I am often asked, “What should I meditate upon?” The simplest thing is to repeat a mantra (a mystic sound). It is a very sound method. It is really simple, but at the same time, very powerful. It could be OM or AMEN or HARI OM or OM SHANTI—any mantra you like. If you have a mantra already, you can repeat that; otherwise just choose one. OM is fine.

The mantra is to be repeated within the mind. Put your entire awareness on that repetition and after a while feel that the breath is repeating that and just watch. That way your concentration becomes more subtle.

Of course, in the meantime the mind would have gone in a hundred directions. You would have traveled around the world! But every time you recognize that, just say, “Hey, that’s not what I wanted you to do. Come on back; repeat that.”

The next second it will be somewhere else—gently bring it back. Treat your mind as your own pet. It’s used to running like that, so you can’t just put it in one area immediately. But you can train it gently. Keep on doing it.

This mantra japa is very beneficial. But if you prefer, you can visualize a beautiful image: the symbol of light, or a Cross, or a Yantra (mandala)—anything that has some kind of connection with the higher Self, something holy.

Otherwise, if I say just to concentrate on anything that is beautiful, certainly you can choose many beautiful things or beautiful people. But you should have something more spiritual. The image should develop virtuous qualities in the mind. It should make the mind more clean, more pure.

Why? Because the more you concentrate on something, the more the mind takes that shape, and ultimately you become that. “As you think, so you become.” So think the right things.

Imagine if you meditate on a monkey, soon you’ll be outside swinging around!

You may say, “Oh, concentration—I can just pick anything.” Yes, but what is it that you are going to get out of that? What are the virtuous qualities? Is it developing your universal love? Your purity of heart? Your compassion?

So it can be a symbol or the image of a holy person, like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed or St. Theresa—any holy personality to whom you are attracted. Try to bring a mental picture of their face. If you keep trying you can clearly see the picture very soon. The mind has that capacity.

Because the mind is used to running here and there, at first you will just see a hand, a nose, or an eye and then it vanishes. But if you keep on trying, you can bring that image and you can hold it there. That is what you call meditation.

But if it evades you and runs here and there, and you are trying to bring it again, that is called concentration. Concentration is trying to fix the mind on one thing. Meditation is when you have achieved it. That’s the difference.

Another way is to use a prayer. I did not say this in the beginning because, if the prayer is too big, you will have many ideas connected with that. The mind gets dissipated into those ideas. It’s not just one idea. Concentration means to make the mind more and more one-pointed. But if you cannot do that, take a big prayer and gradually go to a smaller one.

Sri Swami Satchidananda    ~ Sri Swami Satchidananda