When you meditate you have to try to quiet and calm the mind. There should be no thought within the mind. Right now you feel that if you can cherish twenty ideas at a time, then you are the wisest man on earth. The more thoughts that enter into our minds, the more clever we feel we are. But in the spiritual life it is not like that. If consciously we can make the mind calm and quiet, we feel that a new creation dawns inside us. The sooner we can calm the mind, quiet the mind, the greater will be the height of our new creation.

How do we calm the mind? The answer is regular practice under the guidance of a spiritual Master. Or, if you do not have a Master, you can study spiritual books. There are a few prescribed methods offered by the spiritual Masters. If you study these methods, then you can succeed in meditating. But again, I wish to say that spiritual books will give you inspiration, but they will not be able to give you aspiration, not to speak of realisation. It is absurd. No book can give realisation to anybody. But books can offer inspiration. Today if you are inspired, you will meditate. Then, when you meditate, you will create a new aspiration within yourself. And from aspiration you will develop the power of self-discovery and realisation.

If you have a spiritual teacher, he will be able to teach you inwardly how to meditate. But if you don't have one or you do not care for one, the best thing is to study a few spiritual books written by spiritual Masters and not by so-called professors and scholars. Professors and scholars and intellectual giants are only borrowing the ideas of the spiritual Masters who have realised and who have lived the Truth. If they do not embody the realisation that they are offering in their book, then from their book you cannot get real aspiration.

Some people prefer to sit in the lotus position when they meditate, but this is not obligatory. The lotus position is good because it helps the spinal column to remain erect. That is the main purpose of the lotus position. Again, it is important that the body be relaxed. When the body feels uncomfortable, it will change its position automatically. During the time of your meditation, automatically your inner being or your consciousness will take you to a comfortable position, and then it is up to you to maintain it. But if there is some restlessness, if you constantly move from side to side, then how can relaxation last? In order to maintain relaxation, one has to keep calmness in the body and avoid restlessness at all costs.

In meditation it is always advisable to follow one specific pattern or method. Mantra and japa are good, but if they have been taught to you by different teachers or if you have developed a mantra of your own for meditation, these things will cause conflict rather than help you when you try to practise them together. If you got a mantra from one Master, japa from a second Master and meditation from a third Master, it will only ruin all your aspiration and capacity because each Master has his own way of teaching his disciples. You may think it is like making a choice of different dishes and you are choosing the most delicious ones. But spiritual life is not like that. You have to take only one particular food, your inner aspiration, and from this you will get the most delight.

Even if you got your mantra, japa and meditation all from the same Master, you should practise them at three different times because the forces of these practices don't go together. In the morning, if you want to, you can chant a specific mantra: in the evening you can do japa and at some other time you can do meditation. Otherwise, while you are meditating, if you suddenly get the inspiration to do japa or to chant some specific mantra, you will only ruin your aspiration. Japa and mantras have their own significant power but in the highest type of meditation, when your inner being is communing with God, at that time there is no thought, no idea: your mind is calm and quiet, so there should be no mantra or japa there.

In my own case, I do not emphasise the importance of mantras for those following my path. But if a disciple does want to practice a mantra, I tell him that he can repeat the name of God — 'Supreme' — or he can chant 'Aum'. Again, if he doesn't care to repeat these divine words, he can chant his own soul's name. To some disciples I have given spiritual names, souls' names. If you can repeat your own soul's name, I assure you that you will be able to bring to the fore all your divine qualities and to become energised with divine power. But just by repeating the name given you by your parents you will not achieve anything. Suppose your American name is Warren. If you go on repeating 'Warren, Warren, Warren', I don't think that anything divine will happen from that. But if you repeat even ten times very slowly the spiritual name I have given you, then a new and fruitful consciousness will dawn in you.

When I am not physically present, I tell my disciples to meditate on my picture, my Transcendental Picture. This picture was taken of me when I was in my highest consciousness, inseparably one with the Supreme. When you meditate on my picture, please do not take the picture as a picture of a human being. Think of what the picture represents. For you at least, according to your faith, according to your belief, this picture represents someone who has realised the Highest. So when you look at the picture, think of the achievement of that picture. Do not think of the face or nose or eyes, but only the achievement. But if you find it difficult to see or feel vastness in this picture, then immediately use your imagination-power. You can easily imagine a vast ocean or sky — either inside me, beside me or in front of me. If you think of the ocean or the vast sky right in front of you, immediately you will feel a sense of infinity. At that time you try to identify with this infinity.

Then, when you are seeing the ocean, feel that a day will come when you will go beyond the ocean. Your inner consciousness is vaster than the ocean, vaster than the sky. But first you have to identify yourself with the vastness that you see around you. Suppose a child has a few pennies. For him, a dollar is vastness itself. He cannot think of anything more than a dollar. But the moment he gets ten dollars, he sees that ten dollars has more importance, much more value.

