Hinduism and Taoism on Contemplation and Meditation

Contemplation and meditation are a universal phenomenon.  We see them taught and encouraged in spiritual traditions the world over.  Clearly slowing down and being fully present, making silence and being in silence, are an integral part of what it means to be a human being. 

Let us consider some teachings from Hinduism.  Siddheswarananda, a respected Hindu teacher, says that 

concentration is, therefore, the first step in all meditation. As soon as our concentration becomes effective, we begin to realize that sense of harmony that exists between the subject and the object. 

Meditation brings about transformation. 

During the course of meditation, we incidentally aim at the renovation of our entire being, and the more profound our concentration upon our ideal the more rapid will our transformation be. 

When we meditate, we still the thinking process and learn deep listening.

B. K. S. Iyengar, in his book Light on Yoga, also emphasizes the importance of concentrating. 

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, 2004. Photo by Mutt Lunker. From Wikimedia Commons.

Without concentration one can master nothing. Without concentration on Divinity, which shapes and controls the universe, one cannot unlock the Divinity within oneself or become a universal man.

Meditation is about freedom—freedom from thoughts.

[A kind of ]mindlessness ensues that is a far cry from lunacy or idiocy but a conscious state of the mind where it is free from thoughts and desires.

The name Brahman has a dual etymology in Sanskrit: “Great (brih) Breath (br).” Thus the connection between breathing and God-work is ancient in Hinduism.

Just as “Spirit” in Latin means breath, so too “Prana” in Sanskrit means spirit, breath, elan, chi, vitality, vital force, energy, or strength.

Lao Tsu, the legendary author of the Tao te Ching. From Wikimedia Commons.

One of the manifestations of prana, life force, in the human body is breathing. Pranayama works with the breath in order to increase prana, life force. There is an intimate relationship between thought and breath.

When you calm your breathing, there is simultaneous calming of the mind. “Breathing is connected with letting go.” 

The Tao Te Ching also instructs in meditation.

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

Notice that a “return to the source” is common to all beings, humans and all others.  And that way lies serenity.

Looking within. Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

Taoist teacher Ly Ching Yuen writes

To know Tao
and still the mind.
Knowledge comes with perseverance….
When enlightenment arrives
don’t talk too much about it;
just live it in your own way.

Stilling the mind is key. “Be still and learn that I am God” says the Scriptures.  Notice too the admonition not to talk too much about the insights and enlightenment that results from stilling the mind.  It is good to turn things over quietly in one’s heart as Mary did.  Spirituality is not about bragging, nor about competing.  It is about developing some inner peace that nourishes our living without a why. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 201, 205. 

Banner Image: Stillness in reflection. Photographer unknown. On Pexels via Pixabay.

Do these Taoist and Hindu teachings compliment and supplement your own experience in meditation or contemplation?  Can you agree that Contemplation is part of what makes us human?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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8 thoughts on “Hinduism and Taoism on Contemplation and Meditation”

  1. Avatar

    Good Morning – I had a hard time understanding the Hafiz quote at the end of Matthew’s video. I played it many times and decided to google it. I could not find the poem when I searched Hafiz. I googled the first line and discovered this poem by Rumi – that I think may be what he meant to share.

    Let go of your worries
    and be completely clear-hearted,
    like the face of a mirror
    that contains no images.
    If you want a clear mirror,
    behold yourself
    and see the shameless truth,
    which the mirror reflects.
    If metal can be polished
    to a mirror-like finish,
    what polishing might the mirror
    of the heart require?
    Between the mirror and the heart
    is this single difference:
    the heart conceals secrets,
    while the mirror does not.
    The Divani Shamsi Tabriz, XIII

    1. Avatar

      Really enjoying the “poetry” (just discovered i don’t know what to call Tabriz’s words) but, i’m sitting with it as a heading on a blank page in my Journal app polishing or being polished…thank you for sharing.

      1. Carol Kilby

        Hi Larry. Love your question: “what to call Tabriz’s words?” Wisdom? Invitation? Guidance? Universal Truths? Gift! Sounds like they may be all of the above on this day. Carol Kilby for DMTeam.

  2. Carol Kilby

    Kathleen, how wonderful to see the poem written out like this. Thank you. This series on contemplation and meditation is very challenging. Obviously, you are valuing it.
    I was struck by Matt’s reference to the mirror empty of images. It reminded me of Meister Eckhart’s prayer, God, rid me of God which is to go further even than the Hindu texts that send us back to God. But it powerful to place our journey of spirit in universal wisdom.
    I am excited to read the poem’s inference to polishing the heart. It’s an image I’ve always loved.
    Thank you again for the text of the Sufi poem.
    Carol Kilby for DMTeam.

  3. Avatar

    You are right that this was from Rumi and not Hafiz. Turns out I discovered we had no video for today’s dm at 10:30 pm last night and I had had a long day. And the Rumi and Hafiz poems were on the same page in my “One River, Many Wells” book. So I mixed them up. Sorry about that.
    I’m glad you are so keen on tracing down the sources! A good student indeed. My bad. BUT the upcoming videos (I did 3 last night) ARE from Hafiz. Guaranteed! I got more awake as time went on and I did two more videos…..All the footnotes and references for such quotes are in my “One River, Many Wells” book so that should make it easier for your research in the future.

    1. Avatar

      I hope that you know how much these daily meditations mean to me and to so many others. It is a pleasure to see and hear you each day. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your own work and that of others.

  4. Avatar

    I disagree with the opinion of Ly Ching Yuen not to talk about the subject of enlightenment. See the book POWER VS. FORCE, Page 137, by one of the greatest mystics ever, David R. Hawkins, where Hawkins talks about Morphogenetic Fields or M-Fields. Rupert Sheldrack, in my opinion, gave Us a very possible aspect of Our reality to think about, and We can come to Our own individual mystical conclusions about the truth or falsehood of M-Fields. We have to talk objectively about enlightenment to create a high powered M-field that manifests more Universal Enlightenment. I will be writing about this in a blog post soon on my blog words-are-traps.blog. With spiritual writers talking about the subject of enlightenment and their own mystical experiences We create the M-Field for a much more enlightened society. With what are called “spiritual egos” dying among spiritual writers and the truly serious ones who are not bound by monetary desires discussing openly, even in a forum about their mystical experiences -everybody has to be there – We can create a very powerful high level M-Field which will bring about a much more enlightened society that reaches close to the description of unconditional love on the Hawkins Map of Consciousness.

    1. Carol Kilby

      Gary, your summary statement, “words are traps,” sounds like something a modern mystic might say.

      Carol Kilby for DMMTeam

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