There are certain spiritual practices that are universally recognized as such. Meditation, prayer, ritualistic worship, singing the praise of God almost all religions have recommended these practices in one form or another for the attainment of spirituality’ahd for the eventual realization, the direct experience, of God Himself. Of course, not many spiritual aspirants are able to engage in such practices for a large part of the day; it is given only to the very few to meditate long hours every day, or even to spend much time in external religious practices such as ritualistic worship. And how long do you think one can sing devotional songs? Even if a person feels inclined to sing all day, his neighbours will prevent him from doing so. The fact is, for the average aspirant no spiritual practice can be undertaken every day for hours at a time.

To speak of meditation properly so called that is to say, sitting in a certain quiet posture, shutting off the outside world from invading the senses and the mind, and dwelling upon the Lord we know that such meditation is impossible without concentration of the mind. Yet concentration is not easy to attain. Although we have been trained from early childhood to pay attention to what we do, this paying attention, which is nothing but the act of concentration, has not been well learnt by us. We find that our mind continually moves away from the thing or things to which we want to direct it. And when the objects to which the mind has to be directed are fine and subtle in character, as spiritual truths or realities are, such concentration becomes exceedingly difficult. But if we do not have concentration, even if we sit in the posture of meditation with closed eyes in a quiet place, apparently not paying attention to anything in the outside, our mind will be running races in many different directions. I admit that even such an attempt at meditation is of some benefit, but it will not take us very far. Year will follow year and we will find that we have not come any closer to God. I have seen such people. I have admiration for them. Even to be able to sit quietly without paying attention to any external things is a nice practice. But we want to attain some success in our spiritual endeavour; so we should not be satisfied with the external achievement of sitting quietly for hours. I sometimes am inclined to think that such a habit might even become harmful, an obstruction to spiritual growth. It is not meditation. As I said, without concentration meditation is not possible. If you say that you will attain to concentration by a determined effort of will, I should warn you that while such determination may be fruitful for a time, sooner or later you will find that your nerves are suffering from the undue strain of forcing your mind to concentrate, and you will not be able to make any effort at concentration without bringing about some physical illness. This practice, therefore, has to be very carefully measured. How much should you concentrate? How long should you meditate? In these matters we ourselves are scarcely fit to judge. Until we have attained spiritual regeneration, we are greedy people greedy physically, greedy mentally, and greedy spiritually. In other words, there is a vast impatience behind our activities; we want to finish everything quickly. Of course, we don’t think we are impatient: we think we are just very eager. Well, when people express such eagerness’ to me, I sometimes ask them what they will do after they have realized God. They have something else to do? You see, all you will do after having realized God is go on thinking about Him from eternity to eternity there is nothing else to do. Then why this impatience? There is no necessity for it.

I understand that there is a loophole in that argument. You could counter it by saying, Do you suggest, then, that we should become lazy and not make a determined effort?’ No, I don’t suggest that.

I know that if you could take the view that henceforth all you have to do is devote yourself to God, that in all the future you have nothing else to do, then there would come a certain serenity of mind. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that a crow once sat on the mast of an ocean-going ship. The ship left port and went far out to sea, but the crow was not aware of this fact. When it noticed that the sun was about to go down, it thought it must find a nice roost, and it began to fly. But by that time the ship was so far from shore that the crow couldn’t find any land. It had to come back to the mast. It rested a little, then it went in another direction again no land. After it had flown in all directions and not found any land, it came and sat on the mast quietly and calmly. Mind reaches that condition; by and by a realization comes to our hearts that there is nothing to gain in the whole universe except God, and then impatience goes away. I imagine that unless a little of that realization comes to our mind, we won’t feel inclined to take advice such as I have given that is, to be patient. But if this realization does not come to us spontaneously, we have to bring it about by thinking, by reasoning. Then our minds quiet down, and we know our own measure we know how much meditation or concentration we really can practise daily, or at any given time. But until we have gained this inner sense ourselves, we should take the advice of those who can give it to us.


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