Amma on Meditation and concentration


“By concentrating on a form, sound or light, we learn to constantly be in that state of inner aloneness and to be joyful in any situation.”

“That stillness, or center, is what a true seeker yearns for, and this is why he doesn’t bother about the past or the future. His focus is on the here and now. That is what is known as remembrance of God. Remembrance of God can only take place when you let go of the past and stop dreaming about the future. Then the pendulum of the mind stops swinging back and forth; it reaches a point of stillness, and you dwell in the stillness of the present moment.”

“Meditation is remembrance of God, constant and loving remembrance. Consider Him as your beloved or just consider yourself as His child. Or consider Him as your father or mother. Simply try to think of Him just as we think of our father or mother or beloved. How does a lover remember his beloved? Certainly not by sitting in lotus posture. The remembrance simply happens in him while he is lying down, walking or sitting on the banks of a river, or it may happen while he is at work. It does not matter where he is or what he is doing. Likewise, remember your beloved deity whenever you can no matter where you are or what you are doing.”

Amma’s Instructions for Meditation

“Children, when you sit for meditation, do not think that you can still your mind immediately. At first, you should relax all parts of your body. Loosen your clothes if they are too tight. Make sure that the spine is erect. Then close your eyes and concentrate your mind on your breath. You should be aware of your inhalation and exhalation. Normally we breathe in and out without being aware of it, but it should not be like that; we should become aware of the process. Then the mind will be wakeful.

“Children, don’t try to still your mind by force when you sit for meditation. The thoughts will rise up with ten times their original force if you do that. It is like pressing down a spring. Try to find out where the thoughts arise from, and control them with that knowledge. Don’t place the mind in any kind of tension. If any part of your body is tense or feels any pain, the mind will linger on that. Relax every part of the body, and watch your thoughts with absolute awareness. Then the mind will subside by itself.

“As you sit like that for a while, your mind will become calm. You can continue the meditation by focusing attention on your breath. Or you can start meditating on the form of your beloved deity. If the mind wanders, you should bring it back. If you are unable to do that, then it is enough to watch where it is going. The mind should be kept under observation. Then it will stop running around and will be under your control.”

Meditation on the Form of Your Beloved Deity

“Name and form are ladders to reach the formless. We who are limited cannot conceive of the unlimited. A form is needed to reach the formless. Another thorn is needed to remove the thorn that has pierced our foot. Once the thorn is removed, both can be discarded. Likewise, after reaching the ultimate goal, you can abandon all names and forms if you want. Even when you meditate on the formless Self, you need a pure conception, which is nothing but a thought. That is also a concept, is it not? Even when you meditate on the form of a god or goddess, you are not meditating on an external object but only on your own Self.

“A minimum of three years is required to learn to fix one’s attention firmly on the form of meditation within. Initially one must strive for concentration by looking at a photo. If one meditates with closed eyes for ten minutes, then for ten minutes one should look at the form of meditation. Eventually the form will become clear within.

“Imagine holding the Divine Mother’s hand and bathing Her by pouring water over Her. Picture the water falling on all parts of Her body and running down. All the while, call out to Her, ‘Mother, Mother!’ and visualise Her form. Imagine doing abhisheka (ceremonial bath) with milk, honey, ghee, sandal paste and rose water, one after the other. When these substances flow down Her body, visualise each part of Her form, from head to foot. Talk to Her, and pray to Her. After bathing Her thus, dry Her body with a cloth. Drape a silk sari around Her. Adorn Her with ornaments. Put a vermilion mark on Her forehead. Put anklets on Her. Put a garland on Her neck and enjoy Her beauty. Now do archana (worship) with flowers. Take the flower, which represents your mind, and imagine offering its petals, one by one, at Her feet. Or imagine offering your vasanas (negative tendencies) in a fire burning in front of Her. After the archana, offer Her the payasam (sweet rice pudding) of your love. Picture that you are doing arati (waving of burning camphor) for Her, and see each part of Her body shining brilliantly in the light of the flame. In the end, imagine that you are circumambulating Mother. All the while keep praying to Her. Try to do all this with pure love. Then your mind will not wander anywhere.

“Children, if you just sit down thinking, ‘I am going to start meditating now,’ the form won’t appear in your mind. You’ll only sit there with your eyes closed, and after a while you’ll remember, ‘Oh! I’m supposed to be meditating!’ So when you sit for meditation, begin by crying out to God, ‘Oh God, won’t You come into my heart? I cannot see You without Your help. You are my only refuge!’ Picture your beloved deity standing in front of you. Then, after a while, His or Her form will shine clearly in your mind.”

“Look at the sky and try to visualise the form of your beloved deity there. Try to imagine that He or She is moving with you. Try to see your beloved deity’s face in the moon or imagine that the moon is the face of the Divine Mother or of Krishna or Rama. As the wind blows, try to feel that it is the gentle caress of your beloved deity. Look into the water and visualise the smiling face of your beloved deity there. You can imagine that your beloved deity is calling you near, hugging you, kissing you, caressing you, blessing you, and then hiding in the clouds and coming out again a little later. By this kind of imagination you go deeper and deeper into your own consciousness. You enshrine His or Her form within your heart. You open up more and more, and you get closer and closer to your own Self.”

