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What Is a Guru Meditation?

By Andy Hill
Updated May 16, 2024
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A guru meditation is a message that is displayed in a similar manner to the "blue screen of death" on computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems when the computer crashes. The original guru meditation message was synonymous with early Commodore Amiga personal computers. The error message can also occur when using the WinAMP application and unofficial applications running on Nintendo’s DS handheld gaming system.

This unusually named error type originated during development of the Commodore Amiga computers. An inventive control peripheral device was developed along with the Amiga systems, known as the Joyboard. The Joyboard worked with the gamer controlling onscreen actions using feet as opposed to the more traditional joystick or joypad method of control. As a method of relaxing, Amiga developers invented a game whereby one person sat cross-legged on the Joyboard and adopted a stereotypical Indian meditation position. Any movement sensed by the Joyboard would result in an on-screen message reporting that the person's turn had ended as a "guru meditation error" had occurred.

This unwelcome message is displayed on a black background with red text enclosed within a red rectangular box. If the error is easily recoverable, the text and rectangle can appear in a light green color. The warning system was developed in such a way that the message could be displayed even if the system’s critical resources had been fatally corrupted. Guru meditation errors display reference codes in two parts separated by a period. These reference codes identify the error types, structure locations, memory block addresses, or in the case of unknown crash sources, the code 48454C50; this code spells the word "HELP" in American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) hexadecimal code.

Later Amiga operating system versions expanded on the guru meditation system by converting the error codes into text. This meant that users without the required technical knowledge to interpret the error codes previously could now see what had caused the system crash. From Amiga operating system version 4.0 onward, the user was able to select an option to terminate an active task that was causing the exception to occur. These types of errors are also known to occur when selecting certain custom skins in the Microsoft Windows-based media player, WinAMP, and also in the Nintendo DS organizer program, DSOrganize. When the error occurs in DSOrganize, the guru meditation is usually as a result of file system errors, which can be corrected using disk-check applications.

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Discussion Comments
By Charred — On Sep 11, 2011

@hamje32 - I totally agree. I confess to being one of those people you talked about. I arrived at this article because I wanted to find out more information about guided meditation techniques. An error message on an obsolete computer system from the 1980s was not on the top of my mind.

Nonetheless, it is interesting. I think people who build computers and software like to work as well as play; this is just an example of their “play” seeping into their work. There’s no harm done in my opinion.

By hamje32 — On Sep 10, 2011

I never owned the Amiga. However, this has got to be one of the weirdest names for an error message that has ever been invented.

I guarantee you that the zillions of people doing a search on the Internet for “guru meditation” are not expecting to receive results listings of the Amiga guru meditation.

I’m sure they’ll get what they expected to find too, namely how to do Indian style meditation the way the gurus do it.

Nonetheless, while we are on the subject of naming conventions, both the term guru mediation and blue screen of death have one thing in common – they are ominous names for error messages.

I think they reveal more about the inventors of the computers than they do about the error messages themselves.

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