Question: Does illumination come all at once?

Sri Chinmoy: No, illumination does not come all at once. It is a series of experiences. When we get the fullest, the highest illumination, at that time we feel, "This is the hour." But illumination is actually like a muscle which we develop. We cannot develop very strong muscles overnight. We have to exercise for a few months or a few years before we develop very powerful muscles. In Buddha's case, he meditated under the Bodhi Tree for six months. Before that he had meditated in various other places. There are many spiritual Masters who say that on one particular day they got realisation. But it did not happen all at once. There was long preparation behind it. They meditated for fifteen or twenty years.

On a specific day you get a diploma, but before that you study for twenty years. Every year adds to your higher illumination, higher knowledge. In the case of Buddha, he had meditated for many, many years in previous incarnations before he realised the highest Truth. It was a long preparation. Nobody gets illumination all at once. Illumination is the development of inner will, of inner consciousness. We can say that in the outer life it is a series of experiences. First we get an iota of light, and gradually it increases until we have abundant light. Then we enter into boundless Light, infinite Light. This is how illumination or realisation gradually takes place.