Listening, Reflection, Contemplation and Sat Sang
Listening, Reflection, Contemplation
It is said that the non-dual teachings are to be received and absorbed in a process consisting of broadly three stages. These might be called the stages of listening, assimilating and contemplation. Sat Sang is traditionally understood as an opportunity to listen to the teachings from an authoritative source in an appropriate setting.
The Sanskrit names for these practices (one might say for these skills, or even these arts) are shravana (listening), manana (reflective thinking) and nididhyasana (unbroken contemplation). In the traditional non-dual schools each of these has a precise meaning.
Listening and Traditional Sat Sang
The teachings need to be heard with due respect and receptivity. The form of a traditional Sat Sang helps those present to listen in this spirit. Shravana does not necessarily require a particular or formal setting, but it is essential to recognise that the subject is of special interest.
During the listening stage, it is helpful to keep the mind’s usual reactions in abeyance. That is, to restrain the inclination to think ‘Oh, this is just like…’. The ideal is to hear about the higher truth without smothering the teachings with associations and comparisons. Such is shravana.
It is at the stage of reflection, manana, that the mind should apply its own ways of understanding to what has been heard. One asks: ‘Have I understood this?, ‘Does it make sense?’ ‘How would I say that in my own words?’ ‘Does it fit in with how I have understood things up to now?’ ‘Where it does it challenge my views?’ ‘What changes does it suggest that I could make to my thoughts and actions?’
Manana leads to a changed vision of the world that matures into nididhyasana. This is a steady, unbroken brooding on the reality underlying the changing thoughts and experiences. It is this stable, one-pointed devotion that is conducive to the readiness for illumination.
More on Non-Duality
If you are doing some regular meditation and reflection on the non-dual ideas, you are welcome to contact us with any questions about the teachings, or for further suggestions about your practice.