Concentration, meditation and contemplation1

We are all seekers of the infinite Truth, Light and Bliss. Each individual here is a seeker, according to his own capacity. I am a seeker of the absolute Truth, Light and Bliss just like you. Precisely because we are all seekers, we all are in the same boat, a golden boat. This boat is sailing towards its destination, the golden shore of the ever-transcending Beyond.

A seeker is he who knows something about the inner world. A seeker is differentiated from an ordinary person only because he thinks of the inner world, because he cares for the inner world just as he cares for the outer world.

A seeker has a most intimate friend in the inner world: aspiration, the inner mounting cry. Again, he has a most deplorable foe: desire. He wants to be totally freed of his foe, desire, and wants to be always with his eternal friend, aspiration.

When we aspire, we come to realise that there are three most significant things that we have to know in order to discover God, see God face to face and grow into the very image of God. What are these three things, which are of paramount importance? Concentration, meditation and contemplation. Each seeker is supposed to know something about concentration, meditation and contemplation. Since I am a seeker, by God's infinite Grace I happen to know a little bit about concentration, meditation and contemplation.

This evening I wish to share with you very briefly what I know about concentration, meditation and contemplation. In the inner world, when I wish to run the fastest — according to my capacity, of course — I concentrate. In the inner world, when I wish to fly the highest, I meditate. And in the inner world, when I wish to dive deep, deeper, deepest, I contemplate.

I run, and concentration is my friend. I fly, and meditation is my friend. I dive, and contemplation is my friend.

When I concentrate, I invoke God the Power. When I meditate, I invoke God the Peace. When I contemplate, I invoke God the Delight. God the Power, God the Peace and God the Delight, each individual here embodies to a certain extent. When we invoke God, either we feel that God the Power, God the Peace or God the Delight comes down to us from above, or that God the Power, God the Peace or God the Delight comes to the fore in us.

Here on earth, in and through Swami Vivekananda, God the Power manifested Himself to a considerable extent; in 1893 here in America, the Parliament of Religions was witness to this supreme fact. God the Peace manifested Himself considerably in and through Lord Buddha. Then, when we think of Lord Krishna, meditate on Lord Krishna, we see that God the Delight has manifested in and through him. When we concentrate, meditate and contemplate, these three great spiritual giants appear before our mental vision.

When I concentrate, I feel that I need God. As a matter of fact, because I need God, therefore I concentrate. When I meditate, I feel that God needs me. And when I contemplate, I feel that both God and I need each other. I need Him for Realisation-to discover what I eternally am, the Highest Absolute, and God needs me to manifest Himself in perfect perfection in and through me. This the seeker in me sees and feels when he concentrates, meditates and contemplates.

When I concentrate, I see the goal either right in front of me or at some far, remote place. When I meditate, I see God inside my heart or I see my Goal inside my heart. And when I contemplate, I see and feel that I am the eternal traveller walking along Eternity's road. At the same time, I am the way, the eternal way and I am the eternal Goal. I am the traveller, I am the way, I am the Goal. When I contemplate, I come to realise this. And something more, I realise that this moment I am the Divine Lover and God is the Supreme Beloved and the next moment God is the Divine Lover and I am the Supreme Beloved. Divine Lover and Supreme Beloved constantly exchange roles. This is what I discover when I contemplate.

A brave heart, concentration demands from me. A calm, quiet and tranquil heart, meditation demands from me. A oneness-heart, a heart of inseparable and universal oneness, contemplation demands from me. If I am to win in the battlefield of life, what I need is a brave heart to concentrate, a calm and tranquil heart to meditate and a heart of universal oneness to contemplate.

Concentration tells me each second is invaluable; I must not waste even a fraction of a second. Meditation tells me to avail myself of all the divine opportunities that knock at my heart's door; I must not waste any opportunity, for each opportunity is leading me a step ahead towards my destined Goal. Contemplation tells me to discover the eternal Time, the Heaven-free Time, inside the fleeting earth-bound time.

In the inner world before I concentrate, I use my aspiration-friend, my inner cry, to purify my eyes. I have to purify my eyes if I want to do the best concentration. Before I meditate, I use my aspiration-friend to purify my heart. And before I contemplate, I request my aspiration-friend to purify my entire earthly existence-my body, vital, mind and heart-so that I can do the best contemplation, according to my capacity.

Imagination helps the seeker in us considerably. Before we concentrate, in silence if we can imagine the blazing sun, the fiery sun, then it helps us considerably in our concentration. Like a magnet, the seeker in us pulls the power of the sun, the boundless power of the sun.

Then, before we meditate, if we can imagine the vast sky, then the vastness of the sky enters into us and helps us considerably. It helps us establish tranquillity and peace in our mind, in our heart, in our earthly physical frame.

