Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) was an Indian spiritual teacher. He founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in Northern California, wrote many books on meditation, and developed Passage Meditation. His 8 Pointed Path, or Program, was the fulfillment of his vision of passage meditation intended to help people grow spiritually. This summary of the 8 points is my interpretation of them as gotten from his books; I’ve not been instructed at his center. That said, I’ve very much enjoyed and feel that I’ve also grown from Easwaran’s concepts and writing.
So, without further ado, here we go.
Point 1: Meditation
The core of the path is meditation. Easwaran directs us to meditate for a half hour as early as possible each day, and not to increase that time except by optionally doing another half hour at the very end of the day. (As you know if you’re a regular reader, I myself generally stick around an hour). In a room or area dedicated just to meditation, go slowly through a passage or scripture in your mind. Repeat if necessary to fill the time. His book God Makes the Rivers to Flow: An Anthology of the World’s Sacred Poetry and Prose has many, many passages Easwaran approved for this contemplation, and in it he recommends starting with the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
Point 2: Mantram Repetition
As Easwaran defines it, a mantram is a spiritual formula that comes from one’s religion or, as is customary for many traditions, from your spiritual teacher. We are to repeat our mantrams silently to ourselves whenever the opportunity arises in our days as we wait, exercise, or do anything that does not fully engage our minds. He directs us also to not change our mantram, else “you will be like a person digging shallow holes in many places; you will never go deep enough to find water.”
Here’s a sampling of possible mantrams from Easwaran:
- Christian: “Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on us.”
- Jewish: “Barukh attah Adonai” (“Blessed art thou, O Lord”)
- Islamic: “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim” (“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”)
- Buddhist: “Om mane padme hum” (refers to the “jewel in the lotus of the heart”)
- Hindu: “Rama, Rama, Rama” (Mahatma Gandhi’s mantram)
If none of the above appeal to you, you might find something in my post 21 Mantras for Meditation that’s more your style.
Point 3: Slow Down
Without becoming lazy or slothful, simply seek to do less. Start your days early. If you start being distressed or speeding up, repeat your mantram to slow down.
I have personally found this to be indispensable. Cut out the dross, get back to the basics of what needs to get done. Pick the Brain has a recent article on this topic that’s excellent: “Life’s Short: 5 Quick Ways to Slow Your Time Down”.
Point 4: One-Pointed Attention
This is about giving our full attention to whatever it is we are doing in the moment. Forget about multi-tasking or productivity, and just do the best you can at whatever you’re engaged in – be it talking with someone, eating, or whatever. Intensity in focus brings out the best in us.
One of the reasons I’m a big fan of zenhabits.net is the author’s focus on mindfulness. When the holidays rolled around, there was a post on using difficult family members to work on mindfulness that has excellent tips for working on your one-pointedness.
Point 5: Training Senses
This point is about discrimination of intake. Easwaran directs us to eat what our body needs rather than what tastes good, at the most basic level, but then also directs us to apply the same sort of qualification to that which we read and view. We should only consume with our minds what is good for our souls.
I used to be a big fan of horror movies and books. Curiously, that sort of dropped away as I increased my meditation. So, to this point I would add that following the other tips will pretty naturally cause the negative to be dropped away – you’ll stop wanting to partake.
Point 6: Selflessness
Starting with those we already love, we simply focus on other’s needs and place them ahead of our own. Taken to fullness, this leads to the removing of the ego barrier that keeps us from fully engaging with spirit.
Whenever this topic comes up, I think of Deepak Chopra’s (and other’s) redefinition of ego- E.G.O., Edging God Out. Our focus on the trivial details of our lives and ourselves prevents us from connecting to divinity.
Point 7: Reading in Mysticism
A correlate or refinement to Point 5, we are directed to spend a half hour each day reading scriptures and writings by the world’s great mystics. Especially done right before sleep, this works to counter the negative and lowly self-images that society indoctrinates people with.
I read less scripture than I should, but I consume quite a lot of positivity and self-improvement topics on a daily basis. This is not sufficient or what is being prescribed in this step, so this is an area I should work on. Easwaran’s book, “God Makes the Rivers to Flow“, is a compilation of just such mystic passages.
Point 8: Spiritual Association
Finally, Easwaran directs us to, as much as possible, associate with people who are also engaged in spiritual growth. Being social creatures, we benefit and are more deeply motivated by being a part of a group engaged in a common effort.
Don’t know anyone like that? Well, that’s why I started this blog – you know me. You and I, at least, can do this thing together.
You may also enjoy:
- 21 Mantras for Meditation – programminglife.net
- Forgiveness Affirmation – programminglife.net
- The Only Prayer You’ll Ever Need – inspir3.com
- Blue Mountain Center of Meditation – extensive material from Eknath Easwaran, easwaran.org
Eknath Easwaran said of these 8 points that, implemented, they begin immediately making positive changes in our lives. I think that’s right. Do you have experience with Easwaran’s teachings? If so, I’d love to hear from you about them in the comments.
Keep on keeping on,