Yes, I was asked that question and the questioner was serious. Specifically, the questioner wanted to be sure that I was not a snake! The question was asked many years ago. I was just stepping seriously into spiritual life, and I wanted to be a monk. It was Thailand, and I was standing in front of one of the senior Buddhist monks (the Abbot of Wat Benchamabophit), and he wanted to know if I was human. I was (and, by the way, I still am), so I was permitted to join the Thai Buddhist Sangha (community of monks). It was my ordination ceremony, a very sacred event, and the “human” question had been added to the ceremony many centuries ago after a snake had attempted to join the Buddhist order.
Being human was not the only hurdle I had to cross to be a monk. I had had to receive the permission of my parents—a sympathetic mother and very skeptical father. I also had to give up my head of hair and my eyebrows to the razor. And I said bye bye to all my earthly possessions. What I had now was a very, very short list of items permitted for a monk—about eight items, including the robes and a bowl for collecting food.
The biggest hurdle at the moment of ordination was to keep my robes from falling off. I had not yet learned to wrap them properly and I had been bundled up nicely by other monks. The robes were all I had on, and my well-wishers were all present, watching this moment. I kept my composure and my robes, and it was a very emotional moment to join this ancient order and begin my serious pursuit of meditation. That launch into spirituality then led to my eventual meeting with Sri Chinmoy, whose teaching now guides me (with normal clothes, hair on my head, eyebrows back in place and working a job)—back in the USA.
You are reading this at a meditation web site, and the question “are you human?” is relevant to meditation. The pinnacle achievement of a human being is to reach enlightenment, like Lord Buddha and others, including our teacher, Sri Chinmoy. There is no higher achievement for a human being than that, no higher Bliss, and it is good to know that many people in history have reached that goal. Meditation takes you there, but it is a journey, and the process is something like watching that beautiful tree in your yard get taller and taller and more beautiful each year. Patience and practice are needed.
I do feel far, far more fully human than before I started meditating. The progress has been evident to me as, each year, I compare this year’s “me” to last year’s “me.” The human of this year has more happiness, more energy, more community, more fulfillment with friends, more work effectiveness, better decisions, more hope for the future, etc., etc. It is magical, but it is magic that unfolds over time. That’s the big magic. The little magic for me is that each time I meditate, I come away feeling deeper, happier and more concerned about you, friend, you and all the other humans of this world.
I would like to close by suggesting that you try meditation. On this web site and at other places you can find free classes. Try it. Discover yourself. You have nothing to lose but your problems!
On October 2, 2017 20 members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Seattle in various fashion ran ten miles to celebrate the 40 Anniversary of the first public race sponsored by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team (SCMT). The Marathon Team was founded by Sri Chinmoy, the noted artist, poet, musician athlete and spiritual figure both to encourage his students to increase their physical fitness as an aid to their mediation practice, and to offer sports events and a new kind of service to the running community.
The first public race hosted by the Marathon Team was the Sri Chinmoy 10 Mile Race in Connecticut on October 2, 1977. About 50 runners participated in this race. Under the direct guidance of Sri Chinmoy, himself a decathlete champion in his youth at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, the running races of the SCMT evolved to a structure of one to two mile loops with the goal to provide maximum support and encouragement to the runners. Very quickly the schedule of events grew so that in a few years time the Marathon Team was sponsoring marathons, 13 mile, 10 mile and 5 mile events as well as a 24 hour race. By 1985 multiday events were added on an annual schedule as well as triathlons, and ultra long distances such as the 1,000 and 1,300 mile races…oh, and weekly 2 milers for the rest of us! The theme of the races followed Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of “self-transcendence”—that by going beyond one’s self perceived limits one can discover new sources of energy and capacity that can give us real life satisfaction. He says about the nature of competition that we do not compete to defeat others but to bring to the fore our own best qualities, and surpass our previous accomplishments. .He commented
“Our best capacity comes forward only when there are other people around us. They inspire us to bring forward our utmost capacity, and we inspire them to bring forward their utmost capacity. This is why we have competitive sports.”
— Sri Chinmoy, The body: humanity’s fortress, 1974
Back to the anniversary run…we all have jobs requiring different hours to be at work, so some race the day before October 2 and some the day after—early mornings, evenings and even in the dark with headlamps. The two mile loop we ran offered additional inspiration to us as the trail passes before the bronze statue of Sri Chinmoy, entitled “Sri Chinmoy, Dreamer of Peace”. The statue was dedicated in 2010, 3 years after his passing, and it honors his lifelong work for peace, athletics being one expression. The statue conveys a peaceful smile and the two arms lightly hold and offer to visitors to take hold of the Oneness-Home Peace Run Torch to pause for a moment of silent reflection and offer their heartfelt prayers for peace. On the trail bicycles and runners pass by just a few feet before the statue, while on the far side ships and rowers glide quietly past on the Ship Canal which connects our fresh water lakes with the ocean. Stopping here after a run or during a quiet moment, it is as if the visage of the statue is smiling its approval of the dynamic nature and pioneer visage of our region.
