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[dropcap_1]R[/dropcap_1]am’s father was a Sindhi from Hyderabad, northern India, his mother an Armenian from Cairo. They met in Egypt in the late 1940’s, spoke 9 languages and had diverse interests in devotional practices, yogic philosophy and the common design behind all spiritual pursuits. His great grandfather was a pearl fisher and reputedly expert in pranayama. Ram inherited from an early age a keen interest in yoga practice and in the philosophies and practices of the truth seekers of all religions and cultures. [dropcap_1]A[/dropcap_1]s a result of these early influences Ram has a vast experience of yoga asana and pranayama, a diverse repertoire of qigong forms from different traditions as well as a over twenty five years of practical experience of the Yang style tai chi long form the Wu style short form and the eight palm changes of ba gua circle walking from two separate traditional styles.
He has been certified by Master B.K. Frantzis as a teacher of various qigong forms, breathing and ba gua circle walking for health and meditation.[pull_quote_left]”One of the striking things Ram brings to his method is the ability to set the tone, to energise participants in the environment, to tune them in to the work, the form, the process. He brings the maximum support to each individual’s work, it really feels like one mind. “[/pull_quote_left]
Following Good health, right practice, living a harmonious life, these are some of the benefits of practicing Tao meditation with Ram. Tao meditation practices bring his diverse experience in meditation to its maximum potential. He began developing concentration through pranayama and meditation in the 1970s. He is widely practiced and expert in many aspects of Zazen and taught qigong for 6 years in the Zen Dojo of Lyon.
For over 15 years he has studied in depth the Abhidhamma and Visudhimagga while practicing the associated meditations on retreat and in private practice. He has studied many Dzogchen texts and undertaken practice with his teachers. He has an experience based capacity to reconcile the different meditation traditions which is natural and non contentious. [image_right_link src=”http://taomeditation.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/IMG_1377-Version-3-e1396171942139.jpg”[/image_right_link]
Ram writes: “My father was a mystery to me, as are many fathers to young children. I was accustomed to seeing him sit quietly, clearly present, but not doing anything in particular except sitting silently still.
When I was still a young boy of 11 years old, a friend of the family shared a meditation with me. I understood then, on that introduction, instinctively, what meditation is. It felt natural to me and instantly provided me with an indescribable knowing that was beyond anything an eleven year old might be considered to ordinarily know.
I couldn’t explain it then and as the years of exploration, study and practice have developed, I learned that no one can explain it. All that a teacher of meditation can do is point out to the aspirant, set out the right conditions.
[h2]Experience Seeks Us as We Seek It[/h2]
From that first introduction to meditation I began to gather experience in many different meditation traditions. In 1974 I was introduced to Dadi Janki, one of the founder members of the Brahma Kumari on her first visit to Europe. Dadi Janki taught me a very simple method, very direct. A gift whose value grew over the years.
While at college and university during the 1970’s I practiced a new type of meditation where i sought to develop concentration based on taking an object, not wavering from that object. Through a student and follower of G.I.Gurdjieff, I was then introduced to a complementary practice of observation. Observing the self, or just being the observer. “Be the observer” my friend would say. “Take the line of least resistance.”
These practices of concentration and observation were a very different approach from what I had learnt with Dadi Janki, yet behind them there was a flavour I recognised. The concentration method had come from India and was introduced to me by a student of Mouni Sadhu. Developing concentration was more challenging and required more effort, but I was young and determined to sample the benefits. Many years later I learnt that Mouni Sadhu had met with and learnt from Ramana Maharshi of Arunachala, one of India’s most famous sages of the last hundred years. By now I was seeing a thread emerging.
Ramana Maharshi’s method, the method of self inquiry or the ‘vichara’ is based in Hindu Vedanta. The essence which that technique urges us to realise is the same essence all the traditions speak of. It took me many years to realise this directly this simplicity and then to nurture that glimpse.
