Shepherd's Voice August 2018


Sr. Vandana RSCJ (or Vandana Mataji as she used to be called) of happy memory, in one interfaith live-in way back in 1989, had taught the participants a beautiful meditation. The meditation which lasts an hour is centered on one’s breathing. As we sit in a yoga posture with the back straight and eyes closed we concentrate on our breathing. To remain focused we first mentally count 1-2-3-4 as we breathe in and the same as we breathe out. [The moment our fingers slacken from their position on the knees or the back starts to bend, we know we have lost our concentration]. We go on this way for quite some time as we begin to experience a deep inner peace and tranquility. But it doesn’t end here. Vandana Mataji had taught us to gradually utter a mantra mentally. As we breathe in we say “Fill me with Yourself” and as we breathe out “Empty me of myself”. This rhythm continues till, at a particular moment, we give expression to the divine presence in us by allowing the mantra AUM to emanate from our hearts in a sound that fills the entire hall/room where we are sitting. Still more, as we come close to the end of the meditation and before opening our eyes we send our PEACE or vibrations of peace to any person/s or situation/s anywhere in the world, where peace is needed.

The central part of the meditation is the silent prayer “Fill me with Yourself, Empty me of myself”. If our breathing is always intertwined with this prayer we will certainly be harbingers of love, peace and joy in this world. This is the secret of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The call to repentance, the beatitudes, the commandment of love, the washing of the feet, the teachings on forgiveness, childlikeness, self-denial in discipleship, and finally the indispensability of sharing in his suffering and death in order to be partakers of his resurrection are all founded on this mystery of our salvation i.e. we will not enter the kingdom of God unless we are emptied of ourselves and filled with God.

The Lord’s victory over the Evil One during his forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert clearly demonstrates that he didn’t live at the level of his superficial self. This “self” expresses itself in the attachment to pleasures, power, wealth, popularity and earthly glory. We experience it in the anxieties and competitions of our daily life. We call this superficial centre the ahamkara or the egocentre which is the cause of all divisions, hatred, anger, tensions and wars within and without because its power is kama i.e. desire. Christ our Lord lived at the level of atma bodha i.e. indwelling Spirit whose power is dharma (or dhamma). Dharma frees one from external pulls and roots one’s life in the atma. Throughout his ministry, and particularly in his passion and death on the cross, Christ our Lord testifies to his deep communion with the Father. If he had lived a superficial life he would have sought earthly glory but he says: “I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me… How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn. 5:41-44). Again he says: “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him; I know him” (Jn. 8: 54-55). Christ our Lord did not seek earthly glory but the Father did glorify him – in the resurrection, and that glory i.e. of eternal life is the glory that he has told us to seek. This is the treasure in heaven “where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt. 6: 20). He has also warned us: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk. 16:13).

Can we ever dilute the meaning of these words that challenge us every moment to authentic discipleship? : “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8).

Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ in his book “The Power of Silence. Fifty Meditations to Discover the Divine Space within you” (Delhi: ISPCK, 2009) explains the meaning of OM. According to the Upanishads it is the combination of three syllables A, U and M. A is the first sound that we produce; hence every alphabet begins with A. M the last sound that resounds as humming when the mouth is closed. U is the middle sound. Hence AUM – spoken as OM – refers to the totality of reality; the beginning, middle and end of all. OM is therefore the sound symbol of the Divine that permeates and comprehends all, transforms all into One. Through the meditative repetition of OM one gets attuned to the divine vibrations in the deeper realms of consciousness. With the inherent three sounds a transition of awareness happens: from A through U to M, from mind (manah) through psyche (chitta) to buddhi, from wakeful state (jagrit) through dream state (swapna) to intuitive awareness (sushupti). The Divine is experienced beyond the personal objectification in names and forms, and intuited as the transpersonal subject: as the Ground of being, as the ultimate Self (Brahman), as the transforming Spirit (Atman).

The divine presence that is intuited through OM permeates the entire realm of creation. Hence the mantra OM not only brings about an integrative process within, but also leads to an intense experience of harmony with the cosmos. The deeper one gets attuned to the divine vibration, the more one comes into harmony with the creative melody of the universe. With the meditative repetition of OM one gradually feels that OM vibrations flow from beyond one’s body and self. One gets tuned to the cosmic melody. A deep oneness with all things in the universal divine stream of life and love is felt. The meditation with OM opens the buddhi to a cosmic consciousness beyond oneself. Meditation then becomes sensing the divine pulsation at the heart of the universe. With it one overcomes loneliness and estrangement; one can resonate with the entire reality. A deep compassion towards all beings is the consequent grace. Through OM, the sacred syllable which stands for the whole mystery of Being, one is led to the contemplation of God who is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Truth-Thought-Bliss) or Saccidananda. (Cf. The Power of Silence, pp. 56-61). When my heart is attuned to the whole universe I realize the futility of being acquisitive, greedy, selfish and ego-centered which are negative forces that disrupt the cosmic melody and militate against the peace and harmony God has always wanted to reign in the whole of his creation. We call this the SIN that is at the core of our being – our brokenness and woundedness that constantly calls for healing and redemption. As St. Paul puts it so graphically, we experience deep within ourselves the constant struggle between the “desires of the flesh” and the “desires of the Spirit”: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would… And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another” (cf. Gal. 5: 16-26). This is the freedom to which we are called in Christ Jesus – not through lofty words of human wisdom but through the foolishness of the Cross, “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1: 23-25).

We cannot live the self-emptying of our Lord Jesus Christ unless we abide in him like the branches in the vine (cf. the Parable of the “Vine and the Branches” in Jn. 15). To live in him is to be “buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). To walk in the newness of life is to “live according to the Spirit”, setting our minds “on the things of the Spirit”; and “to set the mind on the things of the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8: 5-6). Chanting the eternal OM we descend into our inner depths which open to us the treasures of the indwelling Trinitarian Mystery and we come to know the Power of Silence. We discover the divine space within us and with this we are transformed into children of God, ever repentant and filled with grace.

Meditation is never meant to make us “superior” because we are “enlightened” or “realized” souls but to make us more and more childlike and utterly humble in order to build a society where truth and justice prevail, where people live in love, compassion, peace and harmony, where we respect one another and no one is deprived of one’s freedom and one’s dignity.

May we consistently strive to walk on this path as we celebrate another anniversary of our nation’s Independence.

“Into that heaven of freedom my Father, let my country awake!” (Tagore).

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