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Meditation - From Darkness To Light

Introduction

There are many different kinds of meditation, Transcendental Meditation, Vipassana, Zen, Tantric Meditation, etc.... Gautama the Buddha mentions 84000 different meditative paths to enlightenment.

According to Ashtavakra Samhita, a classical text from Advaita Vedanta, the purpose of meditation is to come to a state of consciousness that is free from any object.

If one practises object-oriented meditation and concentrates on an object of devotion, a deity say, or a sutra of Buddha or Vimalkirti, it is to keep away all restless emotions. If one focuses on a more neutral object like for instance a  candlelight or one′s breathing, this is to keep out all thoughts. This way thoughts and emotions are pacified in due course and a state of witnessing arises. This witnessing is not an object.

Discovering the witness inside is the essence of every meditation. Knowing this, why not be a witness from the very onset of a meditation practice? This is what Osho recommends. Osho says that witnessing is the only meditation there is.

According to Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, this witness is the true ′I′, also called Atman, and it is the driving force behind our existence - Christians would call it the Soul. Atman thinks by means of the mind, sees through the eyes, eats via the mouth, hears with the help of the ears, smells through the nose and feels because of the body, but is not disturbed by any impressions coming in via the senses. This true ′I′, this consciousness that only witnesses, is present in all people. By continuous meditation one discovers that one is Atman, who eventually becomes one with Brahman.

The Dutch word "adem" is derived from the Sanskrit "Atman", as is the German equivalent "atmen". In the Bible God breathes life into a man made of clay (Adam!). He animates a dead man by giving him a Soul. From this biblical myth we understand that Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism essentially agree on man having a divine spark.

In Christianity Jesus is the outstanding example of an animated human being and didn′t Jesus say, "I and my Father (God) are one"? We see here that Christianity is in essence not conflicting with Hinduism. In both religions the animation by God of a human being can be seen as an input of a divine spark, at first manifesting as self-consciousness, but that can grow into Atman and in due course return to God (Brahman).

However, in the course of the first few centuries after Christ, a church came into being that called Jesus "the only begotten son of God", meaning that only he could become one with the divine and that this is not the prerogative of any other human being. Christianity, and by the way Islam also - Mohammed is according to this religion the last and only prophet - has evolved into a religion that accepts that ordinary people can contemplate God, but denies them the possibility of a mystic union with their Deity. Christianity still accepts that people have a Soul, but meditation as a method to come to oneness with God is way beyond its limit.
Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism on the contrary accept meditation. What is possible for Jesus should in principle be possible for every other man.

Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism are meditative religions while Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are contemplative. The latter three religions do have esoteric schools however, that accept communion with God - in Islam there is Sufism, in Judaism we have Hassidism and in Christianity Gnosticism, all based on the inner knowing of the Heart - but all of them are meeting with considerable resistance by their official religious counterparts and through the ages its members were in grave danger. Several Sufis have been killed because they declared their unity with God, such as Al Hillaj Mansoor and Sarmad. During the first few centuries after Christ, a lot of Gnostics have been declared heretics and were persecuted by the slowly solidifying official Catholic Church, many of them were either killed or exiled and their holy scriptures burned. It is no wonder that the Catholic Church greeted the discovery in 1945, near a northern Egyptian town called Nag Hammadi, of a few Gnostic manuscripts, including the Gospel of Thomas, with very mixed feelings.

It is typical of Sufism, as well as of Gnosticism and Hassidism, that the unsayable is hinted at with the help of simple stories, myths, allegories and parabels. This in contrast with their official counterparts Judaism, Islam and Christianity, where dogma and theological dissertations hold sway. It′s perhaps not surprising that in view of this, the official mainstream religions have a disdain for women. Contrary to for example Sufism wherein women are held in high esteem.

As to Buddhism, its story-telling esoteric branch would be Zen.

Meditation is Medicine

Meditation is derived from the same root as the words medicine and remedy (see note, bottom page)

Osho claims that meditation is medicine for body, emotions and mind. A growing number of studies seems to confirm this. According to Osho and a few other teachers, like Gurdjieff, meditation is a method to remedy the faulty orientation of a human mind. According to them the difficulties people meet in their lives are in essence because of this orientation of their minds toward themselves. In other words, people have an Ego that is too much concerned about its own interests. The remedy consists in people starting to value the welfare of others more than that of their own. Christianity recommends this very clearly too and in Buddhism this is equally prominent. However the remedy can not be the result of imposed dogma, but only truly heals if it is administered every day in meditation.

