Meditation and contemplation. What is the difference between meditation and contemplation? This is best understood when we have attempted both ourselves. But still by reading we may better ask ourselves whether we have ever done what is described here.
Yesterday we read what Sri Aurobindo says about meditation. I told you the next paragraph tells us about contemplation. But let us revise first what we have done yesterday and then we should contrast that with contemplation.
“The first step in concentration must be always to accustom the discursive mind to a settled unwavering pursuit of a single course of connected thought on a single subject and this it must do undistracted by all lures and alien calls on its attention. Such concentration is common enough in our ordinary life…” (p. 308) Very often when we see a film such concentration is available. When you see a good film you don’t like anybody to disturb, you don’t want any other call, you want to be settled on the subject that is important for you. So, it is common enough, “but it becomes more difficult when we have to do it inwardly without any outward object or action on which to keep the mind; yet this inward concentration is what the seeker of knowledge must effect.”
There is a footnote that Sri Aurobindo has written: “In the elementary stages of internal debate and judgment, vitarka and vicara, for the correction of false ideas and arrival at the intellectual truth.” This kind of concentration in which –– for example what we are doing now although our eyes are opened and we are talking inward–outward it can be used as the first stage of meditation. Because we are concentrated now upon one fixed subject and that subject is a subject connected with your internal being. It is not a subject regarding what happens here or what happens there, it is concerning the inner understanding. Your object is an internal thought. Meditation is an internal process and we are now discussing that internal process. So, we might say that what we are doing now is already a kind of meditation, the first stage of meditation. In that, some debate also is possible. If there is a judgement that is going on in the mind it is possible as a starting point although ultimately debate must stop and even judgement must stop. But in the beginning even this process is also permissible. But this inward concentration must be effected. It is the first point. Every person who really wants to meditate should arrive at this point: inward concentration, a concentration upon something that is inner. Something that is inward in our being should be the object on which our idea should be fixed.
Then the second condition that is described is not “Nor must it be merely the consecutive thought of the intellectual thinker…” As I said in the first place, debate is allowed, judgement is allowed. But now it must not merely that process. We must go beyond it. It must not “be merely the consecutive thought of the intellectual thinker, whose only object is to conceive and intellectually link together his conceptions. It is not, except perhaps at first, a process of reasoning that is wanted…” at first reasoning is perfectly alright, but it must not be limited, we must go beyond the process of reasoning. Instead of a reasoning process there should be another, what Sri Aurobindo calls dwelling. There is a difference between a reasoning process and a process of dwelling.
What is dwelling? To dwell is to repeatedly come back to the same point. Instead of developing a reasoning process you dwell upon the same point, this is more difficult. To move forward and backward is easier for the mind but to come back again to the same point is more difficult. And what is wanted is dwelling. So, dwelling as far as possible on the fruitful essence of the idea. There is a difference between understanding an idea, developing an idea, consecutively linking together ideas –– this is one process –– and to go to the essence of the idea –– this is another process. There is a difference between linking together ideas one after the other and the process of arriving at the essence of the idea.
You hear a long lecture for example and after hearing the lecture I ask you: “What is the essence of the lecture?” If you are supposed to report what you heard there can be two kinds of reports. One is that you recount the entire lecture, the different ideas that were put forward –– first he said this, then he said this… –– this is one kind of reporting. It is an account of a consecutive process of thought. But another way is that basically, essentially this is what he said. I may give a long lecture on Karma Yoga and then you are asked what is it that I said ultimately, basically? You can simply say the essence of the idea is: not to desire and to come out of the idea that I am the doer. That is the essence. I may give a long lecture in which I present all the ideas. But if I ask the question what is the essence, in two words it is: give up the desire and secondly liberate yourself from the idea that you are the doer of action. This is the essence of Karma Yoga. What Sri Aurobindo says is that meditation is to be distinguished from a long line of reasoning on the one hand, which can be allowed as a starting point but you should arrive as soon as possible at a point where you ask what is the essence of the idea, or series of ideas, you catch that essence and dwell upon it. Then you go forward, dwelling “so far as possible on the fruitful essence of the idea which by the insistence of the soul’s will upon it must yield up all the facets of its truth.” You catch all of the essence so that all the aspects of the truth of that essence are immediately delivered.
Now Sri Aurobindo gives an example so that we may understand it better. “Thus if it be the divine Love that is the subject of concentration, it is on the essence of the idea of God as Love that the mind should concentrate in such a way that the various manifestation of the divine Love should arise luminously, not only to the thought, but in the heart and being and vision of the sadhaka.” What is the essence of the idea of God as love? Now let us consider it. Let us ourselves meditate so that it may be easier for us to grasp what is meditation. What is the essence of the idea of God as love? Let us make the exercise ourselves. Let us put together all the ideas that we may have of God as love. And then we shall examine what is the essence of the idea of God as love.