Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 4: Elementary Meditation > Chapter 5: Visualizations, Symbols
The type of meditation called discursive--by which is meant the kind which rambles on in reflective or logical thinking--does not suit every student. Several who have essayed it without success after repeated attempts are really temperamentally unsuited for it, yet they need not abandon hope. There is another method of meditation which is actually easier, worth trying, and possibly better suited to their temperament. During a wide experience with dealing with Western students, I found that those who have failed with discursive meditation are not necessarily more lacking in good potentialities than those who have succeeded. It is simply that they have found the method which will draw out the potentialities that they possess.
Meditation exercises whose method is to visualize a form, pattern, or happening appeal to, and are easier for, some people.
The philosophic mode of meditation makes use of imagination as much as it makes use of reason. Through the use of these faculties, when directed toward abstract themes and high objects, it leads the meditator to universal spiritual intuitions that in their own turn will conduct him to philosophic experiences. Thus mental picturing and mental thinking, when rightly used, assist his liberation just as when wrongly used they retard it.
There are two faculties worth developing. They are the faculty of observation and the faculty of imagination or visualization. We look, but see little, for we do not notice much of the detail. We are unable to imagine clearly, sharply, and vividly. We lack the ability to recreate a physical scene purely in the mind.
Those persons who are unable to "see" and hold these symbolic pictures through their mind's eye with sufficient vividness, may still take heart. The capacity to do so can develop itself as a result of repeated practice in this exercise. Even if at first the picture seems far-off, faint, blurred, and vague; even if it appears only fitfully and fragmentarily; by degrees the persistent effort to hold it will be rewarded with the ability to do so continually as well as clearly.
As a support for the beginning period of practice itself, as a means to fix attention, a particular physical object or sound may be chosen. He may gaze at a chink of light shining in a dark room or listen to the pendulum-swing of a metronome. Whatever is thus isolated from the outer world for concentration, is used merely as a jumping off platform from which to enter the inner world.
Tratak is a technique for focusing the eyes, as unblinkingly as possible on a special point: this could be a black dot inside a black circle on a white sheet or wall, until tears fill them.
Some yogis try to tranquillize the mind by practising the gazing exercise. They mark a black point on a white wall, or draw a black circle on the wall, and then sit down opposite it so that their eyes are exactly opposite. The body is kept quite still and they continually stare at the mark for as long as their experience or their teacher prescribes.
The gazing exercise can be suitably applied to the empty sky by day or night, to a star, a tree, etc.
A single colourful flower placed in a slim vase may be used for the gazing exercise.
Among physical objects a flower, a stick, or a flame have traditionally been used.
To quieten thoughts, it is helpful to some practitioners to visualize a globe of blue light--the so-called Wedgewood or powder blue--and to concentrate on it as fixedly as they can.
Meditation may also be made on a colour which, if harmonious to the meditator, will lead him by deepening concentration into a mystical state.
The lovely colours brought into the sky by the fall of eventide make a fit object for meditation.
A properly directed imagination may be as much a help to his progress as an improperly directed one is a certain hindrance to it. During some exercises for meditation it can be creatively used in a particular way. For instance, the aspirant thinks of his master, if he has one, or of a scriptural personage, if he believes in him, or of an unknown, ideal, beneficent, perfected Being in the angelic world, and imagines him to be "the Gate" to a deeper order of existence. The aspirant then implores him for admittance into this order, for strength to make the passage, and for Grace to become worthy of it. In this curious situation, he has to play a double part. On the one hand, he is to be the person making the request; he must feel intensely, even to the point of shedding tears over what he is mentally crying out for; on the other hand, he is to see him doing so, to be a mere witness of what is happening. Thus at one time he will be part of the scene, at another time merely looking at it. Every detail of it is to be vividly pictured until it carries the feeling of veridical reality.
He is to take complete possession of this image, to take hold of it inch by inch.
Imagine and believe that the Master is here in your room, sitting in his accustomed chair or position. Then behave and meditate as you would do if in his presence.
This exercise requires him to retract his attention inwards until, oblivious of his immediate surroundings, he intently projects certain suggestive mental images into this blankness and holds them determinedly yet calmly. The result will appear later in his ordinary state when the wakeful consciousness will seize these images abruptly and unexpectedly and effectively act upon their suggestions.
