A Discussion With Manatita on Spiritual Philosophy - Part 9
A seeker’s life embodies two supreme realities: his conscious, constant and soulful self-giving prayer and his loving, devoted and unreserved God-becoming meditation.— Sri Chinmoy
An Ongoing Adventure
In the eighth part of this spiritual adventure, my Brother, Manatita helped me, and I hope you too, with some questions about the main key to enhancing spiritual progress. In this ninth part, we will continue with some questions about the significance of meditation for the Spiritual life. I hope you'll enjoy it as I did.
Spiritual Adventure, Part 9
Ioannis: Another common question, mainly from people who first time hear about the Spiritual Path, is:
"What is the difference between prayer and meditation?"
Manatita: When I pray, I talk and God listens. When I meditate, God talks and I listen. This is one of the different ways that Guruji uses to explain it.
Prayer is an entreaty. We are asking for something. It can be both verbal and silent.
Meditation is silent expansion of the Heart when the mind is calm, vacant ... silent. Here we feel the vastness of the sky. Guruji describes it like being at the bottom of the sea. There it is all calm ... tranquil ... serene. On top, there may be a multitude of waves, but the sea is silent below.
There are three stages of sadhana (Spiritual practice), focus or concentration, meditation and contemplation. Contemplation is a silent communion with the Divine.
Ioannis: I loved the example with the bottom of the sea! It is so accurate!
I would like to tell us some things about the importance of meditation for the Spiritual Path if you wish.
Manatita: Meditation is essential for the spiritual life. Humans would grow through life's experience, true, but meditation expedites the journey.
First, there is concentration. This is the ability to focus our attention on a single object, to the exclusion of everything else.
Concentration harnesses or gives us the intensity, which - with practice- we learn to utilise later on to calm, quiet and still the mind.
Truly speaking, exercise, singing, breathing, visualisations, chanting, prayer and the like, are only tools to quiet the mind. When the mind is quiet, then the higher experiences can begin.
The descent of the higher forces or Grace, is necessary for the transformation of human nature.
For this, selfless service, gratitude, receptivity and assimilation are necessary. Purity is the life-breath of God ... the inflow and outflow of cosmic energy and Cosmic Light. It is necessary for the higher forces to descend.
In the same way, selfless service expands the Heart and makes us ready for the Divine Grace. God's power or God's Light, enters mostly in a quiet and joyful way, when the mind is calm ... silent, vacant. It may also enter in a very powerful way. So the key is to be fearless, sincere and open to the Light with the Spirit of Surrender.
Do not push or pull; neither should we force or expect but surrender. Finally, God is in His Creation, and so we get nearer to God by serving man, with the Spirit of Love and freedom from expectation.
All this is necessary to enhance our meditative experience.
Meditation is subtle, but generally if one feels contented and happy with creation, he or she is making progress.
The inner and outer life are both God's and go together. So as we make progress, the fears, lust, ego and insecurity, doubt and jealousy... attachments and hatred, will all very slowly disappear. These are the true enemies of progress and not the world.
Jogyata on Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is vastness. It is deep, loving, peaceful ... full of Delight. The deeper we go, the more we love and serve the Supreme in man ... the more we come to realise that this Universe is nothing but God/Consciousness/Spirit.
The last stage is Contemplation which in itself has three stages and is direct communion or oneness with our True Source.
I have not experienced this, but I understand it to last for a few hours or days until such time as one is able to hold on consciously and ceaselessly to the power of God. (GOD REALISATION)
Begin the practice by sitting with the body relaxed and focus on a candle flame. With daily and regular practice, let’s say 20-30 minutes morning and evening, one would gradually improve. Hope this helps.
Ioannis: I know the importance of meditation, I have experienced its "gifts", but I also know that is alien to most Christians or even considered dangerous by some Christian Churches, though it is mentioned in the Bible. I point to one verse in the Bible and a Psalm that discuss meditation:
"Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all." (Timothy 4:15)
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2)
Nevertheless, I have heard an Orthodox priest teaching young people saying:
"Eastern meditation empties the mind. Emptying our mind is actually a very dangerous thing because it gives the enemy room to fill it with his deception."
Now I hope that your explanation will help those with an open mind to understand. I hope and wish. Besides, I believe that the advice of my beloved Paul "pray without ceasing" simulate the last stage of Contemplation which you referred. The constant experience of the Divine in everything we do. What do you think about that?
Manatita: The reverential fear God. It is a positive step, no doubt, but God is always one step ahead. They wish to taste sugar, but not become sugar, hence the idea of an empty mind. This is based on fear.
The drop flowing into the ocean does not lose its individuality but becomes the ocean. In the same way, Grace flows into a mind which is calm, serene, quiet and still.
Receptivity is paramount in the spiritual life. The higher forces cannot enter a turbulent or chaotic mind. For this silence of the mind is necessary.
The Christian saints knew of meditation, but some called it silent or ceaseless prayer. The great Saddhu Sundar Singh described it as an effort to lay hold of God Itself and the famous Desert Father St John Climacus describes it as an alter in the Heart.
Many of the Christian monastics are familiar with the Jesus Prayer and indeed repeated it until it became a prayer without ceasing.
The Desert Fathers and in particular Mark the Hermit and St Climacus, speaks of interior prayer thus:
"First you must observe the following three conditions. You must be free from all cares, not only from vain and unholy cares, but even from good things.
In other words, you should be dead to everything; your conscience should be pure and it should not denounce you in anything.
You should be completely free from passionate attachments; your thoughts should not be inclined toward anything worldly.
Then sit alone in a quiet place, close the door, take your mind from every temporal and vain thing, bow your head towards your chest and stay attentively inside of yourself, not in the head, but in the Heart.
Holding the mind there with your inner eyes, watch your breathing ..."
I have to repeat that the spiritual life is based on inner hunger. Let those who wish to reason, reason. They are God's children, not ours. We say in Yoga that the individual who thinks he knows, is as equally convinced as the one who knows he knows.
Ask them about Grace ... inner experiences ... ask them to describe it to you ... what it feels like. Ask them about God the creation ... of service and you will lose the shallow ones.
Paul said that not him, but Christ lived in him. He also said: “I die daily." Let us try to be like Paul. However, disciple yes, but do not push. Many are meant to be where they are; many are caught in the meshes of Kamini Kanchana -- lust and the desire for material opulence and collections.
So yes. The bible mentions it; the saints mention it. But we need to rise to this level of wisdom and we cannot run faster than Grace. The true contemplatives do only the will of the Father in heaven. They have no will of their own.
End of part 9.
To be continued… (link to part 10)
© 2018 Ioannis Arvanitis