DEVOTIONAL & NONDEVOTIONAL
RELIGIOUS & NONRELIGIOUS
The above diagram will help us to understand more clearly the following discussion concerning choosing and working with an object of concentration for our meditation. In the previous chapter we discussed how the Logos is the means by which the unmanifest becomes manifest. We can see from the above diagram that this happens basically through two channels; through the channels of sound and of light. Following the channel of sound as means of expression for the universal consciousness, the basic syllable OM (amen) becomes all the syllables, which then are developed into words, then words into phrases, and phrases into sentences which express concepts, concepts which already exist in their unmanifest state in that one universal consciousness. Through the channel of light, we move from the more subtle to the more concrete through white light, to the spectrum of colors, forms, images, and finally the objects we perceive. Thus any name, word, concept, color, form or object, which we might choose, for our concentration, will simply be another expression on that one universal being with whom we are trying to reunite. The fact is that we too are natural projections of this one universal consciousness. We have simply lost the awareness of this truth and our mind experiences separation and alienation from the people and world around us. As a consequence we live in fear and suffering. Through meditation we can begin to experience this oneness with all, and thus oneness with this causal energy of all life. All objects, including our own body and our personality when concentrated on and experienced at deeper and deeper levels of their existence will lead us to an experience of God, the one being behind all beings. Although any object will eventually take us there, if we concentrate on it deeply enough and allow our consciousness to follow it through its transformations to its highest level of existence, not all objects are equally as effective, and, of course, not all objects are equally effective to a particular person with his unique psychosynthesis. Most schools of philosophy or of meditation declare that their object of meditation is the best and most effective. This is obviously something which will be relative to the individual. All schools and their systems are good and will bring the desired results we are searching for. One does not need to become fanatic in order to benefit from a system. Remember that the process of meditation is, for the most part, the same in all schools. The only real difference is the object used for concentration. These “objects” may include holy words such as the name of Christ for Christians or, if someone is Hindu, the name of Shiva, Krishna or Rama. In some cases we might concentrate on a phrase or prayer focused on this spiritual being such as “Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy on us”. Or it might be some spiritual value such as Love, Peace, Truth, Righteousness, Unity, Acceptance, Faith etc. Some other school may encourage us to mentally focus on a light (white or colored) and to let the mind become absorbed in that. Others tell us to let this light move around in the body and imagine that it is purifying it. Another system is to focus on the form of Our ideal being, which for Christians would be Christ. We can imagine him in front of us, within us or even “in miniature” within our heart. Some Schools instruct us to focus on an inner sound or inner light which manifest when we concentrate. Other systems encourage us to focus on the energy centers, feeling the energy in those centers and allowing it to flow more freely within that center and towards the other centers. Others say that it is best to just be aware of the bodily sensations in general while allowing the awareness flow from the head to the toes and back again in a continuous circle of awareness. A very old and basic system is to simply watch the incoming and outgoing breath. Some schools teach their students to concentrate on words which have no connection with a particular form. Two such spiritually charged words are “OM” and “SOHAM”. The “OM” is a symbol which represents the Universal Divine Consciousness and “Soham” means that “I am that consciousness”. Both of these help us to focus on the divine without form. Other schools teach meditation as the development of positive thought forms, in which we imagine positive realities for our selves and others. This would best be called positive thought projection or visualization and not meditation. And then there are the schools which suggest that we have no object of consciousness at all but rather that we simply witness whatever comes up in the body or in the mind and release all identification with that, thus letting it disappear. In such a case the object of concentration is our consciousness itself or the void, the emptiness from which all flows forth. All of these and other objects of consciousness can and will lead us to union with the Divine Consciousness which is the causal reality behind each of them. Through concentration on them our mind begins to identify with those higher realities and to penetrate through them to their source. In coming into contact with their source, we come into contact with our own source. Throughout this process we begin to experience more and more all of those qualities and benefits, which we mentioned in the earlier chapters of this book. Most of these objects fall into four basic categories. Refer again to the chart at the beginning of this chapter. Two paths belong to the sound channel and two paths to the light channel.
