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 first revise 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, 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 is also 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 affected. 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 be 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 meditation is. 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.
What is love? Basically, that is the question: “What is love?”
Very often love ordinarily means a sensation in the heart which moves out to grasp an object in which there is a great pleasure. It is the minimum that happens in the expression of what people call love. There is a sensation in the heart which impels you to move out of yourself towards an object to grasp it and to enjoy the pleasure that is obtained in grasping. This is what we normally call love. Is this what we mean by God as love?
Let us see another idea of love. Love is an emotion. I am now not using the word sensation but the word emotion. Love is an emotion, an emotion full of joy. Is that enough? An emotion full of joy, shall we call it love? Or something more is needed. From your experience you compare experiences with experiences. I see a beautiful sunrise and there is an experience of joy, emotion of joy. Shall we call it love? No, we don’t call it love. So, this definition is not correct. Mere emotion of joy is not love. But joy is a part of love. Wherever there is love there is joy but wherever there is joy there is not necessarily love. So apart from joy there must be something else.
Good! There is a joy of union. In that joy of union, at the human level there is some kind of merchandise, some kind of bargaining. “I am uniting myself with you and I expect a return from you in the same way.” This is human love in which there is a union but there is a condition. This is not the case of Divine as love. There is reciprocity but no bargaining. The emotion of unity is not dependent upon the return. It is basically a union in which there is a self-giving, there may be a reciprocity from the other side but not as a condition. It is independent of reciprocity. So the essence of Divine as love is not reciprocity in the experience of union but basically the experience of self-giving. It is an outpouring. An outpouring, constantly uniting, constantly informing the object. In every experience of love there is an object and there is an outpouring towards an object but this outpouring has no bargaining. There is the experience of union but not dependent upon bargaining. That is what differentiates human love from Divine love. There is unreserved pouring. There are huge pulsations of love. The joy is of course part of this experience, but more than joy is union, a constant outpouring. The basic experience is of union, not merely of joy.
Now we have arrived at the essence of the idea of God as love where there is unrestrained, outpouring of emotional joy expressing union in which there is total unconditionality. Once you have got the essence of the idea of God as love you meditate on this essence in such a way that various aspects, various manifestations of this love arise luminously in your heart. So, meditation is not thinking about love, it may be only the starting point, a real meditation must ultimately aim at the awakening of an experience of various states, various manifestations — the Divine’s smile is one of the manifestation and you should therefore experience the Divine’s smile, the captivating smile of the Lord. That is an experience in which you can dwell. That is: meditation is dwelling. It is not only developing the idea of God as a smile, that is only a starting point, but you should be able to dwell in the experience of the Divine smile.
The Divine breath is another experience, the Divine outpouring itself into you, uplifting you from your difficulties, even without being asked. It is unconditional. If you experience the Divine uplifting you — even unasked, you may not even know that you are in difficulty, but He knows that you are in difficulty, so even unasked He simply uplifts you. In every experience of Divine love there is always this experience that this love uplifts you constantly. You are drawn closer and closer away from all the meshes, all the mess that you have made of your life, and He lifts you from the mud. This is another experience which should manifest.
The Divine love also manifests itself as a giver of knowledge. Divine love as the carrier of knowledge; so that when the Divine love manifests all aspects of knowledge begin to develop in you. You blossom. There is a blossoming of your faculties. And as the faculties develop there is no labour in it. It is a joy. It develops with a tremendous experience of selfgiving. The faculties develop because they throw themselves forth by the attraction of love. There is strain but this strain is full of joy. That is the special experience of Divine as love. It is like a flower, the sunflower turning towards the sun without any effort. It is a joy and the whole flower blooms. It is also another experience of Divine as love.
