The Stages of MeditationMay 18, 2019
Mystic relaxation is really the same as meditation. Very often people are puzzled about the word meditation because it is used by so many people who sometimes have very different ideas about it. By calling it mystic relaxation the meaning becomes simple and clear.
From a physical point of view, there is the practice of contracting and stretching which enables a man to bring out his inner vitality, whereas relaxation is a contrary action. Energy is either brought on to the outer plane or energy is put to rest in its natural, normal condition. When a person lifts something heavy, does something with determination, he charges his body with the energy which is within. It then expresses itself through his muscles and nerves. When a person is asleep the energy is put to rest. This energy is most valuable and precious. When it is used outwardly it brings external benefits and when it is used inwardly it brings about inner attainments.
Meditation is reached through two preliminary stages. The first stage is concentration and the next is contemplation. After these two stages comes the third, which is meditation. What comes after that is realization.
Nothing in this world can be thoroughly accomplished without concentration, whether in one’s business or profession, or in spiritual work. Those who cannot make a success in their business or profession are the ones whose concentration is not right. And many of those who have succeeded in life owe this to the fact that their concentration is good. They may not know it. There have been many great inventors in the West who have produced wonderful things, yet they themselves did not know that it was due to their concentration that they were able to do so. Some are born with this as a natural gift, and it is because of it that they have made a success of whatever they have undertaken. If one is an artist, with the help of concentration one can produce wonderful works. If one is a scientist one can achieve great results in science. If one is a poet, poetry will be easy to write. If one is a mystic, mystical inspiration will flow. But without concentration, however qualified a person may be, he will not be able to make the best use of his qualifications. He can hardly be called qualified at all. It is by the power of concentration alone that he can express himself fully.
From a metaphysical point of view concentration can be regarded as having three aspects: reflecting, constructing, improvising. The first kind of concentration is to reflect any object that one has placed before oneself. This is the mirror-quality of mind that enables one to concentrate in this way. When one is impressed by a certain thing one has seen outside oneself, one tries to concentrate upon it, to hold it in mind. In other words, one focuses one’s mind on that object with which one is impressed, and one’s mind does nothing but reflect it.
The other kind of concentration is constructing or composing. For instance, when an artist has been told to make a very fanciful picture and he creates in his mind a creature with the face of a man, the horns of a buffalo and the wings of a bird. The material is there in his mind. He has only to put it together in order to produce a certain form. This is constructive concentration, visualizing, in other words making the mind produce something under the direction of the will.
All that man sees or thinks he sees in his own thought. Man can produce out of his thought an angel or a devil. He can produce God out of his thought. The building of the Tower of Babel is the making of the mind. Man’s thought has a great power; and when he comes to the realization that everything comes from one source and that everything is developing towards one goal, he begins to see that the source and the goal are God. Then the world of variety is no longer variety to him but unity; it is one.
The third aspect of concentration is improvising. If a poet is asked to write a poem on a rosebud he begins to improvise. He brings into it a dewdrop, and he produces the picture of dawn. He takes a gentle stream of water and builds a beautiful background to it. This is the third kind of concentration.
Very often people think concentration means closing the eyes and sitting still in church, and that only once a week. And when they do this, although they themselves are in the church they do not know where their mind is.
The best remedy for a wandering mind is natural concentration. That means not forcing the mind. One should at first let the mind work naturally, thinking of things it is inclined to think about. Why should the mind think of something towards which it has no inclination? It is unnatural. It is like eating something one does not like. It will not be assimilated nor give good results. One should think about anything one loves, then one can learn to concentrate.
Sometimes one says that a person is out of his mind when he does not have it under his control. It means that his mind is working mechanically; the will has no control over it. For the will is the king and reason is the minister. When both work together the mind is under control. When reason does not help, when the will has lost control, then the mind is not one’s own anymore and one may say a person is out of his mind.
It happens that a person’s mind is not strong enough to hold the object which he wants to accomplish, it gives way. And sometimes the body is not in a sufficiently fit condition to hold it. But that object, when unaccomplished, is unaccomplished only according to his mind. In accordance with the scheme of nature it has died a natural, peaceful death.
