July 11, 2006

Meditation: F. Schuon and Sri Aurobindo

In my view, there is nothing magical about meditation per se. I myself practiced it for many years without really getting anywhere, and I am sure this is true of many spiritual seekers, especially those drawn toward Buddhism. Many irreligious or anti-religious Westerners are looking for what they regard as a “rational” alternative to religion, so they turn to things like Zen, which is largely an atheological psycho-spiritual technology. Ultimately I found Zen and similar "bare witnessing" approaches to be rather dry, although there are obviously many wise and lovely aspects to Buddhism--it's just a matter of personal choice, or one's dharma, to quote a buddha-ism. (I also have a lot of problems with what I regard as the immoral non-violence of Buddhism, but that’s another subject.)
According to one of a handful of authorities I turn to in these matters, Frithjof Schuon, “meditation cannot of itself provoke illumination; rather, its object is negative in the sense that it has to remove inner obstacles that stand in the way, not of a new, but of a preexistent and ‘innate’ knowledge of which it has to become aware. Thus meditation may be compared not so much to a light kindled in a dark room, as to an opening made in the wall of that room to allow the light to enter--a light which preexists outside and is in no way produced by the action of piercing the wall.... The role of meditation is thus to open the soul, firstly to the grace which separates it from the world, secondly to that which brings it nearer to God and thirdly to that which, so to speak, reintegrates it into God.”
I find this to be a most adequate description, because it is in accord with my own personal experience and with another one of my nonlocal authorities, Sri Aurobindo. (Yes, I know, Schuon would have a lot of problems with Sri Aurobindo, who was not a strict traditionalist, but that’s between the two of them.) For Aurobindo, the only purpose of meditation is to silence the lower mind or “frontal” personality in order to make an opening in what he calls the “psychic being.” For our purposes, we may think of the psychic being simply as the vertical self that is both “deeper” and “higher” than the ordinary, worldly, conditioned ego.
In short, as I tried to get across on pp. 219-224 of One Cosmos, the dual purpose of meditation is to 1) achieve stillness or mental silence, and 2) to maintain openness, surrender, or self-offering. I specifically define “faith” as a sort of “expectant silence,” as we do our part to make ourselves a receptacle for a power or grace that transcends us. We are literally attempting to make contact with the spiritual world (or person), which always engenders an influx of forces. Again, the important point is not the meditation--which is only a means--but preparing ourselves for the subtle energy of grace.
Depending on various personal factors, the grace appears in different guises. For some it will be more of a higher emotional experience, for others, awareness of the sacred. For some it will simply manifest as an unaccountable change in personality, for others, newfound abilities or a deeper understanding of spiritual matters. It is not at all uncommon to actually feel this energy, often in the heart region or above the head. In fact, tantric yoga attempts to commandeer this energy and “take heaven by storm,” so to speak, which I would not recommend. Occasionally things can get out of hand. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:22 AM 23 comments
joseph said... Beautiful quotes from Schuon, Bob. I wanted to mention that he was a strong advocate of japa-yoga--or a method using a mantra, which facilitates, in many traditions, meditation practice. All of his disciples, regardless of tradition, were given a mantra to practice. 4:49 PM Gagdad Bob said... Joseph--Very good point. I practice japa mala myself, using either a mantra, the Jesus prayer, or chanting the divine names. 5:18 PM

No comments:

Post a Comment