Meditation: an introductionWhy do we meditate? We meditate precisely because we need something. And what is that something? That something is the conscious feeling of oneness with the Supreme. This conscious feeling must be spontaneous and, at the same time, soulful.
Let me start with the ABC of meditation. The spine and the neck must be kept erect. The best way to meditate is to sit cross-legged on the floor. If it is not possible for some of you to sit on the floor, please try to sit on a chair with your whole back straight and erect. If you want to meditate at home, which you should do faithfully and devotedly every day, please try to keep a sacred place, a corner of your room which is absolutely pure and sanctified. You may sit on a small cushion or rug. Please wear clean and light clothes. If possible, please burn incense at the time of your meditation, and place some flowers in front of you. Those of you who are my disciples will keep my picture right in front of you. Others will keep a picture of their spiritual Master, the Christ or some other beloved spiritual figure. You may begin your meditation by repeating the name of the Supreme or the name of your spiritual Master. This I am telling you in general, but a day will come when you yourselves will discover a few inner secrets. Perhaps you have already discovered some by this time.
Please be careful to breathe properly. Try to breathe in as slowly and quietly as possible; and try to breathe out more slowly than you breathe in. If possible, leave a short gap between your first exhalation and your second inhalation. But if it is not possible, never do anything that strains your breathing system or any of your organs.
Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body peace, infinite peace. Now, what is the opposite of peace? Restlessness. When you breathe out, please try to feel that you are giving out nothing but the restlessness of your body and mind and the restlessness that you see around you. When you breathe this way, restlessness will leave you. After practising this a few times, please try to feel that you are breathing in strength and power from the universe. And when you exhale, try to give out fear. When you breathe out, all your fear will come out of your body. Next try to feel that you are breathing in joy, infinite joy, and breathing out sorrow, suffering, melancholy.
This is spiritual breathing, which in Sanskrit is called pranayama. Prana is the vital energy, the Life-Breath; yama means control. So pranayama is control of the Life-Breath. The very first exercise you can practise is to repeat once, as you breathe in, the name of God, or the Supreme, or the Christ, or whomever you adore. Then hold your breath and count to four while calling for your Supreme Beloved. When you breathe out, call twice for Him. So the rhythm will be one, four, two. Gradually an aspirant can increase his capacity to four, sixteen, eight, but I wish you to practise only one, four, two right now.
This you can do to try to purify your mind. But if you want to have more purity, you can do one more spiritual exercise which is most effective. You all know the significance of Aum, the name of God. To start with, on Sunday you will repeat this sacred name of the Supreme one hundred times; Monday, two hundred; Tuesday, three hundred; Wednesday, four hundred; Thursday, five hundred; Friday, six hundred; Saturday, seven hundred. Then on the following Sunday you come down to six hundred; Monday, five hundred; and so on, to four hundred, three hundred, two hundred, one hundred. If you want to establish purity all around you, within and without, then this is the most effective spiritual exercise. In New York some of my disciples have done this. They have achieved, I must say, considerable purification of their nature and their emotional problems. Without purity no divine quality can remain permanently in our nature, in our body, in our system, in our life. If one lacks purity, then no divine truth can stay within him permanently. But whenever there is purity, then peace, light, bliss and power will be able to function most successfully. This does not mean that I am telling you that you are all impure — far from it. But the purest nature, the purest life, will always have the deepest blessings of the Supreme. The more pure we are, the closer we are to the Supreme.
Now let us come to the problem of thought. Most of us become a victim to thoughts — ugly thoughts, uncomely thoughts, silly thoughts, fearful thoughts — the moment we enter into meditation. How can we be freed from this attack? The first thing we have to know is whether the thoughts that are attacking us are coming from the outer world or from deep inside ourselves. In the beginning it is difficult, I must say, to distinguish the thoughts that are coming from the outside and those that are arising from within. But gradually we will be able to know that some thoughts are coming from outside, and these thoughts can be driven back faster than the thoughts that come from within.
Suppose you have started your meditation and suddenly a flood of thoughts and impure ideas enters into you from outside. Now, when you see that a thought is about to enter, you have to know whether it is a good thought or a bad thought, a divine thought or an undivine thought. If it is a divine thought, please welcome the divine thought. If it is a thought of God or a thought of divine joy, divine love, beauty or purity, then allow that thought to come inside you and let it play, let it expand. Or try to follow the thought. If it is something about Grace, something about Divinity, Infinity, Eternity, Immortality, please try to see where the thought goes. Try to follow that thought like a faithful dog. But if it is a bad thought, counter it immediately with your soul’s will. Please try to collect your soul’s will from your heart and bring it right in front of your forehead. The moment your soul’s will is seen by the thought, the thought is bound to disappear.
Now I wish to speak about the thoughts that we have already accumulated within us. When we see a thought arising from deep within us that is not divine, that is absolutely impure and unlit, immediately we shall try to rid ourselves of it. One way is to feel that there is a hole right at the top of our head and that the thought is like a channel or river which flows out and does not come back; it is gone and we have lost it. The other method is to feel that we are a boundless ocean and that these thoughts are like fish. We represent the very depths of the ocean, with its calm, quiet feeling of tranquillity. The play of the fish on the surface can never disturb us.
