Meditation: Western vs Eastern. Know yourself!

The purpose of this email is to individually arouse the question:

• Where does my meditation practice and spiritual energy go!?
• Who controls what I think to be good practices?
• What energy is transferred from and into me whilst partaking in organised Eastern meditation, particularly mass meditation at set times”.

Please read with an open mind and ask yourself:

“Just why did the Beatles (amongst others) bring Eastern Meditation, philosophy and ideology to the West with so much force and vigour and who instructed them to do so!?”

Meditation if misguided will in fact create a Cult!

(Please research “western meditation vs eastern meditation” and even the whole Hippy movement!).



Meditation in western philosophy by Marcus Aurelius

When we think about “Meditation” we tend to picture people seating cross-legged, focusing in their breath, emptying the mind. Mindfuldness has become a word to refer a secularized version of eastern meditation. But those are not actually “Meditation” in the strict sense of the word. The word meditation comes from latin meditare, to measure, to pay attention to something with our mind. A more accurate word for the eastern way of meditation is what in the west was known as Contemplation, or silent meditation. This post is about Meditation and Contemplation in the western tradition, from the ancient Greeks to our time.

According to Gellius (Attic Nights 2.1.1–3), this was a habitual practice of Socrates: Among voluntary tasks and exercises for strengthening his body for any chance demands upon its endurance we are told that Socrates habitually practised this one: he would stand, so the story goes, in one fixed position, all day and all night, from early dawn until the next sunrise, open-eyed, motionless, in his very tracks and with face and eyes riveted to the same spot in deep meditation [cogitabundus], as if his mind and soul had been, as it were, withdrawn from his body. When Favorinus in his discussion of the man’s fortitude and his many other virtues had reached this point, he said: “He often stood from sun to sun, more rigid than the tree trunks.” As Bussanich (2013, pp. 298–300) has noted this is comparable to ascetical practices found in various oriental religions. I think what Socrates was doing was not some oriental meditation, but a kind of inner dialogue.

MEDITATION

At the heart of Western philosophy is the Dialogue. It is a practice as old as language itself and found in many cultures in different forms. The dialectic method has multiple applications, from self knowledge to the development of critical thinking. It was the driving force behind the development of western philosophy, but also democracy, arts such theater or the scientific method.

The dialectic method is a very humble discipline. It begins with asking simple questions for asking the right questions can be more important than getting the answers.

“I only know that I know nothing.”This simple phrase uttered by Socrates encapsulates the core of his wisdom, and forms the roots from which the dialectic method has grown. Although Socrates didn’t write anything himself, his student Plato wrote a voluminous number of dialogues with Socrates as the central character.

Plato’s Dialogues are not just a masterpiece of literature. We should remember that those dialogues were not historical accounts on his teacher’s inquires to fellow athenians but they are the very core of the Socratic Method. More importantly, the Dialogues are a device designed to make us think and wake us up from our self made assumptions. Even when we disagree with its content and conclusions, we are forced to create and define our own arguments in favour or against.

INNER DIALOGUE

Inner dialogue is a great tool for self knowledge. Know thyself was one of the maxims written in the entrance at Delphi. We know many people but chances are that we will end our lives without knowing ourselves. Yet, there is a “conversation” all the time inside our heads. When we are driving our cars, of at work or even when we are talking to somebody we rarely are fully aware of our patterns of thought. We spend our lives ruminating rather that meditating. The unique ability of human consciousness to be aware of itself and reflect on its future, it’s our source of power but also of troubles.

Pascal said that all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

NEGATIVE VISUALIZATION

We should begin each morning seating quietly for a few minutes, and visualize the day ahead, with special focus on the difficulties we are going to experience. We should pay attention to our reactions toward the things that happen to us, how we narrate to ourselves our setbacks. At night, we should end the day by recalling the events that happened during the day, mindfully and objectively, bringing to mind the things we could have made better during the day, or the things we have learned from the experience.

WRITING MEDITATION

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Another practice that I find not just useful, but very pleasant, is writing meditation, or what the ancient Greeks called Hypomnemata. This involves the writing of a book addressed only to ourselves. It is not a diary, since it is not about events, but dialogue with ourselves, a remainder of our principles, conversations, reflections, taking notes on readings or anything that we found meaningful or helpful for our philosophy or life.

