MEDITATION: MEANING, LEVELS AND PURPOSES
What did these great men -- Solon, Lao Tze, Goethe, Nostradamus, Edison, Mozart and Tagore -- have in common? They all actualized their greatest achievements while they were in meditation. In fact, it has been said that all the greatest works in science, arts, philosophy, religion and all other fields were made while their authors were in a meditative state of mind. Meditation, however, is not just of one kind: there are different types of, purposes for, and attainment levels in meditation.
What actually is meditation? Let us examine some of the definitions great meditation teachers have said about meditation.
- Dr. Evans-Wentz, the great western scholar on eastern philosophy, said that "meditation is the royal highway to man's understanding of himself."
- Michal Eastcott, in her charming book on meditation "The Silent Path", says that meditation is "a mode of achieving consciousness on various levels of awareness."
- Brugh Joy, M.D., who gave up his highly successful orthodox medical practice to teach transformational process, says that "meditation is the journey to everywhere of the entire universe, to the nowhere of the infinitesimal point at the centre of the individual consciousness."
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet says that "the mind's abiding one-pointedly, without distraction, on any virtuous objects is called meditative stabilization."
- An influential Taoist classic, "Instructions on the Training of Life and Soul" refers to meditation as "no thoughts arising from the heart; no consciousness arising from the mind."
- The well known Indian master, Swami Paramananda, says that meditation "means feeling the presence of God within. The highest form of meditation is to fix the mind on the Real, the Unchangeable."
- The Venerable Paravahera Vajiranana, in his authoritative "Buddhist Meditation: Theory and Practice", says meditation is "a positive, dynamic force that raises man from his ordinary position to that of the divine."
These definitions give us some insight into the inner significance of meditation. In outer appearance, meditation is generally performed sitting cross-legged on the ground, with eyes closed or half-closed, and the mind focused on one point or on nothingness. Those who find it hard to sit cross-legged, may practise meditation sitting on a chair, with the back upright and the feet flatly on the floor. Meditation can also be performed while standing, reclining or moving about.
The meaning of meditation is often interpreted differently at different levels of attainment. When I first meditated many years ago, meditation to me was "thinking nothing, doing nothing." At the intermediate stage, meditation becomes the attainment of a one-pointed mind. At the advance level, meditation becomes a very exciting inward journey -- a journey to the different levels of consciousness and to a unity with God or the Universal Mind.
Four Levels of Meditation
For convenience, we can divide the attainment in meditation into four levels, namely elementary, inter- mediate, advance, and divine. The difference between the levels is one of degree, rather than of kind.
At the elementary level, meditation is primarily concerned with thinking nothing and doing nothing. In this way we can eliminate distracting thoughts which often drain off much of our mental energy. Our mind becomes calm yet alert, and we can manage stress effectively. At this stage we achieve radiant physical, mental and emotional health.
As we progress to the intermediate level, the calm, relaxed mind become very sharp and clear. Not only is energy conserved, but the mind actually further develops mental energy and focuses it one-pointedly. At this state of mind, we can do better, anything we wish to do. We can also have some control over our physiological and psychological functions.
As the mind journeys inward to the advance level, it reaches altered states of awareness and experiences different perceptions of reality. Hence, it can perform feats that ordinary minds cannot. At this level, we can often transcend time and space, and even shuttle between energy and matter. Psychic powers and other special extra-ordinary abilities like telepathy, clairvoyance, prediction, psychokinesis, distant healing and astral travelling are possible.
At the divine level, we become united with God, our mind merges with the Universal Mind, or our higher self returns to the Cosmos. All these probably mean the same, though they are expressed in different nomenclature because of cultural or religious variance. In Christian terms, we have found the Kingdom of God within us; in yogic terms, it is the union with Atman; in Taoist, the attainment immortality; and in Buddhist, the final deliverance from karma, the eternal bliss of Nirvana.
Why Do We Meditate
We meditate for a great variety of purposes, which may be classified into five main categories.
- Meditation promotes health and longevity. It can cure and prevent a wide range of organic and psycho-somatic diseases -- diseases that conventional western medicine erroneously regards as "incurable". Meditation also gives joyous tranquility, and is excellent for managing stress.
- By making our mind clear, fresh and one-pointed, meditation greatly increases our daily efficiency. We can produce better result in less time. We can also work for longer hours without feeling tired.
- Meditation enhances mental abilities, bringing forth inspiration, insight and creativity. All the world's great works are produced in a meditative state of mind.
- Meditation develops psychic powers. In the training of ESP abilities, a calm, relaxed mind is a necessary condition. In the past, the application of psychic powers was regarded as miracles.
- Meditation is a necessary mean for spiritual development in may religions. Prayers is a form of meditative communication with God. Both the Buddhists and the Taoists regard meditation as the only way to Buddhahood and immortality. In yoga, meditation is the key to the union with God. Christian saints and Muslim sufis use meditation to return to God.