Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Contemplation Mean?

Contemplation is defined as “deep reflective thought,” “concentration on spiritual things” or “a state of mystical awareness of God's being.” It is sometimes used as a synonym for meditation, but in terms of yoga, there's a distinct difference.

Meditation is considered a type of contemplative practice, but it typically involves concentration on a single thought, object or point. It opens the mind and develops the conditions that are ideal for contemplation, while contemplation itself takes the yogi even deeper to the eventual goal of pure knowing.


Yogapedia Explains Contemplation

In addition to meditation, practices that create the calm centeredness that open the yogi to contemplation include:

  • Prayer
  • Asana
  • Writing
  • Chanting
  • Pranayama
  • Qigong
  • Tai Chi

Contemplation goes through stages from gross to subtle that end in pure knowing:

  1. Focus on a thought
  2. Deeper quiet reflection
  3. Intuitive wisdom that is not verbal, visual or auditory
  4. Formless knowing

In some traditions, one of the focuses of contemplation is the Mahavakyas as described in the Upanishads. Also known as the Great Contemplations, they are philosophical sayings such as “Brahman is real; the world is unreal” and “I am Brahman.”

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Contemplative Practice

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