Meditation: humanity's race and Divinity's Grace, part 1

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Morning and evening love

In the morning
I love the heavenward wings
Of my prayer-bird.

In the evening
I love my meditation's
Life-perfecting
And earth-transforming
Silence.

Part I — Techniques of meditation

Question: How do you learn to concentrate?

Sri Chinmoy: One cannot meditate well unless one knows how to concentrate. At first the seeker should not meditate but only try to concentrate. Then after two weeks, a month, or if necessary two months, he can start meditation.

What do we mean by concentration? We mean inner vigilance, alertness. There are thieves all around us and within us. Who are the thieves? Fear, doubt, worry and anxiety. These inner thieves are the real thieves, not the thieves who steal our money. When we start to concentrate, we have to feel that we will not allow any thieves to enter into our minds. When we are concentrating, we make it hard for hostile forces to enter into us. Otherwise, we become victims to the undivine effects of the wrong forces.

Please try this exercise to develop concentration. In Sanskrit it is called tratak, which means 'gazing'. First wash your eyes properly with cold water, not warm water or hot water. Then make a very small circle on the wall at your own eye-level, and inside it make a dot. It should be black, not blue or red or any other colour. Then stand facing a wall. There should be a distance of about three and a half feet between you and the wall. Focus your attention on the circle with your eyes relaxed and half open. The force of your concentration should come from the middle of your forehead. After three or four minutes, open your eyes fully, and then try to feel that your eyes have covered your whole body. Feel that from head to foot you are all eyes. Your whole physical existence has become nothing but vision. Then please concentrate on the dot inside the circle. Then you have to start making the object of your concentration smaller. After a few seconds try to feel that your whole body has become as tiny as this dot on the wall. Try to feel that the dot is another part of your own existence. Then you will enter into the dot, pierce through it and go to the other side of the dot. From the other side, you have to look back and see your own body. Your physical body is on one side, but on the strength of your concentration you have sent your subtle body through the point of concentration into the object. Your subtle body is now on the other side. Through your subtle body you see your physical body and through your physical body you see your subtle body.

When you began to concentrate, the existence in your physical body became all vision. At that time the dot was your reality. When you entered into the dot, then vision and reality become totally one. You are the vision and you yourself are the reality. When you look back at yourself from the dot, the process becomes reversed. Now you are the vision there, and the place to which you are returning is your reality. At this time, again the vision and the reality become one. When you can see it in this way, your concentration is absolutely perfect.

If you can concentrate and go to the other side of the point you were calling reality, your whole existence will be far beyond the vision and the reality. The moment you can feel that you have transcended your vision and your reality, you have boundless power. You will be able to use this power of concentration for your spiritual life, for your intellectual life, while working, while cooking, while doing anything.

Question: The moment I sit down to meditate, all kinds of silly or ugly thoughts come into my mind. Is there any specific technique you can recommend to help me overcome these thoughts?

Sri Chinmoy: First you have to determine whether the thoughts that are attacking you are coming from the outer world or from deep within. In the beginning, it is difficult, I must say, to distinguish the thoughts that are coming from outside from those that are arising from inside you. But gradually you will be able to feel that some thoughts are coming from outside, and these thoughts can be driven back faster than the thoughts that attack you from within. So it is better that each of you right now fight with the outer thoughts first and deal with the inner thoughts later on.

When you see that a thought is about to enter you, please try to muster your soul's will from your heart and bring it right in front of your forehead. The moment your soul's will is seen by the intruding thought, the thought is bound to disappear.

Now I wish to speak about thoughts that you have already accumulated within you. When you see a thought arising from deep within you and when that thought is not divine, but absolutely impure and unlit, then immediately you should try to do one of two things. Try to feel that there is a hole right at the top of your head and then make that thought flow out like a river which goes only in one direction and does not come back. It is then gone and you are freed from it. The other method is to feel that you are a boundless ocean, with its calm, quiet feeling of tranquillity, and that the play of the fish is on the surface. The ocean pays no attention to the ripples of the fish.

First think

First think of God
And then dine with man.
Do not proceed
In the reverse order.

First think of Compassion
And then meditate on Justice.
Do not proceed
In the reverse order.

First think of your own perfection
And then cherish the idea of God-manifestation.
Do not proceed
In the reverse order.

Question: It is difficult for me to concentrate on my heart for longer than just a few minutes. Is there any advice you can give me?

Sri Chinmoy: When you concentrate on the heart, the first thing you should try to remember is love. Love means the victory over time. You have all love, all affection, all concern for your husband and son. When they fall sick or need you, you will spend hours and hours with them. You are at their disposal twenty-four hours a day; you are ready to give them everything because of your love. Now, your dear ones are with you for fifty years or sixty years and then they leave you. But you have to know that inside your heart is someone who is infinitely dearer than your husband and children, and that is God. In this world you have some dear ones for a few years, and then you give them everything you can. It seems there is no end to the love you offer them. But the dearest One you will have for all Eternity, and if you want to offer Him your love, naturally it will be all infinite and eternal.

