To some Indians, it may seem presumptuous that a Westerner should write to them about meditation and contemplation, even if it is only about the Christian contemplative tradition. After all, India is the Mother of Meditation. And historically, Christians have not been especially known for their capacity to meditate. The world may admire their teachings on brotherly love, their care for the poor, their schools and their hospitals—everything pertaining to active works of charity—but generally it would not look to Christians as masters of meditation or contemplation in the same way it would look to Hindus or Buddhists.
Our lives become meaningless when we lose the value of justice and ethics. We all have an equal right to pursue happiness; no one wants pain and suffering. And yet justice and equality are uniquely human principles. We should not sacrifice these principles in the pursuit of power or material wealth. Instead, we should employ them in serving others’ interests. But to do so, we need a firm foundation in ethics.
Spiritual progress depends to a considerable extent upon one's earnest personal endeavor. "Arise, awake! Approach the wise teachers and learn from them," the Katha Upanishad says. Throughout the Bhagavad Gita we find Sri Krishna exhorting his disciple Arjuna in a similar strain: "O mighty descendant of Bharata, arise; shake off all doubt and hesitation and hold fast to the practice of yoga."
After the Shvetashvataropanishad, descriptions of yogic practice continued to evolve, and finally Patanjali gathered together all that was known from the experience of the seers and yogins before him and systematized it as the eight-limbed yoga (ashtanga yoga). His Yogasutra is the classic manual on the technology of spiritual science, and the core of its teaching is the series of eight steps that Patanjali lays out for us to follow.
In the 1920s, when archeologists were excavating a ruined city near the Indus River, they discovered a huge chapter of Indian cultural history that had been long forgotten. Four and a half thousand years earlier, Mohenjo-daro had been one of the largest cities of the Bronze Age world, with broad avenues, marketplaces and residential districts, a municipal sanitation system, and impressive public buildings.