Question: When we miss a meditation, would it be a good idea to meditate for a longer time at the next meditation to make up for it?

Sri Chinmoy: Let us say that you regularly meditate four times daily. Then at two of those times you are hard-pressed by mundane things and you don't get the opportunity, so you only meditate twice that day. Whether you should meditate for twice as long in those two periods depends on your inner capacity.

Suppose you eat three times a day. Now early in the morning you didn't have breakfast. At noon you missed your lunch. When it is time for dinner, if you want to eat all that you have not eaten in the morning and at noon, it will only upset your stomach. If you fast and don't eat for two days or four days, then if you start trying to make up for the food that you didn't eat during your fast, then you will run into trouble.

With meditation it is the same. You have inner capacity to meditate at fixed hours. You meditate early in the morning, at noon, in the evening and at night. If on a certain day you cannot follow this routine, it is better just to meditate most soulfully at the hours you have at your disposal. But if you try to increase the length of time, if you want to meditate two or three hours instead of half an hour because you missed the previous time, then it will be harmful. Your physical mind will not be able to bear the pressure. Instead of creating more capacity, this will break your capacity. It will create tremendous tension in your aspiration-self. Everything has to be done systematically, gradually. Gradually you will increase your capacity. Eventually you will be able to meditate for eight hours or ten hours at a stretch, but right now it is not necessary. When it is time you will be able to do it.

There are many stories about how aspirants get better results when they meditate soulfully and are not concerned about the number of hours. I wish to tell one story:

Narada was a great singer, a divine singer, and a great devotee of the god Vishnu. Once he became bloated with pride because he was Vishnu's dearest devotee. Lord Vishnu wanted to smash his pride, so one day he said to Narada. "I want you to go into the world and visit my dearest disciple on earth." Narada could not say it out loud to his Master, but inwardly he felt, "Your dearest disciple on earth? Who is it? Who could be dearer than I?" Vishnu said, "In a certain village there is a man who is a farmer, and this farmer is extremely devoted to me. I want you to go and visit him." Narada went to the farmer's house and stayed there for a few days. The farmer had a big family, with children and grandchildren. He shouldered a heavy responsibility, but early in the morning, before he went to cultivate the land, he uttered the name of Lord Vishnu three times most soulfully. Narada followed him into the field, and saw that at noon again he uttered the name of Lord Vishnu three times most soulfully. When he came back home he repeated Vishnu's name three times more, and then he entered into his household affairs. For two or three days Narada observed the spirituality and daily meditation of the farmer.

Narada came back to Vishnu and said, "How can you say that that farmer is your dearest disciple? He repeats your name only three times in the morning, three times at noon, and three times at night? I repeat your name thousands and thousands of times during the day, and I have been doing it for so many years! How many years I have been praying to you, meditating on you, and chanting your name to inspire people!"

Vishnu said, "Wonderful, Narada. Now, I am thirsty. Please bring me a glass of water from the nearest pond."

Narada went to fetch water for Vishnu, and there in the pond he saw a beautiful girl swimming. Narada fell in love with the girl and forgot to bring water for his Master. He married the girl and started a new life. They had a few children and in this way, many years passed. Then there was famine in the place where Narada was living and all his children died, and his wife died also. He was crying to relieve his suffering, "O, Lord Vishnu, save me, save me!" Vishnu came to him and said, "What about my glass of water?" and brought him back to reality.

Vishnu said, "It is just a minor thing to bring me a glass of water. But in the world of ignorance and illusion you lost all your devotion, aspiration, spirituality, everything. Now look at this farmer. He has such a big family; every day he is shouldering such heavy responsibilities, but even then he has the time to think of me, to meditate on me. I gave him his work of cultivating the fields; I gave him the responsibility of supporting a family. He discharges all his family responsibilities, but still he has time to think of me and meditate on me. But when I gave you something to do, you immediately forgot me."

From this story we come to realise that it is not how many hours you meditate but how soulfully you meditate that is important. To come back to your question, I wish to say that if aspiration is really intense, if God really comes first in the aspirant's life, then he can easily adjust his outer life to make time to meditate. He can change his outer circumstances. The inner aspiration has infinitely more power than the outer obstacles. If one utilises one's inner strength, then circumstances have to surrender to inner aspiration. If you really want to meditate four times a day, then I wish to tell you that your inner aspiration will give you the power to meditate four times. Outer obstacles can easily be overcome, because the inner life is the living expression of our infinite Power. Before the infinite Power, outer obstacles have to surrender.