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Spiritual Concentration & Meditation: Introduction

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In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.







Swami Adiswarananda

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center

New York

Meditation is generally understood as deep concentration on any object. In a sense, everyone meditates, because concentration is indispensable not only for survival but also for success in any walk of life. It is through the power of concentration that we can do, see, hear, or understand anything. Whether we are scientists or artists, office workers or laborers, corporate presidents or parents, we must concentrate our minds in order to accomplish our goals. An archer must concentrate on the target; a fisherman on the bobber; a speaker on the central theme of the talk, a musician on the keynote, and a dancer on the movements of the dance.

Concentration is the way to gain knowledge of any subject. Through concentration the mind acquires the quality of a lens and can penetrate deeply into any object, external or internal, and perceive its real nature. Concentration is the sole method for learning the secrets of the outer and the inner worlds. The falling of apples had been observed since the beginning of creation, but it was Sir Isaac Newton’s reflection and concentration on this fact that resulted in the formulation of the law of gravitation.

Yet meditation is more than concentration. In the philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta, meditation is a mental process by which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation. Concentration (Sanskrit dharana) is the preliminary stage of this process; when concentration becomes effortless and continuous, it takes the form of meditation (dhyana), in which the mind flows continuously toward its object. The culmination of meditation is total absorption (samadhi) in the object of meditation.

The sacred texts define concentration as one-pointed focus on any fixed object, internal or external. When we are able to keep the mind focused on a specific object uninterruptedly for twelve seconds, we are said to achieve one unit of concentration. Twelve such successive units of concentration make one unit of meditation, and twelve such successive units of meditation lead to samadhi. So concentration, meditation, and absorption are three different depths of meditation, which culminates in absorption into the object meditated upon.

We have said that concentration is the way to learn about a subject. But the only way to gain complete knowledge of the true nature of anything is to follow concentration to its conclusion and completely unite or identify with the thing known. Until then, knowledge of a person or a thing is nothing more than what we think about that person or object. Meditation, then, is the only way to full, correct knowledge.

Meditation is different from reflective reasoning. Reasoning is satisfied if it merely achieves a clear conception of things, whereas meditation seeks a direct perception of them. Reasoning is a function of the head, while meditation is a function of the heart, the abode of God. Rational conviction alone can never put an end to doubt and has no power to transform us. It cannot correct the imbalance between passion and reason, desire and dispassion. It cannot uproot our worldly propensities, the seeds of which can be destroyed only through meditation. Meditation integrates our countless discordant urges into the central goal of life, Self-Realization. Our desires, instincts, and impulses, like various musical instruments in an orchestra, are brought together in a grand symphony of unified rhythm and melody.

Meditation is more than contemplation. Contemplation is thinking about the Divine, but meditation is the spontaneous flow of the mind toward It. The contemplative state may be compared to a bee buzzing around a flower, about to alight on it and sip the nectar from it. The state of meditation is reached when the bee is already seated on the flower and has begun to taste the sweetness of the nectar.

To be continued

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]

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