Most of us doing this anniversary run had learned of Sri Chinmoy as we were seeking guidance in the discipline of meditation. Or maybe we were searching for a sense of inner peace, or a feeling of being grounded and a sense of purpose and gratitude in our life. Little did we know that along with setting up a daily meditation practice we would be helping to set up races, preparing food for the runners, counting runners laps throughout the day—sometimes at night at 24-hour and multi-day events…and even more surprising still, finding ourselves training and succeeding at marathons, triathlons and ultra marathon races! These events now seem like a natural progression for our lives as seekers, trying to discover our lives’ Truth, and they were not accomplished instantly. No, our running careers started out one mile at a time, gradually building up, incrementally, our strength, fortitude and patience.. These physical undertakings along with the aspiration within our meditation practice brought to the fore a gradual understanding of the power we can access when mind/body/spirit work together to face challenges. Oh, the JOY to discover a new part within yourself that can be dynamic, disciplined and poised! Mixed with a fair share of sweat, sore muscles and running shoes.
Gratitude for the 40 years, Sri Chinmoy, and may we all inspire each other to keep walking, running, biking and swimming in this game called life!
In a post earlier this year we introduced the practice of concentration and explained its importance in developing a good meditation. Concentration pacifies the chatter of our thoughts and brings about the quiet opening for our meditation. In the post we also taught you a simple and effective concentration on the candle flame.
Today we are sharing an audio recording of this concentration exercise from radiosrichinmoy.org. Enjoy practicing!
Sri Chinmoy: How can we make meditation practical? First of all we have to know whether we are practical or not. We say somebody is practical only when we see that in the outer life he does the right thing at the right moment. He thinks and acts in a specific way so that he will not be deceived by others, and so that his outer life will run smoothly, without any major catastrophes. But no matter how clever we are, how sincere we are, how conscious we are, we see that at times we are at a loss in the outer life. We do not know what to say. We do not know what to do. We do not know how to behave. Or, despite our saying and doing the right thing, everything goes wrong. We do not know how to cope with our outer existence; we cannot manage our lives. We sincerely want to do something or become something, but we cannot do it.
Why does this happen? It happens because our outer capacity is always hound by something, and that something is our inner awareness. If we are practical in the inner life, if we are doing the right thing in the inner world, we will not be bound by anything, because we will have inner awareness. One who has inner awareness has free access to infinite Truth and everlasting Joy, and he will be able to control his outer life. What gives us inner awareness? Meditation. We are practical in our inner life, we are doing the right thing in our inner life, when we pray and meditate. A practical thing must always be natural, and what can be more natural, more spontaneous, than seeking to fulfil God? How do we fulfil God? Through meditation.
The inner life constantly carries the message of Love, Truth and God. The outer life does not do this. Where the Truth is, there is a seed. Let us allow the seed to germinate, to grow into a plant, to become a tree. When the tree bears fruit, we can eat it. And while we are eating we will know that this fruit belongs to the outer world although its source is the inner world. We will see the capacity of the inner world being manifested in the outer world. We always grow from within, not from without. It is from the seed under the ground that a plant grows. From inside we grow out.
No matter how many hours we work, no matter how many hours we talk, no matter what we do or say, we are not nearing the Truth-Light. But if we meditate first, and afterwards act and speak, then we are doing the right thing and becoming the right thing. The inner life, the inner practicality, must guide the outer life, and not the other way around. It is not that the outer life will have a separate existence. No! The life-breath of the outer life has to come from the inner life. The inner practicality must enter into the outer life of each individual seeker on earth. Only then can he be really practical in the outer life.
The inner life of unaspiring people is never practical; it is all imagination. Naturally, they don’t want to enter into the world of imagination, for they think that this imagination is going to end in frustration. But he who is brave enough to enter into the inner life and see whether it is all imagination or not, will see that the inner world is practical, real, natural. Our human way of thinking of Truth, God and Light is not the correct way. That is why the things that are normal seem abnormal to us. The divinely normal things are Love, Light, Peace. And these normal things are also eternal. Let us be brave. Let us enter into the inner world and bring forward to the outer world the things that the inner world can offer. Then the outer world will also become divinely normal, practical and fulfilling.