The Bible speaks of self-denial. People think it means not eating, not drinking, giving up all that is beautiful and good in life, going somewhere in solitude never to appear again. It is a wrong interpretation of a true teaching. Self-denial is self-effacement; it comes from self-forgetting. If one studies one’s surroundings one finds that those who are happy are so because they have less thought of self. If they are unhappy it is because they think of themselves too much. A person is more bearable when he thinks less of himself. And a person is unbearable when he is always thinking of himself. There are many miseries in life, but the greatest misery is self-pity. That person is heavier than rock, heavy for himself and heavy for others. Others cannot bear him. He cannot carry himself.
It is no easy thing to do, to forget oneself, but if one is able to, what a wonderful power one creates within oneself! It is a great mystery. It gives power over heaven and hell. Omar Khayyam says in his Rubaiyat, ‘Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire. Hell is the shadow of a soul on fire.’ Where is that shadow? Where is that vision? Is it not within ourselves? It is we who hold it. Therefore heaven and hell are what we have made for ourselves. It cannot be changed by anything else but concentration.
But concentration has an even greater significance than this, for it is that creative power which man possesses and which he has as a heritage of God. That creative power begins to work wonders. For instance, a person thinks, ‘I should like fish for dinner,’ and when he comes home he finds that his housekeeper has cooked fish that evening. That is a phenomenon of concentration. He may not know it, but it worked in that way. The thought of the man struck the mind of the housekeeper, and the housekeeper served that dish to him. Imagine what a great power this is! One need not even think about one’s desires. The very fact of having the desire is enough. Concentration works it out and materializes it.
Such is the power of concentration. There are many stories told in the East about faqirs, dervishes, and sages, Mahatmas. Many people wonder if they are true, and if they are true, how they come about. They want a scientific explanation, and it may be that one day it will be discovered by science. Nevertheless, one finds as much falsehood as truth in this, for anything can be imitated. There is gold and there is imitation gold. There is silver and there is imitation silver. And so there is imitation of truth also. What appears to be most wonderful and surprising is not all so wonderful. But at the same time there are things which are more wonderful than one can imagine, and they all belong to the power of mind. And where does this come from? From the source of all things, it is the power of God.
Even in the attainment of union with God, it is concentration which helps. The appearance of stigmata on some saints is the result of concentration. If it were not so then what would be the meaning and use of concentration? It seems out of the ordinary because only very few know what real concentration means. Someone who has mastered concentration has not very far to go. His next step will be the purpose for which he concentrated.
Contemplation is the second stage of concentration. Contemplation is the repetition of a certain idea, and this repetition materializes that idea. Those who have been able to accomplish great works in the world have been contemplative people. Often they do not know it. It is the continual repetition of a certain idea which creates that idea, which brings it into being in the physical world. For instance, those who can contemplate on health can bring about that perfect health which no medicine nor anything else can give. Those who contemplate upon inspiration will show great inspiration. Those who contemplate upon strength and power, develop strength and power. One cannot arrive at this stage until one has accomplished concentration, because concentration is the first stage, and one must proceed gradually towards the stage of contemplation. Coue’s idea, that one should say, ‘ Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better,’ is something which has been known to the thinkers for thousands of years. Upon this the whole method of mysticism has been based. But he skips the first part, concentration. What he prescribes is contemplation, which is the second part.
One might ask to what extent contemplation can help. Nothing in the world is impossible for the contemplative person to accomplish if only he knows how to contemplate. No doubt this is gibberish to those who do not understand the subject. People wonder what relation man’s mind has to affairs outside. Perhaps one can heal oneself from illness, but if there is an affair outside which is going wrong, a money matter or a business transaction, what connection has that with the mind? The answer is that all that exists, whether it is business or anything else, all that is visible or invisible seems to be outside, but in reality it is in our mind. It is outside because our eyes see it outside, but it is within us because the mind surrounds it. It is accommodated in our mind. Mind is an accommodation of the world, which is outside.
