On the Practice of Meditation

by John Hick

I have been practising meditation, in a faltering sort of way, for some years, using the mindfulness (satipatthana) method that I learned from the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Nyanaponika Mahathera, whom I first met in his forest hermitage outside Kandy some twenty-five years ago…This is not meditation in the sense of meditating about something, but on the contrary a way of emptying consciousness of the ordinary world which we partly construct as we experience it as centring upon ourselves and in terms of our own categories of thought. The aim is that by emptying ourselves of this, and all the desires and anxieties to which it gives rise, we become open to the greater reality, to become one with which is nirvana…

The one moment of breakthrough that I have experienced so far was only a few months ago. In normal consciousness I am here and the world is there, apart from me, surrounding me and so to speak hemming me in, and arousing all sorts of hopes and fears. But as I opened my eyes after perhaps ten minutes of meditating I was suddenly vividly aware of being an integral part of the world, not separate from it, and that that of which I am part is a friendly universe, so that there could be not possibly be anything to fear or worry about. It was the same world, and yet totally transformed, and for a short time – only one or two minutes – I was completely free and completely happy.

I was by myself at the time; but if this new consciousness had continued into daily life I believe that my attitude to others would have been a liberation from self-concern making possible love and compassion for everyone I had to do with.

It did not continue. But (together with earlier moments of theistic experience) it has given me an inkling of the transformed state which the religions each seek in their own way, and confidence to take the risk of belief in the transcendent reality of which they speak, again each in their own way.

www.johnhick.org.uk

For full report, see IIC Newsletter 12