If you concentrate on your heart and soulfully repeat a few times, "Love, love, love," then you will see that love is extending its own horizon. It is identifying itself with time and, again, it is going beyond time, because it needs fulfilment. When love wants fulfilment, it will not stay with time for five or ten minutes. It will extend throughout Eternity. If you know this and meditate on your heart, then the expansion of time comes, the expansion of delight comes, the fulfilment of the soul comes. If you try to feel love, you will extend the capacity of your aspiration, extend the capacity of your realisation and extend the capacity of your oneness with the entire world.

Question: When we want to concentrate or meditate on a special thought or problem, how should we do it?

Sri Chinmoy: First let us consider a problem. You have to know the seriousness of the problem. If it is a serious problem, naturally you will have to meditate on it for a long time. If it is not serious, you can solve the problem in a few minutes. If you concentrate on any problem, big or small, think of it as something made of glass. If you drop glass, it will break. It is brittle and fragile, and at any moment it will give way. If you think of a problem in this way, you will find that this is the easiest way to solve it. But if you take it as something very heavy or solid, you will not be able to solve it.

Now let us take a thought. You will say that naturally you concentrate only on good thoughts. But unfortunately, we do unconsciously meditate on bad thoughts. Jealousy, doubt, suspicion — all these we cherish unconsciously. When this kind of bad thought comes, you have to feel that the bad thought represents a person. Just think of jealousy, fear, doubt and hypocrisy as people, and immediately give them a human form: "This fellow has undivine qualities." When it is a good thought, also give it form: "This man has all good qualities — humility, sincerity and so on."

Then what do you do? When you see a good man, feel that he is leading you and try to follow him as long as he wants you to. But if you see a bad man — a man full of fear, anxiety and so forth — feel that he is going to chase you mercilessly and that you have to immediately run away from him. You must never allow him to come near you. When you see someone destructive in front of you, immediately react as though he will destroy you. Feel that your very life is in danger. Very often in the spiritual life, people do not take bad thoughts seriously enough. We cherish these undivine qualities and feel that they are only insects pinching us. But when you have these undivine qualities, you have to feel that they are worse than dragons, something very dangerous.

Question: Guru, how important is it to meditate with our eyes open? Sometimes I can feel your presence more when my eyes are closed.

Sri Chinmoy: In ninety out of one hundred cases, disciples who keep their eyes closed fall asleep. For five minutes they meditate, and then for fifteen minutes they remain in the world of sleep. There is no dynamic energy, no will, nothing but lethargy and self-complacency. They only feel a kind of restful, sweet sensation. Then, after some time, by God's miraculous Grace, again they come back and meditate for two or three minutes.

When you keep your eyes closed during meditation and enter into the world of sleep, you may enjoy all kinds of fantasies. Your fertile imagination will make you think that you are entering into the angel world. There are many ways you can make yourself believe that you had a wonderful meditation. In the ashram where I once lived, elderly members who had been there for thirty or forty years would enter into their "highest meditation" and get caught by a nightmare and start screaming. But they were not aware of it. And then, when someone shook them, they would say, "What are you doing? Why are you disturbing me? I was in my highest meditation?" I had a cousin who used to meditate eight or twelve hours a night with her eyes closed and get up the next morning and quarrel and fight with others. This is not meditation; this is a very easy way of self-deception.

If you keep your eyes open, then at that time you can become the judge of your own meditation. If you go very high in your meditation and have a really good vision, you will not feel it is all hallucination if your eyes are open. If you have a really good vision when your eyes are open, you are not going to lose it. And if it is a false vision, you will know it immediately.

If you are having a good meditation with your eyes closed and you feel, say, a cockroach, you will immediately jump up startled or agitated. While you are in a higher world, if your eyes are closed and this creature of Mother Earth disturbs you, at that time there is no connecting link between that particular creature and your own existence. Automatically you become frightened or annoyed. You feel, "Here I am in my highest, and this undivine creature is bothering me." Because you are agitated and disturbed, your meditation disappears. But if you keep your eyes open a little, you know that you belong to this world. You are maintaining your poise and inner power here on earth. You are keeping your mastery over the physical plane.

When you keep your eyes open, you act like a hero in the battlefield of life. It is best to meditate with the eyes partly open and partly closed. This kind of meditation, with the eyes half-open, is called the Lion's meditation. If the eyes are wide open and staring, you will be straining yourself. Half open is always best. In this way, aspiration can flow through the eyes.

You are the root of the tree and, at the same time, the topmost bough. The part of you that has the eyes half open feels it is the root, symbolising Mother Earth. The other part, with the eyes half-closed, is the topmost branch, the world of vision or, you can say, Heaven. A tree without roots is no tree; and again, a tree must also have branches. When you keep your eyes partly opened and partly closed, you can feel yourself a tree in totality, right from the root up to the topmost bough. Your consciousness is up on the highest level and, at the same time, your consciousness is here on earth, trying to transform this world.

When your eyes are half-open, you are focusing your conscious attention not only on the physical plane but also on the subconscious plane. Since your eyes are partly open, you will not fall asleep and end up in one of the lower worlds. You are threatening the world of the subconscious. "Look, I am all alert. You cannot take me into your domain." You are conquering and gaining mastery over the subconscious world of sleep.

At the same time, the other world, the world of alertness where you are keeping your vigilance, is also inviting you with its noise and distractions. If the outer world disturbs you, in the beginning you may want to keep your eyes closed. But when you become more advanced in your spiritual life and have become inwardly stronger, you can overcome these distractions.

