Question: Does it help to know what kind of animal you were, if you were a good animal like a bird or a reindeer?

Sri Chinmoy: Suppose you were a deer. Now, there are some advantages and some disadvantages. The advantage is that if you were a deer in your last animal incarnation, then you will think of your speed. You will see that you ran very fast. You will think, “Even in the animal incarnation I ran so fast, and at that time I did not have the advanced soul which I now have.” The soul is the same, but it is progressing and advancing. There is a soul in this sofa, a soul in this carpet, and a soul in me. But the soul is much more manifest inside me. If you know that in your past incarnation you ran really fast, you will say, “Let me now continue to run with utmost speed.”

Once you know something, it becomes very easy to learn again. If you ran fast in your past incarnation, then in this incarnation also you can run very fast. This is the advantage. I achieved God-realisation in a previous incarnation, so in this incarnation it took me only a year or so to realise God after I consciously began praying and meditating. If you know something that you can utilise positively, you will get inspiration. But again, if you know that in a past incarnation you were something very great, while in this incarnation you are nothing, then you will curse God. You will curse yourself. You will say, “I was so great. If I was so great, how is it that in this incarnation I am so useless?” Then you will feel miserable. You will think, “I have done something wrong and I do not even know it,” or “God is harsh. God does not care for me.” It is very easy to blame God.

On very rare occasions do people properly utilise the knowledge of their past incarnations. Unfortunately, what happens is this. If a past incarnation is not encouraging, if in my past incarnation I did not run fast at all in the spiritual life, if I was an ordinary person, or let us say, even a thief or something bad, then I will become frustrated. If we do something wrong in this incarnation, it takes us a few months to come out of despair and frustration. We say, “I was so bad. I did this, I did that. Now how am I going to become pure? How am I going to be God’s instrument? How am I going to realise God?” If you did something seriously wrong four years ago, it may still bother you.

The best thing is to forget about it if you have done something wrong. Just say, “I put my finger into fire and burned it. Now I do not want to do it again.” My advice is always to forget about the past. My feeling is — the past is dust. Only on rare occasions can you think of the past as an encouragement. If you know that you have to run 100 metres, and you ran 10 metres in your past incarnations, then you only have to cover 90 metres more. Now you have help; you are under the guidance of a spiritual Master who can inspire you and guide you. You know that you have the capacity to run. Now if somebody is guiding you, you will be able to cover the other 90 metres much faster.

If you do not get inspiration from your past, it is always a disadvantage to know that you were very great or very bad. If you were great in one field, and now God wants to make you great in some other line, you might misunderstand Him. And if He does not want to make you great, if you are ordinary, you will feel that He is really useless and cruel. It is better just to start from the beginning like a child. You may not remember where your starting point was, but you do know where the goal is.