Saturday, November 22, 2008

DIARY 84 - Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a Latin term used in Roman Catholicism, particularly in the Rule of St Benedict. Within this monastic tradition it is conceived of as 'divine reading', it consists of reading a text, not to acquire knowledge, or to actively study it, but as a means of allowing the divine to speak to you through it, in this case the voice of God. Reading, in this way, comes much closer to being a form of prayer or meditative contemplation. It seems as though if a text is approached in this manner, the text acts as an opening, as a channel to a divine level of consciousness ,or at least brings it into closer awareness for the reader. Obviously, in the Christian tradition, this is dependent upon the idea of the Bible as being literally the mind and word of God, through these divine words he could therefore speak to us.

As a Buddhist, I would obviously need to ditch the idea of the divine God speaking to you. I do, however, find the idea of reading as a means of being in closer contact with Enlightened consciousness, intriguing. This brings, for me, a fresh way to read the Dharma. Through this form of contemplative reading it maybe possible to be brought into a more intimate relationship with the True Nature of Reality, or Buddha Nature. It could be that through the act of reading the Dharma there is triggered a reciprocal response - as you move towards Buddha Nature - Buddha Nature moves closer towards you, and at some point the touch is so profound that insight is achieved through it.

There is a need to be careful here that that 'it' doesn't become personified, and develops an anthropomorphised form - a danger inherent in the concept of 'Other' power in Pure Land Buddhism. But, I have had experiences when I'm reading one of the more impenetrable pieces written by Dogen, I can get a sense of something larger than me and my limited perspective urging itself to be communicated. In the midst of my fog bound mind, something that is almost tangible, but not comprehensible, is heard like a fog horn through a thick pea-souper. Perhaps the gap is only a paper thin, but extraordinarily significant, membrane between the world of my understanding, and the world of Dogen's. In the moment of reading could this become more than a sketchy apparition? As though I'm suddenly alerted by another person's breathing in the empty room above me.

In Buddhism we say there are three different ways, or levels, through which prajna - True Wisdom - can emerge. First, there's the shrutamayaprajna, which arises through simply hearing or listening to the Dharma. Second,there's the chintamayaprajna, that arises from reflecting on the Dharma. Third, there's the bhavanamayaprajna, that arises from meditating on the Dharma. Lectio Divina, would also appear to incorporate similar aspects, listening, reflecting and meditating being simultaneous experiences, each supporting the other for opening too, or potential for, insight. Abbot Christopher Jamison, describes his approach to Lectio Divina -

1 'As a gift to be received, not a problem to be dissected...avoid imposing your questions and let the text question you. Humility is the key to this wisdom... it also helps us to understand our hidden selves...Let the text come to you.'

2 'In order to receive what a text has to offer we must read slowly.. repetition is the soul of genuine lectio...we do not grasp the entire content immediately but in a circular manner. We read and advance, then we go back and read again. With each repetition, something new may strike us.'

3 Lectio is a way of prayer...allow the reading to evolve into meditation and then into prayer and finally contemplation... keep some phrase in mind and repeat it throughout the day so that prayerful reading becomes prayerful living. By this means, lectio becomes not so much a technique as a way of life: the text reframes daily life and daily life flows into the text.'

1 comment:

Francisco Javier Alonso (Padre Efrén+) said...

Very interesting post!