History of Z Meditation in the words of Ajay Kapoor
It was in 1980 when I was 17 years old, I took an unconscious step in my life that completely revolutionized my entire thinking in due course. Apparently, it was a very unexciting step. I went to the college and got myself enrolled at the Delhi University Library being run by a spiritual-social organization, Ramakrishna Mission, in New Delhi. Ramakrishna Mission is till date one of the best things that have happened to India in the last one hundred years. They have changed the traditional views of spirituality and brought in new life to the entire religious perspective.
When I started going to Ramakrishna Mission (now that I am reminiscing, my hair are standing on their ends), I could not have gauged the life-changing consequences of my association with them. Besides my studies of Physics at the Mission library, I used to attend spiritual discourses there. They were on various aspects of spirituality. These discourses and the spiritual books gave me a very refreshing perspective on life. I realized that I didn’t need to chase things and people like others. My goals were different from them. I started appreciating the Inner Freedom more than anything else. The understanding deepened further when I got initiated into a very sacred Mantra by my revered teacher Swami Vireshwarananda. The formal practice of meditation began now.
For the first four years, the meditation was not very deep. My teacher used to live in Calcutta and he visited Delhi only once a year. There used to be so many people around him that I did not ever get any opportunity for one-to-one consultation. I was also shy by temperament. So the initial meditation-practice years were spent without any systematic guidance.
At that time, I was also under the influence of a spiritual mentor in Delhi. He advised me not to meditate for more than ten minutes at a time. Similar ideas were prevalent in the Ramakrishna community of Delhi. Deep meditation was not a priority for most of the visitors there. This had some delaying effect upon my spiritual progress. But I was studying the literature of Ramakrishna Mission regularly and had developed a deep fondness for Shri Ramakrishna and company. I used to consider him a divine incarnation who had come to this world to put new vigour into the decaying spirituality.
A very important event took place in 1985. As I said, I was already profoundly involved in the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. I was sincerely inspired by his spiritual experiences. In that year, a youth convention took place at the headquarters of the Mission in Calcutta. I participated and this became a watershed experience of my life. Not so much the convention itself; it was rather the city of Calcutta and the places associated with the life of Sri Ramakrishna and his spiritual associates that brought about a huge shift in my consciousness. I cannot explain it in words. The places were so powerful that I was helplessly crying out of purest joy all the time. I was also inspired by the community of Calcutta. Over there, many of them used to meditate for one to two hours at a time. I also followed them and increased my time to one hour at a time, thrice a day. Now the intricacies of meditation started to unravel. I came back to Delhi after the convention and within a few days, the time of sitting increased to two hours at a time, twice a day. As I kept on practicing hard – and in between I visited Calcutta again for deepening the practice – within six months I was sitting for ten hours a day in two sittings. I was, by now, thoroughly enjoying my meditation sittings. I used to get many beautiful insights. This continued for many years.
I now understand that even beginners must sit for at least one hour at a stretch if they have to have some deepening in meditation. Otherwise, they may just remain lost in the restlessness of the mind, most of the time. The mind is a tricky business. Most of the meditators I have seen, hardly enjoy their meditation practice. They do the work just as a boring and difficult routine. Their minds remain restless most of the time. They normally don’t have tools and even inclination to bring about inner peace. I understand that one must have a good meditation teacher who has seen the entire route. He can, with his expertise, bring about subtle adjustments. This is essential to deepen and stabilize the meditative practice of the students.
For a living, I was trying my hands at various things. But I did not like doing anything mundane. Whatever would bring me out of peace, I used to give up. This went on for many years. I worked in the Ministry of External Affairs for some time, but it was not at all for me. Then I tried doing an export business, and this was also against my temperament.
In 1995, I found my spiritual partner in Suruchi and we got married. She was also from the Ramakrishna community. She started practicing with me and within no time, she made great progress in mental cleansing. She would also sit with me for hours together. We went for a spiritual pilgrimage in India for one full year in 1996. We visited several great places that have perhaps the strongest meditative vibrations in India. When you go to these places, you don’t have to do much effort to quieten your mind. For those who are interested, I would highly recommend the two caves at Tiruvannamalai where Ramana used to meditate, the shrine of the Ramakrishna Mission in New Delhi and Calcutta, the house of Balaram Babu in Calcutta, the old house of the Holy Mother at Jayarambati near Calcutta, Vrindavan and the banks of the Ganges at Rishikesh. When you meditate at a truly spiritual place where many saints have practiced already, you get the benefit of the place also. The whole environment in these places is spiritually charged. Your practice deepens significantly there.