Meditation Goes Beyond Maya

Hinduism, Buddhism and the above mentioned esoteric schools indicate that, generally speaking, people′s worldview is far from what′s really happening around them, so far that it can be said to be lacking light (= insight). According to these teachings man is enveloped by a veil of illusions hiding the real condition of the world from view. Hinduism calls this veil Maya, a Sanskrit word meaning "illusion". People are born in illusion because they have karma, which ties them to the earth. But human existence is not meant to satisfy one′s desires with worldly pleasures, rather birth into a body is giving human beings an opportunity to eliminate karma and worldly desires with the help of meditation.

Buddhists put it like this: one only comes to a meditative state if one let go of all earthly desires. They consider the keyword to be "detachment". Gnostics mention in this respect the "Gnosis Kardia", a state of conscious insight whereby one knows deep in one′s heart, that one is "in the world, but not of this world".

Meditation is Alchemy

Meditation enables one to refine and elevate oneself. This reminds of the search of the medieval Alchemists after the Philosopher′s Stone, a catalyst deemed to be neccessary to change lead into gold. In modern science the transformation of base metals like lead into precious metals like gold is impossible with the means that were at the disposal of the Alchemists. That′s why scientists of today easily speak scornfully of Alchemists and consider them to be dreamers and visionary poseurs, who were handicapped by the superstitious level of the science of their time and hence didn′t know what they were doing. This harsh criticism is softened somewhat by the acknowledgement of the fact that their chasing an impossible dream has contributed to the development of modern chemistry.

What escapes the attention of these scientists is, that Christianity didn′t tolerate another religion and had much more power in the middle ages than it has today. To avoid having to suffer the same fate as the Gnostics, the Alchemists used a symbolic language to hide the real purpose of what they were after from the uninitiated. It looks like they are doing a few chemical experiments, but in actual fact they describe the fundamental transformation of the human mind. They see lead, which oxidizes and becomes dull and black in time, as symbolizing a self-centered, egoistic human being, turned away from the light, who is born, grows ugly and old, suffers and eventually dies. The base characteristics of lead represent the transitoriness and mortality of man. The invulnerable, precious and permanently shining gold refers to a human being whose mind has been set free, and who is detached and enlightened; it points to the possibility of man to become immortal. To the Alchemists the Philosopher′s Stone meant meditation.

Sufis were also acquainted with Alchemy. They too saw the transformation of a base metal into a precious one as representative of a spiritual process. They talk about mercury instead of lead. Mercury is a liquid metal, always moving, as are emotions and thoughts of human beings. In the Alchemy of the Sufis mercury is first turned into silver and then into gold, that is to say the mind and emotions are first to be quietened down. The ingredient that makes this transformation possible, the catalyst, the Philosopher′s Stone, is sulphur, fire or warmth, which the Sufis take as a symbol for love, love for others, love toward God, love from God. Sulphur, fire or warmth fixes the mercury into silver and then colour it yellow to arrive at gold.
Thus they make it even clearer that reorientation from oneself toward others is a prerequisite should a human being choose to become more refined and noble and live a higher moral kind of life. According to Sufis only love makes life worth living. That′s why they call their method of meditation "The Alchemy of Happiness".

And what about Buddhism... The Tibetan Buddhist mantra Om mani Padme Hum literally means "The Sound of Silence, the Diamond in the Lotus".
In nature, the substance graphite is black and loose; in circumstances of heat and pressure, it turns into a transparent substance of the highest possible order and integrity: diamond.
Dark and loose graphite represents chaotic, unstructured ordinary life; it′s full of conflict (pressure), hence there′s purification and awareness (temperature) grows. Finally, darkness gone, another state of being ensues.
The lack of conflict of this other state is what the mantra means by "Silence"; the "Lotus" floating on and above troubled waters also refers to it. The accompanying sparkling clarity and hightened integrity and order is comparable to that of a diamond.
In the transparency as of diamond there′s no ego to prevent a life guided by intelligence and spirit.