Let us take meditation as something very powerful and constant. In the battlefield of life, we have to conquer fear, doubt, anxiety, worry and all our imperfections. When we want to achieve something on the physical plane, we never keep our eyes closed. If we want to win a race here on earth, we can't run with our eyes closed. We will stumble and fall. It is the same in the spiritual life. When we want to run the fastest, when we want to develop inner power, we have to be vigilant, dynamic, alert all the time. We have to run with our eyes open.

The physical mind sometimes has to be convinced of what we are doing. Suppose the Master is bringing down Peace, Light and Bliss. If the disciple is very receptive and can identify his existence with the Master's inner operation, then that person need not keep his eyes open. But even this type of disciple will benefit if he keeps his eyes open and sees what the Master is doing, for then the Master's physical eyes can convince the seeker's mind. The light actually is coming from the Master's spiritual eye, the third eye, but it is offering its wealth to the seeker through the physical eyes. In the movement of the Master's eyes there is light. If one wants to receive the Master's light devotedly, he can do so more effectively if he actually sees the Master's eyes. Otherwise, if the seeker keeps his eyes shut, he may think, "Perhaps the Master is not even meditating on us. He may be here physically, but his consciousness is roaming somewhere else." If, however, the seeker's eyes are open and he sees his Master in deep meditation right in front of him, then he is more convinced of what the Master is doing for him. After meditating for a few minutes with his eyes open, if at that time the disciple has identified himself with the Master totally, then even if he closes his eyes he is bound to see and feel the Master right in front of him.

If you feel that your meditation is more profound when your eyes are closed, if you can stay wide awake and feel my inner presence distinctly without entering into the world of imagination, then I have no objection if you keep your eyes closed. Every rule admits of exception. There are many spiritual Masters who have meditated with their eyes closed, although the very dynamic spiritual Masters used to keep their eyes open. But most of the time — and I know from personal experience and from my oneness with my disciples — if you keep your eyes half open, then it is much better.

Prayer

Prayer
Is the youngest brother.
He cries and cries
To see Father's heights.

Meditation
Is the eldest brother.
He smiles and smiles
To house Father's heights.

Prayer
Tells me
Where to go.

Meditation
Tells me
How to live.

Question: Do you feel it is necessary to assume a particular posture when you meditate, to sit in the lotus position, for example?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual. The main thing is to keep the spine erect and straight, and to keep the body relaxed. There are many people who meditate very well while they are seated in a chair. And there are many who sit in the lotus posture only to show off, while their mind is roaming elsewhere. You have to know how much control you have over the mind. If you have control over your mind, you can meditate while running, while talking to people; but if you do not have control over your mind, then it is better to sit in a particular corner of the room and keep your body, especially your back, erect.

Usually when a beginner enters into a spiritual path, he becomes a victim to laziness. Meditation is something new to him and he may not get a satisfactory result all at once, or he may not have the necessary patience. So it is necessary for him to discipline himself as quickly as possible. But for one who has already tasted some inner food — inner Light, Peace or Bliss — it is not necessary to go through this rigorous discipline because meditation has become spontaneous. While he is walking, while he is doing office work, his mind is on God, he is meditating on God. While he is talking to a person, only his mouth is functioning but his mind is somewhere else.

In your case you are the best judge. When you start to meditate, what happens? If your mind roams, then you have to be very careful. If your mind does not roam, if you know that you can hold the reins, then it is not at all obligatory to sit in the lotus posture while you meditate.

Question: It is said that if one can sit on the floor with his legs crossed for an hour or so completely quiet and peaceful, not thinking any thoughts, then energy will rise up the base of his spine. But this has never happened to me.

Sri Chinmoy: People say many things, books tell us many things, but the individual experience is of paramount importance. I am not saying that the books are telling you lies or that the people who have had this experience of energy are mistaken. No, they are right in their own assertion, in their own experiences. And what you are experiencing is also right for you.

But unfortunately you are making one mistake. If you feel that just by sitting cross-legged for fifteen minutes or half an hour you are going to develop inner energy or get higher experiences, then you are mistaken. There are many people in the Indian villages who can sit for hours cross-legged. But ask them if they have had any spiritual experiences and, if they are sincere enough, they will say no. There are many who have been practising asanas, physical postures, for many years without ever having had even one solitary experience. Why? It is not just the actual posture. It is not the pose or how you sit. It is the aspiration. If you have the capacity, you can even lie down and meditate. You can run and meditate.

Meditation has to come from deep within, like the cry of a child hungry for food. When the child is hungry, he cries desperately, and the mother comes running, whether she is in the kitchen or in the living room, to feed the child because she feels that the cry comes from the child's heart. If you feel the inner cry for God or if you feel that you need to develop this divine energy within you, then you are bound to develop it. This energy is bound to climb up.

So please do not worry about sitting in the strict lotus posture, padmasana. Just sit straight but relaxed. When you meditate, do not stiffen your body. Sometimes people do padmasana, this cross-legged lotus posture, but they bend forward or make their whole body very stiff. And when the body is stiff, naturally the divine qualities, the fulfilling qualities, which are flowing and streaming, will not be received. So when you sit cross-legged, if your body is rigid, then please immediately forget about your posture. Only try to sit straight but relaxed.

