Question: Could you please tell us the difference between concentration, meditation and contemplation?1

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 entire mind is focused totally on a particular object or subject. If we are concentrating on the petal of a flower, we have to feel that nothing else exists in the entire world but us and the petal. We will look neither forward nor backward, upward nor inward. We will just try to pierce the object that we are focusing on with our one-pointed concentration. Concentration is like an arrow entering into the target. But it is not an aggressive way of looking into a thing or entering into an object. Far from it! This concentration comes directly from the heart, or more precisely, from the soul. We call it 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 they 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 into the mind, it is extremely easy for us to concentrate on something for two or three hours, or for as long as we want. During this time there can be no thoughts or doubts or fears. No negative forces can enter into our mind if it is surcharged with the soul’s light.

So when we concentrate, we try to feel that the power of concentration is coming from the heart centre and then going up to the third eye. The physical heart is tiny, but the spiritual heart, which is our true home, is vaster than the universe. The heart centre is where the soul is located. When we think of our soul at this time, we should not form any specific idea of it or think what it looks like. We should just think of it as God’s representative, as boundless Light and Delight. So this Light comes from our heart and passes through our third eye, and then it takes us into the object of our concentration and we have our 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 be God-realisation or merely the fulfilment of human desires. 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. But when we meditate, we feel that we have the capacity deep within us to see many, deal with many and 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 try to expand ourselves like a bird spreading its wings. We expand our finite consciousness and enter into the Universal Consciousness where there is no fear, no jealousy, no doubt, but only divine joy, peace and power.

During meditation 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. At that time, we see that our inner existence is surcharged with peace and tranquillity.

Meditation is like going to the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface there may be a multitude of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths, the sea is all silence. When we start meditating, first we try to reach our own inner existence — that is to say, the bottom of the sea. Then, when the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the earthly turmoils will just wash away, because inside us is solid peace. Thoughts cannot touch us, because our mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. 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 we are in our highest meditation we feel that we are the sea, and the animals in the sea cannot affect us. We feel that we are the sky, and all the birds flying past cannot affect us. Our mind is the sky and our heart is the infinite sea. This is meditation.

When we are in meditation, we want only to commune with God. Now I am speaking 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 with 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 and Immortality within us. But when we are contemplating, we will see that we ourselves are God, that we ourselves are Infinity, Eternity, Immortality. When we contemplate, Creator and creation become one. We become one with the Creator and see the whole universe inside us. At that time, when we look at our own existence, we do not see a human being. We see something like a dynamo of light, peace and bliss. Contemplation means our conscious oneness with the Infinite, Eternal Absolute. In contemplation we truly discover ourselves.

We should concentrate for a few minutes each day before entering into meditation. At that time we are acting like a runner who has to clear the track; we see if there are any obstacles and then remove them. Once concentration has removed the obstacles and we begin meditating, we can run very fast. Inwardly we become like an express train that only stops at the final destination. Then, when we reach the Goal, we 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 before entering into meditation. Then they must meditate for a few years and finally enter into contemplation.

  1. MUN 219. 1970.