Param Para: Answers to Questions on the Spiritual Path  
by Swami Amar Jyoti

Seeker: What are the characteristics of meditation, prayer, chanting, and so forth? Are they like different aspects or different paths?

Prayer, meditation and chanting seem different but they overlap each other. Ultimately the highest is meditation. The restless mind finds it difficult to go within. For some, trying to concentrate and be one-pointed can seem a herculean job because the mind is habituated to externalize through the senses. Because of this habit, practices like prayer and chanting are needed to lead us inward to one-pointed meditation beyond the senses. Through prayer and chanting the mind comes into one rhythm. When that happens your mind becomes poised, and when you are poised, you can go into deeper meditation.

If you are meditating and a prayer arises within, or questions come to mind, does that mean your mind is jumping around?

If the prayer comes back to you during meditation because you become restless, because you lose your focus, then prayer is okay. But if you are well concentrated, one-pointed in meditation and then prayer comes, at that point it is an impediment. You might have experienced how, when you are in very deep meditation, even things like chanting or prayer are a distraction, because then you do not want to use your senses. When the mind gets poised, the senses stop, in spite of the best kinds of distractions.

If you are restless in meditation, then make use of prayer again, but if you are in a very serene attitude, go into silence. There is nothing more golden than silence of the mind. Having silence intact inside, you can still be a chatterbox. Sri Ramakrishna in his later years really spoke a lot. One day he told his disciples that when you fill an empty pitcher, it makes a noise, but when you empty the pitcher it also makes a noise. What he meant was that when he was filled by Divine Mother he was silent, then when he began to speak to others again he became a talker. Inside he was in perfect, golden Silence - “S” capital. This is awareness rolling upon awareness, but without being aware of even that thought, without being conscious of your Pure Consciousness. If you achieve that Silence, you are God.

Swamiji, sometimes when I’m feeling very happy, within a few days I seem to feel very unhappy. I’m wondering if it’s from old habits or is it God within me doing this balancing?

In spiritual language we speak of maintaining equanimity in pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness; because if you are very happy today, you are bound to be sad tomorrow, even sometimes without reason. If you become over-emotional or excited, in a short while you will be dejected or depressed. Or if you are confused or sad or melancholy, just a little bit of happy news can make you laugh like crazy. And then if somebody asks, “Why you are laughing so much?” you will say, “Oh, this is such happy news,” even though it is not really to that extent. Excessive emotions - happy or sad - need to be balanced so that you are not pulled into the opposite emotion or mental state. That is why equanimity, keeping balance and poise, is advised for seekers. Therefore the scriptures say that if you do not want dukha (sorrow and sadness) remove sukha (pleasure).

Apply the same philosophy to attachment. If you are too attached, you are bound to lose that to which you are attached. If you are overjoyed about your gains, you will be disheartened about your losses. This is the play of creation. When holy people say: “Do not be attached to pleasures, do not be too happy, do not be too emotional, do not be outgoing,” we are showing you how to balance your emotions so that you do not lose your peace and silence. Otherwise you will remain a victim of maya, “illusion.” The best way to avoid pain, aches, sorrows and suffering is to keep your balance and equanimity under all circumstances.

A song by Kabir says, “The one who remembers God in pleasures and happiness will never experience sorrows or suffering.” Our problem is that we remember God only when we suffer. When everything is going well and pleasant, how many remember God or their Master? Therefore we experience sadness, suffering, sorrow, melancholy, rejections, and so many things. This balance of equanimity is yoga. The secret of yogis is: if you know where to stop your outgoingness, boisterousness, and excessive emotionality, you will not suffer.

© 2012 by Truth Consciousness. Excerpted from the Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti: Thinking, Contemplating, Meditating (I-2) and The Role of Negativity (O-8). For further information on the audio Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti please see