[h2]Zazen, The Simplest Expression of Enlightened Awareness[/h2]
Unwittingly, I was practicing just that through my efforts to ‘be the observer’ when in the 1980’s I was introduced to zazen by a martial arts teacher, now a highly regarded jiu jitsu master. Zazen seemed to combine the methods I had practiced so far, the simplicity of the method of Dadi Janki and the application and determination of Mouni Sadhu’s method with the flavour of the observer sitting in the background. The zazen I practiced was hard and soft and this sat very well with me although in my early years I had too much effort and attainment based practice. I wished to arrive somewhere and this has served me well as an example of what not to do.
There was one further element that fascinated and touched me as soon as i was introduced to zazen: it was clear to me that there is something else beside what is seen and believed and this something is indescribable.
I set about practicing what my teacher suggested: sit and take part in the universal activity. Watch the breath until you can sit for 1 minute, then 2, then 3 and so on until you can sit without your mind straying from your breath for a single moment. I continued a results-based practice, trying to get somewhere else with my mind, beyond just stopping, beyond just concentration, seeking the other indescribable nature or dimension of being that is the source of all phenomena and the source of happiness and healing.
[h2]Ordinary People, Remarkable Mystics[/h2]
It took me many years to see this dimension. This essence cannot be created. In 1983 I met and studied with the ninth Khyongla Rinpoche. Khyongla was introduced to me as the ‘blue jean Rinpoche’. I learnt that he got this name because he often taught in jeans – as he did when I met him. He lived and worked in New York, a long way from the thirty years or so he spent as a monk in Tibet. I was fascinated to learn that a holy man could be happy as a bell boy in an apartment store. As time passed, the teachings of this noble monk fruited in me. In the same way that a few words of advice from a parent eventually begin to make sense, so the teachings of Khyongla became increasingly clear to me.
Meditation at its highest most efficient level is rather like the zero field of modern physics. You can talk about it all you want, but it can’t be seen or measured. If you can get to that no place that is everywhere, you understand the mystery of all life, all phenomena and all spiritual and non spiritual teachings and traditions. The difficulty is that there are countless ways to get to that point and that is why all the different traditions exist. Each one is a pathway, a route to some place that we have in our mind, in our heart and we may describe that place as some thing or some need. In the meantime, the most important thing is to have an idea of what to do and know how to pass your time happily and harmlessly until you arrive.
Thus I lived and thus I continue to live: doing what has to be done, enjoying what there is to enjoy while waiting for the moment when it all makes sense. And then waiting for another such moment and then another until there is no pause because even the pause is part of it.
[h2]The Astonishing Power of Softness[/h2]
While i was processing Khyongla’s teachings and continuing to practice my various meditations, I met up with a modern Taoist, the master B.K. Frantzis. Now, in the 21st century, he has become a famous master. Then, when we first met, he was less well known. Over the next 15 years I learned a different type of meditation with him, a different approach and a different way to meditate. Once again, the previous foundations that I had practiced served very well. Already with nearly twenty years of practice, by the time I met B.K. Frantzis I was able to easily follow and understand the instructions, see clearly their impact and introduce what was for me the most powerful ingredient: softness.
Softness of mind, softness of body. In 1998 having gained considerable experience in different stages of Taoist meditation and internal alchemy, I met a young man called Burgs who had just returned from Indonesia where he had been learning meditation with Merta Ada, a famous Balinese meditation master. Later, he went to Burma and studied with Pa Auk Sayadaw. Burgs was in the process of developing his meditation and during those ten years or so I witnessed his progress until all 40 of the Buddha’s meditations were completed with a level of expertise that I had the good fortune to witness, to participate in and to benefit from.
Together, we hosted meditation retreats at my family home in Sussex. Burgs shared much with me, continuing the process of deepening my understanding and practice of meditation specifically now in relation to the Theravadan tradition. I continued to work with B.K. Frantzis and, fortuitously, while in America in 2008 I met and spent time with Tibetan teachers again – notably with Wangdor Rinpoche and Langtrul Rinpoche.
With Wangdor I made a very strong connection. His was in many ways the last tap that cracked the egg open. As I sat with him in among an audience of a few dozen Californians, I silently wept as I chanted the Paritta under my breath. It was a suggestion that a bridge was finally being built between all these traditions and methods I had pursued and practiced for over thirty years. Wangdor’s lineage holder Yeshe Katyub teaches groups at our retreat centre in France. She is a remarkable teacher and a remarkable woman who I am blessed to count among my teachers. She brings Dzogchen exactly where it is most needed – right into the middle of daily life. That is exactly where meditation is, it is not separate form life.
