The ancient art of Meditation
The Sri Chinmoy Centre offers free introductory meditation classes to the general public; over the past twenty years, thousands of people have come to our classes and learned how to still their minds and center themselves through meditation.
We regularly give free introductory courses in Dublin, and now and then in Cork and Galway. If you can't get to those classes, it still might be worth getting in touch with us on our contact form, as we can definitely travel if there are enough people to hold a class.
Contents of this page:
Questions on Meditation
Frequently asked questions on meditation, answered by Sri Chinmoy.
Sri Chinmoy: Meditation means conscious self-expansion. Meditation means one's conscious awareness of the transcendental Reality. Meditation means the recognition or the discovery of one's own true self. It is through meditation that we transcend limitation, bondage and imperfection. First we face limitations, imperfections and bondage, then we transform them, and afterwards we transcend them.
True meditation can never be done with the mind. Very often we make a mistake when we say that we are meditating in the mind and utilising the mind. Real meditation is done in the psychic being and in the soul. It goes hand in hand with flaming aspiration, the burning flame that wants to climb up to the Highest.
Question: How do I begin meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: First of all, you have to study a few spiritual books to get inspiration. These should be written by real spiritual Masters and not by fake spiritual teachers or by aspirants who are still on the path and have not yet attained illumination. Spiritual books and scriptures will tell you how to physically and mentally discipline your life to some extent. You can take the help of these books for a few days or a few months.
Then you will realise that your book-knowledge of meditation is not enough. You will want to have the solid experience of genuine meditation. Now, each person has to have a meditation of his own. If you want to go to the end of the road and reach your inner Goal, then you should have the true meditation of your soul. This meditation will help you reach the destined Goal. You will need a spiritual teacher, a Master who can give you a meditation according to your soul's qualities. The Master can tell the seeker inwardly about his meditation by asking the soul to come to the fore and telling him through his soul how to meditate, or the Master can tell him personally when he sees him. If a spiritual Master gives a meditation, then that meditation is undoubtedly the best that the aspirant can ever have.
If you don't have a Master, you should go deep within and get your meditation from the inmost recesses of your heart. The meditation that gives you immediate joy or continuous joy is the best meditation for you. Everyone will not have the same meditation. Your meditation will not suit me, my meditation will not suit you. You like a certain food, I don't like it. You are right in your own way I am right in my own way. But once you know what your best meditation is, please stick to it. In your mind or in your aspiring being, try to formulate a few meditations. Today you can try one way of meditation, then you can try another way of meditation tomorrow. If you have seven types of meditation, you can try one each day. At the end of one week the one that has given you most satisfaction or abiding joy is your best meditation.
Start with concentration
I always recommend that one should practise concentration; otherwise, meditation will never be fruitful. When we sit for meditation, millions of thoughts and ideas will enter into our mind and disturb us. We should practise concentration for a couple of minutes and then enter into meditation. For some seekers who have been practising concentration and meditation for a long time, concentration is no longer necessary; they can immediately enter into meditation. To have a calm and quiet mind is not easy. It is most difficult. It can be done only by the Grace of God and through the most sincere aspiration. If one has inner cry and if God's Grace descends, then only can proper meditation be practised and achieved. 1
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. 2
Question: How do we tell if we are meditating properly and not having a mental hallucination?
Sri Chinmoy: If you are meditating properly you will get joy, inner joy. It is not a self-complacent feeling, but a spontaneous inner joy. Nobody has given you good news, nobody has brought you any gift, nobody has appreciated or admired you, nobody has done anything for you. But you are getting inner joy, an inner feeling of delight. If this happens, then easily you can know that you are meditating properly.
If it is a real meditation, a sublime meditation, then you are bound to feel peace within and without. But if it is mental hallucination, you will feel that peace is within and restlessness is without. You are yearning for Peace, Light and Bliss, but outwardly you feel a volcanic turbulence. But if it is a soulful meditation, you will feel inner joy: you will feel your eternal existence. You are of Eternity and for Eternity. This conception of your own eternal reality you cannot get from mental hallucination.
Everything depends on your sincerity. All sincere efforts will eventually be crowned with success. You are aiming at the highest Reality, but are you sincere? It is your sincerity that ultimately determines your success and progress. If a seeker has conscious and constant sincerity, then he is bound to have a most soulful, sublime meditation. 3
Question: Sometimes I don't have the inspiration to meditate. How can I create it again?
Sri Chinmoy: Think of the time when you had your highest meditation, three months ago, or yesterday, or this very morning. Just imagine it, and try to enter into it. After a while, imagination will grow into reality, and you will enter into deep meditation.
Question: I was really inspired to meditate for five or six days, and then I woke up one morning and did not have the feeling that I wanted to practice my meditation. What can I do to spark myself without having to force things?