And before we contemplate, we should in silence imagine the moon, the beauty of the moon, which is the emblem, here on the earth, of the Absolute Supreme. The beauty of the moon represents the Consciousness of the Divine Mother. The Mother aspect of the Supreme Beloved is embodied by the moon. So if we imagine the moon, then the beauty, delight, sweetness, nearness and closeness of the Absolute Supreme we feel operating in and through us. Or if we can imagine the most beautiful child on earth, and if, on the strength of our imagination, we can feel this most beautiful child in the inmost recesses of our heart, then it helps us considerably.

When I reach the highest pinnacle of concentration I see my third eye. This third eye, which is between the eyebrows and a little above, offers me a pass to enter into the past, present and future. Anything that has to be nullified in the past I nullify. Anything in the remote future that has to be accelerated I bring into the immediacy of today. And anything that has to bear fruit today, in the present, I do sooner than at once.

When I reach the zenith of my meditation, the acme of meditation, I see Sat-Chit-Ananda; Existence, Consciousness and Bliss become my friends. This triple consciousness, which can be considered as one, tells me that I belong to it; I am in it, I am with it and I am for it. Existence-Consciousness-Bliss claims me as its very own, as I claim it as my very own.

Then, when I do my best contemplation and reach the highest contemplation, I see Eternity, Infinity and Immortality. They tell me that I am their inseparable friend. I am a human being, but they know that I am one with Infinity's heart, Eternity's breath and Immortality's life.

On the practical level, when I concentrate, I concentrate on the tiniest thing, on the smallest thing possible, because this is how I, and everybody, can develop the concentration-power quickly.

When I meditate, I meditate on the largest thing possible. This is the secret way one can acquire very fast the power of meditation. Then when I contemplate, I at once play the role of concentration and meditation together. I concentrate on the tiniest substance, let us say, on a drop, the tiniest drop. At the same time I meditate on the vast ocean. So I concentrate on the soul and the body of the tiniest drop and I meditate on the soul and the body of the vast ocean.

When I contemplate, at that time the realisation of the Divine Lover and the Beloved Supreme comes first. Again, inside contemplation there has to be concentration and meditation as well. Concentration indicates the increase of intensity in depth and length. Meditation indicates the assimilation of vastness that is already acquired or achieved.

  1. PRD 1. Cornell University, 26 November 1975

Question: Can you tell us how to concentrate and meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: Concentration, meditation and contemplation: these are the three rungs on the spiritual ladder. First we concentrate, then we meditate, then we contemplate. I wish you to imagine a flower in front of you or, if you can, imagine the flower blooming inside your heart. Now we shall concentrate. In the beginning, our concentration will be focused on the whole flower. There are quite a few petals and leaves, and gradually we will try to focus our attention on the tiniest possible existence of the flower. And then again, if we feel like it, our concentration will go from the tiniest portion to the whole flower, or from the soul of the flower to the body of the flower. This is how we perfect our concentration.

So when we concentrate, we can go from the largest portion of the flower to the smallest portion, or from the body to the soul. Again, we can go from the smallest portion to the largest, from the soul to the body. Either we can contract our consciousness or expand our consciousness. Either way is most effective.

When we meditate, we do not allow any bad thoughts to enter into our mind. If a good thought, a progressive thought, comes we shall allow it to grow. But if any undivine thought comes in we shall immediately try to destroy it. An undivine thought is like a thief, and we shall not allow the thief to enter into our room. But if it is a friend who wants to enter, we shall welcome him. Joy, love, peace: these are our friends. We shall allow them to enter into us. But fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, insecurity and impurity are our enemies. In meditation we shall be meditating upon vastness-either the vast blue sky or a vast expanse of water. Meditation means oneness with vastness.

When we contemplate, we shall offer our body, vital, mind, heart and soul with utmost love and joy to our Beloved Supreme, so that He can make us His perfect instrument for His manifestation. He alone is our Beloved Supreme. He alone is our highest Reality. We shall contemplate on the highest Absolute, our Beloved Supreme. In contemplation, we become one with the object or subject of our contemplation. This moment we are the Divine Lover and the Supreme is the Supreme Beloved; the next moment we are the Supreme Beloved and the Supreme is the Divine Lover. This is contemplation.

Question: Do we not sometimes mistake the strong concentration of the vital for a good or strong meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Here I wish to say that concentration and meditation are two totally different things. One can easily know whether one is doing concentration or meditation. When it is concentration, there is tremendous intensity, like an arrow entering into the target. This is called concentration. But the very nature of meditation is to bring down peace into the entire being especially in the mind. Intensity is there, but the intensity is flooded with luminosity, whereas when you concentrate, it may not be necessary to have the highest luminosity.

