More and more, I'm trying to make my meditation time as meaningless as possible. That's a change.
I've been meditating, daily, for more than thirty-seven years. After being initiated in 1971 by an Indian guru, Charan Singh, I dutifully followed the meditative practice enjoined by Radha Soami Satsang Beas.
While this supposedly was aimed at emptying the mind so divine sound and light, plus the guru's grace, could flow in, actually there's an awful lot of meaningful content in the meditative method I followed for so long.
A mantra composed of "five holy names," each of which points to a defined metaphysical level of reality. Envisioning the guru's face, principally the eyes and forehead, as this was supposed to contribute to spiritual uplift. Paying attention to certain mystical phenomena to the exclusion of others.
It's difficult to have an empty, open, receptive consciousness when it's filled with so much preconceived content.
So now I'm attracted to a meditation philosophy that fits with the Boundless Existence schema expressed in my previous post. Meaningfulness is all on this side of Boundless Existence, or ultimate reality. It involves relations between existents—particular things, people, objects, ideas, concepts, phenomena, whatever.
Boundless Existence, on the other hand (and it is really other), has no connection with anything. It is nothing, emptiness, inasmuch as nothing whatsoever can be predicated or said about it.
It provokes the most profound sensation of Ahhhhhh. And only that. Intuitive awareness of its presence is as close as we can come to knowing it. That it exists is within the bounds of human comprehension; What it is—that's the Mystery which shall ever remain.
I picture Boundless Existence as sort of a featureless backdrop to all of my other meaningful pursuits. This is how Milton K. Munitz views the relation between bounded and boundless existence in his book, "Does Life Have a Meaning?"
He says that a deep appreciation of the utter and complete Mystery of Boundless Existence delivers us from misleading assumptions, or projections. One is that it's possible to make generalizations about the nature of the universe or reality "as a whole."
As I argued, Munitz-like, in my previous post, no matter how meaningful an existent may be—up to and including the possibility of God—there's a beyond: Boundless Existence. Within that emptiness (assuming "within" has any meaning in this context) all meaning vanishes.
So the quest for a unitary "meaning of life" is fruitless. The foundation of the cosmos, Boundless Existence, bears no relation to all of our human intentions and dreams. Munitz says:
The misleading result of such projections is to withdraw attention from the only possible source of genuine, though limited, control—that by human beings themselves. The realization that since Boundless Existence has no properties of its own that work either for good or ill with respect to human life obliges us to focus on ourselves, both individually and collectively, as agents for both understanding and exercising limited areas of control over the character of our own interactive meanings.
Hey, Munitz is a philosopher. His rather murky language reflects his academic leanings. But his basic point is simple and clear: we make our own meanings in life.
Meaning isn't handed down from on high, like the Ten Commandments. It comes from our never-ending (until we die) interactions with everyone and everything we encounter daily, hourly, minutely, momently.
Thus a backdrop of meaninglessness brings a sharper resolution to whatever produces meaningfulness in life. The letters I'm typing on my laptop's screen stand out because they appear on a featureless white background.
If everything in life is meaningful, nothing is, really. I need the awareness of Boundless Existence's empty, uncaring, cosmic meaninglessness to create a sharp contrast with the meanings, large and small, produced by my interactions with other existents every waking moment of my life.
Silence. That's the key. Munitz says:
To see why an intensified awareness of Boundless Existence, in its own distinctive way, makes the question of the meaning of life vanish, I shall focus on the way in which that awareness is experienced by the cultivation of a special type of silence.
…Since it is not propositional or conceptual, the awareness of Boundless Existence is, to this extent, experienced in silence. If one breaks this silence, it can only be to engage in metaphor, negative statements ("not this, not that…"), or exclamations and expressions of feeling evoked by the experience.
Yesterday a delivery truck driver came to our house. One of the first things he said was "Wow. It sure is quiet out here. I'm used to the city. There's always some sounds where I live."
We've lived in the country for sixteen years. Naturally I'm aware of the silence, but usually it doesn't have a lot of meaning for me. I've come to take it for granted—except when the wind, or cold winter air, brings us the constant thrumming noise of a distant freeway.
The delivery man rejoiced in the quiet. He reminded me of what it makes possible. Hearing birds singing…owls hooting…frogs croaking…geese honking…coyotes howling.
My wife and I love each of those sounds. Which rest on silence—nothing.
As outside, so inside. Meditation, for me, is cultivating awareness of meaningless emptiness. Out of that mental silence, meaning emerges.
There! That! Ah…