When I was young I had a religious person come to our school to educate us about God. As a curious young 4th grader I asked a typical 4th grader question. Something like “If God is all-powerful, why does he not get rid of all the bad people in the world?”
The answer I got surprised me. He said, “It is not our place to ask questions like that. We must have faith that God has a plan for us.”
How can we not ask questions to a religion that is telling us to believe in them I wondered? And in that moment that person lost me as a convert to the particular religion he was promoting.
And to a large extent, many of the world’s religions are still “Faith” based. And whilst there are still many people in the world that are willing to have faith in a particular spirituality because they are told they should – I see 2 major problems with this system going forward.
There are more and more logical minded and even skeptical people in the world today who are not satisfied with believing – just because. As an engineer for 20 years I was typical of how a lot of minds nowadays work. In engineering, if a steel beam has more force applied to it than the bending moment of the cross section can withstand then the beam will fail. There is a formula to it and it can be calculated to the exact newton of force. Likewise, there needs to be a clear and logical reason why for example “Confess your sins” or “pray twice a day” will result in a happier me and a happier world before I can just believe it.
My religion has to be like a science – A leads to B which leads to C in a logical manner.
With the mixing of world cultures, Faith-based religions have and will continue to come into conflict when one faith stands in contradiction to another faith and the only argument is “you must believe our version of God or you will be punished”.
So what is this new religion that goes beyond faith to a level of logic and verifiable experience? – Meditation.
And in particular, I want to draw your attention to a particular model of meditation which was developed by a man called Asanga over 1500 years ago which I believe will be the template for this new movement.
Asanga was a great meditator and broke the process of meditation down into 9 stages starting from beginner to advanced. And since that time there have been many many thousands of people who have verified that the process of meditation does unfold in the way Asanga teaches leaving us with a legacy of formula to follow as clear as those formulas that I used to use as a construction engineer.
And if I may I would like to unpack these 9 stages a little bit for you to see how useful they can be.
Stages 1-3 are called subduing the mind and are concerned with us bringing our so-called “monkey mind” under control so we can bring the mind to stay on one object of meditation. The object could be anything but is often the breath.
These 3 stages can be used by anyone such as people wanting to deal with negative states like anxiety, or people wanting to enhance positive mind structures like focus, concentration, creativity and even physical health.
At the end of stage 3 we can meditate on our breath for a period of time and whilst there are thoughts under the surface they do not cause our mind to wander.
Stages 4-5 are where we purify and pacify the mind. Here we are trying to reduce the more subtle distractions of the mind but in the process, the unconscious mind can bring up long repressed or habituated patterns that have played out for much of our life. It is the same patterns that we eventually go for therapy for – and to this extent having a therapist available at these stages is extremely useful to help you through any emotional or mental issues that we might have.
Whist you can imagine that this process can be tumultuous at times, it is also at these stages that we can experience stages of peace and relaxation that most people associate with meditation.
From stage 6 and onward we enter into the start of a phase called unification of the mind. This is where not only do the parts of the mind which used to create distractions for us stop interrupting, they are in fact brought into alignment to help in focusing on the meditation object. It’s like a team of wild horses that were once pulling in different directions all start working as a team and pulling in the same direction. The power of the mind seems to increase exponentially.
More than this, however, a meditator at stage 6 and above can experience states of bliss that are akin to the types of religious experiences that people talk about all around the world.
Moreover, the meditator will experience deep insights that are likewise profound and seemingly spiritual.
Now if we want to start the debate about various religions there is no harm in doing so because of the following:
- A person at this stage is beyond wanting to “convert” or “impose his will” on another so conflict is not possible
- A discussion is based on personal experience – and not hearsay from how you interperate a particular religious script.
- And finally, the experiences people have are to a large degree similar so any discussion will end in agreement and further clarification rather than conflict.
But best of all – a person at this level can not only give people a first-hand account of what it is like to have deeper level experiences and insights, but they can provide a step by step formula of how someone else can get those same experiences themselves.
And finally, meditation through the 9 stages gives one more advantage over every other religion on the planet. If a person can genuinely be shown to have achieved a higher level of meditation – then they are more likely to have a genuine source of wisdom. This overcomes a challenge at present where leaders in the various church’s are not necessarily of the highest quality of person that we should be following – as has been shown by the various scandals around the world such as covering up crimes like pedophilia, or embezzlement or other such things.
So in conclusion – Meditation is an extremely powerful and practical tool that can help bring together and possibly replace religion leading to a more cohesive and quite frankly useful methodology to achieve that which we seek – than any current religion around the world at the moment.