It cannot be learned or taught

I remember when I used to look for all I could read about meditation. Imagine writing a book about Zen. Zen seems to be the antithesis of definition. When this quote came in today’s mail, it struck a chord with me.

Contemplation cannot be taught. It cannot even be clearly explained. It can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized. The more objectively and scientifically one tries to analyze it, the more he empties it of its real content, for this experience is beyond the reach of verbalization and of rationalization. Nothing is more repellent that a pseudo-scientific definition of the contemplative experience. One reason for this is that he who attempts such a definition is tempted to proceed psychologically, and there is really no adequate psychology of contemplation. To describe “reactions” and “feelings” is to situate contemplation where it is not to be found, in the superficial consciousness where it can be observed by reflection. But this reflection and this consciousness are precisely part of that external self which “dies” and is cast aside like a soiled garment in the genuine awakening of contemplation.

Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions Press, 1962: 6-7.

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About Don

Social entrepreneur, Educator, Open Source Advocate
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