Part I — Yoga and meditation

Question: What is Yoga?

Sri Chinmoy: Yoga means man's conscious union with God. Right now we have a vague feeling that God is within us, but if we practise Yoga, then God becomes a practical reality.

Question: Does Yoga mean more than oneness with God? Does it mean that we have to act a certain way?

Sri Chinmoy: Yoga does not mean that we have to be indifferent to the world or aloof. No! On the contrary, he who practises Yoga will be extremely kind, sociable and polite to others.

Question: Some people who say they practise Yoga are often rude to others. Why is that?

Sri Chinmoy: Why they are rude to others I will not be able to say, but they are not doing the right thing. Yoga means conscious union with God. That means that we have to see and feel the presence of God in others. So if we see and feel the presence of God in others, how can we be rude to them?

Question: Guru, how do you meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: There are two ways to meditate. One way is to silence the mind. If we do not let any thought whatsoever enter into the mind, then we can receive God's Presence. When God comes to us, we will be able to welcome Him. The other way is to invoke the Presence of God inside our heart and to feel that there is nothing else within us except the heart, the pure heart. The heart is the only part in us that can receive and welcome God, who is all Beauty and all Joy.

Question: Do you have to sit in a certain posture or close your eyes to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: No, we don't have to sit in special posture. It is not necessary. Only we have to keep our backbone erect. We have to sit in an erect position so that we can breathe in properly. But we don't have to sit in the cross-legged position in order to practise Yoga. Yoga does not demand that kind of austerity. Only we have to keep our spine very straight, so that our breathing can be regulated properly.

Question: Can everyone learn to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: Everybody can learn how to meditate. Since God is already within us, He is bound to give us someone who can teach us how to meditate on Him. Meditation is like a lesson. If one studies, then naturally one learns the lesson.

Question: What is the best way to begin to study Yoga and meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: The best way is to read spiritual books and to mix only with spiritual people. Then you can take help from a spiritual Master. If you have a spiritual Master, he will tell you what to do. But if you do not have one, then it is better to start with spiritual books.

Question: If someone has read about Yoga and meditated on his own, should he seek a Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, he should seek a Guru because a Guru is one who can expedite his spiritual knowledge, spiritual wisdom, spiritual journey. If one studies books, it will be to his advantage. But mere studying will not be enough to grant him realisation. Again, if someone reads spiritual books and has a Master, then reading adds to his inspiration and aspiration.

Question: What does the Guru demand from his disciples and what should the disciples expect from their Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: Each Guru demands from his disciples sincerity, purity and regularity. If a disciple does not have sincerity, purity or regularity, then he cannot make good progress. Aspiration a disciple already has; otherwise, he would not have stayed with he Guru.

Each Master makes his own demands. But the term "demand" is totally wrong. The Guru just tells his disciples what is best for them. In the spiritual life, there is no such thing as demand; only the Guru tries to make his disciples aware of what they have to do.

Question: How do Gurus help their students in the daily outer life?

Sri Chinmoy: In the daily life, the Guru can help his disciples by giving divine advice or suggestions. A Guru is he who has wisdom in the inner world. It is from the inner world that he gets the messages about what the disciples ought to do in the outer life. The outer life has no meaning, no reality, without the inner life. The inner life is the source. Most of us do not get messages from the inner life. Whatever the mind tells us we try to execute. So what the Guru does is to enter into the soul of the seeker and then tell the seeker what his own soul wants him to do. The Guru works in secret like a thief. He enters into the heart of the disciple and brings to the fore the messages or inner wealth that is found there and then he offers it to the disciple.

Question: God-realisation sounds like such a difficult goal. Why do people strive to attain it?

Sri Chinmoy: In this world people strive to attain something because they feel that they will get satisfaction after they attain that particular thing. It is very easy for me to drink a glass of water. But if I drink a glass of water, nobody is going to appreciate me, nobody is going to admire me. In the spiritual life I don't need appreciation or admiration. But I myself will not be satisfied with just drinking water. If I do something more meaningful and more significant, then only I will be satisfied.

God-realisation is a most difficult task. But if we realise God, then we shall be totally satisfied. It is for our abiding satisfaction, our everlasting satisfaction, that we want to realise God.

Question: Are all Gurus the same, or are there good ones and bad ones, like regular people?

Sri Chinmoy: It is a very difficult question. The Gurus say that they have realised something which others have not realised. Some Gurus have realised the Truth; some perhaps have not realised the Truth. If they have not realised the Truth, then naturally they are bad Gurus. If all the Gurus had realised God, then I could say that they are all good ones. But unfortunately, there are some Gurus who have not realised God, so how can we expect from them good things, divine things?

If somebody has not studied medicine and wants to practise medicine, if he has to operate on someone, naturally he is not going to cure the person. On the contrary, he will probably kill the patient. Here also, there are some Gurus who are not spiritual but who are practising so-called spirituality and offering advice to their disciples and to the world. Naturally they cannot be as good or as divine as those who have really realised God and who have been commissioned by God to help mankind.

Question: Guru, how can someone tell whether he is following a good Guru or a bad one?

Sri Chinmoy: He can easily know whether he is following a good Guru or a bad Guru. Suppose the Guru says, "If you can give me twenty thousand dollars, then I will make you realise God, or at least I will give you a very high experience." Then immediately the student should leave that Master.

Again, he may say, "You stay with me for one or two years, and then I will be able to grant you God-realisation on such-and-such a date." If it happens that the seeker is extremely advanced and he comes to the spiritual Master just a few months or a few years before it is time for his realisation, then naturally the Master can make this kind of statement; otherwise, it is all absurd.

Question: What is the human soul really like?

Sri Chinmoy: The human soul is a portion of divinity. You can say this soul represents God, the almighty Father within us. According to Indian philosophy, the soul is neither masculine nor feminine. Again, you can see the soul in a physical form, in the subtle physical. It is most beautiful, infinitely more beautiful than any human being. You can't define the soul; but if you practise Yoga, if you pray and meditate, then you can feel the presence of the soul and eventually see the soul even with your naked eyes.