Kigar A lucid presentation of the meditative methods, mantras, mandalas and other devices used, as well as a penetrating interpretation of their significance in the light of contemporary meditative research. They decided that they too would expound on the workings of the Merkava [out in the fields]. The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. P Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.

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It is universally accepted by the Kabbalists that the first ones to engage in these meditative methods were the patriarchs and prophets, who used them to attain enlightenment and prophecy. Although there are many allusions to this in the Bible, the scripture is virtually silent when it comes to providing explicit descriptions of their methods.

StilL if one looks at the appropriate texts, one can gain considerable insight into the methods that were in use in the time of the prophets. Here we find some of the greatest Talmudists engaged in the mystical arts, making use of a number of meditative techniques to attain spiritual elevation and ascend to the transcendental realm.

Many of these techniques consisted of the repetition of divine names , as well as intense concentration on the transcendental spheres. What little we know of their methods is preserved in a few fragments , as well in a remarkable complete text, Hekhalot Rabatai The Greater Chambers , of which the main parts are presented for the first time in translation in this book.

I twas du ring this period that some of the main classics of Kabbalah were written. These involved even higher levels than those described in the Hekhalot, and for the most part, only the barest hints are provided as to how these levels were reached. With the close of the Talmudic period, these methods became restricted to a few very small closed secret societies. Both the Bahir and the Zohar remained completely unknown outside of these societies, and were not revealed until the late Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries respectively.

Having received the tradition from earlier sources, he was the first to actually pu t them in writing. For this, he weas condemned in many circles, although most Kabbalists consider his methods to be authentic and based on a reliable tradition. Several of his contemporaries, most notably, Rabbi Isaac of Acco and Rabbi Joseph Gikatalia, also speak of meditative methods. This great classic gripped the imagination of almost all Kabbalists of the time, and the teachings of other schools was virtually forgotten.

I t is therefore no accident that many books written before this were never published, and among those which have not been lost, a good number exist only in manuscript. Since the Zohar has little to say about meditative methods, many important Kabbalists began to ignore the subject completely. They were too involved in trying to unravel the mysteries of this ancient book that had been concealed for many centuries. There were a few exceptions, however, and these Kabbalists made use of the methods of Abulafia, Gikatalia and Isaac of Acco.

For over two hundred years, however, we find virtually nobody exploring the Zohar itself to ascertain the meditative methods used by its authors. The main attempts in this direction occurred in the Safed SchooL which flourished during the Sixteenth Century.

It reached its zenith in the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria , commonly known as the Ari, who showed how the various letter combinations found in the Zohar were actually meant to be used as meditative devices. Although the Ari wrote almost nothing himself, his teachings were arduously copied by his disciplies, and fill almost two dozen large volumes. To a large extent , all this was an introduction to the methodology involved in his system of meditation.

Just as the Zohar had overshadowed everything when it was published, so did the writings of the Ari overwhelm the other schools three centuries later.

His teachings were seen as the ultimate expression of the Kabbalah, and for the next two hundred years, the greatest part of Kabbalah literature devoted itself to their interpretation. The next great renascence came with the rise of the Hasidic movement, founded by Rabbi Israel, the Baal Shem Tov Meditation I 9 When their works are studied, it becomes obvious that the Baal Shem and his closest disciples were ardent students of the earlier meditative texts of the Kabbalah , and in the Hasidic classics, these texts are often paraphrased.

During the second half of the Eighteenth Century, and perhaps the first decade or two of the Nineteenth, many people engaged in the classical meditative techniques of Kabbalah, often describing the high spiritual states that they attained. The opposition to this , especially where it involved teaching these methods to the masses , was very strong. An entire group, known as the Mitnagdim opposers , arose to combat the Hasidim, vigorously denouncing their methods.

As a result, the Hasidim themselves began to de-e mphasise their meditative prac tices, and eventually these were virtually forgotten. One who accompli shes thi s successfully is sa id to h ave att ained Ruach HaKodes h , The " Holy Spirit ," whi ch is the general Hebraic term for enligh ten men t.