Imagine a brilliant white light shining forth in the heart and spreading into the entire body.
Any visualized form, especially of a living or a dead master, may be used as a focus of concentration.
Visualization Exercise: It will help him if, for a few minutes, he stops whatever exercise he is engaged with and projects the mental image of himself doing it successfully.
A remarkable, unusual, and excellent exercise in self-perception is to imagine himself sitting down to the work of meditation, and going through with it to successful fulfilment of his purpose, all obstacles seen, fought, and eventually pushed aside. All this is to be done in his mind, his own person, and its doings becomes the object of concentration. In short, he paints a mental portrait of a meditating man, who is himself.
Exercises: Visualize a lovely quiet landscape scene, either from memory or pictures, and think of yourself being there. Feel its peacefulness. Visualize the face of some inspiring person; feel you're in his presence.
A suggested theme for this pictorial concentration is that of a spiral pattern like a staircase. The meditator must choose whether it seems to go up or down, guided by intuition.
When the mental form on which he is meditating vanishes of its own accord and the mind suddenly becomes completely still, vacant, and perfectly poised, the soul is about to reveal itself. For the psychological conditions requisite to such a revelation have then been provided.
It is easier for almost all people to think pictorially rather than abstractly, to form mental images rather than mental conceptions. Although the more difficult feat is also the superior one, this fact can be utilized to promote meditational progress. The mental picture of a dead saint whom the aspirant feels particularly drawn to or of a living guide whom he particularly reveres, makes an excellent object upon which to focus his concentration.
I mentioned in The Quest of the Overself that radiations from a photograph had been discovered by a scientist I met long ago, Mr. Shrapnell-Smith, and also by another English investigator at that time whose name I can not now remember. Many readers of the book have since then sought for photographs of their gurus and used them as objects for concentration. Not only so, but somewhat later the idea was adopted by healers who used photographs of patients living at a distance to give them absent treatment at a fixed time of the day, the patient himself putting himself in tune with the healer passively and receptively. In connection with these usages of photographs by disciples of gurus and healers of patients, it ought to be pointed out that more effective than using the material object of the photograph is the implantation of the picture in the mind, the mental image itself. In other words, the thought of the guru without any external physical aid or the thought of the patient gives a better connection for the purpose desired. Centuries ago, before photography was invented, gurus knew this principle and many of them told their disciples that wherever they were living the remembrance of the guru would give a link and that the emotional attitude, devotion, reverence, and so forth, linked with the remembrance, would bring back some benefit from the guru.
The picture must be perfectly vivid and sharply formed. It must be held for a little while. Then let it slowly fade away into the still centre of your being, absorbed by its light and love.
Withdraw attention from everything outside and imagine a radiant, shining Presence within the heart. Visualize it as a pure golden sunny light. Think of it as being pure Spirit.
He should study the figure well, note every one of its details carefully, close his eyes, and then try to reproduce the figure again mentally.
To place the drawing before you is the first stage. To hold it in your mind is the second one. Hold the mind immobile upon it until a slightly hypnotic state is induced.
The mandala is a diagrammatic representation, used by Tibetans and Jains for concentration, usually featuring a square enclosing a circle. Each side of the square has an opening. At the centre of the circle is a figure which is the important part of the picture and to which attention must find its way through the openings and put to rest there, until the deeper mind is reached.
No man has complete freedom to use his creative thought-power to its most magical extent, for all men have to share it with the Overself which, being their ruler, also rules the results of their efforts. In a divinely ordered world it would be anarchical to vest full power in unredeemed man.
The trained meditator can make any episode of his own past seem as real and near as the present. He is able to create distinct and vivid images of it after so long a time as even several years.
These image-building powers can be expanded until mere thoughts seem external things.
Visualized figures can be concentrated on with such intensity as to make them seem like real ones. Such an experience which is sought in certain meditation disciplines is used as an illustration of the tenet that everything known is, in the end, a mental experience.
The meditator should sustain the chosen mental image for as long as his power allows.
The gazing exercise may be alternated by simply looking towards a point midway between both half-closed, half-opened eyes and keeping them fixed in this position.
The first stage of this exercise consists in withdrawing attention from the object or landscape at which he is looking, and using it instead to observe the eyes themselves; they remain open. The second stage is to withdraw attention still further and try to become aware of the observing mind alone.
