Russell Wilson: Guruji, I have a very difficult question to ask you. Why, in India, which some believe is the centre of all religion and where spirituality plays such an important role, is there so much strife and tension?

Sri Chinmoy: Because I am an Indian, I am able to answer this question. Once upon a time, India was the land of peace. Now there is constant quarrelling and fighting. Why? The answer is very simple. God has given us freedom and we have misused it. At every moment we, as human beings, can choose to do either the right thing or the wrong thing. I can get up early in the morning and pray and meditate to become a good person, or I can sleep until ten or eleven o'clock and get up when it is too late for me even to go to work. Perhaps for six months I received light from Above and my sincerity, my integrity and my love of God compelled me to get up early in the morning to meditate. But after six months I stopped aspiring and thinking of God, so I no longer get up early to pray and meditate. Outwardly I am the same person, but in my inner life I have changed.

In the hoary past, politicians used to go to spiritual Masters for blessings and illumination. One of the greatest Indian heroes, Shivaji, used to go to his spiritual Master and say, "Please advise me." Then Shivaji got fed up with his country and with politics. He said, "It is all corruption. I no longer want it." But his spiritual teacher compelled him to remain in politics. He said, "If you give up, then who is going to transform this world? Stay in your post but only think of me. The Supreme in me will guide the country in and through you."

There was a time when India had poise and peace of mind. But India was not satisfied with its inner peace and poise. It wanted to compete with America. Unfortunately, India began to lose its spirituality when it entered into the world of competition. It is one thing to retain your own height and then give what you have and receive what someone else has. But India, instead of maintaining its pristine purity and divinity, became greedy and started to care more for outer wealth. It wanted to become as rich as America, and it no longer gave as much importance to its inner wealth. That was India's greatest mistake.

If God gives me something, I should cherish it. Then, when the hour strikes, God will give me something else because He is pleased with me. But if I reject what God has given me and cry only for something else, then the inner qualities that I once had will desert me and I will be a beggar. India should have remained grateful to God for what God gave to India. Instead of trying to imitate the West, it should have cherished its own divine qualities. But when it began to care less for its inner wealth and more for outer wealth, at that time my Mother India began to lose something very precious.

Something similar is now happening in the former Soviet Union. President Gorbachev was responsible for awakening the consciousness of the Soviet Union. After he had awakened the Soviet people, he said, "We have been asleep for many years and we have just awakened. So right now let us walk slowly, steadily and unerringly to our destination. Then, when the time comes and we have more capacity, we shall march, and later we shall run." But the people did not listen. They became very greedy and wanted to be just like the West. They wanted to run right from the start, even though they did not have the capacity. So they chose another politician who promised immediate results. We all want to have instant realisation — like instant coffee. We want to have everything in the twinkling of a eye.

It takes a child a few years to learn how to walk. If I tell that little child that he can run as fast as his elder brother, then the child will be inspired to try. But, unfortunately, he will only break his leg. A mother will always tell her child, "No, go slowly. Your brother is five years old and you are only one year old. How can you expect to walk alongside your brother?"