Concentration wants immediate results. It is ready to get anything, to some extent, by hook or by crook. But meditation won't do that. Meditation has infinite time at its disposal. That doesn't mean that meditation neglects the fleeting time, no. It appreciates fleeting time, but at the same time inside the fleeting time it sees the endless time. That is why meditation has infinite peace inside it.

So if one knows the result we get from concentration and meditation, then one can never make a mistake. They are two different things. The intensity of the vital at the time of concentration is not bad if it comes from the purified vital and not the demanding vital. The vital is a very good thing, it is like a very dynamic horse, but the question is how we utilise it. Most people are using the vital in the world of passion, disharmony, argument and greed. But this same vital can be used as a dynamic strength to fight against ignorance, imperfection and death. So if we can use a purified vital at the time of concentration, then our success will be very satisfactory and it will assure us that fulfilment of our goal on earth is not a mere dream.

Meditation and invocation

Question: What happens when several disciples invoke you at once?

Sri Chinmoy: When you are driving in a car, you look ahead and to the side and also you look behind you in the mirror. At the same time, you are pressing with your foot on the gas. Like this, four or five things you can do at the same time. For this you don't need ESP. How many things you can do with the physical! But if you become spiritual, if you get Peace, Light and Bliss, then you can do many more things. While I was talking to you, the soul of Rekha's sister just came and sat at my feet. She was a good disciple and I gave her such affection, but she left our path. With human eyes I was talking to you, but at the same time with my third eye I was feeding her.

Just now Katyayani's soul has come and it is moving around. While I was talking to you, her soul was sitting at my feet. If there were an occultist of a very high order here, he would immediately see this. Katyayani lives in Canada and Rekha's sister lives in New Mexico. From Canada and New Mexico their souls have come to me.

If something very serious happens to one of my spiritual children, at that time my physical mind may not be aware of it, but my soul will know. Your whole frame or face will come and stand in front of me. Five or six days ago another disciple was very mad at her children, and immediately I saw her just in front of me. I thought she was disturbed by her daughter. But usually this happens only if it is something very serious.

Question: If we chant somebody's name when they are asleep, does it still feed their soul?

Sri Chinmoy: To be very frank with you, if you chant somebody's name when they are asleep, it won't have any effect. Please forgive me, you may be chanting with all your love, affection and concern for that person, but unfortunately you will not be able to identify yourself with his soul. His soul may be in some region that you cannot enter. But in my case, at any time, whichever region the soul is in, I can go there. Only when you become one with the soul in this way does chanting become effective.

As your spiritual leader, when I make a fervent request to you during a meeting to repeat another disciple's name so that we can help that person's soul, at that time I take all of you totally inside my heart. So if you want to, repeat the name of the Supreme or your Guru's name, and then say your prayer for the person. I always say that if you repeat the Supreme's name, the Supreme identifies Himself with you. The Supreme's Soul is within you and your soul is in the Supreme, whereas your friend's soul is not inside you. So if you repeat the name of the Supreme a few times and then offer your prayer to Him, you will get the most immediate results.

Question: How should we chant "Supreme" in a group?

Sri Chinmoy: Please imagine that you are on a kind of journey. Feel that either I you are in a boat or you are somewhere with other pilgrims. Always feel a movement in the chanting. Either you are going upward, forward or inward. When you say "Supreme," please feel that you are reaching a particular destination. Each time you chant, feel that you are transcending your goal.

Question: Guru, if you are meditating in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium at the United Nations, for example, can the surrounding rooms be affected by your presence?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on two things. On that day, at that particular hour, it depends on how much Light the Supreme in me wants to reveal and it depends on how much receptivity the adjacent rooms have. If the adjacent rooms have tremendous receptivity and if the Supreme in me wants to reveal abundant Light, then definitely all the surrounding rooms will be affected.

But if the Supreme wants concentrated Light only for the seekers who are listening to my talk, then it will be meant only for them. Again, when I give talks, many times it happens that the Light that we bring down does not remain only with the selected seekers, the thirty or forty seekers, who happen to be there. It all depends on receptivity. If somebody who is in the next room is receptive, then he may get much more than someone else who is in the same room but who is not receptive. Then too, someone who is miles away from the auditorium may get it, provided that he is very receptive. It is all a matter of receptivity. No matter where one is, if he is receptive he will get something.

Question: Do you like meditating outdoors in parks?

Sri Chinmoy: I do like it, but we have to know whether the disciples can meditate better outdoors or indoors. While we were singing during the meditation in Central Park, many people who were just curious came to watch us. One person who had not been meditating with us came up to me while I was giving out prasad. So you can see what kind of distractions there can be.

Question: How can we give up the desire for a strong meditation so that the soul-awareness with its most subtle vibration gets a chance to come forward more fully?

