Meditation: Love Your Object

posted Sep 30, 2012, 5:44 PM by Interfaith WS

              Nate and Joan came to my workshop on “Meditation: What, Why, When, Where and How.” Due for retirement after forty years of electrical repair work, Nate wanted to spend his leisure time understanding himself and life. Joan wanted to learn more about Buddhism. A small statue of the meditating Buddha that a friend brought back from Nepal triggered her interest. She unscrewed the bottom part and found a tiny piece of folded paper “like you see in a fortune cookie,” she said. On it was a Buddhist mantra transliterated into English. “As soon as I started to repeat it, my depression fell away. Recently I began to meditate on the statue itself.”

            “I don’t like her doing that,” Nate said. “That’s idol worship and it makes me uncomfortable.”


            D. Are your parents living?

            N. No.

            D. Do you keep pictures or other remembrances of them around the house?

            N. Pictures of them are all over the place. We have a sculptured bust of my dad, too.

            D. Why do you keep it around?

            N. It reminds me of them, and I like that. They were great people – intelligent, kind, loving. Nothing is wrong with remembering them.

            D. Nor is anything wrong in remembering the Buddha, his infinite wisdom, compassion, and love.

            N. But why does she have to meditate on a statue?

            D. The mind needs a hook on which to hang its thoughts. Nobody can sit down and “think of God.” God is too vast, too all-embracing. Besides, the mind cannot know God. Finite cannot know infinity. Meditators find an object that represents the qualities of God that they love and want to imbibe, and they concentrate on it to the exclusion of all else. When the concentration reaches a level of absorption, their consciousness pierces the object. Essence touches essence and merges into itself. That hook is vital. Often I picture the object of concentration like the middle point of an hourglass. At the bottom, thoughts are diverse; they run everywhere. When the rays of consciousness focus on the middle point, they lead the meditator up and out to the formless Reality.

            N. I want to meditate, too, but not on a statue. What method can I use?

            D. What do you love?

            N. I love working with electricity.

            D. The aim of meditation is to experience Reality. What is the highest reality of your work?

            N. Electricity itself.

            D. What does it look like?

            N. It never shows itself. But you sure can feel it, and you can’t live without it.

            D. Is there anything in the human being that you cannot see but you sure can feel, and you sure can’t live without it?

            N. Spirit, maybe, but I don’t know what that is.

            D. Transcendent Spirit is pure awareness. Self-luminous, formless, boundless, and indivisible, it is beyond space, time and causation. Like electricity that is hidden in a wire, this hidden being is your reality. In your work and in life, the real is unseen.

            N. Where does my body come in?

            D. Where an electric wire comes in. What is the function of wires?

            N. To channel electricity.

            D. Body and mind are channels of Reality.

            N. If consciousness is indivisible, it means that there is only one of it. Is that right?

            D. Right.

            N. Then why are we all so different?

            D. Electricity is one. Yet there are enormous differences between a fan and a heater, a toaster and a refrigerator. The function of an appliance determines its appearance. Each of us not only performs a function of the Divine; we are that function.

            N. Could I arrive at an understanding of who I am through meditating on electricity?

            D. I heard a spiritual master say that we should meditate only on what we understand and love. You have worked with electricity all your life. You understand it and love it. Use it as a hood to hang your mind on.

            N. If Joan meditates on the Buddha and I meditate on electricity, what is the difference in where we end up?

            D. No difference. Enlightenment is the aim of all meditation. Let electricity be your inner guru. Follow it to its Source. The word budh from which the name “Buddha” is derived means “to wake up.” As the world around the Buddha slept and dreamt on that full-moon night in May many centuries ago, the master sat under the Bo tree until his mind pierced the bubble of illusion and he awoke. The Buddha continues to wake up his devotees and to illumine their way to wisdom, bliss and common sense.