Part I: Meditation: the ABC’s

Question: Guru, you mention meditation. What does it mean to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: Meditation means many things to many people. Each individual has a way of learning the secret of the art of meditation. In our case, when we meditate we empty our minds and then fill our minds with something divine. That is to say, we throw out all undivine, evil and fruitless thoughts and fill the mind with divine, illumining and fulfilling thoughts.

Question: Why do we meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: Meditation is absolutely necessary for those who want to have a better and more fulfilling life. If you feel that you are satisfied with what you have and what you are, then you need not enter into the field of meditation. But if you feel that there is a barren desert deep inside your heart, then I wish to say that meditation is the answer. Meditation will give you inner joy and peace of mind. Meditation will never take you away from your parents, from your children, from your family. Far from it. Only it will strengthen your connection with your dear ones, because inside them you will see the very existence of God.

If you wish to develop your talents or increase your capacity in any field, then I wish to say that it is obligatory to follow some inner discipline. If you are a singer but you wish to sing infinitely better, if you aspire, I tell you, your voice will become far better. There is nothing on earth that cannot be improved through spirituality and meditation.

If you want to simplify your life, meditation is the answer. If you want to fulfil your life, meditation is the answer. If you want to have joy and offer joy to the world at large, then meditation is the only answer.

If you meditate to forget your suffering or to forget your difficulties, then you are not meditating for the right reason. But if you are meditating only to please God and fulfil God in His own way, then your meditation is correct. When God is pleased, and God is fulfilled in your meditation, then it is God’s business to take away your sufferings and difficulties. But if you meditate to escape from the world or to challenge the world and stand against the world, then you are doing the wrong thing.

Meditation is your conscious capacity that you have to utilise every day and every second to enter into your highest divinity, where the finite is completely lost in the Infinite. The finite existence which you have and which you are, can easily be lost in the infinite and become totally one with the infinite if you meditate. This is what meditation is and what meditation can do for you.

Question: How can one still one’s mind in meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Try to breathe in as slowly and as quietly as possible, so that if you place a tiny thread right in front of your nose it will not even move. Then you will see that your meditation is going to be deep and your mind will be very calm and quiet.

Then, imagine something very vast, and calm and quiet. When you start meditating, feel that inside you is a vast ocean and that you have dived deep within. There at the bottom it is all tranquility, tranquility’s flood.

The most important thing is practice. Today your mind acts like a monkey. This restless mind is knocking all the time at your heart’s door and disturbing the poise of the heart. In this world everybody has pride, vanity and self-esteem. So if you keep your heart’s door closed each time the mind comes, if you do not pay any attention to the mind, then after some time the mind will find it beneath its dignity to bother you. I have seen where my disciples did not open their heart’s door when the mind started knocking. They did not give a response from the heart, and the heart remained unperturbed. The heart opened its door wide only to the soul’s Light, and listened only to the dictates of the soul.

Thought is from the mental world. But you also have the heart, the identification-world. When you remain in the heart, that means that you are identifying yourself with the soul. The soul is beyond ideas, beyond thought. Instead of concentrating on the mind proper, if you can focus all your concentration on the heart, then the reality that looms large inside the heart automatically gives you an access to the soul. If you concentrate and meditate on the reality that is inside the heart, this reality comes forward.

If you concentrate in the mind, naturally thought will come and bother you. But if you concentrate on the heart, then the problem is solved. So always try to meditate on the heart and try to bring the soul to the fore. The soul, which is a direct representative of God, is the eternal reality in us.

Question: How do people meditate on your path?

Sri Chinmoy: Ours is the path of the heart. I tell my disciples that they have to empty their hearts totally so that Peace, Light and Bliss can descend from above and fill their inner vessel. If someone wants to follow the path of the heart, then all his emotional difficulties, worries, anxieties and undivine qualities will leave him and Peace, Light and Bliss from above will replace them.

