No picture of a beautiful landscape can ever be a substitute for the landscape itself. All ideas of the higher consciousness are at best pictures in thought, and can never be a satisfactory substitute for the consciousness itself. If he wants to pass to the reality pictured by them he will have to pass out of the second stage into contemplation, the third stage.
If he progresses with these ego-crushing efforts and with these ever-deepening meditations on the Divine, he will come nearer and nearer to the true core of his being.
The ultramystic exercises follow after and are the sequel to ripe reasoned thinking. They banish thoughts only after thoughts have done their utmost work, whereas ordinary yoga banishes thoughts prematurely.
At this exalted stage, mind abides immersed in itself, not in its productions and functions.
This condition of concentrated quietness is what the Master Lu Tze quaintly describes as "the condition in which you sit like a withered tree before a cliff."
When the ego contemplates the Overself with perfect attention, there is dismay in hell but joy in heaven.
Meditation often leads to fatigue but contemplation never. The one takes strength from him, the other gives it to him.
If meditation may have unfortunate results when its concentrative power is applied negatively or selfishly, contemplation--its higher phase--may have similar results when its passive condition is entered without previous purification or preparation. Miguel de Molinos knew this well and therefore put a warning in the preface of his book The Spiritual Guide which treats with the authority of an expert the subject of contemplation. "The doctrine of this book," he announced, "instructs not all sorts of persons, but those only who keep the senses and passions well mortified, who have already advanced and made progress in Prayer."
There is a single basic principle which runs like a thread through all these higher contemplation exercises. It is this: if we can desert the thoughts of particular things, the images of particular objects raised by the senses in the field of consciousness, and if we can do this with complete and intelligent understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it, then such desertion will be followed by the appearance of its own accord of the element of pure undifferentiated Thought itself; the latter will be identified as our innermost self.
Now an extraordinary and helpful fact is that by making Mind the object of our attention, not only does the serenity which is its nature begin to well up of its own accord but its steady unchanging character itself helps spontaneously to repel all disturbing thoughts.
There is, in this third stage, a condition that never fails to arouse the greatest wonder when initiation into it begins. In certain ways it corresponds to, and mentally parallels, the condition of the embryo in a mother's womb. Therefore, it is called by mystics who have experienced it "the second birth." The mind is drawn so deeply into itself and becomes so engrossed in itself that the outer world vanishes utterly. The sensation of being enclosed all round by a greater presence, at once protective and benevolent, is strong. There is a feeling of being completely at rest in this soothing presence. The breathing becomes very quiet and hardly perceptible. One is aware also that nourishment is being mysteriously and rhythmically drawn from the universal Life-force. Of course, there is no intellectual activity, no thinking, and no need of it. Instead, there is a k-n-o-w-i-n-g. There are no desires, no wishes, no wants. A happy peacefulness, almost verging on bliss, as human love might be without its passions and pettinesses, holds one in magical thrall. In its freedom from mental working and perturbation, from passional movement and emotional agitation, the condition bears something of infantile innocence. Hence Jesus' saying: "Except ye become as little children ye shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven." But essentially it is a return to a spiritual womb, to being born again into a new world of being where at the beginning he is personally as helpless, as weak, and as dependent as the physical embryo itself.
In the third stage, contemplation, the mind ceases to think and simply, without words, worships loves and adores the Divine.
When a hushed silence falls on a man or on a whole group and is properly received, that is, welcomed and sustained, there is then one of those uncommon opportunities to let mystical peace reveal itself. The happening may originate in the man's or the group's poignant aspiration for a higher kind of life, or at the close of listening to great religious music, or on entry into a grand or ancient forest landscape. This is the moment to touch its healing pervasive depth, ordinarily so elusive.
To think about thinking leads the understanding towards the verge of its own source. To contemplate contemplation leads it directly into that source itself.
It is a condition where every intervention of thinking--however rational, however plausible--is a sacrilege.
"Contemplation for an hour is better than formal worship for sixty years."--Muhammed
"It is immaterial whether, for this purpose (meditation), an external object, an idea, a concept or nothingness, is focussed. It is a question of practising pure quiescence. The mere accumulation of force which absolute stillness brings with it creates an increase in one's power of concentration. It is unbelievable how important for our inner growth is a few minutes of conscious abstraction every morning."--Count Keyserling
In the profoundest state of contemplation, the thinking faculty may be entirely suspended. But awareness will not be suspended. Instead of being aware of the unending procession of varied images and emotions, there will be a single joyous serene and exalted consciousness of the true thought-transcending self.
He will find himself in the mind's deep silence, the heart's gentle stillness, reached after forsaking the ego's activity.
"While in the opinion of society contemplation is the gravest thing of which any citizen can be guilty, in my opinion of the highest culture it is the proper occupation of man."-- Oscar Wilde
He is a sailor, taking spiritual soundings in the deeper water of his own being.
In this stage of contemplation, the externalizing faculty of his mind ceases to operate. This means that he can no longer see hear feel smell or taste any physical objects. But it does not mean that he can no longer form corresponding ideas of those objects. To arrive at such a situation is indeed the work of the following stage. Therein even the possibility of imagining every kind of external experience completely disappears.
Silence often falls upon a group only to embarrass them, to fill their minds with discomfort, and to oppress their hearts with disquiet. Yet it could be made, through contemplation, to bring exquisite felicity.
To sit in the stainless silence, watchful yet passive, is the proper art of contemplation.
The mind then becomes so serene and immobile that there is not even the thought of a thought.
During such meditations the place around may seem to be filled to overflowing with a sense of the divine presence.
What he finds so deeply within himself is neither a thought nor an emotion. It is a fused knowing-feeling.
There is a state of mental silence, when no analytic thinking, logical deliberation, or argumentative discussion is possible. The mind is so stilled that all its discursive operations stop completely. By its very nature this state cannot last. It is temporary--from a few minutes to a few days.
In this condition, with mind shifted away from sensory experience into a fixed self-absorption and stilled to the utmost degree, the meditator may be said to have mastered contemplation.
The mind becomes as still as if he were in the deepest largest cave penetrating a mountainside.
When the requisite preparatory instruction has been passed through, and when the mind lets thoughts go, lets objects go, lets the ego go, it comes to know itself, to perceive itself, to discover itself as Overself.
In that stillness, far from the physical activities, emotional excitations, and mental changes of everyday life, "the awareness of awareness" becomes possible, the Mind itself is isolated. The real being of a man is at last discovered and exhibited.
The Japanese system of defense called karate has been demonstrated on the James Bond secret agent films before millions of cinema and television viewers. Despite this, there are still only a few experts in Europe who have passed the tests necessary to admit them into the higher grades called Black Belt. Discussion with one of these adepts brought out some common ground between the practice of karate and the practice of contemplation. One of the principal feats necessary to achieve the Black Belt grade is to cut through one or even two bricks with a single blow of the outside edge of the hand. If the karate pupil concentrates on the brick itself, he will never succeed in breaking through it. He must instead concentrate on the ground beneath the brick, thus admitting no thought of doubt, fear, or hesitation as to whether or not he can cut the brick. In fact, during the moment before striking the brick, he must suspend all thinking. And if any such negative thoughts do enter his mind, he must then abandon the attempt altogether for that period. The emphasis is laid on immediacy, on direct penetration unobstructed by thoughts of any kind. The meditator whose mind is centered on his own working of the meditation technique is like the karate pupil who fixes his mind on the brick. This is a mistake. But the meditator who fixes his mind on the Overself is like the pupil who concentrates his thought on the ground below the brick itself, and this is what leads to success. Obviously, such advice is not suited to the early or elementary stages of meditation where concentration is required. On the contrary, it belongs to the more advanced stage where success comes not from trying but from letting go, relaxing.
The mere absence of thoughts is not necessarily presence of Reality-Consciousness.
Thinking lies still as if it were a dead faculty, the mind void of movement, emptied of thoughts.
There are plenty of misconceptions about the nature of mystical contemplation. They range from the utterly absurd to the perfectly reasonable. A serious one is that the aim of such contemplation is to lose consciousness. Anyone who has been hit over the head can do that!
In that deep state the mind is at perfect equilibrium. The forces which ordinarily drive it into conflict or passion are thoroughly restrained.
His consciousness, freed of thoughts, is then in itself, unmixed and unprojected.
Those who know this method and can practise it successfully, know also the extraordinary change which comes over their whole being when the mind is stilled.
When his thoughts are brought into a stilled condition and his awareness fully introverted, a state resembling sleep will supervene but, unlike sleep, it will be illumined by consciousness.
In this state of "conscious sleep" there is no awareness of the physical body and no movement of thoughts succeeding one another. The Stillness alone reigns.