In your case, unfortunately, I can clearly see that your position is correct, but the thing that is actually needed in the lotus posture is missing. When you are sitting cross-legged and are breathing in, the whole body should consciously feel stream of divine Love flowing in and through it. Without Love there is no God, and there is no human existence either. You love yourself, you love God, you love your dearest and nearest ones and you love humanity as a whole. So first please try to bring to the fore God's Love aspect, and once you have established within yourself the Love aspect, then you will see all other aspects are bound to come. Love is the pioneer of all divine qualities. So when you cry for God, feel Love — immediate, spontaneous, unreserved, soulful Love. All the divine qualities of God are bound to follow this divine Love.

Question: Sometimes I like to meditate while I am lying down. Is this wrong?

Sri Chinmoy: I wish to tell you that that kind of meditation is not at all advisable for the beginner, nor even for those who have been meditating for several years. It is only for the most advanced disciples and for realised souls. Others who try to meditate while lying down will immediately enter into the world of sleep or into a kind of inner drift or doze. Furthermore, while you are lying down, your breathing is not as perfect as it is when you are in a sitting position, since it is not conscious or controlled.

Question: In our meditation, can we consciously invoke our soul? And if so, how?

Sri Chinmoy: In your meditation you can consciously invoke your soul and bring its presence to the fore. In fact, that is one of the fastest ways to realise God. But it all depends on how much benefit you want to get from the soul's presence. I am in front of you right now. You know that a God-realised man is in front of you. You are seeing me, and many other people are seeing me. If somebody has more aspiration than you, then naturally that person will get more benefit, more achievement, more fulfilment from my presence than you will. When you bring the soul to the fore, you make very fast progress if your aspiration is intense.

Now, if you know that when the soul comes forward you make faster progress, how can you bring the soul to the fore? This is the easiest way: when you start meditating, feel that you do not have the body, you do not have the vital, you do not have the mind, you do not have even the heart — you have only the soul. The only thing in your possession, the soul, is the most precious thing on earth.

Next, feel that the thing that you cherish most, treasure most, should become your whole life. Do not feel that you have to possess it; feel that you have to grow into it. When you are in a very deep meditative mood, all of you cherish me, your Guru. Why? Because you feel that your Guru has realised something, has achieved something. This is your first realisation. Your second realisation should be that it is not enough just to feel that I have realised something; you also have to grow into that realisation.

If you cry for the soul to come forward, and feel that you have to grow into the divinity of the soul, the soul will feel that you need it, and see that you want to become it. When your earthly desires have faded away, and only the heavenly aspirations remain in your life, at that time the soul is bound to come to the fore because it feels that you are ready to receive it.

Question: What is the best attitude to have when meditating with others?

Sri Chinmoy: First you have to know what kind of vibration you are getting while you are meditating with others. Here all of you are good meditators. You have been under my guidance, inwardly and outwardly, for a long time, so here nobody will pull anybody else down. When you are meditating with disciples of your standard, or disciples a little less advanced, you will not feel any resistance, because everyone knows how to meditate in his own way and everyone is meditating.

Try all the time to go up. And when you have gone up to some extent, feel that you are a bird with two wings. Now what will you do? Just come down and lift your brothers and sisters with your wings. Your wings are very powerful, so you come down and take your brothers and sisters up. While you are with nice people, who are also doing good meditation, this is the best attitude to take.

But suppose you meditate with another group. Then you will get a different vibration, a different experience. Suppose you feel that there are people with a lower standard of mediation beside you, people who don't know how to meditate, or who are enjoying vital thoughts, emotional thoughts, impure thoughts. They are sitting beside you trying to fool you, trying to make you believe that they are doing a wonderful meditation, but perhaps they are thinking of their boyfriends or girlfriends, or other emotional things, and you feel that a very ugly vibration is entering into you. At that time what will you do? You will go with your own aspiration to the Highest and then, when you have solid strength, you will try to protect yourself. Do not allow these people to enter into you, and you will not enter into them. If you want to enter into them, you will be caught: whatever you got during your meditation you will lose. And if you allow them to come into you, it is like allowing foreign elements to enter into you; they will enter into you and ruin you.

In the first group, there were no foreign elements; all the disciples there were only an extended part of your consciousness. If you wish to serve them, then with your own meditation go to the Highest and offer them good will through your heart and through your illumined mind. But do not enter into the physical plane to practise it. Do it from your inner good will. That good will itself has power. You go to the Highest and say, "These brothers and sisters are impure, they are not doing well. O Supreme, give them purity. If they have a little purity, they will sincerely aspire." That should be your prayer — to give them some purity so that they can have a better meditation. It has to be done this way.

Question: How may a disciple receive the maximum benefit during collective meditation in a group?

Sri Chinmoy: When you meditate with a group, feel that the seekers sitting together are not separate entities but only one entity. Do not think of each individual disciple. Feel that you are the only person meditating and you are entirely responsible for the meditation. Collective meditation is meditation with the feeling of inseparable oneness, absolute oneness. You are the only person meditating and you are the one who is watching yourself; there is nobody else. You are the observer and you are the seeker, not because of your ego, but because of your inseparable oneness.

