Mennonites and the Meaning of Mantra Meditation

Those who have been reading this blog will know that some Mennonites are being taught a silent prayer practice that involves finding a quiet place to sit comfortably, choose a meaningful word/phrase that helps them focus on God, and be absolutely still and quiet while letting thoughts go and mentally repeating their word/phrase for 20 minutes. Recently, a reader left the following excellent comment regarding meditation below January’s post “Take a little word, and repeat it.”

I was also in the New Age movement, back in the hippie era, and have now been in a plain church for a long while. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s meditation was openly part of eastern religions and it had been brought in by the Beatles with their Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, their own personal guru. Transcendental Meditation it was called — my generation jumped into it without any cautions whatsoever.

Why would someone want to sit and “take a little word, and repeat it”? It seems like a pointless, stupid activity. It doesn’t make logical sense! Yet we did it all the time. This chanting was a mantra, a Sanskrit term for a verbal prayer or sound (“OM”, for example) which was chanted over and over repetitively until one’s mind was abandoned. The reason this appealed to us was because it promised things like serenity, joy, detachment, attunement to God, spiritual power, and a connection with the universe. It also was promoted as a way to get “high,” like drugs.

Getting “high” and practicing meditation were both ways to attain an altered state of consciousness. It was a way of leaving or avoiding reality. Emptying the mind.

But there was another aspect to this. The meditation promised a higher spirituality, a path on the way to nirvana or perfection. Once we began to meditate we opened ourselves to the occult — and if we ALSO used drugs it made it even easier. The mystical realm of meditation is quite exhilarating at first. It produces feelings and experiences of heightened awareness and even ecstasy. But one can also encounter the demonic, and eventually we had these encounters in one form or another. That which seems light and peaceful can so quickly switch over to dark and dreadful!

But in this whole discussion don’t miss the point about the reason WHY meditation is becoming so popular again today. The most significant thing about engaging in this meditation/contemplation is that it was a useful TOOL. It isn’t simply an end in and of itself. The PURPOSE of altering our consciousness in the hippie era was to change our BELIEFS! Slowly (or sometimes quite rapidly) our attitudes, our values, our morals, our entire worldview….. began to shift over to an eastern mindset. We adopted new doctrines, new ways of looking at the world, new ways of seeing, new ways of believing,… and worse ways of behaving.

We “opened ourselves up.” That’s what we called it — it means we made ourselves “open” to “new things.” Meditation made us amenable to accepting new ideas and religions. We began to reject our Christian background and accept the seductive promises of a higher form of spirituality. Note that the practice of meditation, a mere act, gave us the illusion that we were invincible, co-creators, and emerging to a higher form of being human. And during that euphoria we came to adopt the entire eastern evolutionary belief system.

Once one lets go of their mind and permits it to go blank, it does not remain an empty slate. Other things come to fill the void. The exact opposite of this is meditating on God’s Word, which is a wonderful practice in which verses can sometimes feed us for many hours with encouragement and strength. And we use our mind (not abandon it) when we meditate on Scripture. We are blessed by the indwelling Holy Spirit who brings that Word alive to our inner man. (2 Cor. 2:16)

But this mind-altering, mind-emptying meditation is nothing more than an exercise in how to abandon discernment, letting go of all restraints, no longer resisting evil. And this is the point. If we let down our guard, and no longer resist the devil, he needs no longer to flee from us. (James 4:7) 1 Thess 5:6 states: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” Sleep is precisely what happens during meditation. The active awareness parts of the brain shut down. We are no longer capable of being watchful and alert. And worse, we are not sober because meditation produces an altered state of consciousness that is not unlike being “high,” drunk, intoxicated, etc.

Scripture instructs us: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (I Peter 1:13) The Gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus is the real “power of God” and this is our blessed hope in this world and the world to come. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Rom. 1:16a)

*This comment has been reposted with the permission of the author.


What is Mantra Meditation?


3 thoughts on “Mennonites and the Meaning of Mantra Meditation

  1. True meditation is not “emptying the mind”. It is filling the mind with God, or some aspect of God. If you were emptying your mind – a dangerous practice – you were doing it wrong. No doubt some teach this wrong method deliberately, while some teach or do it accidentally. To silence the mind is not to empty it. To become calm and focused is positive, but it is not emptying. We must make ourselves open to God, to Higher Self, but not become willing tools of mischievous spirits. “Go into your closet and pray.” Many take this as an instruction to meditate. I do. “Closet” is mind, in this interpretation. Say a little prayer before meditation and you are protected. You are anyway, if you have right intent. A “high” may come, but it is not a drug or an artificial hypnotic state or something. Peace is said to be the first sign of progress in growing closer to God. This is my belief. How do we ever expect to be like Jesus if we do not develop our access to the superconscious state? This, IMO, is the very point of the gospel, much cloaked in metaphor. Why do you think the 3 wise men were from the east? Jesus essentially aught eastern religion. If some hippies got it wrong, it isn’t Jesus’ fault. We must find fault with our methods and efforts, not the idea. I have found some peace in meditation and, yes, I am usually repeating some line, because I have a hyper-active mind, difficult to tame.

    • Howard, if the “closet” is the mind, and both have very different words in the NT (“closet” is “tameion” in Greek and “mind” is “nous”), how would someone say “closet” if they ACTUALLY meant that one should go into an inner, private room to pray?

      If you turn regular language into metaphor, then how does someone EVER speak regular language if they want to communicate something in regular language?

      Secondly, You said that “Jesus essentially taught eastern religion” because the wise men were from the east. What exactly do you think “from the east” meant to a Jew? India? China? I dare suggest that you’re thinking a few thousand miles too far. To Jews, the “east” was Babylon. The religion of Babylon wasn’t anything like the religion created by Siddhartha Gautama.

  2. this article takes the fun out of fundamentalism. From “The Priest and the Hedge Preacher”:
    “Menno spent long hours in meditation and prayer. Then he visited his superior and resigned his office as a village priest.

    When he began preaching his new beliefs, his old colleagues in the church vigorously denounced him. Soldiers chased him out of the area to the province of Gronigen. Shortly afterward he was baptized and ordained as an Anabaptist.”

    There’s nothing wrong with meditation, its an ancient Christian tradition often times referred to as centering prayer or contemplation or contemplative prayer. It simply means focusing your mind and heart on God.

    So chill out.

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