Part IHDW 1-3. Sri Chinmoy answered these questions on 19 June 2003 at P.S. 86 in Jamaica, New York.
Question: Guru, what is more important: inspiration or imagination?Sri Chinmoy: What is more important: inspiration or imagination? Inspiration, from one point of view, is infinitely more important than imagination. Then again, imagination is a reality on another plane of consciousness. On another plane, imagination is absolutely real. You may ask, "Which is more important and more delicious: a mango or a banana?" Some will say the mango is more delicious, while others will say, "No, no — the banana, the banana." They taste totally different, but it is the individual who prefers one to the other.
We have to take inspiration and imagination separately. We have to be inspired first. Then we have to enter into the world of imagination, or the imagination-world has to come to us. We have to know that this imagination should not be our mental hallucination. Many, many times we are enjoying mental hallucination and we think that it is imagination. No, no, no! Imagination is of supreme importance, but mental hallucination is worse than useless. Sometimes we are experiencing mental hallucination, but we take it as imagination.
Without inspiration we cannot achieve anything sublime. This inspiration can come from any world. It can come from the high, higher, highest world. Again, it can come right from nature. Mother Nature embodies inspiration. We can meditate to be inspired. This is one way. Again, we can pray to be inspired. If we look at a tree, we are not begging the tree, "Give me some inspiration." Still, when we look at the tree, there is a communication going on. There is something going on between our soul or our heart and the consciousness of the tree. We may be totally unaware of what is happening, but we are getting inspiration just by looking at the tree. Perhaps our eyes are able to catch a glimpse of a few leaves or branches or fruits. In some way we are getting inspiration.
Let us say you are looking at a river. You are facing the river, but you are not communicating with it. You are not praying to God to give you inspiration, but the river or the sea itself embodies inspiration. A tree or a garden embodies inspiration; Mother Nature embodies inspiration. Let us say Mother Earth embodies inspiration. When you look at nature, inspiration comes to you automatically. You can look at the sky. Even if you look at the birds in the sky, if you observe the flight of the birds, inspiration will come to you.
Sometimes it is very, very difficult to use your imagination. Suppose you want to imagine an Indian God, a Cosmic God or Cosmic Goddess. You are trying so hard to imagine that Cosmic God. But if you keep a picture of a certain Cosmic God or Goddess in front of you, then after half an hour if you are trying to imagine that God or Goddess, immediately, right before your mental vision, you will get it. That particular picture has reality in it, no matter what kind of life the artist lived. The artist prayed and meditated and then got the inspiration and imagination to capture that Cosmic God or Goddess.
If you want to imagine a Cosmic God, let us say, then if you can see the reality in a picture, it is very easy, after one hour or one or two days. But if you do not see the Cosmic God in a picture with your human eyes, it is very difficult to imagine that Cosmic God. And sometimes, even when your imagination is successful, alas, alas, your mind may come and say, "No, no, no, no, that cannot be the Cosmic Goddess. It is my mental hallucination." Definitely it was the blessingful presence of the Cosmic Goddess that you saw or felt, but the mind can interfere and say, "No, it is impossible. What kind of life am I leading? How will the Cosmic Goddess come to me? It is just my mental hallucination."
Here is the problem: imagination can be ruined if it is confused with mental hallucination. But inspiration comes easily. Let us say you are inspired while you are walking or looking at something. Inspiration is very easy to get, but it may not last. Inspiration can be very short-lived. Perhaps you are inspired to write a song, or a melody for a poem. If you do not record it, it goes away. Then afterwards you may say, "I will get a sweeter melody, a more inspiring melody." Your mind is telling you that the new melody will be more inspiring, but the heart will immediately think of the melody that you have forgotten. One melody has already come to you and if you have not recorded it on tape, after half an hour or so another one will come. The mind may say the second one is better, so you can forget about the first one. But the poor heart will say, "Why have I lost the first melody? Why have I lost it? I should have taped it; I should have recorded it."
Spiritual Masters do not have to imagine something. Spiritual Masters of my height do not need to do that. We see reality inside the heart of imagination. We do not have to separate imagination and reality. No, they are absolutely the same. For us, as soon as we imagine something, we see it as reality, no matter which plane it has come from.
