Part I: Questions and answers

Editor's note

The following questions and answers were asked on August 20, 1966, New York City. 29 questions are part of “Yoga and the Spiritual Life” and are not reprinted here.

Question: When one sees through the light of the soul, does he see through hundreds of lifetimes?

Sri Chinmoy: When one sees through the light of the soul, one can see the future possibilities of one’s present incarnation, and at the most one or two future incarnations, not hundreds of lifetimes. This statement applies to past incarnations as well. These glimpses need not be in any chronological order. However, in the cases of great spiritual Masters like Krishna and Buddha, this principle is not applicable, for the remotest past and the farthest future, in exact chronological order, is at their command.

Question: When we see through the light of the soul, is it always with the feeling of joy?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes. It is always with a feeling of inner joy and this joy may often be expressed by the shedding of tears. This shedding of tears is the outer expression of the soul’s delight and has nothing to do with human sorrow, grief or frustration. It is like a mother shedding tears when she sees her son returning home from abroad. Her tears are the expression of her inner joy.

Question: When the soul chooses a new body, does it have a blueprint laid out as to its mission, or does the soul’s mission evolve during one’s lifetime, depending on circumstances and environment?

Sri Chinmoy: The soul always comes down to earth with a certain mission. However, the earthly environment can help or hinder this mission. It also happens that the soul, at times willingly, makes an adjustment to its surroundings. Then it gradually tries to fulfil its mission with the full recognition and co-operation of the environment.

Question: Does the soul have many missions, or just one, in a lifetime?

Sri Chinmoy: There is only one mission, but there are many aims. One soul may wish to become a poet, an artist or an engineer in a lifetime. Each soul may aim at various creativities, but these are aims. They are not to be confused with the soul’s mission. The soul’s mission is always first and foremost: God-realisation; then comes the manifestation of God-realisation on earth. However, one’s aim may help him in his God-realisation or it may delay him, depending on the individual’s approach to Truth.

For example, if one is a writer, it is well and good. If he goes on writing without aspiration for God-realisation through his writings, he may one day become a very great writer, but he has not necessarily progressed in his self-discovery. On the other hand, if one writes to express the Divine in his writings, if one’s outer expression is the result of one’s inner aspiration, and if one has taken to writing as a self-dedicated service to the Supreme in humanity, then certainly the aspirant in the writer is leading him to the realisation of God. To come back to your question, from the standpoint of absolute Truth, there is only one mission and that is nothing but Self-realisation.

Question: Does the vital have a mission separate from the soul’s or is it related to the soul’s mission?

Sri Chinmoy: The vital and the body do not have a separate mission. But when they collaborate with the soul’s mission, it becomes theirs too. The vital hungers for name and fame, which are only aims. When the vital identifies itself with the soul and willingly accepts the soul’s mission, then the soul’s mission undoubtedly becomes the mission of the vital.

Question: How does one know if he is attending to his soul’s mission or simply satisfying his vanity?

Sri Chinmoy: One can distinguish between the two only when one works without being motivated by desire and without being affected by the results of his actions. When one is in that state of consciousness, one can easily know whether one is attending to one’s soul’s mission or just satisfying one’s vanity. Work done in self-dedication leads the aspirant toward the fulfilment of his soul’s mission. Work done for self-gratification drives man toward the pleasures that end in self-annihilation.

Question: It is often said that the soul needs certain experiences even though they may seem adverse at the time. How are we to distinguish between the experiences the soul needs and our own desire to forge ahead through egoistic stubbornness?

Sri Chinmoy: The soul does not have any experience which is unnecessary. Whenever the soul has an experience, there is a divine purpose behind it. But on the physical plane, we often fail to see that divine purpose. We see it as a mere incident in our journey here on earth. There are many things which our physical mind cannot comprehend while our soul is having the experiences. It is also true that through our stubbornness, we impose some insignificant experiences on the soul. But what we call “adverse experiences” are not adverse to the soul because in the soul’s wide vision of light, these experiences are all possibilities to grow, to develop, to manifest a higher truth or to fulfil a greater mission on earth.

Question: In this age of Kali Yuga, are more people becoming aware of their soul’s mission, or is this kind of awareness for future generations?

