Question: Many of us get attracted to a spiritual path from the readings of Masters who are no longer in the body, and we begin to follow the spiritual path of such a Master. I am sure I speak for many people when I say that, after a while, we really wish to have a Guru in the flesh. However, we feel that it would be a great disloyalty to the teacher we have been following if we were to seek such a Guru. How can a person decide whether the Guru he is following, who is no longer in the flesh, is the right one, since he cannot talk to that person in a way he can understand on an earthly level?

Sri Chinmoy: When the first person on earth realised God, whom did he have as a human Guru? Did somebody come to him physically and say, “I am God”? No! He got his realisation from the invisible God. Similarly, there are many, many seekers who have realised God by studying the Bible or our Bhagavad Gita. They did not have a living Guru. Now, Lord Krishna is not in the physical, and the Saviour Christ is not in the physical. Yes, they can manifest in the subtle body, but even if you cry to Lord Krishna, he is not going to take a physical body and come to teach you. Again, Lord Krishna’s teachings and the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Bible, have become part and parcel of humanity’s life-breath.

Now, when you read the Gospel or the Bhagavad Gita or other sacred books, you have to feel how much identification you can develop. If you feel that, after studying some of the messages in the Bible, you can practise them in your day-to-day life, why do you need any Master in the physical? But you have to know whether you can apply in your daily life what you read in the book. It may happen that, while you are reading, you get tremendous inspiration and aspiration, but as soon as you enter into the hustle and bustle of life, you forget everything. You read something and then in two hours’ time you do something diametrically opposite. This is what we human beings often do.

But there is another way. Let us think of ourselves as naughty children. The teacher is around us, like an inspector, so we must behave well. Otherwise the teacher will fail us. The inspector sees that we are not behaving well in the class, so we are afraid of the inspector. We know that he will give us a zero and then we will fail. This is what happens in the case of the teacher or instructor. But there is someone called a private tutor. It is the bounden duty of the private tutor to teach you at home privately, secretly, so that you can pass your examination. He will not be in the school, standing in front of you as a teacher or an instructor or an inspector. He will be at your home, and he will teach you privately. This is the role that the spiritual Master can play when he is in the physical.

We forget that the spiritual Master of the past and the spiritual Master of the present are not two different entities. Here we are making a deplorable mistake. The realisation that the highest Master achieved, he is blessingfully offering to those who are praying. In a family, the grandfather knows something and teaches it to the father, and then the father teaches his own children. In exactly the same way, whatever knowledge and wisdom-light Lord Krishna, Jesus Christ and other spiritual Masters had, they are offering to their spiritual descendants.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am also a spiritual Master. I can never separate myself from the blessingful consciousness of the Saviour Christ or Lord Krishna or Lord Buddha. I am using only a few examples; there are many spiritual Masters. Here in the Western world, we always think of the Christ, and for the Eastern world, let us take Lord Krishna. Each individual who is a realised soul will offer his realisation in that way.

Again, there are many who claim to be realised. It is up to God or the seekers to feel the truth of what the spiritual Masters say. In India we had a great spiritual figure named Swami Vivekananda. I am sure you have heard his name. He went to East Bengal and there all the seekers came to him saying, “Please, please, come and see my Master! He is the highest! He is an Avatar, a direct descendant of God.” So Swami Vivekananda said that in East Bengal the Avatars grow like mushrooms! Each one claims that his Master is a God-realised soul and an Avatar of the highest order. Again, there is another point of view. If you take your Master as the highest, your prayers go directly to the Highest. In the Bhagavad Gita it says that everything goes to the Absolute Lord Krishna. If you have faith, implicit faith in your Master, even if your Master is not endowed with certain divine qualities, your prayers will go to the Highest Absolute.