Right now when you meditate, if you think of the ocean or the sky, it is not deception. Scientists, poets, all who create some solid reality, begin with imagination. Inside imagination there is the power of inspiration. Inside inspiration, if you go one step ahead, you see there is aspiration. And if you go one more step, you see there is realisation.

I always tell my disciples to meditate in the heart. This is the safest and, at the same time, the most effective way. But if you want to use the mind, then you have to try to make the mind very calm, quiet and receptive. Always feel that inside the aspiring mind there is a vessel that you can enlarge with your sincere aspiration. Try to make the vessel very large so that it can hold more purity, more luminosity. But do not try to pull anything; if you pull, eventually you will see that you have pulled beyond your capacity. It is like a child who sees a large quantity of food in front of him. He will eat greedily and then find it difficult to digest the food. The best thing is to allow the higher forces to flow into you by praying and meditating most soulfully. In this way, there is no risk, no possibility of destruction. Then you can never have any kind of tension in your head.

When you meditate, don't feel that you have to pull down God's Peace, Light and Bliss. God knows how much to give you, and He knows the right time. Don't feel that meditation is a tug-of-war; don't feel that you have to defeat someone or some thing. When you meditate, your own aspiration will go up from the heart and God's Grace will descend into your aspiring consciousness. You have to be like a divine farmer. Your business is to cultivate aspiration; God's business is to pour down Grace, which is the divine rain. If you try to pull God down into your consciousness, you are taking a risk. Your door is closed, but you try to break through the ceiling and pull Him into your room. At that time, poor God is entering into an unprepared, unreceptive and unillumined vessel. Then the vessel resists and you get a headache. So do not pull anything; only let the divine Grace flow in and through you. Just keep your heart's door open and God is bound to come.

Another reason people sometimes get a headache during meditation is that they meditate on Power. If you want divine, illumined Power, but your inner vessel is not pure enough, then automatically an aggressive quality comes. This aggression is transformed into terrible tension in the forehead. So when you meditate in the morning, start with Peace and Light. Inundate your outer being and your inner being with Peace; then you will not have this kind of tension. Peace itself is Power. Peace can solve all your problems.

In meditation, receptivity is of paramount importance. If for the past two or three hours you have thought only about how jealous you are of someone, then you will not be receptive — far from it. I had a friend who once confessed, 'I have no time to think of God. All the time I am thinking of so-and-so — my worst enemy!' Now look at him! He had no time to think of his own spiritual role, his own spiritual development, his own perfection. He lived in a neighbouring ashram for many years and all his time he spent thinking of his enemies and how he could conquer them.

Also, if you have been thinking too much of yourself, you will not be receptive. When you do think of yourself, do not compare yourself with others; only think of yourself as a tool, an instrument. In the spiritual life there is no competition. When you meditate before you go to sleep at night, do not think of any human being in a competitive way, that he or she is better than you or closer to the Supreme. Do not allow these thoughts to enter into you. Just feel that you are making progress and do not think about the progress of others. If you want to become perfect so that you can show off to others, so that others will appreciate you and admire you, then you will always remain imperfect. You have to become perfect so that your life can manifest your true inner beauty. You should only make yourself more receptive, saying, "Let me make myself as receptive as possible so that the Light of the Supreme can enter into me and the Supreme Pilot can utilise me in His own way."

How do you become receptive? You become receptive by offering your utmost surrender to the Will of the Supreme. Unfortunately, you may wonder whether it is really possible for you to offer your utmost surrender to the Will of the Supreme. But when doubt enters, it means that you are only dwelling in the mind. At that time you will not offer your surrender to the Supreme. Similarly, during the whole day if you think more of your so-called friends or spiritual brothers and sisters than of your own inner progress, you will not be able to offer your surrender to the Supreme. And if you are all the time wondering if your Guru appreciates and admires you, then you won't be able to surrender and make yourself receptive.

I always tell my disciples that the best time to meditate is early in the morning, before the earth-consciousness becomes agitated. But suppose you went to bed at three o'clock, because you had to study for school or you had to do something for your spiritual brothers and sisters. Your mind or heart will say that five or six o'clock is the best time, but the Supreme — who is your Mother, Father, everything — will think of your health also. However, you have to know what you were doing the night before — whether you went to a party or whether you were doing something spiritual. If you were up all night doing something spiritual, something divine, then the Supreme will not blame you if you don't get up. He knows that at this stage of your development the body needs six or seven hours of sleep a night. Later, when you become more advanced in your inner life, you will take only one hour or two hours of sleep. At that time, if you are getting boundless energy from your meditation, you can sleep less.