Question: Is there anything in particular we can do to live up to our fullest potential?1Sri Chinmoy: To live up to our fullest potential, we should value the life of aspiration. There are only two lives we can have — not three or four. One life is the desire-life; the other life is the aspiration-life. One life binds us; the other life liberates us from ignorance.
At every moment God gives us the freedom to make a choice. When God gives us this freedom, most often, if not all the time, we make the wrong choice. But we can ask God, "Please make the choice on my behalf." Then when God makes the choice, we have to immediately say, "Ah, that was the choice that I wanted to make!" On the strength of our identification with God's Will, we have to know that His is the right choice.
Always we have to feel that there is Somebody who is wiser than we are. Our difficulty is that we always think that we know everything. We feel that nobody knows as much as we do, especially about our own lives. We say, "After all, it is my life. Who else can know how much suffering I am going through?"
But we have to have faith in Somebody else, and that Somebody is our highest Self, God. Of course, that Somebody is only an extension of ourselves. He is our larger Self. Always we have to feel that there is Somebody who gets more joy from our good thoughts and actions than we do. If they are divine actions, God gets infinite joy. If they are undivine actions, He receives only suffering.
If it is difficult for us to identify our lower self with our higher Self, let us at least try to feel that there is Somebody else who knows infinitely more than we do. Each individual should play the role of a student. If I am a student, there should be a teacher. The teacher knows more than I do; that is why I go to the teacher. Otherwise, if a student does not study either with a private tutor or a schoolteacher, it is very difficult for him to make progress — unless he is aspiring every day for hours and hours and the inner Guide is giving him the message what to do. To live up to our highest potential, always we have to believe in Somebody who will give us the light that separates our desire-life from our aspiration-life.
There is also another way to live up to our fullest potential. Most human beings want to possess the world. Instead of trying to possess the world, let us pray to God to possess us. God is in us, God is with us and God is for us. We have to pray to God, "My Lord, do possess me in such a way that I cannot be out of Your Sight even for a second. Possess me, possess me!" Here the word 'possess' means to claim. We are actually saying to God, "My Lord, You are claiming me all the time, but unfortunately, I am not claiming You. Do allow me to claim You."
All our problems can be solved only by thinking that God has claimed us right from the very beginning of creation. He created us, and now He has every right to claim us. Similarly, we can say to God, "Since we are Your creation, we have every right to claim You."
The father claims the son as his own, very own. The son also has the right to claim the father as his own, very own. But when there is separation between the father and the son in thinking, countless problems arise. So it is very easy to live up to our highest potential if we listen to Somebody else. That Somebody else is our own highest Self, but it is very difficult to identify ourselves with our highest Self if we are living the desire-life. If we feel that Somebody else is giving us the message, then we believe it.
In many cases, young boys and girls do not listen to their parents during their adolescence. Instead they try to mould their lives according to those of their friends. If their friends are doing something, they try to do the same thing. But in the spiritual life, we do try to listen to God, our Father, and mould our lives according to His express Will. Until we come to realise that God is none other than our highest Self, we should feel that He is Somebody who knows infinitely more than we do.
When I guide you or advise you to do something, you have to feel that I know better than you do. Then again you have to feel, "He who knows me better than I know myself will definitely be one with me in my suffering." In the ordinary life, somebody can be wiser than you, and he may give you advice, but he is not going to identify himself with you in your suffering. But because of the oneness between the spiritual Master and the disciple, the Master feels very, very sad when he sees that the disciple is struggling with mental problems, vital problems or other problems. The Master feels, "That particular soul came to me for illumination. That soul has brought its heart, mind, vital and body, and now those members of the family have become unruly." When the mind, the vital, the body or all three are misbehaving, then not only does the one that brought them feel miserable, but the one who is supposed to illumine the heart, mind, vital and body is unable to act in and through the person.
To reach our highest potential, we have to claim the Highest as our very own. If I am an ordinary subject and the king claims me as his own, the king will really inundate me with his love, concern, blessings, gratitude and pride. If I am the prince, I will have even more right to claim my father, the king, as my own. In exactly the same way, we should think of our relationship with God as the relationship between a prince and a king.
So always try to identify yourself with Somebody who you think knows better than you do. In life, we are always listening to somebody or obeying somebody, either from deep within or from without. Is there any moment when we are not listening to someone? That someone can be a physical person or it can be the mind or the vital or the heart.
When we receive a message from within, we have no time to think about where the message is coming from. It may be coming from the soul. Again, it may be coming from the heart, the mind or the vital. The message comes so quickly that you take it as your own discovery. You do not see that perhaps your mind is giving you this message and not your heart or your soul.
