Contemplation in the Hindu tradition1

Contemplation. I contemplate so that I can obliterate the animal past in me. I contemplate so that I can liberate the human ignorance in me. I contemplate so that I can perpetuate the divine vision in me. I contemplate so that I can closely and intimately associate with the Supreme in me.

Contemplation is my conscious awareness of God-Light. Contemplation is my conscious oneness with God-Delight. Contemplation is my conscious fulness in God-Satisfaction.

By virtue of his contemplation, the seeker achieves the purity of salvation. No more can teeming sins assail his entire being. No more sin, no more guilt-consciousness!

By virtue of his contemplation, the seeker achieves the silence of liberation. No more bondage-night, no more bondage-life!

By virtue of his contemplation, the seeker achieves the luminosity of enlightenment. No more darkness; only light within, light without!

By virtue of his contemplation, the seeker achieves the perfection-oneness of realisation. No more division-life; inseparable oneness reigns supreme.

The reality-existence of contemplation needs no explanation, no manifestation. It needs only satisfaction—oneness-satisfaction with the Absolute Supreme.

There are three private tutors for those who practise spirituality: concentration, meditation and contemplation. The concentration-tutor shows the seeker how to run the fastest, breathlessly, towards his Destined Goal —- the Goal of tomorrow's dawn. The meditation-tutor teaches the seeker how to feel God soulfully and sleeplessly in the inmost recesses of his heart. The contemplation-tutor teaches the seeker how to live together with God consciously, unreservedly and unconditionally.

The Hindu tradition is in no way different from Vedic experience. The Vedic Seers of the hoary past had a special way to awaken the slumbering human souls. Their soul-stirring message for those who were wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance was: "Uttisthata jagrata —- Arise, awake!" When the seeker was advanced to a certain extent, the Vedic Seers' advice to him was: "Tat twam asi —- That thou art." Finally, when the seeker was far advanced, the Vedic Seers had this special message for him: "Aham Brahmasmi —- I am the Brahman."

Concentration is for the absolute beginners, meditation is for the more advanced seekers and contemplation is for the highly advanced seekers. But concentration, meditation and contemplation all demand patience. We cannot acquire, let alone master, the art of concentration, meditation and contemplation overnight. We need patience. There are many seekers here and elsewhere who think that they can learn concentration, meditation and contemplation in a very short period of time. This is absurd. Anything that is momentous, anything that is enduring, cannot be achieved overnight. But the fact that something momentous requires patience is no reason to be discouraged. I am not in any way discouraging the seekers. Far from it! It is absolutely true that one cannot realise God overnight. But God-realisation is not the sole monopoly of one individual or a few individuals. God-realisation is the birthright of every soul.

"Impossible," somebody once said to Napoleon. Napoleon replied, "That is not French." Similarly, if a seeker says God-realisation cannot be achieved by him, then he is not a true seeker. He is wallowing in the mire of idleness. A seeker who has a burning inner cry will, without fail, master the art of contemplation and realise the Absolute Truth at God's choice Hour. Slowly, steadily and unerringly he has to walk along the path of spirituality with utmost humility.

Mahatma Gandhi said that humility is the best key to speedy success. If it is success that we want, then the breath of humility we must at every moment exude. The first and foremost thing in the spiritual life is humility. It is with humility that we accept the spiritual life. For no matter what we grow into or what we become, we know that Infinity, Eternity and Immortality are always transcending their own reality-existence. With humility we begin our spiritual journey, with humility we continue and reach our goal, and with humility we transcend our goal. For each goal is the starting point towards a better and more illumining reality.

  1. EHWM 100. Vassar College; Poughkeepsie, NY, USA, 27 April 1981