The bes t- known contemporary method o f medit a ti on is tha t whi ch involves a mantr a, a word or phr ase that is repea ted over and over for a designated peri od of time.

One concentra tes on the mantr a to the exclusion of all else, thus clea ring the mind of all ex tra neous thoughts and di vorcing it from the normal s trea m of conscious ness.

In thi s method, the mantra may be repea ted verball y, or the repetiti on may be compl etely ment al. Thi s ty pe of medit ation is found in the Kabbalah, es peciall y among the earli er schools. In the Hekhalot, fo r exa mpl e, one begins hi s spiritual ascent by repeating a number of Divine Names times. Mantr a medit ati on is an exampl e of s tructured, ex ternally direc ted medit ati on. It is ex ternally direc ted, insofar as one concentr ates on a word or phrase, rather than on the spont aneous thoughts to the mind.

Since it involves a specifi c practi ce, r epeat ed fo r a fi xed le ng th o f time, it is considered a s truc tured medit ati on. In occult practi ces, the bes t-known ty pe of conte mplati on in volves gazin g int o a crys t al ba l1. In Kabbalah medit ati on, the simpl es t contempl a tive device is the Tetrag ramma ton itself , and thi s is di scussed even in non-Kabbali s ti c works.

Very closely related to this is the method of Yechudim Unifications , which plays an important role in the system of the Ari.

Here one does not contemplate a physical picture, but rather a mental image, asually consisting of various combinations of divine names. Since the structures and combinations of these names are predetermined, and do not arise spontaneously in the mind, this is also considered to be an externally-directed meditation.

This consists of meditating on thoughts, feelings or mental images that arise spontaneously in the mind. Usually, this is best accomplished by focusing on a general area, around which these thoughts will be evoked. Since there is no formal or predetermined method of evoking such thoughts, this is most commonly an unstructured meditation.

One of the best methods of verbalizing such thoughts while keeping them concentrated on a single focus is to express them as spontaneous prayer. It is this method that forms the basis for the meditative system of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. The third basic type of meditation is that which is non-directed.

Such meditation strives for a stillness of the mind and a withdrawal from all perception, both internal and external. It plays an important role in the advancd states of many other methods, but at the same time, it can also be used as a method in its own right. Very little is expressly written about this method, but it appears to playa role in the teachings of such Hasidic masters as Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezrich and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichov There is evidence that this method was used , at least for the most advanced, in the very terminology of the Kabbalah.

Indeed, in a number of cases , it is only when looked upon in this sense that some terminology is comprehensible. Thus, for example, the Kabbalists call the highest level of transcendence Ayin, literally " Nothingness. Besides being divided into these three basic methods , meditation can be classified according to the means used. The three basic means are the in tellect, the emotions, and the body. Meditation I 13 The path of the intellect is very prevalent among the theoretical Kabbalists, and was also used outside of the Kabbalistic schools.

The most common method was simply to contemplate on various aspects of the Torah, probing the inner meaning of its commandments. It also included delving deeply with the intellect into the structure of the supernal universes, and, as it were, becoming a denizen of these worlds. For many, this method lead to a very high state of ecstasy, and this method forms the basis of the Habad system of Hasidism. I t was primarily this method that formed the basis of the Mussar Movement , which arose in the Nineteenth Century as a response to Hasidism.

Such contemplation, or Hitbonenut,plays an especially important role in the devotional work Mesilat Yesharim Path of the Just , by the great Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Chaim luzzatto In this remarkable book, the author outlines all the steps leading up to, but not including, Ruach HaKodesh the ultimate enlightment. Incidentally, although it is not widely known, the ten levels di scussed in this text clearly parallel the ten mystical Sefirot of the Kabbalists.

The path of the emotions also plays an important role in the systems of the Kabbalists. One place where it is particularly important is in Kavanah-meditation, the system that makes use of the formal daily prayers as a sort of mantra, especially in the Hasidic schools.

Here one is taught to place all of his feelings and emotions into the words of his worship, thus attaining a divestment of the physical hitpashtut ha- gashmiut. This path is also found in meditations involving music, which played an important role in the meditations of the ancient prophets of the Bible.

