9 GUIDE COMMENT: My dear friends, today I would like to speak about prayer and meditation. What is the difference between the two? Many people are not quite clear about it. It is always a matter of agreeing upon the meaning of terms. I should like to make the following distinction: prayer is a preliminary step to meditation.
Prayer is a matter of thinking, meditation is prayer with feeling; it engages the soul forces as compared to the thinking forces. To get to the second and further step, you need a certain discipline and concentration, which you learn through prayer. Most people are not used to being spiritually and mentally active, yet one cannot enter into meditation unless one has first learned the preliminary state of concentration.
10 QUESTION: Are there not two kinds of meditation, the spiritually active and another, more emotional? For example, meditating on “Be still and know that I am God,” without thinking, simply allowing the eternal principle of God to penetrate into the soul? Is that right?
ANSWER: Quite right. Again, there is a parallel to what we talked about before. Even in the form of meditation we find the masculine and the feminine principles. The one is intellectually active and involved with thought, therefore masculine; the other is emotional and flowing, therefore feminine. Both of them are important. In a particular developmental phase, one of them can be emphasized, and in the next one, the other, until balancing and fusion can take place even in this. The kind of meditation that should be mostly cultivated is always the one which you find more difficult, because this indicates that the quality to be cultivated is lacking for the ultimate merging.
50 QUESTION: Another spirit told me once that it is good to have a very long prayer and meditation. After some years, this became very much a habit. Some time ago, when I asked you about it, you said that this may not be good because there is a rigidity and a habit in such prayer, and that we should try to unlearn what we did at that time. I was wondering why was it that we were told by a supposedly developed spirit to fall into this habit-pattern?
ANSWER: When a person first comes to a spiritual path of development and is not used to prayer or concentration at all, such meditation is a good discipline. It is favorable to learn concentration through prayer and meditation, since your thoughts go through a certain cleansing process and you build a certain consciousness. You learn to cultivate unselfish thoughts. Your thoughts are elevated in prayer, thus clearing the way for a later stage of your development. So the power to concentrate can be combined with cultivating constructive and unselfish thoughts, as in prayer.
Certainly, concentration could be learned in connection with any subject, but it is better to learn it in this way than in mundane matters. So you see, both the cleansing of the thought process, as it happens in prayer, and concentration are necessary on this Path. Both could be learned separately, but it is just as well to combine them. Once the discipline is learned, one has to guard against the routine of prayer, which makes it rigid and devoid of aliveness.
Different activities and attitudes apply to different phases of one’s development. Once you have reached a certain point, it would be harmful, in many respects, to remain in a rigid routine. If your prayer does not vibrate any more, it is better to have short prayers that change according to your needs at any stage of your present development, also paying attention to your present difficulties and inner obstacles.
The power of concentration you have learned can then be used for the purpose of self-finding in all the work you do on this Path. That is much more productive than rattling off in one’s mind the same thing over and over again. Children in first grade learn something different than what they learn later.
105 QUESTION: Will you please elaborate on the meaning of prayer in the different stages?
ANSWER: I believe it is rather evident from the lecture itself [Lecture #105 Humanity’s Relationship to God in Various Stages of Development]. Prayer will be adapted to the conscious attitude and concept of any given phase. In the very first stage, when man is still almost in the stage of being, without awareness, there is no prayer, because there is no God-concept. In the next stage, man begins to ask questions and wonder. In this spontaneous experience of wondering and allowing new considerations to fill him, this, in itself, is prayer or meditation.
The next stage may be the realization of a supreme intelligence. In this stage, prayer takes the form of admiration of the marvel of the universe and nature. It is worship. In the next stage, when the confusion of the mind, the immaturity and inadequacy cause fear, clinging, helplessness, dependence, and when wishful-thinking and greed, unacceptance of reality, causes supplication, prayer will be expressed accordingly.
When prayers seem to be answered in this state, it is not because God acts, but because, in some way, man is sincere in spite of all his self-deceptions and evasions, and has thus opened a channel within, through which laws of being can penetrate to him. This is an important distinction that will only be perceived at a later stage.