The eyes look out on the landscape in a vague general way, without focussing on any particular object. This belongs to the second stage, whereas specific concentration belongs to the first and more elementary one.
It may help the meditator to picture the world along with his body dissolving into space until all distinctions stop.
The use of imagined forms, scenes, and persons is only for beginners in meditation: it is to be left behind when the object has been sufficiently achieved. As Saint John of the Cross says, "For though such forms and methods of meditation may be necessary in order to inflame and fill their souls with love through the instrumentality of sense, and though they may serve as remote means of union, through which souls must usually pass to the goal of spiritual repose--still they must so make use of them as to pass beyond them, and not dwell upon them forever." Such a use of pictured forms must include the master's too. Saint John of the Cross even includes Christ's. For many this practice is a step forward, but aspirants must not linger all their lifetime on a particular step if they really seek to climb higher.
It is a common practice for religious or mystical Indians to meditate upon their favourite deity until they get the experience of being completely identified with it of becoming one with it. This experience is then considered a grace given by the deity itself. But what else is it to the outside observer, however sympathetic he may be to such practices if he is at all critical at the same time, than a process involving the creative imagination and what is the end result but an imaginary one?
In the end the symbol must be dropped; the reality it points at must alone be held by the mind when it seeks a deeper level of meditation.
The Spiritual Symbol represents in a symbolic language what is usually represented in spoken or written words.
The Spiritual Symbol serves a threefold purpose. It is an aid to concentration of attention. It expresses and teaches a universal truth or law. It evokes an intuitive perception of this truth or law. Moreover, it may even bring about a certain moral effect upon the character provided the foregoing three purposes have been successfully realized.
The cross is a symbol given to man by the creative imagination of his race's early seers. Its flat crossbar is his ordinary everyday life which he shares with all other men. Its upright bar is his higher spiritual life which he shares with God. The entire figure tells him that crucifixion of his ego is resurrection of his spirit--normally and daily dead in the material life.
If the paper photograph of a living sage or the bronze statue of a departed one helps to remember his achievement, to realize his ideas, or even to touch his aura, why should we not use it? It is only when we put it to superstitious uses that we then degrade the sage's name and harm our own progress.
Just as a photograph contains certain magnetic radiations which link it with the person pictured thereon but which vanish with his death, so the book of a living author offers an activated link between his mind, which is incarnated in its pages, and those readers who look to him and his writings for help. Although at his death the contact with his actual mind is broken, the contact with the way in which it worked is not.
The Spiritual Symbols are given to pupils who are highly intellectual, professional, or active-minded as a means of (1) allaying mental restlessness; and (2) constructively working on the inner bodies, since these forms are in correspondence with the actual construction of (a) an atom, and (b) the universe.
The Cross symbolizes personally the utter surrender of the ego in desiring and willing impersonally. The vertical line means consciousness transcending the world, the horizontal one means consciousness in the world: the complete figure shows the perfect balance needed for a perfect human being.
The geometric designs which appear in the stained glass windows of so many churches, on the painted frescoes of so many tombs, and in the architectural plans of so many temples are sacred symbols useful for this purpose. They have not been selected by chance but by illumined men, for their number is very small compared with the hundreds of possible groupings and arrangements also available. The measurements of the different parts of each geometric symbol follow certain proportions which are not fixed by personal whim but by cosmic order. This is why Pythagoras declared that number is the basis of the universe. The same proportions of 1-4-7-13 exist in the distances of the sun to its planets and asteroids, in their movements. They were used in Stonehenge, in the Greek temple, and in the Gizeh Pyramid. Each symbol corresponds to some cosmic fact; it is not arbitrary or imaginary or accidental. Its value for meditation practice does not end with promoting concentration but extends beyond that. Its power to affect man derives also from its connection with the divine World-Idea, whose perfection and beauty it reflects.
The purpose of using the symbol has been achieved when the user actually feels the luring presence, the inspiring force of the spiritual quality it symbolizes. He should then put it aside and concentrate on the feeling only.
A practical rule which applies to all the pictures, diagrams, and designs is to visualize them as standing vertically upright, not as lying flat as when drawn on paper.
