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Spiritual Concentration & Meditation:
The Message of Self-Knowledge

Book  stop.gif (845 bytes)  Weekly Message Archive

WEEKLY MESSAGES

In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.

 

 

 

 

SPIRITUAL CONCENTRATION & MEDITATION:

THE MESSAGE OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE

 

Swami Adiswarananda

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center

New York

The quest for our spiritual Self is the primary urge of life. Discovery of this Self is the key to our true well-being and our highest fulfillment. Three basic desires motivate all living beings: the desire for immortality, the desire for unlimited awareness, and the desire for unbounded joy. Through our toil and tears, pleasure and pain, hope and despair, life and death, we are all trying to fulfill these desires. Only the knowledge of our true Self can accomplish this goal. There is no rest, no peace, until the Self is known. By knowing the Self, which is all-pervading like the sky, we realize our immortal nature. By experiencing the bliss of this Self, we go beyond all conventions and limitations. By the light of this Self, we see everything enlightened. The maladies of this life are due to separative existence, governed by the law of relativity and change. The entire universe is on the move to know this Self. It is the frantic search of the parts for the whole. When we are forced by the laws of nature to evolve and change, we call it the law of evolution. When we make a conscious search for the Self, we call it spiritual quest. Communion with this Self is possible only through meditation.

Some people argue that the spiritual quest is escapism and that Self-Knowledge, communion with the Divine, ecstasy, and beatific vision are merely the result of suppression or sublimation of the libido. For them, contemplation and meditation are lapses into inactivity and inertia. They believe that experiences of the superconscious state are delusions caused by repression of physical and mental urges. Denouncing the spiritual quest, “medical materialists” say that “extraordinary conscientiousness is due to overstimulated nerves. Melancholy is due to a torpid liver. The apostle St. Paul's vision on the road to Damascus was possible simply because he was an epileptic. St. Theresa, the Christian mystic, was a hysterical woman. George Fox's discontent with the shams of the world was a symptom of a disordered colon.”

Critics of the spiritual life ask for action and good deeds, not contemplation; for participation in the world, not withdrawal from it. They say that meditation is selfish and life-negating. Life is action, participation, interaction, and communication. Can one afford to lapse into passive solitude when cries of suffering are heard everywhere? Should we sit back in silence when we are needed by the world for its welfare? The contemplative is a quitter, an escapist who justifies his escapism in the name of spiritual quest. Meditation in silence is a narcissistic dialogue with one's own ego—a futile endeavor to make the finite infinite. Meditation creates division and isolation, as opposed to union and communion. The peace of meditation is the peace of anesthesia.

To these arguments we may respond that doing good is never possible without first being good. Simply living together in itself does not bring about communion. Union is not that same as merging with mass opinion and mass thinking. Action without meditation will only be reaction. The well-being of a person, whether material or psychological, stems from spiritual well-being. All maladies have their roots in the spiritual. The rise of a person begins with spiritual awakening, and the fall begins with spiritual eclipse. Spiritual eclipse brings moral eclipse, which in turn paves the way for psychological and physical slides. The immortality of a person depends on the discovery of spiritual individuality, and meditation is the only way to discover it.

A knower of Self becomes a saint and a true humanitarian. The gift of sainthood makes it possible for him to really love others, through the realization that he is one of them and one with them. The basis of this love is not self-love but love for the Self in all. The saints alone demonstrate the reality of God, the validity of the sacred texts, and the true meaning of love and compassion and concern for the welfare of all beings. The one who has learned this truth—the knower of Self—demonstrates the realization of it by setting an example.

Our true sanity and well-being are not determined by opinion polls or by the whims of social changes, but by the knowledge of truth, and truth is no respecter of social changes. Society must obey truth or perish, and meditation leads us to the shrine of truth. Let us approach this inner shrine and become knowers of Self.
 

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]

Book  stop.gif (845 bytes) Weekly Message Archive