Question: In the writing of some Christian saints, emphasis is laid on contemplation. What is its place in devotional practice of the Hindu religion?
Answer by Swamiji: Contemplation is called Chintan, or Manan, in the Vedas. It means repeatedly bringing any aspect of Divine knowledge to the intellect. First, we hear the knowledge of the scriptures from the Guru; this is called Śhravaṇ. Then we contemplate on what we have heard or read; this is called Chintan.
This Chintan or contemplation helps to strengthen the knowledge in the intellect. It is one of the most potent means of illuminating the intellect with the light of Divine knowledge. The power of chintan is such that if it is misutilized, it becomes chintā (worry), and it can lead suicide. Let us say that a student fails in his school final examination. Hundreds of other students fail too, but this student starts contemplating, "What will I do now? How will I show my face to my parents? What will my friends say? Life is not worth living. It is useless to exist. It is better that I die." This thought process goes out of control to such an extent that the student commits suicide. His class-fellows wonder what happened that made him take such a drastic step? This was all a result of misdirected contemplation.
The same power of contemplation, if properly directed, can lead to God-realization. We could repeatedly think, "Shree Krishna alone is mine. He is so kind and merciful. He has been sitting in my heart since endless lifetimes. He is my eternal Father, Mother, Friend and Master." Such contemplationwill elevate the mind to sublime heights, enhance love for God, and boost devotional sentiments.
For example, we are naturally attracted to people's qualities, but God has unlimited qualities and yet our mind feels no attraction towards Him. This is because we have never thought deeply about them. If we repeatedly think how beautiful He is, how merciful He is, etc, our love for God will grow rapidly. Contemplation is thus an important part of the daily spiritual practice.