The artists who drew these spiritual diagrams in the first instance belong to far-off antiquity. They were mostly holy men, monks, or priests. Centuries ago, as they meditated on the mysteries of God, the universe, and man, they entered a state of mystical revelation and saw eternal truths, hidden realities, laws and forces of the universe. When they tried to communicate their intuitive knowledge to others, they felt guided to do so in the form of the symbolic pictures. Even today these visions sometimes arise of their own accord, offering themselves spontaneously to the mind's eye, when the intuition is trying to find another form of expression than the verbal one for what it knows or what it seeks to communicate.
The spiritual emblem combining a circle and some other form stands for reconciliation of the Overself and the ego, for integration of man's higher and lower nature.
There are used in India, Tibet, and China meditation symbols of a purely geometric kind. They may be quite simple or quite intricate in design. They are drawn in black ink on white paper or parchment, or they are embroidered in coloured silk panels on tapestries, or they are painted directly on monastery walls. The designs include completed circles, perfect arcs, equilibrated triangles, rigid squares, pyramids, pentagons, sexagons, octagons, and rhomboids. It is believed that by concentrating on these geometric diagrams, with their straight undeviating lines, some help is obtained toward disciplining the senses, balancing the mind, and developing logicality of thought.
The Pyramid is a perfect symbol of both spiritual balance and spiritual completeness.
Symbols are diagrams or paintings on paper pertaining to the chosen Ideal or deity worshipped.
The concentration of attention on the chosen symbol must occupy itself with reflections which rise above their merely pictorial value.
Colours enter into the composition of a Spiritual Symbol. Each is significant, each corresponds to a cosmic or a human force.
The spiritual diagram takes the shape of a square combined with a circle when it stands for a reconciliation of opposites, for the equilibrium of their forces and the balance of their functions.
At the apex of a pyramid there is only a single point. At its base there are innumerable points. The tenet of the One appearing as the Many is well symbolized by this ancient figure.
Whether it be called a mandala, as with Tibetan Buddhism, or a yantra, as with Tantrik Hinduism, it consists of a geometrical design, or a linear diagram, or some non-human, non-animal, non-pictorial representation by a drawing which is taken as a symbol of God, or of the higher self. Concentrated attention upon it is supposed to lead man closer to this self, like any other form of worship.
Manjusri is depicted with sword in hand, meaning that he cuts away one's illusions.
When the spiritual emblem takes the form of a circle, it represents the Wholeness which is the ideal state of the fully developed and equilibrated man.
The higher self should be invoked at the beginning of the deliberate work done on these affirmations and symbols. The latter may then become its channels, if other conditions have been fulfilled.
The gesture of right thumb tip joined in circular form to the forefinger tip represents, in Hindu-Buddhist statues, giving a blessing of the truth. The same gesture also appears in some Greek Orthodox Christian icons as a blessing.
The Rising Sun was originally a symbol of the Overself in relation to man's conscious development.
The Swastika originally had two meanings: as a wheel revolving clockwise it was the symbol of the unfolding World-Idea; as a radiant circle it was the pictograph of the invisible Sun behind the sun, which was the proper object of human worship.
The symbol is intended to create a corresponding mood, or to arouse a latent force.
The highest of all symbols is that which expresses God.
The thought-form whose reverence helps him to keep concentrated, the mental image whose worship holds his attention quite absorbed, justifies a place for itself in the meditator's method. Only at an advanced hour may he rightly put them aside. But when that hour arrives, he should not hesitate to do so. The devotional type of meditation, if unaccompanied by higher metaphysical reflection, will not yield results of a lasting character although it will yield emotional gratification of an intense character. Overself is only an object of meditation so long as he knows it only as something apart from himself. That is good but not good enough. For he is worshipping a graven image, not the sublime reality. He has to rise still higher and reach it, not as a separate "other," but as his very self.
Philosophy recognizes that the human mind cannot even grasp the concept of the Void that is a Spirit save after a long course of study and reflection, much less realize it. Therefore it provides for this situation by offering a Symbol of that Void, a picture or an idea of which the mind can easily take hold as a preliminary until he can make the direct attempt.
This Symbol will become a focal centre in his mind for all those spiritual forces which he has to receive intuitively. From it he will get inspiration; to it he must give veneration.
Thus the symbol becomes equated with the Soul, with entry into and memory of it. The indefinite and formless, the remote and abstract Reality takes on a nature which, being approachable, comprehensible, and visible, can help him seek, worship, and love that Reality in a personal and human way.