Here in the Western world, we use the term ‘Father’. The Christ said, “I and my Father are one.” When we pray sincerely, our prayers go to the Father. On our path we use the term ‘Absolute Supreme’. It is the Absolute Supreme who is receiving our prayers. You may have a Master who is not of the highest calibre; he may not be a God-realised soul or an Avatar. But if you have faith in your Master in boundless measure, your faith goes directly to the real Master, who is God.

There is only one Guru — my Guru, your Guru, everybody’s Guru — and that is God. Now, God has taken human form. You are a human form and I am a human form, but somebody may be more qualified in a particular field. In the spiritual life, spiritual Masters know more. I happen to be a spiritual Master. Again, if you are an engineer, if you are a doctor, if you are a scientist, who am I? I am nobody in those fields. If I have to study science and this kind of thing, I will be useless. So if one wants to know about spiritual life, then one goes to a spiritual Master for spiritual lessons.

You are not going to be disloyal to the Masters who are not in the physical by going to another true spiritual Master. The spiritual Masters come from one family. As you have brothers and sisters in your own family, so also, those who have realised the highest belong to one family. Our Lord Krishna said that he comes in different forms. Each time, we ourselves take human incarnation with a different name and a different form.

The seeker has to feel the living presence of the Master. Your Master may not be in the physical, but if you can have direct contact with the Master, it will be perfect. But very often it is difficult because our mind comes to the fore and says, “Oh no, he did not say this, he did not say that.”

If you have a living Master, you get a special opportunity. The living Master speaks your language and tells you, “This is what you are doing right; this is what you are doing wrong.” Then it is up to you to accept him or reject him. If your Master is not in the physical and you are not highly advanced, your mind will contradict the message you get. This moment you will get some idea and your mind will say it is perfect. Then you will take two steps and immediately you will doubt the idea that you got. Then you will take a few more steps and you will say, “Who am I to judge which idea is right and which one is wrong? I am now confused. I do not know which one to accept.” But if you have a living Master and if you have implicit faith in him, you will hear his words and say, “This is right.” If you have faith in him, then you will go in his way. So, to have a living Master is a great advantage.

Again, if you have no faith, then your problem starts. But if you have faith and you have adamantine will-power, then definitely you do not need a Master in the physical. If you have studied some religious books, spiritual books, books written by spiritual Masters who are not in the physical, and you have developed an intense inner feeling between your aspiration and their compassion, you do not need a living Master. But the difficulty arises that you read something and you are inspired; but then, when you go to be with your friends or when you enter into the hustle and bustle of the outer life, you completely forget your inspiration. It may happen that you cannot carry that feeling, whereas if you have a living spiritual Master of the highest order, then you will see with your own eyes and feel with your heart. In this way it lasts longer.

If you have the opportunity to be in the company of a living spiritual Master and some disciples of that same Master, then you get an added opportunity. But I will never say that in order to realise God you must have a Guru who is in the physical. The first person who realised God did not have a Master in the physical. It all took place in the inner world, in the subtle body. Then again, spiritual Masters who have realised the Highest over the years and are speaking the same inner language, inspiring the same feelings and offering inspiration of the same type in every way, can be of immediate help. So it is up to one’s own inner development. If I am highly developed and my inner connection with the Master who is not in the physical is very strong, no harm. But if I do not have a strong connection, then the same lesson can be given by somebody who is in the physical and who can correct me and perfect me when I am doing something wrong.

Again, if we see twenty people swimming in the ocean, we also are inspired to swim. We say, “Oh, they are swimming! I can also do it.” But if we see nobody swimming, then lethargy, fear and other wrong forces come into the picture and do not allow us to enter into the water. So, if we see a group of people praying and meditating, if we can be in the company of good seekers, then we are inspired. Every day divine inspiration can enter into us; and again, every day lethargy can enter into us. When we see that people are praying and meditating in a group, it is easier for us to join them and bring to the fore our own divine qualities. That is why we feel the necessity of a group. If you are in a group, then the group members will inspire you, and you will inspire them as well.