Question: Which do you value more, speed or perfection?

Sri Chinmoy: Both speed and perfection are of paramount importance. But we have to know that if there is speed, perfection will automatically come in a gradual way, whereas if we give importance only to perfection, then we have to belong to Eternity. With speed, I may go to this side and that side, like a mad elephant. My speed takes me to one side, and I see there is a wall. I go to the other side, and I see there is another wall. Then a time comes when divine Grace descends from Above. God says, “Poor fellow, he is blind. He is going to this side and that side without any result. Now let Me show him the right way.”

But, in the name of perfection if you are starting, then speed may not be there. A child thinks, “I have to be a good boy, I have to be a good boy.” His mind is thinking of perfection, but if he does not make a move, he will not accomplish anything. If he says, “I am going to this side to become a good boy; I am going to that side to become a good boy,” then his speed will automatically bring perfection.

With speed we may get hurt if we do something wrong. We have to have wisdom also. If we are about to get hurt, then we should not go to that side. If there is a wall, we should stop our journey. But if we do not see the wall, then we may go and strike our head against it. So speed and wisdom must go together. Then perfection will also dawn.

In India I knew two brothers who were sculptors. We all had the same boss in the Ashram. One brother, in the name of perfection, used to do everything so slowly. Sometimes he took three weeks to make one sculpture. The other brother would be finished in three or four days. To the one who had taken less time, my boss used to say, “Can you make the next one a little better?” Already he was getting tremendous joy, because he had accomplished something. Then he would make his next sculpture better. The other one used to cherish the thought, “One day when I am finished, my sculpture will be far better than his.” This brother had patience-wisdom, while the first brother had enthusiasm-wisdom. The first brother made himself and his boss happy by completing his sculpture in the shortest possible time. Then he was able to begin a new sculpture with new enthusiasm and joy. The boss never told him that his sculptures were useless. The boss only said, “Very nice, very nice. Only make it a little better. Make the face a little better.” In this way, the first brother was making progress. According to our philosophy, perfection can be found only in progress, progress, progress. I am progressing and progressing and progressing. That very progress is my perfection.

Do not separate speed and perfection. Today you may do something in a very primitive way, but tomorrow you will do it a little better, in a more modern way. The day after tomorrow you will do it in an ultra-modern way. That is your progress. But right from the beginning if you do not have speed, and at the same time if you are thinking of creating something absolutely perfect, then you may be doomed to failure. If your perfection is something grandiose, if you are thinking of making a jet plane, then you will feel that you can take a long time. In the meantime, if somebody makes a small plane, he is progressing and getting joy. That joy and enthusiasm will automatically take him to the next step.

In the beginning, if you start by making a tiny boat, then from the tiny boat you can progress to a big boat, and finally you will be able to build an ocean liner. But if you are thinking of the ocean liner at the very beginning with the idea that Guru will be happy because you have made an ocean liner, then twenty or thirty years will go by before I see the result. If I ask you to make something for me to use on the water, then immediately you have to make something small, smooth and safe.

We also have to keep in mind that today’s perfection may not be tomorrow’s perfection. When we make progress, today’s perfection will look absolutely silly. A child’s perfection is to get a balloon and burst it. This is his joy. He feels that because he is perfect, he is able to burst the balloon. We laugh at him. Then gradually, gradually he comes to learn that this is not perfection, this is not satisfaction. But if we do not use speed, then a time will come when patience will go away, enthusiasm will go away. Then all kinds of negative ideas will come.

When you are thinking of speed, you will start working, even if you have only one nail and a hammer. You will think, “On the way, if I need something, I will find it.” But when you think of perfection, you may feel that you have to have all your tools to start. In the beginning if you start gathering all the tools that you think you will need by the end of the journey, you are wasting your time. If you start collecting all the things that are needed from the beginning to the end, from one little nail to a big bar, then you are finished. When you are thinking of each item, your mind is saying, “Oh my God, so much I have to do!” You are putting layer after layer into your mind until your mind is overburdened. Then your journey will never start. But if you just start with one nail and one hammer, you will get tremendous joy. That joy will take you to the next step. If you need something, you will go and find it. In that way speed helps tremendously. You will get satisfaction right from the beginning. Satisfaction is perfection and perfection is satisfaction.

Always we need eagerness, eagerness, eagerness. My friend wanted me to buy him a certain clarinet. I asked one of our great musician-disciples to find it. After a few days, he said, “No, it is not available. I have tried everything.” Then I said to another disciple, “I do not want to hear this. You have to get it for me. Show your intensity.” Then he found it in Boston. Look at this! I gave him the task and he did it in a day or two. But if intensity is not there from the beginning, then we are finished. When readiness, willingness and eagerness are there along with intensity, then everything can be accomplished so quickly. His philosophy was, “Anything Guru has asked for, I am ready to do immediately.” The other disciple said, “I will do it, I will do it, but I can leave it for Eternity.” If there is willingness, then you will take one step. If you have eagerness, you will take the next three steps. And when intensity comes, it is done. But if you say, “I am ready, I am only preparing myself,” then the task will never be completed.