THE DEVOTIONAL PATH OF SOUND
One path is that of sound with devotion. This is similar to the various traditional religious paths. One chooses the name of God, according to his traditional religious upbringing and uses that name as a focus in his meditation. He repeats this name over and over. He has this name and all that it represents steadily in his mind.When his mind wonders elsewhere, he brings it back to this name and remains focused on that. On this path this concentration might be started with a prayer towards his chosen spiritual focus i.e. Christ for Christians. Or at times this concentration on the name might turn into a prayer or communication with Christ. One may use the phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy On Us”. The continual repetition of this prayer will empty the mind until there is nothing else in the mind but this awareness of the presence of Christ and this connection with Him. (Persons of other religious backgrounds will use other names or prayers accordingly).
THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE OBJECT
There is a phenomenon which we will encounter which must be explained at this point. What we are about to explain here holds true for all objects of concentration and not only for that which we are discussing here. The object of concentration is experienced differently at the various levels of awareness or consciousness. This means that we will experience the object differently at various stages of our meditation, depending on how deep our concentration is and how free we are from the material level of duality. The higher our consciousness rises in the meditation the less concrete, the less physical the object is. It is the same object but perceived from a higher spiritual view point. A few examples might help here. Imagine that you are looking out at a street scene from the basement of an apartment building. You see very little, your perception is limited to a very small portion of the street. Now imagine that you look at the same scene from the first floor. You see it differently. Now you are on the fourth floor. You see this scene in perspective with a much larger reality. Go up to the twelfth floor and things are quite different again. And if you are in a sky scraper which has 70 floors? How different things are now. The object of your concentration has not changed at all, but our perspective has. You see it from a raised level of perspective. The same holds for the higher spiritual awareness with which you observe the object in your meditation. The “object” has not changed but you perceive it at a higher or deeper level. Another example is that of ice. Imagine that your “object” is ice. As you focus more deeply on it, it heats up and transmutes into water. Your further concentration heats it up even more and it transforms itself into steam. Focusing even more intensely on it causes it to break up into its composite components, the gases of hydrogen and oxygen and we perceive a completely different reality. Imagine that further concentration caused these gases to expose their ultimate reality which is energy that has taken the form of matter. Thus we start with ice and we end up with energy. The “object” is the same. We are simply experiencing this physical object in its most subtle inner reality which is energy. In the same way, when we focus on the name Christ or love or any of the numerous previously mentioned possible “objects”, they begin to transmute in our consciousness into more and more subtle aspects of their inner reality. Take, for example, a meditation on Christ. We start by focusing on His name or perhaps His Image. Gradually, in the increased awareness of the meditation, we begin to experience Christ not as a man as we are accustomed to when our mind is focused on the material world. We might experience Him as one of His attributes such as Divine Love, or Peace or Strength. Or we might experience Him as a benign Energy, or Consciousness, or Power, or Light with or without form. Or we may experience Him as a vibration, as the Logos, or as Divine Consciousness encompassing and permeating us and all beings. We may experience Him as the Cosmic Being, the essence of all that is. A beginner to meditation may fear that, in such circumstances, he has wandered off the “object”. He might try to bring back the original concrete name or form of Christ into his mind. We explain all of this to you so that you will not be alarmed and so that you will allow your “object” to evolve naturally in your mind. Be mindful that this transformation is different from changing “objects” of concentration during the meditation. What we have described is different from changing voluntarily during the meditation from Christ to a flower or to an energy center or to the word Love. When this happens