Contemplation and concentration deal with attention and where our attention might go – especially where spiritual pursuits are concerned. It seems that contemplation has a shakti of its own, which enables us to examine and discard the cacophony, the useless, the sheer noise of this world of illusion, and to refine our vision, our attention, our concentration on that which matters: the Soul itself.
dhyān Hin. m. dhyāna San. n. meditation, contemplation, reflection, attention; the state of self-forgetfulness in complete absorption in God. ‘Meditation is not meditation if the mind does not go.’
vichār Hin. vichāra San. m. deliberation, thought, reflection, pondering; discrimination, examination, self-enquiry: ‘Who am I?’
Question 37: Sir, what is vichar (contemplation) and when does it develop in a jiva ?
Answer: Ramji, when the mind becomes pure, the power of contemplation and introspection (vichar shakti) is generated within. By contemplation on gurumantra (precept) – its meaning and spirit – the intelligence is illumined. Thereafter the ignorance-like darkness is gradually lifted from within, and a jiva becomes free from body—ego and attains liberation.
It is only through contemplation and hard practices that a jiva attains anything. He who has practised contemplation has succeeded in his purpose; hence a jiva should foster contemplation within. This saves him from many calamities. Whatever is done thoughtfully becomes the means of achieving the supreme state. Even the four objects — righteousness, wealth, pleasure and liberation (dharma, artha, kama, and moksha)—are attained with rigorous contemplation. Whatever is practised intently with thought or contemplation, is attained. Therefore, you contemplate on the Pure Absolute and attain the Atmic state, so that you get redemption. He, who discriminates between the Real (sat) and the unreal (asat) with understanding, and who by giving up dependence on the unreal, strives for the Real, is a man of contemplation. Absence of thought or contemplation promotes desires; contemplation helps in the extinction of desires and removal of sufferings. This proves that the absence of contemplation is the cause of sufferings.
When a jiva reflects and contemplates according to the injunctions of his preceptor and scriptures, he is able to discriminate between the Real and the unreal (sat and asat) and his illusion of the existence of the world disappears. Where there is contemplation there is bliss, and absence of contemplation brings in a trail of misery and suffering.
This prompts a reflection in the links between contemplation and concentration. Concentration is single pointed attention – determination, even – that brings success to the activity under review. Contemplation, on the other hand, seems to move beyond time and space to a destination of its own: the power and shakti of the repose of the mind on the matter under review. It seems that contemplation has its own essence and quietude…
Concentration is essential for all. It is the foundation of all successful endeavour. It is needed not only for meditation, but even for worldly affairs and ordinary living. Whatever be the task one is engaged in, if one does it with concentration, one will develop both self-confidence and self-respect; for they are the result of the attitude of one’s own mind. The mind may lean on either the bad or the good. Concentrated attention must be employed to keep the mind attached only to good promptings. Success or failure in the good task depends upon one-pointedness.
Contemplation, on the other hand, has a different outcome:
This Jagath, taken as true by the deluded, is just a jumble of Names and Forms devoid of the permanence that Atma alone can have. Hence, it breeds disgust and discontent and causes renunciation to grow. The mind is soon free from attachment to the objects of sensory pleasure and it moves along its natural bent to Brahmam itself. All sounds are names; vaak or voice is the cause for its emergence. Rupa or Form is the result of vision or sight: it emerges from the eye. Karma similarly has the body as its source; the body is just a context for vaak and other instruments. Contemplation on such truths helps the process of Atma vichara to start and progress.