When inspiration comes, it does not last. But if you are expert, you have some command of it. I could not have written or dictated thousands and thousands of pages if I had had to wait for inspiration. Sometimes the inspiration-bird is flying away while you are writing. Most people cannot catch the bird, but those who have inner capacities just go and catch it. Even while the bird is flying, they can capture this inspiration-bird. Again, they have the capacity to command the inspiration-bird. You can take inspiration as a dog instead of a bird. The dog is mischievous, but when you become serious, then he surrenders. A naughty child can be very mischievous, but if the father becomes serious, then the child obeys.
Sometimes you have to beg or wait for some time to get a little inspiration. Suppose you want to write a poem. You are sitting and waiting. When will the inspiration descend on you to write one line of poetry? But if, from within, your soul comes to the fore, the soul will give you the inspiration. If you had to wait for inspiration to come, then it would take you perhaps three or four days to write something. But the flow comes when the soul has come to the fore to inspire you.
There are two realities. As I said before, you can compare them to a mango and a banana. How easily can you get these fruits? It depends on the season. You may get a mango in the proper season and a banana in a different season. But if you can have both fruits, both inspiration and imagination, then you can achieve much more. It is better to have both. When you want inspiration, you pray to God for inspiration. When you want to imagine something, imagine it; but you have to know that this imagination itself is a reality. Otherwise, you will not value it.
Many, many people do not value their imagination. But inside imagination is the reality, or you can say that imagination itself is a reality. The higher we go, the clearer it becomes: the higher the imagination we get, the clearer it becomes that this imagination is nothing short of reality.
Swami Vivekananda and other spiritual figures also spoke about imagination. Suppose one is meditating and he is not able to dive deep within or go high, very high, but he continues and continues meditating. Then he can exercise his imagination and remember that ten or twenty years earlier he had a very sublime experience. The seeker is struggling so hard to have a high experience, a most sublime experience, but that experience is not to be found. Then he can try to imagine what happened earlier in his life. He knows he had quite a few experiences, although he may not know the exact date. But what happened ten years earlier, twenty years earlier or thirty years earlier? If he knocks at that door, where he reached that height, he can imagine, imagine, imagine that reality!
Now, you will say that with this kind of imagination you are fooling yourself; this is not reality. No! Imagine the highest experience that you had. Just think of that experience. Again and again and again you can use your will-power or your desire to have that experience once again. If you can spend five or ten minutes or half an hour, definitely that experience you will once again be able to bring down. At that time the experience that you get will not be your mental hallucination; it will be a reality.
One spiritual Master said that before he realised God, he used to have high experiences. Then he wanted to have once again the same experiences, but those experiences he was not getting. Perhaps the divine Grace was not descending, but he was imagining: "O my God, so many years ago I had those experiences." He deeply valued those experiences, so he wanted to have them again. How could he do that? He was only thinking about them and meditating, meditating, meditating on those experiences. Then those experiences again came down and at that time they were absolutely real. It was not his mental hallucination or imagination. Those experiences again became very, very real.
Let us say at this moment your mind is very impure. Then think of what happened ten days ago, or even ten or twenty years ago, when you had the deepest or highest experience of purity. Now you feel that your mind is in the gutter, but think of that time. Again and again think of that particular experience of your own highest, deepest, most powerful purity in your life, in your mind. At that time you saw not even an iota of wrong thought in your mind. There was nothing impure everything was pure, pure, pure, pure. Absolutely your entire being was flooded with purity. If you can think of that purity for just five minutes or ten minutes or fifteen minutes, then you can again bring down the same reality.
But you must not at that time think, "Oh, it is my imagination." No! You have applied your will-power, you have applied your heart's inner cry, so you can easily bring back that reality. At that time think that it is absolutely real — which is so true! It is real. It is not that the previous time it was real and this time it is unreal. No! This time it is just as real as last time.
Let us say ten years ago I had a mango. Now I have the opportunity to have another mango. I shall not say that the previous mango was real and the present one is unreal. The present mango is definitely as real as the previous one.
Very good! I hope I have made it clear to you.
Imagination and inspiration: both are needed, both are needed. Both are of paramount importance.