This state is indescribable. He is neither asleep nor awake.
The resultant condition is no negative state. Those who imagine that the apparent blankness which ensues is similar to the blankness of the spiritualistic medium do not understand the process. The true mystic and the hapless medium are poles apart. The first is supremely positive; the second is supinely negative. Into the stilled consciousness of the first ultimately steps the glorious divinity that is our True Self, the world-embracing shining One; into the blanked-out consciousness of the second steps some insignificant person, as stupid or as sensible as he was on earth, but barely more; or worse, there comes one of those dark and malignant entities who prey upon human souls, who will drag the unfortunate medium into depths of falsehood and vice, or obsess her to the point of suicide.
It is not a dreamy or drowsy state. He is more lucidly and vitally conscious than ever before.
It is not just ceasing to think, although it prerequires that, but something more: it is also a positive alertness to the Divine Presence.
This last stage, contemplation, is neither deep reflective thinking nor self-hypnotic trance. It is intense awareness, without the intrusion of the little ego or the large world.
It is something far deeper than mere restful quietness, something dynamic and intense.
In this strange experience he seems to be doing nothing at all, to be mentally quite inactive, all his forces having reached a full stop. Yet the Overself is intensely active.
When he is settled down in this final stage, his mind takes on a diamond-like quality--hard and unchangeable in its identification with its deepest layer, bright and positive in its radiation.
The stillness is not a cold one: it is living, radiant.
The ever-shifting intellect has at last been established in the eternal stillness of the soul that now dominates it; the leaping mercury has been solidified and the alchemical instrument prepared wherewith human base metal can be turned into spiritual gold, immune to the corrosive acids of earthly experience.
There are definite stages which mark his progress. First he forgets the larger world, then his immediate surroundings, then his body, and finally his ego.
The differences between the first and second stages [concentration and meditation, respectively--ed.] are: (a) in the first there is no effort to understand the subject or object upon which attention rests, whereas in the second there is; (b) concentration may be directed to any physical thing or mental idea, whereas meditation must be directed to thinking about a spiritual theme either logically or imaginatively.
In the third stage [contemplation--ed.] this theme pervades the mind so completely that the thinking activity ceases, the thoughts and fancies vanish. The meditator and his theme are then united; it is no longer separate from him. Both merge into a single consciousness. To shut off all perceptions of the outer world, all physical sense-activities of seeing hearing and touching, is the goal and end of the first stage. It is achieved when concentration on one subject or object is fully achieved. To shut off all movements of the inner world, all mental activities of thinking, reasoning, and imagining, is the goal and end of the second stage. It is achieved when the subject or object pervades awareness so completely that the meditator forgets himself and thus forgets even to think about it: he is it. To shut off all thoughts and things, even all sense of a separate personal existence, and rest in contemplation of the One Infinite Life-Power out of which he has emerged, is the goal and end of the third stage.
In these first two stages, the will must be used, for the attention must not only be driven along one line and kept there but must also penetrate deeper and deeper. It is only when the frontier of the third stage is reached that all this work ceases and that there is an abandonment of the use of the will, a total surrender of it, and effortless passive yielding to the Overself is alone needed.
In the second stage he is to banish some thoughts and keep the others. In the third stage he is to banish all thoughts and keep none. This is the most difficult.
The second and third stages may have five stations from start to finish, although this is not the experience of all aspirants. In the first, the body becomes numb and its weight vanishes. In the second, a fiery burning force uplifts the emotions and energizes the will. In the third, a sensation of being surrounded by light is felt. In the fourth, the man is alone in a dark void. In the fifth he seems to dissolve until there is nothing but the infinite formless being of God.
This withdrawal of attention from the immediate environment which occurs when deeply immersed in thought, looking at the distant part of a landscape, or raptly listening to inspired music, is the "I" coming closer to its innermost nature. At the deepest level of this experience, the ego-thought vanishes and "I-myself" becomes merged in the impersonal Consciousness.
The third stage is successfully reached when he forgets the world outside, when he neither sees nor touches it, neither hears nor smells it with his body, when memory and personality dissolve in a vacuum as the attention is wholly and utterly absorbed in the thought of, and identity with, the Overself.
The body sits, squats, or lies like a motionless statue; the senses are lulled and lethargic, but the mind is quite conscious of where the meditator is and what is happening around him. Only in the next and deeper stage does this consciousness pass away, does the physical self, involved in place and time as it is, lose both: only then is the body robbed of its capacity to move and act.
Explanation of diagram: The deeper he looks into his own nature--a procedure which cannot be done without practising meditation--the nearer he will come to the truth about it.
In the first stage of penetration, his external surroundings, and the whole world with them, vanish. In the second and deeper stage, the feeling "I am rooted in God" alone remains. In the third stage the "I" thought also goes. In the final stage even the idea"God" disappears. There remains then no idea of any kind--only peace beyond telling, consciousness in its pure ever-still state.
If he stops at levels A or B, he is still unable to fulfil his purpose. It is just as if a composer of a piece of music were to stop halfway during its composition. Only by penetrating still farther into the depths of his being until he reaches level C will he be able to undergo that tremendous, profound, and radical change which may be called the first degree of illumination. So sudden and so startling a change could not have come unless he had had the perseverance to make so prolonged a plunge.
Few mystics pass the first degree. The rapture of it detains them.
Experiencing the passage into contemplation
As he enters this immobile state, not only do his eyes close to the scenes of this world but his mind closes to the thought of it. The reflected change appears on his face, which is transfigured, mysterious, and serene.
The lines of the face become somewhat rigid, the eyes mostly or wholly closed, as he retires into himself and into abstraction from this world. That which draws him magnetically through noisy thoughts to the state of silent thoughtlessness is none other than the soul itself.
The world recedes and the last fringes of it in awareness seem a long, long way off. The sensation is exquisitely comforting.
He is beginning to succeed when his absorption is so deep that the world outside seems a thousand miles away.
At this point he may lose touch with the outer world and no longer see or sense it in any way. The consciousness sinks away from place and form, the passing of time and the solidity of matter, into its own being.
The world is more and more shut off as his concentrated attention moves inward until it vanishes altogether. It is then that he may become aware of his unknown "soul" and its peace.
In this state the feeling of the passage of time and the perception of forms in space may or may not vanish, according to its depth.
The deepest meditation takes the meditator to a completely different level of consciousness. It causes him to drop all thoughts about the world and especially about himself.
One cannot experience the outside world in exactly the same way as he is experiencing the inside self. In both ways he is experiencing God, but there is a difference. At the deepest possible point of meditation one reaches the stillness; there is no world-experience any more. Beyond it one cannot go: even the "he" is lost.
This feeling of extreme lightness, of entire independence from the body, may grow to such an extreme point of intensity that the idea of being actually levitated into the air may take hold of his mind. He is in such a state that inner reality is confused with physical reality.
He feels that his hands become heavy, hard to move. This is because he is half-separated from his body. Soon he feels quite free of them, light as air. The mental change accompanying this liberation is quite extraordinary. He feels that he would smile gravely and tranquilly, if only he could, but he feels only on the verge of doing so, not being quite able to finish it.
In that deeper state when the body is held still with concentration, the mind paradoxically feels most liberated.
In this deep state the body, while one's consciousness of it remains, assumes a fixed position of its own accord. A powerful force surges through it, straightening the spine, lifting the head, and stretching the feet.
There is a strange dislocation of consciousness' seat, pushing it out of his body slightly, up above his head and somewhat behind his torso.
There will be no sensation of weight in his physical body and a light airy feeling will replace it. It will also seem as though a heavy inner body has fallen away from him, leaving an ethereal detachment, a delightful liberation, as a result.
When he has climbed to this mystical altitude of being where concentration becomes finished and perfect, he will possess the power of entering at will into the inwardly pleasant though outwardly strange condition of rapt absorption. The body will rest rigid and immovable, the eyes will be tight shut, half-closed, or wide open but staring emptily straight before him into space, the face paler than usual, the pulse-beat lower than normal, the breath-cycle slower quieter and shallower, but the mind fully alive.
If the consciousness has not previously been prepared, by competent instruction or intuitive understanding, to receive this experience, then the passage out of the body will begin with a delightful sense of dawning liberation but end with a frightful sense of dangerous catastrophe. Both knowledge and courage are needed here, otherwise there will be resistance to the process followed by an abrupt breaking away from it altogether.
Consciousness is withdrawn from the senses and nervous system, even life itself is largely withdrawn from the heart and lungs, until the man himself is centered in the higher self.
He feels that he is losing command of his senses and that he is lapsing from the safe real normal consciousness of his everyday self.
