“The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self.
Our task must be to free ourselves; by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein, 1954
“How easy the spiritual path is, if you give even a little time each day to meditation. Meditate intensely, morning and evening. Even fifteen minutes of meditation is better than no time at all.”PARAMHANSA YOGANANDA, FROM CONVERSATIONS WITH YOGANANDA
1.“In meditation, you must go beyond thought. As long as you are busy thinking, you are in your rational mind, on the conscious plane. When you sleep and dream, you are on the subconscious plane. And when your mind is fully withdrawn in superconsciousness, it becomes centered in the bliss of the spine. That is the level of the soul’s existence.”
2.“Do not be anxious if you don’t have meditative experiences. The path to God is not a circus! Don’t even be anxious about such fruits of meditation as inner joy and peace. Everything will come in time. Meanwhile, consider meditation, too, as a form of karma yoga: action without desire for the fruits of action. Meditate above all to please your higher self, not your ego.”
“3.Every sincere effort is registered in the Divine consciousness. Your duty…is to accept whatever He sends you — and, for that matter, He doesn’t send. God alone knows what past karma keeps you from perceiving Him right now. He may want you to finish up your karma in this life, before giving you eternal bliss.”
4.“Don’t waste the perception of the God’s presence, acquired in meditation, by useless chatting. Idle words are like bullets: they riddle the milk pail of peace. In devoting time unnecessarily to conversation and exuberant laughter, you’ll find you have nothing left inside. Fill the pail of your consciousness with the milk of meditative peace, then keep it filled. Joking is false happiness. Too much laughter riddles the mind and lets the peace in the bucket flow out, wasting it.”
5.“Meditate regularly, and you will find a joy inside that is real. You will then have something you can compare to sense pleasures. That comparison will automatically make you want to forsake your sorrow-producing bad habits. The best way to overcome temptation is to have something more fulfilling to compare it with.”
6.“Never count your faults. Just think about whether you love God enough. [The Divine] doesn’t mind your faults, only your indifference.”
7.“Many people meditate till they feel a touch of peace, but jump up then and leave their meditation for their activities. That’s all right, if you have important work waiting for you, for it is always better to meditate before any activity, that you may feel at least some peace as you work. Whenever possible, however, sit for a long time after your practice of techniques. That is when the deepest enjoyment comes. Intuition is developed by continuously deepening that enjoyment, and, later on, by holding on to its calm aftereffect.”
8.“[The Divine Spirit] answers all prayers. Restless prayers, however, He answers only a little bit. If you offer to others something that isn’t yours to give, won’t that be a merely empty gesture? If you pray…similarly, but lack control over your own thoughts, that prayer will be without power. Thoughts and feelings, both, must be focused when you pray. Otherwise God will meet your little trickle with another trickle in return! Answers will be doled out to you in a teaspoon. Too often, prayer is more like the halfhearted mumbling of a beggar than the confident, loving demand of a friend.”
9.“You won’t find [the Divine Spirit] by making constant excuses: for example, saying, ‘When I find a quiet place, I will meditate.’ That is not at all the way to get there! If you tell yourself, however, “Right now I will plunge into deep meditation!” you can be there in a moment. When you are really sleepy, you have no difficulty in sleeping no matter where you are. When a person is in love, he or she finds no difficulty in thinking of the beloved; rather, it is difficult not to think of him or her, even to the point of ignoring work. Be in love with God! It is easy to meditate deeply, when your love for [the Divine] is deep enough.”
LEARN TO MEDITATE
Having a daily meditation practice is a powerful tool for a more fulfilling life. Learning this simple and effective meditation technique will ensure you maintain a daily practice.
Life Beyond the Grave: An Easter Meditation from Ravi
I was only nine years old when I attended my first funeral. It was my grandmother’s funeral; she was in her seventies when she passed away. For the first time in our home we experienced the pall of death. There were no funeral homes in India at the time so the body was kept for a day or so in the living room and then buried. Suddenly, in the household there was a silent corner. Almost unavoidably everyone spoke in low tones. The reality of death is unmistakable.
I have rather clouded memories of that event but I do remember well the hymn that was sung at her funeral. To this day I cannot explain why, unless it is the power of music to express emotion when ordinary speech fails:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
How could I as a youngster process all the sentiments in that verse? As one gets older we find different ways of saying the same thing, as if to soften the harshness of it all: “passed away,” “departed,” “expired,” “breathed their last,” and so on. Even so, the pain still hits the one left behind. It is as if the finality of that one life lives on in the emotions of another.