So you have to discriminate. You have received a message, and now you are claiming it as your own. Whether the message has come from the mind, the vital or the heart, you think that it is your own idea. If it is a negative thought, you have to feel that you have a knife or a gun or a sword in the form of thought. Then what will you do? Your heart will say, "Throw it away. You do not need it. You do not have to kill anyone with your sword or with your gun." The mind will say, "Keep it. In case somebody comes to kill you, you will be able to use it." But you have to know that the mind's way is not the right way. By looking at the negative side, already the mind has invited the wrong forces, the undivine forces, the destructive forces. We have to look only at the positive side, the pure side of life. As soon as a desire comes, we have to feel that it is a sword, a knife, a gun or an atom bomb, and we have to cast it out immediately.
To fulfil your highest potential, you have to be the judge of your own thoughts. As the judge, you will use your discrimination-power. Again, you will say, "I am only a judge. A judge always has to listen to the Chief Justice." The Chief Justice here is God. God will always try to mould us into the best possible instrument to please Him in His own Way. There are millions and billions of people on earth. Why does God choose someone to accept the spiritual life? There are countless people who have not accepted the spiritual life. Then why has God taken the trouble of bringing you into the spiritual life?
In the spiritual life, just like in a class, some do well, while others do not do well. If I am studying a subject, will I not use my wisdom and try to become an excellent student? Will I not try to stand first in my class? To become an excellent seeker, think of the golden days in your life — how much love, devotion and surrender you had for the Supreme — and then try to go beyond them. Always think of all the good things that you have done for God, for the Supreme, for your Master, and do not allow the depression-clouds to prevent your inner sun from coming to the fore.
If you remain in the vastness, then you will not be affected by anything. Your name means water. Water symbolises a vast expanse of consciousness. In that vastness we have to live. Without water we cannot live. What a great percentage of water the human body has! The rest of our body is negligible in comparison to it. In Bengal, we say that another name for water is life because without water one cannot live. Similarly, as seekers, we have to feel that without the vastness of spirituality we cannot live.
We have to take our spiritual life as seriously as possible. Every day, every hour, every minute, if we take our spiritual life very seriously, we shall not do anything wrong unconsciously. Just because seekers do not take the spiritual life seriously, they enter into the vital world, the world of romance, the desire-world. But if we take our spiritual life seriously, then even for a second we cannot do undivine, unaspiring and uninspiring things.
It is absolutely necessary to take the spiritual life seriously. God created us. We live here on earth for sixty or seventy years or even more. Each individual is a dream of God. When the gardener sows a seed under the ground, does he not expect that the seed will germinate in a few months' time? Then he will have a plant, a sapling and finally a banyan tree. In exactly the same way, when God created us, it was His dream. Now He wants to see that dream blossom into reality. If we do not value that dream, how will God ever see the reality?
Always think of yourself as a golden dream of the Supreme. Again, God wants that dream to be manifested as reality. For that, we have to offer ourselves to God. You, as a seeker, have done so many striking things. Make a list of all the good things that you have done. You will be surprised and say, "How many good things I have done and how few bad things!" When you make the comparison, you will laugh at your own stupidity for feeling that you are a useless seeker. You will be able to say, "I have done this for my Guru, I have done that for my Guru."
Even if you have done a hundred bad things, the very fact that you have joined the spiritual path is infinitely more important than your hundred bad things. From the desire-life, you came to the aspiration-life. What a jump! It is like a leap. It is not like a nine or ten-metre long jump of a world champion. It is as if you have covered hundreds of miles. Once you enter into the spiritual life, you have to feel that you have jumped hundreds and thousands of miles. For this great leap that you have taken, God will forgive hundreds of wrongdoings.
In addition to that great leap, over the years, how many good things you have done. Many times I have appreciated you for something you have done or I have given you a smile. You have to know that it is my sincere smile. When I pointedly look at you and give you a very powerful smile, that smile has the solid strength to last for three or four weeks or even a month. You have to take that smile as a most valuable thing, as a most powerful weapon against your depression, frustration and all kinds of negative feelings.
Everybody has problems, everybody is struggling. For how many years one disciple of mine suffered from depression! Now by participating in our plays, he has conquered depression to a large extent. How? By taking the positive side. By being depressed, he was only weakening his inner life. Similarly, each time we think of what we have done wrong, we have to feel that we have already weakened ourselves. Each time we want to do something good, we have to feel the energy, the dynamism and the capacity of a roaring lion.
Always we have to take life in that way. If what you have done is discouraging, forget about it. You have done so many good things. Bring them forward. Then you will be surprised, you will be astonished. Your wrongdoing is nothing, nothing, nothing in comparison to the good things that you have done over the years!
How can you reach your highest potential? By thinking of the Highest and by meditating on the Highest. If I want to climb up to the top of a tree, I have to value the tree. I have to value the leaves, flowers and fruits of the tree. Then, if I value the tree, I will try to become what I am seeing in the tree. Then I will be able to climb up.