When man realizes his own participation in whether or not a prayer is answered, he will lose the sense of helplessness and of the arbitrariness of a willful God he has to appease by manmade and superimposed rules. But I might also add that what often appears like an answered prayer, is the strength of an unconflicted mind in the particular area where the prayer is answered, at least at that time.
When man comes into the state of independence, when he lets go of this imaginary God who punishes, rewards and leads life for him, when he finds himself in the state of atheism, of denial of any higher being, he does not pray, of course. At least not in the conventional sense. He may meditate on himself, he may look at himself in sincerity, and this, as you all know by now, is the best prayer in the true sense.
But it may also be that man, in the atheistic state, is completely irresponsible, and fails to think and look at himself. He may escape from himself the same way as the person who uses God as an escape from himself.
When man reaches the stage of active pursuit of self-awareness, of facing himself as he really is, he may, at the beginning, still be accustomed to the old prayer of begging for help, asking God to do for him what he used to shy away from doing himself. Yet, in spite of this habit in prayer, he begins to face himself.
Only after reaching deeper levels of such self-facing, will he gradually avoid the kind of prayer he was used to. He may even go through a stage of not actively praying at all, in the usual sense. But he meditates – and that is often the best prayer! He meditates by looking at his real motivations; by allowing his actual feelings to come to the surface; by questioning them as to their reason for being.
In this kind of activity, prayer in the old sense becomes more and more meaningless, contradictory. His prayer is the action of self-awareness and of looking at himself in truth. His prayer is his sincere intent to face what may be most unpleasant. It is prayer because it contains the attitude that truth for the sake of truth is the threshold to love. Without truth and without love, there can be no God-experience. Love cannot grow out of trying to pretend a truth that is not felt.
But love can grow out of facing a truth, no matter how imperfect it is. This attitude is prayer. Candor with oneself is prayer; alertness to one’s resistance is prayer; owning up to something that one has hidden from in shame is prayer. When this proceeds, the state of being gradually comes into existence, little by little, with interruptions.
Then, in the state of being, prayer is no longer an action of uttered words or thoughts. It is a feeling of being in the eternal Now; of flowing in a current of love with all beings; of understanding and perception; of being alive. It is impossible to convey that these few aspects I mentioned here, in addition to many more indescribable feelings, comprise prayer in the highest sense. It is awareness of God in his reality.
But this kind of prayer cannot be imitated or learned through any teachings, prescribed practices, or disciplines. It is the natural outcome of the courage and humility to face oneself completely and without reservation.
Before you have reached this highest state of relating to God, of being, where prayer and being are one, all you can do, the best prayer in the world, is the renewed constant intent to face yourself without any reservation; to remove all pretenses between your conscious mind and that which is in you; and then, to remove the pretense between what is in you, and others. This is the pathway, my friends.
QA118 QUESTION: Recently, someone who is very highly evolved spiritually, asked me how long I spent in meditation daily. I was rather taken by surprise, and said I didn’t know because I wasn’t at all aware. I said that I was in constant meditation, as far as I knew, and I never counted the hours because I think of meditation as being self-analysis and an awareness of one’s separateness and the reasons for it. Whereas he considers meditation a search for the spiritual self through the kind of meditation which is included in the mantra. I had wondered whether, although I may have been evolving spiritually through this Path, if perhaps I should not at the same time have been working in his ways too. I think there is confusion in this.
ANSWER: Yes, there is a great amount of confusion in mankind in this respect. Now, of course, it goes without saying that there are many different ways and approaches. But the safest – what you can absolutely be safe about, that you do not evade, that you do not escape from yourself – is by self-understanding, which, in the last analysis, must bring you to the deepest communication with God. You see, there are so many possibilities of escaping from the self, and many of them are a search for God, as some of my friends have actually found within their own psychic life to be so.
They have come to that realization that this is what they have done. One cannot be sure until one has reached these levels. But self-understanding and observation, and the forever new intent to want to face oneself in utter truth without subterfuges, is the safest way to prevent escaping.
