On meditation

As for any set form of meditation, we have the following from the letters of Shoghi Effendi:

As to meditation: This also is a field in which the individual is free. There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the teachings, no plan as such, for inner development. The friends are urged-nay enjoined-to pray, and they also should meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual.1

So as far as recommendations go, I’m afraid that all I have to offer are personal suggestions.

There are many grades of meditation. The simplest form occurs when we ponder a certain point expressed in the Writings. As we plunge deeper and deeper, meanings begin to unravel like the skin of an onion. Suddenly we realize a connectivity latent in all things which defies the limits of our comprehension. This moment of intellectual frustration usually results in a feeling of awe, and of mental tiredness. After this point, I often fall asleep.

A more subtle meditation involves releasing the mind from its material condition. We are all created of God. With respect to Him, in the field of true existence, none of us exist. “How can utter nothingness gallop its steed in the field of preexistence, or a fleeting shadow reach to the everlasting sun?” We are simply manifestations of the Will of our Creator, as thoughts are the manifestation of our own will. But do thoughts have any reality? They have a conditioned reality; their existence depends on us, though at the same time they may have a profound effect on us.

Noticing this lack of true existence, and plumbing its depths, is another form of meditation. One understands that the words of God are not simply true – they are Truth. Every veil interposing itself between ourselves and the truth of His words is a foreign element. When we ponder the mercy and justice of God, does not a feeling of indignance sometimes creep up on us? We think, “How can God allow such things to happen in the world? Isn’t He the All-Powerful?” But God’s Will is His own. `Abdu’l-Bahá has written a beautiful prayer expressing this intention:

O thou who art turning thy face towards God! Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious. Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou seekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance He healeth a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a nod He layeth balm on every wound, with a glimpse He freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief. He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord.2

As this self-knowledge of our existence through God dawns, the mind experiences a wonderful sense of freedom. The gates of the City of Certitude open, and we are no longer at odds with our Faith. In this condition we are able to apprehend the truths that were invisible to us before. The key is to know, from the bottom-most depths of our heart, that God’s creation is His own. “He doth what He willeth, ordaineth what He pleaseth.” If He were to treat us unfairly, and to manifest nothing but cruelty, that same injustice would be Justice, and that same cruelty, the essence of kindliness. As Bahá’u’lláh has written in a prayer:

My God, Whom I worship and adore! I bear witness unto Thy unity and Thy oneness, and acknowledge Thy gifts, both in the past and in the present. Thou art the All-Bountiful, the overflowing showers of Whose mercy have rained down upon high and low alike, and the splendors of Whose grace have been shed over both the obedient and the rebellious.

O God of mercy, before Whose door the quintessence of mercy hath bowed down, and round the sanctuary of Whose Cause loving-kindness, in its inmost spirit, hath circled, we beseech Thee, entreating Thine ancient grace, and seeking Thy present favor, that Thou mayest have mercy upon all who are the manifestations of the world of being, and to deny them not the outpourings of Thy grace in Thy days.

All are but poor and needy, and Thou, verily, art the All-Possessing, the All-Subduing, the All-Powerful.3

The point is that God embraces all things, and nothing embraces God. The age-old question, “Can God create a rock too heavy for Himself to lift,” presupposes that God can be placed in a condition of lifting something external. But His Essence is unknowable. This means that no thought we have ever formed – however lofty – excluding the words of Prophets of God, has ever been close to the truth. It could be stated that we have never thought of God before, nor known Him. Every definition we have for “God” is false; every supposition of knowledge, groundless. The only sourcebook we have is the Teachings of His Manifestations.

This is because God desires for us to know Him. Why He desires this is His own affair. The fact that he wishes us to worship Him – even though He is beyond all need of worship, and nothing we can ever affirm of Him is true – is also entirely up to Him. He asks us to state in the short obligatory prayer, “I bear witness, O my God, that thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee.”

Plants were created to receive light from the sun and carbon-dioxide from the air. When they do not do this, they grow sick and die. Animals were created to eat food and drink water. When they do not do this, they also die. And humans were created to know and worship God. If we neglect this duty, we too will die.

This is the heart of meditation, to me: when the mind realizes its own nature, and in that moment turns toward God with a sincere heart. What else were we created for? Although a discussion of worship would take a long time, it is the basis. Prayer, work, service, good deeds: this is what we are. And until we realize it, we will be incapable of loving one another. Can hungry wolves abide together in the same cage? Do plants in a dark room make for a good garden? We are depriving ourselves of the very reason for our being, and this has set us at odds with one another.

  1. Directives from the Guardian, p. 35

  2. Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 51

  3. Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 250