There are stories of Socrates in the Grecian wars and of a nameless yogi in the Indian mutiny, absorbed in such deep contemplation that neither the noise and tumult nor the violence and strife of battle were enough to break it. Each remained bodily still and mentally serene for hours.
Saint Teresa writes about what she terms "the trance of union": "As to the body, if the rapture comes on when it is standing or kneeling, it remains so." If, when starting the meditation period, you are suddenly transfixed with the stillness or if it occurs during non-meditation times, remain in the place and attitude as you are. Do not move--or you break the spell. It is then irrecoverable. Never resist this "possession." Obviously this is possible only if alone.
In this deep level of meditation, he will scarcely be aware of the body. What awareness there is will objectify it as something he uses or wears, certainly not as himself. He will feel that to be a purely mental being.
His power of abstract concentration, of withdrawing into a thought or a series of thoughts, or of having no thoughts at all, shows in the eyes, in their long-sustained stillness, their brilliance and "not-seeing" physically because focused on nothing in particular.
The body stilled as if by an outside force, its limbs unwilling to move and its breathing diminished to gentleness--this is the best condition for the higher Consciousness.
Noises and sights may be still present in the background of consciousness but the pull and fascination of the inner being will be strong enough to hold him and they will not be able to move his attention away from it. This, of course, is an advanced state; but once mastered and familiar, it must yield to the next one. Here, as if passing from this waking world to a dream one, there is a slip-over into universal space, incredibly vast and totally empty. Consciousness is there but, as he discovers later, this too is only a phase through which it passes. Where, and when, will it all end? When Consciousness is led--by Grace--to itself, beyond its states, phases, and conditions where man, at last, is fit to meet God.
There is a mood of deep abstraction when, although the eyes are open, he appears to be looking beyond the immediate surroundings with no precise focus but with apparent wonder.
It will feel as if his scalp had been painlessly lifted off his head and as if the mind had been indescribably liberated in the process. It is now released in its own native element--intensely alert, immensely clear and utterly concentrated, gloriously beautiful and serenely percipient.
You will experience the sensation of rising, of hovering over your body.
The body seems far away, but I seem closer than ever. For I feel that now I am in my mind and no longer the body's captive. There is a sense of release. I am as free as Space itself.
In this third phase, contemplation, there is a feeling of being surrounded by the immensity of infinite space with one's own being somehow connected with it.
He will feel that he has become an air-being, bodiless and weightless.
The stage of contemplation has its own definite signs. Prominent among them are its thought-free emptiness, its utter tranquillity, its absence of personal selfishness.
He enters the third stage, contemplation, when the thought or thing on which he fixed his mind alone remains there whereas the consciousness that he is meditating vanishes. He finishes this stage when this residue is none other than the Overself, thus transcending his personal self and losing it in the Overself.
When this third stage is reached, there is a feeling, sometimes gradual but sometimes abrupt, that his thought activities have been cancelled out by a superior force.
The third stage of practice, contemplation, is definitely a joyous one. There is a subtle feeling of great comfort, sublime ease, at times even expanding into a rich and refined blissfulness.
We enter into paradise when, in contemplation, we enter into awareness of the Overself.
Those who have their first experience of the delightful peace which may be briefly felt in contemplation may become emotionally excited and mentally thrilled by it. These experiences are useful and helpful, especially for the encouragement they give; but it must be remembered that they are not in themselves the main object of meditation, for they still deal with the person, the personality, even though on its highest and best levels. Only when contemplation leads to a forgetfulness of the personality and a total immersion in the Higher Being is this purpose achieved.
When consciousness is stripped of its contents and stands in naked simplicity so that it can be seen as it really is, a tremendous quietude falls upon us. All strivings cease of their own accord.
A sudden mysterious tranquillity descends upon him, a feeling as if he were not there at all.
His efforts at this stage will be saturated with the hope and expectancy with which one watches a slow sunrise.
There is a great calm in this state: not a great rapture, but a patient attentive repose in the higher power.
Bring to these intervals your suffering and disappointments, your weariness and burdens, and let them slide into the Mystery that suffuses some of these moments.
Once he has been able to establish himself in this inward self-isolation and to adjust himself to its entirely different level of being, he will experience delight and feel peace.
All thoughts are submerged in the stillness. The overheated brain is cooled. The emotions are reined in. The profoundest peace reigns in the whole being.
He stands on the verge of a great and enigmatic stillness. All Nature seems arrested, all her processes within himself come to a halt.
The beginner's ecstatic rapture will grow by degrees into the proficient's impassive serenity.
Ecstatic moods, trances, or swoons are not sought by the philosopher, as they are by the saint; but if they do happen to come, as they might, through his meditations he takes care that they will find their proper place and leave his inner equilibrium undisturbed.
As he enters this fourth dimension of the Soul, infinite well-being pervades him.
The peace of contemplation, when achieved, falls upon us like eventide's hush. The brain's busy travail stops, the world's frantic pressure upon the nerves ends.
When there is no consciousness of the world, yet Consciousness-in-itself remains, ecstasy follows.
He is submerged in the peace as though it were a great wave.
In this state the thought-making activity comes to an end, the intellect itself is absorbed in the still centre of being, and a luminous peace enfolds the man.
In this state the world is not presented to consciousness. Consequently none of the problems associated with it is present. No ego is active with personal emotions and particular thoughts. No inner conflicts disturb the still centre of being.
He feels that he is upon the very edge of a great revelation, one that will open a new world of beauty and truth for him.
His mind is so concentrated that his body makes no movement at all. His thought is so intensified that no one else's thoughts and feelings can come into the focus of attention and sometimes not even their physical presence.
While the higher mystic experiences are mostly the same universally, the personal beliefs and teachings of the mystics differ, and usually take some or all of the form of the religious tradition into which they were born.
All his fears melt in this triumphant tranquillity as though they had never been.
When the flowing stream of thoughts is brought to an end at last, there is indescribable satisfaction.
Here is a condition where the only world is the world of pure blissful being itself.
The beauty of those calm moments when the tumult of the mind has been stilled, is supreme.
When the mind falls into stillness, when time stretches the moment out into a limitless life, man stands on the inner edge of his true soul.
The Overself should not be reached merely in trance; it must be known in full waking consciousness. Trance is merely the deepest phase of meditation, which in turn is instrumental in helping prepare the mind to discover truth. Yoga does not yield truth directly. Trance does not do more than concentrate the mind perfectly and render it completely calm. Realization can come after the mind is in that state and after it has begun to inquire, with such an improved instrument, into truth.
If he lets all his mental energy be absorbed in contemplation of the Real, a state in between waking and sleeping must follow. If he stays in this state too long, a further condition may ensue which is comparable to trance.
Saint Catherine of Siena passed often into deep trances, during which she lay bodily rigid and mentally rapt in ecstasy. On some of these occasions her entire physique became so hot that her face was flushed red with blood and covered with drops of perspiration. This is Spirit-Energy.
There are physical symptoms of the dawning of the semi-trance state. They are a feeling of tightness around the scalp and of pressure between the temples.
The deepest trance state involves the slowing down of all bodily activities to an almost imperceptible level. Even the working of the cells comes nearly, but not quite, to an end. The state, therefore, is a kind of death and, indeed, if prolonged too far, may sometimes result in death.
When the practiser is really proficient he may encounter a very profound state of "yoga sleep." This is difficult to describe. It is mysterious and enigmatic. He will not even be quite sure whether or not it happened, but will probably deduce its factuality from the length of time that must have been spent in it. He will not remember anything about it since he is very vaguely aware that total unconsciousness did not occur, that it was not ordinary dreamless sleep, that some kind of spiritual experience was present of which he can form no conception and obtain no understanding. The end result after emerging will be satisfying and pleasant, calming and detaching.
With the feeling of the ego's displacement, all feelings of devotional worship or mystical communion also come to an end. For they presuppose duality, a relation which vanishes where there is only the consciousness of a single entity--the Overself.
Contemplation, in its fullest measure, is a rehearsal for death. For in letting all thoughts go, we let the world go, we let possessions go, and lastly we let the body go!
For the meaning and use of the term "transparency" in describing mystic experience, note (a) Mabel Collins' book on Patanjali uses the title "The Transparent Jewel," (b) the Chinese painter Pata Shan-Jen, seventeenth century: "When the mind is transparent and pure as if reflected on the mirrorlike surface of water; when it is serene. . . .," (c) a Chinese modern writer on art, Juo Chang Chung-yuan: "There is a calmness . . . the atmosphere is of rare transparency, . . . his innermost being tranquil."
The mind slides into a blankness, where time is not, the movement of hours unmarked by ticking watch, and where the pleasurableness of non-being takes over.