The portrayal of Gautama as a seated meditating figure symbolizes his basic message. This was really, and quite simply, "Be still--empty yourself--let out the thoughts, the desires, and the ego which prevent this inner stillness."
What is the inner significance of the rosary? At the time of meditation, the worldly man is harassed by worldly thoughts. The rosary teaches that until unimpeded meditation becomes possible, the aspirant should persevere, leaving behind thought after thought. The beads represent thoughts and they are pushed back. The thread passing through the beads represents "the all-pervading ideal." With patience and perseverance, thoughts are subdued and, as a result of unimpeded meditation, the ideal is realized. The head bead which is bigger than the rest represents the point of realization, that is, God, in whom the universe has its birth and in whom it ends.
There is a difference between the symbol which only tells us that a higher reality exists and the symbol which not only tells us that but also inspires, leads, informs, and helps us to its attainment.
The symbol is to be no mere abstraction, no formal usage, but a living presence.
When a Buddha figure has its palms turned upward with the thumbs touching, this symbolizes unwavering faith.
The strength which he cannot find in himself, he may draw from the Symbol. In that is release from self-weakening doubts, is the power to achieve greater things.
The Swastika is an ancient symbol used in Tibet, in India, and in China. It is closely related to another symbol, the Cross. The Swastika bespeaks the fixed unmoving and everlasting centre of a circle whose circumference is the ever-changing, ever-moving world-process.
The Swastika is both a meaningful symbol and a picture of what actually happens. The ever-moving vibration of the ultimate atom goes forward and right in a circle to bring a world into being and to maintain it, but it moves backward and left to deteriorate and eventually destroy it. (This is mirrored in the big dipper, too.)
The circle is also used as a symbol of complete self-mastery.
There have been many opinions about the symbolism of the Pyramid. The Freemasons, the Theosophists, and others have put forward their views. Since the actual structure of the Pyramid stood upon a temple built like a cube, at least in the case where the famous Sphinx and the Great Pyramid are concerned, the whole figure should be taken into account when analysing its symbolism. The base, cubically shaped, represents both balance and stability: the visible pyramid, triangular in form, represents aspiration and the Quest.
If men cannot find a human channel in whom they can believe as mediating the higher power to them, then they usually feel the need of finding one in whom they can believe as a symbol of it.
A symbol is a message from his higher self to his personal self. It is intended to give him hope and faith for the future as well as to encourage him to fresh efforts in developing a new life out of the ashes of the old one.
A figure or photograph may give off a vibration of attained peace. If we are sensitive enough to respond, we begin to share it.
Men who cannot absorb the subtle concept of the Spirit, who cannot grasp the idea of infinite and eternal being, may yet absorb, and therefore be helped by, the concept of its human Channel, may yet visualize and be inspired by its human symbol.
What the mantra does for sound, the yantra does for sight. It is a graphic representation, pictorial or geometrical, full of philosophic significance about the vanity of earthly existence. In shape, it is either square or circular (when it is renamed mandala). It is used first to fix the mind and then to pass beyond it.
The Polynesian and Hawaiian traditions wove sacred symbolic patterns into cloths in certain combinations and hung the cloth as a tapestry to gaze upon. The results, spread over time or spectacularly swift, were inner peace and spiritual uplift.
The practical use of the Spiritual Symbol requires it to represent himself, or the relation between the different parts of himself, or the whole Cosmos.
What are these symbols but attempts to make use of art for man's loftiest purposes--the transforming of his consciousness?
The Far Eastern symbols are divided into two classes: simple geometric diagrams and elaborate pictures of Nature or of Enlightened Men. The first class appears also in the Near Eastern traditional patterns.
The image of the Magic Circle or globe expresses the goal of Wholeness as exemplified in the true, complete, fully developed, individualized, "redeemed" man.
Jung found that certain symbols were present in the ceremonial art of primitive religions as well as in the dreams of contemporary persons. He concluded that they were universal and archetypal, projected by the collective inner being of humans.
Rama Prasad writes: "The tantrik philosophers had symbols to denote almost every idea. This was necessary because they held that if the human mind were fixed on any object with sufficient strength for a certain time, it was sure by the force of will to attain that object. The attention was secured by constantly muttering certain words and thus keeping the idea always before the mind. Symbols were used to denote every idea. `Hrim' denotes modesty. `Klim' denotes love."
