This is the fourth in a series of posts spanning late-January through February featuring selections from our new spiritual novel, Dialogues With the Lord of Time, which is being rolled out this month in various formats, as detailed on our Home page.
In this post, we’ll feature a few selections from Dialogues discussing the practice of meditation. Because today is also the day this year on which the birth anniversary of the great Hindu saint Sri Ramakrishna is celebrated, we’ll also include one selection pertaining to him.
Four Stages of Meditation
“First, when a practitioner sits for meditation, they turn their mind inward by repeatedly focusing on one object until the mind becomes concentrated. Second, concentration is achieved when the mind becomes calm and is not swayed by wandering thoughts and distractions. Third, once concentration is stabilized, it consolidates into true meditation, at which point the mind becomes unwaveringly still and void of all thoughts for a protracted period. Maintaining this extended state of prolonged interior silence is the quintessential element of meditation. Fourth, and finally, the person subtly dissolves their sense of identity until all self-awareness is obliterated. At that stage, they remain immersed in an ever-deepening state of nondual consciousness, which is impossible to describe.”
The Inner Orb of Silence
“Find a secluded space in your home that you can call your own and where you can meditate without disruptions. This will help to create a spiritual atmosphere whenever you meditate. Then sit comfortably. I recommend meditating with eyes closed. Beginning meditators need approximately fifteen to twenty minutes of diligently applied effort just to gather the mind, free it from distractions, and focus on the home object. This will help to still all wandering thoughts that drift through the mind, which are like ‘clouds of mosquitoes in the summer,’[i] as the eminent Russian Orthodox saint, Bishop Theophan the Recluse, wrote. You may even attempt to focus on two objects at one time, such as your breath and any suitable image that represents God. This doubly captures a wandering mind, assuring it will remain inwardly fixed. Those with more experience will quickly be able to escape this gauntlet of wandering thoughts and rapidly lose themselves in the inner orb of silence they have generated through their repeated past efforts.”
Shut Down the Wandering Mind
“Remember, the purpose of meditation is to bring the mind to a halt. We don’t sit in silence in order to replay our memories or to visualize how our various plans might pan out. Or to devise ways on how best to extract revenge on our enemies. We turn our attention inward and shut down the wandering mind. As Lao Tzu asserts:
Shut the gateways of perception
Seal the portals of desire
Then you will know peace throughout your life.”[ii]
‘You’ Have Been Exterminated
Father Christopher, the main character in Dialogues, attempts to describe the state of spiritual enlightenment. “Try to envision a state of meditation so deep that your awareness becomes subsumed in a vortex of pure nothingness swirling in a variegated blanket of ever-changing bliss. … But ‘you’ are not aware of this; ‘you’ have been so completely consumed by the divine Presence that ‘you’ have been exterminated, so to speak. There is no one left to observe or communicate this experience, which can neither be differentiated nor objectified. Ramakrishna used a very apt analogy to describe this indescribable state: ‘Once a doll made of salt went to the ocean to measure its depth. It wished to tell others how deep the ocean was. But no sooner had it plunged into the ocean than it melted away and became one with it. No one remained to convey any information.’[iii] This is an extremely heightened, intensified state of consciousness.”
[i] Timothy Ware (ed.), Igumen Chariton (comp.), E. Kadloubovsky and E. M. Palmer (trans.), The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology (London: Faber and Faber, 1976 reprint of the 1966 edition), p. 183.
[ii] Tao Te Ching, Chapter 52.
[iii] Adapted from The Gospel of Râmakrishna (New York: The Vedanta Society, 1907), p. 109; and from Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Vol. II (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, Second Edition, 1928), p. 33.
We will feature one more post next week about Dialogues With the Lord of Time, before resuming our regular posts in March.
Note: All excerpts from Dialogues With the Lord of Time are copyright 2023 by John Roger Barrie, All Rights Reserved.