Islam meets no-self

The title of this set of meditationinstructionsmight be somethinglike“Islam meets no-self”. Modern meditation theories and techniques are not really new. Thetechniques I’m introduing here are based on the Quran which is about thirteen hundred hears old. Even so they are much in line with modern “oneness” or "no-self" Eastern teachings.

I have used these Quran-based techniques; they are indeed powerful and have lead me to a deep freedom from the so-called ego (seeing things only through a tiny personal lens).

Well known sages such as Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargatta Maharaj and living teachers like Scott Kiloby opine that the ultimate goal of meditation and spiritual practice is to realize the absence of self. “You ought to see if you have an ego before you spend so much time trying to tame it or destroy it” is the question often posed by these wise ones.

“No-Self” teachers suggest meditation techniques based on “Self inquiry” - That is, answering the question: “Who am I?”. Who is it that thinks, feels, senses, and is trying to find lasting happiness? While these techniques are certainly effective there is another approach based on the Quran that approaches the question “Who am I” in a way that I prefer.

Of the many grand spiritual themes in the Quran, three of them in particular point to “no-self”. They are (with sample Quranic verses):

1. To God belongs everything (Nothing is mine)

2. God is control of all matters, and

3. Everything in this life is temporary.

To God belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth, and all matters are controlled by God.

(Quran 3:109)

Know that this worldly life is no more than play and games, and boasting among you, and hoarding of money and children. It is like abundant rain that produces plants and pleases the disbelievers. But then the plants turn into useless hay, and are blown away by the wind. In the Hereafter there is either severe retribution, or forgiveness from God and approval. This worldly life is no more than a temporary illusion.

(Quran 57:20)

Let’s take the first of these themes: “To God belongs everything”. In the Quran as in the Bible and Torah God is the Creator of everything: atoms, molecules, heat, time, plants, animals, and humans. Therefore, because the creator of something owns that something we can conclude that we own nothing. Who are we without ownership? Clearly, not the king of the castle that most of us imagine ourselves to be. Realizing that we own nothing (including our own bodies) is both shocking and liberating - liberating in the sense that when something appears, disappears, or changes we can rest in the knowledge that it belongs to someone else. Ahhh ... freedom from possessions.

The meditation practice that is used to cement the Quranic claim that I own nothing is based on the usual silent meditation format. I sit in silence and as thoughts, feelings, and sensations arise I just let them come and go - reminding myself that they are not mine. So for example if a worry about “my job” arises during the practice period, I just notice the thought and note to myself that the “job” is not mine … everything belongs to God. If, as another example, I notice the breath, I just note that it is not mine - it is God's. Daily practice of this technique leads to a profound “letting go” of things. Letting go always brings peace and gratitude!

A final thought on this practice. The idea with this practice is not to diminish or erase the 'ego' but rather to come to see things as they truly are – to see the reality that nothing is mine. This is a giant step in realizing the truth of "no-self"

In the next few posts I’ll discuss and suggest meditation techniques for the two remaining Quranic themes: “God is in control of all matters” and “Everything is temporary”.

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Continuing with the topic “Islam meets No-Self”, I'd like to suggest another meditation technique based on the second of the three Quranic themes mentioned earlier: God is in control of all matters.

What is meant by God controls all matters? The Quran is quite specific about this. It includes: the cycle of life and death of all physical things, our hearing and eyesight, credit for good and evil deeds, every soul, life circumstances including wealth and or poverty, and guiding and sending astray those whom He chooses. In a word everything including the gift of our free will.

So … not only does God own everything, He controls all matters.

Given this, why do we spend so much time worrying about things over which we have absolutely no control?It is not only a waste of time, it is in denial of reality – the reality that, even though we may choose between this and that, the outcomes of our choices are completely controlled by God.


So, here's the meditation practice associated with this idea. As is usual with mostsilent meditation practices, I sit in a comfortable position just noticing what arises for me - thoughts, physical sensations feelings, or input from my physical senses (noises, smells, and so forth). As these events occur, I notice them and without reacting to them in any particular way I remember that God is in charge. I like to say to myself mentally: “I'm not in charge, I***trust that God knows best –then relax back into the Silence. Letting go of the delusion that I am in control of outcomes brings such great peace!

***Say: “Nothing can happen to us except what God has ordained for us. He is Our Master. It is in God that the believers should put their trust.” (Quran 9:51)

As examples, if I hear noises that initially I deem to be disturbing I remember that I am not in charge of 'noises' but God is … then I relax back into the Silence trusting God knows best about 'noises'. Or, if I start to worry about a health matter, I relax and remember that God is in charge of all things including my health, trusting that God knows best. Naturally, this does not mean that I don't later go to a doctor but that ultimately the outcome of the matter will be determined by God.

A final thought about this technique. The idea is not to diminish or erase the 'ego' but rather to come to see things as they truly are – to see the reality that God is in charge and that He knows what is best for us. Practicing this idea during meditation is a big step in realizing the truth of "no-self". Again - “who am I” if I own nothing and I'm not in charge of outcomes. Not much“self” there.

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Now for a meditation technique for the remaining Quranic theme: “everything is temporary”. This meditation technique is very“Buddhist”.

Know that this worldly life is no more than play and games, and boasting among you, and hoarding of money and children. It is like abundant rain that produces plants and pleases the disbelievers. But then the plants turn into useless hay, and are blown away by the wind. In the Hereafter there is either severe retribution, or forgiveness from God and approval. This worldly life is no more than a temporary illusion.

(Quran 57:20)

Clearly, everything that exists is in acontinuous state of change (the body, steel girders, all circumstances, even the universe full of stars and other wonders of God’s creation). So why do we cling to the crazy idea that our problems, our possessions, and our ideas are permanent while clinging causes such unnessary suffering?

So, here's the meditation practice associated with this idea. As is usual with mostsilent meditation practices, I sit in a comfortable position just noticing what arises for me - thoughts, physical sensations feelings, or input from my physical senses (noises, smells, and so forth). As these events occur, I notice them and without reacting to them in any particular way I remember that whatever arises is temporary. I like to say to myself mentally as things arise: "this arising is temporary, it will surely go, only God is eternal".

God: there is no god except He; the Living, the Eternal.

(Quran 3:2)

So,“who am I” when

So- “Who am I” if I own nothing and I'm not in charge of outcomes, and everything is temporay. Not much“self” there - only freedom!

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Peace on you,

bob


Robert Flegal 2014