The sign made by joining the thumb to the tip of the forefinger of the right hand so as to form a circle shows that the person knows the highest truth. It appears in both Hindu (atman is one with Brahman) and Greek Orthodox sacred pictures.
In the animal kingdom we find that boa constrictors can practise union with their mates for a longer period than other creatures. Why does the Hindu religion honour the serpent as a symbol of the highest knowledge? Why did Jesus say, "Be ye shrewd as serpents?" And why did Gautama the Buddha receive the cobra as his protector against the sun's fierce rays when he sat in the final session of meditation before attaining Nirvana?
The symbol is to be remembered and revered daily.
The first value of the symbol is that it at once focuses attention, concentrates thought, arouses love, and strengthens faith. The second is that it automatically reminds the aspirant of the higher state, being, and power.
The superior type of aspirant can dispense with symbols, but this type is much less frequently found.
Many members of a group use their master's face for the purpose. Many Hindus choose the deity they worship for the mental image to be meditated on. Jesuits choose Christ's figure, the Rosicrucians a rose.
The image, thought, or name of a spiritual giant gives a point of concentration and helps to settle the wandering mind.
The exponents of some yoga methods have minutely described, in their books, seven centres or "lotus-flowers" or "whirling wheels" as they are termed, which are situated in the "soul-body" at intervals from the base of the spine up to the crown of the head but which work in intimate relation with similar places in the physical body. Elaborate diagrams have also been drawn to make plainer their claims about this remarkable feature of spiritual anatomy.
On its practical side, the system affords a basis for redirecting attention, a method of providing useful points for concentrating it as a yoga exercise. It is easier for undeveloped minds, which are unable to entertain abstract metaphysical ideas or to meditate upon them for any length of time, to picture the "centre" in the throat, for example, and fasten their attention upon that. To encourage these novices to undertake such meditations they are lured with the bait of miraculous powers, a different power being associated with each "centre," or with that of visions of gods and goddesses, a different deity being associated with each centre. If the novice practises, he will gain some tranquillity, even if he fails to unfold any powers.
The practice of meditating on the mental image of the master is helpful at the proper time, but the meditator should understand that it is not the most advanced practice. If at any time during it, or after attempting it, he feels drawn to the Void exercise, or to any of the exercises dealing with the formless spirit of Mind, he ought to let himself slip away from the pictorial meditation and pass up into the pure contemplation. He need have no reluctance or hesitation in doing so.
There is hope and help for those among the masses who are tired of moribund, orthodox religion but who are not able to make the grade of mysticism. Let them repeat in their heart again and again, day after day, the name of a Spiritual Guide in whose attainment they earnestly believe, who is known to have dedicated himself to service and in whose saving power they are prepared to trust. He may be a man long dead or a living one. They need never have met him but they must have heard something about him. If their faith is not misplaced, if he really is one who had dwelt in the Overself's sacred light, they will get genuine results. If, however, their faith is misplaced and the name represents nothing divine, no results except hallucinatory ones need be expected from this practice. But where the devotion is given to a great soul, it shall surely be rewarded. For the silent repetition of his name, wherever they may be and whatever they may be doing, will in itself become an easy mystical exercise in concentration. No matter how ignorant the devotee may otherwise be, let him do this and out of the infinite Overmind there will presently sound its Grace as an echo of his inner work. The sacred name will thus have become for him a link with the Divine. The Grace which descends is rich and real.
The manifestation of the adept to his disciple in meditation may come in different ways to different disciples at first, or in different ways to the same disciple as he progresses. But in general it is: first one sees his picture or image very vividly appearing before the mind's eye; later there is a sense of his nearness or presence along with the picture; in the image he seems to smile or to talk to the disciple and pronounce words of advice and guidance; in the third stage the picture disappears and only the presence is felt; in the fourth stage the disciple comes into tune with the master's spirit. In the fifth and final stage the student relinquishes the teacher.
Abrupt recalls to the inner life, when associated with remembrance of the name, or seeing the image of the guide, are intuitions of real value. The student should at once drop all other activities and concentrate on them, giving himself up utterly to the inward-turning of attention they prompt him to practise.
It is a recognized yoga-path in the Orient, especially among the Sufis of Persia, Iraq, and Northern Africa, for the sensitive disciple mentally to merge his own individual being in the being of his master during the period of meditation. The master can be anyone in whom he has most faith, to whom he is most devoted, by whom he is most inspired.
