More commonly in Western culture, meditation is predominantly stereotyped as sitting quietly, motionless, and emptying the mind. The atmosphere of one’s meditative place is clean, uncluttered, quiet, solitary, and well lit with sunshine.
I ask, “Is this accurate?”
Like the Hindu god, Shiva, we Westerners know him as “the destroyer.” This is inaccurate with the true meaning as intended in Hindu, and lost in translation. Because English does not have a word that directly corresponds with Hindu’s distinctness in explanation of Shiva’s purpose, we find the next best thing to describe him. Unfortunately, we either forget or are not informed that the English meaning of Shiva is the next best thing, and mistakenly accept it as the original truth. Shiva, “the destroyer,” is known in Hindu not for destruction but for transmutation. In order to change, though, the old “dies” to “give birth” to the new, changing what we know [to be]. Shiva, “the transmutater.”
Loss in translation is inevitable. Therefore, how has the meaning of meditation, or bhāvanā as it is in Sanskrit, transmutated in its passing from Hindu into English?
We Westerners define meditation differently than our Eastern counterparts.
Krista Tippett interviews Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s principle English interpreter, and in the transcripts Thupten Jinpa summarizes like this, “[bhāvanā] has the connotation of cultivation. It’s like cultivating a field. So there is this connotation of cultivation and the Tibetan term gom has the connotation of familiarity, a process of familiarity. So, uh, and meditation can be, you know, as His Holiness often points out, analytic where it’s not simply sitting down and quieting your mind, but it can actually be a process where you use kind of discernment and move from stages and stages to, in some sense, uncovering layers and layers to get to a point …” (Krista Tippett, Translating the Dalai Lama, being.publicradio.org)1.
Meditation. It is more than just emptying the mind and creating a clear, empty space. It is more than just sitting quietly. It is more than just focusing the mind.
Meditation. It is making one receptive and accepting to the energies of creation. Whether it be motionless or in motion, focusing all sub-parts of the mind, body, and our abstruse self, aka spirit, soul, transcendent. To delve inward for clarity, as well as delving deeper into the external for clarity. It is not listening for the one voice, but for the voices of one creation.
Lately, I have been feeling/hearing the call to intently bhāvanā, once again – it has been more than a decade. I feel compelled to walk alone in the snow and ask myself what I find.
The Earth, the solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy, all of space, and all of consciousness opens. Its pedals unfold and fill with color as a butterfly’s wings. Expansion. The sepal opens, revealing the iridescent nectary and gentle viscera. The beauty is opulent. Cells in my physical realm swell with the spice and perfume of a diametric essence. The pedals curl, and turn back in towards itself as it continues opening. The tips are now turned upward and coming up through the center from the bottom. Magically, pedals continually open and recycle, and the iridescent nectary changes colors and character as each new flower emerges.
Space, time, matter, energy – all that is – exists within boundaries with rules beyond our comprehension. In my mind, existence is not within a sphere, such as the sphere of outer space (regardless of whether it is expanding or contracting), but within a torus. To exist in the torus means there is no center. Also, just as the flow of water scatters when hitting a wall, we can not approach the “edge” of existence because space and time bends at the boundaries. Beyond that edge is a place without space, without time, and without matter – the terra incognita. To exit our boundaries, we must use a mode of travel that frees the shortcomings of our substance, matter itself. But, like a semipermeable membrane, matter can never pass through the edge of the torus for the inheritance of its creation binds it within space. Time ages matter; to exist in a space without time means matter will not age. That single torus is not alone. It is with an unknown or even infinite number of other toruses. When combined, they appear as a sphere from the outside no matter the angle of view. Inside, however, the center is still void. Be it alternate dimensions, or what have you, the sphere is made of the torus. With the semipermeable membrane of the torus, how do we find our way to terra incognita? Through the use of the one part of our self that exists beyond time and space and matter – our consciousness. Like the torus in a bath, the omnipresent almighty permeates every bit, byte, and bel. This energy, existing within and beyond the torus of our limited existence, is what meditation (bhāvanā) aspires to employ.
I can feel a physical change in me. Prayer, meditation, or whatever you want to call it, when I do it I can feel a physical change in my body.
I am a spider, hunting through the towering blades of grass in a field. I stalk, I jump, I stealthily lower myself by my web. It appears that I never blink or look around, yet my eyes are always scanning. Some can move and refocus, but others are fixed and only give me rudimentary vision, such as a change in light or movement. I am hungry. My legs are swift and nimble. Powerful, I jump ten’s of lengths of my body. My prey might glimpse me from afar or when I am atop, but it will not be able to escape me once I adjudicate conviction. I am the master of all domains I prowl. Pound for pound, I am the greatest predator across the world not merely for my predatory prowess, but also for even I intimidate creatures immeasurably larger than me. There is no other predator greater than I.
I am a dragonfly. The design of my body is built around a single purpose – agile flight. My wings are life. I, too, am a hunter. Overtaking my prey with both speed and maneuverability is part of my design and purpose. I cruise the boundaries of water and land, land and air, and air and water. Where two worlds meet, you will find me. I am either colored for camouflage or colored to advertise.
I slowly rise above the floor where I am laying. As I look down, I see how the floor looks from the ceiling. As I look down, I see myself sleeping. Without a push from arm or leg I float forward, then down. I drift around so I can see myself. In the dark, on the floor, I see myself gently breathing, eyes closed, still. Woosh! I stand on it, bending the throttle, and take to the air like a banshee! High enough to clear houses, I fly through the night air faster than birds and more silent than the wind. I fly through trees without a disturbance. City streets channel beneath me like streaking lines of the highway. Street signs vanish, as do cars. Street lights seem like warp-speed runway lights. Soon, the city lights are gone and the starry sparkles above are the only lights visible. High in the sky, it is breathtaking to see the sky with more than one-hundred-eighty degrees of view from horizon to horizon. Closer to the sky, the stars seem brighter, too. Also, the physical sensation of floating in the air is remarkable – my stomach gets queasy sometimes, still. I love flying! I love zooming through things. The deja-vu feeling of visiting a place I have flown over is always beyond belief. Although I tell myself the places I fly to are real, I really just think they are fabrications of my imagination. That is, until I actually visit them. Some people have told me out of body experiences are very dangerous and [Christians say they] are the work of the Devil. Despite having had some fearful incidents, I do not necessarily believe out of body experiences are bad or evil. I think some people may be afraid of developing their spirituality and using some abilities because they are not willing to accept the responsibilities and risks involved.
Text messages between Artificer and a friend:
Artificer: “Im intrstd in ur thots boiln @ the point of transcendence.”
Friend: “i think i have always understood the true concept—just never taken the time 2 apply it!”
Artificer: “When it is time it will happen.”
Friend: “touche. touche.”
Artificer: “It is within you. It is small but not yet tiny. Delicate but not fragile. Silent cuz not yet heard. Seen but not known. Far to reach, near to be. Strange but no stranger.”
Friend: “so true. just have 2 get in there and get it.”
Artificer: “It is not 2b had. It is reconciling friends of the same womb.”