Whenever I ask you to do something, do it immediately. If I tell you, “Come quickly to my house to do something for me,” is that the time for you to start taking a shower? If I call my ‘best disciple’ and tell him to come, he asks me, “Can I take a shower first?” I may say, “If you have not taken a shower, become civilised and then come.” In this way, I will say if I feel he needs to take a shower. So many times I have said this. Again, if I say, “Come immediately!” at that time I will be responsible. Then if I see he has just run ten miles and is perspiring, what can I do?

If intensity is not there, then there will be no success. If we make mistakes, God never blames us. Before He asks us even, let us try to do it. Then if it is not done properly, God will say, “Make it better.” Our philosophy is progress. Inside that progress, gradually, gradually perfection is dawning. In the spiritual life, you must do everything fast, fast, fast. It is not because I am living in America that I am saying this. The whole world needs speed. Outer speed brings about outer success. Japan was defeated in the Second World War. Now look how fast Japan has made progress. Japan could have said, “We have been completely destroyed. What can we do?” But no, Japan had eagerness, and because of this eagerness the Japanese have made such progress.

Again, while moving forward, we have to always keep our eyes open. Even while trying to go straight, sometimes we do not. Always we have to ask ourselves if we are walking along a straight road or if we are taking a road that curves or zigzags.

Then, if your mind tells you that you can do something in ten days, your human wisdom will say, “I will tell Guru it will take thirteen days. Then if I can give it to Guru in ten days, he will be so happy.” That is our tricky human way. But there is another secret way. Divine wisdom will say, “If I feel it will take seven days, I will tell Guru that it will take five days.” This is not impractical. If you feel it will take seven days, do not say one day, which is impossible. But in practical reality, we can expedite things a little. Then the joy that I will get when I think, “Oh my God, he will be able to do it!” will enter into you so powerfully in advance. You may not be conscious of it, but if I give you a very powerful smile, that smile will enter into you as added strength. When I know that you and your friend will be able to finish making an exercise machine for me in five days, then my joy and my pride come to you already as an added strength. That added strength will definitely enable you to do it in five days or even three days. The divine way is to say, “If I know the approximate time required is five days, I will try to make it one day less. Even if I cannot do it, I will be able to tell Guru that I am on the verge of finishing, that it is only a matter of hours, or tomorrow I will be able to bring it to him.” Then if you are thinking five days and you have told me four days, I assure you, you will be able to do it in four days. Even in three days you will be able to do it.

In everything we need enthusiasm and wisdom. Divine wisdom will say, “With whatever I have, I shall run.” The human mind will say you need many things. Yes, it is true, but if you start the journey immediately with enthusiasm and eagerness, then everything becomes easier because your eagerness itself will take you from here to there. Human wisdom will use eternal patience. It will think of the whole world and what you might need in the name of perfection. You will order something from Africa, and until that thing comes, you will say, “What can I do? The supplies have not arrived.” But if you continue working, then Africa will come to you. Even before the supplies come from Africa, there are so many things you can do happily. Otherwise, the relaxation that comes because the supplies have not arrived will slow you down considerably. Immediately you will think, “I have so much time, but what can I do? I am helpless until my supplies come.” That feeling of helplessness will slow down the progress of the ones around you. So both speed and perfection you need. Perfection is man-made, while speed is God-made.

Again, my idea of perfection may be regarded as useless by somebody else. I may draw something which is perfect according to me. Then another artist will say it is not perfect. Let us say an artist draws a bird without an eye. He feels, “Oh, it is so beautiful.” Another artist will come and say, “There should be an eye.” Then a third one will say that the eye should have been smaller. Everybody’s idea of perfection is different. Nobody denies that it is a bird, but in the name of perfection, others may come forward with their criticisms. If you are in your heart, you will say, “As long as it is a bird, it is enough.” But if you are in your mind, you will think, “If I do not draw the eye or the ear properly, what will people say?” In my case, so many birds I draw without an eye. To me, they are so beautiful. I never say that the eye is too small or that the wings or the body should be longer. If your mind’s concept of perfection says that things have to be only a certain way, then you will be forced to deal with eternal time. You yourself will never be satisfied with what you do because the mind has accumulated so many ideas in the name of perfection. Each and every idea that comes to you, you will only enlarge and enlarge. At the same time, you will collect more thoughts in your mind to make it perfect. But if you have speed and if you are in your heart, you can get satisfaction.

Now I wish to say something else about perfection and satisfaction in human life. Each of us has his own way of dealing with perfection or satisfaction. Recently I have been reading so many incidents from Ramana Maharshi’s life. At the time when Ramana Maharshi was practising austerities in the cave, he had a small hut nearby, and three or four of his disciples were staying there. One night, at half past eleven, three thieves came and started breaking the doors and windows, asking Ramana Maharshi for money. Ramana Maharshi said, “We do not have money. We are very poor. You can come inside and search.” He and his disciples came out and the thieves went inside to look for money. When they did not find anything, the thieves said they would set fire to the house. Ramana Maharshi said, “Please, please do not set it on fire. You can see that there is nothing.” The thieves thought that Ramana Maharshi and his disciples were hiding money somewhere, and they started to beat them up. Ramana Maharshi himself received a blow from one of the thieves. Ramana Maharshi said to the thief, “Why have you struck only one side? I have got another side also. You can do the same thing to that side.” Ramana Maharshi’s way of satisfaction was like Jesus Christ’s: if you are hit on one side, then the other side also you should offer.

