THIS BOOK IS a collection of passages with the power to transform lives, drawn from the world’s
great spiritual traditions. It is a companion to my book Passage Meditation, which describes a
program for putting that power to work — for bringing the deep wisdom of the heart into daily living.
I was in the midst of a very busy career in the English department of a university in India when I
began to develop this program in my own life. That story is told in Passage Meditation; here I would
like simply to add a few words about what the richness of this discovery meant to me — and why
meditating on passages like these makes this method of meditation so effective and so universal.
In Kerala state, South India, where I grew up, the new year is ushered in with a ceremony many
centuries old. The night before, while most of the family is asleep, a special shrine is assembled with
all kinds of lustrous objects — yellow flowers, brassware, gold jewelry, ripe fruits, lighted oil lamps
— arranged around a mirror draped with garlands. The next morning, each member of the family is
led to the shrine with eyes closed and asked, “Would you like to see the Lord?” We open our eyes,
and shining in the midst of this bright setting we see our own face in the glass. It is a beautiful
reminder of the divinity in each of us — the viewer and everyone else around.
Naturally, the reminder tends to get forgotten later, as life closes in again. But in my home, whenever
one of us children began to misbehave, my grandmother had only to ask, “Do you remember where
you saw the Lord on New Year’s?”
The passages in this book are like that New Year mirror. They show us our original goodness. They
remind us that whatever mistakes we may have made in the past, however self-centered our words
or behavior might be today, at the center of our personality lies a spark of the divine that can never
be extinguished, does not even have to be earned, for it is an essential part of our nature as human
When you and I look into a mirror, we see a familiar face with a distressing tendency to show fatigue
or age. But that is not what the mystics see. They look at us — through us, into us — and see
something transcendent, luminous, timeless, “the Face behind all faces":
I look into the mirror and see my own beauty; I see the truth of the universe revealing itself as
me. I rise in the sky as the morning sun, do not be surprised. I am Light itself reflected in
the heart of everyone.
Every particle of the world is a mirror. In each atom lies the blazing light I of a thousand
suns. — MAHMUD SHABESTARI
Radiant is the world soul, Full of splendor and beauty, Full of life. — ABRAHAM
Words like these are not just poetry. They are a passionate attempt to describe the direct, personal
encounter with a reality beyond words, put into words by men and women over- whelmed by the
desire to share that experience with anyone who will listen. When we hear with open hearts, the
words stir an response within us. We glimpse in them a reflection of our own true Self. The
wonderful potential latent in us begins to shine, as a possibility we can not only imagine but long for
and begin to live by.
This is the real purpose of this book: to provide not just a Collection of inspiring poetry, but a mirror
for helping us translate the lofty vision of the world’s great spiritual traditions into our daily lives.
How this can be done is the subject of my introduction, but I can give al simple illustration. Imagine
beginning each day absorbed in meditation on passages like this from Francis of Assisi;
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
Or this, from the Buddha:
Just as a mother with her own life protects her child, her only child, from harm, so within
yourself let grow A boundless love for all creatures Strive for this with a one-pointed
mind; your life will bring heaven to earth.
When you step out into the workaday world enveloped in words like these, the words go with you.
Gradually they become part of you, assimilated into your character and consciousness. They provide
armor to protect you from the stress and hurry of the day — the armor of patience, compassion,
wisdom, courage, love.
More than that, they become your friends. When you get caught up in the heat of the moment, the
words come to you and tug at the sleeve of your mind. ‘An instrument of peace, remember? As a
mother protects her only chi1d?" For if this original goodness is in each of us — you and me — then
it is within everyone else as well. Surprisingly perhaps, the only way we can reveal the divinity in
ourselves is to focus on it in those around us.
These words ring with power — and not simply the power of words. Words go no deeper than
experience. If a neighbor says, “Go sell what you have and give it to the poor’ will we take it
seriously? Yet the same words from Jesus have been changing lives for thousands of years. A
nobleman in third-century Egypt, a would-be troubadour in Assisi, an obscure nun teaching school in
Calcutta hears them and puts them into action, transforming not just one life but countless thousands.
Words from this depth of the heart never lose their power.
And don’t they speak with one voice, these lovers of God? Which is the Catholic nun, which the Sufi
poet, which the Indian sage? Like heights above the timberline, where no tree can grow, on these
heights of the spirit no distinctions can arise. However varied the paths, when we actually make this
journey we cannot help but end up at the same place.
I’m often reminded of nineteenth—century explorers’ search for the highest mountain in the world.
Tibetans pointed to Chomolungma, Nepalis to Sagarmatha, Chinese to Shengmu Feng. In
Darjeeling, Westerners looking for “Peak XV" were directed to Deodungha. All, of course, turned
out to be talking about the same peak, best known today as Mt. Everest.
Similarly, though the men and women in this book naturally fall back on the language of their own
times and traditions, they are not repeating dogma or theory. They are telling us what they have seen,
describing a place they have actually gone to and discovered to be their home — and then come
back to tell us, over and over, that this is our home as well.
I like to think of this place as a country a vast realm in the depths of consciousness beyond the
frontier of personal separateness — a land of unity where all of creation is one. Others prefer terms
that are cozier and more personal, scaled to human dimensions. For Teresa of Avila it is an “interior
castle"; for Augustine, a city; in the Upanishads, “a secret dwelling in the lotus of the heart? Whatever
the language, however, all the world’s great mystics agree with one voice that this place at the center
of the soul is where we really belong. “God is at home," insists Augustine; “we are abroad." Until we
discover this for ourselves, we remain exiles, wanderers, tourists with a growing sense of being
strangers in a strange land. Our main job in life is to find this place in the heart where we belong; then
we are at home wherever we go:
After much wandering I am come home, Where turns not the wheel of time and change ....
I Listen to Ravidas, just a cobbler: All who live here are my true friends.
After decades of
meditation, I can say the same of the saints and sages you will meet in this book. All are my true
friends — constant companions whose words remind me daily of the divinity latent in us all. I hope
they will become your friends as well.
Back of the Book
In this collection of passages for meditation, Eknath Easwaran brings the wisdom of the world’s
great saints and sages within our reach. These are powerful, universal wisdom texts that inform and
-Enjoy them for their poetic and intellectual appeal
-Or study them slowly, with concentration
-Or meditate on them, so that the words come to life in you thoughts and actions.
The great saints and sages are the world’s spiritual geniuses - men and women such as the
Compassionate Buddha, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, and the sages of the Upanishads. They
come from different faiths, different times, but they all discovered the same changeless reality
underlying the shifting world of sense experience. By reminding us of our essential goodness, they
give us hope. Through the legacy of their words, they show us what it means to think in freedom,
love fully, and see life as it really is. Easwaran chose texts that are positive, practical, and inspiring,
that express the universal ideals of love, steadfastness, and wisdom. They can be read as holy words
but also as the promptings of our true self, the core of goodness within us.
Read this book again and again - and let these saints and sages take you to the heartland
of the spirit within.
About the Author
Eknath Easwaran is respected around the worlds as one of the great spiritual teachers. He was
Professor of English Literature at the University of Nagpur, India, and an established writer, when he
came to the United States on the Fulbright exchange program in 1959. As Founder and Director of
the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and the Nilgiri Press, he taught the classics of world
mysticism and the practice of meditation from 1960 till his death in 1999.
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