETS OF MANTRA YOGA. Starting in the late 1890’s, if not before, there has been a big push to get information on meditation techniques out into the world. This means for the last 100 years or more, you could walk into a bookstore in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and find a book in your own language describing meditation practices from India, Tibet, China and Japan.
In our time, information wants to be free and available everywhere. The knowledge of meditation is especially that way.
In past ages, meditation techniques and mantras were shrouded in a kind of cult of secrecy
, even though they were in the public domain. There were many complex cultural reasons for this. People like knowing secret stuff. It makes you feel special. Until Medieval times, if you knew something, you tried to keep it secret so that your family or guild could exploit the knowledge - craft knowledge was hoarded. They were afraid of competition. The meditation traditions tend to be anchored in the past - that is what a tradition is - and they have institutional memory of the world of several thousand years ago, when a few lighter-skinned males held all the spiritual power and lorded it over everyone else.
Until recently, people wanting to learn even the simplest meditation techniques sometimes had to swear an oath of obedience to a guru and god. For example, Kriya yoga - Link
. Buddha took a very different approach: around 500 B.C. he gave forth “84,000 dharmas” for all the different kinds of people there are, and at the end of his life said, I have held nothing back. "I can die happily. I did not hold one single teaching in a closed hand. Everything that may benefit you I have already given."
In our age, information is everywhere. For over a century, the meditation traditions have been enthusiastically publishing the formerly secret techniques, anything to help people in the world find inner peace. It is as if the gurus of the world held a meeting and declared, “Let our best secrets be shouted from the rooftops. Let anyone come and learn, no matter who they are. If they gain even one molecule of serenity, that may help the world.” Anyone with an internet connection can within seconds locate hundreds of great mantras, breathing techniques, and meditation practices. You could just walk by a coffee shop that has internet, type “mantra yantra pranayama” in a search engine, and find years of reading.
The Usefulness of Individual Coaching
Any sport can be described simply. A sentence describing tennis could read, “Hold the racket and with it, hit the ball over the net into the rectangle on the other side.” For some people, that might be enough instruction. Others might find it useful to have coaching on how to hold the racket, how to swing, what kind of shoes to wear, how to protect your knees, and how to serve. Each of us learns in different ways. Some people are really good at learning meditation on their own, and have invented their own meditation techniques and kept practicing for decades with great results. Others need coaching, from a teacher they resonate with.
What is missing is the human touch, the magic that happens in person-to-person communication, when knowledge is shared. There really are thousands of techniques. Each individual meditator may thrive in just a few of these. How to find the one or two techniques that really suit your individual nature?
The information that is hard to find is that which has always been hard - what works for you? What particular combination of practices, and timing, and style of practice, suits your individual personality, body type and lifestyle.
“…what has perhaps been essential is not keeping itself, but rather maintaining a cult of secrecy, that is, the notion that there is a secret being kept, and that that secret is so very powerful . . .” David Gordon WhiteKiss of the Yoginī: "Tantric Sex" in Its South Asian Contexts (google books link)Kiss of the Yoginī: "Tantric Sex" in Its South Asian Contexts (google books link)
By David Gordon White