The next question is – "Is there a difference between meditation and introspection?"
The word meditation is very very loaded. I’d say that when I use the word meditation it includes the word introspection. You can’t meditate without introspection Now when I say Introspection, it means give complete attention to something. To an idea or to a form or to an icon or to an image or even to a sound.
To give complete attention or what you call 'shraddha' is known as introspection, which means one is exclusively thinking and unraveling the different layers of one’s own mind.
This requires a great deal of attention and attention comes through meditation. So that’s what I mean by meditation.
The process by which, one pointed attention is developed, I am deliberately not using the word concentration because usually what people think of concentration is that you strain and try to fix your attention on something. But one pointed attention means one is completely relaxed and yet fully alive and sensitive – so from this point of view – there is really not much difference between meditation and introspection. Except that it is true meditation only when one is clear and not confused.
Now the next question - "Is it necessary to have a personal guru or a spiritual teacher to start meditation?"
This question has been asked a number of times and it’s a very important question. You can start meditation by reading a book or by listening to somebody or just yourself sitting down and looking at the river flowing by.
When I was a student, and was wandering in the Himalayas, with my Baba Ji (Master), one of the meditation practices he gave me was to sit quietly and watch the river as it flows.
In today’s world when you really find it difficult to choose a Guru – maybe it is a good idea to start meditating without a Guru. Don’t do anything complicated, just sit down quietly, relaxed and let your mind settle down first.
But, there is a great advantage if you have a real teacher, a real spiritual teacher. I’m not talking about the spiritual teacher who is in the race of trying to collect disciples; I am talking about a person, a spiritual teacher who is seriously interested in leading one from confusion to understanding, from unhappiness to happiness and from uncertainty and illusion to reality. If one fortunately finds such a teacher and if one develops a relationship – a personal relationship with the teacher then it would certainly be a great advantage. There is a spiritual law. That when a person, an aspirant, a seeker, really and seriously searches for a spiritual teacher or longs for spiritual guide, a teacher appears. One does not have to run around the Himalayas looking for a teacher.
The question is, is one ready? Is one really serious, as one could get as one is trying to build up a bank balance.
Then there is the fourth question which is being asked, "I have tried meditation, but when I am alone, I only seem to dwell on my problems and cannot concentrate on anything else".
I have an answer for this, which is that you probably haven’t tried the right kind of meditation. The meditation that is suitable for you. Therefore, I would suggest that you sit down with a teacher, a spiritual teacher, quietly talk to this teacher, ask your question, and reveal your psychological make up to this person. Let the teacher explore your psyche and then give you the right kind of meditation. If that is done I am sure that you can meditate when you are alone.
Here is the last question – "I've started sadhna (spiritual practice) or meditation. How do I know that I am making progress?"
This is a very important question, I have been meditating for many years and am still the same. I have been meditating for so many years my heart is as it was. I have been meditating for so many years; I have no peace of mind. So if these are the questions, that you encounter … then you are definitely, not making progress.
So how do I know, if I am making progress in meditation?
First I am able to sit down quietly even if it for a short period, with my mind settled peacefully, without distraction. Fixing my attention on own inner self.
The moment, I sit down to meditate, I am able to cut off all the disturbances of the world and go deep within – quiet and calm. I am now able to deal with serious problems of life without getting upset or confused, or without fearing what is the solution or without the fear that I might not succeed in handling the problem.
I am now in tune with the whole of nature – with the rain, with the wind, with the clouds, with the earth. I can no longer hate. My mind is peaceful. In short, I am a better person now, than I was, before I started meditation.
If that is happening, then you are making progress. And, as one proceeds deeper and deeper into one’s practice – one begins to also be in tune and open up to dimensions which are usually unknown to the ordinary mind.