The word “holistic” is used a lot. It’s a fashionable term, but it sounds so very abstract and vague. Does that word have a precise, practical meaning?
In terms of Consciousness-Based education, yes. A holistic experience is an integrated expression of parts in terms of wholeness. I’ll use music to give a concrete illustration of this principle:
If you’ve ever performed in a band, orchestra, or choir, you’ve learned about blending: All the musicians need to come together to create a well-blended, balanced whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. How do the musicians achieve that?
For me, the powerful implications of this dawned on me in college one day, when our choral director told us, “If you can only hear yourself sing, you’re too loud. If you can only hear the others sing, you’re too soft. You must be able to hear both simultaneously!”
That’s trickier than it might seem, especially when your part is difficult, and it took a bit of practice to accomplish that on a consistent basis. But then one day, it happened for all of us, and everybody knew it. The singing felt easy, and our choir sounded more wonderful than we ever thought possible. This is an example of holistic functioning: We cultured the ability to focus on our own parts while maintaining awareness of the whole group, thus creating a harmonious expression of parts in terms of a greater wholeness.
This is a primary principle of Maharishi’s Consciousness-Based approach to life. The powerful experience of well-being and joy that such moments of wholeness can create, are an indication of being “in tune” with the underlying basis and goal of life, which is the integrated expression of parts in terms of wholeness. This is expounded upon in many Vedic texts, such as the Rig Veda:
Sam gachchhadhvam sam vadadhvam sam vo manamsi janatam deva bhagam yatha purve sanjanana upasate
samano mantra samiti samani samanam mana saha chittamesham samanam mantramabhi mantraye va samanena vo havisha juhomi
samani va akuti samana hridayani va samanam astu vo mano yatha va susahasati
Go together, speak together, know your minds to be functioning together from a common source, in the same manner as the impulses of creative intelligence, in the beginning, remain together united near the source.
Integrated is the expression of knowledge, an assembly is significant in unity, united are their minds while full of desires. For you I make use of the integrated expression of knowledge. By virtue of unitedness and by means of that which remains to be united, I perform action to generate wholeness of life.
United be your purpose, harmonious be your feelings, collected be your mind, in the same way as all the various aspects of the universe exist in togetherness, wholeness.
—Rk Veda 10.191.2-4