Editor: We'd like to ask you to offer your advice to the average person or to someone who is just beginning to acquaint himself with meditation as to how he can make it a more integral part of his life.

Sri Chinmoy: Prayer is one road and meditation is another road. In the East, in India, meditation is part and parcel of people's living existence, whereas prayer is part and parcel of people's living existence in the West. When we pray, we talk to God; and when we meditate, we listen to God. In the West people find it easy to talk to God, but meditation they find more difficult. In meditation God is entering into us and inundating us with His Peace, with His Light, with His Bliss. But if it is difficult for us to feel the Presence of God, then we should start with prayer. If we find it difficult to listen to God, we should start by talking to God. Once we have established communication, we can have a two-way conversation.

If we go up and knock at God's Door with our prayers, then He will definitely come down with His Blessings, with His Love, with His Compassion. Once we start to feel His Blessings, His Love, His Compassion in our lives, we will be able to immediately enter into meditation without first going through prayer. Again, some people find even prayer difficult. These people should start with japa. If they like Shiva, they will chant, "Shiva, Shiva, Shiva." Or they can chant "Supreme." After doing it a few hundred times, they will see how much benefit they get.

If japa is too difficult, seekers should spend time mixing with people who can do japa, who can pray, who can meditate. If they cannot do it themselves, then let them come to this place, for example, and just sit at the feet of Gurudeva. People can start anywhere they want, according to their own standard. If they are meant for japa, then Gurudeva will advise them to do japa. If they are ready for prayer, then he will teach them how to pray. He can teach kindergarten as well as the university course.

If someone wants to go directly to meditation without first starting with japa or prayer, then he has to know that there are three rungs to the ladder: concentration, meditation and contemplation. If it is very difficult for someone to meditate [Sri Chinmoy demonstrates meditation], then let him start with concentration [Sri Chinmoy demonstrates concentration]. Most people cannot meditate well because uncomely and uninspiring thoughts are entering into their minds. We are thinking of what we ate yesterday for breakfast, or what we are going to eat tomorrow. Concentration is like a naked sword that will not let us be distracted. So let us pave the way with concentration. In concentration, we do not allow an iota of thought, whether good or bad, to enter into our mind. Somebody is knocking at our mind's door, but we do not know if it is a good thought or a bad thought, if it is a friend or an enemy. So the best thing is to keep the door bolted.

When we see that there is not even an iota of thought trying to enter, when we have passed our own examination on the strength of our sincerity, at that time we are ready to meditate. Finally, if we are advanced, after some time we will enter into contemplation. In contemplation, the divine lover and the Supreme Beloved are one. We are observing our Highest, and at the same time, we are our own Highest observing ourselves. At this moment I am the God-lover and my Beloved is right before me. The next moment we change roles, and He is the lover whereas I am the Beloved [Sri Chinmoy demonstrates contemplation].