At first strange transformations may take place in his space-time sense. Space is grotesquely narrowed while time is grotesquely slowed down. A far-off tree may seem within hand's reach while the movement of a hand itself may seem an hour's work. The concentration of attention becomes so extreme that the whole world narrows down to the preoccupation of the moment. This stage passes away.
In this complete stillness, the mental waves come to rest and with them the sense of time is thrown out of function or else so strangely changed that a few minutes become a whole hour.
Time itself is erased by the mysterious Power of the Stillness.
In that deep state of contemplation the ego becomes a mere potential, the consciousness is unwrinkled by thoughts, the body is completely immobile.
By a penetrating to the profound stillness within and a letting go of the world with its turmoil, the higher power itself is found and met: its message is then able to penetrate his consciousness. Such stillness provides the correct condition for letting the man become absorbed into it. For the period in which this happens, his ego thought-simplex vanishes; be it only a few seconds, the pause is most valuable.
When the student attains to this stage of meditation, all sensations of an external world sink away but the idea of his own abstract existence still remains. His next effort must therefore be to suppress this idea and if he succeeds then this is followed by a sense of infinity.
In those moments when he has gone as deep as seems possible, when he is himself not there and the ego is obliterated, there is real freedom, and most especially freedom from desires, attachments, bonds, dependencies.
This is an experience--one of the unforgettable meditations--where the ego dwindles down to a mere point in consciousness.
In that passionless calm, where the littlenesses of the ego melt and dissolve, and its agitations sink and lose themselves, he may touch a few moments when he loses the sense of his own identity. The tremendous wonder of it, this delicious liberation from the confines of his own person!
All thoughts, and most important the world-thought and the ego-thought, melt little by little into the stillness.
How can one forget the first day when one sat in deep contemplation, feeling a mesmeric influence coming over him and drawing him deeper and deeper within, while the sensation of light surrounded him? Deeper and deeper one went until one forgot almost who one was and where one was. How reluctant was the slow return after having played truant to this world and to the ego!
That out of which it arises and to which it returns is a sublime stillness, a holy calm.
When the senses are completely lulled and the thoughts completely rested, consciousness loses the feeling of movement and with it the feeling of time. The state into which it then passes is an indication of what timelessness means.
The ego dissolves into that infinity of relaxed being which is unforgettable and therapeutic. All strains fade out, all pressures vanish with the gentle influx of this peace-filled mood.
In that sublime condition his reasoning capacity is powerless, for the thinking function ceases to act, the image-making imagination becomes dormant.
In the deepest phase of contemplation all power of speech will temporarily desert him, so rapt inwardly will he become.
He remains blissfully without thoughts, without even the thought that he has no thoughts.
If we search into the innermost part of our self, we come in the end to an utter void where nothing from the outside world can reflect itself, to a divine stillness where no image and no form can be active. This is the essence of our being. This is the true Spirit.
Still the mind
When the emptying of the mind is made the goal of the mind, then it is not really emptied even if this seems to occur. The unexpressed goal is also present, even though unthought during the time of the void. In short it is not a genuine, authentic emptiness. Yet this is the sort of thing that happens in most yogic circles. Only a philosophically informed mind can reach the real void.
This experience of self-annihilation (fana, the Sufis call it) teaches several valuable truths, but the one which needs mention here is that whether you feel the Reality in an overwhelming mystic experience or not, what matters is that you should carry the unfaltering faith that it is always there, always present with you and within you.
The mind is called pure not only when passions and desires have ceased surging through it, but also when thoughts and pictures have ceased to arise, especially the personal self-thought.
This exercise in emptying the mind of its thoughts begins as a negative one but must end as a positive one. For when all thoughts are gone, it will then be possible to affirm the pure principle of Thought itself.
That which IS, by its very nature, is out of time--while thinking involves a series of points in time. Thinking is finite and limits awareness to finite objects. Therefore, to contact the infinite we must go beyond thought. Because human intellect is too finite, it follows that our thoughts cannot encompass it. Since that which IS cannot be taken hold of by thinking of any kind, a part of the essential requirement for contact with it is the non-acting of the thinking function. The mind must be emptied of all its contents in order that its true nature--awareness--should be revealed. At present, it is always entangled with some thought so that awareness by itself is lost in that thought. Self disappears in the ego-thought, and the "I" mistakes the object for the subject--whether the object be the world outside it, or thoughts inside it.
When the mind enters into this imageless and thoughtless state, there is nothing in it to resist the union with divine consciousness.
If one remembers that speech is a form of communication with other men because it uses words, then he must conclude that thinking is a form of communication with himself since it also uses words. But that means he remains apart separate and distant from himself. This is why the art of meditation, which is the art of finding oneself, involves the practice of mental silence--cutting off words, and that which they express, thoughts.
If a state of vacant mind be deliberately and successfully induced, one of the chief conditions requisite to temporary awareness of the soul will then exist.
All that he has hitherto known as himself, all those thoughts and feelings, actions and experiences which make up the ego's ordinary life, have now to be temporarily deserted if he would know the universal element hidden behind the ego itself.
When the mind is able to remain utterly still in itself, it is able to see and recognize the soul.
Says the Mukti Upanishad: "There is only one means to control one's mind, that is to destroy thoughts as soon as they arise. That is the great dawn."
In the Tibetan work Buddha Doctrine Among the Birds, there is a single line which contains an entire technique in its few words. "Put your inmost mind into a state of non-action," it runs.
If he wishes to enter the stage of contemplation, he must let go of every thought as it rises, however high or holy it seems, for it is sure to bring associated thoughts in its train. However interesting or attractive these bypaths may be at other times, they are now just that--bypaths. He must rigidly seek the Void.
Only in perfect stillness of the mind, when all discursive and invading thoughts are expelled, can the true purity be attained and the ego expelled with them.
Every state other than this perfect stillness is a manifestation of the ego, even if it be an inner mystical "experience." To be in the Overself one must be out of the ego, and consequently out of the ego's experience, thoughts, fancies, or images. All these may have their fit place and use at other times but not when the consciousness is to be raised completely to the Overself.
"The best form of meditation is to avoid thinking of anything. In the mind so kept clear, God will manifest Himself."--Shankara of Kanchi
It is not enough to make the mind a thought-free blank: his thoughts should expire in a state of deep fervent aspiration. After this achievement it must be held motionless, for then only can the touch of grace be felt, the authentic inner experience begin.
If he does not practise keeping himself--his body and mind--still, this presence which emanates grace is not given the chance to activate his consciousness. Here is the first secret of meditation--Be still! The second secret is--Know the I am, God! The stillness will have a relaxing and somewhat healing effect, but no more, unless he has faith, unless he deliberately seeks communion with God.
L.C. Soper: "The mind has to be still, not made still. Effort only leads to a rigid mind. When it realizes the futility of effort to penetrate to reality, the mind becomes still. There is only a self-forgetting attentiveness."
The thread of contemplation once broken, it is nearly impossible to pick it up again quickly enough that same time. This is why it is important to let nothing else, not even a change in bodily posture, come to interrupt the contemplation.
When the ego is silent, the Overself can speak.
When the last thought is absorbed and the mind left alone in its native stillness, if purification and preparation have been in some measure attended to, "then," as Chuang Tzu says,"the heavenly Light is given forth."
Hence he must let go of every single and separate thought which arises to bar his path, every sensuous image which memory or anticipation throws down as a gauntlet before him, and every emotion which seeks to detain or distract him.
When thoughts cease of themselves the stillness comes. When thinking rejects its own activity consciousness is.
When all movements are at an end, and all physical actions are suspended, he can enter into the most interesting of all states.
The catching of the breath happens partly by itself, partly is done deliberately to help bring the body into harmony with a deeper level of mental absorption.
"Be still, and know that I am God," sings the Biblical Psalmist. This simply means that the movement of thoughts and emotions is to be brought to an end by entering the deepest degree of contemplation. The same teaching is given in the Bhagavad Gita. "As the wick of an oil lamp placed in a wind-free spot is flickerless, so is the yogi of mastered mind who practises union with the God-Self."
What is called for at this stage is not so much a renunciation of the world as a renunciation of thoughts--of all thoughts, be they of the gross world or of the spiritual quest!
To give up the self means to give up what is ordinarily known as self--that is, personal thoughts and feelings--to the deeper self within. But the latter is pure awareness and void of all emotional or intellectual contents: nothing. Hence when the personal egoity gives up to, and enters, it, such thoughts and feelings become as nothing too. The mind is stilled and they are annihilated.
Mind purified of the image-making faculty's work--that is, free from visions, fancies and pictures, symbols, scenes, and every sort of imagination--can become quite silent.
