"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Morning and Evening Meditation

"Where, then, can men find the power to guide and guard his steps? In one thing, and one alone: Philosophy. To be a philosopher is to keep unsullied and unscathed the divine spirit within him, so that it may transcend all pleasure and all pain."

-- Marcus Aurelius --
Sages have always touted the benefits of one's morning meditation, presumably because upon rising we have a clean slate, a tabula rosa unaffected by the trials and difficulties that are bound to arise if one is not spiritually centered.

The great stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, was well aware of the necessity of morning meditation. In his Meditations, which were largely written, it seems, for his own benefit, he recommended the following meditation before one sets out to meet life's vicissitudes:
"Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness - all of them due to the offenders' ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of these things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man's two hands, feet, or eyelids, or like the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against nature's law - and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction"
[Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations," Book II, Verse I.]
Paramahamsa Yogananda
Similarly, sages have also touted the benefit of closing one's day with a period of reflection and meditation. One of India's great modern sages, Paramahamsa Yogananda recommended the following evening meditation for the close of one's day:
"Each worldly person, moralist, spiritual aspirant and yogi - like a devotee - should every night before retiring ask his intuition whether his spiritual faculties or his physical inclination of temptation won the day's battles between good and bad habit; between temperance and greed; between self-control and lust; between honest desire for necessary money and inordinate craving for gold; between forgiveness and anger; between joy and grief; between moroseness and pleasantness; between kindness and cruelty; between selfishness and unselfishness; between understanding and jealousy; between bravery and cowardice; between confidence and fear; between faith and doubt; between humbleness and pride; between desire to commune with God in meditation and the restless urge for worldly activities; between spiritual and material desires; between divine ecstasy and sensory perceptions; between soul consciousness and egoity."
[Paramahamsa Yogananda, "God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita." p. 48.]
Aurelius' morning meditation prepares us for the inevitable battle which we have with the smaller "self" of our egoic mind, while Yogananda's evening contemplation examines how we fared in the day's battle.

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