We are delighted to announce a free concert of Sri Chinmoy’s music “Songs of the Soul” The Music of Sri Chinmoy, Wed, August 31st 7:30 pm, Moore Theatre Seattle. Free concert but tickets required. Please call 206-883-0082. Or visit www.songsofthesoul.com
From the book “Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction” by Sri Chinmoy After you have finished meditating, you have to assimilate the result of your meditation into your inner system. Only then does it become a solid, absolutely permanent experience that is inseparably one with your existence. If you enter into a quarrel with someone or get into some unpleasant situation before the peace, light and bliss from your meditation are assimilated, then everything can be lost. Not even an iota will remain. Even by speaking with someone you can lose what you have received during meditation. Someone may come up to you and say, “How are you?” and he may take away all the peace, light and bliss that you have received. That is why you should not talk to anyone immediately after you have had a high meditation, until you have assimilated what you have received. Also, you should not eat immediately after meditation. You can move around or read if you want, but you should not eat a full meal for at least fifteen minutes or a half hour. lf you are very hungry, though, it is all right to take a small quantity of milk or juice.
Normally, it takes quite a few hours to assimilate everything that you have received during meditation, and during that period you have to maintain the light that you got. How? Through your inner awareness, and by being careful of how you deal with the outside world. However, sometimes it happens that during your meditation you are receiving and at the same time assimilating. Then, when you stop meditating, it is all assimilated.
You can think of assimilation as establishing a lifelong friendship, an eternal friendship, with someone who has come into your life. If peace, light and bliss come into you during meditation and you do not make them your eternal friends, then naturally they will leave you. But if you establish an eternal friendship with them, then your friends will have an opportunity to inspire you, guide you, mould you, shape you and share with you their divine capacities and divine qualities.
Again, you have to know that assimilation is not always what the soul wants. At times the soul is eager to assimilate and keep something for quite a few days before expressing it. At other times the soul wants to reveal and manifest the qualities that it receives during meditation immediately or after only a few hours. This expression can be to others, to the atmosphere or to the Universal Consciousness. The inner wealth is like knowledge. One person may say, “Let me learn a little and teach that small amount.” But someone else may say, “No, let me learn as much as I can, and then I will teach others.”
Q: At the end of meditation I feel very good. Is there anything I should do with that feeling, or any way to utilise it?
A: Whatever you feel should be preserved. How can you preserve it? By offering gratitude to the Inner Pilot. Also, you can try to feel that whatever you have achieved can be transcended. If you have received or achieved a dollar’s worth of peace, then next time you can try to get ten dollars’ worth of peace. And if you feel that you have developed an inner muscle to receive, then you can continue strengthening that muscle. In this way you can develop a very powerful inner capacity.
Q After we stop meditating, how can we maintain the level of consciousness that we reached during
A: Here in the meditation hall we are all aspiring; that is why our consciousness is elevated. When we go home, our consciousness will go down. Some calamity may take place or we will just enter into ordinary activities, and we will lose our aspiration. Even if there is no outer disturbance, still we find it difficult to remain in our highest consciousness because we are not used to living there. We aspire for half an hour with utmost sincerity, and then relaxation starts. We feel that we have worked very hard, so now we are entitled to take rest for an hour or two. We do not value what we have achieved. We feel, “even if I lose it, I will get it back tomorrow.” So we start reading a newspaper or watching television, and in this way we enter into relaxation.
If we want to maintain the height of our aspiration, then our aspiration has to ﬂow continuously. Suppose we have meditated for an hour or so and we do not have the capacity to continue meditating. Still, we can do something which will maintain and preserve our meditation. We can read spiritual books, sing spiritual songs or listen to soulful music. We can go to visit a spiritual friend or, if that is not possible, call him on the phone and speak about spiritual matters. Another thing we can do is write about our experiences, not with the thought of publishing them but just to keep them in our
consciousness. While we are writing down an experience, we are revealing our own inner light. Then, each time we read about one of our own experiences, we get new inspiration and aspiration. Even while we are eating we can remember what experiences we had during our morning meditation. Like charging a battery, we are charging our memory with spiritual energy. In this way we can remain in the spiritual ﬂow that we had during our meditation, and keep our consciousness high until our next meditation.
If we want to maintain our height and make the utmost progress, we have to be very wise in our day-to-day lives in how we spend each second. A time will come when we will not have to have any restrictions in our life; our life itself will be a continuous ﬂow of aspiration. But now we have to use our conscious mind in order to aspire.
From the book “Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction” by Sri Chinmoy
Seekers often ask how they can tell whether they are meditating properly or whether they are just deceiving themselves or having mental hallucinations. It is very easy to know. If you are meditating properly, you will get spontaneous inner joy. Nobody has given you good news, nobody has brought you any gifts, nobody has appreciated or admired you, nobody has done anything for you, but you will have an inner feeling of delight. If this happens, then you know that you are meditating properly. But if you feel a mental tension or disturbance, then you will know that the kind of meditation that you are doing is not meant for you.
