Lester Levenson: Meditation with a quest

Session 11: Meditation with a Quest

The primary purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind. When we hold one thought with interest, as we hold it other thoughts keep dropping away. Thoughts of the day, what he did to me, what she did, what I should have done, etc.—all these thoughts are active on a subconscious level. As we hold to one thought, these subconscious thoughts become quiet; they become still. They drop into the background, and that quiets the mind.

Now, the most important thing in quieting the mind is interest. When you are very interested in something, you’ll override all other thoughts. Likewise, if with intense interest you want to know: What am I? What is this world? What is my relationship to it? —if there’s a real burning desire to get the answer, then all other thoughts drop away and the mind becomes extremely concentrated. Then the answer shows itself. It comes from within. The answer is there all the time! The quieting of the thoughts allows us to see it, to see the answer that was there all the time, there in the realm of knowingness, the Self.

The starting point should be a strong desire for the answer. When that desire is strong, we get the answer. That’s why man’s extremity is God’s opportunity: extreme adversity causes us to desire to get out of it with such intensity that we concentrate our mind and discover the answer.

When I started my quest I thought that thinking would give me the answers. I had a mind that was as active as any mind could be. But I was at the end of the line. I had had a second heart attack and they told me I was finished, that I had only a short time to live, and so I had to have the answers. And even though my mind was far more active than the great majority of minds, the intensity of the desire for the answers caused me to hold to one question at a time, obliterating all else. This concentration did it.

I started seeking with no knowledge of metaphysics, no knowledge of the way. In fact I was against all religion and all metaphysics. I thought it was nonsense for the weak-minded, for people who believed in fairy tales. But it was only because of the intensity of the desire to get the answers—I had to have the answers—that they began to come; and they came relatively quickly. Over a period of three months’ time I went from an extreme materialist to the opposite extreme: the material is emptiness and the spiritual is the All.

The wish to get the answer was so strong that in spite of my mind being one of the noisiest of minds, the answers began to come. I automatically fell into things (I knew no words for them) like samadhi. I would concentrate on a question with such intensity that I would lose awareness of this body, and then I would be aware of just a pure thought; the thought itself would be the only thing existing in this universe. That’s absorption, when the thinker and the thought become one. One loses consciousness of everything but that one thought. That’s a very concentrated state of mind and the answer is always discovered right there.

I started out with “What is happiness? What is life? What do I want? How do I get happiness?” I discovered that happiness depended upon my capacity to love. At first I thought it was being loved. I reviewed my life and saw that I was very much loved by my family and friends and yet I was not happy. I saw that was not it. Continuing, I realized that it was my capacity to love that gave me happiness.

The next question was, “What is intelligence?” I persisted until, Ah! I saw it! There is only one intelligence in the universe and we all have a direct line to it.

Then I worked on responsibility and discovered that I was responsible for everything that happens or had happened to me. Creation was something I created!

Finally, I held the question, “What am I?” until the answer presented itself.

And this went on, and in a matter of three months’ time I believe I saw the entire picture, went all the way, only because of the concentrated approach. I knew nothing about the subject; I knew nothing about the direction, the way, the path, but I wanted to know: What am I? What is this world? What’s my relationship to it?

You discover that the whole world is nothing but you, that there never was anything but you all along, because there’s only One and you are it! But that isn’t the final state. You come out of it and there’s still a certain amount of mind left. So you go back into the meditative quest until there is no more mind controlling you. When you’ve eliminated all the habits of thought, all the tendencies of mind, you are free. Then you can use your mind and you are the master and director of it. It no longer determines you—you determine it.

At present we are  controlled by the unconscious mind over ninety percent of the time. We really don’t want thoughts so we push them away into the background. We are happiest when there are no thoughts. Thoughts are the things that make us unhappy; even the happy thoughts make us unhappy because we know the pleasure is not going to last. Even thoughts of happiness are limited. The really happy state is the no-thought state; it’s the state of knowingness and is beyond thought.

We started with the subject of meditation. Meditation does seem to be a question in many people’s minds who have meditated for years and years. The best type of meditation is with a question. When you just drop into a nice quiet state without a question, you get a good feeling but no progress of getting the knowledge.

The only problem we have now is called ignorance. We’re ignorant of the fact that we are infinite. To get rid of ignorance we need the knowledge of our infinity. To get the knowledge we have to enquire. So when we go into a meditation and just get peacefully quiet, that’s good, but don’t stop there: then get the answers. It’s necessary to get quiet to get the answers. Only the answer to “What am I?” gets us to the top. So if we want to take the quickest way, we start with the question, “What am I?”

Here’s where the jnani (seekers of knowledge) have the advantage over the bhakta (those who practice devotion). Surrender and devotion throw us into nice feelings and they’re good, but a jnani goes further. He says, “All right, don’t stop there, get the answer.” It’s only when we fully know who and what we are that we’re at the end of the road. So the fastest and best way to meditate is to pose a question, get quiet, and stay quiet until the answer shows itself. Then go to the next one until all the answers are there.

Recorded on July 22, 1970, Los Angeles

Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute (p. 100). ISBN 0-915721-03-1. (http://www.freespiritualebooks.com/keys-to-the-ultimate-freedom.html) (download)

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