It is the same thing as communication with God, because if you become your real self, you realize God in yourself. Then you are no longer dependent on false or roundabout ways of practices and disciplines that may have a much more adverse effect than a welcome one. For so often, people merely experience through these disciplines what one might even experience through a drug – a wonderful, beautiful experience.
But it is an escape away from the self and its involvement, its problems, its confusions, its misconceptions – until one has to come back into this world, which then seems a dismal one. And then a duality is created: this world and the other world, which, in itself, is a sign that there is somewhere, something misunderstood. Because if you realize yourself, there is no duality between the spiritual life and this life. There is no difference. It is all one and the same.
These words may be very difficult to understand, to perceive, but this is the truth and this is why, my friends, when I recommend self-exploration, self-facing, you are safe. You have nothing to fear. You go the most direct way possible. It is certainly not the easiest way, and I might even say it is the most difficult way – infinitely more difficult than twenty-four hours of prostration and discipline. Five minutes of ruthless self-facing will do more than hours of discipline.
It is a hard way – it is a stony path, a narrow path, indeed, my friends. But it is truly the most direct path and one in which you do not have to worry about discipline, about escape. If you feel the urge here or there, today or tomorrow, to have a different kind of meditation, there’s no reason in the world why you should not give in to this. But do not be fanatic about it. And keep in mind the utmost of importance: it’s inside yourself, to see what is there before you can, in reality, reach God.
QUESTION: I have found that for many years I had a very profound misconception in this respect, which I’m trying to clear up only lately. When doing menial tasks, I had practiced that my mind was somewhere else, thinking, meditating, and so forth. I just realized that by doing this I created a split, which was very unsatisfactory. Quite lately, I get much more out of the smallest task if I’m completely there and if I don’t try to meditate or try to do anything else but wash a dish when I’m washing a dish. It is the first time I realized where a split can be healed.
ANSWER: Yes, that is very good and very true, and I just would like to add one thing to what you have said. You see, you said you have created a split in this attitude. I would correct that and say it is a result of a split. And since you grow and develop and begin to see more and more, as you all know who are on this Path, certain things begin to change almost by itself, as it were. It is as though this would have nothing to do with your problems you’re concerned with, in the momentary phase you’re working in.
You see a different reaction on something completely different. And this is really the result of a growing process. So I think if you keep it in mind in this way, it will give you a fuller understanding that you have not created a split by having your mind on other things while you were doing this thing. The fact that this was so is a result of a split.
QA142 QUESTION: In meditation, if one experiences a light that floods one, whether it is a stream of light or whether it is a starry light or many stars, what is the meaning of it?
ANSWER: It is impossible to answer this in a general way, because there are so many possibilities. It may be a mirage; it may be an actual experience. It depends on the frame of mind; it depends on the openness to see oneself in truth; it depends on whether or not the person has striven for the light for the sake of the light, or whether the person has striven primarily for truth and humility, in a willingness to see one’s self as one is.
Depending on that, it would be that the light is a result of true enlightenment – or it may be a mirage. It is impossible to generalize an answer. I can only answer it in a general way, and that is that it could be either of these possibilities.
QA151 QUESTION: I am aware that I am constantly talking to myself, like this internal monologue constantly going on. When I make an effort to shut it off, like by concentrating on a sound, it is a very beautiful feeling. Is this talking to myself, in itself, a bad thing, or is it just the way that I am?
ANSWER: It depends on the way. I would suggest that in your notes, write down the various types of monologues or conversations you have within yourself. You will, perhaps, find there are two or three different kinds.
Then in your work, either with your Helper or if you wish to elucidate more on it here, we can differentiate what these various kinds mean, and what benefit you can derive from understanding and analyzing the types of conversation you have, and thereupon in what direction to conduct them.
In the meantime, I have this to suggest. When you do this, send one thought deep into the innermost divine intelligence dwelling in yourself. Request its guidance that your thought processes are inspired and go into a constructive way which leads you into further self-realization, which leads you where you should be right now, that make you open for the inspiration. Then let the involuntary processes from the deep real self guide you.