Question: What is the difference between concentration, meditation and contemplation?

Sri Chinmoy: When we concentrate we do not allow any thought to enter into our mind, whether it is divine or undivine, earthly or heavenly, good or bad. The mind, the entire mind, has to be focused on a particular object or subject. If you are concentrating on the petal of a flower, try to feel that only you and the petal exist, that nothing else exists in the entire world but you and the petal. You will look neither forwards nor backwards, upwards nor inwards. You will just try to pierce the object that you are focusing on with your one-pointed concentration. But this concentration is not an aggressive way of looking into a thing or entering into an object. Far from it! This concentration comes directly from the soul’s indomitable will, or will-power.

Very often I hear aspirants say that they cannot concentrate for more than five minutes. After five minutes they get a headache or feel that their head is on fire. Why? It is because the power of their concentration is coming from the intellectual mind or, you can say, the disciplined mind. The mind knows that it must not wander; that much knowledge the mind has. But if the mind is to be utilised properly, in an illumined way, then the light of the soul has to come into it. When the light of the soul has entered the mind, it is extremely easy to concentrate on something for two or three hours or as long as you want. During this time there can be no thoughts or doubts or fears. No negative forces can enter into your mind if it is surcharged with the soul’s light.

So when you concentrate, try to feel that the power of concentration comes from here, the heart centre, and then goes up to the third eye. The heart centre is where the soul is located. The physical heart is tiny, but the spiritual heart — your true home — is vaster than the universe. When you think of your soul at this time, please do not form any specific idea of it or try to think what it looks like. Just think of it as God’s representative, as boundless Light and Delight, which is in your heart. The Light comes from your heart and passes through your third eye, and then you enter into the object of your concentration and have your identification with it. The final stage of concentration is to discover the hidden ultimate truth in the object of concentration.

What concentration can do in our day-to-day life is unimaginable. Concentration is the surest way to reach our goal, whether the goal is God-realisation or merely the fulfilment of human desires. It is concentration that acts like an arrow and enters into the target. He who is wanting in the power of concentration is no better than a monkey. A real aspirant sooner or later acquires the power of concentration either through the Grace of God, through constant practice or through his aspiration. Each seeker can declare that he has a divine hero, a divine warrior, within himself. And what is that divine warrior? It is his concentration.

When we concentrate, we have to concentrate on one particular thing. If I am concentrating on a certain disciple, then he will be the only thing in my mind. He becomes, at that time, the sole object of my attention. But when we meditate, we feel that we have the capacity deep within us to see many, deal with many, welcome many — all at the same time. When we meditate, we try to expand our consciousness to encompass the vast sea or the vast, blue sky. We have to expand ourselves like a bird spreading its wings. We have to expand our finite consciousness and enter into the universal Consciousness where there is no fear, no jealousy, no doubt, but all joy, peace and divine power.

When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul. When we live in the soul, we feel that we are actually meditating spontaneously. On the surface of the sea are multitudes of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In the deepest depths, at the bottom of the sea, it is all tranquillity. So when you start meditating, try to feel your own inner existence first. That is to say, the bottom of the sea: calm and quiet. Feel that your whole being is surcharged with peace and tranquillity.

Then let the waves come from the outside world. Fear, doubt, worry — the earthly turmoils — will all be washed away, because inside is solid peace. You cannot be afraid of anything when you are in your highest meditation. Your mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. If thoughts or ideas want to come in, you control them with your inner peace, for they will not be able to affect you. Like fish in the sea, they jump and swim but leave no mark on the water. Like birds flying in the sky, they leave no trace behind them. So when you meditate, feel that you are the sea, and all the animals in the sea do not affect you. Feel that you are the sky, and all the birds fling past do not affect you. Feel that your mind is the sky and your heart is the infinite ocean. This is meditation.

When we are in meditation, we want only to commune with God. Now I am speaking in English and you are able to understand me because you know English well. Similarly, when you know how to meditate well, you will be able to commune with God, for meditation is the language we use to speak to God.

Through concentration we become one-pointed and through meditation we expand our consciousness into the vast. But in contemplation we grow into the vast itself. We have seen the Truth. We have felt the Truth. But the most important thing is to grow into the Truth and become totally one with the Truth. If we are concentrating on God, we may feel God right in front of us or beside us. When we are meditating, we are bound to feel Infinity, Eternity, Immortality within us. But when we are contemplating, we will see that we ourselves are God, that we ourselves are Infinity, Eternity, Immortality. Contemplation means our conscious oneness with the infinite, eternal Absolute. In contemplation we discover ourselves. When we contemplate, Creator and creation become one. We become one with the Creator and see the whole universe at our feet, the whole universe inside us. At that time, when we look at our own existence, we don’t see a human being. We see something like a dynamo of Light, Peace and Bliss.

One should concentrate for a few minutes each day before entering into meditation. You are like a runner who has to clear the track — see if there are any obstacles and then remove them. Then, when you begin meditating, feel that you are running very fast, with all obstacles out of your way. You are like an express train, an inner train, that only stops at the final destination. Then, when you reach the Goal, you have to become the Goal. This is the last stage, contemplation. Seekers who are just entering onto the spiritual path should start with concentration, for a few months at least, and then enter into meditation. Then they must meditate for a few years and finally enter into contemplation.