There is also the experience of Divine love making a command. But in such a command that is a speciality of God as love in which the command is felt as something to which you want to serve with all your heart. It is not a command in which you feel “My Lord, now this command has come how should I fulfil.” That is not a command as the manifestation of God as love. There are states in which God gives you command which you may feel too heavy for you. In Karma Yoga when you are not attempting to reach God as love, this kind of command comes in the process and joy is not a part of it. But here is a command which you really like so much. It is a condition in which you feel “Why is God not commanding me? I am waiting for a command, I want to do, I want to serve, I want to be what He wants me to be.” This is the experience of Divine as love. It is a joy to hear the Divine command. There is a dance in your being on hearing that. “This is what He wants and I am here at the feet of the Lord.” And you don’t mind whether you have the faculties to do it or not. The very fact that you have received the command is such a great joy that you are so grateful and you know that if the command has come He will do it even if you are absolutely incapable of carrying out the command — He will do it. That is an experience of Divine as love.
Then Divine as your companion. Friendship with the Divine in which you can behave with the Lord as though you can walk with Him. Not exactly as equals but as a companion. The Lord walks with you. That is also God as love. And wherever He walks you find a paradise. To be with God, walking with Him in a paradise. Everything is so beautiful, everything is so favourable. The sun does not scorch you; even if there is tremendous sunlight, it gives you coolness. The breezes are all full of scents. All kinds of flowers are in the scent of the air. This is your experience when you have Divine as love.
These experiences should arise luminously in the heart. This is called meditation. One after the other all these experiences begin to develop and you dwell upon them. This is called meditation.
Now Sri Aurobindo only comments upon this and says:
“The thought may come first and the experience afterwards, but equally the experience may come first and the knowledge arise out of the experience.”
If you read Mother’s book called Prayers and Meditations you then learn what meditations are. Every line that is given there is a meditation coming out of the experience. The thoughts which are expressed are only the results of experiences. Ordinary meditation is only thinking, thinking on one subject with concentration. That is only a primary, preliminary meditation. It is only when you get the essence of the idea and when you dwell upon the essence of the idea and when the essence of the idea begins to manifest in your heart in various aspects of its experience that you can say, “I have meditated.” That is the real meditation.
“Afterwards the thing attained has to be dwelt on and more and more held till it becomes a constant experience and finally the dharma or law of the being.”
When you have meditated for years and years in this fashion then in a second you can walk with God with that love in paradise. You don’t need to make an effort. It has become a part of your being. You can converse with Him. You can receive commands from Him with great joy. Your whole being is constantly tuned to the Divine Will. You know when Mother says that to live in Auroville “One must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.” It means that already you should arrive at that point when you want to do what the Divine wants whatever may be the consequences. Willing servitor. I want to be a servant of the Divine, servant of servants. If anybody else is serving the Divine I want to be a servant of that person who is serving the Divine. It is such an experience that you cannot do anything but this. That is the dharma of your being. You become so much tuned to it that again and again you ask the divine, “I have done this, what more? I still want to pour myself at Your feet. Again and again, endlessly.” This is meditation.
Now we come to contemplation. The result of contemplation also is the same as the result of meditation but contemplation is a more strenuous method. Sri Aurobindo says: “This is the process of concentrated meditation; but a more strenuous method is
the fixing of the whole mind in concentration on the essence of the idea only, so as to reach not the thought-knowledge or the psychological experience of the subject, but the very essence of the thing behind the idea.”
There is a difference between the essence of the idea and the essence of the thing. In the case of meditation we were told of the essence of the idea, the essential idea and then we were allowed by the help of the essential idea to dwell upon various manifestations of the experience corresponding to that idea. There was as if it were a successive movement — in meditation there is a successive movement, every time you get one manifestation of the experience of Divine as Love. Now, here, in the contemplation there is not an attempt to reach the given psychological experience but the very essence of the thing itself. You enter into the heart of God Himself — not manifestations of God as Love.
“In this process thought ceases and passes into the absorbed or ecstatic contemplation of the object or by a merging into it in an inner Samadhi.”
In ordinary life, you often have this experience of contemplation.
Have you heard the story of Shakuntala?
Shakuntala was the daughter of the famous Rishi called Vishwamitra. But brought up by another Rishi called Kanva. Kanva was a Rishi who had a very big ashram — like Auroville. So many students were studying, boys and girls.
