Difference between concentration, contemplation and meditation?
We seldom pause to look within, to seek a contact with something deeper inside ourselves. This of course is not a new problem as long as mankind has existed on this material plane, we have been subject to external perceptions, to information from the physical senses, to dictatorial impulses from our bodies and our surroundings. But there are several practices which we can make use of to strengthen our capacity for inner peace and expansion. These tools include concentration, contemplation and meditation.
Most esoteric or spiritual schools of thought agree that concentration is the first step in dominating the uncontrolled mind. The word concentration means to achieve one center. In the case of mental discipline, it refers to focusing thought or perception on one subject, and temporarily shutting out all other subjects. Concentration is a state of alert observation of a single target, using the will to maintain focus and to return the focus to the target when it drifts to other thoughts, keeping distractions away. This can become a state beyond thought, where only the focused perception is maintained. Nothing else exists.
Sri Chimnoy, an Indian guru who taught about how to achieve inner peace, mentioned that the soul is a fragment of God in each person's heart, and that the energy of the soul can be moved from its seat in the heart to the third eye (the Agnya Chakra), where it strengthens the soul's will to aid in concentration. Certain Sufi schools also teach that concentration is directed by the will, which intensifies the observation, but that after finishing an exercise in concentration, a conscious effort should be made to disconnect the attention from its target. This should be done in order to avoid an obsessive, unconscious continuation of focus on that same object, which could leave people disconnected from the world around them, thus effectively reducing their consciousness instead of expanding it.
As to the difference between contemplation and meditation, there is a certain conflict in terminology from one group to another. Human languages are often inadequate for expressing certain more abstract concepts. Words can cause confusion, even though they are meant to do the opposite. Although the names are not standardized, the next two stages of mental discipline are basically agreed upon by all. The second stage is a deeper form of concentration (which most groups call contemplation, but which some entitle meditation), where the observer continues to control his or her thought, focusing on the object of attention, but in a more receptive state, in a sense receiving information from the object. This calls for a deeper opening of the heart, an inner union with the matter which is being focused on.
The third stage of mental discipline is when the observer is so deeply connected with inner levels of consciousness that he or she becomes united in the mind with the All, not only with a single isolated object, but with the total of existence which lies behind each and every object God, if you will. In this stage (usually called meditation, although a few groups do call this contemplation), the mind is silenced there is no inner dialog, no talking to yourself, no words, only contact, direct knowledge and connection with the root of everything.
According to the Zen Buddhists of Japan, the ideal is to achieve a constant state of this type of inner contact no more intellectual activity is necessary, one doesn't need to think about what to do. One simply knows, because the higher level of consciousness that is contacted in this state provides direct knowledge of what is needed. This state is achieved progressively, after much practice and discipline. Enigmatically, it is said that desiring this state only keeps it away one should practice without desiring results, just doing your part in this process, and the Divine will do its part to complete the bridge between levels of reality at the right time.
The practice of concentration, contemplation and meditation is extremely beneficial for maintaining both mental and physical health. These techniques soothe the fires of mental agitation, diminish the ravages of stress, and permit people to confront the tensions of modern living with all its demands and distractions. Attention is energy, and when people focus their attention outside themselves, they often give away energy which they themselves need. Learning to focus inward through the use of these three mental practices can often increase the level of vital energy, thus strengthening the immune system which protects the body, and providing vitality where it is need within us. Matter is controlled by mind, and mental and emotional tensions are often the cause of sicknesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Calming the mind can remove the causes of these diseases, thus contributing to improvements in health. But it is always good to seek trustworthy orientation.
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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )