Thoughts on Meditation
The chief aim of this movement is to revivify the religions of the world, in this way bringing together the followers of the different religions in friendly understanding and in tolerance. All are received with open arms in the Order of the Sufis/Mystics; whatever be their religion, to whatever church they belong, whatever faith they have, there is no interference with it. There is personal help and guidance in the methods of meditation. There is a course of study to consider the problems of life. And the chief aim of every member of the Order is to do the best in his or her power to bring about that understanding, that the whole humanity may become one single family in the Parenthood of God.
In the East this inner teaching is part of religion. In the West it is often looked upon merely as an education. It ought to be a sacred education. In the East the Murshid gives the lesson and the pupil practices it for a month or a year. We cannot have a different practice every week. My grandfather practiced one meditation forty years: then a miracle happened to him. We must not be ambitious for other exercises before having had a result from the first one. And we must promise not to reveal these practices.
The being of each person is a mechanism of body and mind. When this mechanism is in order, there is happiness and fullness of life; when anything is wrong with the mechanism, the body is ill and peace is gone. This mechanism depends upon winding. Just as a clock is wound and then goes on for 24 hours, so also in meditation a person sits in a reposeful attitude, puts the mind in a condition of repose, and regulates the work of this mechanism by meditation. Like winding, the effect is felt all the time, because the mechanism is put in order.
Very often one is apt to think that study, meditation, and prayer alone can bring one to the way leading to the goal. But it must be understood that there is a great deal to be done by action. Few indeed know what power every action has upon one’s life: what power a right act can give and what effect a wrong act can have. People are only on the lookout for what others think of their actions, instead of what God thinks of them.
For the mystic, therefore, action is a most important thing. During my travels from place to place, coming in contact with different people and having the opportunity of staying with them, I have met some who have perhaps never in their lives read a book of theology or studied mysticism. Their whole life has been spent in work, business, and industry, yet I have felt their spiritual advancement, which came naturally from their right action in life. They had come to a state of purity, which another might find by study or meditation.
The third lesson in the path of discipleship is imitation: to imitate the teacher in his or her every attitude, with a friend, with an enemy, with the foolish, and with the wise. If the pupils act as they wish and the teacher acts as he or she wishes, then there is no benefit in spite of all the sacrifice and devotion. Remember, no teaching or meditation is so great or valuable as the imitation of the teacher in the path of truth. In the imitation of the teacher the whole secret of spiritual life is hidden: not only the imitation of her or his outward action, but also of his or her inward tendency.
Spiritual development by the help of contemplation and meditation is used in all three schools, the science of breath being the foundation of each.
What is the other way? The way of tuning oneself to the infinite. That way is by the way of silence and meditation. It is by thinking something which is beyond and above all things of this mortal world and giving some moments of our life to that which is the source and goal of all of us, in the thought of getting in tune with that source. In that source alone is the secret of our happiness and peace.
To take off the cover separating man from Christ, a process is necessary. This process is the same which takes away stains and lines from paper by rubbing. The process is safa, from which comes Sufi. Safa means to clean, to wash, or to erase, and by this the soul is purified. This shows the mission of Sufism/Mysticism, and the work of the Sufi/Mystic Order. Every process of meditation and concentration is to wash the soul of the stains of earthly experiences.
There is a mureed (disciple) who regards the Sufi/Mystic Message as an esoteric school, where to study and to practice meditation, and to understand something of the inner laws of nature, to obtain powers which are latent in man, and to arrive at that inspiration which in the end culminates into a revelation. For this mureed all different esoteric schools are more or less the same. Perhaps the esoteric school of the Sufis/Mystics appeals to his nature more, perhaps the contact that he feels with Murshid is deeper, and he prefers to continue his spiritual journey through this school.
There is a saying of the mystics that spiritual things, the spiritual teachings, can be given from the heart, can be taken into the heart. That is what the sign of the Sufi/Mystic Movement denotes. It requires a certain preparation to make the heart a receptacle of the Message. By concentration, by contemplation, and by meditation, the heart is purified, enlarged, and made into a receptacle of the Message. Therefore it is that among many thousand mureeds, if you begin to take the real benefit of the Message, although others are benefitted in another way, the full benefit of the Message is received by knowing how to take the Message.
There is only one power that moves things and beings towards a certain purpose, and that power is the source of the different degrees of strength which we see in different persons. And it is by that power that everything that happens is accomplished. Therefore it would not be an exaggeration if I quoted a poet before you who says that, “God speaks to every man, but every man does not listen to the word of God.” This deafness of the heart is a natural outcome of our life in the world. If by the help of meditation we raise the heart to a certain pitch, then the word of God becomes manifest.
And now the question is, what are we to do in order to do our best? We must search for truth not only in books, but in life; we must realize truth not only intellectually, but by our personal experience, through meditation; and we must live truth by not taking truth as something separate, but by realizing that it is our own being. It is by these three things we shall be able to become Sufis/Mystics.
Besides, there is another thing and that is meditation. By that is not meant to pray on Sunday, or every evening, or to close the eyes for a few minutes. That is the beginning. That is not what I mean. But our whole life we must be in meditation, with everything we do; not one single moment should pass without. By this one accomplishes a task which is the only yearning of the soul: to seek perfection.