If you are enjoying mental hallucination, you will feel that peace is within and restlessness is without. You are yearning for peace, light and bliss, but outwardly you are feeling a volcanic turbulence. If you are having a real meditation, a sublime meditation, then you are bound to feel peace within and without. If it is soulful meditation, you will feel your eternal existence; you will feel that you are of Eternity and for Eternity. This feeling you cannot get from a mental hallucination.
There is also another way that you can know. If you are actually entering into a higher plane, you will feel that your body is becoming very light. Although you don’t have wings, you will almost feel that you can ﬂy. In fact, when you have reached a very high world, you will actually see a bird inside you that can easily ﬂy just as real birds do.
When it is your imagination, you will get a very sweet feeling for a few minutes; then immediately dark or frustrating thoughts will come into you. You will say, “I studied so hard, but I did not do well in my examination,” or “I worked so hard in the office today, but I could not please my boss.” These negative forces in the form of frustration will immediately come in. Or doubt will enter, and you may say, “How can I meditate so well when yesterday I did so many wrong things? How can God be pleased with me? How can I be having a high meditation?” But if it is really a high meditation, you will feel that your whole existence, like a divine bird, is soaring high, higher, highest. While you are having this feeling there will be no sad thoughts, no frustrating thoughts and no doubts. You will be flying in the sky of delight where all is joy, peace and bliss.
You can also know whether you had a good meditation by the way you feel afterwards. If peace, light, love and joy have come to the fore from within as a result of your meditation, then you will know that you have meditated well. If you have a good feeling for the world, if you see the world in a loving way in spite of its teeming imperfections, then you will know that your meditation was good. And if you have a dynamic feeling right after meditation, if you feel that you have come into the world to do something and become something—to grow into God’s very image and become His dedicated instrument—this indicates that you have had a good meditation. But the easiest way to know if you have had a good meditation is to feel whether peace, light, love and delight have come to the fore from within.
An important steps towards being able to meditate is the ability to focus. In concentration we aim all of our thoughts at a single object. The object can be external, such as a candle flame, black dot or a flower. It can also be internal, such as our breath or our heart-beat. Or it can be one thought in our mind, such as an imagery of a blazing sun or a vast ocean. Concentration enables to be present, to be there with the object of our concentration. It also enables us to identify with the qualities of the object we focus on. For example, when we concentrate on a imagery of peaceful and vast ocean, after a few minutes of this exercise we may feel more peaceful. Most importantly, concentration pacifies the constant chatter of our thoughts and creates an internal space to open to our inner heart and to our soul which we seek in our meditation.
Here is a simple concentration exercise that many people found to be effective.
1. Find a quiet space where you can practice this exercise and place a candle there.
2. Take a few deep breaths. Relax.
3. Bring your vision to the candle flame. Start by focusing on the entire candle flame. As the exercise progresses you may wish to focus on even a smaller point, such as the tip of the candle flame.
4. Imagine as if there was a magnifying glass in front of you and that glass took all of your scattered thoughts and brought them to the candle flame.
5. If you feel too tense, almost to the point of getting a headache, relax a bit. Breathe. You can imagine that instead from your head the power of your concentration comes from your heart. Imagine that when you breath out your breath goes from your heart into the candle flame and when you breathe in your breath goes back from the candle flame into your heart. Establish a gentle, yet focused heart-identification with the candle flame.
6. If you notice that you lost your focus and your mind wondered off elsewhere simply bring your attention back to the candle flame. Do not be annoyed at yourself when this happens. Be patient. In the beginning, this can happen several times during a single exercise. As you practice regularly and you get better at the exercise, the number times this happens decreases and your moments of uninterrupted focus extend.
7. To finish the exercise, take a few deep breaths. Take a few moments to internalize the exercise before you go on with your other activities.
Initially, practice the exercise just for a few minutes. As you improve, you can extent the duration of the exercise. Remember, it is the quality of your exercise that matters, not how long you sit there. Practice with inspiration and diligence.
In many of the meditation exercises that we teach in our classes we bring out attention to the spiritual heart, that is the core of our being where we feel peace, joy and loving identification. Here is a simple technique one can begin with:
When you meditate, please meditate on the heart, and then try to have the peace, light and bliss of the heart percolate through the entire being. In the heart you have peace, and like a flower it has to blossom petal by petal, here, there and everywhere. Then you have a flower of peace whose petals have blossomed in all parts of the being.