is true that, in order to develop deep faith and love for
God, one has to turn away from all things worldly and make
God alone one’s goal in life. In this way, in spite of being
busy due to the call of various duties in life, one can continue
with contemplation of God at all times. In fact, much depends
on how we spend the time outside the hours allotted for prayer
and meditation. If periods of activity were also well utilized
for contemplation, our ability to pray and meditate during
allotted hours would be more effective.
is not work which makes it difficult for us to meditate. It
is attachment and ego-consciousness which together carry our
minds away from God. But once we have fixed God as the goal
of life, the mind will return again and again to God in spite
has been said, ‘Take care of the means, the ends will come
of themselves.’ Instead of paying attention to the path we
are treading, we keep our minds occupied with the results
yet to come. Thus our attention is split and, as a result,
full concentration is not achieved.
Gita says clearly: ‘One who has renounced attachment to the
results of karma, who is ever contented and totally non-dependent
- such a person, even though very actively engaged in work,
in reality does not do anything.’ (4)
seeks solitude only to quieten the turbulent mind. But once
the mind is well-controlled, it does not matter whether one
is in solitude or in a crowd. What we need to do is to develop
the power to withdraw the mind and establish it in the Divine
- the Atman.
what is the way to bring the mind under control? The Gita,
as well as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, prescribes abhyasa
and vairagya: (repetitive) practice and dispassion;
or in other words, withdrawal from the many and concentration
on the One. Without this, and with an uncontrolled mind, it
is impossible to ascend the ladder of yoga, says Sri Krishna
in the Gita.
may be engaged in work which demands our full-attention, but
we keep on worrying even when the hours of work are over.
If we can regulate our daily life with fixed hours for work
and meditation, the mind will gradually get accustomed to
think of higher things at particular hours. Sri Ramakrishna
says: ‘When you are engaged in many things in the world, do
them with one hand and with the other hold on to God. But,
when the work is over, take hold of God with both hands.’
different Upanishads prescribe methods for seeing Brahman
everywhere and realizing one’s Self everywhere through
various meditations on Brahman. Further, it is accepted
that progress on the path of realization occurs in stages
- this being a ceaseless expedition from the smaller
to the greater. Common objects of our everyday world
are also not excluded from the sweep of this all-pervasive
vision. The Taittiriya Upanishad prescribes meditation
on food, vital force, mind, and other things as Brahman.
Considering all this, Swami Vivekananda reached the
conclusion that at least in the age of the Upanishads
meditation on Brahman was thus harmonized and identified
with life and as a result the whole of life became transformed
into one single meditation.
- Swami Gambhirananda
a person has spent some time practising meditation in solitude,
to test how much success has been achieved, he or she will
have to come into the crowd in active city life and see how
the mind reacts. The proof of the pudding is in the eating;
our success in the control of the mind will be measured in
terms of our reactions in an irritating atmosphere. In a favourable
situation anyone can feel and taste a little success in meditation.
But until it is proved in an unfavourable atmosphere, we cannot
be sure of success.
wonder why the Lord chose the battlefield for teaching Arjuna
- and his successors for millennia - the profound truths of
spiritual life. But if we think for a while, we can understand
that the battlefield of the world, wherein we are fighting
this battle of life, is perhaps the best place to test our
spiritual sensibility. ‘Mam anusmara yudhya ca; Remember
Me and fight’, says Sri Krishna (8.7).
warfare inside our bodies and minds goes on endlessly. Only
when peace is restored can really effective contemplation
be possible. For this purpose viveka and vicara
- discrimination, and reflection on the world around us -
are necessary. But for most people, the paths of karma yoga
and jnana yoga are difficult. That is the reason why Sri Ramakrishna
has prescribed the bhakti marga as preached by Narada.
This is the path of love, the art of loving God. This
is possible only when we try to remember God more and more
till love sprouts in our hearts. Whatever we may be doing,
the object of our love should occupy at least a corner of
the mind. Thus contemplation of God, in spite of an active
life in the world, would be possible.
doubt, practice in solitude is necessary in the beginning.
Later, when the mind gets trained to separate itself from
its surroundings and remain fixed on God, it is not difficult
to be in an active world and still be a contemplative. Sri
Ramakrishna used to say that a sapling needs to be protected
from cattle by putting up a hedge around it; similarly a sadhaka
needs to practise in solitude for a while. When the mind has
learnt to flow towards God in a natural way, there is no more
need for solitude.
method of converting all work into worship is to do everything
for God. 'Yadyat-karma karomi tat-tad-akhilam sambho tavaradhanam;
All my actions, O Shambhu, are Thy worship'. (5) Ramprasad,
the great devotee of Mother Kali, says: 'O my mind, take going
to bed as salutation (pranama), in sleep meditate on Mother,
and think of eating as an offering to Mother Shyama...'
can activity and contemplation be harmonized, by making God
the focus of our lives and then carrying on with our day-to-day
activities, dedicating the fruits of our actions to God.
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God,
Vyasa, Shiva-manasa-pujana-stotram, 4.