Otherwise you may look to one side and think, "What have I done today that I cannot meditate as well as she?" Or, "Why do I have to meditate beside him? His consciousness is so low." Or, "Why did I come here? Let me go home and meditate." This way you will think that somebody is meditating better than you or that somebody is dragging you down and it is beneath your dignity to meditate with him. When you start meditating collectively, if you take everyone as your own, then you will have a good meditation. When all have entered into you, when everyone is flowing in you and through you, then you will get the maximum benefit.

I maintain perfect freedom

I maintain perfect freedom
In my prayer.
I pray only to my Lord Supreme.

I maintain perfect freedom
In my meditation.
I meditate only on my Liberator Supreme.

I maintain perfect freedom
In my love.
I love only my Beloved Supreme.

Up and down

Prayer goes up;
God the Compassion comes down.

Aspiration goes up;
God the Salvation comes down.

Meditation goes up;
God the Liberation comes down.

Surrender goes up;
God the Perfection comes down.

Part II — The hour for meditation

Question: When is the best time for meditation if you want something like peace, for example?

Sri Chinmoy: If you need peace, meditate early in the evening, between six and seven. Nature, as it offers its salutations to the setting sun, will inspire you, comfort you and help you.

If you need power, meditate at twelve noon. The blazing sun and the most dynamic hour of the day will help you.

If you need joy, meditate early in the morning between five and six. Mother Earth, with her sweetest love, will help you.

If you need patience, meditate in the evening. Meditate sitting at the foot of a tree. Meditate on the tree. Its sacrificing consciousness will help you.

If you need love, meditate at midnight at your own picture. Your Inner Pilot will help you.

If you need purity, meditate on your incoming breath and your outgoing breath early in the morning before you leave your bed. Your soul will help you.

Question: In your answer you said that the best time to meditate for power is at twelve noon. What if it is impossible for me to meditate at that time of day?

Sri Chinmoy: If you want specific divine qualities — peace, power, joy, etc. — then you should meditate at those particular hours I mentioned. But if you want divine power, the power that will give you inner strength to fight against ignorance, and you cannot meditate at noon, no harm. You can knock at God's Door at any hour of the day or night, and He will give you whatever you want. But at those particular hours that I mentioned, it is easier to knock at the Door. Everything has its own time. Early in the morning you eat a meal that you call breakfast. But if you prefer to eat breakfast food early in the evening, you can easily do so. It is nourishing food and you can eat it whenever you want.

Question: When is the best hour to meditate? Is six o'clock in the morning early enough, or is there a better time?

Sri Chinmoy: You can meditate at any time of the day, but some times are better than others. Early in the morning is the best time for meditation. At this time you are still in the world of dreams, the world of energising and fulfilling dreams from which reality will grow. Early in the morning, before the sun rises, the earth-consciousness is not yet agitated. The world has not yet entered into its daily turmoil. Nature is calm and quiet and she helps us to meditate. When nature is fast asleep around us, the animal in us, our undivine nature, also falls asleep. Outer nature and the animal propensities in us go together. That is why early morning is the time when our awakened, aspiring consciousness can and should meditate in order to get the best out of meditation.

At noon nature becomes restless and wild: then we do not get so much satisfaction from universal nature. Again, in the evening nature becomes quiet and peaceful. She is preparing to rest and she does not bother us; rather, she helps us do what we feel like doing. When we meditate in the evening, we can look at the setting sun. At that time, we should try to feel that we have become totally one with cosmic nature. We should feel that we have played our part during the day most satisfactorily and, like the sun, we are going to retire.

The very best time to meditate is between three and four o'clock in the morning. This is the Brahma Muhurta or Hour of God. In Indian tradition this is a most auspicious time for prayer and meditation. The Vedic seers came to discover that this is the very best time, for this is when all the cosmic gods meditate. This is when they start to perform their heavenly duties at the express command of the Supreme. At that divine hour, you too can begin your inner journey. No matter what your standard is, even if you are a complete beginner, you will encounter very little resistance if you meditate at this time. But the Westerner who goes to bed at twelve o'clock or one o'clock cannot expect to be able to meditate at three or four o'clock. If he wants to meditate at four o'clock, he should go to bed by nine the previous evening. For an aspirant who has just entered into the spiritual life, seven or eight hours of sleep is essential. If you start sleeping only three or four hours just to get up at four o'clock it will tell on your health. Spiritually you will derive no benefit and the body will stand as an obstacle to your inner progress. After you make some progress in the spiritual life, then gradually you can reduce your hours of sleep. When your physical starts receiving Light from Above, its need for sleep diminishes.

So if you cannot meditate at that hour, then the best time to meditate is as soon as possible after you get up, before you start your daily activities, but preferably before seven o'clock. Before the outer world attacks you or demands anything from you, you should enter into the inner world with the idea of fulfilling yourself. In this way, you are performing your inner duty before you start fulfilling your outer duty. You are feeding the Divine Child within you before you have to feed your physical children and take care of the members of your immediate family. If God comes first, then everything will go smoothly. If you can please the dearest in you, which is God, before you enter into your earthly activities, then naturally you are doing the right thing.

When the day dawns, you want to start your life with inspiration. If you lose inspiration in the morning, then it will be gone most of the day. To get inspiration, early in the morning, please offer your joy, love and gratitude to God, even if you have very little to offer; God will give you much more. He will make you feel that you are His true child and give you the feeling of inseparable divine oneness with Him. So if you can offer love, joy and gratitude early in the morning, then you can receive the best form of meditation.

