Question: How can I know when I should be in your physical presence and when I should be manifesting you? I am not sure if the answer will be personal or if it will apply to all the disciples.

Sri Chinmoy: When I was a child, we used to have quite a few cows. Among them, two were very famous. One was Nandini and the other was Surabhi. Nandini was very mild, but Surabhi was very dynamic. Here is the difference between the physical presence of the Master and his spiritual presence. If you pull the tail of a cow, will you get milk? If you pull a leg of the cow, or the horn, will you get milk? No. The place where you get milk from the cow is called the udder. When you milk the cow, that is the place where the milk comes from. All the parts belong to the same cow, but there is a special place where you will get milk. Again, if the other parts did not exist, then it would not be a cow. If all the limbs were not present, it would not be a cow.

Some spiritual Masters say that when you are in the physical presence of a spiritual Master, it is like the udder, where the milk comes from. That is the goal: to get milk. Some spiritual Masters say this, and it is absolutely true. Again, some spiritual Masters are of a different opinion. They say that familiarity breeds contempt. If you mix too much with the Master, then you see only the human side of the Master, not the divine side. If that is the case, then in a sense I was lucky that I saw my Guru, Sri Aurobindo, only four times a year — four times a year, each time for just a few seconds. The Mother Divine I saw every day, a minimum of three times and sometimes four times.

If you have to stand in front of your Master four times a day, you must be careful. Once only if you go before him, then you may think that afterwards you can relax; but three more times at three different hours if you have to stand before your Master, imagine how careful you have to be! Once a day if you stand before me, then the rest of the time is all yours. For the entire day you can enjoy yourself. But after two hours if you have to return, then you must behave well and keep your consciousness high.

There is both an advantage and a disadvantage to being in the Master’s presence, but some people are very fortunate. The more they can stay in the physical presence of the Master, the more they are able take him very, very seriously, very seriously. They do not believe that familiarity breeds contempt. The more they can stay in his presence, the more benefit they receive.

There is a term in Sanskrit called satsang. It means the company of spiritual people. Have you ever been in the company of saints? Perhaps you have read Sri Aurobindo’s immortal story, “The Ideal of Forgiveness.” King Vishwamitra came to kill the saint Vashishtha. He had already killed the one hundred children of Vashishtha, and he wanted to kill Vashishtha also on that day — all because Vashishtha would not declare that Vishwamitra had realised God. Only for a few minutes he was in the physical presence of Vashishtha, and then he was transformed by Vashishtha’s love and forgiveness.

If you are with spiritual people, what happens? In America we do not give that much value to spiritual company. In India, specially in Indian spiritual communities, they give so much attention to the physical presence of the Master. In New York, Saturday night is our “comedy and tragedy” night, when disciples dramatise my spiritual stories. I am here with you; you are in my presence. In my case, at times I really enjoy the performances of so many groups. I bring down only innocent joy, and the performers are also giving joy. This world needs joy — pure, innocent joy. When some people perform, that innocence disappears; but most of the time there is joy, innocent joy, and that helps us. From innocent joy we can make tremendous progress.

I am coming back to the point. Advantage is there and disadvantage is there; but if you are wise, the more time you can spend in front of the Master, the better. You can make very fast progress in the physical presence of your Master. If you are unwise, you can take your own time.

Look at this chair. I sit on this chair. I have been sitting on it for years and years and years. I do not think this chair will realise God before you. No — never, never, never! The soul of this chair has to take human incarnation. Now it is in the tree-consciousness, or the wood-consciousness. It has to come to the human consciousness, and from there it has to make progress, progress, progress. Then only will it realise God. I have been using it for so many hours, for years and years. This chair has a soul, but the consciousness is very, very low, or we can say that it has no consciousness.

The physical presence of the Master can be of tremendous help provided the disciple takes it soulfully and prayerfully. Otherwise, it can be detrimental. While I am talking, your outer mind will say, “Guru is talking. He is not meditating." Again, your heart will say, if it is aspiring, “Guru can do many things at once.” In the morning I drive. I look this side, I look behind, I look that side. I am doing so many things at once while I am driving. I am putting so much concentration, here, there and all around. Here, when I am chatting and getting massaged by our doctors, people may say, "Comfort, comfort, comfort! Nobody is massaging my feet. All the time they are massaging Guru’s feet.”

Many spiritual Masters have had the same habit. Sri Ramakrishna used to have two disciples massaging him while he and his disciples were all chatting. Sometimes he had three. In my case, on very rare occasions I have three doctors to massage me. In so many ways the disciples can misunderstand the Master’s physical presence if they use their mind. But if they use their heart, it is all oneness, oneness. They will say, “Whatever the Master is doing is for our good, for our good. He has attained to a certain height — the high, higher, highest height. There he is not affected by the so-called outer comfort. At every moment the Master can go very, very high.”

The problem arises if the disciples use the mind. If they use the mind, they may think that everything the Master is doing is wrong. If they use the heart, they will feel that everything the Master is doing is good. So, use the heart all the time! If you use the mind, you may think that everything I am saying and doing is all wrong. If you use the heart, you will say that everything is right, right, right.

Just from the physical presence of a cow, you will not get milk. But when the Master is in the physical, it is like you are getting the milk immediately. If you say, “Supreme, Supreme, Supreme,” God alone knows where the Supreme is: is He this side, or that side? Where, where, where is He? But if you say, “Guru, Guru, Guru,” immediately you are entering into me. You have seen me thousands of times, and there is my Transcendental Photograph. Alas, we do not have a picture of the Supreme in His Highest. We do not have it, and we will never have it. When I see Him, at that time I have no camera with me. My third eye is the camera!

In Woodstock, I had many times the experience of the Supreme as the highest, most beautiful, absolutely golden Being. Once my dearest sponsor, Ann Harrison, was driving, and I saw in the street a most golden form. The Supreme can take any form. A childish desire entered into me. I said, “How I wish I had a camera with me!” I did not have a camera, but the desire to take a picture entered into me. Perhaps it would not have come out, because this experience took place in the subtle world, not in the physical world. We cannot or we may not capture the experience from the subtle world on the physical plane. But again, we can imagine, imagine, imagine Somebody who is most beautiful, infinitely more beautiful than any human child. Imagination has its own reality.

To come back to your question, there is an advantage and there is a disadvantage to being in the Master’s physical presence. If you are wise, you will always avail yourself of the advantage.