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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Brother Lawrence

I just read a book on The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (1611-1691). Brother Lawrence’s original name was Nicholas Hermon born into a poor peasant family in Lorraine, France. He was a common man who became a “saint” through the simple practice of Love, Faith and Charity. His words resemble those of Thayumanavar, the Tamil saint. His practice is one of Bhakti (devotiona) which is in essence unconditional love of God, expecting no earthly gains. His constant thinking of God when engaging in activities are exactly what is taught in Mindfulness meditation.

A barren tree of winter made him reflect on the sure hope of bountiful green leaves in the spring. He felt a similar spirituality hidden inside. Although he is barren like the tree, he felt that God was waiting inside to bloom at the proper season. He felt that reading books and listening to sermons did not get him anywhere. He wanted to experience. He started thinking about God at every waking moment. Whenever his mind wandered, he brought it back by refocusing on God within. Is this not the practice of focused attention in Mindfulness practice?

Brother Lawrence speaks of the God with him and in him. He talks of the need for all of us to focus inwards. He also says that for true practice of spirituality we must empty our hearts of all things other than God. (A similar teaching in Buddhism is emptying oneself of oneself, implying that we are made of elements other than ourselves)

He says: “Let us enter into ourselves” and “It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church….”. And also says: “He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere”; “I believe no more; but I see” and “I never prayed for relief; but for strength to suffer with courage, humility and love”. He prayed for others the same way, asking God to give them strength and not relief from pain.

Ancient Vedic teaching of India also says that the Supreme Force (or God, if that is the preferred word) is within each one of us and IT cannot be understood or reached by reason or logic, but can be experienced.

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