as a natural outcome of the concentration, then this is the natural transformation of the “object” into its various subtle realities. It is best not to make such changes consciously, or purposely. Remain with your “object”through all of its spontaneous transformations and, when you discover that you have been caught up in thoughts or various distractions, return to the “object” at whatever level of its manifestation is easiest for you to tune into. If, for example, you have become totally engrossed in thoughts, you will mostly likely want to return to the concrete name or form of Christ (or your chosen “object”). If, however, you have slipped away, but are still focused on a higher level awareness, it may suit you to return to one of those transformations such as the Christ energy, Christ love or that vibration, wherever you may have left off. The same holds true for the repetition of the phrase “LORD JESUS CHRIST HAVE MERCY ON US”. As we repeat this phrase over and over and concentrate on its meaning and the basic realities behind these words, then we may find that the phrase itself transforms itself in our mind. There is a basic rule that the higher our spiritual perception the less duality we experience and the more aware of the unity of all things we become. (Those interested in learning more details about this prayer may want to read two books by Bishop Kalistos Ware, “The Power of the Name” and “The Orthodox Way.” Thus as we focus on this phrase we may begin to become aware of the LORD, or of JESUS CHRIST, or of the process of MERCY. We may become aware of our subtle connection and unity with CHRIST. Thus the words may become more abbreviated as our focus becomes as simple as “LORD” or “CHRIST” or “MERCY”. Or in some cases we may feel very comfortable with the continuous repetition of the whole phrase. There is no right or wrong here. We are simply to remain focused on our original “object”, whatever form it may naturally take. Again, we warn you about making changes purposely or intellectually. We are “dancing” with this word or phrase, but we are allowing it to lead us. We are holding on to it and letting go of our own preconceptions, needs or desires. We are seeking to “not exist”, so that the only thing which remains is the reality of the word or phrase we are focusing on. This then is the highest experience in meditation, the cessation of our separate personal existence. We merge with the “object” and there is no longer a meditator, the object and the process of concentration. There is only the object. Now there is only one reality, one factor, and all time, space and interaction disappear. There is silence. There is peace. We have become peace. We have experienced the source of creation. We have experienced our real self. Finally, it does not matter what object we choose. Each and every object is a projection of that one subtle consciousness which we are seeking to experience. We are looking for our real selves and this is the way to find it. In this first path of devotional sound we can use any name or phrase or prayer or invocation which inspires us and helps us to connect in this way with higher levels of our own being.
THE NONDEVOTIONAL PATH OF SOUND
On this path we choose to focus on any sound, word or phrase which does not represent a particular human form. For example we might select the word “OM” (which represents the unmanifest formless God) or “SO-HAM” (which means I am He, I am that Divine Consciousness). Or one might choose one of the higher human values or qualities such as Love, Peace, Harmony, Unity, Purity, or some phrase such as “I am spirit”, or “I am Love”, or “All is Divine”, or “All is One”. Another possibility is to listen carefully within so that one hears the natural inner sounds which appear within the mind when there is deep concentration. One can follow such a sound to its source. All that we have said about the gradual transmutation of the “object” apply here also. We may start out with a certain word or phrase which has specific meaning and, as our concentration deepens and our awareness changes, we begin to experience the energy-mental-emotional-spiritual reality represented by those words. For example, Love or Peace cease to be words we are concentrating on and become vibrations – emotional-mental experiences. They become states of consciousness which embody those qualities. The more we focus on these qualities or truths, the more they begin to saturate increasingly deeper levels of our mind. We begin to embody these qualities in our daily life. The mind becomes saturated with the quality of Love or Peace or with the truth that “all is Spirit” or that “all is God”. This creates a transformation of character which is very pleasant and beneficial for ourselves and those with whom we come into contact.