I wish to say that it would be advisable for each of you to fight with the outer thoughts right now and to deal with the inner thoughts later on. But if you have inner thoughts which are divine, progressive, encouraging and inspiring, please try to grow with them and feel that they are like feet, feet of Infinity, of infinite Light, infinite Bliss, that can carry your body, mind, heart and soul to a higher realm.
Now, about the still deeper meditation. Those who are meditating on the ajna chakra [the third eye] should also practise concentrating on the heart. If the heart remains barren — that is to say, if the heart centre is not opened up and the third eye is opened — then there will be a great deal of confusion in our human nature. If the third eye is not flooded with the purity of the heart, then you will have vision and, at the same time, you will be the victim of merciless temptation. You will try to enter into somebody to see what is happening in his nature. There are a thousand and one things which will eventually lead you far, far away from the path of spirituality. There are people who have opened up their third eye without having opened the heart centre and who, by the Grace of the Supreme, have not misused their vision; but it is always safer to concentrate first on the heart centre. Unless and until the emotional part of our human nature is totally purified, it is very dangerous for us to open the third eye.
So please concentrate on the heart centre First. This centre is called anahata. You will get all joy here; you will get all love here. In this world, what do we need? Joy. What else do we need? Love. When we have achieved joy and love, then we can have vision or wisdom in our third eye. Women, without exception, should try to meditate on the heart centre. It is easier for them to open the heart centre than it is for men. For men, it is easier to open up the third eye.
When you are meditating at home, if possible, please meditate all alone. This rule does not apply to a husband and wife if they have the same spiritual Master. The closest spiritual friends who understand each other thoroughly in their inner lives can also meditate together. In our Centre, the disciples should meditate collectively. But for individual daily meditation, I feel it is better if one meditates in one’s own room privately, in secret.
The best hour for meditation, according to Indian seers, sages and spiritual Masters, is between three and four o’clock in the morning. That is called Brahma Muhurta, the time of the Brahman, the best time. But here in the West, if you go to bed late, the best hour for you is five-thirty or six in the morning. The precise hour is to be settled according to the individual case and the individual capacity.
Now, that is the first time in the day. If you can meditate again between twelve and twelve-thirty, for ten or fifteen minutes, it is wonderful. This meditation you have to do inside, not in the street. A day will come when you will be able to meditate anywhere, while driving or doing anything else, but now it is advisable to meditate indoors, in a proper place.
Then, when the sun is about to set, you can look at the sun and meditate. For ten minutes try to meditate. At that time, please try to feel that you have become totally one with the sun, with the cosmic nature. You have played your part during the day most satisfactorily and now you are going to retire. That will be your feeling.
Then meditate when you retire for the night — nine o’clock, ten o’clock, or whenever you go to bed. It is always better to go to bed by eleven o’clock at night. But necessity knows no law; if you are compelled to work at night, it is all right for you.
Each one should meditate in his own way. Sometimes people ask me what they should do if they do not have a good meditation, if they feel restless. If any of you find it difficult to meditate on a particular day, then do not try to force yourselves. Those who are my disciples, just look at my picture, at a picture taken of me in a high consciousness. Do not try to meditate, do not try to concentrate. Only look at my picture, at my eyes or at my forehead or at my nose — just look. If you follow some other path, or if you have no Guru but you have a picture of something spiritual to concentrate on, please concentrate on that and do not try to force yourself to meditate. Then, when you get up for your daily work, do not even once feel miserable that you could not meditate. If you feel that your inner being is displeased with you or if you are displeased with yourself, then you are making a great mistake. If you cannot meditate on a particular day, try to leave the responsibility to your Master or to God. Never feel sorry. If you feel sorry, the progress that you made yesterday or the day before will be diminished.
There are some who want to meditate while lying down. I wish to tell you that that kind of meditation is not at all advisable for the beginners, nor even for those who have been meditating for quite a few years. It is only for the most advanced disciples and for realised souls. Otherwise, you will lie down and immediately you will enter into the world of sleep or a kind of inner drift or doze. Furthermore, while you are lying down your breathing is not as satisfactory as it is when you are meditating in a sitting position.
Please do not take a heavy meal before your meditation. A minimum of two hours should elapse between your mealtime and your meditation. Again, suppose you are pinched with hunger and you know that if you eat right now then you will have to wait for two hours before you can meditate. In that case, please drink a small quantity of water or juice. You have to know that when you are extremely hungry you should not meditate. If the hunger-monkey is pinching you, you have to feed him a little and make him quiet for a few minutes. If you want to eat after meditation, please wait for half an hour so that your system can assimilate the results of the meditation. During that half-hour you can move around, you can read if you like. You may have a very small quantity of milk, water or juice, but not a proper meal.