Coming back from the pilgrimage, both of us decided that we would not live in Delhi as we wanted to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the meditation practice. We decided to move to Dharamsala which is a very beautiful town in the Himalayas. There are hardly any spiritual vibrations there, but the weather, the nature and the quietness of the place made us pack our bags and move to this little town.
By this time, it was already about fifteen years that I was practicing and I had got some wonderful insights about the meditation procedure. I had very vividly understood the whole process of conquering the mind and the obstacles that most meditators face on the way. There are some unconscious flaws in the general meditation practice all over the world. I also knew that if these problems were not detected and removed, a meditator would only struggle while practicing. He would hardly get the experience of the blissful eternal awareness – and meditation is all about this experience and making it stable in one’s life.
After travelling for one full year, all our savings were finished and therefore there was also this question of survival. We thought that as there was a big problem of unemployment in the area, we could teach the young people the management principles. We started a management course with a job guarantee! Even today we feel that there could not be anything better for the place. Suruchi had worked in many multinational advertising companies in Delhi and our team of two was well equipped for this work. We started doing the publicity campaigns. We tried our level best for a few months, but not even a single inquiry came! Nobody came even to ask what we were doing and why we were there in the town.
And whatever little money we were left with also finished! We were now facing the prospect of going back to Delhi and it was a challenge for us both. We wanted to try our best for staying there as our meditation practice was going on very well. One day, Suruchi came up with an idea. She asked me, “Why don’t you start teaching meditation? I feel that people will benefit a lot from your experience.” Initially, it was like a shock for me. How could I teach meditation? In Ramakrishna Mission, we were told that we should not teach meditation. There are many risks involved – one could fall into the ego trap; one could become greedy; one could forget about one’s own practice and so on. I resisted the whole idea in the beginning. However the thinking on its possibility had already started.
I know that whatever challenges I face in life, the best solutions I get are on my meditation seat. When I finish the meditation, then with a crystal clear mind, I contemplate on the problem and come out with the real-clarity solutions. These solutions are flawless every time. So it happened with this issue also. As I meditated and threw the light of understanding upon it, I realized that my fears were actually unfounded and based on thoughtlessness. If there were risks involved, so be it. And these meditation risks are like the problems that all of us face every day; especially the meditators. Who cannot fall into the trap of ego and who is immune to greed and forgetfulness? These are not the risks. In reality, these are the challenges for a meditator. If I could not take up this challenge, who was better equipped than me to do it? I had realized in the past years through meditation that it was just not a routine exercise. It needed to be integrated with one’s daily life. The true practice needed to give results not only on the meditation seat, but also when one was occupied with one’s real life.
One day, after my morning meditation, I asked Suruchi to get something to write. In one hour, we designed the first Z Meditation course. It was to be a silent residential course and as we did not have enough accommodation, we decided to rent rooms in guest houses for our students.
We put some signs in Mcleodganj which is a tourist place near Dharamsala. His holiness the Dalai Lama lives in this town. These were very basic hand-written signs. We did not believe in doing big publicity for what we were offering. The idea was that those who really deserved us and needed us would surely come to us. In the first month, we had only twelve students in four courses. We used to have one course of five days every week. In the second month, there were fourteen students in total. The groups were small, but we were getting quality students who really benefitted from the retreats. Most of them got a refreshing perspective on life and said that their lives changed after doing the course. When we see the students growing, that is one luxury of joy which we still cherish. And then the miracle happened – from the third month onwards, we had long waiting lists of people who wanted to do our retreats. It picked up like wild fire. The whole town was abuzz with the stories of Z Meditation students – how their lives changed doing these retreats. We were also very happy that finally, we had gotten into our true vocation, our real dharma – the one thing we were truly made for.
After 1997, our first year of teaching, there was constant growth in the retreat structure and the technique also. We learnt a lot from our students. They kept us on our toes most of the time. The changes in the course structure went on for four years and then it got stabilized. We were basically concentrating on Deep Inquiry and Radiant Mantras to bring about lasting changes in the mindset of the students. It was such a powerful technique that even the beginners could get intense benefits from the retreats. The advanced practitioners also gained a lot by integrating the technique and the principles in their own practices.
We have never had a student who told us that the retreat was not beneficial for him/her. One reason for this to happen was that we were selective in taking the students. We used to give them some meditation exercises before joining. Many of them got filtered through this process. Those who remained gave us our best days of our life! We can also say that we gave them their best days of life!
We are grateful to our students who have walked with us on this sublime path and who have dared to challenge certain hackneyed systems of the society.
It is already twenty years and there have been thousands of students who have done these meditation courses with us. We have thoroughly enjoyed practicing and teaching and we feel that we can do it until the last day of our lives – Living Z Meditation.