Giving up old friendsQuestion: When you enter the spiritual life, is it necessary to give up your old friends who may be a bad influence, but whom you still love?
Sri Chinmoy: If these friends are not aspiring, if they are ridiculing you and constantly standing in your way, then they are like real enemies. To love them is to love a venomous snake. If a friend does not aspire, then you have to know that he is not your friend any more, and if you want to force him to aspire, you are also acting like his enemy. The friend who is not aspiring is sleeping. Now you are awake; you are ready to pray and meditate. You feel that you are doing your friend a great favour by pushing him and saying, "Get up, get up, get up. It is time to meditate." You are doing him a favour according to your standard, but according to his standard it is no favour at all. You feel that you are doing the right thing, but he is not ready to receive your Light. He wants to sleep, and he will feel that you are his real enemy. You are disturbing the sublime peace of his sleep, which to you is inertia and death. Your peace is meditation and prayer; his peace is lifeless sleep. Your peace comes from conscious meditation, and his comes from unconsciousness and inertia. So your peace and his peace do not go together.
Now, if you see your old friends on the street, you need not just turn away your face. You can say hello and talk for a minute or two. But if you spend your evening with them, thinking that you will go down to their standard and lift them up, then you will be caught. You have to know that the Hour has struck for you. Your turn has come, and you have listened to God's Will. When their Hour comes, they also will hear. But if you feel that you are responsible for them, you are simply overestimating your capacity. He who has awakened you has the capacity to awaken your friends when their time comes.
You are running towards your Goal. If you constantly look behind to see whether your friends are following you, you will never reach the Goal. First you have to reach the Goal yourself; only then can you bring somebody else to the Goal. Otherwise, you are likely to get lost yourself.
Again, you may have some friends who are very sincere and kind-hearted, but who have no aspiration. Now what will you do? Suppose you go to a store and the shopkeeper is very nice and polite to you. Just because he is nice and polite, will you spend all your money there if he has nothing you need? No. He is nice, and you appreciate it, and if you ever need something that he has in his store, you will buy it from him. But right now he has nothing you need. So here, also, if someone who is not aspiring is very nice to you on the moral or physical plane, you can spend a few minutes with him, too. But just because you see that he is sincere, it is stupidity to spend hours talking to him about spiritual matters if he is not interested. You have to know how developed the other person is, and how much his aspiration will allow him to receive through your spiritual light. There are many people who are very nice and sincere, but when it is a matter of praying for one minute, they are simply not interested. When it is a matter of aspiration, they are nowhere.
Unless someone has real, one-pointed aspiration for the Light, the aspirant should not spend much time with him. Otherwise, you will spend three hours at a party in someone's house and talk about his nephew, his niece and father-in-law and so forth. Now, there is nothing wrong with this kind of conversation. You are not criticising anybody. But when you come home from the party, you will curse yourself for wasting your time and lowering your consciousness. What have you given them? You have given them vital stimulation. And what have you got back from them? Absolute spiritual rubbish! These things have no value for your spiritual life. Unnecessary social dealings with people who do not aspire are just a waste of time.
But disciples belonging to the same boat should mix together. They should have a family feeling. Today your aspiration may be very high, while your friend's is low. So you will lift him up with your aspiration. Then, tomorrow, you may be low and your friend will lift you up. Even if neither of you is particularly high or low, I wish to say that just by being together you are helping one another. Even if you are speaking about absolutely unimportant things, the moment you mix with those who are in your own spiritual boat you will get inner strength. You may not be consciously aware that today you need some joy or strength, and the person you are talking to may also not be aware of it. But your souls are secretly playing a game. His soul is giving you something, even though you do not know you need it and he does not know he is giving it. Because you both follow the same path, my path, I tell you, your souls are more than eager to give. So I always say that when you see your brothers and sisters, you should talk and mix, because you do not know who needs something and who has the capacity to give.
Of course, all this is only for those who accept the spiritual life wholeheartedly, and feel that God and God-realisation come first in their life. Those who follow my path only to get a little peace, a little light, a little joy and satisfaction, can continue with their old friendships and old attachments. But they must know that their progress on the spiritual path will necessarily be slow, because every time they get an iota of peace, light or joy, they will just squander it when they mix with unaspiring people. Each individual aspirant has to know what kind of progress he wants to make.