Memorable passages are intense and powerful words that remain with us. We remember words like, "To be or not to be-that is the question," even if we can't recall the rest of Hamlet's soliloquy. A passage jumps out from its context and claims attention-like one smiling face among many dour faces waiting in a line.
Spiritual passages evoke even greater response. Such texts intoned in churches, temples and mosques the world over, come alive with energy that can move and transport us. When the Psalm reads, "My soul waits for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning," a tantalizing mystery grips us-something distant yet somehow part of our deepest self. The inmost core of our being reverberates with every word; and that is why many who long to make these words more accessible meditate on them, hoping to transport them from the world of thought to the world of deepest feeling in the heart.
Passages here can thus be read for inspiration on our own personal journey, or can even be memorized for use in passage meditation, a path of spiritual grown and discipline practiced for many centuries.
In fact, figures in most of the major religious traditions have taught some form of passage meditation. Christian saints such as Theresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola taught the use of carefully selected passages for the deepening of prayer. In Judaism, the great Baal Shem Tov enjoined his students to drive the words of such texts deep into consciousness; and in Islam, early disciples of Mohammed were taught to memorize and repeat passages from the Koran far into the night. In Buddhism, the Sixth Patriarch began his quest for enlightenment with intense concentration on words from the Diamond Sutra. During the 20th century, my own teacher Sri Eknath Easwaran, one of the great meditation educators or our times, brought a new and vigorous life to this age-old practice, using passages from all the world's religions to gain access to the springs of freedom and enlightenment.
In this mode of meditation, one trusts the inspired passage to be the seed of the spiritual experience attained by its author. By memorizing and continually repeating its words silently in the mind, the meditator gradually absorbs this experience. Eventually, passage meditation slows and even stills the mind, and then one perceives what lies in the space between thoughts. When our mind becomes thus stilled, abiding in this interstice between thoughts, a sudden flash can illumine our nature and show us who we really are and have always been. Thus the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch says, "Awaken to this dharma of no-thought: you will penetrate all things thoroughly and come into the realm of Buddha."
(Click here to read sample passages.)
Slay anger, give up pride
And overcome all fetters;
For sorrows do not follow knowers of emptiness
Detached from mind and body, clinging to nothing.
Having broken out into freedom and gone beyond all selfish desire,
Free from the world of men, even the worlds of the gods.
Try as you might to find them, their path leaves not the slightest trace.
A Joy That Thrills With Wonder
Original Buddha-nature, the highest truth, is free from even an atom of otherness. It is empty, calm, pure, and permeates everything. It brings peaceful joy that thrills with wonder. Awaken inwardly, enter its depths. Everything before you is Buddha, blissful and full, complete it itself. All that exists is Buddha; there is nothing else beside.
Turn Your Mind Within
Talk about food doesn't fill you up,
Discussions about clothes won't keep out the cold.
A bowl of rice is what fills the stomach,
And it takes real clothes to make you warm.
But without thinking much about this,
You say it's so hard to realize the Buddha.
Turn your mind within, and he's right there!
Why do you look for him outside?
No Wave Will Swell
As on the deepest ocean's floor no waves occur, but all is still, so too may all spiritual aspirants be still, attain calm, and in their minds no wave will swell. For the aspirant after wisdom, detached from selfish desire and free from self-will, finds the deathless, attains to peace, and reaches the unchanging state of nirvana.
On a thousand hills, the flights of birds cut short
On ten thousand paths, the tracks of men extinguished;
In a single boat, an old man in a bamboo hat and cloak
Alone fishes the cold river snow.