Once upon a time, when Shakuntala had already grown into a maiden, a beautiful woman, the king of the domain, who was in the process of hunting, missing the deer whom he was hunting, exhausted, entered into the ashram. And he was thirsty; he wanted to drink water. Three girls were moving about in the garden of the ashram and one of them was Shakuntala. The moment Shakuntala saw Dushyanta, and the moment he saw her there was love at first sight between the two. And thereafter she could not live without the presence of Dushyanta.
Kanva Rishi was at that time absent from the hermitage and Dushyanta and Shakuntala married by one of the processes of marriage (Gandharva vivaha), which was a simple ceremony of marriage. Then, Dushyanta was called away by his mother for an urgent work and he promised Shakuntala that he would return or send his great chariot to take her back as queen to his kingdom. Shakuntala was now left alone.
In that state she fell into contemplation of the Dushyanta. It was not merely thinking of Dushyanta, not merely experiencing what she had experienced, but holding Dushyanta himself in her heart — the thing itself. And it was such an absorption that when a guest — another rishi — came and called out to Shakuntala to receive him she did not hear him at all, the call of a great rishi! This is the mark of a deep contemplation which happens even in ordinary human life.
There are intense states of consciousness in which the object, the essence of the object, is dwelt upon by the mind and you are one with the object. You don’t need to make any kind of thinking. You go straight into the heart, the essence of the thing itself. This happens also in our ordinary process of pursuit of knowledge. When you have understood an idea, not when you are in pursuit of understanding an idea… Imagine anything that you have understood and that understanding, when you have arrived at an understanding, you feel a great joy in that understanding.
You are not in a process of understanding, there is no successive movement. You are only centred upon what you have understood and that understanding goes on developing so deeply that the object which is understood is seized by you. You feel as if now you have gone beyond the idea.
You have come not only beyond the essence of the idea you have entered into the very object. That is called contemplation. Many philosophers when they reach a certain height of understanding reach a stage of contemplation. They are fixed upon… They have understood, there is no more process of understanding. But what is understood is so full of joy or is such a tremendous seizing of the idea that there is no need to develop that idea, no need to develop the experiences behind the ideas which manifest. At once from that understanding you enter into the object itself. You seize the very object in your consciousness.
If the object is the Divine Love in this process, as distinguished from what you have experienced in the process of meditation where different states of love arise one after the other, and you experienced those different states of consciousness, here you directly experience the heart of God Himself. And you enjoy merely by dwelling upon the heart of the Divine. The Divine is possessed by you.
Sri Aurobindo says further:
“If this be the process followed, then subsequently the state into which we rise must still be called down to take possession of the lower being, to shed its light, power and bliss on our ordinary consciousness.”
Once you have caught the Divine Himself then you allow the Divine light, Divine joy, Divine power to come down in our lower consciousness.
“For otherwise we may possess it, as many do, in the elevated condition or in the inward Samadhi, but we shall lose our hold of it when we awake or descend into the context of the world; and this truncated possession is not the aim of an integral Yoga.”
When you go up you can hold the Divine but when you come down the Divine is lost and you fall into the trap of the world as it is. That is a truncated experience — one leg upward one leg downward. But here you come fully and even the lower leg is also uplifted and remains uplifted all the time.
Now Sri Aurobindo speaks of the third process. A process which is neither of concentrated meditation or of contemplation but another process.
We have only thought of contemplation but it is better to finish now all the three processes. So we know very clearly what are the three processes of concentration. Once you know all these three processes you have known all that is to be known about concentration. It is a complete science which Sri Aurobindo has given in one page. People have written books on this subject but in one page Sri Aurobindo has given a complete statement of what concentration is. Without reading so many books we just read this page again and again and you will understand it better and better as you experience more and more. Very often these words do not convey much meaning to us because we have not got the experience of it. But the more we do it the more we shall experience and the more we shall understand.
“A third process is neither at first to concentrate in a strenuous meditation on the one subject nor in a strenuous contemplation of the one object of thought-vision, but first to still the mind altogether.”