So, when you meditate, you try to open the heart and the entire being. Sometimes you open the heart and keep the door open, and when the guest is about to enter, at that time you close the door. The amount of Peace, Light and Bliss that the inner vessel receives is measured. The vessel has its own consciousness. You may leave the vessel empty, but also it has to aspire to receive. Only then can you really have a good meditation.

Our progress will be faster if we meditate on the heart. When we meditate on the mind or inside the mind, we feel that already we know so much about the spiritual life. But when we go deep within, we come to learn that we know next to nothing about the spiritual life. Only we have gathered earthly information in our minds — information and nothing else. But when we meditate on the heart, we feel that we are like children who really want to learn everything fresh from the mother or from the father. The child feels that he does not know anything, but he wants to learn everything in a proper way.

So my advice for the seekers who would like to follow our path is to concentrate and meditate on the heart. And even those who will not fit in with our path can try to meditate on the heart. It is not only our path which emphasises the importance of meditating on the heart. There are other paths and other spiritual Masters who also advocate the same idea.

Question: Would you please be a little more specific when you say ‘meditate on the heart'? Do you mean to meditate on the physical heart or on the spiritual centre?

Sri Chinmoy: If you find it difficult to meditate on the spiritual heart, you can concentrate on the physical heart in the chest. But after you meditate there for a few months or for a year then you will feel that inside the ordinary human heart is the divine heart. And inside the divine heart is the soul.

Inside the divine heart is light, but inside the human heart, we can see the operation of the emotional vital. The emotional vital is located around the navel. But from there it can come into the physical heart and ruin everything by creating attachment. If one can meditate on the spiritual heart, there can be no attachment. It is all detachment. So we start with the human heart, and from the human heart we have to enter into the divine heart. Otherwise, if we remain with the human heart, we will quite often become a victim to attachment and emotional problems.

Question: Is there any specific technique that you teach?

Sri Chinmoy: I do not use the term ‘technique’. In my case it is not like that. Each individual seeker I deal with according to his own aspiration and according to his own receptivity. I enter into the soul of the individual seeker and if I feel that he is extremely sincere and if it is God’s Will, then inwardly I give him a specific meditation. Each seeker needs a specific meditation, but it is not a technique. It is only a way of teaching him how he can enter into his deepest inner being. If a seeker consciously enters into my boat, then it is the business of the boatman to carry him across the sea of ignorance to the Golden Shore of the Beyond. But there is no hard and fast technique that I use.

Question: How often should we meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: You can meditate early in the morning and, if it is possible, in the evening before you go to bed. During the day, if you are free, and if you really get inspiration, then also you can meditate. But it is better to meditate well once a day in the morning, and to leave it for the rest of the day, than to sit five or six times a day with your eyes closed and just have pleasant thoughts drifting through your head.

Some people meditate three times, four times, six times a day. But I wish to say the number is of no consequence. If you feel really inspired, meditate twenty times. But if you don’t feel any inspiration, then you are wasting your precious time and just deceiving yourself. Each time you meditate you have to offer your heart’s breath and your soul’s light that you are bringing to the fore. Only then is it worth meditating. Otherwise, you are just insulting your soul’s possibilities. Please feel the necessity of meditating, even if it is for only one minute once a day. If it is done wholeheartedly, even if it is for a fleeting minute, then it is worthwhile.

If inspiration is there, then meditate. That means that you have got the sanction from the Supreme. If it is the call of the Supreme, then you shall run fast, very fast, because He is the leader inside you.

Many people say that they meditate four times or six times a day. But what do they meditate on? They meditate on their bosses or they meditate on their boyfriends or their girlfriends. This is no meditation at all. If you can meditate most soulfully, if you feel that your aspiration is carrying you, only then is it really worthwhile meditation. But a day will come when your inner being will compel you to meditate twenty-four hours a day.

