Step Six: Wisdom
“May I Become Wise Through Meditation”
By way of review and context, please recall that each of the first four steps in this seven step process are “contemplative.” That is, they require deep and calm conceptual consideration regarding our motivation, transformation, gratitude, and compassionate intention. However, Step Five is called “meditative” because it entails and non-conceptual focus on our breath along with the capacity to observe distractions, remember the meditative object, i.e., our breath, and sustain our tranquil concentration. It is called “meditative” because there is no conceptualization taking place. Each of these steps gradually help to prepare our minds for Step Six.
In many traditions, the primary purpose of meditation is to cultivate non-conceptual wisdom. It is often regarded as a direct insight into the truth of existence and/or a state of unity with God or a sacred state of being. Wisdom cultivated through meditation is the foundation for personal liberation as well as wise, loving, and compassionate service in the world. Although each spiritual tradition may have its own name for the ultimate reality, its own specified goals, nevertheless there are similarities in the meditative processes leading to that goal. Because InterSpiritual Meditation is non-sectarian and inclusive, it does not specify a metaphysical goal. Rather it provides a universal process to help each person develop and actualize their own spiritual goal or purpose. In so doing, we celebrate the diversity of the profound contemplative states of consciousness found throughout the world.
The following poems, stanzas, and scriptural passages are provide to help you journal the purpose and focus of your meditation. Your meditation might be a continuation of mindful breathing in Step Five, it might come from a single tradition, or from a variety of traditions you have studied and practiced. This is your opportunity to articulate, summarize, and practice the meditation of your choosing. If you have collected inspirational writings from other sources, please add these to you journal.
For additional information on this step, please refer to the book InterSpiritual Meditation. The following materials are provided to stimulate your journaling.
If you want to pray,
Enter your inner room,
Close the door,
And pray to your Father in secret,
And your Father who sees in secret
Will reward you.
(This is the scriptural source for Centering Prayer
(or Contemplative Prayer), taught by Father Thomas Keating)
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“For He can well be loved, but he cannot be thought. By love he can be grasped and held, but by thought, neither grasped nor held. And therefore, though it may be good at times to think specifically of the kindness and excellence of God, and though this may be a light and a part of contemplation, all the same, in the work of contemplation itself, it must be cast down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. And you must step above it stoutly but deftly, with a devout and delightful stirring of love, and struggle to pierce that darkness above you; and beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love, and do not give up, whatever happens.” (The Cloud of Unknowing)
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Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing make you afraid;
All things pass;
But God is unchanging’
is enough for everything.
You who have God
God alone is sufficient.
(Teresa of Avila)
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Ah blessed absence of God,
How lovingly I am bound to you!
You strengthen my will in its pain
And make dear to me
The long hard wait in my poor body
The nearer I come to you,
The more wonderfully and abundantly
God comes upon me.
In pride, alas, I can easily lose you,
But in the depths of pure humility, O Lord,
I cannot fall away from you.
For the deeper I fall, the sweeter you taste.
(Mechthild of Magdeburg, Translated by Oliver Davies)
Just as a bird with undeveloped
Wings cannot fly in the sky,
Those without the power of higher perception
Cannot work for the good of living beings.
The merit gained in a single day
By one who possess higher perception
Cannot be gained even in a hundred lifetimes
By one without such higher perception.
Those who want swiftly to complete
The collections for full enlightenment
Will accomplish higher perception
Through effort, not through laziness.
Without the attainment of calm abiding,
Higher perception will not occur.
Therefore make a repeated effort
To accomplish calm a biding.
When the practitioner has gained calm abiding,
Higher perception will also be gained,
But without practice of the perfection of wisdom,
The obstructions will not come to an end.
(Atisha , Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment)
“One who meditates
On contemplation as Brahman,
Their freedom will extend to
The limits of the realm of contemplation…..”
“But, sir, is there anything greater than contemplation?”
“Yes, there is something greater than contemplation.”
“Then please, sir, tell me about it!”
“Wisdom, verily, is greater than contemplation.
For by wisdom one knows heaven and earth.
Air and atmosphere, water and fire,
Gods, human beings, and animals, grass and trees,
Right and wrong, true and false, pleasant and unpleasant,
Food and drink, this world and the other . . .
All these are known by wisdom.
Meditate on wisdom.
“One who meditates on wisdom as Brahman,
Attains the worlds of wisdom and of knowledge.
Their freedom will extend to the limits of the realm of wisdom,
One who meditates on wisdom as Brahman.”
(Chandogya Upanishad VII, 6:1-7:2)
Islam – Sufism
Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret,
and in exchange gain the Ocean.
Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honor,
and in the arms of the Sea be secure.
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean wooing a drop!
In God’s name, in God’s name, sell and buy at once!
Give a drop, and take this Sea full of pearls.
(Mathnawi, IV, 2619-2622, translated by Camille and Kabir Helminski, Jewels of Remembrance)
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Let your heart be in such a state that the existence or non-existence of anything is the same—that is, let there be no dichotomy of positive and negative. Then sit alone in a quiet place, free of any task or preoccupation, be it the reciting of the Qur’an, thinking about its meaning, concern over the dictates of religion, or what you have read in books—let nothing besides God enter the mind. Once you are seated in this manner, start to pronounce with your tongue, “Allah, Allah” keeping your thought on it.
Practice this continuously and without interruption; you will reach a point when the motion of the tongue will cease, and it will appear as if the word just flows from it spontaneously. You go on in this way until every trace of the tongue movement disappears while the heart registers the thought or the idea of the word.
As you continue with this invocation, there will come a time when the word will leave the heart completely. Only the palpable essence or reality of the name will remain, binding itself ineluctably to the heart.
Up to this point everything will have been dependent on your own conscious will; the divine bliss and enlightenment that may follow have nothing to do with your conscious will or choice. What you have done so far is to open the window, as it were. You have laid yourself exposed to what God may breathe upon you, as He has done upon his prophets and saints.
If you follow what is said above, you can be sure that the light of Truth will dawn upon your heart. At first intermittently, like flashes of lightning, it will come and go. Sometimes when it comes back it may stay longer than other times. Sometimes it may stay only briefly.
(Al-Ghazali, Quoted by Kabir Helminski in Meditations for InterSpiritual Wisdom)
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What does it mean to learn the knowledge of God’s Unity?
To consume yourself in the presence of the One.
If you wish to shine like day,
burn up the night of self-existence.
Dissolve in the Being who is everything.
You grabbed hold of “I” and “we,”
and this dualism is your ruin.
(Mathnawi I, 3009-12 of Jalaluddin Rumi,
translated by Camille and Kabir Helminski in Rumi Daylight )
Before heaven and earth
There was something nebulous
unchanging and alone
the Mother of All Things
I do not know its name
I call it Tao.
(Tao Te Ching)
Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life…Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
(Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder)