Question: Guru, is it possible within a lifetime to change our consciousness permanently? Or will it only be a slow process, in which our good qualities gradually increase?

Sri Chinmoy: There is no hard and fast rule. It is all a matter of grace. From earth comes aspiration, and from Heaven comes grace. When they meet together, it can happen. Some people already have the capacity to change their nature.

Again, suppose that somebody was very, very undivine. In India there were so many rogues who did absolutely bad, bad things, but they became divine. They say even the person who wrote the Ramayana was so horrible that he would cut off people’s fingers. He wanted to make a garland of thumbs! He was so bad, so impure, that he could not say the name of Rama. He had to say it in the opposite way: “Mara, Mara.” But then he became divine. He became the greatest sage. In many cases, people were very, very bad, notorious to the backbone, and they became saints. Alas, unfortunate things also happen. Some people begin with absolutely saintly qualities and then they end up in jail, because they start doing bad things. In the beginning they were so good.

Now, to come back to your question, it is quite possible in one incarnation for the seeker to change his consciousness permanently if he wants to. If God’s Grace descends most powerfully, and if the seeker’s receptivity-vessel is very large, then he can do it. He does not need many incarnations. Otherwise, in a slow process it can take two or three incarnations to change one’s nature.

Sometimes a little plant is growing up straight. We see that one day it will become a tree. But alas, a storm comes and it breaks. Like that, some seekers stop making progress. Let us say that for thirty years someone was doing well, but then something happens — there is a dislocation in the person’s faith, or some other calamity. Then he does not make any more progress.

We are supposed to make progress. To my great sorrow, some disciples who joined our path right from the beginning have descended considerably. But I go on with the hope that, in their next incarnation or in the evening of their life, they will get back their aspiration.

From pre-school, children go to kindergarten, primary school, high school, college and university. But what happens? Some people give up high school, or they do not go beyond high school. They are supposed to go up to the M.A. level, let us say, but it does not happen. In exactly the same way, some people in the spiritual life arrive at a certain standard, and they feel that that is enough for them. In the ordinary life, if you have completed your B.A. and you do not go beyond that level, you keep that title. The knowledge that you got from the university you keep. Unfortunately, in the spiritual life, once you stop making progress, in most cases or many cases you go down.

In the ordinary human life if you stop making progress, there you stay. In the long jump if you have covered seven metres, and you cannot go any further, that is enough for you. Your achievement is over, but it is recorded that you have jumped seven metres. In the spiritual life, the situation is totally different. You have climbed up the tree to a certain height, and if you do not want to climb up higher, you just go down. You cannot stay there! In the ordinary life if you hold a Master’s degree, you keep that degree. But in the spiritual life if you have climbed up the tree and you are stuck, you are not going higher, then you go down. In very rare cases you get stuck and you do not come down. But in most of the cases, once progress stops, people come down. This has happened in the case of many disciples. Again, some disciples have maintained their standard.

I shall give you an example. When people joined our path, they felt that insecurity they had to conquer, jealousy they had to conquer, pride they had to conquer in order to make the fastest progress and to become very dear to the Master. Everything that was wrong in their nature they felt they had to conquer, and every second they tried to develop purity, purity. Anything they saw in themselves that would stand in the way of their progress, they would try to conquer. Alas, alas! After twenty or twenty-five years, some have given up completely. And these forces — pride, anger, jealousy — that they previously wanted to conquer, they have now taken as weapons. If a newcomer comes to the path, if he is shining and doing well, the jealousy-arrows of those particular disciples may come and attack him.

In your case, you made the fastest progress. Such service you gave from the beginning — service, service, service! Even now you are continuing. The service that you give, not even ten per cent of the disciples can give. Twenty-four hours a day you are working, working, working, working. Some people are jealous of you. I am telling you this today. Again, there are many people who are proud of you. They feel, “We have a jewel here! He is doing so well.”

We have no idea how fast one can make progress. Let us take the case of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s Guru, Vishnu Bhaskar Lele, was so proud of Sri Aurobindo. He said it took him seven long years to silence his mind, to make his mind calm and quiet — seven years — and Sri Aurobindo did it in three days. How proud Sri Aurobindo’s Guru was of Sri Aurobindo!