Question: Is a Master mandatory for proper meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: No one is forcing you to have a Master, but it certainly is advisable. You know that there is a goal, and you want to reach the goal. If you are wise, you accept help from someone who can show you the easiest, safest, and most effective path to that goal. If you want to take hundreds and thousands of years to realise God, a spiritual Master is not necessary. But if you want to reach the Goal the fastest way, then certainly he is a necessity.

If you want to become a doctor, you go to school and study with doctors. If you do not study with a doctor, you will not operate on someone, because there you are dealing with human life. The Guru is like a spiritual doctor. He will operate on your fear, doubt and jealousy. First you doubt the existence of the Vast, the Unknown. Then you are afraid of the Vast because you feel that it is not a part of you and that it will engulf you. And then you are jealous of the Vast, because you feel that it is all illumination, fulfilment and perfection, whereas your life is all obscurity, frustration and imperfection. So before you can operate on others, first you have to study with a spiritual doctor, the spiritual Master. He will cure you and then teach you how to cure others.

Question: How do you teach us to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: Instruction for meditation has to be given individually. Suppose I have ten students. They are seeking together, true. Perhaps they have come to me on the same day. Now, in the ordinary human life, we see that if ten persons come to school on the same day and they want to be in the same class, the teacher gives the same lesson to all ten. After the school hours are over, the students go home and they study the same lesson. Although one may be infinitely more meritorious than the others, they are all treated in the same way.

In the spiritual life also, all of you are not of the same standard. Some are beginners, some are more advanced. In school, a teacher may have ten children who are not of the same standard, but unfortunately he has to teach them the same lesson. Now you may say that I am doing the same thing. When I am here, I give lessons, I give talks, I answer questions. This is the way I teach you.

But in the morning or during the day when I meditate on each individual whom I consider to be my disciple, at that time the consciousness that I give to you I do not give to somebody else. I will enter into you according to your capacity and you will receive from me according to your receptivity. I motivate and I inspire each individual disciple of mine according to his acceptance of me, according to his capacity to receive the light and according to his capacity to manifest the light. I do this only if someone is my disciple; otherwise, a seeker’s own Master will do it for him. Outwardly I have given meditations to only a few; but inwardly I have given meditations to many, many disciples. How do I give meditations? I enter into each soul and I tell the soul what it should do in its outer life. The soul may take one day, ten days, fifteen days or three months to convince the physical mind how to meditate and why to meditate.

If I had very few disciples, today I could give you a specific meditation, tomorrow I could give one to somebody else. In that way I could teach. But if there are many, how can I give each of them a meditation outwardly? It is impossible. So I have to enter into each person’s consciousness and soul individually and see what that particular person needs most, or how he wants to manifest the Divinity within himself.

We are all seekers. Your soul may want you to realise the Truth and manifest the Truth through Power. By power I mean divine Power, not the human power that wants to destroy, wound and kill. Again, somebody else sitting beside you may want to manifest God through love, devotion and surrender. So I can give a meditation only by knowing first what the soul wants. A spiritual Master knows what the individual soul needs and wants. Then he says inwardly to the individual, “You follow this rule.” He may not be able to tell him outwardly, but inwardly he says, “This is the way you have to realise and manifest the Truth.”

So the Master has to enter into the disciples’ consciousness or soul and teach them individual meditation. When they are sitting in front of him they meditate together, but inwardly each disciple has a totally different meditation. Everybody’s meditation is not of the same standard and everybody is not doing the same kind of meditation. We can meditate together for an hour or two a week, but daily meditation is also of paramount importance, because daily you are feeding your soul in a specific way. Naturally your soul is getting nourishment in a specific way.

Part II: Prayer, mantra and invocation

Question: Sometimes when I am walking down the street I feel like chanting to myself. Is this a form of withdrawal?

