Question: Why is it necessary for a soul that has left the body many years ago to ask for a material thing, in this case a skull (referring to a story about a ghost shaking the bed of someone who had taken an old skull from a cemetery)?

Sri Chinmoy: Ordinary souls have a malicious attitude of revenge. If they cannot take revenge on someone while they are on earth, they want to take it from the other world. They are not satisfied, and it is immaterial to them whether they act on a friend or on an enemy. They take revenge because they feel that they are gaining something. They get pleasure in this and are merciless. I know many cases similar to this story you told. These souls ask just for minor things — for a dollar, for example — and if they don’t get it, what do they do? They enter into your subtle nerves and upset your whole system. I know of a young boy whose friend died. This boy owed the friend the equivalent of a dime in Indian currency. For seven nights his friend came back saying: “Give me my money.” The boy said, “I am ready to give it back to you, but how will you take it?” The friend said, “No, give me, give me my money.” At the end of the week the boy’s health was shattered and he was bedridden for two months.

If you have a servant — a maid, for example — and the maid dies, if she wants to take revenge, she can remain in the vital world for a few months or a few years. From there her spirit may create many problems. But then, everything is limited; she cannot go on torturing you forever.

You have no idea how X suffered when her first husband committed suicide. Two or three hours after the wedding took place, he got the brilliant idea to kill himself. How X suffered from it for five, six, seven years — perhaps even more. Every day she was attacked, threatened, frightened, tortured in so many ways. I was in India at that time and I did not know her, but a friend of mine asked me to help her. I used my power, and after so many years of torturing her, the spirit finally left her alone.

We think that as soon as the soul leaves the body it becomes generous, pure, forgiving; but this is not so. If it were that way, we would always welcome death. We would say to death: “The moment you accept me I will be free from all bondage.” But it is not like that. The standard that we achieve in this life is a stepping stone. In our next incarnation we have to start with our present achievement. If we have cultivated forgiveness, love and sacrifice in this incarnation, then on the strength of our forgiveness, love and sacrifice we will go a step ahead in our next incarnation.

People who try to take revenge on their friends or acquaintances after their soul has left the body are really making great blunders. They are hampering their future incarnation, because they are not leaving the vital world. They are staying in the vital world and entering into the gross physical world to threaten, to frighten or to give some news. If they tried instead to enter into the mental world or the plane of intuition or the higher mind or overmind or the soul’s region, then they would make real progress, but they do not.

When that man whom you referred to in your question took home the skull, he put himself in contact with the vital forces. And he was inviting trouble by doing that. When I was nine or ten, I went to a place where I saw a skull. I saw a few words in Sanskrit written on the skull. Later, while I was going back home, I saw inwardly that in those very few words a long letter was written, and in this letter the deceased person was telling how his wife and children had been cruel and unjust to him. If I had brought the skull home, I would have had the same fate as the man you referred to in your question. Even though I was not involved with the deceased person, just because I showed interest in that particular skull I would have been bothered by him.