Question: Will it be easier to meditate if one knows how to concentrate first?

Sri Chinmoy: If one wants to start with concentration, then usually it will be easier for him to meditate. There are three spiritual terms that go together: concentration, meditation and contemplation. Concentration paves the way for meditation. If one knows how to concentrate, then it will be easier for him to meditate. And if one knows how to meditate, then it will be possible for him to contemplate. Concentration is the practice of focusing our attention on a particular subject or object to the complete exclusion of anything else. Our entire mind will be concentrated only on that particular subject. Nothing else in God’s creation should be allowed to enter into our mind. We will focus all our attention on one particular object.

When our power of concentration becomes strong and vigilant, we can try to meditate. In order to meditate we make our mind calm, quiet and tranquil. We try not to have any thoughts at all. Then, when we are successful in our meditation, we can try to contemplate. Contemplation is the third stage and it is both the most important and the most difficult. The seeker becomes one with his Beloved Supreme on the strength of his proper contemplation. He feels that he and his Lord Supreme exist as one; there is nothing separating the two. They become one and inseparable.

To come back to your question, if one knows how to concentrate, then it will be easier for him to learn how to meditate, although one can learn meditation without practising concentration first. The best thing is to start with concentration. It is like walking up a ladder. The first rung is concentration, the second is meditation and the third and ultimate is contemplation. I would advise the beginner to start with concentration. But if a beginner finds it too difficult even to concentrate, then he should start with japa. Japa means repeating a syllable or a word or a few words over and over again. He can start with ‘peace’, joy’, ‘love’, ‘God’ or any divine word that gives him satisfaction. This will help him considerably if he cannot concentrate right at the very beginning.