Always we have to value what we want to become. If I value something, only then will I pay attention to it. If I value my physical strength and my health, then in the morning I will take exercise. Here also, if we value the spiritual life, we shall do the needful. Every time I value something, I do it. If I value running, no matter what kind of weather arises, I will go out and practise. If I value my spiritual life, I will always pray and meditate and do the things that are needed in the spiritual life.
At every moment in our life we have to value something, appreciate something or admire something so that we can grow into that reality. Otherwise, our life will be only an act of expectation. Expectation has to be actively and dynamically fulfilled by entering into exercise: physical exercise, mental exercise, vital exercise or spiritual exercise.
To come back to your question, only think of how many good things you have done. Write them down and look at them, study them. Then you will say, "My God, I was this, I was that! What is wrong with me now? Why have I created a self-styled mental fever?"
Swami Vivekananda once became very sad and miserable because he was not getting the highest inner experiences that he once upon a time had. Then he meditated and concentrated only on the highest experience that he had had. I always say that imagination is a reality of its own, but it is in another world. If we can enter into that world consciously, from there the reality descends. On the strength of his imagination, Swami Vivekananda entered into the world of his highest experience. Then he went beyond it.
You can also try to remember how many times you had your highest meditation. Out of those, select only one meditation that was absolutely your highest. Then go up and up and up. You will see that there you have really become what you want to become. Where is your highest potential? Not here on the physical plane but at the top of the tree. On the strength of your highest meditation, once upon a time you reached a certain height which was so sublime. All your sublime capacities and qualities have all been kept on that level. Now you have to bring them down here. Until you bring them down, you will not be able to say that you have fulfilled your highest potential.
Again and again I am telling you to think of how many good things you have done. In the spiritual life, there is no such thing as sacrifice. You may say, "Oh, I have made such tremendous sacrifices for my Guru." Even by saying the word 'sacrifice', you are getting divine joy and divine pride. Again, when we establish our oneness with someone else, there is no such thing as sacrifice. But until you can establish your oneness, if you want to keep a sense of separativity — "My Guru is this; I am that" — then see how many hundreds of times over the years you have made sacrifices for your Guru. If you think of that, it will also give you strength.
From the highest point of view, there is no such thing as sacrifice. It is only oneness, oneness. But if you cannot remain in your highest consciousness, use the word 'sacrifice'. Write down all kinds of sacrifices that you have made. You will say, "I have done so much for my Master." That will give you enormous joy. This joy is your strength.
Again, you may say, "Alas, my Master has not done anything for me. I did so much for him for months and months." Then the human in you will be depressed. You will say, "He is so ungrateful." At that point, you can say, "No, let him not give me anything. I am not a beggar. I will only give and give and give." That attitude comes when there is love. When there is real love, we give and give and give.
You have made sacrifices. If you feel that I am not giving you anything or your soul is not giving you anything in return, say to yourself, "I will play the role of a giver." Eventually the time will come when you will realise that the capacity to do what you did actually came from Somebody else, from your highest Self, from your Guru, from the Supreme. For now, if you want to maintain your individual will, then transform that individual will into a divine will until the time comes when this divine will becomes completely one with the immortal Will of the Supreme.
To use your absolute potential, always look at your life-tree as a whole. Try to see how many times you have observed beautiful flowers and most delicious fruits. If you once saw these beautiful flowers and most delicious fruits, how is it that you cannot see them again now? When you had them, you definitely valued them. All the good things that you have done over the years, you have to give tremendous value. See how many good things you have done and how many sacrifices you have made! You will see an endless list of what you have done. The bad things that you are thinking of, the unaspiring things, desire-bound things — you will see that they are nowhere. Because you are valuing the real in you, the real in you will make you see that the unreal is absolutely useless in comparison.
The more we value the real in us, the more we value the good things that we have done, the stronger we become. When we become strong, stronger, strongest, then the uninspiring or desire-bound things that we have done or we are planning to do will pale into insignificance. When you think of the good things that you have done, you are invoking the sunlight. The other things are like a tiny little cave. The sunlight is vaster than the vastest; it is illumining the whole world. Who cares for the little, unlit, dark cave when you have the radiant sun to enjoy?
Life is a constant tug-of-war. One side is the side of darkness; the other side is the side of light. In this tug-of-war, you will be surprised to see how many times you have been on the side of light, pulling your ignorance towards its transformation. You may feel that at times you took the side of darkness. No, always think of how many good things you have done and how many good things you plan to do. Those good things are like the ocean, and the bad things are like a few drops.
SCA 1039. Sri Chinmoy answered this question in New York on 11 February 2001.↩