Sri Chinmoy: While you are walking along the street, if you silently meditate or chant, you are not actually withdrawing. Only you are protecting yourself. The unaspiring world often is like a jungle, full of snakes and other wild animals. We are not criticising the outer world; only we know that aspiring people have to be well-protected. Every second, every minute, you have to be well-protected. Otherwise, immediately you will enter into the roaring jaws of the lion or the tiger that is right in front of you. So if you are chanting for protection, then you are doing the right thing. You are increasing your inner strength, your inner capacity. When you are strong enough inwardly, you will no longer have to chant. You can just move around and you will not be disturbed.

Your business is now to think of the Supreme within you. He is thinking of you twenty-four hours a day. So you can think of Him for a couple of minutes during the day. You are trying to establish your oneness with the Supreme, who is your eternal Teacher. Right now you don’t have to have outer contact with people when you are walking in the street. This does not mean that you should not say, “Hello, how are you?” and “Goodbye.” But this is all the outer contact that you should have. Then, while you are chanting, if you inwardly offer your good will to the people who are around you, at that time you are doing the best form of service. Inner service is a great service. While you are in the street and you are chanting inwardly, if you offer a good thought to those who are around you, you are doing the best form of communication with them. Then, when you become strong inwardly, at that time you can go and spread your light outwardly.

Question: Are rituals and invocations really important for meditation? Sometimes we feel that because you are not physically with us that we have to invoke your presence.

Sri Chinmoy: No, no! This idea is wrong. It is not that I am not with you. On the contrary, you have to feel that I am with you, but while you are invoking me, at that time you are actually manifesting me. My consciousness is always with you, with all my disciples. You may think that you are praying to me and invoking me. No. At that time you are manifesting me. You are within me and I am within you; that is absolutely true. Whether or not the child calls the mother, the mother knows if the child needs something.

It is not that I am far away in the sky, or that I am in New York and you are in Puerto Rico, so you have to invoke me. Oneness has already been established. But when you invoke me, you are making an effort to manifest me. When you invoke the Supreme, at that time you are thinking that you need the Supreme to work in and through you. You invoke the Supreme and, while you are invoking Him, His Will is being manifested through you to the outer world.

Question: How can one pick a mantra?

Sri Chinmoy: Only if one is spiritually advanced, he can choose a mantra. Otherwise he is committing a Himalayan blunder. Only a spiritual Master can offer a mantra to a disciple or to a seeker on the strength of his oneness with everybody’s soul. Now, if you happen to be my disciple and it is the Will of the Supreme that I give you a mantra, then I can immediately enter into your soul, become one with your soul and get the mantra from your soul. The soul knows which mantra is most applicable to the seeker’s spiritual life, and this mantra will be of great help to the seeker in realising, revealing and fulfilling God. So, if you do not have a Master, then please pray and meditate for a couple of years and then, I assure you, from deep within your soul will offer you a mantra. Otherwise, there are thousands of mantras written in Indian scriptures, and you may select one that fascinates your mind or outer being. But that particular mantra may not be your mantra at all. So it is always advisable to follow a specific path and get the mantra from the spiritual Master.

Question: How can we avoid having expectation during our prayer or meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Naturally there are people who do not do anything for God and therefore do not expect anything from God. But again, there are people who feel that if they do something for God, He is bound to do something for them. So when we pray, we feel that God will listen to our prayer. If we meditate, we feel that we will get Peace, Light and Bliss, which is absolutely true and legitimate. But when we pray, when we meditate, we should feel that it is our business to pray and meditate and it is God’s business whether to give us Peace or not. When we achieve that kind of surrender, we shall play our part by praying and meditating. This is our task and God’s task is to feed us with His Light, Peace and Bliss. He knows the right moment for this, so during our meditation we should not expect anything. If Peace, Light and Bliss enter into us, well and good; but we shall meditate just because we feel that this is the only way we can become inseparably one with God.

Part III: Meditation and the guru

Question: Why do you sometimes ask that I look at you when I meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: You are looking at your hands, but your hands won’t give you realisation. I am the Master. Your life is written on my heart and on my forehead — not on your fingertips.