THEOSOPHY, Vol. 87, Issue 3, March/April 1999
(Pages 105-109; Size: 10K)

FACETS OF INQUIRY

[Article number (2) in this Department]

What are the benefits of meditation for spiritual unfoldment?

Meditation enjoys widespread acceptance today, to the point of being prescribed in traditional medicine to relieve stress and adopted by non-religious self-awareness seekers. Meditation for spiritual growth has been part of religious quests since unrecorded time. Students will find meditation mentioned in the scriptures of all major religions, although differing in form, technique, and goal. Long associated with Hindu, Jain, Taoist, and Buddhist practices, references to meditation are also found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, especially when used to calm the mind. Native American and other tribal cultures adopt meditation in the form of vision quests. What they all have in common is a structured process of contemplation or concentration. Beyond that, differences abound. And like other practices that can turn from doctrine into dogma, meditation can digress into unintended or unproductive experiences as well. Perhaps theosophy can shed some light on the broad, encompassing nature of meditation. Several students respond with their views on the benefits of meditation, drawing upon different facets of inquiry.

DISCIPLINING THE MIND

Another name for spiritual unfoldment is evolution. For human beings, this process is primarily directed and carried out through the mind. As Buddha puts it in the Dhammapada, "All that we are is the result of what we have thought." The development, strengthening and purification of the mind would seem to be essential for true spiritual unfoldment, and meditation the best means of disciplining the mind. Wm. Q. Judge refers to the early stages of meditation as concentration.

In his article "Culture of Concentration," Judge states, "There must be in us a power of discernment, the cultivation of which will enable us to know whatever is desired to be known. That there is such a power is affirmed by teachers of occultism, and the way to acquire it is by cultivating concentration." (Judge Articles, I, p. 323.) [Note: For those who would like to read it, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed the links to Mr. Judge's 2-part "Culture of Concentration" article at the end of this one.--Compiler]

This process of cultivating concentration, however, is not easy to comprehend without experience. Judge points out that students often think success can be achieved, "as one attains success in school or college, by reading and learning printed words. A complete knowledge of all that was ever written upon concentration (meditation) will confirm no power in the practice of that about which I treat."

Yet, in Judge's estimation, this discipline was so important for spiritual unfoldment that he rendered the classic Indian treatise on meditation, Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. In Aphorism 2, Bk. 2, we are told "this practical part of concentration is for the purpose of establishing meditation and eliminating afflictions." Aphorism 3 defines these afflictions as ignorance, egoism, desire, aversion and a tenacious wish for existence upon the earth. Eliminating these afflictions clears a pathway for the light of the spiritual soul to illuminate the mind. Through the study of Patanjali and the actual practice of meditation, we soon begin to realize many of the particular benefits that flow from this spiritual practice.

TWO APPROACHES IN TANDEM

If meditation is thought of as a constant effort to consciously elevate the lower nature to that of conscious "godhood," it then becomes an absolute necessity for developing the potential presence of divinity within each and every being. This is the source and wellspring for achieving such awareness.

Individuals practice meditation in two ways. The first is from the position of the higher self, directed toward the unfolding of the divine within, as a specific act.

When the mind has overcome and fully controlled its natural inclination to consider diverse objects, and begins to become intent upon a single one, meditation is said to be reached. (Patanjali, Aph. 11, Bk. 3.)

The emphasis is on the evolution of the inner spiritual man by self-induced and self devised efforts.

It stands to reason that the MONAD cannot either progress or develop, or even be affected by the changes of states it passes through. It is not of this world or plane, and may be compared only to an indestructible star of divine light and fire, thrown down on to our Earth as a plank of salvation for the personalities in which it indwells. It is for the latter to cling to it; and thus partaking of its divine nature, obtain immortality. Left to itself the Monad will cling to no one; but, like the "plank," be drifted away to another incarnation by the unresting current of evolution. (H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, pp. 174-5 fn.)
The second type is lifetime meditation, which we use while active in our necessary worldly duties. We take the position of the perceiver and look directly on each task so that we are motivated and act for the benefit of the whole of life, of which we are one. When this position is maintained, we create a channel for the infusion of the divine nature, thereby transforming lower manas, or mind, to buddhi manas, or spiritual soul.

ACHIEVING LIFETIME MEDITATION

What we need is for our lifetime meditation to become wholly kind, wholly selfless, wholly spiritual. How can this be accomplished? By daily practice. Only with steady, disciplined, systematic practice does the baseball aspirant become the pitching ace, the musical aspirant the piano virtuoso, the woodworking apprentice the master carpenter, and the spiritual aspirant the lord of his or her own lifetime meditation.

What then is the daily practice of meditation? It is setting aside a certain amount of time (30 minutes is recommended by Wm. Q. Judge in Letters That Have Helped Me, p. 96), preferably at the same time each day (creating a habit both in body and mind), and trying to keep the mind focused on a single object of attention, preferably a high spiritual ideal (many possibilities are offered in Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms). Whenever the mind wanders from the object of attention, as it inevitably will, we gently but firmly bring it back, over and over again. In this way, gradually, we train the mind, we strengthen it, we make it ekagrata (one-pointed).

As we develop this skill, we can apply it moment by moment in our daily life. This means, in everything we do, that we strive to keep the mind focused on the spirit of all as it abides in all things. Whenever the mind veers from this focus, we bring it back, again and again and again, to the true object of attention. Thus the mind, at first so wild and undisciplined, eventually becomes the true and faithful servant of the soul. Thus daily practice leads to lifetime achievement.


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

Of all duties the principal one is to acquire the knowledge of the supreme soul, it is the first of all sciences, for it alone confers on man immortality. 


--MANU, Book xii


[Note: Here are the links to William Q. Judge's 2-part article, entitled "Culture of Concentration", that was mentioned and quoted from in the above article by one of the students: Part I and Part II.--Compiler]

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FACETS OF INQUIRY
(May/June 1999)
[Article number (3) in this Department]

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