A path combining the intellect and emotions is the path of love, described in detail by the leading philosopher, Rabbi Moses Maimonides He writes that when a person deeply contemplates on God, thinking of His mighty deeds and wondrous creations, he becomes profoundly aware of His wisdom, and is brought to a passionate love for God.

It includes both the body motions and breathing exercizes that playa key role in the system of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. The swaying and bowing that accompanies formal prayer also involves the path of the body, enhancing the meditative uuality of the worship.

One of the most important techniques of body meditation involves dancing. This is especially true among the Hasidic schools, where even after other meditative methods were abandoned, dance was still used as a means of attaining ecstasy and enlightenment. This, however, was not a Hasidic innovation, since even in most ancient times dance was an important method for attaining enlightenment. The Talmud teaches that on the festival of 5uccot Tabernacles , during the " Festival of Drawing," in Jerusalem, "saints and men of deed would dance before the assemblage, holding torches and singing hymns of praise.

Because it was a time when people drew in Ruach HaKodesh. Since most of these methods are no longer practiced, the vocabulary associated with them has also been forgotten. So great is this confusion that even the very Hebrew word for meditation is not generally known.

This has even led to the use of the wrong term in an article on the subject in a major Judaic encyclopedia. Once a basic vocabulary is established, however, one can gain an appreciation of how often meditation is discussed in classical texts, particularly in the Kabbalistic classics. Io There is one word that is consistently used as a term for meditation by the commentators, philosophers and Kabbalists.

The word which most often denotes meditation is Hitbodedut nrr:n::lI;t. It refers to a state of internal isolation, where the individual mentally secludes his essence from his thoughts.

One of the greatest Kabbalists, Rabbi Chaim Vital , often speaks of such mental seclusion, saying that "one must seclude himself hitboded in his thoughts to the ultimate degree.

The clearest description of this state is presented by Rabbi Levi ben Gershon , a major Jewish philosopher; often known as Gersonides, or simply by the acrostic, " the Ralbag. Speaking of individuals seeking prophecy, he writes, " They fulfil the conditions of meditation Hitbodedut which has the effect of nullifying the senses and divorcing the thought porcesses of the soul from all perception, clothing it in the spiritual essence of the transcendental. He writes that there are two different types of self- isolation hitbodedut , external and internal.

External hitbodedut is nothing more than physical isolation, and this is usually desirable when one wishes to meditate. Internal hitbodedut, on the other hand, consists of isolating the soul from the perceptive faculty. When the mind is completely hushed in this manner, one becomes able to perceive the spiritual realm.

The word Hitbodedut therefore primarily is used to denote the isolation of the soul or ego from all external and internal stimuli. Any method or practice that is used to accomplish this is also called Hitbodedut. Since these are the practices that are usually referred to as " meditation," this is how the word Hitbodedut should be translated.

Another closely related term, Hitbonenut is also often translated as " meditation. From context, however, we see that a more precise definition of Hitbonenut is " contemplation, " that is, intense concentration on an object or image.


Aryeh Kaplan

Jul 28, Steve Cran added it Write a review The book discusses various meditation techniques as can be culled from ancient Jewish sources. Rabbi Kaplan discusses basic techniquwes as can be found in other forms of meditation. Such techniques as mantras, visualizing, and contemoplating. One can also use the words of the prayers as mantras or contenplation. Mundane activities with the proper frame of mind can be turned into acts of meditation that put a Write a review Mundane activities with the proper frame of mind can be turned into acts of meditation that put a person into a higher state of consiousness.


Aryeh Kaplan - 1982 - Meditation and Kabbalah

Kaplan was expelled from public school after acting out, leading him to grow up as a "street kid" in the Bronx. Kaplan did not grow up religious and was known as "Len". His family only had a small connection to Jewish practice, but he was encouraged to say Kaddish for his mother. On his first day at the minyan, Henoch Rosenberg, a year Klausenburger Chassid , realized that Len was out of place, as he was not wearing tefillin or opening a siddur , and befriended him. Henoch Rosenberg and his siblings taught Kaplan Hebrew , and within a few days, Kaplan was learning Chumash. Kaplan earned his M.


Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide





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