Question: Are inner experiences a prerequisite to God-realisation or are they not at all necessary?

Sri Chinmoy: Some people are blessed with hundreds of experiences or even more. Some people get ten or twenty experiences. Again, some people may have only a few major experiences before God-realisation, but those experiences are most important in their life. So it depends on the individual. But usually one gets at least four or five major experiences before achieving God-realisation or remembering the God-realisation that one had attained in a previous incarnation.

Again, some people get major experiences that last for days or weeks, and then their consciousness descends and for a long time they do not get any high experiences. At that time they feel absolutely miserable. Vivekananda used to go through dry periods that lasted for as long as six months. But he used to play a kind of trick on himself. He used to remind himself of the highest experiences that he had in the past, when Sri Ramakrishna had touched him on the head, and he would make himself feel that he was having those experiences again. For a half hour, an hour or two hours he was only imagining, imagining and imagining. He had such tremendous will-power that those experiences became vivid and alive, and he was able to live inside them once again.

So if you are not getting any inner experiences now, try to remember the experiences that you have already had and use your imagination-power to bring them back. Then, not only will those experiences come back, but they will help you go forward into another experience, which will be infinitely stronger, more illumining and more beautiful.

One does not need fifty or a hundred inner experiences to achieve God-realisation, but experiences definitely help. While we are walking along Eternity's Road, if we see some shady trees and beautiful flowers, then we get tremendous joy. Some people feel that those beautiful flowers and trees are only temptations. They say, "If I smell the flowers, I am afraid I will get caught or stuck there. While I am appreciating the beauty of the flowers, my fellow travellers will go far ahead of me. I do not need this kind of experience." But some are wise. They say, "If here the flowers are so beautiful, the flowers at the destination will be infinitely more beautiful and fragrant." So they appreciate the flowers and then go forward.

Inner experiences do help us; they give us a kind of fruit. If we do not like a particular experience, we can just discard it. And if we like a particular experience, we can try to have it again. Some experiences are so strong and powerful that they can change human nature totally. If we have an experience like this, it may change our life entirely — both inwardly and outwardly. Some of my disciples have been on our path for twenty or twenty-five years, and perhaps they have not run very fast during this time. But if they can get a single experience of the highest order and maintain it for one week or two weeks, they can make more progress in those two weeks than they have made for the past twenty-five years. Unfortunately, we have no idea at what point such an experience will occur. It is like striking a match. If we do not strike the right part of the matchbox, the match will not light. Similarly, if we do not turn the knob on the stove to a certain point, the stove will not ignite. If we turn it just a little, no flame comes; but if we turn it just a little more, then the flame appears.