Sunday, May 24, 2009
Echoes of Buddha - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. X.17
Meditation X.17 - Echoes of Buddha - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Constantly contemplate the whole of time and the whole of substance,1 and consider that all individual things as to substance are a grain of a fig,2 and as to time, the turning of a gimlet.3
(1) Human insignificance and the brevity of life are constant themes throughout the meditations. The purpose is not to belittle human beings, but to stifle pride and to encourage humility. The first tactical way to achieve this is to acquire a natural perspective and understanding of the totality of time, and space, and substance. This perspective can come only from a thorough study of nature and her laws - a Stoic mantra. This is an extraordinarily beautiful meditation with a distinctly Buddhist flavor. Buddhist meditations are designed to develop mindfulness, concentration, tranquility and insight. The Stoic nuances on these terms may differ from their Buddhist meanings, but Stoic meditation focuses on comparable goals.
(2) The comparison is between a grain of a fig (see image) and the whole of substance - in other words the entire cosmos.
(3) The gimlet is an auger - one turn in many is normally required to perform a task. The intervals we compare are those of a single gimlet turn versus the entirety of time - the infinitesimal versus eternity.
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.