Sri Chinmoy:We meditate because this world of ours has not been able to fulfil us. The so-called peace that we feel in our day-to-day life is five minutes of peace after ten hours of anxiety, worry and frustration. We are constantly at the mercy of the negative forces that are all around us: jealousy, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety and despair. It is only through meditation that we can get lasting peace. If we meditate in the morning and receive peace for only ONE minute, that one minute of peace will permeate our whole day.
If we feel that we are satisfied with what we have and what we are, then there is no need for us to enter into the field of meditation. The reason we enter into meditation is because we have an inner hunger. We feel that within us is something luminous, something vast, something divine.
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.
Question: Could you please speak about music?
Sri Chinmoy: Music and spirituality go together. God Himself is the Supreme Musician and each human being is a note in His cosmic Game. God is playing His cosmic Role in mankind through music. Music and God cannot be separated. The one who creates music everywhere and at every moment is God. Music is the language of God. It is not like mathematics or geometry. It is a language of love.
Everybody on earth is a musician and a singer. A singer does not have to carry a note perfectly. If we love music, that is enough. If we love music, we do not need to know the proper techniques and so on. Otherwise, if we do not love something most sincerely, most intensely, then no matter how many years we spend practicing, we will just learn the techniques and after a few years we may forget them.
When somebody is singing or playing music, it is very easy for us to identify with it because we are on the same level. Music is a universal language. We do not need any other language. God has created a universal language, and that is music. Because it is universal, it has to be inside any material object. The universe itself is music. Unfortunately, most of the time we do not hear the music of the universe. We hear only the air conditioner or some outer noises. But if we can enter into the inner existence of the air conditioner, we will hear music. When we talk, even inside the talking, there is music. In everything, if we can become aware of it, there is music. Everything in God’s creation embodies music. We can hear it only when we dive deep within.
Music keeps us alive. The sweetness and the haunting quality of music teaches us how to behave properly. Our inner music does not allow us to create disharmony. Music gives us the feeling of sweetness, tenderness and softness. The inner music always inspires us to do something good for humanity. Our inner music is a form of prayer and meditation.
When we play soulful music, we elevate our consciousness most rapidly. Soulful music is a form of aspiration, a form of meditation. But if we play undivine music, then it destroys our aspiring consciousness. This music comes from the gross physical or the lower vital. Undivine music tries to awaken our lower vital consciousness and throw us into a world of excitement. But soulful and spiritual music really helps us; it feeds our inner life. Divine music immediately elevates our consciousness, whereas undivine music immediately lowers our consciousness and tries to destroy our sincere inner cry for a better spiritual life.
Music has to play a most important role in bringing about world oneness, for music is the connecting link between the One and the many and between the many and the One. Music transcends the barriers of nations, nationalities and religions. Music—soulful, spiritual music—will play a most important role in bringing about world oneness, for music embodies the universal Heart, the universal Light and the universal Truth.
How the regular practice of meditation will help your life.
Our health is founded upon a relationship between body, mind and spirit – and the wellness of each part – and the physical body itself is only one component in the overall equation of well-being. This principle of holistics recognises that a stress free and happy mind and a blossoming spiritual life are major factors in our physical health. Just as stress and negative emotions silently erode our life force, so too the practice of meditation releases a new and positive life force – borne of inspiration, happiness, peace – into every part of our existence, creating the optimum conditions for vitality and health. With meditation even our sleep pattern can change – an improvement in quality, a likely reduction in quantity. More time and energy to live our lives!
Everything Starts Within
The way we feel and function in our outer life is determined to a very great extent by our inner life – our happiness, our confidence, our moods, our consciousness. We often have little power to change events in the outer world, but we can change the way we react to them. When we are happy and calm, difficulties and problems are easily coped with – when we are anxious or unhappy, the same difficulties can become nightmares. Our whole experience of life is coloured by our own consciousness – our life is the creation of our minds! Meditation balances the inner and outer worlds and brings out the bright colours of our nature – joyfulness, serenity, loving kindness, strength. These emerging positive qualities reshape our very experience of life, for everything starts within.
The ‘Inner Pilot’
The writings of all the great sages and pathfinders over the centuries share many recurring ideas and truths – one of these is a belief in the wisdom and beauty of the human soul. Sri Chinmoy describes the soul as our ‘inner pilot’ – it is our highest Self, our truest Self, our in-house life guide. The more we listen to our soul, the more our outer life will flourish and prosper – and it is in the silence and stillness of meditation that the wisdom of the soul can most easily be felt and experienced. In everything of life – decision-making, problem solving, the search for fulfillment and purpose – the inner pilot is there to show us the way and we can learn to access it through our deepening practice.