There is no other way to discover the Pure Consciousness than the renunciation of thinking, then the willingness to go beyond it altogether.
It is the disentanglement of consciousness from its own projections, its thoughts of every kind, which is the final and first work of a would-be philosopher. Consciousness is then in its pure unconditioned being.
To the extent that a man is willing to empty himself of himself, to that extent he is providing a condition for the influx into his normal consciousness of a sense of the Overself's reality. It is like emptying a cup in order that it may be filled.
It is a fact that when the mind becomes perfectly controlled and thoughts are brought to a point and stilled, there arises a clear intuitive feeling which tells him about the mind itself.
The Surangama Sutra (Japanese title Ryogonkyo), Mahayana Zen text: "There are two methods to effect this entrance, practised conjointly. (1) By Samatha [tranquillization] the world is shut out of consciousness so that an approach is prepared for the final stage. When one's mind is full of confusion and distraction, it is no fit organ for contemplation. (2) By Vipasyana [contemplation] the Yogin is first to awaken the desire for enlightenment, to be firmly determined to live the life of Bodhisattvahood, and to have an illuminating idea as regards the source of evil passions which are always ready to assert themselves in the Tathagathagarbha [storehouse, all-conserving mind]. . . . When entrance is effected to the inner sanctuary, all the six senses are merged in one."
He must not only practise sitting perfectly still and thus stop squandering the body's energies, but also, and at the same time, practise emptying the mind of thoughts and thus conserve his mental energies, too. The whole effort is indeed intended to "stop the out-going energies," in the Gita's phrase. This is why sports, long walks, protracted manual labor, and, especially, sexual intercourse are prohibited to the would-be yogi.
To put an end to this constant working of the mind, this manufacture of thoughts without apparent stop, is the purpose of yoga. But by the practice of philosophy, by the utter calm, thoughts end themselves.
It is the art of putting oneself into and, for experts, of remaining in the soul's consciousness. Therefore only one who is capable of doing this can write about it with either accuracy or authority. All other writers, viewing the state from outside, can get back only their own thoughts about it, not real knowledge.
To help mind attain the inner stillness, press the chest and "catch" the breath sharp.
Get away from your usual and habitual mental activities, your emotional drives and passional urges; get beneath them and you will come to pure mind, pure feeling, able to look, as from a far-off point, at God.
Both the world which his senses report and the thoughts which his mind creates must be left outside the door of Being. When that is done, consciousness is no longer lost in its states. Then only does the man know himself; then only does the eternal I manifest itself in the transient me.
E. Underhill, Mysticism: "The deliberate inhibition of discursive thought and rejection of images, which takes place in the `orison of quiet,' is one of the ways in which this entrance is effected: personal surrender, or `self-naughting,' is another."
Patanjali recommends a repeated effort to keep the mind steadily in a thought-free condition. This is a valuable method and not much known.
Patanjali said the idea is to vacuum thought from the mind.
The task which confronts the awakened man is nothing less than to free himself from this perpetual immersion in activity and thought. He already does it involuntarily during sleep. He must now do it voluntarily and therefore consciously during the waking state.
Whenever he is still, silent, concentrated, and reverent, he will be able to place his mind in rapport with the Overself.
A Japanese Master said: "If you try to get nearer to It, you will only get farther from It."
When self-absorption is somewhat advanced and concentration fairly steady, we are ready for the third stage. Here, personal effort should cease. An intuition will gently make itself manifest and the moment it does we must let it affect us by being as inwardly submissive as possible. If we can follow it up, it will increase in strength and clearness. It is not at all easy to arrive at this profound submissiveness within ourself and let go of all the egoistic resistances which we unconsciously harbour. There should be a glad self-yielding to this intuition, which is a harbinger of the soul whose presence and power we had so long to accept on trusting faith alone. As it develops, some ethereal presence seems to come over us, a diviner happier nobler self than your common one. An ethereal feeling will echo throughout your inner being. It seems to come from some far-off world yet it will be like some mysterious half-remembered music in its paradoxical mixture of strangeness and familiarity. We are then on the threshold of that in us which links us with God.
The passage from the second stage to the third stage, from meditation to contemplation, from the activity of thought to the immobilization of thought, from the creation of mental images to their elimination, may take several years to effect. It calls for hard practice and hundreds of attempts. Even the person who has attained some proficiency in this art may find it requires at least a half or three quarters of an hour before he is able to attain the third degree.
At this advanced point, mentally dissolve each thought into undifferentiated Thought. Don't reason about the latter but try to be it and to feel it. Use imagination here rather than reasoned thinking. Reasoned reflections should have been pursued and finished during metaphysical studies and not carried into this contemplation. Picture it, instead of reflecting on what it is like.
When this stage is reached, when we can dismiss everything else from our attention, when the thought which flows through the sense-channels has been gathered in and turned around to face itself, we must grope within the heart with a strong determination for the essence of our consciousness.
As he sinks deeper after many relapses towards the undivided mind, as he calls on all the powers of his will and concentration to keep within focus the inner work of this spiritual exercise, he may get a sense of leading, of being directed by something within.
The idea around which his meditation revolved must now be used as a springboard from which to move to a higher level. Whereas he was before intent on working out his own thoughts, now he must abandon them altogether. Before he was positive; now he must be passive. The mind must become quiet, the emotions must compose themselves, before he can receive the sacred flux.
The particular idea upon which he is meditating may be dropped when concentration reaches its intensest point or it may then drop away of its own accord. He is embraced by pure consciousness, is immersed in the "contemplation without a seed" of the Yogis.
The second stage of meditation should be brought to an end the moment you become aware of a slowing down in the tempo of thinking and of a quickening of intuitive feeling; after that moment you are ready to attempt to enter the third stage of contemplation proper. Let your consciousness become quiet and still. In truth it has nothing really to do, except to permit that intuitive feeling to spread all over it and envelop it.
When a certain depth is reached and the concentration remains unflagging, the ego begins to sink back into its source, to dissolve into and unite with that holy source. It is then indeed as near to God's presence as it can get.
In this third stage all thinking is thrust aside. He simply looks directly at the Overself, remaining inwardly quite still until he feels himself being drawn into the Overself.
The contemplation deepens until it reaches a point where reasoned thinking and judgement, as well as memory, are suspended, so that only the mind's knowing faculty is left.
Trace consciousness back to itself, unmixed with bodily sense-reports, emotional moods, or mental thoughts. This can be done successfully only by withdrawing it inwards as you analyse. The process becomes a meditation. In the final term you are aware of nothing else, that is, of nothing but being aware. But at this point you cannot know it as a second thing, an object, but only by being it.
Take attention away from the everyday egoistic self and you may open a gate to the Overself. This is one method--and the harder one. Let attention be held by a glimpse so that the everyday self drifts out of focus. This is another method--and the easier. The first is yoga and depends on active personal effort. The second is passive and depends on absorption in art, music, landscape, or a visitation.
Follow this invisible thread of tender holy feeling, keep attention close to it, do not let other things distract or bring you away from it. For at its end is entry into Awareness.
The student must for minutes deliberately recall himself from the external multitude of things to their single mental ground in himself. He must remind himself that although he sees everything as an objective picture, this picture is inseparable from his own mind. He has to transcend the world-idea within himself not by trying to blot it out but by thoroughly comprehending its mentalist character. He must temporarily become an onlooker, detached in spirit but just as capable in action.
Contemplation is attained when your thinking about a spiritual truth or about the spiritual goal suddenly ceases of itself. The mind then enters into a perfectly still and rapt condition.
He directs his attention inward, seeking the mind itself rather than its incarnation in thought-bodies.
The practice involves a search, a probe, made by directing both emotional feeling and mental concentration within the heart region.
Deeper and deeper attention is needed. It must draw all his forces, all his being, into the concentration.
The faculty of attention is interiorized and turned back upon itself.
Let the thoughts drift away into a state of harmony with the body, both getting more and more inactive. This is a practice which can be done whenever the time is convenient, and for as short or as long a period as desired.
He pushes the thoughts of the world farther and farther away towards the periphery of consciousness and sinks deeper and deeper into the centre of it.
We rise then from the working of imagination and from the activity of reasoning, which are but veils, to the pure reality itself, which is the void of pure thought.
Follow the "I" back to its holy source.
The mind undivided, that is, without a subject-object parting of it into two portions, passes into a deep contemplation.
He must pursue this faint feeling as it bears him into the inmost recesses of his being. The farther he travels with it in that direction, the stronger will it become.
None of these other ways of getting absorbed is absolutely prerequisite; the essential thing is to catch the delicate feeling of being indrawn and to go along with it.