THE DEVOTIONAL PATH OF LIGHT – FORM
Some people work more easily with words, and others with images. Those who are more optical in their inner world may choose the form of God or some other spiritual form as an inner “object of concentration”. One could choose Jesus or the Cross, or some scene from Christ’s life. Persons belonging to other religions will choose the forms which suit them best. The same processes and truths hold true here. We may start with the form of Jesus. It is better to choose a particular image or scene which inspires us most, and not change continuously our chosen image for concentrating. The image may, however, begin to transmute. Christ’s physical form may become one of light. We may begin to perceive the inner spiritual energy, light, consciousness which expressed itself physically through that form 2000 years ago but now exists as totally independently of that form. The form may lead us to its qualities of love, peace, righteousness, sacrifice, or forgiveness. We may experience the grandeur of that spiritual power. We may feel it enter into us or surround us. We might experience that high spiritual vibration, which we call Christ Consciousness or Holy Spirit. Any of these transmutations could lead us to that total peace, to that ecstasy of union with Christ such as the ecstasy we experience when we achieve union with our loved one. In this spiritual union with Christ we may remain in this bliss until the mind is pulled outward again by thoughts and needs. Do not be influenced by the possibilities which I describe to you here. These are one possible evolution of experiences out of thousands of possibilities. Do not try to create these specific possibilities which are described here. Do not feel that you are not meditating correctly if your experiences are different. Every meditation is different. Every meditation is perfect; it is exactly what we need at that moment in order to move forward with our particular unique psychosynthesis. I have described some possibilities here so as to help you understand that some natural transmutations of the object are natural and not to be suppressed. On the other hand, such changes are totally useless when done intentionally or intellectually.
THE NONDEVOTIONAL PATH OF LIGHT
On this path we can focus on light or color, with or without form. We may choose to imagine the sun shining in our mind, or the flame of a candle. We might focus on a ball of light or a dispersed light. We may choose a particular color or we may simply focus on the light which appears in our mind when our concentration deepens. Just as with the previous paths, this light may go through various changes in size, quality, intensity, color, or patterns. It may become a different kind of light than any we have ever experienced in the physical world. Again we caution you not to make any changes in your object purposely. Imagine that it is a horse that you are riding and allow it to take you wherever it will. Or imagine that it is a river upon which you are floating and have total faith in wherever it is carrying you.
CHOOSING AN OBJECT
We will discuss in more detail the various possible “objects of concentration” in the next chapter. I would like to close this one with some guidelines concerning the choice. The “object” must be concrete enough to hold our mind’s attention and, simultaneously, be subtle enough to be able to transmute itself through our concentration into a higher manifestation of its existence as we have already explained a number of times. Thus, theoretically, a bottle of wine, if focused on deeply enough, could bring us into contact with the source of its existence which is that universal consciousness. But this would work for very few people. The void on the other hand, might be that which is closest to the universal divine consciousness and requires the least transmutations to bring us to that experience. But the void would fail to keep most meditators’ attention – at least when they are beginners. The example of television may help us to understand this. If we are watching a fast moving program, with plenty of images which appeal to our lower centers such as sex and violence, we have very little difficulty in concentrating on what is happening. We do not yawn with disinterest. We do not get up to do something else. The object of concentration is concrete and interesting enough to hold our attention. But it is unlikely at that moment that the scenes we are watching transmute themselves into the higher spiritual reality of which they are a projection. They do not bring us the feelings of peace and, unity which are indicative of that higher stage of consciousness. Now, if someone changes the channel (the object), and there is a symphony orchestra playing a classical piece, fewer persons would be glued to the screen as before, but there are more possibilities of feeling that divine harmony through this new object. If the program ends and there is simply a white screen, it is unlikely that anyone would stay and be entertained by this monotonous field of white light. Thus, you will want to choose an object which is concrete enough to hold your attention but, at the same time, subtle enough to guide you into higher states of consciousness. I repeat that it doesn’t matter what you choose. All will lead you to the same transcendental experience. What is important is to be regular in your practice. What is also extremely important is not to approach this activity with the same programmings which have ruined our social and professional lives. Do not force your concentration. Be relaxed. Be patient. Understand the nature of your mind and, when you realize that it has become distracted, guide it again with love towards the object. You are not going anywhere. You are already where you want to go. You simply have not realized that you are there. Accept every meditation as perfect. Do not judge yourself on the basis of your meditative experiences. Do not compete with others. Do not fight with your mind. Just keep coming back to the object with patience, perseverance and love. Be gentle. There is no time. There is no where to go. Anxiety about spiritual growth is the same as anxiety about any other worldly activity. It does not help. It is a result of a lack of faith. A lack of faith in ourselves. A lack of faith in life and others. A lack of faith in God and the Divine Plan. So approach your meditation without attachment to the result. Let yourself be meditated. Imagine that you are a mound of clay which is being shaped and transformed by a higher being.