"When you are desireless you will be aware;
when you are aware you will be desireless...
These are two aspects of the same coin:
On one aspect, desirelessness;
On another aspect, alertness, consciousness."
Osho

Meditation as a Path of Flowering into more Light

Osho called the earth "The Lotus Paradise". He borrowed this allegory from Zenbuddhism. The lotus is a plant that takes root down below, beneath the surface of water, in the dark, in the mud, and starts growing upwards. As soon as it raises above the surface, a lotusflower unfolds under the intense rays of the Sun.

lotus flower in pond

This development depicts the many changes taking place in a meditative human being. The mud symbolizes the difficulties one encounters on earth, the dark water stands for accompanying painful emotions. But the more a lotus plant grows, the more it feels the rays of the Sun in the water; insight increases and the end of the tunnel is in sight. The unfolding of the flower above water represents redemption of man from all worries and the meeting with happiness, love and light.
The lotus flower with petals totally unfolded, totally receives the sunlight and in this it is akin to the full Moon, which is completely shone on by the Sun. Man, in the state represented by this lotus flower is totally and passively receptive to, and guided by, a higher power; in the same vein the full Moon totally and passively receives the light of the Sun.

It is said of Jesus that he could walk on water. This refers to an overcoming of emotions and difficulties through deepened insight. In Hinduism Hindu gods are portrayed with lotus feet, meaning that they too can walk on water; or they sit on an open lotusflower as a sign of liberation from earthly concern.

Meditation Betokens the End of Duality

Extremism means choosing and adhering to one or the other side of a pair of opposites. For example, if one states that all people are conscious, one sides with one extreme point of view. Stating the opposite, notably that nobody is conscious is none the less extreme. If an argument is too absolute, truth is nowhere to be found. Truth shuns extremism and hides in between both extremes, in the middle, where rarely anyone comes. Extremism is darkness, because only via the crack in the middle light can shine through, a light so bright that it blinds an ordinary mortal′s eyes. Most people prefer to take a stand and their eyes are not used to discerning the truth in between two points of view. To most people extremism comes naturally.

Gurdjieff took the two sides of a duality as two opposing forces, and in the middle, in between these two, he discerned a third force, to which he attributed neutralising characteristics. According to him most people are not aware of the existence of this third force. They are, said Gurdjieff, "third-force-blind". That′s the reason why they can only live in a world of duality. But duality is not the real face of existence and hence most people′s worldview is illusory. Read in this regard Gurdjieff′s comments on the impossibility of people to sit between two stools.

Extremism is for example rampant in the Middle-East, where Jews defend one particular point of view and Palestinians the opposite one; thesis, antithesis. The problem of the Middle-East can only fundamentally be solved by a synthesis, which can only be discerned by a third kind of vision - sometimes related to the third eye situated in between and above both ordinary eyes on the forehead. Trying to see the third force is not a simple task if there is no meditation, because then both parts of a pair of opposites irreconcilably stand next to each other, on the same level as it were, the one not better or worse than the other. Synthesis on the other hand is of a different order; it is not a compromise nor a mixture of both opposites, but it lifts them together to another and higher level of insight and fuses them into a complementary unity.

Another way of putting it is this: if one advocates a particular point of view one entertains certain thoughts, emotions and actions that are diametrically opposed to thoughts, emotions and actions of those who support the opposite stand. In other words the basis of discussion, argument and fight is identification. If one keeps oneself in the middle between two positions, one can′t find words, emotions and deeds anymore to defend whatever. One finds oneself as it were in a no man′s land characterized by relaxation, silence and insight (= light). To keep to this middle and the ensuing equanimity is meditation; it has the quality of what Osho calls "the emptiness of the Heart"

Jiddu Krishnamurti calls this meditative state "choiceless awareness". This choiceless awareness is basic to Vipassana (a word of Pali, language of Gautama the Buddha, meaning "insight" or "to see what is"). In Vipassana one is supposed to be aware of all upsurging thoughts and emotions and to let them pass by without further ado. One takes them lightly and looks at them as from a distance, as if they belong to someone else, or as if one watches a cloud floating by in a clear and empty blue sky.

Buddha calls this Upeksha, which is translated as indifference. Says Osho in his commentaries on Zenmaster Sosan′s Hsin Hsin Ming (aka The Book of Nothing) "but indifference is not the right word. Upeksha means a middle point from where you are neither this nor that. You cannot say ′I love′, you cannot say ′I hate′. You simply cannot say anything, you are simply in the middle. You are not identified. A transcendence happens, and transcendence is the flowering."