There is neither a subject nor an object. You just still the mind, make it quiet. Sometimes this is more difficult than the other two processes but sometimes it is much easier. You don’t have to make any strenuous movement of meditation or concentration. Just be quiet and after that quietude you see that there are no ripples of thought, no waves of thought and the mind is absolutely still, and you dwell upon it — this is also concentration.
“This may be done by various ways; one is to stand back from the mental action altogether not participating in but simply watching it until, tired of its unsanctioned leaping and running, it falls into an increasing and finally an absolute quiet.”
There are three things to be considered here. You can stand back from the mental action, that is to say, there is a mental action going on and this mental action that is going on is quite a noisy market — it is as if you are in a bazaar in which there is hustle and bustle and a tremendous amount of activities going on. So, imagine that you are in a bazaar in which a lot of currents are going on, then you stand back and you experience, even though there is the movement of the bazaar, you are only watching it. You do not participate in the movement of thinking. It is like going to a market in which you are constantly attracted by this side or that side, this shop or that shop, beautiful objects lying around, and you are attracted to buy this or to buy that. This is what we are constantly about. Our entire mind movement is like going to a market in which you are constantly being lured by various sights, calls, sounds, things and objects. And constantly we are judging: this is right this is not right, good, bad, I don’t like this, I don’t like that… all this marketing going on. Imagine however that although you are in a market you decide that you are not going to buy anything, you are only watching, you are only a witness in the market, you stand apart and you see hustle bustle, everything that is going on. This is a very important step in which you stand back from the mental activity. That is to say there is in you some person who can stand back. This whole psychology is based upon the perception that there is something in you which can withdraw from the market of the mind and which can watch without taking interest in what is going on. This is the process that Swami Vivekananda very much recommended to many people. Even Sri Aurobindo in some of his letters on yoga has recommended this process. When you do not want to meditate or to contemplate this is a very easy process. You just stand back from the mental turmoil. And then even that market in which you are engaged or even watching, you will find that even that market will fall quiet. And this will enable you to experience yourself as altogether different from the market and a great quietude will automatically enter into you. To be seated in that quietude is a state of concentration.
There is yet another way to arrive at the same result:
“Another is to reject the thought-suggestions, to cast them away from the mind whenever they come and firmly hold to the peace of the being which really and always exists behind the trouble and riot of the mind.”
There is always a peace in you but we do not see this peace because of the riot of the mind, the rush of the ideas. This was the method that Sri Aurobindo himself followed when his teacher said “thoughts come to you from the outside and before they enter you fling them back.” It is “to reject the thought-suggestions, to cast them away from the mind whenever they come and firmly hold to the peace of the being which really and always exists behind the trouble and riot of the mind. When this secret peace is unveiled, a great calm settles on the being and there comes usually with it the perception and experience of the all-pervading silent Brahman, everything else at first seeming to be mere form and eidolon. On the basis of this calm everything else may be built up in the knowledge and experience no longer of the external phenomena of things but of the deeper truth of the divine manifestation.”
This is the third method of concentration. If you ask: “What are these three methods of concentration?” One is meditation, second is contemplation and the third is the method by which peace of the mind is seized upon.
Let us read the last paragraph. It is just to complete our entire understanding.
“Ordinarily, once this state is obtained, strenuous concentration will be found no longer necessary.” You become master, you don’t need to strain even when there is all the noise going on. You are seated in the Brahman all the time. There is no strain at all. A free concentration of will using thought merely for suggestion and the giving of light to the lower members will take its place.” If there is obscurity and you want that obscurity to be cleared, a mere thought-suggestion is enough that this obscurity be cleared. The higher consciousness will come down on the obscurity and the obscurity will be cleared. There is no strain; you just will on that plane where there is a constant peace, or a constant state of experience of Divine as love, or whatever —there are many aspects of the Divine. Once you have attained to this then here is a very comfortable, a very easy process: a mere will works it out. This is called siddhi. You arrive at a great mastery. “This Will will then insist on the physical being, the vital existence, the heart and the mind remoulding themselves in the forms of the Divine which reveal themselves out of the silent Brahman. By swifter or slower degrees according to the previous preparation and purification of the members, they will be obliged with more or less struggle to obey the law of the will and its thought-suggestion, so that eventually the knowledge of the Divine takes possession of our consciousness on all its planes and the image of the Divine is formed in our human existence even as it was done by the old Vedic Sadhakas. For the integral Yoga this is the most direct and powerful discipline.”