The stoic tradition Marcus Aurelius

THE PRESENT MOMENT

“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.”
―Epictetus


ANAGOGÉ (Ascent)

Ascent, elevation, bringing up; in the Platonic tradition means the scape from the cave and the elevation into the world of the Forms. An idea taken from the religious rites organized to approach to the divine realm by means of purifications (katharmoi), initiations (teletai), the Platonic dialectic and allegorical exegesis, contemplation (theoria) it is prefigured by the sacred way which the initiates of mysteries (mustai) walk, the path to the mountain (oreibasia)

‘Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smooths there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer. … Cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue.


First Ennead, Sixth Tractate, Section 9

‘It is now time, leaving every object of sense far behind, to contemplate, by a certain ascent, a beauty of a much higher order; a beauty not visible to the corporeal eye, but alone manifest to the brighter eye of the soul, independent of all corporeal aid. However, since, without some previous perception of beauty it is impossible to express by words the beauties of sense, but we must remain in the state of the blind, so neither can we ever speak of the beauty of offices and sciences, and whatever is allied to these, if deprived of their intimate possession. Thus we shall never be able to tell of virtue’s brightness, unless by looking inward we perceive the fair countenance of justice and temperance, and are convinced that neither the evening nor morning star are half so beautiful and bright. But it is requisite to perceive objects of this kind by that eye by which the soul beholds such real beauties. Besides it is necessary that whoever perceives this species of beauty, should be seized with much greater delight, and more vehement admiration, than any corporeal beauty can excite; as now embracing beauty real and substantial. Such affections, I say, ought to be excited about true beauty, as admiration and sweet astonishment; desire also and love and a pleasant trepidation. For all souls, as I may say, are affected in this manner about invisible objects, but those the most who have the strongest propensity to their love; as it likewise happens about corporeal beauty; for all equally perceive beautiful corporeal forms, yet all are not equally excited, but lovers in the greatest degree.” PLOTINUS


“What measures, then, shall we adopt? What machine employ, or what reason consult by means of which we may contemplate this ineffable beauty; a beauty abiding in the most divine sanctuary without ever proceeding from its sacred retreats lest it should be beheld by the profane and vulgar eye? We must enter deep into ourselves, and, leaving behind the objects of corporeal sight, no longer look back after any of the accustomed spectacles of sense. For, it is necessary that whoever beholds this beauty, should withdraw his view from the fairest corporeal forms; and, convinced that these are nothing more than images, vestiges and shadows of beauty, should eagerly soar to the fair original from which they are derived. For he who rushes to these lower beauties, as if grasping realities, when they are only like beautiful images appearing in water, will, doubtless, like him in the fable, by stretching after the shadow, sink into the lake and disappear. For, by thus embracing and adhering to corporeal forms, he is precipitated, not so much in his body as in his soul, into profound and horrid darkness; and thus blind, like those in the infernal regions, converses only with phantoms, deprived of the perception of what is real and true.”

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein       


The above is just one extract. Please do your own research into the difference between Eastern and Western meditation & the .

Much like the harmless Tibetan monk sat all alone in his mountain top cave constantly meditating for his own inner peace, own well-being and own gain the West has been overrun with the same ideology. Would the peasants living further down the mountain not deem him the most selfish of all? He, never going out of his way to support and cherish his own people but rather choosing to follow the instructions of his elite superiors, thus exhibiting mindless devotion!


Expanding on the extract above this simple daily “Western Meditation” is sure to improve the lives of those around you, therefore improve your own life and your own inner relationship.

Many may hate what they find but with practice and the willingness to change, the outcome of this “Simple Daily Practice” is certain.

(When the word “God” is mentioned your own conception or belief is to be used. This is a Non-Religious meditation but the list of possibilities to suit every individual would obviously be into the tens of billions).

When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.

On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.

In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.

We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn’t work. You can easily see why.

If circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation. If we belong to a religious denomination which requires a definite morning devotion, we attend to that also. If not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.

It works – it really does.

Love not Fear….ALWAYS

Prayer (Western Meditation) of St. Francis of Assisi (Non-Religious version.)

Make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

 

 

 

 

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One Reply to “Meditation: Western vs Eastern. Know yourself!”

  1. A very much needed comparison. Perhaps rational western meditation was purposely hijacked. Surely we must improve our minds eye not lose our mind.

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