The Soul’s Special Promise
The great sages also tell us that each soul is unique and has something very special to accomplish on earth. It is by listening to our ‘inner pilot’ that we begin to feel and understand what our life’s deeper purpose is and then our outer life becomes increasingly in harmony with this knowledge. The discovery and fulfillment of the soul’s special promise brings us great happiness.
Power of mind
The many techniques employed in learning meditation share a common theme – harnessing and concentrating the power of the mind. By-products and benefits of this effort are numerous – an ability to focus and concentrate quickly, enhanced memory, a stillness in the meditating mind which enables us to access deeper, intuitive, creative and inspirational parts of our being.
Power of Heart
Sri Chinmoy places great emphasis on the spiritual heart in our quest for happiness, for it houses many of our most powerful spiritual qualities. A widening, deepening capacity for love; compassion for others; a oneness with all of life; inner wisdom; a desireless happiness, like the fragrance of an inner flower, spreading out into our life – a treasure trove waiting to be discovered! The heart is an egoless, unhorizoned consciousness and living ‘in the heart’ is one of the secrets of real happiness. One of the principle forms of yoga – bhakti yoga – is centered in the spiritual heart as well. Here, the power of devotional love is directed out to God and sees divinity in all things.
A Peaceful Life
Meditation will make you a very peaceful person. This peace comes about through a growing self-acceptance and self-confidence, and through an inner poise that comes from a deeper part of our being. This peace is not something passive and fragile – it is very powerful and dynamic. This kind of inner peace will lift you above success, failure, the positives and negatives of life – it leaves in us an adamantine poise and a sense of calm detachment in the face of life’s changing fortunes and tribulations. People who have developed inner peace are very powerful.
Meditation is the awakening to our true nature, a spiritual path to enlightenment, self-realisation, oneness with God. This is why one should always feel gratitude for the impulse to meditate – we have consciously begun the great journey of awakening that lies at the very heart of all human life.
Janaka is a writer and poet, born in Glasgow and currently writer-in-residence at Aberdeen University. He writes novels, short stories, plays and poetry. His first collection of short stories It’s Colours They are Fine was published in 1977 and his most recent novel is Seasons of the Heart. Janaka is a member of the Edinburgh Sri Chinmoy Centre
Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling
The nice thing about being up early in the morning is the stillness, the silence. The hustle of the day hasn’t really started, and it’s a good time to just sit, quiet and meditate.
My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy – a man I’ve known for over 30 years – expresses it beautifully:
Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling. Silence is the eloquent expression of the inexpressible.
The key word here is energising. That quiet place inside us is a source of tremendous strength.
When we meditate what we actually do is enter into the deeper part of our being. Meditation is like going to the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface, there may be a multitude of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths it is all silence.
To enter into that place, now, first thing, is to tap that strength inside us, let it sustain us through the day.
When the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the earthly turmoils will just wash away.
Just take a moment, to breathe. Breathe slowly and evenly. Use your imagination, feel you’re breathing out all the rubbish you want to let go of. Feel you are breathing in pure energy.
Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling.
Sri Chinmoy tells a story about a pious man who studies the scriptures devotedly, and likes to discuss philosophy with a scholar who comes to visit him. They earnestly discuss the path to spiritual liberation, but deep in his heart, the man knows this endless talk is not bringing him any closer to attaining his goal. Now, it happens that the man has a little caged bird in his room, and he likes to hear it sing. But one morning he notices the bird is not singing at all, it has fallen completely silent. He speaks to the bird, tries to coax it, but it makes not a sound. Eventually the man opens the cage door and the bird, in an instant, escapes, flies out of the cage, through the open window of the room, and soars into the infinite freedom of the sky.
The bird taught his master an important spiritual lesson. Silence liberates!
We can talk endlessly, argue, discuss, debate. But the real truth of things, we discover in silence. Eventually we have to hush the mind and its chatter, discover that vastness in our hearts and soar into it.
That image of the bird in flight, going beyond the mundane, is at the heart of one of Sri Chinmoy’s devotional songs:
Bird of my heart,
Fly on, fly on.
Look not behind.
What the world offers
Is meaningless, useless
And utterly false.
Bird of my heart,
And it recurs in one of his simple, beautiful, mantric poems:
My Lord, a tiny bird
Claims the vast sky.
Similarly the finite in me
Longs to claim
Your Infinite Absolute.
Silence liberates. Meditation speaks
Some years ago I edited a little collection of writings on meditation by my teacher, Sri Chinmoy. I called it The Silent Teaching. I wrote in the introduction that the title might seem strange, even paradoxical. To the mind accustomed to regard teaching as instruction, or practical demonstration, the notion that such a process can be silent, wordless, might be difficult.
