Question: Is there a difference between prayer and meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, there is a difference between prayer and meditation, although we can get the same result from both. With prayer we can realise God, and with meditation we can realise God. Usually when we pray, we say, "O God, give me this or give me that," and we always feel that God is listening to our prayer. But when we meditate, we feel that God is talking and we are listening. When we pray, God becomes the listener; when we meditate, we become the listener. When we meditate, God is talking to us, communing with us, and we are listening to Him. We are obeying whatever message He is bringing to us in our meditation.

When we pray, we try to raise our consciousness to the Highest. One-pointedly we try to go up. At that time we don't look forward, backward or sideways. Our intention is only to go up. When we meditate, however, we cover the length and breadth of the world with our consciousness. At that time we are like a bird spreading its wings and flying in the sky. When we meditate, we spread our widened and widening consciousness and reach the Highest. But prayer is not like that. It is one-pointed, like an arrow going up. There is one-pointed attention in our prayer, whereas when we spread our wings in deep meditation, we are entering into the reality with a broad heart.

Fulfilment has to take place not only in the individual but also in the collectivity. Very often we pray for our own salvation. But when we meditate, we do not do that. When we meditate, our consciousness is widened. Unconsciously or consciously we try to home the entire world deep within our meditation. Then, when we reach the Highest, we feel that we have carried the entire world along with us. Our meditation is like an ocean liner that can accommodate many people. But we can also go to the Goal in a tiny boat with our prayer. With prayer most of the time we see that only the individual can go one-pointedly to his destination. With meditation the collectivity can go. Prayer basically involves 'me' and 'mine'. But when we meditate, our consciousness is expanded and it embraces the entire world.