Question: What is the difference between an ordinary learning situation and spiritual study?
Sri Chinmoy: The life of a dedicated student and the life of a dedicated seeker are similar. A student goes to a teacher and the teacher teaches him. Similarly, a seeker goes to a spiritual Master and learns from him the subject of God-realisation. In the outer life, a student goes to school. There he sees his teacher in the physical and his teacher also sees him in the physical. Then the teacher and the student fulfil their mutual tasks of teaching and learning. But this is all done on the physical plane. But in the case of a seeker and a spiritual Master, the teaching and learning can take place outwardly or on the inner plane, or on both planes. The teacher can inwardly offer the message of how to concentrate, meditate and contemplate. He offers the message to the soul, if he has to do it inwardly, and the soul conveys the message to the mind, to the vital and to the physical of that particular seeker.
As an ordinary student we need a teacher on the outer plane to expedite our journey. The books are all available, but when we buy the books and start reading, we are not convinced by what we read; or we do not completely understand it. But when we go to a teacher, the teacher explains the thing and we are convinced. In the spiritual life also there are many spiritual books that may give us inspiration. But real aspiration grows when we go to a spiritual Master who can teach us inwardly or outwardly how to aspire. The teacher convinces the seeker of his own aspiration. Otherwise, doubt may at any moment assail him. He may get a very good, very high, sublime experience; but doubt may enter into him and convince him that it was all rubbish, just sheer imagination. Again, he may have some mental hallucination and think that he has achieved absolutely the highest possible realisation. But afterwards his life will again become a life of frustration. If there is a spiritual Master, he will immediately tell the seeker whether his experiences are founded on reality or on falsehood. In this way the student gets constant help from the Master so that he can run the fastest toward the goal, without having any misconceptions about his progress.