Question: Many people want to meditate and come to a centre, but they don't wish to follow a path.

Sri Chinmoy: Each school has its own way of teaching. There are many schools that only try to inspire people. In my case, I have students or disciples; I also have followers, admirers, well-wishers and acquaintances. In America and elsewhere, my students give talks, but we don't expect everyone to follow our path. Our philosophy is to share the message of peace, light and bliss with the world at large. It is up to each individual to decide whether our way of life and our way of prayer and meditation suit him. If they do suit him, then he joins our boat.

Right now you do not have a large, well-established centre. So the limited amount of time and energy that you have at your disposal should be spent on those who are attending meditation regularly. Although they have already joined the path, still you can inspire them to be more dedicated and more serving to mankind. Then later, when the centre is strong, once a week you can give general talks to inspire humanity. But right now you should devote most of your attention to helping those who are in the boat.

We give seekers a chance to come five, six, seven or eight times to the centre. But there comes a time when they have to make a decision whether they want to belong to our boat or not. After some time, if they don't feel that they can become part and parcel of our life, then we know they are not taking our path seriously.

I always say that each path is like a boat. Everybody has to be in one boat or another. Right now, let us say, somebody is standing on the shore looking at the sea. Far beyond, on the other side, is his goal. He is only at the starting point; the shore where he is standing is not, unfortunately, his destination. So he has to find a boat to take him to his destination — the Golden Shore of the Beyond. If he tries to swim, he will see how many creatures are there in the water to devour him. So you are representing the boatman; you have come and you are giving talks. If your inspiration does not give a particular seeker joy, then some boatman from another path will be there to carry him to his goal. But if the seeker doesn't enter into our boat or into somebody else's boat, how is he going to cross the sea and get to the other side? He will stand on the shore for a few days or a few weeks and listen to you give talks, and then he will disappear. You are not the loser. Only you feel sad that he did not care to enter into a particular boat.

It does not have to be our boat. The world's fastest sprinter, Carl Lewis, is my student and friend. About a month ago in Houston, he said on television, "Sri Chinmoy wants only to inspire people. He is not telling you that you have to follow his way. He is simply saying that you have to follow some way — whichever way you like. Otherwise, you are not going anywhere."

We will never say, "If you do not follow our way of life, then there is no Heaven for you." No, no, no! Only we are begging people to choose one road. All the roads lead to Rome; but if a seeker only stands in one place and cannot decide which road to take, he will never reach his goal.

I will never feel sad — not even for a fleeting second — if someone goes to some other group after listening to you give a talk. The fact that he received inspiration and aspiration from you is enough. Thousands of people come to my concerts, but I do not expect them to become my students. I don't expect even ten to become my students. I may play for 10,000 people for two and a half hours; perhaps they get inspiration and joy. Perhaps in the course of two and a half hours, they will pray and meditate for a minute or two. Or perhaps the following morning they will sing a soulful song or think of God for a moment. Then I am so happy, for the inspiration that I have offered to them has helped them to become a better person.