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Last Updated: 2010/11/21
Summary of question
What is your opinion about meditation of the Yoga-Zen variety?
What is your opinion about meditation of the Yoga-Zen variety?
Concise answer

Supporters of this method say that the exercise of meditation takes one to a phenomenal place of ideas and thoughts, which have many various purposes and benefits. These benefits include a more wholesome life, a peaceful state of mind, and reduced stress levels, worries, and fatigue. It gives us the ability to reach and gain access to various levels and stages of our minds. After researching on these subjects of meditation, Zen, and yoga we can come to the conclusion that even if these things are beneficial to a certain degree, they are still not 100% reliable or free from error. This is because the world of existence is devised of parts, which are all connected with each other, and the rules which govern the human soul are not separate from the rules which govern the universe. Therefore, the only rules which are reliable are those which are derived from an aware source; these aware sources are the Prophets (a) who are sent from God. Thus, the rules and directions, which God sends to humanity, through the medium of divine prophets (a) are the only truly reliable foundations which are capable of being trusted. Other matters, such as Buddhist Zen or Yoga, are firstly, not derived (at least wholly) from this divine source, and secondly, are not complete in their ideology. Therefore, when we put these factors all together, we find that these ideologies or methods are not fully reliable in their essence.

Detailed Answer

In lexicon, the word meditation has the same meaning as ‘Muraqaba’. This method of meditation (also known as inner insight) was introduced in the year 1970; in this method an individual begins to reflect on the matter of their personality and characteristics, and asks the question of: Who am I? He sits in a corner for long periods of time and reflects on himself and his life. Recently, western writers have been inspired by this eastern philosophical practice of meditation, and have prescribed it for concentration, an aura of peace, and lessening psychological stress. In meditation, the thoughts flow inside of individuals, alongside with the remembrance of God. In essence, the remembrance of God gives rise to the awareness of the soul (and therefore, the self). Meditation is accomplished through its use of deep thinking and self awareness, and is usually attained through the repetition of a single special word. According to the opinion of Doctor Benson[1], meditation is based upon 4 basic foundations: 1. A peaceful environment, 2. Concentration of the thoughts on a personal matter, 3. A passive mind frame, and 4. A peaceful state of the physical body.

       Deep thought, also referred to as a deep trance like state, meditation, delving deep within oneself, has been paid much attention to. A deep trance comes to mean the unification of the powers of concentration in the inner self. Meditation is a process which builds us up to a certain level where we can reach various stages of concentration and inner awareness. This process is similar to winding up a musical instrument for it to be played. This method gives the possibility to an individual to create an inner state, which not only causes him great pleasure, but also allows him to enter a state of inner spiritual witnessing. The ultimate goal in all the various methods of meditation is gaining a sense of pure awareness.[2] The supporters of this method say that the practice of meditation takes us to new worlds within our thoughts and they also include various benefits. These benefits include a more wholesome life, a peaceful state of mind, and reduced stress levels, worries, and fatigue. It also gives us the ability to reach and gain access to various levels and stages of our minds. In spite of all of this, these are only marginal benefits and the most important benefit of meditation is the entering into the “gap” between thoughts.[3]

      The practice of meditation involves many various methods. One of these is that of ‘Japa’, which was developed by a famous Indian instructor. Japa means the continual repetition of a name of God. Through this method of meditation, one can remain in the gap between thoughts, but it only lasts for a period of time.[4] In the Buddhist faith, the fundamental method for becoming an actual ‘Buddha’ is through the use of meditation, and in the sects of Zen Buddhism, two different methods have been outlined for this. 1- The meditational method called Tetagte in which a clear and pure mind is needed, and 2- Meditation based on the Buddhist instructor’s methods where no mental effort is required for gaining an immediate Buddha like mental presence. Although an individual in any physical position can do meditation, yet the usual method is that of sitting cross legged. Reaching the climax of meditation can either be attained in stages or can happen all at once, without expectation. Different sects and schools of thought in this field, each have their own methods of cultivating the imagination. These include strange questions, as well as the “lightning” method, in which physical asceticism and beatings in order to awaken certain faculties within the human body and soul are employed.[5]

