Question: There is a segment of the population that has a high crime rate, a high infant mortality rate, a low standard of education and a high death rate: the black community. What can you say to someone who lives in Brownsville or Harlem and feels he cannot expose his heart without being taken advantage of?

Sri Chinmoy: I tell my students to pray for a minute for protection before they start to drive in their cars. Previously, if they were in a car accident, they would say, "It was not my fault. Some other car came and struck me. I was innocent, helpless." But what good does it do to say that it was the other person's fault? Today it is his fault; tomorrow it will be your fault. What matters is not who is to blame but how you can prevent the situation from occurring in the first place.

Early in the morning, if we pray most soulfully to God, then we will be able to avoid problems. In our prayers, first we have to pray for the fulfilment of God's Will: "Let Thy Will be done." There cannot be any prayer higher than this. God's Fulfilment must be first and foremost. Once we pray for the fulfilment of God's Will, then we can pray to God for special protection, so that when bad things occur, we will be somewhere else. If somebody comes from behind and hits me with his car, we say that an accident took place. But why should it have taken place? I should have been somewhere else! That very minute, with God's Grace, I could have been somewhere else — in another lane or four cars ahead.

We pray to God early in the morning for fifteen minutes. During those fifteen minutes, perhaps five times we say God's Name. But even while saying 'God', we are usually fast asleep in our mind and in our entire being. We boast, "Oh, I prayed and meditated in the morning." But what kind of prayer was it? What kind of meditation did we have? If we had soulfully prayed and meditated for protection, we would not have been in that unfortunate place when the accident occurred.

There are inner attacks and outer attacks. We see only outer attacks. Outwardly we see that some calamity has taken place and somebody is a victim. But inner attacks always come before outer attacks; anything that happens outwardly has its seeds in the inner world. Inwardly we are attacking others with our wrong thoughts and allowing others to attack us. That is why outer calamities take place. At every moment undivine thoughts are attacking us; if it is not somebody else's wrong thoughts, then it is our own. So we pray to God to protect us, not only from others but also from ourselves. If we pray to God to save us from inner attacks, then the outer attacks will diminish.

Even if we are attacked by others, we should not attack them back. We do not follow the philosophy of tit for tat. But if somebody wants to attack me, I have to use my wisdom. Let us say a dog wants to bite me. If I climb up a tree, the dog can only bark. Then, after some time the dog will lose all its patience. Meanwhile, I am there enjoying mangoes at the top of the tree. When the dog goes away, I come down.

So people who are outwardly suffering are not doing the first thing first. They are not praying to God, who is omnipotent, to raise their own consciousness and the consciousness of others. We know that bad thoughts will lead to outer calamities, but still we cherish bad thoughts. We know that a flame will burn our fingers, but still we touch it just to see what happens, like children. We feel some kind of magnetic pull towards bad things. Instead of being drawn towards good things, we always go and touch wrong things. Then there can be so many destructive results.

God is definitely going to save us if our prayer is absolutely sincere. Unfortunately, instead of praying to God for inner wealth, which is illumination, we pray for material prosperity. But if we do not have inner prosperity, if we do not have peace, love and light, then even if we get outer prosperity, we will not have inner joy and inner security, for in the inner life we will be poverty-stricken. Similarly, if we pray to God for outer power, we may get it, but the more outer power we get, the more insecure we become.

Outer success is like a thick jungle. We may appreciate the jungle, but inside it there are quite a few tigers. We cannot find any security there. Inner progress is like a garden with many beautiful and fragrant flowers. If we live in our heart-garden and feel our oneness with God and God's Compassion, then naturally we will be secure. Security is not to be found in a crowd or in a group. Security is found only in our faith in God and in our realisation that we are of God and that God is of us.