Again, if you can't meditate in the morning, the second best time to meditate is in the evening, when you have come back from your office or wherever you work. You should take a shower and meditate, before you have eaten. But by far the best time to meditate is whenever you get up in the morning.

What it has

His concentration has give him
What it has: Power.
With Power he has changed
This lives of multitudes.

His meditation has give him
What it has: Love.
With Love he has changed
The face of humanity.

His contemplation has give him
What it has: Oneness.
With his Oneness he becomes man
The lover divine;
With his Oneness he becomes God
The Beloved Supreme.

Question: If I get up at three or four o'clock in the morning, is it bad for me to go back to sleep after my meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: No, it is not bad at all. But if you can continue meditating, that is infinitely better. If you are sleeping at 8:00 or 9:00 because you meditated at four, then your own vital forces or the aggression of the earth, which is agitated at this hour, will disturb your consciousness. This agitation from the earth's consciousness or from your own lower vital can enter into the results of the meditation which you had a few hours earlier at three or four o'clock. So if you do go to sleep after you meditate, the best thing is to get up at five or six o'clock.

Question: Is it important for seekers to meditate regularly at an appointed hour every day?

Sri Chinmoy: It helps to have a special time for meditation, especially at the beginning of one's spiritual journey, because the human mind is a very treacherous thing. Left to itself, the ignorant, obscure mind will try to prevent you from doing the spiritually correct thing. It will find many excuses to keep you from fulfilling your soul's wish. But if your aspiration is sincere and intense, the discipline of having a set time to meditate will help you fight against the lethargy and waywardness of the mind.

If God comes and knocks at your heart's door, at that time will you be fast asleep? You and He agreed to a certain hour, but when He comes you are fast asleep. In an ordinary case, the teacher won't excuse you. But here, fortunately, God is the teacher and He will forgive you. He will come every day. If you are not there tomorrow, again you will be forgiven. But you will not be able to excuse yourself. Your oneness with God will not allow you to forgive yourself. Your soul will create such pangs that you will feel miserable. Your soul's love for the Highest is very important to you. When your Eternal Friend is coming, the host wants to be ready much before the time.

For everything there is a specific time. There is a time for breakfast, a time for lunch and a time for supper. This regularity you maintain for your physical body. In the spiritual life also, the Divine Child within you needs to be fed with divine food. To feed the Divine Child you should have a specific time.

You cannot live on yesterday's food. Yesterday you ate; that is why you are strong. But today you have to eat again. In the spiritual life also, every day you have to eat. You feed the body three times a day, so why can't you feed the soul at least once a day? When you feed the body, you do not have or cannot have a most delicious meal each time. But if you want to you can have a most delicious meal at least once a day. Early in the morning, you can also have a most delicious spiritual meal, which you can offer to your soul.

Those who are not meditating regularly, please try to meditate regularly. Those who are meditating regularly, please try to meditate soulfully. From today on, try to increase the sincerity in your meditation. If you are regular and soulful, you will notice your own progress and the day will come when you become an expert. At that time, you will be able to meditate while you are driving a car, while doing office work, while you are working in the kitchen. At that time you don't need a fixed hour. Before one becomes a good dancer, one has to step carefully, but when one becomes a real expert, then the steps come automatically. Now there comes a time when you can meditate twenty-four hours a day even though you are working, talking to people, doing household activities and other things. But before that, please have a fixed time and also a fixed place. You should not meditate one day in the living room, the next day in the kitchen. No! Please meditate at one place and at a certain time. If you have a fixed time and place for meditation, God will be there at a particular hour waiting for you.

Now, if one day you have to miss your appointed hour, and if it is unavoidable, don't feel miserable. But do not let the hour go by out of inertia, or negligence, or out of the whimsical feeling that because you have meditated for a few days now you can take a short rest. This kind of idea must not be cherished at all.

When you are in a group, you will also try to meditate at a specific hour. In this case, of course, you are at the mercy of many people. But if you are strict with your own life, then your strictness will enter into others.

Question: How long should I meditate? Is fifteen or twenty minutes enough, or should I meditate longer?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on your capacity, on how much progress you have made inwardly. If you have the capacity to meditate sincerely and soulfully for half an hour or an hour, that is good. But if you do not have the capacity and you meditate for two hours or three hours, that will be foolishness and a sheer waste of time. The soul will not be there. During your meditation, if your mind is calm and quiet and you feel that you are getting inner joy and inner satisfaction, then your meditation is good. But if after fifteen or twenty minutes of pure meditation the doubting, suspecting and unlit mind starts functioning, then you should stop meditating. Likewise, if your mind becomes restless and you begin to think of your friends and relatives and other such things, at that time it is useless to go on. This kind of meditation will not be fruitful and will not give you any joy. You can start again later when everything is pure and fresh.

A muscle is developed by taking physical exercise. Meditation is an inner exercise; if you practise regularly, its power increases. When you take physical exercise daily, even if for only five minutes, you strengthen your muscles. Then, after a few months you can take exercise for half an hour, an hour or two hours at a time. Similarly, if you meditate soulfully each day, then there comes a time when you make progress.