So, you can approach this by meditation or by contemplation or by quieting the mind. And when the mind is quieted you don’t need meditation or contemplation. You can simply will anything. And lower parts of the being are based in the higher consciousness. Whatever should be transformed is transformed until, at last, the human image becomes the Divine image. That is the real yoga siddhi.
Alright! This was only a comment upon a word that we have read in the chapter The Four Aids where Sri Aurobindo speaks of the shastra of the old on which we have to meditate (p. 49).
“The spiritual knowledge is then gained through meditation on the truths that are taught and it is made living and conscious by their realisation in the personal experience;”
When we read this book? Sri Aurobindo has told us how we should read this book: the truths which are mentioned here you should meditate on them either by strenuous meditation or by contemplation or by the third way of quieting the mind and listening to what is given here and then comes the realisation of the truths.
“… the Yoga proceeds by the results of prescribed methods taught in a Scripture or a tradition and reinforced and illumined by the instructions of the Master. This is a narrower practise…”
It is a narrower practice because you are still moving on a beaten track. When you read this book and follow it out, it is a safe movement because all this has been realised by the Master and you only repeat in your own personal experience what has been realised by the Master. Afterwards you can make an adventure, a larger process. What is not given in shastra even that you can develop. When you read The Mother’s Agenda she says: “Sri Aurobindo did not tell us the secret” — although he has written all this. But Mother says: “Sri Aurobindo left without telling us his secret.” Therefore there is nothing to meditate upon. There was an adventure. She says: “I am walking blindfolded.” And She built a new path. So The Mother’s Agenda is another Vedic shastra. What is not given by Sri Aurobindo was given then by the Mother. That is why this book is to be followed by The Mother’s Agenda. Mother herself has said: “The Agenda is the continuation of The Synthesis of Yoga.” So much of the path has been trodden for us and made easy for us, that we too can tread it.
Now Sri Aurobindo makes a very important comment:
“For the sadhaka of the integral Yoga it is necessary to remember that no written Shastra, however great its authority or however large its spirit, can be more than a partial expression of the eternal Knowledge.”
This applies even to this book, even to the Mother’s Agenda. That is why there is no religion possible, there is no final stop, it is an open book in which new chapters have to be added because there is no end to the eternal knowledge.
“For the sadhaka of the integral Yoga it is necessary to remember that no written Shastra, however great its authority or however large its spirit, can be more than a partial expression of the eternal Knowledge. He will use, but never bind himself even by the greatest Scripture. Where the Scripture is profound, wide, catholic, it may exercise upon him an influence for the highest good and of incalculable importance. It may be associated in his experience with his awakening to crowning verities and his realisation of the highest experiences. His Yoga may be governed for a long time by one Scripture or by several successively, —if it is in the line of the great Hindu tradition, by the Gita, for example, the Upanishads, the Veda. Or it may be a good part of his development to include in its material a richly varied experience of the truths of many Scriptures and make the future opulent with all that is best in the past. But in the end he must take his station, or better still, if he can, always and from the beginning he must live in his own soul beyond the limitations of the word that he uses. The Gita itself thus declares that the Yogin in his progress must pass beyond the written Truth, —sabda brahma ativartate —beyond all that he has heard and all that he has yet to hear, —shotavasya srutasya ca. For he is not the sadhaka of a book or of many books; he is a sadhaka of the Infinite.”
He is no prisoner of any word.
We should remember this last line:
“For he is not the sadhaka of a book or of many books; he is a sadhaka of the Infinite.”