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.
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.
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.
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