It is not how many hours you meditate but how you meditate. If you can meditate soulfully and devotedly for fifteen minutes and sincerely cry for Peace, Light and Bliss, that is better than three hours of meditation without any life in it. When you meditate, if there is a living presence in it, then that is meditation. Otherwise it is no better than sleep or death.

But if you say, "No, I want to have the highest meditation so that in this incarnation I can realise God," then I wish to say that you have to spend quite a few hours each day in meditation. Five, ten or fifteen minutes of meditation will not do. No, you have to spend quite a few hours in the highest form of meditation if your goal is to realise the Highest.

Three suns

The outer sun shines bright
At the end of my morning prayer.

My inner sun conquers my ignorance
At the end of my morning meditation.

My God-sun embraces me
At the end of my morning service.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I shall get up
Early in the morning,
Since today I am dead-tired.

Tomorrow I shall meditate on God,
Since today my impure vital, jealous mind
And insecure heart
Are bothering me far beyond my
Tolerance-might.

Tomorrow I shall definitely love God,
Since today I feel a kind of inner obligation
To please my body, vital, mind and heart.
After all, they comprise my own poor little life.
But tomorrow without fail
I shall love God.

The inner and outer setting

Question: As far as physical surroundings are concerned, where is the best place to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: We have to be sensible when we choose a place to meditate. If we try to meditate in the street, a car will come and run us over. If we decide to meditate in the kitchen, what kind of meditation will we have there? There will be all kinds of noise, activity and smells to disturb us. Instead of meditating on God we will meditate on food.

We will get the best result from our meditation if we have a shrine in some quiet corner of our living room or bedroom. But while we are seated before our shrine, if we do not feel an inner shrine within our heart, we will not have a satisfactory meditation. Wherever we meditate, we must enter into the heart where we can see and feel the living shrine of the Supreme. At our inner shrine, it is all safety, all protection. We are guarded by divine forces there. If we can meditate at this inner shrine, we are bound to make the fastest progress, because there we will meet with no opposition. In the mind there is a constant battle raging. The mind is like Times Square on New Year's Eve; the heart is like a lonely cave in the Himalayas.

Question: Why do you use flowers and burn candles and incense when you meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: There are some people who say that it is not necessary to have flowers around us when we meditate. They say, "The flower is inside, the thousand-petalled lotus is inside." But this physical flower reminds us of purity, of divinity. When we look at the flower, we get a little inspiration. If we do not have any inspiration, we will not get up to pray and meditate. We will simply make friends with sleep. But the colour of a flower, its fragrance, its pure consciousness immediately give us a little inspiration. From inspiration we get aspiration, and from aspiration we get realisation.

It is the same with the flame from a candle. This will not in itself give us aspiration; it is the inner flame that will give us aspiration. But when we see the outer flame, then immediately we feel that the flame in our inner being is being kindled and is climbing high, higher, highest. And when we smell the scent of incense, we get perhaps only a little inspiration, a little purification, but this inspiration and purification can be added to our inner treasure.

Together stay, together play

The murmuring of the life-river dies
When it reaches the peace-ocean.

The functioning of the unlit mind ceases
When the soul embraces the mind.

The dancing of the heart begins
When meditation and dedication
Together stay,
Together play.

Question: In connection with your meditation, do you follow any dietary rules? For example, is it necessary to be a vegetarian in order to follow the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: The vegetarian diet plays a most important role in the spiritual life. Purity is of paramount importance for an aspirant. This purity we must establish in the physical, the vital and the mental. When we eat meat and fish, the aggressive, animal consciousness enters into us. Our nerves become agitated; they become restless and aggressive, and this can interfere with our meditation. But the mild qualities of fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, help us to establish, in our inner life as well as in our outer life, the qualities of sweetness, softness, simplicity and purity. So, if we are vegetarians, it helps our inner being to strengthen its own existence. Inwardly, we are praying and meditating; outwardly, the food we are taking from Mother Earth is helping us too, giving us not only energy but also aspiration.

There are some parts of the world where it is exceptionally cold and people living there find it impossible to live on vegetables alone. What can they do? They must eat meat. Or there are some sincere seekers whose physical constitutions are very weak. From the beginning of their lives, they have been eating meat, and now they have formed such a habit — such a bad habit, you can say — that without meat they cannot manage even for a day. On the one hand, they have sincere aspiration, but on the other hand, their bodies revolt. In such rare cases, these aspirants should also eat meat.

Many spiritual seekers have come to the conclusion that a vegetarian is in a position to make quick progress in the spiritual life. But along with a vegetarian diet, one must pray and meditate. Millions of people on earth are vegetarians, but there are not millions of God-realised souls on earth by any means. In India, widows are forbidden to eat meat. Now, in spite of my deepest love and respect for Indian widows, I am afraid that they are not all God-realised souls. For God-realisation one needs aspiration, inner cry. If one has aspiration, the vegetarian diet furthers one's progress, since the body's purity helps one's inner aspiration to become more intense and more soulful. But again, if one is not a vegetarian, that does not mean he will not realise God. Far from it. Christ, Vivekananda and many other spiritual Masters ate meat, and they realised God.

Question: Does meditation require fasting or can you do it after eating?