The yoga of self-identification with an adept is the most effective method and brings the quickest results because it quickly elicits his grace. After all, it is the result that counts. The fact is that inspiration does come with the mere thought of him. This yoga-path involves two techniques; first, formal meditation at fixed periods, focused on the master's mental picture and presence and, second, informal remembrance of the master as frequently as possible at any and all times of the day. In both techniques, you are to offer your body to him just as a spiritist medium offers his own to a disincarnate spirit. You are to invite and let him take possession of your mind and body. First, you feel his presence. Then you feel that he takes possession of your body and mind. Next, you feel that you are he (no duality). Finally, he vanishes from consciousness and another being announces itself as your divine soul. This is the goal. You have found your higher self.
The disciple should try to feel the master inside himself, sensing his presence and seeing his image at various times. For the master is really there, but must be sought for and felt after. This self-identification with the master is one of the best of short cuts for those who find it difficult to meditate. Even when working or walking, they should suddenly pull themselves up in thought and imagine the master present in them and working or walking through them. Once such a habit is created and properly established, it will not be long before remarkable results are obtained.
If the master practises the technique of silent helping from a distance at the very time when his mind is deeply sunk in the mystic heart, and the mental image of the pupil is introduced there, the latter will suddenly have a beautiful experience. He will feel an inner opening and another consciousness will seem to flow in. Then he will sense the real nearness of the master and savour something of the spiritual quality of his aura.
The disciple who practises this kind of yoga imagines himself to be the master, thinks and behaves accordingly. He plays this role as if he were acting in a stage drama. He is to imitate the Master's way of meditating, including even the expression of his face at the time, not only in pictorial vision but also in self-identified feeling. The exercise can be done both during the formal daily sessions of his regular program and even at odd moments or in unexpected leisure at other times of the day. The formula is twofold: remembering the master and identifying oneself with him.
Now the ultimate use of a mental image, whether of God or guru, is only to help him do without it altogether in the end. For the ultimate aim of a true seeker must always be to become aware of God for himself, to perceive the Real with his own insight, and to understand the truth with his own intelligence. Therefore when he has reached this stage of meditation, when he is able easily to enter into rapport with the presence of the Guide or guru, it has accomplished its work and he must take the next step, which is to let go this presence, or the image which carries this presence, altogether. If he clings unduly to it, he will defeat the very purpose of his practice. The Overself will, of its own accord, eventually complete the work, if he does not so resist, by banishing the image and the presence and itself stepping into the framework of his consciousness. He will then know it as his own very soul, his true self, his sacred centre. He will then feel God within his own being as the pure essence of that being. Any other feeling of any other individual would be sacrilege.
The self-identification with the Master consists of lending his spirit in the disciple's body--not the disciple's spirit in the Master's body.
The photograph of the teacher is placed immediately in front of the pupil. The latter fixes his gaze upon it and gives the whole energy of his mind to its contemplation. Thus the photograph becomes "printed" on the mental screen. The practice is continued until it can be "seen" with the eyes closed as clearly as with the eyes open. This after-image must then be meditated upon.
Photograph the master's face with your mental camera and then carry the picture with you--not, of course, in the foreground of attention but always in its background. When at odd places and odd times you wish to meditate, preface your exercise by gazing intently at the eyes in your mental picture for a minute or two.
When this picture impresses itself so strongly, so vividly, and so frequently on his consciousness that it begins to have a hypnotic effect, the real work of his guide also begins.
Merely by concentrating on the mind's image and memory of the guide, the disciple may draw strength, inspiration, and peace from him.
The simple practice of holding the master's image in consciousness is enough to provide some protection in the world's temptations or dangers.
The personal attraction to, and affection for, the man Jesus can be usefully made into a focus for meditation. To meditate on the character, example, and teaching of one's spiritual Guide has long been a standard path in mysticism. It culminates in a joyous spiritual union, at which time the student becomes aware that the living presence of his chosen Guide is no longer separate from himself--his Real Self. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "I and My Father are One." It is, indeed, one of the shortest paths to the Goal.
Meditation on a guru's face, form, or name is only for the preliminary and intermediate stages; it must be followed by dropping all thoughts, including the guru-thought, if advancement is to be made.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.