Sri Aurobindo was going high, higher, highest. He went beyond that Master. Lord Krishna was guiding Sri Aurobindo at every moment. Then his Guru became jealous of Sri Aurobindo’s achievement, and he said, “You have been attacked by hostile forces.” Sri Aurobindo said, “I want to be governed by the hostile forces and not by you any more!”

Look at the Master’s sincerity! He did have sincerity. Who will say that his own disciple has transcended his achievement? Spiritual Masters usually do not say if somebody is making great progress. Lele said that in three days Sri Aurobindo attained such height that he was able to silence the mind. Again, when Sri Aurobindo went beyond him, Lele’s jealousy started and he said, “You are being attacked by the hostile forces.”

Sri Aurobindo’s Guru was a very, very great soul. Once Sri Aurobindo had to give a speech. He had made no preparation, and he was full of worries and anxieties. Lele said, “Just go on the stage and bow to Lord Vishnu.” Such faith Sri Aurobindo had! With no preparation, Sri Aurobindo bowed to Lord Vishnu and gave the most wonderful speech, his Uttarpara speech. That kind of faith he had in his Guru. But wrong forces can attack, as they attacked Lele.

Parents and children may be on the same spiritual path. In general, when the daughters make progress or do anything great, the fathers are happy. But when some fathers see that their sons are making progress, alas, alas, the problem starts! The same is true of some of the mothers when they see that their daughters are making progress. When their daughters go faster in the spiritual life, there are some mothers who compete. Alas, this is jealousy! Parents should always have oneness with their children.

We have seen jealousy also in the case of some famous women. They are so much older than their own daughters. Then they do all kinds of unnatural things, and sometimes the daughters look older than the mothers! Why do the mothers do it? To become young, or to look younger.

Even between two hands there can be jealousy. If my right hand is stronger and my left hand is weaker, I may form a low opinion of my left hand. I may say that it is useless, useless. But if I am a spiritual person, I will always try to show sympathy. I will have oneness with both my right hand and my left hand, and I will show sympathy to my left hand. My right hand will say, “Poor little brother, you are the younger one in the family.”

When sincere spirituality is involved, compassion goes to the other party. When there is no real spirituality, there is separation. The superior one will say to the inferior, “You are weak, so you are useless, useless, useless.”

In the beginning, many of the disciples who have been with us for many years used the divine method to conquer jealousy, insecurity, impurity, pride and other wrong forces. I gave a prayer for each day — “Supreme, I must conquer”1 — and I do hope that people sincerely repeat those prayers. If the disciples had continued right from the beginning to be strict in conquering wrong forces, by today they would have become saints. Our difficulty is that, on the way, we give up. Then, when we see that somebody has many divine qualities, a variety of divine qualities, we become jealous.

Sometimes jealousy-arrows do disturb the one who has capacities. Again, no matter how many jealousy-arrows others may hurl at an individual, God is there to save him. In my case also, some people were jealous of me, but they could not prevent me from becoming what I am, because God was with me.

Once again I wish to say that it may take a few incarnations or it may take one incarnation to change our human nature, but it is very difficult, very difficult. Human nature, they say, is like the tail of a dog. When you hold it, you feel that it has become straight. Then, as soon as you release it, again it becomes coiled.

Every moment if we are very strict with ourselves — not every day, but every moment — then nature’s transformation definitely can take place in one incarnation. It has happened. So many sinners of the first water, absolute sinners who did such bad things, did realise God in one incarnation. It has been done in India and everywhere, in each country. But again, some good seekers have fallen down on the way. They were very good to start with, but they descended.

It is all God’s Grace, God’s Grace, God’s Grace, God’s Grace. Receptivity is needed, plus God’s Grace. Again, we do not know when God’s Grace will descend. Four people are standing together, and a child will come and give a flower to one person. Why? Just because the child likes that person. There is some connection between the little child and the one to whom he gives the flower.

  1. NED 21, 17. A Day in the Life of a Sri Chinmoy Disciple, p. 46. New York: Agni Press, 2008