He must let himself be entirely transported by whichever of these two feelings comes to him: indrawnness or upliftment.
Entry into the third or contemplative stage may be marked by a momentary lapse from any consciousness at all. Yet it will be such a deep lapse that the meditator will not know on recovery whether it has endured a few seconds or a whole hour.
Letting go all thoughts--the ego-thought, the world-thought, even the God-thought--until absolutely none is present in mind: it is as simple as that!
If he is sufficiently advanced he need make no verbal formulation or pictured image to prepare a point of concentration, but can begin straightaway in an abstract wordless pressure towards the heart.
This is one of the subtlest acts which anyone can perform, this becoming conscious of consciousness, this attending to attention.
Whether thinking of the personal God or of the impersonal God, one is still thinking of God. In the end he has to drop all thoughts, to be with God and not merely to have thoughts of God, whether they are personal or impersonal.
As he retreats from all the outer phases of experience, he comes to something which he can now identify as pure Consciousness.
What was named in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga "The Yoga of the Untouch" can be literally translated as "The Yoga which Touches no Object," meaning--in plain English--the practice of turning attention away from every thought and image and thing in profound concentration and being utterly absorbed in pure Mind. This is a feat which obviously requires prior preparatory training. There is no attempt at self-improvement, self-purification, or mind-training here; nor any aspiration, or longing. It is a calm movement into the Silent Universal Mind, without personal aims.
Thinking is an activity which has its place in certain kinds of meditation--the kind which seeks self-betterment, moral improvement, or metaphysical clarification. It is an activity which occupies the generality of its practitioners in the earlier stages. In the more advanced stages and certainly on the Short Path, the attitude towards it must change. The practitioner must seek to transcend thinking so that he can enter the stillness where every movement of thought comes to an end but where consciousness remains.
A point is reached where the seeker must stop making a thought of the Overself, or he will defeat himself and ensure inability to go beyond the intellect into the Overself. At this point he is required to enter the Stillness.
We have to let our thoughts lose themselves for a while in the source whence they arose and not let them actively follow each other from the first moment of our awakening till the first moment of our return to sleep.
He must hold with unflagging concentration to this deep centre within his being.
Place the mind where it belongs--at the Centre.
Holding the high aspiration strongly but relaxing the thoughts and personal pressures opens the way.
Yield to Grace
He will understand the real spirit of meditation when he understands that he has to do nothing at all, just to sit still physically, mentally, and emotionally. For the moment he attempts to do anything, he intrudes his ego. By sitting inwardly and outwardly still, he surrenders egoistic action and thereby implies that he is willing to surrender his little self to his Overself. He shows that he is willing to step aside and let himself be worked upon, acted through, and guided by a higher power.
He has reached the subtlest area of the mind's journey. For what is to be done now must be done without bringing the ego into it, without the consciousness as a background that he is trying to do it. This may appear impossible and is certainly paradoxical. It is, however, accomplished by a process of letting go, negative rather than positive. It is a passive letting-do.
At this critical point consciousness shifts from forced willed attention, that is, concentration, to passive receptive attention, or contemplation. This happens by itself, by grace.
Nothing is to be held within the consciousness but rather consciousness is to let itself be held by the enveloping Grace.
The period of active effort is at an end; the period of passive waiting now follows it. Without any act on his own part and without any mental movement of his own, the Grace draws him up to the next higher stage and miraculously puts him there where he has so long and so much desired to be. Mark well the absence of self-effort at this stage, how the whole task is taken out of his hands.
This anti-technique must not be misunderstood. Without the quality of self-imposed patience, the student cannot go far in this quest. If he has only a tourist mentality and nothing more, if he seeks to collect in one, sweeping, surface glance all the truths which have taken mankind lifetimes of effort and struggle to perceive, he will succeed only in collecting a series of self-deceptive impressions which may indeed provide him with the illusion of progress but will lead nowhere in the end.
At this stage his business is to wait patiently, looking as deeply inward as he can while waiting. Any attempt to grasp at the Overself would now defeat itself, for the ego's willed effort could only get the ego itself back. But the willingness to sit still with hands metaphorically outstretched like a beggar's, and for a sufficient stretch of time, may lead one day to a moment when the Overself takes him by surprise as it suddenly takes hold of his mind. The much sought and memorable Glimpse will then be his. He has applied for discipleship and this is his sign of acceptance.
Thinking must be reduced more and more until it goes. But by no deliberate act of will can he bring on contemplation. All he can do is to be passive and wait in patience and keep the correct attitude--aspiring, loving, watching, but devoid of any kind of tension.
Look for the moment when grace intervenes. Do not, in ignorance, fail to intercept it, letting it pass by unheeded and therefore lost. There is a feeling of mystery in this moment which, if lingered with, turns to sacredness. This is the signal; seek to be alone, let go of everything else, cease other activities, begin not meditation but contemplation, the thought-free state.
He has to let himself become totally absorbed by this beautiful feeling, and to remain in it as long as possible. Work, family, friends, or society may call him away but, by refusing to heed them, he is denying his own will and abandoning it to God.
At this stage thoughts are removed by a higher power, even thoughts of higher things. This is a temporary experience but a very memorable one.
If a meditator shifts into passivity, the Overself must take over, provided the prerequisite qualifications have been fulfilled.
His own efforts at this stage will consist in removing from the field of concentration every mental association and emotional influence which distracts him from attaining the stillness. When he has succeeded in removing them, he is then to do nothing at all, only to relax.
Although it is the duty of the beginner who seeks to master concentration to resist this distraction of thoughts, this tendency to move endlessly in a circle from subject to subject, there is quite a different duty for the proficient who seeks to master contemplation. He ought not take this flow of thoughts too seriously or anxiously, but may let it go on with the attitude that he surrenders this too to the Overself. He lets the result of his efforts be in God's hands.
Withdrawn from the world's clamour to this still centre of his innermost being, waiting in utter patience for the Presence which may or may not appear, he performs a daily duty which has become of high importance and priority.
The more inert the ego can be during this exercise, and the more passively it rests before the Overself, the fuller will be the latter's entry. Obviously this condition cannot be achieved during the first stage, that of conscious effort and struggle with distractions.
His own power will bring him to a certain point but it will not be able to bring him farther along. When this is reached, he has no alternative than to surrender patiently, acquiescently, and wait. By such submission he shows his humility and takes one step in becoming worthy of grace.
He is beginning to master wisdom when he tries to learn how not to try.
It is almost impossible to throw all thoughts and all images out of the mind. But what we cannot do for ourselves can be done for us by a higher power.
Wait with patience for His Majesty the Inner Ruler to appear in the Hall of Audience.
It comes to this, that we have to learn the art of doing nothing! It would seem that everyone could practise this without the slightest preparation or training, but the fact is that hardly anyone can do so. For the expression "doing nothing" must be interpreted in an absolute sense. We must learn to be totally without action, without thought--without any tension or manifestation of the ego. The Biblical expression "Be still!" says exactly the same thing but says it positively where the other says it negatively. If we really succeed in learning this art, and sit absolutely still for long periods of time, we shall be given the best of all rewards, the one promised by the Bible: we shall "know that I am God."
Learn to free yourself from all the inner and outer bindings as the spirit wafts you into utter lightness and stillness.
What happens next comes from no effort on his part and depends on nothing that he does. He is simply to remain still, perfectly still in body and mind. Then from above, from the Overself, grace descends and he begins to experience the joy of feeling the divine presence.
Now that he has entered the blank silence he must be prepared to wait patiently for what is about to unfold itself. This next development cannot be forced or hurried; indeed, that attempt would effectively prevent its manifestation.
If it is true to say that in the earlier stages of his quest he holds on to the Still Thought-less stage, in the later and more settled stage he is held by It.
As he sits there, hieratically immobile, in peaceful surrender, his mind turned away from everyday matters, he feels the Presence little by little.
It was quite correct to seek in the earlier stages understanding of what is happening to him, but not in this later stage. Here he is to be like a dumb creature, letting the Overself do its cleansing, ego-stilling work in him.
It is no longer a matter of discursive thinking which flows by orderly and logical transition from one idea to the next--that was proper until grace came in--but of putting all thoughts aside and waiting passively, quietly, letting awareness sink deeper.
The significant moment in meditation begins when the man stops making efforts himself and when the mind begins to take him, to withdraw him into itself quite of its own accord. This is an amazing experience for he does not know how he came to stop doing what he was already doing, trying, using effort. He is somehow led into letting it all go, into yielding to the mood of passivity which gently, imperceptibly steals over him.
