Why you should care
Because enlightenment is easier when you can make a game of it.
Punit Om was crossing a quiet lane in Bengaluru, India, when an elderly man holding many bags on the back of a two-person scooter suddenly lost a slipper. The driver slowed but was unable to stop mid-traffic. Watching the dilemma unfold, Punit grabbed the slipper and slid it back onto the man’s foot. Astonished by the stranger’s help, the man bestowed a heartfelt blessing on Punit.
This story is one of many inspired by the random acts of kindness (RAK) feature on Black Lotus, a meditation app that calls itself a “global peace movement.”
With features that also include guided and music-accompanied meditations and mantra chanting, the app is one of a few offering live meditation where you can join thousands of others in a global consciousness-focusing session. There’s also a progress monitor — a gamified “path” — where you can chart your personal path to becoming a better human. And if a game is what it takes to find greater purpose, then why not?
Launched in December 2017, Black Lotus is the brainchild of Himalayan mystic Om Swami. The app’s name comes from two key concepts: the color black, which has the ability to absorb all other colors, and the lotus, a flower that is planted in mud but grows above it. Before Swami created an app to encourage goodness and global peace through meditation, the self-made software millionaire renounced his wealth to walk the path of self-realization.
Which he found in the way of a small, but significant, sensation. “When you are in a body, a tiny pinprick will draw attention to that point,” he says. This inspired him to think that if multiple people, each acting as “a cell in the universal body,” were focused on a particular point — say world peace — the greater the odds that it can be achieved, he explains. The optimum number of simultaneous meditations that can forge this change in the world? “Nine million,” he says — a number Swami attributes to a calculation made by physicists. (Full explanation here.)
Disembark at the exalted “siddha” state where you have morphed into an embodiment of love and truth.
Which is a lot to wrap your head around, but many engaged users are giving it a shot. Since its launch, the Black Lotus global community has logged more than 40,000 hours of meditation, 20,000 hours of chanting and 46,000 random acts of kindness — or “kindfulness,” a term that merges kindness and mindfulness, coined by Australian Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm.
Nandine Srinivas, an international sales manager from Bengaluru, has used Black Lotus almost daily for six months and is a fan of the chanting and meditation features. “It’s a beautiful concept where I can connect with Swami’s guidance wherever I am,” she explains. Recently she began recording RAKs and noticed a difference. “My acts of kindness register deep within me, and I feel I am on the right track,” she says.
Another key feature of Black Lotus is “The Path” to enlightenment, a place to track your transformation. Like the New York PATH rail system, this path takes you on a ride but offers far more exciting stops than 33rd Street. Start your journey at an eager “novice” station, make a “yogi” pit stop and disembark at the exalted “siddha” state, where you have morphed into an embodiment of love and truth.
Sure, gamifying your way to enlightenment might not be for everyone, but this framework for a joyful life is also what sets it apart from meditation apps like Headspace and Calm. Achieving a greater sense of purpose through RAKs is another unique feature. Like Soulvana, Black Lotus also offers live meditations; however, Soulvana’s live events are more frequent, though on a much smaller scale.
To be sure, there are some features that could be improved, according to Kotaro Aoki from Tokyo, who has been using the free app for three months. He finds it user-friendly, but he’d like to better understand “which chanting has which effect.” He’d also appreciate having a RAK checklist with space to note specific actions like “I did this good thing today or I did this bad thing today to someone” — to document how spiritual practice results in actual practice.
What’s next for Black Lotus? “The app will soon have little to do with me,” Swami explains, adding that there will be multiple communities and mentors to follow. He’d like to see the app become “the internet of kindness,” where people can reach out for support from someone who has achieved the yogi level or beyond — a kind of “Headspace meets Facebook meets Tinder.” A fee structure may be associated with that, but the basic version will remain free.
“It’s that connectivity with kind people that is going to make this world a better place,” Swami says. With fake news, negative trends and trolling on the rise, we’ll take as many concentrated efforts toward truth and compassion as we can get.