Sri Chinmoy: One cannot give a categorical answer to this question because what the golden future will look like is uncertain and obscure, with all kinds of possibilities and impossibilities intermingled. It is very easy to appreciate the past dawns. Living in this era, we cannot judge the aspiration of the past or the aspiration of the future. But we do know that since the world is evolving, human consciousness is awakening towards a brighter light. Since the world, from the spiritual point of view at least, is progressing, there is more than a mere possibility for a higher consciousness to dawn upon earth. The achievement of the past does not and cannot satisfy the present. The present demands something higher, deeper and more fulfilling. The role of the Kali Yuga will sooner or later be over. The Golden Days will unmistakably dawn.

To come back to your question, we all know that the present-day world is more aware of scientific discoveries than it is aware of the soul’s mission. The future generations will have both science and spirituality at their highest, not as two dire competitors, but as two complementary forces. Both science and spirituality will achieve the perfect perfection of matter and spirit. The gradual evolution of the earth-consciousness will grant the soul more opportunity to know why it has come and what it has to do in the great drama of the Supreme.

Question: Does our soul have contact with the mind of the so-called higher planets like Venus and Saturn?

Sri Chinmoy: First of all, Saturn and Venus have no mind, either human or divine. Secondly, only the yogis can have free access to the planets Venus, Saturn, etc. Ordinary souls cannot have this capacity, but they can have a glimpse of these planets in their dreams, or in a very high state of meditation.

Question: There is always talk about this world destroying itself; then people become personally alarmed. Would the end of the physical world as we know it be a threat to the soul?

Sri Chinmoy: If the physical world is destroyed, it would not be a threat to the soul, for the soul can stay in the souls’ region. But if the soul wants to manifest the divine in all its aspects, then it must incarnate in a human body in the physical world.

Note

Further questions asked on August 20, 1966 at the second class of the summer series on yoga, held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. V. G., New York City.

Those questions are part of “Yoga and the Spiritual Life” and are not reprinted here.

Concluding question asked on August 20, 1966 at the second class of the summer series on yoga.

Question: I understand you to say that some spiritual figures in India claim that today you are here, tomorrow you are not here, that the world is an illusion. But aren’t those so-called spiritual figures actually corrupting the pure teaching of Shankara on the question of Maya? Shankara never really disavowed the existence of this phenomenal world. Am I right in saying this?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, you are right. But the general conception of Maya has been misinterpreted in the East. Even now ninety-nine percent will say that Shankara advocated Maya, the doctrine that the world is an illusion.

What Shankara wanted to say, if I am correct, is: “The world is not an illusion, but we must not give importance to the transitory things. There is something eternal, perpetual, everlasting and we must try to live in the Eternal and not in the transitory.”

Now at present, or very recently, you can say, about eighty years ago, some of the modern Indian thinkers came to the conclusion, after throwing considerable light on Shankara’s philosophy, that he did not actually mean that — that the world is a colossal illusion.

“Neti, neti,” “Not this, not this,” the Upanishads cried and Shankara echoed. But what is that “this"? It is something that is finite, it is something that is binding us all the time. So people thought that if we leave the world, perhaps there would be a better world somewhere else. It is just like standing on one shore and thinking that the other shore is safe and full of joy and delight. But it is not true.

Each person has his own way of understanding the truth. You are at perfect liberty to understand it in your own way. How many people can go into the deeper meaning of the Truth? Some people think that the world is an illusion while others feel that it is not an illusion. It is deplorable that we do not or cannot see the world in its totality. We look at the truth with our finite consciousness, with our limited understanding. When we do that, we see that the world is nothing but an object of ignorance. We feel that we must enter another world, the world of Bliss and Perfection.

To come back to your question, Shankara’s very short earthly existence was surcharged with dynamic energy. He strode the length and breadth of India on foot, preaching his philosophy; he set up temples in key parts of the country. What he offered to the world at large was, in fact, dynamic Truth and not the so-called illusion which the world so forcefully associates with his teachings.

Part II: Sri Chinmoy's first television interview

Editor's note

On July 20, 1967, Sri Chinmoy appeared on television for the first time. He was interviewed on the Government Station, WIPR (Channel 6), in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The interviewer was Senor Hector Campos Parsi, a well-known musician and composer who has a weekly TV program in which he interviews persons prominent in the arts and sciences.