Now the second necessity for the student is the study part. It must not be a study only as the reading of a book: it must be a study of engraving upon one’s heart the Gathas, Gathekas, all the literature that is given, however simple it might seem to grasp it. Because you will find that it is creative in itself. It is a phrase just now; after six months the same phrase will flourish, there will come branches, flowers, and fruits in that phrase. It is a simple phrase, but it is a living phrase. The more you study and grasp it, the more your heart will be creative. Therefore do not consider it a study only, but a meditation, even in your studies.
We must not leave our meditation and prayers just to those fixed times when we do, because that is only the winding of the thing. But in our everyday life we ought to bring the sense of it into our action, in everything we do at home or outside. We must use that latent power and inspiration aroused by our meditations; we should make use of it. By practicing to make use of it we shall benefit ourselves and others by all we are doing.
In games and sports, when people jump down from a great height, what is it that protects them from hurt? It is this spirit, and they have made it their habit to call this spirit to their aid. When people throw balls to each other, and even in boxing, the receiver of the blow awakens this spirit in that part on which he receives the blow. The sportsman does not know what this spirit is, though he takes refuge in it. The mystic understands it by his meditation, and also by his research into metaphysics. When a person awakes from a deep sleep, the first thing that rises through his mind to his body, as he twists, turns, stretches and opens his eyes, is this spirit; it rises, so to speak, and spreads.
If by religion, philosophy, or mysticism this realization is attained, then one touches the secret of life, and a mighty power is gained without any wonder-working. This lesson is easy to learn intellectually; this truth can be consumed like food in a moment, but this is not enough. To digest it, the whole of one’s life is not sufficient, for truth is mixed with facts, and when truth becomes a fact it loses its importance. Absorbed in the world of variety we are apt to forget truth, for we are always engrossed in facts. That is why people who spend much time in meditation try to think of the oneness of being, and try to meditate on the ultimate truth of being. It works like the winding of a clock: it only takes a minute to wind but it goes on all day long. So in meditation the same thought goes on, and in everything one does or says one uses the same truth.
The soul of the whole of creation is one, the life behind all these ever-moving phantoms is one. Meditation on this truth and the awakening to it will harmonize the condition of the world. And when the soul begins to see the truth it is born again. To such a soul all that seems truth to an average person appears false, and what seems truth to this soul means nothing to the average person. All that seems to the average person to be important and precious in life has no value nor importance at all for this soul. Thus he naturally finds himself alone in a crowd, which lives in a world quite different from that in which he lives. Imagine living in a world where nobody speaks our language. Yet he can live in the world, for he knows its language, although life in the world is as unprofitable to him as the world of children playing with their toys is to a grown-up person.
Prophets and great mystics have come to the world from time to time, as the physician comes to help the patient whose health is disordered; and when the great ones have come they have brought a new life to the world, given to the organism of the universe to help it to run smoothly. The Sufis/Mystics have always existed as mystics, and their lives have been devoted to meditation and spiritual practices. What have they learnt from these meditations? They have learnt the essence of everything, the oneness or unity; and it is by thinking about unity, by realizing it, and by living it that man fulfills the purpose of life.
To become spiritual means to purify one’s spirit from the foreign elements which take away the natural feeling of the spirit. Concentration, meditation, all these help to make the spirit its natural self again, but the vehicles that the spirit uses in order to experience life must help the spirit to become natural. These vehicles are the mind and the body. However great the musician, if the instrument is out of tune he can do nothing with it. To say that only the spirit matters, the body does not count, is not right. Therefore it is necessary that both mind and body be made fit vehicles first for the spirit to use.
Five Directions of Breath
As the centers of the body are situated in the center of the whole mechanism, it is natural that in the average person the breath does not reach their innermost part as it ought to. The question, “If it is natural that it should reach them, why does it not?” may be answered by saying that it is because man leads an artificial life. If man led a natural life it would not be necessary for him to develop by certain meditation processes the qualities that are latent in him.
It is natural, no doubt, that if the one who wishes to impart has not sufficient power to impart, he becomes broken if there is a greater demand on his power and if there is little left with him. Sufis/Mystics, therefore, consider breathing connected with meditation much more important than anything else in the world, their food, sleep, or comfort.
There are people who are by nature intuitive; they are sometimes called psychic or clairvoyant. It is accounted for by the other side of their soul naturally facing the spirit within. One may call them extraordinary or exceptional, but not mystical; for the mystic does not desire that position. By concentration and meditation he gains such a mastery that he can cover the soul from without to take the reflection within, and he can cover the soul from within when he requires the reflection from the outer world to its full extent. Balance is desirable, and mastery is the goal to be attained.
So is the true nature of the soul. It is so wide, and there is a path that runs from the body to the soul, from man to God. A person sitting at the gate will perhaps sit there for a thousand years, and never get to the goal, but he who leaves the gate behind and proceeds further will arrive at the goal by contemplation and meditation.
Sometimes by stretching one’s hands and body one feels renewed, strength and brightness come to one’s mind and body; sometimes without reason one feels depression and pain in general, and laziness besides, for which no one can suggest a cause, except that the light of the soul closes and discloses itself. When disclosed, brightness, freshness and strength come; but when closed, depression, darkness and weakness come. By knowing this we can realize that those who have sacrificed every pleasure, wealth, comfort, or power in life in their pursuit after the soul are justified; for a loss in pursuit of a greater gain is not necessarily a loss. Those who become independent of the physical body by meditation no doubt experience the state of the highest bliss and attain the everlasting life.