Sri Chinmoy: If you want to have a deep meditation, a meditation of the highest order, you should not try to meditate just after eating a large meal. We have thousands of subtle nerves, spiritual nerves in our bodies. These nerves become heavy after a big meal and will not permit us to have the highest type of meditation. So it is always advisable to meditate on an empty stomach. If you want to have a most successful meditation, you should wait for at least an hour and a half or two hours after having a meal. But if you are really pinched with hunger when you go to meditate, your meditation will not be satisfactory. Your hunger, like a monkey, will constantly pinch you. You have to feed the monkey to quiet him for a few minutes. It is advisable at that time to have just a glass of milk or juice before meditating. This will not ruin your meditation.

And if you have meditated properly for half an hour or an hour, wait for at least fifteen minutes or a half hour before having a meal, because the result of the meditation should be assimilated before you enter into the world of food. During that half hour, you can move around or read if you like. You may take a very small quantity of milk, soup or juice, but do not immediately eat a full meal. If you want to make a choice between meditation before the meal or after the meal, I always advise the seeker to meditate before the meal. Meditate for half an hour or so, then take fifteen minutes rest, and then eat. In that way the result of the meditation will be assimilated. But if you want to meditate after eating, even if you take an hour and a half rest, sometimes a lethargic consciousness will stand in the way of your highest meditation.

But fasting, as you use the term, is not necessary for God-realisation. The Buddha tried that method. He adopted an austere life but found that it was of no use, so he embraced the middle path. By fasting we can purify ourselves to some extent. Once a week, or once a month, we can fast to purify our existence of outer aggressions and greed. But by fasting every day we approach death rather than God, who is All-Life. Fasting is not the answer. The answer is constant meditation, soulful meditation, unreserved love for God and unconditional surrender to God.

Question: Would you speak a little about proper breathing in meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: If you are a beginner and want to breathe correctly, you should sit with your spinal cord erect. Now, while breathing, you have to think first of purity. Another thing can be done to further develop this sense of purity in the breath. For a few minutes, try to imagine a flower or a candle flame or incense — something that represents purity — right in front of your nose. This will automatically give you a sense of purity and convince the physical mind. When you breathe in, if you feel consciously or unconsciously that the breath is coming directly from God, from Purity itself, then the breath can be purified.

When you breathe in, try to breathe in as slowly and quietly as possible, so that if somebody placed a tiny thread in front of your nose, it would not move at all. And when you breathe out, try to breathe out even more slowly than when you breathed in. If possible, leave a short pause between the end of your exhalation and the beginning of your inhalation. If you can, hold your breath for a few seconds. But if it is difficult, do not do it. Never do anything that will harm your organs or respiratory system.

Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body Peace, infinite Peace. Now what is the opposite of Peace? Restlessness. When you breathe out, please try to feel that you are expelling the restlessness of your inner and outer body, and the restlessness that you see all around you. When you breathe this way, you will find restlessness leaving you. After practising this a few times, please try to feel that you are breathing in Strength and Power from the universe, the cosmos. And when you exhale, try to expel your fear. When you breathe out, all your fear will come out of your body. After doing this a few times, try to feel that what you are breathing in is Joy, infinite joy, and what you are breathing out is sorrow, suffering and melancholy.

Another thing you can try when you breathe in is to feel that you are breathing in not air, but cosmic energy. Feel that tremendous cosmic energy is entering into you with each breath, and that you are going to use it to purify yourself: your body, vital, mind and heart. Feel that there is not a single place in your body that has not been occupied by the flow of cosmic energy. It is flowing like a river inside you. When you feel that your whole being has been washed or purified by the cosmic energy, then feel that you are breathing out all the rubbish inside you, all the undivine thoughts, impure actions, obscure ideas. Anything inside your system that you call undivine, anything that you do not want to claim as your own, feel that you are exhaling it.

This is not the traditional yogic Pranayama, which is more complicated and systematised. But what I have just told you is the most effective spiritual method of breathing. If you practise this method of breathing, you will soon see that what you are doing is not imagination; it is reality. In the beginning you have to use your imagination, but after a while you will see and feel that it is not imagination at all, but reality. You are consciously breathing in the energy which is flowing all around you in the cosmos, purifying yourself, and emptying yourself of everything undivine. But this breathing has to be done in a very conscious way, not in a mechanical way. If you can breathe this way for five minutes every day, you will be able to make very fast progress.

When you reach a more advanced stage, when you breathe do not feel that your breath is coming and going only through your nose. Feel that you are breathing in through your heart, through your eyes, through your nose, through your pores. Now you are limited to breathing only through the nose or the mouth, but a time will come when you will know that any part of the body can breathe. Spiritual Masters can breathe even with their nose and mouth closed. When you have perfected this spiritual breathing, you will feel that all your impurity and ignorance is gone. What has come to replace your ignorance and your imperfection is God's Light, God's Peace and God's Power.

When I pray, when I meditate

When I pray
God embraces
My crying heart,
My surrendering heart,
My dreaming heart.

When I meditate
God blesses my life,
God caresses my soul,
God reveals my Goal.

Editor's preface to the first edition

This book is the first of two-volume series of Sri Chinmoy's answers to questions concerning meditation. The volume focuses mainly on techniques of meditation and is therefore a great boon to sincere seekers who are taking their first steps along the path.

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This book series can be cited using cite-key mrg-1