Question: What is the difference between prayer and meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: The difference between prayer and meditation is this: when we pray, we feel that our existence is a one-pointed flame soaring upward. When we meditate, we throw ourselves into a vast expanse, into an infinite sea of peace, or we welcome the infinite Vast into us. When we pray, we talk and God listens. When we meditate, God talks and we listen. When we pray, we go up to God; when we meditate, God comes down to us. Ultimately they are the same.
The highest prayer was uttered by the Saviour Christ: “Let Thy Will be done.” This prayer is also the beginning of meditation. When prayer stops its journey, meditation begins.
Meditation is like going to the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface of the sea there may be a multitude of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths, the sea is all silent. When we start meditating, first we try to reach our own true existence—that is to say, the bottom of the sea. Then, when the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the earthly turmoils just wash away, because inside us is solid peace. Thoughts cannot touch us, because our mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. This is meditation.
Sometimes I must be silent,
For that is the only way
To know a little better, to think a little wiser,
To become a little more perfect.
Question: Is meditation practical in terms of helping us to lead a better life?
Sri Chinmoy: We say somebody is practical when he does the right thing at the right moment, so that his outer life runs smoothly. But no matter how clever we are, how conscious we are, at times we are at a loss in the outer life. We do not know what to say or do. Or, despite our saying and doing the right thing, everything goes wrong. We sincerely want to do something or become something, but we cannot do it.
Why does this happen? It happens because our outer capacity is always bound by our inner awareness. We always grow from within, not from without. It is from the seed under the ground that a plant grows, not vice versa. The inner life constantly carries the message of Truth. This inner Truth is the seed. No matter how many hours we work, or talk, or do anything in the outer world, we will not approach the Truth. But if we meditate first, and afterward act and speak, then we are doing the practical thing.
The inner practicality must guide the outer life, not the other way around. The life-breath of the outer life has to come from the inner life. If we are brave enough to enter into the inner life, we will see that the inner world is practical, real and natural. Love, light, peace and joy are divinely normal. If we bring forward what the inner world can offer, then the outer world will also become divinely normal, practical and fulfilling.
Yesterday I was clever.
That is why I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise.
That is why I am changing myself.
Question: Is proper breathing important in meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: Proper breathing is very important in meditation. When breathing in, try to breathe as slowly and quietly as possible, so that if someone placed a tiny thread in front of your nose, it would not move at all. And when you breathe out, try to do so even more slowly. If possible, leave a short pause between the end of your exhalation and the beginning of your inhalation. But if it is difficult, do not do it.
Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body peace, infinite peace. When you breathe out, feel that you are expelling the restlessness within you and all around you. After practising this a few times, please try to feel that you are breathing in power from the universe. And when you exhale, feel that all your fear is coming 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.
There is another thing that you can also try. Feel that you are breathing in not air but cosmic energy. Feel it flowing like a river inside you, washing and purifying your whole being. Then when you breathe out, feel that you are exhaling all your negative thoughts and impure actions. Anything inside you that you do not want, feel that you are exhaling. This is a most effective method of breathing. If you practice it, you will soon see its results in your meditation.