Question: What is our duty to our close ones living on earth and also to the ones in the other world? I think it is probably good to pray for them, but sometimes I feel close to someone and sometimes I feel a long distance away. Also, I have a feeling sometimes that people may be reincarnated.

Sri Chinmoy: Here we are dealing with the feeling of oneness. Somebody may stay beside you for twenty-four hours, but you may not feel any sense of oneness. Here at the United Nations you have quite a few friends and colleagues. Every day you spend seven or eight hours with them, but when you go home they are totally forgotten, obliterated from your memory. On the other hand, while you are in the office with all these people, some sweet memory of your mother, who is in France, may be constantly knocking at your heart’s door. Then you become like a boat, constantly plying between the shores of America and France. Why? It is because of your oneness: your constant inseparable oneness with your mother, which is making you feel her presence.

Similarly, the departed ones are on another shore. You are on this shore of life and they are on the other shore of life. If you are very advanced in the spiritual life, or if you are realised, you will always have a boat in which to go to the other shore at your sweet will and enjoy the company of your departed friends and relatives. And if they have come back to this shore, reincarnated in a different body, that also you will always be able to know. This entirely depends on your inner growth and inner achievement.

Now sometimes you feel that your departed dear ones are not close to you, and sometimes you feel that they are very close. Why? When the inner bond is not strong, you are bound to feel that there is something missing, something lacking, something imperfect in your connection with these loved ones. But if it is God’s Will that you should keep a close connection with your dear ones who are on the other shore of the life-river, then you are bound to feel their living presence in your day-to-day life. If it is not His Will, then you have to feel that this connection is not at all necessary. Only the ones who are your brothers and sisters in the spiritual realm, here on earth, are really yours. The departed and dear ones were once also yours. God gave you the responsibility to think of some people, to help some people once, and now He has given you the responsibility to think of other people and to be of help and service to them. This does not mean that those departed souls do not exist in your life. They do exist, but the responsibility for them God has taken away from you. God has now given you a new responsibility, for new friends, for other souls who are on earth.

Again, you have every right, and it is a divine accomplishment if, during your meditation, you offer your goodwill to the departed ones. You may not know whether they are in Heaven or on earth. But if you offer your heart’s goodwill and your soul’s light, no matter where they are, whether in Heaven or on earth, they are bound to feel some light from somewhere. Their outer mind, if they have taken human incarnation, may not know that it is coming from you. But it is not at all necessary that they should know from whom it is coming. The only important thing is that something is coming. Who gives it is of no importance. Whether I bring down Peace and Light from Above, or whether your soul brings it down, or whether it descends of its own accord is of no importance. But whether Light enters into you from Above, and whether your inner being is surcharged with Light, is of paramount importance.

So offer your soul’s light to your departed dear ones if you want to, but also feel that God has given you the supreme task of serving Him in those who are on earth, and that you should fulfil that task.