Crying to God is the Best Meditation

“Children, crying has the power to make the mind completely one-pointed. Why do we meditate? To get concentration, isn’t that why? Yes. So, the best way to get concentration is by crying to the Lord. That is a very powerful way of remembering God, and that, in fact, is meditation. That is what great devotees like the gopis and Mirabai did. See how selflessly Mirabai prayed, ‘O Mira’s Giridhari (Krishna), it does not matter if You don’t love me. But, O Lord, please do not take away my right to love You.’ They prayed and cried until their whole being was transformed into a state of constant prayer. They kept on worshipping the Lord until they were totally consumed by the flames of divine love. They themselves became the offering. Once you become the offering, once your whole being is in a state of constant prayer, then what is left is not you but Him. What is left is love. Prayer can perform this miracle. Crying can accomplish this feat. What is the purpose of meditation? It is to become love. It is to attain oneness. Thus there is no better meditation technique than praying and crying to the Lord.

“Let the heart melt in prayer. Unfortunate indeed are those who think that crying to God is a weakness. As the wax melts, the flame of a candle only burns brighter. Through crying to God, one gains strength. These tears wash away the impurities of the mind. If one cries for God for five minutes, it is equal to one hour of meditation. Such crying makes the mind easily absorbed in the remembrance of God.

“Those who meditate only according to a timetable, as if it were a duty, will never see God. You have to cry for God, day and night, with no thought of food or sleep. You have to develop that kind of detachment. If someone smeared chili paste all over your body, think of how you would struggle to escape the burning! You should pine to see God with the same intensity. You should cry for that vision, without wasting even an instant. Only then, will all other thoughts disappear, as in deep sleep, and you will reach the plane of divine experience.”

If you don’t believe in God…

“Whenever you feel like it and have the time, sit in solitude and try to visualise everything as pure light. Look at the vast sky and try to merge in that expansiveness. Look within and observe the thoughts and trace them back to their source. Give instructions to the mind such as, “Oh mind, why do you crave for unnecessary things? You think that this will give you happiness and satisfy you. But it is not so. Know that this will only drain your energy and give you nothing but restlessness and unending tension. Oh mind, stop this wandering. Return to your source and rest in peace.”

Obstacles and Difficulties

Question: “The mind is not getting any concentration during meditation. Why is it so?”

Amma: “Children, the mind is naturally one-pointed and pure, but until yesterday we have made room for many impure worldly emotions there. Thus it becomes difficult to make the mind concentrated while sitting for meditation. They (the worldly thoughts and emotions) are like tenants. We have given them a small space to build a hut on our land, which was lying independent and expansive. Not only do they not care when we ask them to leave, they come to fight with us. We have to toil to kick them out. We have to argue in court also. Likewise, to kick out the tenants of the mind, we have to file a case in God’s court. It is a constant fight. We must continue fighting until we come out victorious.”

Question: “Amma, my mind runs away and wanders while I am trying to concentrate.”

Amma: “It is the nature of the mind to wander. It cannot sit quiet. When we try to quiet the mind by concentrating on an object of meditation, we can see it wander even more. More thoughts will come. Beginners may get frightened and sometimes feel discouraged by these numerous thoughts that come up during meditation. These thoughts and other tendencies of the mind have always been there, but because we were engaged in different activities we had no awareness of them. These thoughts and other vasanas manifest only when we try to withdraw the mind from all external activities and concentrate on a single point. Constant practice coupled with determination is the only way to conquer the mind. Therefore, during such times, do not become frightened or discouraged. Continue your spiritual practices with determination.”

“Don’t fret about the bad thoughts. The mind is just a collection of thoughts. Think that the bad thoughts come up because it is time for them to disappear. But be careful not to identify with them. Try to develop the ability to stand back as a witness, as thoughts pass through your mind. That will make your mind strong.”

“One may get a headache and pain in the eyes if one meditates on the spot between the eyebrows. Insomnia also may occur. If so, meditation should be stopped temporarily. Again, if restlessness occurs, then it is best to meditate in the heart. In the beginning it is better to meditate in the heart. After having the feeling that the heart is full, it is not so dangerous if meditation is shifted to the spot between the eyebrows. In any case, it is best for householders to meditate in the heart. One will feel a cooling effect by meditating in the heart. Heat is experienced if one meditates between the eyebrows.”

“If you feel sleepy during meditation, chant your mantra, moving your lips as you do so. If you have a mala (rosary), hold it close to your heart and chant. This will make you more alert. When you sit for meditation, your spine should be straight. Only laziness makes you want to slouch. If you feel sleepy in spite of all this, stand up and chant the mantra. And don’t lean on anything when you stand. When you lean on something, your mind gets attached to that comfort. If you still cannot overcome your sleepiness, run for a while and then resume your meditation. Drive away the tamas (dullness) with rajas (activity). Doing hatha yoga is also beneficial.”

“In the beginning it is difficult to get the full form of one’s beloved deity. Therefore try to visualise the feet of the deity and focus your mind on them. Once the form gets absolutely clear, we become That. For this, continuous practice is needed.”