Abdu'l-Baha on meditation and eternal life

Recently, someone put me onto a talk Abdu'l-Baha gave about meditation. It is the address he gave at the Friends Meeting House, St Martins Lane, London, Sunday, January 12th, 1913 and it is published in Paris Talks.

In this talk, Abdu'l-Baha explains the role meditation plays in the process of attaining eternal life. He states categorically that it is through meditation that we attain eternal life. Through reflection and meditation, we receive the breath of the Holy Spirit and the bestowal of the spirit:

"Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit - the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation." (page 175)


"In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves. To illustrate this, think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used, the outward power of vision does not see." (page 175)

And Abdu'l-Baha goes on to say that, by this means, we are put in touch with God.

However, there is a potential problem. Abdu'l-Baha tells us that "some thoughts are useless to man; they are like waves moving in the sea without result." How do we avoid this pitfall? "If the faculty of meditation is bathed in the inner light and characterized with divine attributes, the results will be confirmed." (page 176)

Abdu'l-Baha goes on to explain: "The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these. But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained." (page 176)

Conclusion: we should put before the mirror of our meditative faculty (also our soul), the second kind of thing; that is, the heavenly realities. If we do this, these realities will be reflected in us and we will reflect the virtues of the Kingdom:

"Therefore let us keep this faculty rightly directed - turning it to the heavenly Sun and not to earthly objects - so that we may discover the secrets of the Kingdom, and comprehend the allegories of the Bible and the mysteries of the spirit. May we indeed become mirrors reflecting the heavenly realities, and may we become so pure as to reflect the stars of heaven." (page 176)

I think this talk from Abdu'l-Baha is important because it tells us in a nutshell what we need to be doing to grow spiritually. He tells us that our inner selves are mirrors that reflect what is put in front of them. If we put earthly things, or even evil things, in front of us, then we will reflect those things. That means we have to watch what we think, what we say to ourselves and what we ponder. In order to grow spiritually and attain our place in the Kingdom, we have to mirror divine qualities by putting those wonderful things in front of us.

This is interesting because it shows that we can't will ourselves to be good. We can't just decide, "and now I am a good person". Goodness is a reality and it takes time for that reality to be realised within us. It is like ripening a fruit. It can't just suddenly decide to be ripe. Ripening is a process that takes place under certain ideal conditions. And, when that process does occur, ripeness becomes an inherent reality reflected in the fruit. This is why, to grow spiritually, we need to constantly close our eyes to the world and turn to the Kingdom, so that, over time, we will gradually become heavenly ourselves.

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