A Hindustani poet describes this wonderfully, ‘The land and sea are not too large for the heart of man to accommodate.’ In other words, the heart of man is larger than the universe. If there were a thousand universes the heart of man could accommodate them. But man, unaware of his inner being, impressed by outer limitation, remains under the impression of his weakness, limitation, and smallness. And that keeps him from using this great power which he can find within himself, this great light with which he can see life more clearly. It is only because he is unaware of himself.
The third stage is meditation. This stage has nothing to do with the mind. This is the experience of the consciousness. Meditation is diving deep within oneself, and soaring upwards into the higher spheres, expanding wider than the universe. It is in these experiences that one attains the bliss of meditation.
Man ought to turn every day of his life into a meditation. Whatever his work may be, he must do it, but at the same time he should meditate. Then he will get to know the secret meaning of his work, and in this way he will turn his life from a worldly life into a spiritual one. This applies to everyone, whether he works in a garden or in a factory, or elsewhere. As soon as he knows the appropriate meditation for the work he is doing he will develop, and all his work will become a meditation for him. And if he achieves this, the wages he earns will be nothing compared with the reward he will gain. When his mind is concentrated a person does his work well, and even better than others. In a station in Rajputana I once saw a telegraph clerk accepting telegrams. While he was doing his work he was meditating at the same time. When it was my turn I said to him, ‘I have come to give you this telegram, but I marvel at you, it is wonderful how you are keeping up your meditation during your work.’ He looked at me and smiled; and we became friends.
If it were not for the spirit, work would be a nuisance at a time when life’s needs are so great and when people have so little rest. Thus the best thing for a man is to meditate in his everyday life. If it is done properly he will reap the benefit of it not only from the earth, but also from heaven. Meditation means the soul’s endeavor towards spiritual unfoldment, and this endeavor may be practiced in different ways in order to suit one’s profession and work.
People always ask what benefit they will get. And they are more concerned with benefit today than ever before. In no age have people been so anxious to make profits as today, and they will give their life for it. It does not mean that a man today is less inclined to make a sacrifice. He is as ready to make sacrifices as a thousand years ago or even more so; only, he must be sure of what he can get by it. He is so concerned with gain that he always has gain in his view. Even when there is something that does not show immediate profit, and when he does not quite know what or how much profit there might be, he thinks, ‘Well, perhaps this is something I can get without sacrifice.’ It is strange. When people go to a voice-producer in order to develop their voice they work six, nine years and listen to everything the voice-producer says. They will do anything to develop their voice. But when they come to a spiritual man they ask him whether he can tell them something about concentration at the tea table; taking tea they ask, ‘What about meditation?’ And they want the answer in one sentence!
But it is not gained in this way. This knowledge is attained in accordance with one’s ideal about it. It is greater than religion, more sacred than anything in the world. The knowledge of self is like union with God. Self-realization is spiritual attainment. Can this be gained by a shallow conception of it? It is the deepest thing one can reach, the most valuable thing to attain to. It is for this reason that in the East a person does not look for it in a book, nor does a real teacher write a book on these things. He will write about philosophy. He prepares minds to appreciate his teaching, but he does not tell how to do it.
To my great surprise, while traveling in the west I saw people looking for books of this kind, wanting to buy books about Yoga, Yogis, and spiritual attainment. Many have lost their mind by reading such books. They cannot keep balance. Trying to do what is in the book is just like going into the drugstore to get some Yoga pills in order to attain spirituality! There are also many who look into the mirror to become clairvoyant, who gaze into a crystal in order to see the depth of life. They make light of something that is the highest and best and most sacred.
This path can only be pursued by those who are serious. The ones, who go first to some society, then to an institute, then to an occultist group, do not know what they are doing and what they are looking for. High knowledge is not to be got by going to twenty places and they will be disappointed in the end, because they went into it lightly.
There is a story of a Brahmin to whom a Muslim said, ‘I am a worshipper of God who is formless, and here you are praying to this idol of God.’ The Brahmin said, ‘If I have faith in this idol it will answer me. But if you have no faith, even your God in heaven will not hear you.’ If we do not attach ourselves seriously to things then those things laugh at us. Even as regards the things of the world, if we take them seriously we will achieve serious results.
Do you receive our newsletter?
Join our mailing list to receive the latest wisdom and updates.