Sri Chinmoy: We have to know that if an aspirant is of a very high standard, he need not start meditating with the idea of achieving some specific result. If he wants to have some result immediately after his meditation, then he tries only to have a very strong or powerful meditation. But a seeker should not aspire for a desired result from a powerful meditation. When a real aspirant starts meditating, he will not cry for any result, he will only cry for his self-offering during his highest meditation. If he cries for the result, then he is only imagining something mentally, thinking of some delicious cake, in this case Light or another quality, according to his sweet will or fancy.

Question: Each morning should we try to get up as early as we can for meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: If your regular meditation time is six-thirty, then that is the best time for you to meditate and not four o'clock. Start at six-thirty for now, then increase your capacity. In a few months' time you can try getting up at five-thirty or six o'clock, and a few months after that you can try to get up still earlier. If you go from here to Manhattan by train, you have to stop at many stations. Today let us say you have the capacity to go to the first station; tomorrow or after a few months you will be able to go to the second station. Your goal is like that, always transcending itself. Finally you will reach your destination. You have far to go from here, but just start; the hour has struck. If you start, that is enough for me. Then please try to increase your capacity. When all the members of a family are studying together, the little brother in kindergarten will pray and meditate and read for only five minutes; then he will close his books and go away. His elder brother who has more capacity and is in a higher course will read for an hour or two, and the third brother, the eldest, will study still longer. The parents see that their children have started reading together, but satisfaction depends on necessity. The youngest child is in kindergarten, so naturally his necessity will be less.

Again, some people believe that they don't have time to meditate at all. They have children or they give this or that reason. They think that the goal is very far. But when we start meditating, we don't have to think what our ultimate goal will be. We just start and we meditate according to our capacity.

Question: What if you've gone to bed late the night before? Should you still keep the same meditation time?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, please keep the same time; then you can go back to sleep after your meditation. You should meditate even if you have gone to visit friends and come home at four o'clock. You can sleep two hours and get up at six o'clock, then re-set the alarm and go back to sleep. Please feel that your divine Friend is supposed to come and knock at your door at six o'clock. Which is more important: God the Friend or your human friends? You have gone to see other friends the night before and you have spent hours there. Now you have a previous appointment with your divine Friend. You can't say, "I will be late." Who is more important, God or a human being?

Question: How long should we meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: Usually my disciples are not required to meditate more than half an hour daily. They meditate for half an hour very powerfully, but then after that they usually cannot maintain their intensity. At the maximum they can meditate for forty-five minutes. But if one tries to meditate for one or two hours, the mind does not cooperate.

If you have the capacity, you can meditate for hours and hours. Otherwise, if most of my disciples try to meditate forty-five minutes one day, they will be unable to do well after half an hour. If for half an hour you have meditated well, it is as if you have eaten a big loaf of bread. But if that is not enough for you, then you will try to steal another fifteen minutes. During those fifteen minutes, you may get only one morsel more, a tiny portion. You are still hungry, but you are not granted another loaf. But yet you are getting something during those extra fifteen minutes. Who knows, perhaps you will get another two minutes' worth of good meditation. On the one hand you could feel that since you are not meditating well, why waste your precious time? So you feel that it is best to just go away after half an hour. On the other hand, since you could have a good meditation the last two minutes, why act like a fool? Wait until the forty-five minutes is up. If you don't wait, then you will have no idea of what the outcome would have been. But you can't say, "If I stay for some more time, I will get an equal amount of Peace and Bliss." No. You may get just a small quantity although you are in a position to eat. Because you still have hunger, you can see if the divine waitress is bringing you a little more food.

Question: What about Sunday when we have group meditation at six o'clock? Six o'clock is not my regular meditation time.

Sri Chinmoy: On Sunday I am responsible for those who are coming to meditate. Many are not coming; they can meditate at their normal time. I have inner beings and the Supreme is the witness, but people coming to meditate with me will meditate at six o'clock.

Question: One day I have to leave the house at five o'clock in the morning, so I get up earlier than on other days and meditate at four-thirty.

Sri Chinmoy: Then you will have to meditate at four-thirty on other days also. Don't try to keep your original time that day while on the subway or at school or work. These meditations must be in addition to your morning meditation. Otherwise, relaxation starts. Today you have to go someplace; tomorrow, somewhere else. Only Sundays I am responsible for you. Otherwise stick to your own time.

You do not need a specific time for evening meditation. At that time the river is already flowing and entering into the ocean. I am responsible only for the morning meditation when the river starts flowing. If I can start the river flowing, I know it will one day reach the source. Even if you don't reach the destination today, as long as there is some movement, you will reach the destination tomorrow or the day after. If you are flowing toward the consciousness ocean, that is enough for me. You can also meditate on your coffee break at three o'clock or four o'clock, but you have to start in the morning.