Question: Does it help you to know what kind of animal you were in your past incarnations, or what kind of person you were?

Sri Chinmoy: When we enter into the inner life and develop our inner consciousness, our inner capacity, we get reminiscences of our past incarnations. Deep in our meditation we can easily feel that we had previous lives. And if we know that we had a past, and if we know that the present is not yet complete and that we ourselves can never remain incomplete, then the urge of the present will take us to the future where we will achieve our completeness. At the same time, we can expedite our progress if we have a Master. If we are most dedicated to the inner life and if we have a Guru, then we can make twenty incarnations’ progress in one lifetime.

Now suppose we know that we were a deer in our last animal incarnation. The only advantage is that we can think of our speed and say: “In the animal incarnation I ran so fast, and at that time I did not have the advanced soul which I now have. In this incarnation let me run even faster!” As soon as we remember that we ran fast in a previous incarnation, we feel inspired to run fast in this incarnation. If we know our past incarnation, then we can utilise it positively; at that time inspiration comes forward very quickly. If somebody knows that he was a seeker, then he gets a little joy and confidence. “I started my journey in my past incarnation, but it was a very long and arduous road. In this incarnation I am still walking along the same path, but I don’t have as far to go this time. Also, it is easier because I have a little help. I have the capacity. I have the willingness. I have the experience. With a spiritual Master guiding me, I shall easily reach my goal.”

But only on very rare occasions do we utilise the knowledge of our past incarnations properly. Most of the time it does not give us any encouragement at all. If we know that in our past incarnation we were a thief or something undivine, will this give us any inspiration or aspiration? No! Immediately we will think: “Oh, I was a thief and in this incarnation I am trying to become a saint. Impossible! It is hopeless to try to become spiritual in this life.” Even in this incarnation if we do a few things wrong it takes us a long time to come out of despair. We think: “I was so bad. I did this. I did that. Now how am I going to become pure? How am I going to realise God?” Even if we did something wrong four years ago it may still bother us.

On the other hand, suppose we know that in our past incarnation we were someone very great and in this incarnation we see that we are nothing. Then we will feel miserable. We will curse God and we will curse ourselves. We will say: “If I was so great, how is it that in this incarnation I am so useless? What unthinkable thing have I done to deserve this fate? God is harsh; He does not care for me.” But we misunderstand God. God wants to have a different experience through us in this incarnation, and we think that God is just being unkind.

An aspirant wants inner joy, the joy that fulfils him and fulfils God. This he will never get from his past incarnations. If he enters into some past incarnation and sees that he was the President of the United States, still he will get no satisfaction. He will see that as President his life was full of misery, frustration and all kinds of suffering. For real joy, an aspirant has to go forward in the spiritual life with his own aspiration and inner cry, with his own concentration and meditation.

The best thing for us is not to think of the past. Our Goal is not behind us; it is ahead of us. Our direction is forward, not backward. For a spiritual person I always say: “Past is dust.” I say this because the past has not given us what we want. What we want is God-realisation. Knowing our previous incarnations does not help our God-realisation. God-realisation depends entirely on our inner cry. The important thing is not the past, but the present. We must say: “I have no past. I am beginning here and now with God’s Grace and my own aspiration. Now let me start to run. How far I have run in the past is immaterial. Let me think only of how far I am going to run in this life.”

Right now we have to see the past as something totally different from the present, and the present as something totally different from the future. Once we realise God, at that time the past, present and future become all one. They form a circle, which is our own inner being, our entire life. At that time we can easily see back to our previous incarnations and know what we were.

If you want to know about your past incarnations, certainly God will give you the capacity. But the most important thing is not past incarnations or future incarnations, but what you want here and now. You want God, and if you meditate soulfully, God is bound to grant you that boon. You will possess Him and you will claim Him as your very own.

I wish to say one more thing to my disciples. Now let me brag a little, and you also can boast. In your past incarnations you did lead spiritual lives. If you had not had any preparation, do you think that God would have brought you to me? No! He would have taken you to some Master who is an inch lower than me. Spiritual Masters of my calibre get disciples who have tried or done something in the past. Some have done more, some have done less. But everybody has done something; otherwise you would have gone to some other spiritual Master and not to me. God is kind to me and He is kind to you. To the high school teacher God will not give kindergarten students. He will save kindergarten students for those who cannot reach higher classes. On rare occasions, one or two have come to me after only a few human incarnations, but these few souls have an intense desire to transcend their present consciousness.