In closing, I would like to share with you an interesting excerpt from a text by Greek Orthodox Metropolite of Demetrias, The Reverent Christodoulos on the TOPIC OF GOD IN ORTHODOXY. “The means by which man may approach God has always held the interest of thoughtful persons. In the West, where religious notions have been deeply permeated by Roman ideas, an attempt was made to develop a particular kind of theological thought which, by means of logic, tried to present the subject-matter of the faith in a systematic manner, accessible to the human intelligence. The “natural knowledge of God”, as it is called, made use of philosophy, especially the Aristotelian logic, to achieve an initial approach to God. However, as the Western thinkers themselves admit, this rationalization of the faith fostered the presently prevailing atheism, and it opened the way to the formulation of a theory about God’s death. “Atheism in the West is the natural symptom of the Western attitude, and it is the result of a long thought-process which has tried to contain the infinitude of the Divine’s attributes within the narrow limits of the human intellect. “Contrary to this, Eastern theological thinking operated in a completely different manner and followed a different path which, apophatically, leads to participation in God. It is not, that is, so much the reason which can grasp the infinitude of the Divine essence, as it is the emotion which commands a distinctive power for achieving this. The East did not try to dress the question of the existence of God with the garb of logical proof. It turned, instead, to the method of personal experience, i.e. to man’s participation and communion with God. It did not view God as an object foreign to man, nor man as an independent unit on earth. It taught, in the language of the Fathers, that the topic of God is, in its essence, the topic of man, man’s nature and his destiny. The incarnate God of love, includes the human nature and man can become a “god-filled living being”. “The Divine discharge divinizes man, and the “creature in the image” of the Creator takes on an ontological character even while in the midst of the human existence itself. All the above-mentioned are components of what is called the mystical or apophatic theology, and are the features of the Eastern spirituality and our Orthodox approach. “It is thus apparent that in the realm of Orthodoxy, faith is not processed and standardized. One labors in vain if he thinks that with the sole resource of his limited human thought he can put to sea in the ocean of the divine activities. The truth is not so much knowledge, as experience of reality – the gift and revelation of God. Because God is indescribable, inexplicable and un-nameable. According to St. Symeon the New Theologian, God is “visible and invisible, going and coming, disappearing and suddenly appearing”. We do not know the essence of God. However, we can approach His effects and His actions, though only a minute portion of these St. Gregory the Theologian says that “it is only a fraction of what is reaching us and just a tiny glimpse of the great light”. Thus, nobody can express God by means of logical categories but in accordance with the degree of his participation in the divine life, each one of us can know something of God. “This apophatic method of the Eastern mystics is founded on the Holy Scriptures, which teach that God does not deliver Himself to the human senses, but only reveals Himself. Of His own Will, He discharges Himself and incarnates Himself; He ceases being a transcendental power and willingly gifts Himself to man, and, thereby, He endorses the human nature which He puts into its natural framework. In the final analysis, the vision and the knowledge of God is a gift of God consequent on man’s collaboration. This means that it is purposeless to seek proofs or indications regarding the existence of God. In fact, such proofs or indications do not exist. However, there is something else which is more essential and more valuable, and that is the vitalizing presence of God in the world. This fact needs no proof, and is similar to light which, when it exists, its presence is luminous. Only a blind person does not see it, or someone with diseased eyes cannot stand it. For all others it is enough that it vitalizes and warms. Therefore, the problem of God, as we have said, is basically the problem of man. Whoever would approach God, must first of all know himself, must study himself, must control himself. If someone is spiritually blind or diseased, he does not have the possibility of approaching God. That is why the Lord said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5.8)”. And this purification is the result of repentance and ceaseless prayer. To those who stand incredulously and inquisitively, before the topic of God, the Church offers, simply and convincingly, the approach of “come and see”. And that is the best path leading to the appearance and the vision of God. “The Church does not offer solutions and logical answers. The Church itself is the solution, because it is a place of light and truth for the sake of man”. ELEFTHEROS KOSMOS (newspaper) 26.2.81.