One of the things that I have been thinking about over the last several years is, specifically, the idea of thinking deeply in such a fashion that concerns the altering of our perception. Perception not so much in a literal sense of the five senses but more in the abstract sense of liberating myself from the subjective viewpoint I naturally possess by way of being a singular consciousness. It is a stance that attempts to classify and limit one entirely to an exclusive viewpoint — and sometimes this can even be hostile towards change, veritably fighting to retain an identity that, in the larger picture, is hopelessly irrelevant.
Meditation ought to be an act which seeks to alter our selfish perceptions to gain some sense of a more liberated (& wise) view. I use ‘liberated’ as the opposite of ‘subjective’ here because I feel that ‘objective’ is a word that only serves to validate a false concept of there being an ultimately objective view that is accessible to humans. I must agree with Kant: there is some objective reality of total certainty that is accessible to God, but we cannot claim to be anywhere approaching whatever this objective stance is.
It is important that we do not take some cartoonish view of meditation being an act solely done in Eastern society. Ever since we are young there are agents at work which portray meditation as inextricably linked to Buddhism or to Eastern spirituality while totally discounting that the very etymology of meditation which places it as a Greek word. Meditation is something which factors into Western spirituality greatly — it is merely suspiciously absent from prayer lives endorsed by some of the more modern (and backwoods) Protestants. There seems to almost be an organized movement in Western society to suck up the spiritually beneficial concepts of Christianity & Islam and portray these religions solely as judgmental, vindictive, violent & anger-orientated manifestations of human frustration as opposed to profound practices.
A Taspih; used by many schools of Islamic thought in a meditative prayer not unlike a rosary.
Types of prayer from many Western religions are nothing less than meditation. Certainly, some short, Protestant act of beseeching God for a gift does not fall into the category but the praying of the rosary or the pater noster falls into the category of a meditative act. Doubtlessly, just like some Catholic & Orthodox forms of prayer, the way in which Muslims often pray on the taspih is identical to a lot of the Hindu & Buddhist concepts of the repetition of mantras and the direction of focus on to something else — or, in some cases, the concept of unfocus more than any specific focus.
Regardless of whether or not a meditative act is prayer in the fashion of the Rosary or Taspih, or whether it is the recitation of the Maha-Mantra or simply an utterly silent and mantra-less profound concentration on the relaxation of the body and the stimulation of the mind towards the abstract, there should be a common and a uniting theme: the liberation from the current world and the eased entrance into an alternative thought process which illumines and grants greater clarity and wisdom.
In short, the very act is meant at an altering of our perception. Thus on some level it is a fundamentally humble action — the recognition of the inadequacy of the current mental state and the necessity of entering a different mental state to attain greater wisdom.
The goal is, of course, to walk away with it with some greater sense of inner tranquility and to glean morsels of truth & wisdom that one would not otherwise attain — in short, the goal of a meditative act is the altering of one’s perception.
Perception has two realms — self-perception (自覺) and the general perception (知覺) of that which is around us. Our self & general perception always seem to be infinitely separate and something which we cannot concentrate on both simultaneously (particularly when we are having an off day), and it always seems that in our general perception there is always an emphasis on the separation of entities.
Our perception, as it stands, seems to be a highly divided and, more than anything, a painfully subjective experience. I would even further contend that it is when we think in a hopelessly subjective sense we are thinking extraordinarily selfishly & unwisely. It is through a meditative act that we seek to liberate ourselves from the selfish and to gain a greater sense of wisdom.
In short, a meditative act is that which seeks to liberate oneself from a limited, baser sense of perception and bring one closer towards wisdom through altering one’s perception. This alteration is, on one hand, temporary but each time hopefully enough wisdom is brought back to keep us from falling back into ignorant & selfish ways. The overall goal being that, as we live, we spend enough time in a meditative realm so as to defeat the baser & meaner aspects of our person and achieve something great.
Chuang-tzu referred to the state of forfeiting one’s sense of self and one’s selfishness, one’s attachment to the world, and simply becoming one with the continuous changes of nature & environs, as achieving Daemong (大夢), or the Great Dream. This is not meant to say that one is in a perpetual state of disillusionment but, in a more romantic sense, it appeals to the idea of us achieving a more serene and true existence. Chuang-tzu’s philosophy challenged a lot of our perceptions of reality as it stands — and when we live in a hopelessly self-centered (and un-meditative) existence we are living entirely subjectively and grossly far away from the far more universal, liberated perspective.
When we meditate our goal should be to achieve a sense of wisdom that unlocks what Taoist philosopher Choi Shihyeong referred to as the Daegak (大覺), the Great Perception, which is the perception of oneself as interconnected with others and part of the greater cosmos. It is the idea of beingat one with nature as opposed to an entity fundamentally outside of it. It is a very modern, Western view that the spiritual and the material are fundamentally separate. The mind-body dualism of the Cartesian thinkers in Western tradition almost stands as a massive red herring in the face of Eastern spirituality, and spirituality in general, which does not presuppose the separation of the two so flagrantly.
As in Christianity, it is the viewing of oneself as united in the Body & Blood of Christ and brings up the early Christian philosophers that speculated as to whether or not God is in everything. These ideas are not exclusive to Eastern spirituality by any means but they are present in our very own Western religious traditions…
As such, we ought to treat our prayer lives as our meditation lives (and likewise every meditative act is as an act of prayer). They are all efforts to liberate oneself from the limited and selfish consciousness and project one towards a greater unity with the Whole.
In a very real sense it can be said that the Western & Eastern religious traditions share much in common when we boil things down to the real & true quest for greater love, harmony and proximity to the Positivity as a whole.