Owing to the frenetic pace of today’s urban lifestyle, many in the cities are desperately searching for some kind of stress-relief mechanisms. Yoga classes and meditation centres are certainly on the rise. Even in schools, yoga is becoming a regular feature. Many ‘gurus’ are already cashing in on people’s new found craze for successful meditation techniques. Sri Sri Ravisankar’s Art of Living and Baba Ramdev’s Dhyan Yoga are multimillion dollar meditation business empires! The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice- Wikipedia . Yogic postures, breathing, and chanting were originally designed not to bring better physical health and well-being , but a sense of oneness with Brahman—the Hindu word for the absolute being that pervades all things. Transcendental Meditation is a veiled form of Hindu yoga, though it claims to be a religiously neutral method of relaxation and rejuvenation. Can Christians take part in meditations? Is meditation Biblical? What does the Bible say about meditation? These are some questions which deserve our thinking and reflection.
What does the Bible say about Meditation?
Christian meditation is rooted in the Bible. The Scripture talks a lot about the art of meditation. Just take a look at some of these verses.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2
“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think (meditate) about these things.” Philippians 4:18.
The Bible not only approves but exhorts us to meditate! What does it mean? In spite of the human race caught up in a rat race, God, in His infinite mercy, desires to speak to His children who meditate, in a language that they can understand—a language sometimes formed of words, thoughts or nudges in the conscience through reading of the Word of God! Christian meditation is centred on God and His Word.
Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan), describes meditation this way: “Meditation is focused thinking. It takes serious effort. You select a verse and reflect on it over and over in your mind…if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate” (190). Warren goes on to say, “No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will amazed at the benefits He has promised to those who take the time to reflect on His Word throughout the day” (190).
In Satisfy Your Soul (NavPress), Dr. Bruce Demarest writes, “A quieted heart is our best preparation for all this work of God…Meditation refocuses us from ourselves and from the world so that we reflect on God’s Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works…So we prayerfully ponder, muse, and ‘chew’ the words of Scripture….The goal is simply to permit the Holy Spirit to activate the life-giving Word of God” (133).
Christian and Traditional forms of Meditation: What is the difference?
There are two major differences between traditional forms of meditation and Christian meditation. In traditional forms of meditation, the individual seeks to empty one’s self; in Christian meditation the believer seeks, rather, to be filled. In traditional meditation, the object is self, albeit the higher self, whereas in Christian meditation the object is God, who is high above all. In traditional meditation, the individual is not aware of the external environment (taken into the world of trance), whereas in Christian meditation the individual is aware of the external world and those around him.
During the practice of meditation, the non-Christian strives to clear his or her consciousness of all thoughts, concentrating intensely until in a prescribed period of time a bare minimum of thoughts has been allowed or entertained in the consciousness. Often, a mantra is used which may be a word or a series of sounds that a person repeats continually until they are completely empty. This is supposed to achieve the ultimate relaxation and cessation of stress. When the meditator wants to obtain peace in the midst of a tumultuous situation he or she can just call to mind or repeat the mantra and the desired result is obtained. In Christian meditation, the believer seeks to fill his or her thoughts with truths about God. There is no necessity for a Christian to induce a state of trance through vain repetitions.( Mat : 6:7) Christians should meditate by focusing on the Word of God, as the psalmist said: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalms 1:2). Rather than emptying oneself, the Christian fills his or her mind with hope and encouragement from the promises that God has given in His Word or on good things that God has done for the person. Or the person may simply just think on the wonder and awe of God. In so doing, the believer is assured of peace. In seeking to reach one’s higher self, the traditional meditator may achieve his goal, but has really achieved a state which has no real value. At the pinnacle of his self, every individual is but base and low, since all are sinners. “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore there is no perfection to be obtained from within. Paul rightly said in his epistle to the Romans, “I know that nothing good lives in me…” (Romans 7:18). Jesus Christ alone is our source of righteousness and, therefore, peace. Seeking to reach one’s higher self is to reach for nothing; it may achieve a state of thoughtlessness and cessation from stress, but the individual will still remain empty and unfulfilled. The only path to peace and fulfilment is through God. If an individual, with purpose and intent, will meditate on God, he will achieve the highest of heights, including joy and peace. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Do’s and Don’ts of Christian Meditation
- Do have a teachable and dependent attitude.
- Choose a convenient place with no or less distractions.
- Choose a time when your mind is fresh and active.
- Do not read the Bible quickly. Instead, slow down, ponder and muse.
- Write down or underline important texts or words.
- Do not rely on reason and analysis alone. Rely on the Holy Spirit for insights.
- Do not ignore the context or be selective in your reading of passages.
- Refer to varied translations, commentaries and dictionaries, if necessary.
- Glorify God for insights or thoughts. Write them down.
- Pick up one or two thoughts which impress upon your heart and ponder over them.
- Spend time in communicating with God in prayer.