I highly recommend the little book “Meditation” by Eknath Easwaran to anyone who has an interest in the subject. The book has been translated into 14 languages, and is very interesting and informative. Easwaran, born in India in 1910, had an incomparable command of the English language. His writing is clear and concise, with touches of humor. While I never actually met the man (he died in 1999), I feel like I know him through his writing. He was clearly a person of great sensitivity and compassion.
Easwaran had a deep understanding and appreciation of the major religious traditions of the West (e.g., Christianity and Judaism) as well as those of the East (e.g., Buddhism and Hinduism). He grew up in India, and began his working life in India as a professor of English Literature. In 1959 he came to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship. In the years that followed, he gave a very popular series of lectures on spiritual topics. In 1961 he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in Berkeley, California.
In his book “Meditation” (later republished with the title “Passage Meditation”), Easwaran outlines an eight-step program for spiritual growth:
- The Mantram
- Slowing Down
- One-Pointed Attention
- Training the Senses
- Putting Others First
- Spiritual Companionship
- Reading the Mystics
Most techniques of meditation involve some kind of a focus, as a way to practice quieting the “monkey mind.” Easwaran teaches a technique that has come to be called “Passage Meditation.” This is meditation on a spiritual passage from one of the world’s great religions. In the book, Easwaran gives a number of options for recommended passages; these include the 23rd Psalm and the Prayer of St. Francis. His book “Good Makes the Rivers to Flow” is a more extensive compendium of spiritual passages from the world’s great religious traditions.
Other highly recommended books written or translated by Easwaran are “The Mantram Handbook”, “The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living” (in three volumes), “The Dhammapada“, and “The Upanishads”.
Many of Eawaran’s talks have been posted on YouTube. You can get a good feeling for his teachings by looking at those videos. The best one to start off with might be the talk he gave on “Unnecessary Thinking.” That video is less than four minutes long, but it will give you a good sense of his gentle spirit, his eloquence, and his sense of humor. If you find it interesting, then I would also recommend his videos “What Is Life For?” (under three minutes), “Dealing With Criticism” (four minutes), and “Charles the Cat” (30 minutes; on the subject of death).