       Zen Buddhism, which was created and developed in Japan, is also becoming popular in the west. The followers of Zen believe that when you ask of the essence of Zen you are really asking of your own self. Therefore, the Zen will tell you what your essence is and will explain that it is an existent which is non material and unobtainable. One of the major features of Zen is the usage of self-contradictory phrases such as: ‘Is, but is not’, ‘Is not, but is’, ‘I am you and you are I’…

       The teachings of Zen aren't based on divine words and sacred texts, but have their own forms outside of divine teachings and move from mind to mind[6]. Yoga is also an ancient method for gaining deep access into the physical body, as well as the mind. It gained acceptance in the last century due to its undeniable benefits for the health of the physical body and the mind. In addition, the practice of Yoga does not require any special equipment or tools.  In India, Yoga is also counted as one of the mystical sects which is based on physical exercises of the body and self-restraint. The goals which practitioners of Yoga pursue are having a wholesome attitude, the learning of social rules, peace, and friendship, as well as the cleansing and purification of the mind. Since our minds are continuously filled with ‘traffic’ of various sorts and types, and we are in various stages of decision making and personal desires, then in order to reform ourselves, we need to empty our minds of all of these things.[7]

       By researching meditation, yoga, and Zen, we can conclude that although they are beneficial to a certain extent, they are not 100% reliable as a practice, nor free from error. This is because all of the things in the world of existence are connected to one another and the rules which bind the human self, also are found in the rules which bind the universe. The only rules and guidelines which can be found to be 100% reliable are those which are divinely revealed from God. Based on these reliable guidelines, which are revealed from God, it is up to human beings to meditate and gain their peace through the means taught to us through the Infallible Imams (a).

       In Islamic mysticism the most superior kinds of asceticism which are outlined are those of absolutely paying mind to the halal and the haram (the lawful and unlawful) which is mentioned in the school of thought of the Ahlul Bait (a). Imam Ali (a), who is the father of Islamic mysticism, is quoted as having said: (: الشریعة ریاضة النفس), which means having religion and going by religion consists of the highest levels of asceticism of the self.[8] Religious scholars, such as Ibn Sina, have introduced worship as being austerity and abstinence of the self and are quoted as saying: ‘Through the means of worship, it is possible to tame the powers of the self (nafs), so that in worshipping God, they not only do not disturb us, but they in fact assist us.’[9] Religious meditation is that we are watchful over our selves (nafs), so that it will allow us to do actions which are a provision and investment for the next world.[10]

       Allameh Hasanzadeh Amoli has spoken on this field and has said that whoever puts aside all excess and unnecessary eating, speaking and actions, and in other words, all animalistic desires, will see that the self (nafs) itself is inclined to benefit and obtain ‘light’ from asceticism, so if asceticism is in accordance with the guidelines of revelation, which is the true avenue to humanity  (ان هذا القرآن یهدی للتی هی اقوم)[11], the nafs will be guided to perfection.[12]

[1] RezayiZadeh, Mahmoud, Maharat’haye Modiriyyate Khishtan Dari, pg. 237, The ‘Tahqiqat va Amuzeshe Modiriyyat’ Institute, 1385.

[2] Ibid, pp. 232-242.

[3] Wayne Dyer, Meditation (translated by Sima Faraji), pg. 25, Nasle No Andish Publications.

[4] Ibid, pg.51.

[5] Article: “A Critical Look at Buddhist Zen from a Monotheistic Perspective”, Mojgan Sakhai, website for answering religious inquiries.

[6] Ibid, quoted by the “What is Zen” book, pg. 102.

[7] The Yoga Periodical, no. 2, Fall 1379.

[8] NazemZadeh Qommi, Ali dar Ayineye Erfan.

[9] Ibn Sina, Al-Isharat wal-Tanbihat, ninth ‘namat’, chapter 3.

[10] Tabatabai, Allamah Mohammad Hosein, Al-Mizan, vol. 2, pg. 170.

[11] Surah Israa, Verse 9

[12] Ganjineye Gohare Ravan, pg. 15.

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