Before he can benefit by the Presence he must put himself in a receptive state, must be prepared mentally and emotionally and even physically. Rested and relaxed, self-cleansed and God-turned, humbled and involved, he is ready for the "touch."
Both mind and heart must be used in persistent effort to find the goal of this quest; but at a certain point the effort must cease, and both mind and heart must be stilled. For it is then that the divine can enter; it is then that the quester must cease trying and let the divine grace bless its preparatory work. Thus from a positive attitude he passes, eventually, into a passive one, not trying to force the issue any longer, but letting himself be receptive and relaxed.
The more deeply he lets himself sink into this attitude of receptivity--whether in meditation on God or admiration of art--the finer the result.
More than any other author, Lao Tzu has put in the tersest and simplest way the importance, the meaning, and the result of the sitting-still practice, the patient waiting for inner being to reveal itself, the submissive allowing of intuition to be felt and accepted.
There is nothing to do, no technique to practise when you already are in the Light.
Once these preliminaries have been fulfilled and the ego's active devotions have subsided, all that he can do is to wait, watchfully, for the arisal of intuitive feelings and then devote his utmost attention to them.
In the ultimate phase of meditation, he has mastered the art, finished his work, and relaxed completely. He is quite inactive, quite still in both body and mind, doing nothing. For now he is at his best level of consciousness--the holiest, calmest, widest one.
The deepest contemplation
When the mind is as clear as a purified lake and as still as a tree in the depths of a forest, it can pick up new transcendental perceptions and feelings.
"Here I am" is to be his attitude, "humbly receptive in the silence, submissively waiting with restrained ego and stilled mind for whatever guidance comes and however distasteful to personal emotion or however unwelcome to personal judgement it may be."
If after you reach the deepest contemplation, you then direct attention towards a particular problem on which you are seeking knowledge, knowledge which neither the senses nor the intellect has so far been able to supply, you may be able to perceive as in a flash what is the proper solution of this problem.
Observe how still our whole being spontaneously becomes when we want to be fully receptive just before some important announcement. If it is of the highest possible importance, we almost hold our breath; such is the intense stillness needed to take it in to the utmost degree and to miss nothing. How much more should we be still throughout every part of mind and body when waiting to hear the silent pronouncements of the Overself!
The truth germinates in Silence.
There is no better authority for a truth on which to rest than its own clear perception directly within oneself. But this statement is valid only if the ego has been put where it belongs, at least during the period of perception.
We not seldom find speech to be but the laryngeal medium whereby men convey lies to us; it is somewhat paradoxical, therefore, that silence should be the mysterious medium whereby someone should convey truth to us.
Out of this silence a voice begins to speak to him.
Advanced contemplation may lead to Revelation.
In the deeper phases, certain thoughts which come to him can be taken as divine guidance. "Thy will."
He has developed the capacity to open the door of his inner being. He has reached the stillness which envelops its threshold. But this is only a beginning, not the end. He has now to pass beyond it and find out what the light itself holds for him.
At such a time he is to put aside his own ideas and wait patiently for the Overself-inspired ideas to come to him.
A mind cleansed, centered, quietened, and emptied is what he must offer; the revelation and benediction are what he is given.
When attention is stilled, the mind void of thoughts and the desires at rest, it is possible for the instructed person to perceive truth much more clearly than before, and to feel Reality. But the instruction must concern what is the always-true and the ever-real.
It is only as he frees himself from all inward and outward pressures, all suggestions and impositions, that he becomes relaxed enough to receive what the Overself can present him with--ego-freed truth.
In the mind's stillness it is possible to find either nothing at all or clear understanding. It depends on the man's preparation for it, on his knowledge, character, and experience.
In the soft felicitous stillness he can wait expectantly for the answers to troubling questions.
Spiritual truth passes more easily into a mind emptied of its thoughts, its cares, its desires.
When the mind is brought to the quiescence of unstirring leaves in a windless garden, and when with this there is a habitual aspiration truthward, a devotion to the highest being, the Revelation may more easily come to it.
There, in the deepest state of contemplation, the awareness of a second thing--whether this be the world of objects outside or the world of thoughts inside--vanishes. But unconsciousness does not follow. What is left over is a continuous static impersonal and unchanging consciousness. This is the inmost being of man. This is the supreme Self, dwelling within itself alone. Its stillness transcends the activity of thinking, of the knowing which distinguishes one thing from another. It is incommunicable then, inexplicable later. But after a while from this high level the meditator must descend, returning to his human condition. He has come as close in the contact with the Great Being, the most refined ultimate Godhead, as is posssible. Let him be grateful. Let him not ask for more for he cannot know or experience more. This is as far as any man can go, for "Thou shalt not see God and live."
The attainment of a certain experience marks the permanent attainment of a higher grade in the aspirant's evolution. When this experience comes to him, he will have "the universal vision," wherein he will actually experience whatever beings, persons, forms, and creatures in the world he thinks of. For a few minutes or a few hours he will forget his real ego and be universalized.
Said the Sage Arada: "Having obtained this ecstatic contemplation the childish mind is carried away by the possession of the new unknown ecstasy . . . he reaches the world of Brahma deceived by the delight. But the wise man, knowing that these thoughts bewilder the mind, reaches a stage of contemplation separate from this, which has its own pleasure and ecstasy. And he who carried away by this pleasure sees no further distinction, obtains a dwelling full of light, even amongst the Abhasura deities. But he who separates his mind from this pleasure and ecstasy, reaches the third stage of contemplation ecstatic but without pleasure. Upon this stage some teachers make their stand, thinking that it is indeed liberation, since pleasure and pain have been left behind and there is no exercise of the intellect. But he who, immersed in this ecstasy, strives not for a further distinction, obtains an ecstasy in common with the Subhakritsna deities. But he who, having attained such a bliss desires it not but despises it, obtains the fourth stage of contemplation which is separate from all pleasure and pain. But rising beyond this contemplation, having seen the imperfections of all embodied souls, the wise man climbs to a yet higher wisdom in order to abolish all body."--Asvaghosha: The Buddha Karita
If he is aware that he is aware, then he is no longer being aware!
"The priest concentrates his mind upon a single thought. Gradually his soul becomes filled with a supernatural ecstasy and serenity, while his mind still reasons upon and investigates the subject chosen for contemplation; this is the first Jhâna. Still fixing his thoughts on the same subject, he then frees his mind from reasoning and investigation, while the ecstasy and serenity remain, and this is the second Jhâna. Next, his thoughts still fixed as before, he divests himself of ecstasy, and attains the third Jhâna, which is a state of tranquil serenity. Lastly, he passes to the fourth Jhâna, in which the mind, exalted and purified, is indifferent to all emotions, alike of all pleasure and of pain."--Childer's Pali Dictionary
The Venerable Dr. Parawehera Vajiranana Thera: "The Buddha's own conclusion in regard to the practical methods of mind training has been developed into two complex systems known as `cultivation of concentration,' and `cultivation of insight.' Again, these two systems correspond to the two predominant faculties, faith and wisdom. Those who have entered into the religious life through strong faith and devotion are trained in the Samadhi path which appreciates the special practice of rapt, absorbed, concentrated thought called Jhâna, the ecstatic tranquillity of mind. The method of jhâna meditation is called `the path of tranquillity,' and the disciple who has practised this path should enter in the end to the acquisition of that full knowledge which leads to Arhatship. Those who practise Samadhi meditation in the beginning, experiencing psychic powers as the aid of enlightenment, should practise insight at the end to attain Arhatship. Those who practise insight in the beginning, with or without Samadhi practice, will attain Arhatship. The Samadhi system, therefore, is optional in Buddhism, and is regarded as only a mental discipline preparatory to the attainment of full knowledge. But Vipassana being the direct path to full knowledge is indispensable and is universally imperative for the attainment of Nirvana. Hence insight meditation is the essential method of mental training in Buddhism and it is a unique system in Buddha's teachings. Thus ends an outline of the scheme of mental training explained in Buddhism as the only path to win the goal of man, the Eternal Happiness of Nirvana."
He should not be satisfied with a mere glimpse of the pacified mind. He should hold on to it long enough to make the meditation period a glorious success.
In the early stages of enlightenment, the aspirant is overwhelmed by his discovery that God is within himself. It stirs his intensest feelings and excites his deepest thoughts. But, though he does not know it, those very feelings and thoughts still form part of his ego, albeit the highest part. So he still separates his being into two--self and Overself. Only in the later stages does he find that God not only is within himself but is himself.
Psychologically the void trance is deeper than the world-knowing insight, but metaphysically it is not. For in both cases one and the same Reality is seen.
The principle behind it is that once this contact with the Overself has been established during the third stage, it is only necessary first, to prolong, and second, to repeat the contact for spiritual evolution to be assured.
