We tend to think of meditation as an “eastern” practice while prayer is the more western thing. I was raised in a Christian church. In my late teens, I became fascinated by research on consciousness. Quickly, I ran into meditation and began exploring “eastern” ideas.
But is meditation really an “eastern” idea? Or is it, as research suggests, an innate skill all humans have that has simply been lost in our culture? A quick search on-line tells me there are over 20 references to meditation in the Bible. For example, in Joshua 1:8, God says to meditate on His word day and night. But it appears to have more to do with remembering his “book of law”. Is that just a misunderstanding in the translation of the original language?
In “Getting to the Heart of Interfaith”, Rabbi Ted tells the story of once again reading the Sh’ma or Jewish “watchword of our faith“, often used as a traditional bedtime prayer. He realized that if he had seen the text in a book on eastern religion, he would have been seeing a description of meditation.
Listen Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One.
And you shall love the Eternal your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
And let these words, which I Am, commanding you today, be on your heart.
And you shall repeat them to your children, and you shall recite them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Many eastern teachers teach with Sanskrit mantras in the west, sometimes without meaning. But in the east, it’s more common for them to suggest you use the name of your “ishta-devata” or chosen form of God.
Thus, it’s not hard to hear something like:
1 Listen (in silence), here is the mantra.
2 open your heart fully (like Isha facets)
3 say His name (the mantra) in your heart
4 repeat it to your kids, sit and meditate, at bedtime and in the morning. And walking, when you’re not doing something else (called walking meditation)
After Listen Israel, the Hebrew words are:
Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad
In other words, use Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad as the mantra.
I can also note that “calling the rosary” is known as Japa in Sanskrit, counting the repetitions of the name of God.
Certainly, I’m no expert in old languages or religions but these are mighty familiar instructions to a meditator.
For comparison, here is the Christian King James version. Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6:4-7.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
In Islam, the Bible is also counted as a holy book with Muhammad as a later prophet. Thus, the verses exist in all western faiths. As with all old books, a deeper meaning seems lost by time.