The real purpose of meditation (what the apps don’t tell you)

Some of the truest words in our day are “there’s an app for that”. I recently discovered how comprehensively true this statement was when I searched for the word ‘meditation’ in my app store. In an earlier article, I talked about how meditation is not something you can learn because it is a state of being so imagine my confusion when the search results presented me with a slew of apps claiming to teach me meditation!

There’s every kind of meditation app imaginable – apps with images and sounds of nature, chakra chants, apps claiming to be a brain gym and so on. There’s even specific meditations for your very own trouble areas – generosity in relationships, perhaps? This got me thinking. Actually, more accurately, struggling, to reconcile what I had learnt about classical yogic meditation with these pop-culture offsprings of our ever-enthusiastic market economy. Or was I being too harsh on these apps that actually do serve an important purpose?

Let’s go back to basics to consider again what meditation is. It is part of the yogic system and aims to help a human being transcend his physicality. Not to make humans more calm, stress-free, focused, loving and giving. These are the great benefits of meditation, but they are the sort of side-effects, not the end goal. The end goal of meditation is Self-realisation. I wonder how many of the millions of people who have downloaded meditation apps are aware of this…

The purpose of meditation is to create a space, a division, between your true Self and your thoughts. Meditation involves the heightening of energy and attention. Guided meditations to make you more loving, then, appear to be more akin to psycho-analytical tools than yogic tools.

In my opinion, a lot more can be done by these apps to create the right understanding, context and culture. For one, doesn’t an app keeping track of how much time you have spent on meditation, how that compares with your friends, etc. breed more stress and competition, however subtle? And isn’t that what spirituality is meant to steer you away from? That then appears to be the missing element here – spirituality.

Having said that, I wouldn’t go so far as to relegate all of these apps to the pop-junk  category. For one, listening to chants and mantras is a common way of practicing meditation and apps and videos can be good aids. Secondly, these apps offer a good introduction to the world of meditation for the uninitiated (literally). Practising simple techniques, even if more psychological than transcendental in nature has its own benefits. And finally, if the apps succeed in helping people become more calm and happy if only for some minutes, then I’m not going to stand in the way!

Read also: Meditation 101
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Shruti Bakshi

Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai and holds an MBA (INSEAD) and MPhil in Finance (Cambridge). She is also a certified Hatha yoga instructor. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel ‘From Dior to Dharma’ was released in May 2017.


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