Question: Do you feel that there is really any significant spiritual progress taking place in the world right now?

Sri Chinmoy: Most of the spiritual Masters have been recognised, accepted and worshipped only after they have left the physical body. But now, the world has progressed. In the modern world, aspiration has increased. On the one hand, you see the Vietnam war, but on the other hand, the divine Light is being received by many. There are now quite a few spiritual Masters on earth. These Masters are not all God-realised, but they are trying in their own way to help mankind. If a so-called spiritual Master is not God-realised, he is like a teacher who has not received his university degree. He is in a position to teach a kindergarten student. From these Masters, you can learn Hatha yoga and a little philosophy. By doing Hatha yoga you will not realise God, but if you practise a few Hatha yoga postures it does help to keep better health and to have a little relaxation.

You cannot expect to get your Master’s degree in kindergarten, but you can learn something there. But to say that kindergarten or primary school lessons are enough, is foolishness. You can take Hatha yoga all your life without making an iota of spiritual progress. If you go to India, many Indian village people will be able to do all the most difficult exercises in a twinkling of an eye. But the life they lead is an animal life. Hatha yoga can help you physically if you want to do it for ten or fifteen minutes. But a spiritual aspirant need not spend an hour or two. You will be wasting your precious time.

To come back to your question, I wish to say that the world, especially the Western world, is crying for light. Very often people ask me on the radio and on television, “How is it that the Christians in the Western world are moving away from the Church and coming to Indian spiritual Masters? What is wrong with Western religion?” I say that nothing is wrong. But the seekers who come to spiritual Masters have looked for something in the Church which they did not find. That is why they are now looking to the Indian Masters to see if they can get it there. What is that thing? It is inspiration, and inside inspiration is aspiration. True Indian spiritual Masters embody inspiration and aspiration. The Western aspirants can see the difference between the sermon of the priest and the life he leads. There is often a yawning gulf between what he says and what he is.

Three years ago, I was speaking at Yale University. A professor of philosophy was sitting beside a student of his. During the question and answer period, the professor asked me, “How is it that when I invite questions and answer them, my students don’t pay any attention? They smoke and put their feet on the benches and all kinds of things. How is it that they are showing you such respect? You have given a talk on philosophy and now they are full of appreciation and admiration. I also teach philosophy. But they are looking at you with rapt attention.” So the student immediately stood up and answered the question for me. “Sir, there is a slight difference between you and this spiritual man,” he said. “That’s why we are behaving in a different way.” The professor says the same thing as the spiritual man. Perhaps he says it in a more mental and convincing way, in an academic way, but people can see the difference. When a sincere aspirant speaks about spirituality people will run to listen to him. But if you do not follow a spiritual life, nobody is going to be inspired by your spiritual philosophy. Everybody has a heart to feel whether there is any sincerity behind your words.