Question: There are so many spiritual paths and so many spiritual teachers. How does one figure out which is the right one?

Sri Chinmoy: It is a matter of one's inner feeling and inner affinity. In our outer life there are many schools, but an individual goes to only one school. Here in Minnesota and the neighbouring states there are hundreds of universities. But some people who live here go to New York to study, and vice versa. Why does someone prefer a New York university to a Minnesota university? For some reason he likes it better. There are various schools and various teachers, but an individual is bound to like one particular university better than another. He has read about that university, or he has an inner feeling that it is better. The choice is up to him.

In the inner life there is an easy way, a convincing way, to know who your Master is. Just take a piece of paper and write down the names of the spiritual Masters whom you have seen or whom you have read about or merely heard of. They may be here in America or somewhere else. As you write down the name of a particular Master, repeat his name aloud seven times most soulfully, placing your right palm on your heart. Try to feel the vibration you get from him. Now you become the teacher yourself. If you feel no vibration, give him zero. Repeat this procedure, giving a grade for each Master. If you get some vibration, give him the mark you feel he deserves.

You are the judge. It is you who are going to offer your life to someone, and you cannot be a fool. When you are going to dedicate your whole life to someone, you do not want to become that Master's disciple just because some person you know has accepted him as his Master, or just because he has thousands of disciples. On the other hand, if a Master has only a few disciples, you should not go to him solely for that reason either. It is all God's play. God has given to some Masters thousands and thousands of disciples, and to others He has given very few. God tells one Master that he has to be very selective, and God tells another Master to accept anyone who comes to him.

God has given you the opportunity to make a selection. Continue to write down the names of the Masters and repeat their names out loud. If you get an intense vibration and a real inner thrill, a feeling of ecstasy from one name, then give that Master 80 or 90 or even more. But if you get only a good vibration and not an inner thrill, then give him 40 or 50. If none of the Masters you know of is meant to be your Master, then you will not get that inner thrill from any of them. Perhaps you are not yet familiar with your Master's name. But in India we say, "When the disciple is ready, the Master is bound to come." If you are really ready for a Master, then I wish to say that your Master is available. He may be in the farthest corner of the globe, in India or somewhere else. But you are bound to find him.

If you accept a Master, his path becomes yours. You cannot be in two boats at once. If you keep one foot in one boat and the other foot in another boat, you are going to break your legs. Each Master is right in his own way. Each boatman will take you to the destined Goal. You have to know that the Goal is the same, but the roads may not and cannot be of the same length. There are many roads that lead to Rome, but you will see that one particular road will lead you there sooner than the others. In the spiritual life, that road, that path, is the path of Love. The road of knowledge, wisdom and intellect will lead you to your Goal, undoubtedly, but it will be a long, slow process.

Now I beg to be excused. I answered your question and then entered into other details. To come back to your question, I wish to say that the very name of your spiritual Master will immediately give you boundless joy. I have quite a few disciples who just heard my name on the phone or somewhere else and then came to me. God knows what their needs are and sends them to the right Master if they are sincere in their inner cry. The name of the person who is going to be your Master will give you a divine vibration, an inner thrill, because you will have a strong inner affinity for him. Perhaps you have not read any book by him, perhaps you know next to nothing about his outer or inner life, but his name will have a mantric effect on you, because sooner or later he is going to be your inner Pilot. Your inner cry has already reached the heart of your Master. In the outer life, the moment his name comes to you, you will feel a magic inner thrill and your heart will be touched.