As even more years go by, moral questions about death emerge: Why did it happen so soon? Why did it happen this way? Why did it happen? Is this really the end?
The question is even more complex when death comes not merely as a tragedy but as an atrocity. I was recently in Newtown, Connecticut, where the savage and heartless killing took place of twenty-six people, most of them small children. Almost unbearable ambivalence is inflicted when the killer then kills himself and the deadly silence of ever knowing the motive or of finding justice envelops everyone. “Did he escape the consequences of the pain he inflicted on others?” “Is that it?”
“Yes” is the answer if naturalism and atheism are true. Everything is final. There is no recourse. The silence that falls is the heart-wrenching echo of a purposeless existence. Death becomes the great leveler, and there is no difference between what awaits one person or another at the end. That is why Solomon cried out that if all were measured “under the sun” (apart from any influence outside of our existence), then “all is meaningless.”
Even more pungent is the belief of Bertrand Russell that life can only build upon a foundation of unyielding despair. Such is the senselessness of life from the silence of the grave when it has been defined “under the sun.” We work, we play, we toil, we struggle, we endure, we debate, we invent, we destroy, and in the end, we ourselves end.
But with death is something else to consider. Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff writes in Lament for a Son,
“When we have overcome absence with phone calls, winglessness with airplanes, summer heat with air conditioning—when we have overcome all these and much more besides, then there will abide two things with which we must cope: the evil in our hearts and death.”
There you have it; the inescapability of death and of morality are the twin realities for which there is only one solution: that there is life beyond the grave. These two questions give us a hint from the transcending view of eternity rather than being constrained by the temporal keyhole, and point to an answer that comes to us from beyond the sun, found only in the Son.
There is life beyond the grave. Yes, the grave has its tears. Even the Lord of Life wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. He knew we would feel the pain of loss but because of him it does not need to be a permanent loss. Because of him it is only a temporary loss, a loss like saying goodbye at the train station or the airport, a loss tempered with the joy that one day we will be standing at the “arrivals gate,” receiving the one to whom we had bid a temporary farewell. Only in that paradigm can our struggle with death and evil be explained.
I write this having just spoken at Uppsala University in Sweden. Engraved in stone above the entrance to one of the university’s main buildings is the university motto: “To think free is great, but to think right is greater.” Before we arrived for these open forums, our hosts conducted a survey among the students asking if they agreed with their university’s motto. Fifty-one percent disagreed with it and thirty-one percent said they hadn’t given it a thought. These are future politicians, professors, lawyers, doctors, and parents. I assume that those who preferred free thinking to right thinking believed that was the right conclusion. Or perhaps it simply did not matter, so long as it was their thought. It should be no surprise that apathy becomes the legacy of relativism and reason is crucified at the altar of our egos.
But, if there is life beyond the grave and there is a final day of reckoning, all this cavalier word-wizardry will be exposed for the arrogance and lie that it is. It is absolutely critical that we think rightly about life and death and that we understand the “what” and the “why” of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Life has a defining point. Life has a destination point. Death and separation are the destination halls of sin; hope and life the arrival points of a life that has accepted the personal significance of the death of Christ. The Lord of Life brings justice upon those who rejected his mercy and gives mercy to those who cried out for it and were willing to accept his justice.
Death is either a full stop or a comma. In the Christian worldview, it is a comma. There is for the Christian both the passing of all things and the abiding in Christ’s provision. As the hymn writer wrote,
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
The resurrection makes the difference. Jesus’s triumph over death captures my defeat and takes me into his victory. The apostle Paul came to know Christ in reverse order to the rest of the disciples. Knowing Christ from his birth to his life, to his death to his resurrection, the disciples had to await the triumph. But Paul knew Christ from the point of his resurrection—from the point of his triumph—and traced his life back to his birth. And that regressive journey, which is our journey too, imparts meaning to everything “under the sun” when it is seen through the resurrection of the Son. That’s why Paul said, “That I may know him, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering; being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).
Soren Kierkegaard was right when he said that we have to define life backwards and then live it forwards. It is the arrival that defines the reason for the departure. It is right thinking about life that gives freedom its map. It is the resurrection that makes Good Friday good. It is not Bertrand Russell’s unyielding despair; it is the enchanting hope of Christ’s triumph over death that makes this journey what it is. This is the message of Easter.
Justice and grace are the two brightest lights in a dark world. Only Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection upholds them in finality and continuity. What a beautiful truth! May the grace of God dwell in your hearts richly.
Happy Easter to you all.