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.
Excerpt from Meditation: Humanity's Race And Divinity's Grace, Part 1 by Sri Chinmoy.