Question: Guru, how important is it to meditate with our eyes open? Sometimes I can feel your presence more when my eyes are closed.

Sri Chinmoy: In ninety out of one hundred cases, disciples who keep their eyes closed fall asleep. For five minutes they meditate, and then for fifteen minutes they remain in the world of sleep. There is no dynamic energy, no will, nothing but lethargy and self-complacency. They only feel a kind of restful, sweet sensation. Then, after some time, by God's miraculous Grace, again they come back and meditate for two or three minutes.

When you keep your eyes closed during meditation and enter into the world of sleep, you may enjoy all kinds of fantasies. Your fertile imagination will make you think that you are entering into the angel world. There are many ways you can make yourself believe that you had a wonderful meditation. In the ashram where I once lived, elderly members who had been there for thirty or forty years would enter into their "highest meditation" and get caught by a nightmare and start screaming. But they were not aware of it. And then, when someone shook them, they would say, "What are you doing? Why are you disturbing me? I was in my highest meditation?" I had a cousin who used to meditate eight or twelve hours a night with her eyes closed and get up the next morning and quarrel and fight with others. This is not meditation; this is a very easy way of self-deception.

If you keep your eyes open, then at that time you can become the judge of your own meditation. If you go very high in your meditation and have a really good vision, you will not feel it is all hallucination if your eyes are open. If you have a really good vision when your eyes are open, you are not going to lose it. And if it is a false vision, you will know it immediately.

If you are having a good meditation with your eyes closed and you feel, say, a cockroach, you will immediately jump up startled or agitated. While you are in a higher world, if your eyes are closed and this creature of Mother Earth disturbs you, at that time there is no connecting link between that particular creature and your own existence. Automatically you become frightened or annoyed. You feel, "Here I am in my highest, and this undivine creature is bothering me." Because you are agitated and disturbed, your meditation disappears. But if you keep your eyes open a little, you know that you belong to this world. You are maintaining your poise and inner power here on earth. You are keeping your mastery over the physical plane.

When you keep your eyes open, you act like a hero in the battlefield of life. It is best to meditate with the eyes partly open and partly closed. This kind of meditation, with the eyes half-open, is called the Lion's meditation. If the eyes are wide open and staring, you will be straining yourself. Half open is always best. In this way, aspiration can flow through the eyes.

You are the root of the tree and, at the same time, the topmost bough. The part of you that has the eyes half open feels it is the root, symbolising Mother Earth. The other part, with the eyes half-closed, is the topmost branch, the world of vision or, you can say, Heaven. A tree without roots is no tree; and again, a tree must also have branches. When you keep your eyes partly opened and partly closed, you can feel yourself a tree in totality, right from the root up to the topmost bough. Your consciousness is up on the highest level and, at the same time, your consciousness is here on earth, trying to transform this world.

When your eyes are half-open, you are focusing your conscious attention not only on the physical plane but also on the subconscious plane. Since your eyes are partly open, you will not fall asleep and end up in one of the lower worlds. You are threatening the world of the subconscious. "Look, I am all alert. You cannot take me into your domain." You are conquering and gaining mastery over the subconscious world of sleep.

At the same time, the other world, the world of alertness where you are keeping your vigilance, is also inviting you with its noise and distractions. If the outer world disturbs you, in the beginning you may want to keep your eyes closed. But when you become more advanced in your spiritual life and have become inwardly stronger, you can overcome these distractions.

Let us take meditation as something very powerful and constant. In the battlefield of life, we have to conquer fear, doubt, anxiety, worry and all our imperfections. When we want to achieve something on the physical plane, we never keep our eyes closed. If we want to win a race here on earth, we can't run with our eyes closed. We will stumble and fall. It is the same in the spiritual life. When we want to run the fastest, when we want to develop inner power, we have to be vigilant, dynamic, alert all the time. We have to run with our eyes open.

The physical mind sometimes has to be convinced of what we are doing. Suppose the Master is bringing down Peace, Light and Bliss. If the disciple is very receptive and can identify his existence with the Master's inner operation, then that person need not keep his eyes open. But even this type of disciple will benefit if he keeps his eyes open and sees what the Master is doing, for then the Master's physical eyes can convince the seeker's mind. The light actually is coming from the Master's spiritual eye, the third eye, but it is offering its wealth to the seeker through the physical eyes. In the movement of the Master's eyes there is light. If one wants to receive the Master's light devotedly, he can do so more effectively if he actually sees the Master's eyes. Otherwise, if the seeker keeps his eyes shut, he may think, "Perhaps the Master is not even meditating on us. He may be here physically, but his consciousness is roaming somewhere else." If, however, the seeker's eyes are open and he sees his Master in deep meditation right in front of him, then he is more convinced of what the Master is doing for him. After meditating for a few minutes with his eyes open, if at that time the disciple has identified himself with the Master totally, then even if he closes his eyes he is bound to see and feel the Master right in front of him.

If you feel that your meditation is more profound when your eyes are closed, if you can stay wide awake and feel my inner presence distinctly without entering into the world of imagination, then I have no objection if you keep your eyes closed. Every rule admits of exception. There are many spiritual Masters who have meditated with their eyes closed, although the very dynamic spiritual Masters used to keep their eyes open. But most of the time — and I know from personal experience and from my oneness with my disciples — if you keep your eyes half open, then it is much better.