Why is mankind in constant turmoil? This is not just true at a global scale, but also at the individual level. We have so many desires and anxieties, and we project them openly, yet are often completely oblivious to our neurosis. We fight and struggle to dominate and repress other people’s freedoms, and the level of misery we inflict on one another depends on the norms surrounding our social standing/status. A country’s leader crushing his citizens of 10 million is very much like the mother or father dominating and controlling their 3 children well into adulthood. It’s just that each person can only dominate and repress the number of people that they have “jurisdiction” over. Even though all relationships are built originally on trust and compassion, they can mutate very fast when one or more parties start living from the dark world of their fantasies and fears instead of the truth of God’s warm and ever radiating light. Perhaps we fail to see the absurdity of our demands and daily strife because it is a shared reality for most of us and truly awakened humans are rare and even considered myths. But does it have to be that way?
We have so many examples from so many faith traditions of wonderful, enlightened men and women. We have pages and pages of holy scriptures detailing how to uplift ourselves and others out of our emotional suffering. Why can’t we just pull ourselves together and become the kinds of people we really want to be. Why can’t we become more like the beloved Prophets peace be upon them and their companions? Why can’t we become more like the great sages and teachers who have lived in every time period, including our present time? What is stopping us from embodying the true spirit of our faith in our day to day life? We don’t have to necessarily live like monks, away from society. We can live in our present culture and bring light and joy to our and others’ lives.
My contemplation and search has lead me to the conclusion that as long as we function strictly in our conceptual world of thoughts, we can never truly achieve lasting peace and joy. Thoughts are simply ideas, and they could be right or wrong, or more right or more wrong, depending on the circumstances they are acted upon. Every thought is based on our past experiences and so we are operating from a very narrow field if we always take them seriously.
If we think about our life regrets, we realize that those regrettable actions we committed in the past were done when we believed some thoughts which were later revealed to be false.
So how do we step outside of our petty world of thoughts and emotionally coded memories? The answer is: meditation. Meditation is a highly encoruaged part of every major mainstream faith. All the Prophets peace be upon them meditated in solitude at night. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him is also recorded to meditate regularly in addition to completing the 5 daily ritual prayers. In fact, Prophet Muhammad pbuh was in a meditative state in the cave when he received the first revelations through the Angel Gabriel. There is something about meditation and the meditative state that allows the human mind to expand and receive true guidance, or at least clarity.
From an Islamic perspective, there are both inner and outer dimensions to worship. Salah (ritual prayer) would be considered the obligatory outward spiritual practice and meditation is an inward one. One of the great scholars of Islam, Imam Malik (may God be pleased with him) stated the importance of both the inner and outward practices: “If one engages in formal Islamic practice (fiqh) yet fails to honor inner Islamic practice (tasawwuf), he or she will become a hypocrite. And if one engages in the inner but neglects the outer, he or she will become a sinner. Only by carrying both the inner and outer dimensions of Islam can one reach the goal, Truth.”
The methods of meditations may differ slightly from one faith to another, but the goal is the same: to shatter the false mirage of the ego and allow God’s true guidance to flow into every part of our being.
I hope to explore meditation further. I know that if I want to break down my false beliefs and damaging circular thoughts/emotions, I must commit to meditating regularly. I hope and pray that I can purify my heart every day. Maybe if I include meditation in my daily spiritual repertoire, I can truly be awake and think, feel and act out of the truth instead of my personal, limited desires.
“Meditation is one of the most extraordinary things, and if you do not know what it is you are like the blind man in a world of bright color, shadows, and moving light. It is not an intellectual affair, but when the heart enters into the mind, the mind has quite a different quality; it is really, then limitless, not only in its capacity to think, to act efficiently, but also in its sense of living in a vast space where you are a part of everything. Meditation is the movement of love. It isn’t the love of the one of of the many. It is like water that anyone can drink out of any jar, whether golden or earthenware; it is inexhaustible. And a peculiar thing takes place which no drug or self-hypnosis can bring about: it is as though the mind enters into itself, beginning at the surface and penetrating ever more deeply, until depth and height have lost their meaning and every form of measurement ceases. In this state there is complete peace – not contentment that has come through gratification – but a peace that has order, beauty, and insensity. It can all be destroyed, as you can destroy a flower. and yet because of its vulnerability it is indestructible.
This meditation cannot be learned from another. You must begin without knowing anything about it, and move from innocence to innocence.
The soil in which the meditative mind can begin is the soil of every day life, the strife, the pain, and the fleeting joy. It must begin there, and bring order, and from there move endlesly. But if you are concerned only with making order, then that very order will bring about its own limitation, and the mind will be its prisoner. In all this movement you must somehow begin from the other end, from the other shore. and not always be concerned with this shore or how to cross the river. You must take a plunge into the water not knowing how to swim. And the beauty of meditation is that you never know where you are, where you are going, what the end is.”
-Freedom, Love, and Action by J. Krishnamurti