the first stage of a process which gradually develops into concentration. In concentration, the mind seeks to unite with its object by the process of fixing itself upon that object; whereas meditation consists in thorough thinking about a particular object to the exclusion of every thing else. In concentration, there is practically no movement of the mind; but in meditation the mind moves from one relevant idea to another relevant idea. In concentration, the mind merely dwells upon some form or a pithy, terse formula, without amplifying it through a succession of ideas. But, in meditation, the mind tries to understand and assimilate the object by dwelling upon the diverse attributes of the form or the various implications of the formula. In concentration, as well as in meditation, there is the peaceful intermingling of love and longing for the divine object or principle on which the mind dwells; and both these psychic activities are very different from the merely mechanical processes, which have rigid regularity and unrelieved monotony.
Those who are not gifted with the capacity of intense concentration have to begin with meditation; whereas for those gifted with the capacity of concentration, meditation is unnecessary. It is sufficient if they concentrate their minds on the mere form of a God-man, or some simple formula like "I am neither the gross body, nor the subtle * body, nor the mental ** body, I am Atman (Soul)."
Meditation is essentially an individual matter in the sense that it is not for self-display in society but for one's own spiritual advancement. Utter isolation of the individual from the social surroundings is almost always conducive to the unhampered pursuit of meditation. The ancient yogis took to mountains and caves in search of complete seclusion. Great quiet and undisturbed silence are the necessities for attaining success in meditation; and these are easily available in mountains or caves. However, it is not necessary for persons to go to mountains or caves in search of these conditions. Even in towns, a little care and trouble can secure for the aspirant the quiet, silence and seclusion which are necessary to facilitate and promote progress in the different forms of meditation.
The presence of darkness or the closing of eyes is not absolutely necessary for meditation. If the aspirant is face to face with the object of meditation, he may meditate successfully even when his eyes are open. But, in most cases, getting away from all gross sights is, like getting away from all gross
* The subtle body is the seat of desires and vital forces.
** The mental body is the seat of the mind.