I do not agree with that philosophy. Because of your ignorance you gave me a slap on one side. Why should I allow you to increase your ignorance by hitting me on the other side? Ramana Maharshi said that it was their dharma, their way, to misbehave, while his way was to forgive. Ramana Maharshi showed his compassion for their ignorance. I would say, “I know you have done something wrong, but I have not done anything wrong. Then why should I allow you to do more harm? Why should I allow you to enter further into ignorance-life?” Ramana Maharshi had infinite compassion and forgiveness for the thieves, even while they were doing the wrong thing. I would say, “Whom should I forgive, the one who wants to do more wrong things or the one who will say, ‘I have struck you. Please forgive me, forgive me!’”

Definitely, if someone has done something wrong to me and asks for forgiveness, I will forgive him. But when someone is ready to strike someone else, should I forgive him? Should I refrain from telling the police or informing somebody to come and help? Ramana Maharshi was such a great yogi, but my philosophy on this matter is different. He got satisfaction-perfection from his forgiveness. I get satisfaction-perfection from my wisdom. My wisdom tells me that the thief is already bad. I did not go and strike him. I did not go anywhere to steal. He is the one who is doing something wrong. I am only preventing him from doing something more in that line.

Another time, Ramana Maharshi was walking and he did not see a beehive. The bees came out and stung him, and he was bleeding. He said, “It is my fault. Why did I go to that side?” Then he remained standing at that place for the bees to come and attack his legs. So much pain he was getting! He felt that he deserved it because he did the wrong thing by going near the hive. True, he did the wrong thing, but then he should have just gone away. But no, he stood there. He felt they had the right to punish him. Because he disturbed them, because he did something wrong, he did not take protection. He let all the bees come and sting him. To feel that you deserve punishment is one way. Another way is to go one step further and ask for forgiveness. If you do something wrong, ask for forgiveness. Is forgiveness not more important at that time than punishment? I have such admiration and adoration for Ramana Maharshi, but I cannot agree with him when he says that others have every right to punish us when we do something wrong.

To come back to the first story, Ramana Maharshi will say, “No, if I forgive and forgive someone, one day he will repent. When he strikes me, I will cry and bleed. Then he will say, ‘What have I done?’ At that time, he may start repenting.” But I feel that by that time it is already too late. Why do I need step-by-step torture from him, only to illumine him after twenty, thirty or forty years? Shall I allow him to strike me in the ankle, the knee, the thigh, then on my chest and my head? I do not know at what point he will feel remorseful. I feel that right from the beginning I should warn him that he is doing something wrong. Immediately let us take the right attitude. So each philosophy has come from the Highest. God said to Ramana Maharshi, “Forgive and forgive and forgive. One day that fellow will get illumination, and he will not strike people any more.” Again, God tells me, “Right from the beginning, be careful. You will not harm anybody. And if anybody harms you, do not allow that person to strike you again. By doing so, you are consciously helping to add to his ignorance-life.”

Ramana Maharshi said, “One day he will be tired of doing the wrong thing. Then he will come to the light.” I say, “No, do not allow his ignorance to increase.” Sri Ramakrishna had a third way. He said, “If somebody is criticising your Master badly and if you are much stronger than that person, then ignore him. Feel that he is not a man; he is an insect. But if you are weaker than the one who is criticising your Master, you should go and beat him up. It is the worst possible sin to hear someone speaking ill of your Master without doing something. He had a disciple, Nag Mahashay, who was much weaker than someone else who was criticising Sri Ramakrishna. That disciple took off the other person’s sandals and started thrashing him.

My philosophy says, “If my Guru is my real life, if I love my Guru, if he is my all, then how will I tolerate it if someone speaks ill of him?” Of course, you are not going to beat that person up, but you will tell him, “I was not conscious this time, but I will not allow you to speak ill of my Master a second time. The first time you spoke, I was not prepared, but the second time I will be fully prepared.” If he says one thing more, you will stand strong like a wall. Then if he tries to strike you, he will be badly injured.

My philosophy is that once someone does something wrong, you will be so strict that he will not dare to do it again. If he does it, he will get hurt much more. Buddha’s philosophy was that if you throw a ball, it is going to come back to you. You think that you are only striking the wall, but no, the wall will turn it back to you immediately. Sri Ramakrishna’s philosophy says, “If you are weak, beat him up. If you are strong, then say he is an insect and forget it.” Each one has a philosophy to satisfy himself. Three boats are there to take you to your destination. You jump into the boat that you like.