The Empty Vessel Catches the Rain - Non-Duality and Christian Contemplation

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True Christian Contemplation is often misrepresented, and to bring Non-Dual teachings into it would seem a precarious idea at least. Experience however, has shown otherwise. An understanding of what Contemplation means, in historic Christian terms, and what it means to you as a seeker, either in non-Duality, or as a Christian, is essential.

In historic Christian terms, contemplation differs from the Christian idea of meditation in one very important way. In meditation, we think on one event or idea from the life of Christ, or a passage from the Bible, or other sacred text. We dwell on this thought and discover meaning. This is, of course, all in the mind in non-Dual terms.

In the self-inquiry of non-Duality we do much the same thing. We look at ourselves, we dwell in the "I AM" until we see that our existence is all we can account for. Dwelling in the "I AM" leads to the uncovery of the impermanence of the manifestation, and our own "story" dissolves. This is not unlike Christian Contemplation.

The difference in Christian Contemplation from both non-Dual self-inquiry and Christian meditation is that Christian Contemplation is a dwelling in "no-thought". From the Desert Fathers to the present day, methodologies have been constructed on how to "do" contemplation, but true contemplation is not "done" it simply happens. Contemplation can come to one who is not studied in it at all, for true contemplation is a movement of Grace. One can try to make oneself "receptive", by living a life free of desire, but the nature of Grace follows no rules and neither punishes or rewards, but flows with Love only. The reason a Monk or Nun leaves the "world of desire" behind is not to run away from life, but to meet the unknown head on. The idea is to empty out all that is the "not real", the egoic mind as it were. For only in an empty, unattached mind will contemplation "come". This is the "goal" of contemplation, if it is described as having a "goal". For true contemplation has no "goal" apart from wanting to "be" with "God", or "the Absolute".

This "wanting", this is the "earnestness" of Nisargadatta Maharaj. This is a single-minded longing, not to know, but to be. Just as Love, by it's being, creates "you" to love; "you" must return the love by letting go of the "you" and returning to the source. In the wordless silence of contemplation, there is communion with the source. Knowledge is acquired through this silent communion, though it is not knowledge with words or concepts, but the "knowledge of the heart".

The organized Church promotes contemplation among it's Clergy and Monastics, and to a lesser degree it's laity, but limit it by only allowing the "insights" or "revelations" that conform with Church Doctrine or belief, thereby taking the heart out of any serious inquiry. Contemplation, if it is to be a useful "practice", needs to be seen as free from any doctrinal restraint, or it will simply reflect the "mind" that is controlling it. The "changes" that are the "fruits" of contemplation will occur only when unrestrained, and only when they are "consciously unspoken".

Love, God, the Absolute, whatever concept you like, informs, or to use a Christian term; "indwells" and separation vanishes. But this is only "available" to "be". There is no "explaining " it to yourself or others. It is real, leaves no questions, as the questioner is "absorbed", and it "changes" your life. It becomes your life! And this is the important part. As no matter if you are in a Monastery, or "practicing" non-dual self-inquiry, the "teaching" must be part of life, and not an escape from it.

As stated above, contemplation is not a "practice" as such, but a way of being. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, in his quaint, simple way, spoke in his "Practice of the Presence of God" about "turning his pancake in it's pan for the love of God". This willingness to "stay in the moment", this "earnestness" that was so insisted upon by Nisargadatta Maharaj, is the essence of contemplation. The contemplative monk, the self-inquiring non-dualist, are not negating life. They are not indulging in self punishment or self annihilation. They are becoming empty vessels. Being open to ALL possibilities; taking no stand, being "no-thing", they are free to be "everything". The empty vessel catches the Rain.