Meditation is Selfknowledge

According to Plutarchus, an ancient Greek historian, the inscription written over the portico of the ancient Greek temple of Delphi, dedicated to the Sun god Apollo, was "Gnothi se auton", Greek for "Know Thyself". Plutarchus was in a position to know it very well, as he was one of those responsible for the good management of the temple.

Ramana Maharshi′s advice agrees with this perfectly. According to him getting to know yourself implies self-inquiry and with this in view he instructed his disciples in a very simple method. It consists of asking oneself "who has this thought, emotion or urge?" whenever a thought, emotion or urge manifests itself within. The answer obviously is "I". The second question one should then ask oneself is, "who is this I?". One is not supposed to answer this last question once and for all. What matters is that these questions interrupt the upsurging thoughts, associations and emotions and lead one′s attention back to the source of all this activity. In time this method quietens thoughts and emotions and one begins to feel the source of the I residing in the spiritual heart, which according to Ramana Maharshi is situated at the level of the physical heart but to the right of the midline of the body.

The Upanishads say: in the silence of the spiritual heart man discovers that he has an immortal Atman or Soul and he reaches a state of being where everything in the Universe is interwoven into oneness. "TAT svam asi" says the Chandogya Upanishad: "THAT (Atman) art thou".

Meditation is a 180 Degree Turn

In an allegory of Plato, a few men are kept prisoners in a cave; they are in chains which force them to face a wall. Behind them is the entrance to the cave and light coming from it. Between the entrance and the prisoners, puppeteers hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. What the prisoners see are shadows cast by objects they do not see. Such prisoners mistake appearance for reality. Knowing nothing of the real causes of the shadows, they think the shadows they see on the wall are what constitues reality. blind men investigating elephant Their predicament is similar to that of a group of blind men appearing in a seven hundred year old fable of Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi; each sought to examine an elephant in a dark room, and took hold of a different part – an ear, the tail, a leg. Each mistook his particular part for the whole – and became convinced that an elephant was a fan, a rope, a pillar, and so on.
Back to Plato′s allegory: all it takes for the prisoners to know what′s real is to break the chains and turn around a 180 degrees, walk to the entrance, leave the cave and be free. Jesus calls this 180 degree turn "metanoia", which is wrongly translated as "repentance", but which really means "change of mind (vision)". Osho connects it with the withering away of all desires, which take us out into the world only to be frustrated, until our attention turns back to ourselves and finds the witnessing awareness within. Osho calls this 180 degree turn The Only Revolution; it enables us to suddenly see who we really are.

Notes:

Meditation is Individual

It seems that at the basis of all and any meditations there is the quest of people for true and lasting happiness. This happiness depending on whether one is able to see the real picture of the world and of oneself. There are many different methods of meditation because human nature is very diverse.

Osho claims that there is a suitable meditation for everybody. What really matters is that people interested in meditation choose a method fitting their nature, that is to say in accordance with their particular talent. If someone is for example visually capable then meditations involving visualisation should be taken into account. Someone whose sense of hearing is more pronounced should perhaps rather opt in favour of meditations with sound.

It′s good to experiment with meditations for a while until one has found the one that suits one best, but from then on one had better stick to this one method because results of different meditations can unfavourably interfere with one another.

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana

"Doing Time, Doing Vipassana", this award-winning documentary is a story of how hope came to one of the most notorious prisons in the world - Tihar Jail in New Delhi. It is the story of India′s first female Inspector General of Prisons, Kiran Bedi, and how she dared to fight for genuine rehabilitation of the thousands under her care. Most of all it is the story of the prison inmates themselves, and the profound changes they underwent through the practice of Vipassana meditation under the guidance of S.N. Goenka.

The documentary was on You Tube, but was removed because of copyrights infringement.

References

Note:

The Merriam Webster Dictionary indicates the ethymological connection between meditation and medication very clearly. Often enough only meditation will be the medicine...

"If medicine fails to cure you, know well your illness is not curable through medication - the cause of the illness lies somewhere else; it has nothing to do with medication. You may curse the medicine and call the doctors stupid for not finding the right treatment for you; you may try ayurvedic medicine or naturopathic treatment; you may turn to allopathy or homeopathy - nothing will work. No doctor can be of any use to you, simply because a doctor can only treat an authentic illness - he has no control over something pseudo. And the interesting thing is that you keep busy creating illnesses like that, and you want them to remain.″

(Osho - And Now, and Here #4)

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