Passage meditation was developed by Eknath Easwaran, one of the teachers featured in our Remembering Spiritual Masters Project. Rather than reflecting or contemplating on a passage, this practice calls for focusing attention on the words themselves. Doing so increases one’s capacity for sustained concentration both within and outside of meditation, and such focused attention yields an absorption of the passage’s spiritual content. The passages below, which are drawn from Eknath Easwaran’s Timeless Wisdom: Passages for Meditation from the World’s Saints and Sages (Nilgiri Press, 2008) and God Makes the Rivers to Flow, offer both theistic and nontheistic inspirational passages from eight different traditions.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul…
— Psalm 23
"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 darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.…
— Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
"O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
Let me walk in beauty, and let my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset….
Make me wise so that I may understand
The things you have taught my people.
— Chief Yellow Lark
"The Lord dwells in the hearts of all creatures,
And he whirls them round on the wheel of time.
Run to him for refuge with all your strength,
And peace profound will be yours,
Through his grace.
— Bhagavad Gita
"May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere, the strong
and the weak, the great and the small,
May all beings everywhere …
May all be filled with lasting joy
— Discourse on Good Will
"Break into the peace within,
Hold attention in stillness,
And in the world outside,
You will ably master the 10,000 things.
All things rise and flourish.
Then go back to their roots.
Seeing this return brings true rest….
— Tao Te Ching
"Everything you see has its roots.
In the unseen world.
The forms may change,
Yet the essence remains the same.
Every wondrous sight will vanish,
Every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The source they come from is eternal.
"The all-knowing Self was never born,
Nor will it die. Beyond cause and effect,
This Self is eternal and immutable.
When the body dies, the Self does not die…
When the wise realize the Self…
They go beyond all sorrow
- "Memorize an inspirational passage from a scripture or major spiritual figure that is positive, practical, inspiring, and universal.
- "Choose a time for meditation when you can sit for half an hour in uninterrupted quiet. (It is not recommended to meditate for more than 30 minutes without personal guidance from an experienced teacher.) Sit with your back and head erect, on the floor or in a straight-backed chair.
- "Close your eyes and go through the words of an inspirational passage in your mind as slowly as you can and with as much concentration as possible. For instance, the first line from Rumi’s 'A Garden Beyond Paradise' would be repeated like this: 'Everything . . . you . . . see . . . has its . . . roots . . . in . . . the . . . unseen . . . world . . . .' Concentrate on each word, without following any association of ideas or allowing your mind to reflect on the meaning of the words. When distractions come, do not resist them, but give more attention to the words of the passage.
- "If your mind strays from the passage entirely, bring it back gently to the beginning of the verse and start again.
- "In time, develop a repertoire of inspirational passages to keep them from becoming automatic or stale. They may be selected from within a single religious tradition, or from several traditions."
From “Translating Spiritual Ideals into Daily Life: The Eight-Point Program of Passage Meditation” by Tim Flinders, Doug Oman, Carol Flinders, and Diane Dreher in Contemplative Practices in Action