But in discussing meditation, we are moving in a realm where, traditionally, truth is communicated directly, in silence, by a look, a gesture, a touch.
One of the best-known examples is Buddha’s Flower Sermon. The Buddha came to address a large gathering and his lecture consisted of holding up a flower! One of his followers, Maha Kashapa, responded by smiling, and Buddha said in that moment the disciple had received everything. The teaching is not conveyed in words, he said, but in silence.
Sri Chinmoy expresses the same truth: All real spiritual teachers teach in silence.
But beyond that again, he realises our own ‘real teacher’ is deep within.
Your mind has a flood of questions. There is but one teacher who can answer them. Who is the teacher? Your silence-loving heart.
This ‘silence-loving heart’ is receptivity itself. It is our capacity to be still, be open, and simply listen. The mind has all the questions. The heart has, and is, the answer.
Meditation speaks. It speaks in silence. It reveals that our life is Eternity itself.
The blossoming of our indomitable inner will
I’ve been talking a lot about silence. (And that’s a typical paradox in itself – talking about silence!) But clearly there are different levels and qualities of silence.
There is an Indian story about four monks who decide, as a form of spiritual discipline, to maintain a day of silence. That way they can be more focussed and concentrated, not waste their energy on smalltalk or get into useless arguments.
Well, everything goes well throughout the day. They go about their tasks feeling very virtuous and showing each other great respect. Then towards evening, it starts to get dark, and one of the monks, who is busy preparing food, says “Somebody should light the lamp”. The second monk turns to him and says, “You spoke!” The third monk says, “Will you two shut up!” And the fourth monk says, “Now I’m the only one who hasn’t broken the vow of silence!”
Maintaining even an outer silence – keeping our mouths shut – is more difficult than we might imagine. Much more difficult is maintaining an inner silence – the absence of thought. (Just try not thinking about anything for a minute!)
Yet, as my teacher Sri Chinmoy says, there are deeper levels again. He talks about the outer silence and the inner silence, then about the inmost silence.
This silence is not just the absence of sound. It is not even the absence of thought. It is the blossoming of our indomitable inner will.
It is that dynamic quality which characterises true meditation:
Beyond speech and mind,
Into the river of ever-effulgent Light
My heart dives.
Today thousands of doors
Closed for millennia
Are opened wide.
Meditation is not an escape exercise
Recently I went to a performance by American artist Laurie Anderson. In the middle of the show she made a point about silence. She stood quite still, centre-stage, held total silence for a couple of minutes. The silence was fairly comfortable – this was a sophisticated audience, we knew our minimalism, our John Cage – this was one of those silences, right? Then she made the point that when that happened on radio, or even worse, on TV, it was cause for panic. Dead air! The void had to be filled!
Socially too – round a dinner table say – if a silence falls there’s a nervousness, a clearing of throats, before someone kicks in with ‘Say… I, uh… saw this show on TV…’ In such situations, there’s a fear of silence, an embarrassment, a sense of feeling exposed.
And it’s true, I think, at a deeper level, that silence is something we fear. Dead air. Fill the space. Switch on the TV. Plug in the headphones. Shout down the mobile phone. Anything rather than face the emptiness, for that would mean facing ourselves.
Meditation is that very act of facing ourselves, accepting the silence.
Sri Chinmoy writes:
Meditation is not an escape exercise… The seeker who meditates is a divine warrior who faces suffering, ignorance and darkness and tries to establish the kingdom of wisdom-light.
And with perseverance, we reach the depths of our being, our true self.
When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul.
The eternal Now is the only reality
At the start, I quoted from my teacher Sri Chinmoy, talking about meditation as a diving deep within. Here is another passage where he expands on that idea:
How do we meditate silently? Just by not talking, just by not using words, we are not doing silent meditation. Silent meditation is totally different. When we start meditating in silence, we feel the bottom of a sea within us and without. The life of activity, movement and restlessness is on the surface, but deep below, underneath our human life, there is poise and silence. We imagine this sea of silence within us, or we feel that we are nothing but a sea of poise itself.
And the ideal is to carry this poise into everyday life. The spiritual life is one of balance – silence at the heart of action, but also dynamism at the heart of silent meditation.
Sri Chinmoy once described the difference between prayer and meditation as follows: ‘When I pray, I talk and God listens. When I meditate, God talks and I listen’.
Meditation is that listening, attentively and in silence, to the voice of the Absolute within us.
There is a special way to listen to the Voice of God, and that is to meditate in silence. Then there is no tomorrow, there is no such thing even as today. It is all now. The eternal Now is the only reality.
All of our events are inspired by Meditation Master Sri Chinmoy