Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The Empty Glass

It's interesting how some words become paired in common parlance. I've often run across various blogs in which the author will equate prayer with meditation. The author will be discussing the subject of religion and will write that a person might consider praying or meditating -- whichever is the reader's preference -- as if these two words share the same basic definition.

There's one key problem with linking these two words together: they are exact opposites. It would be like pairing drunkenness with sobriety or intelligence with stupidity.

When someone prays, they are engaging in a conversation with their deity. Often, a person is asking for general guidance or deliverance from a traumatic or frightening situation. Whether spoken out loud or within a person's mind, words are used to convey the message.

If the purpose of the prayer simply is to worship the deity, the person praying must be thinking and conceptualizing about the various beatitudes they wish to impart. In other words, to pray means to fill one's mind with a boatload of thoughts, wishes and salutations.

Meditation calls for the exact opposite. In order to meditate (or get in touch with Tao), a person must cast aside everything: language, desires, emotions, thoughts and mindful clutter. It is only when the mind has been emptied that meditation can begin.

This differentiation between prayer and meditation has at least one important impact on the results of the chosen method. Since prayer involves activating the mind to engage in the activity, whatever response one receives from prayer must necessarily be filtered through a person's emotions, desires and thoughts. It is this human clutter that makes me suspicious of any divine revelations.

How does one know that "God" has spoken? Even if we accept the notion that the Almighty has imparted some manner of knowledge, how does anyone know if the person receiving this bit of information is interpreting it correctly? The message must percolate through a person's desires -- whether conscious or subconscious -- and this, in and of itself, will undoubtedly alter what the person perceives.

Again, meditation does not encounter this dilemma. Since the person meditating has emptied themselves of desire and emotion as well as the fact that the message is not language-bound, there is nothing to intercept and alter the essence received. In fact, at the end of the meditation session, a person probably can't tell you what they have learned or discerned.

These two activities are altogether different and shouldn't be confused one for the other.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Trey,

    I'm back after some time now. I've read your post with interest and amusement. But you're completely right. Prayers are most of the time just written text put down centuries ago by some wise men, but it's a little bit silly just to recite them without seeking the deeper means of it. While meditation is your own silent prayer with yourself.
    I'm going to update my blog real soon with similar thoughts, but more or less based on a text I found of 1229, in which love towards God is described. I'm going to try and translate it in modern language and I hope you'll find it interesting.


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