I had moved to France in 2003 to allow pieces of the puzzle to just fall together. This website, this answer to this question how do i meditate, it is the result of that inquiry. How do I put it all together? The inquiry I made has not been quick and it has not always been easy. It evolved in part due to the insistence of two people: Phil Simpson in England and Sylvain Ladogana in France. In their own ways they ensured that I did not just hide away and write as i wished to. They organised workshops for me, they were keen to learn what I was learning and what I had learned. Between us we witnessed as our groups of students grew and they were from many different countries. By 2012, I felt and said to my students that I had taught them all I could teach them – and I tried to slip away one more time.
Circumstances conspire either to obstruct or deliver. Again they have conspired to bring this remarkable body of work and experience to an unknown audience. An audience that has asked one basic question at least: how do i meditate?.
[h2]Untold Parts of the Story: Opening the Heart[/h2]
I will mention another time the years I spent studying with two students of don Juan Matus and with Victor Sanchez, with Ken Eagle Feather, with Brooke Medicine Eagle and various other medicine teachers and shamans from the Americas – in particular Mexico. These experiences opened my heart, fused strategy with wisdom, method with abandon. I learned how to be happy by swimming or standing on a hill, even while travelling on a crowded train. Faithful to the enormous potential of the meditations of what is known as indigenous cultures,I continue to offer powerful shamanic encounters which go a considerable way to bringing it all together.
Sharing with you my experience, it is my wish that you avoid some of the difficulties that everyone who is seeking freedom encounters. In a moment of experience you can glimpse freedom.
It is a great privilege to be in a position where people have asked me questions about being, energy, emotions and mind and to be able to answer without being bound by learning alone, without being bound to a single tradition’s parameters and demands.
Over the many years I have been teaching, since I was teenager, the answer to questions become more and more simple. The answer is in the practice and the process you will find here. To learn to relax and to let go. To be innocent and natural. Learn to let go of ambitions. Then and only then will what you truly wish for become apparent and manifest. But, if you cannot let them go, just let them be. You need a certain amount of ambition to meditate. So use your ambition to get somewhere. That somewhere is here, now, in this body, in this moment, in this country, in front of this computer. Wherever, seize the moment.
Each step and every instruction has been carefully considered and presented. Each step, every instruction is presented on the basis of years of experience. As you respond to your experience in the lessons, so I hope that you will be able to support yourself and adapt your needs so that all that is necessary is that which is truly useful to your awakening.
May the generosity of my teachers serve you well and may you be successful.”
1958 Ram Chatlani born of Rewachand Chatlani of Hyderabad [Sindh] and Lucienne Oghia Bey of Cairo.
1966: Began study of hatha yoga
1969: First introduction to meditation
1972 Began coaching football and rugby to under 12′s
1974: Met Dadi Janki
1975: Introduced to self observation
1974: Began to study concentration meditation and pranayama
1981: Began practice of Zazen
1983: Met Khyongla Rinpoche
1984: Began to give yoga lessons
1990: Met B.K. Frantzis, began study of Taoist meditation, chi gung [qigong] tai chi chuan and ba gua
1994: Began teaching meditation and other courses
1998: Met Burgs, began practice and study of abhidhamma method
1999: Hosted Burgs’s first meditation retreat, teaching chi gung. Continue until move to France.
2000 Certified to teach chi gung and Taoist breathing practices by BK Frantzis
2004 Began offering retreats in France
2004 Open the tatatao school later to be based in the zen dojo of lyon, france
2005 Devised and began teaching the ‘hundred days of wisdom’ an international group study that endures for 6 years.
2008: Met Wangdor Rinpoche
2010: Lama Lena Yeshe Katyub teaches at Tourne.
Ram Currently lives in France at his retreat centre with his life long partner and wife Paula (Sakinda Chatlani) and their son Jiva. The centre at Tourne in the midi-Pyrenees hosts workshops and retreats in different disciplines and traditions.