Sri Chinmoy: You said that for five or six days your aspiration lasts, then it disappears, and even if you try to meditate it does not come. But continue! Sometimes you don't feel like eating, but you know that the body needs food. So you still eat every day. It is a natural habit, the body's demand. So even if you cannot meditate properly or have your best meditation every day, you should not be worried.
In order to maintain the same level of meditation, you have to be very spiritually advanced. I am not throwing cold water on you; far from it. I wish to say that in the beginning you should be happy if just at times you get very good, very high, sublime meditation. When you don't have a good meditation, don't allow yourself to become a victim to frustration. If you get frustrated, you are losing your capacity to an even greater extent. Then on the following day, at that time also, it will be impossible for you to meditate deeply.
If you don't have a good meditation today, then try to forget about it. Tomorrow if you have a meditation that is a little better, try to remember it. The past is dust. The past has not given you realisation; that's why you are still praying and meditating. So why should you think of the past? You have to forget all that did not inspire you or encourage you to go farther. So if today's meditation does not inspire you or has not given you most satisfactory results, try to forget it altogether. You have aspiration and then you lose it. Then you cry for it, but you may not get the same aspiration back again. But here you have to realise that you are not an expert in meditation. Now your meditation is at the mercy of your inspiration or aspiration. When you are inspired, you have aspiration and you are ready to meditate. But this aspiration, this inner urge, will last only for a day or a few weeks and then it disappears. But when you become an expert, meditation will be at your command.
How can we become expert in anything? If we want to be a singer or a poet or a dancer, we have to practise daily. It is the same with meditation. When we practise meditation daily, there comes a time when it becomes spontaneous. If we regularly meditate once or twice a day, then we develop a kind of inner habit. Eating every day is an outer habit. If we did not eat, we could not exist on earth. Similarly, if we do not feed the soul, our inner being, every day, then the soul or the aspirant in us starves. And what happens then? We cannot reveal, we cannot manifest our own divinity.
If you meditate regularly for five months, six months, or a year or two, then automatically meditation will become spontaneous and natural. After a while, at such and such an hour, you will feel compelled to meditate. You will feel that meditation is your soul's necessity and the inner urge to meditate will never be able to leave you. It will always inspire you and energise you. Early every morning when it is time for your meditation, your inner being will come and knock at your heart's door. 4
A selection of exercises suggested by Sri Chinmoy over the years
Question: How can I purify my mind so that I can have a good meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: In your case, the best thing to do is to feel every day for a few minutes that you have no mind. Say, "I have no mind, I have no mind. What I have is the heart." Then after some time, say, "No, I don't have the heart. What I have is the soul."
When you say, "I have no mind", this does not mean that you are becoming an animal again. Far from it. You are only saying, "I don't care for this mind, which is bringing me so much impurity and torturing me so much." When you say, "I have the heart", you feel that the heart has some purity. But when you say, "I have the soul", you are flooded with purity. Then, after some time, you have to go deeper and farther and not only say, "I have the soul", but also "I am the soul." The moment you say, "I am the soul", and you meditate on this truth, at that time your soul's infinite purity will come up and enter into the heart. Then from the heart, the infinite purity will enter into the mind. In this way you will purify your mind and your heart and you will have a wonderful meditation every day. 5
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. 6
Mantras for meditation
A selection of mantras that are especially suitable for beginners.
Audio on left: An arrangement of the ancient mantra invoking the inconquerable soul Aum aparajitaya namah (I bow to the one who never accepts defeat) put to music by Sri Chinmoy.
These arrangements were created by the Ananda music group from the UK and Ireland. All mantras and music downloadable at Radio Sri Chinmoy.
Meditation music - free to download
Note: the 'more' links below take you to the Radio Sri Chinmoy site, which hosts a large collection of meditative music by Sri Chinmoy and his students that you cal freely listen to and download.
Sri Chinmoy's songs and music
Arrangements by Sri Chinmoy's students
Recordings from some of our more popular groups that give concerts around the world
Meditative aphorisms from Sri Chinmoy's book The Jewels of Happiness. 7
Some wonderful resources on beginning and maintaining a meditation practice can be found on the main Sri Chinmoy Centre site.
- 1. Excerpt from Meditation: God Speaks And I Listen, Part 1 by Sri Chinmoy.
- 2. Excerpt from Meditation: Humanity's Race And Divinity's Grace, Part 1 by Sri Chinmoy.
- 3. excerpt from The Meditation World by Sri Chinmoy
- 4. Excerpts from Meditation: God's Blessing-Assurance by Sri Chinmoy.
- 5. Excerpt from Meditation: God's Blessing-Assurance by Sri Chinmoy.
- 6. Excerpt from Meditation: Humanity's Race And Divinity's Grace, Part 1 by Sri Chinmoy
- 7. Video source: Sri Chinmoy TV