Faith is not a list of no's, but an infinite yes. Religion gives us thou-shalt-nots to guard the yes, tough outer husks to protect the living seed. Unfortunately, most people keep the husks and throw away the seed.
A pregnant woman follows injunctions to protect the life growing inside her. She refrains from drinking this or eating that. She lives carefully. Someone ignorant of her pregnancy might see her life as a list of weary negations and self-denials. But the mother-to-be is not aware of restriction: she is only aware of love, and the new life love nourishes inside her. The mother's life is a yes, not a list of no's.
Every religion begins with an inspired Master whose life expresses one infinite Yes. The master imparts Yes to the disciples through his mere Presence. Then the master teaches them to sustain that experience through the gift of meditation: a specific inward practice that attunes mind and body to the infinite source of light, energy, and joy. Through meditation, the disciples nourish the Presence inside them, even after the master is gone.
But soon after the master's departure, the followers forget the inward practice. Instead, they attempt to live the master's Yes by imitating his outward behavior. They establish rules of conduct in a desperate effort to attain spirituality through imitation of the past. A religion is born, with a list of no's. Through these practices of thou-shalt-not, one tries to avoid suffering, ignorance, and self-doubt. Don't eat that, don't touch this, don't associate with these people, don't use their dishes.
Eventually, the Yes fades away and all that is left is the list of no's. The inward seed disappears: the outer husk remains. It is time for a new revelation. A new master appears proclaiming, "These rules mean nothing if you're not alive. Just say Yes!"
What is the practice of Yes given by every great master of revival?
It is the Word of creation, carried into the Heart by means of the Breath. Here is the only real temple, the only real church: the human heart. Here the seed of God vibrates, engendering a new creation with each breath.
This practice is given as the breath of mantra by guru to disciple. But it is also the essence of the Western spiritual tradition. It is high time for us to realize that this meditation practice is just as much a part of Western religions as Eastern ones.
This practice was given by the Hebrew prophets to the disciples of Israel, as recorded in the Talmud: "The pronunciation of the divine Name of four letters the sages confided to their disciples once every seven years." (Talmud, Kiddushan 71a) "Why is it that the children of Israel pray in this age and are not answered? It is because they no longer know the ineffable Name." (Midrash on Psalm 91)
This practice was given by Jesus: "Hallowed be thy Name." (Matthew 6) "Father, keep them in your Name that they may be one, as we are one... I have revealed your Name to them... so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I may be in them." (John 17)
In the West, this practice was passed down by the Desert Fathers, who called it Prayer of the Heart. "Let the remembrance of Jesus be united with your breathing; then you shall understand the use of silence. " (St. John Climacus, 8th C). "Let the name of Jesus be your breath." (St. Nichodemus of the Holy Mountain, 13th C.) "Constant remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ, quietly led into the heart by way of breathing and again led out, without any extraneous thought or imagining." (The Monks Callistus and Ignatius, 14th C)
In the 17th Century, with the literalism of the Protestants and the materialism of the Empirical Philosophers, Christianity turned away from the inward practice of meditation. Now, the new Master comes to restore our inward light. The Master comes with gifts from the East, just as the gifts were given at the cradle of Jesus in Bethlehem: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts from the East are the three jewels of meditation, the mantra, the heart, and the breath: gifts of the science of Yoga.
Let us keep to the path of right behavior, respecting the commandments, the no's of our religion. But let us not throw away the Yes, the inner sweetness, the practice of meditation.