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By Christopher J Boozell – http://www.TantricChrisitianity.com
I’ve lost track of the number of articles I’ve read trumpeting the difference between Eastern meditation and Christian meditation. Setting completely aside the writers trying to scare readers with foolish notions about becoming possessed (or at least open to demonic influence) as a result of meditation, there seem to be two primary claims about the supposed difference between Eastern and Christian meditation.
Equating Eastern meditation and New Age meditation. It’s true that most of current New Age thought and terminology was taken directly from Hinduism and Buddhism (with some healthy chunks of Christian angelology added), but the translation from these well developed spiritual cultures into New Age’s fairly loose ‘philosophy’ has been sloppy. Reincarnation, karma, and ethics – all foundational notions for both Hinduism and Buddhism – each suffered rather badly in the process. The idea of meditation fared no better. In place of techniques aimed at reforming how the meditator relates to the Absolute, the world, and even themselves, New Age proponents suggest day dreaming as a way to change the world (a la ‘the Secret’), or trance induction techniques aimed at theme park style experiences (out of body travel and so on).
Bottom line: there is no good analogy between Eastern meditation techniques and New Age fluff.
Eastern meditation’s goal is to empty the mind, while Christian meditation fills the mind with the Word of God. This comparison reveals a fairly deep ignorance about both the method and the effect of meditation. Meditation, regardless of the culture we see it in, relies on two skills: placing our attention on some chosen point of focus and watching our mental activity to catch ourselves when our attention wanders. There is no emptying or filling – just directing your attention with purpose instead of the random wander we usually allow our thoughts. Regardless of whether we are focusing on our breath or a selection from the Gospels, meditation is meditation – and you no more empty your mind by meditating than you empty your voice box when you stop talking and pay attention to a conversation partner.
While both claims are obviously mistaken, I wouldn’t be too worried about them if it weren’t for one thing: such inaccurate claims run the risk of misleading folks who really want and need additional ways to cultivate their relationship with our Father. Confusing them with talk of emptying their minds or scaring them off with talk about New Age goofiness provides no help at all. Of course, there IS a substantial difference between Eastern meditation and Christian meditation: the goal. Christian meditation is specifically aimed at developing our relationship with the Trinity (specifically with Jesus the Christ) while Buddhist meditation focuses on developing clear insight into the nature of reality (shunyata) and Hindu meditation looks for a realization of union between the meditator and Brahma. Clearly, each is incompatible with the others, but any
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method of meditation is Christian so long as the firm goal is cultivating openness to God’s embrace. So as a faithful Christian hoping to foster a more direct relationship with Abba, take heart. You can do so without fear of compromising that faith. If you would like to learn more about how to take this path, go to the Tantric Christianity website and sign up for the free mini-course on meditation. The information presented in that course will give you everything you need to get started!