"So by passing wholly beyond all consciousness of form, by the dying out of the consciousness of sensory reactions, and by turning the attention from any consciousness of the manifold, he enters into and abides in that rapt meditation which is accompanied by the consciousness of the sphere of unbounded space--even unto the fourth Jhâna (ecstasy)."--The Dhamma Sangani (a Buddhist scripture)
Meditation, absent-mindedness, abstraction, to be sunk in thought, trance "where both sensations and ideas have ceased to be"--these are Buddhist stages of progress.
Of those who reach the third stage, some go wrong at its critical point through inexperience or incomprehension. If they try to think egoistically about what has happened or even to draw an intellectualized meaning, message, or revelation from its silence, they lose the experience itself. It cannot be dragged down to these inferior levels. They must be content with its utter stillness, its sacred emptiness.
Sri Ramakrishna: "The mind ordinarily moves in the three lower chakras. But if it rises above them and reaches the heart, one gets the vision of Light. . . ."
"Even though it has reached the throat, the Mind may come down again (from utterly unworldly consciousness--PB). One ought to be always alert. Only if his mind reaches the spot between the eyebrows need he have no more fear of a fall, the Supreme Self is so close."
That desirable inner state is close to us, but its attainment is elusive to us. The mind is more slippery than an eel when one touches the fringe of the state, for usually the next minute one loses it in a flash.
During the course of a single session, the meditator may touch the transcendent consciousness quite a few times.
When man attains this state of harmony within himself and with Nature outside, it may be only a temporary experience or a permanent one. It is given to few to attain such a state permanently and even the hour of its temporary onset is usually unpredictable.
The most advanced person can enter immediately into the contemplative state.
He who has reached this stage of his meditation may well pray: "O Lord, grant the capacity to go deeper into Thy presence and to stay longer in it."
When the attempt at control is stopped, awareness arises that thinking itself has stopped. This stillness then continues by itself, effortlessly. If through inexperience, lack of instruction, unfamiliarity, or unpreparedness fear is felt, fear of death, annihilation of consciousness, this extremely subtle and delicate experience will suddenly come to an end. The opportunity is lost.
Consciousness must, and will, enter in the end into this unique activity--the contemplation of itself. But it can do so with much more understanding if it draws the world, along with its relation to the world--the two together--into that contemplation and then merges them there until they are dissolved.
The fear of annihilation which comes to a number of persons who meditate deeply enough, and which forces them to withdraw themselves from the practice for that session, is justifiable. There is an experience which seems to be equivalent to self-obliteration. Nevertheless it is not the end of existence, for it is followed by an entry into the beautiful white light, bringing an immense feeling of space and goodwill, of harmony and liberation from all that is low, of peace and compassion. The whole experience is so vivid, so real, so convincing--all through from beginning to end--that whether or not it recurs, it will remain forever in his memory. It has also a strange power when recalled years afterwards in moments of trouble and distress to provide inner help and support.
This transparent light-world is the source of creation, the cosmic birthplace, the home of dazzling primal energy. Galaxies, universes, suns, and planets come forth from here. The revelatory, blissful vision of God's Form may happen only once in a lifetime. Beyond it all is God without Form--the still void.
All these methods of establishing contact with the higher self may be dispensed with at a more advanced stage when it will suffice to have a simple turning of attention towards it or a simple remembrance.
He will attain a stage when he can sink in self-imposed rapt absorption at will.
We may know when we have entered into the awareness of the Self, for in that moment we shall have gone out of the awareness of the world. The spiritual records which have been left behind by the great mystics, and which evidence this rarer experience of the race, all testify to this.
The term "cosmic consciousness" is used rather loosely by different writers. It has been equated with different kinds of mystic experience and different grades of intuition and insight. Because of this ambiguity, it is best to try to avoid the use of this term; but, when found, it should be judged by the context wherein it appears.
One of the uses of the term "cosmic consciousness" is certainly to indicate what has been called "unitary" consciousness. Judging by the experience of at least one advanced mystic, its most appropriate application as a name would be to the experience whereby one is able to identify oneself with all other living creatures, in feeling and in intelligence. Many mystics are referring to this when they speak of "love."
The attention must be concentrated at this stage solely on the hidden soul. No other aim and even no symbol of It may now be held. When he has become so profoundly absorbed in this contemplation that his whole being, his whole psyche of thought, feeling, will, and intuition are mingled and blent in it, there may come suddenly and unexpectedly a displacement of awareness. He actually passes out of what he has hitherto known as himself into a new dimension and becomes a different being. When first experienced and unknown, there is the fear that this is death itself. It is indeed what is termed in mystical traditions of the West as "dying to oneself" and of the East as "passing away from oneself." But when one has repeated periodically and grown familiar with this experience, there is not only no fear but the experience is eagerly sought and welcomed. There I dissolved myself in the lake of the Water of Life.
The novice must cautiously feel his way back from the divine centre at the end of his period of meditation to the plane of normal activity. This descent or return must be carefully negotiated. If he is not careful he may easily and needlessly lose the fruit of his attainment. An exercise to accomplish this, to bring the meditator slowly back to earth and to prepare him for the external life of inspired activity, is the following one: very slowly opening and shutting eyelids several times. Those moments immediately following cessation of meditation are equally as important as the period preceding. They are of crucial importance in fact. For in those few minutes he may have lost much of what he gained during the whole period. Hold the state attained as gently and preciously as you would hold a baby. Hold to the centre and do not stray from it. Such a state the yogis call sahaja samadhi: despite all moving about there is non-action, for the heart is free.
He finds that the peace generated, the will aroused, and the insight gained do not last longer than the period of meditation itself.
He should endeavour skilfully to keep active from one moment to another this wonderful faculty which lays the heart of reality open to his insight. He should keep the integrity of this insight quite unimpaired even when he is occupied with the shapes and is participating in the events of a space-time, relativity-stamped world. After he has learned to rest inwardly in the thought-free state at all times and amid all circumstances and not merely during meditation, it is not essential that he should keep permanently free from thoughts in order to keep always in the pure-Thought awareness. No mental or physical activity can interrupt this insight once it has been fully realized. For then whatever thinking the duties of earthly life may rightly demand of him will be done within the pure Thought and not with any feeling of being apart from it. He will feel that it is one and the same pure Thought which is able to play through all these separate thoughts without prejudice to its own self-identity.
Although its deepest meditation culminates in thoughts ceasing to exist, the man must eventually end his meditation. As he does so, his mind necessarily returns from this condition to the common one of continuously active thought.
For anyone to be able to hold the mind utterly free of all thoughts and absolutely cleared of all images is an uncommon achievement. Even when successful, the effort seldom lasts longer than a few minutes. But after that short space of time, those particular thoughts and those particular images which first rise up are important, valuable, or suggestive. They should be carefully noted or remembered.
The deeper he plunges in meditation, the less does worldly life appeal to him when he emerges from it; the old incentives which drive him begin to weaken.
If it is to be a continuous light that stays with him and not a fitful flash, he will need first, to cast all negative tendencies, thoughts, and feelings entirely out of his character; second, to make good the insufficiencies in his development; third, to achieve a state of balance among his faculties.
It was sweet to be in the temple of true consciousness, but I could not stay indefinitely. I roused myself to ordinary waking consciousness.
If he emerges from this deep state, he will recognize his surroundings by slow gradations only. His reluctance to leave that region of absolute delight may account for this slowness.
The end of a meditation which attains such a high state may find him unable to return at once to the body's activity. It is prudent in that case to wait patiently for warmth, force, and movement to return to it. There need be no concern about this condition, which is quite familiar to practising mystics.
Experience shows that if a sufficiently deep level--not necessarily the deepest level but one that corresponds to what the yogis call savikalpa samadhi, which is not as deep as nirvikalpa--if that can be attained and then prolonged sufficiently in time, an artist or a writer can draw from the experience creative power for his work.
When the mind has really plunged very deep in contemplation, when attention has travelled very far away from its normal plane, recalling oneself to that plane is best done slowly, gently, little by little.
It is a fact that contemplation can become so deep and the personality so lost for the time being that when the period of practice is over the meditator may need a little time to accustom himself to his surroundings, just as any ordinary person who awakens from a very deep sleep may need several seconds to become conscious of his physical surroundings. In this half-absentminded state he may even fail to recognize someone else in the room. This happened once to the famous professor D.T. Suzuki, the great Zen teacher, after we had been sitting together in a private meditation in his study. Although the period was not at all long, when the silence was broken and he began to speak, he addressed the question to me, asking, "Who are you?" Of course after some seconds he came back into full consciousness and remembered.