Question: I cannot understand how anything created by God can be imperfect. How can He create a soul that is not perfect?

Sri Chinmoy: God does not throw the soul heartlessly into the manifestation. The soul is not alone. God Himself is always inside the soul. We say that we have come from God and that we are a part of Him. But where is our realisation? Where is our perfection? We are in the process of consciously attaining this realisation and perfection. Each individual represents God-that we know. But each individual has not consciously realised Him.

The Absolute God, who is the Supreme Self, is perfect. The Highest, the One without a second, the God who has created the multiplicity, is always perfect. But the God who has entered into the earth plane for evolution has accepted imperfection because he has taken on the earthly consciousness, which is full of limitations and imperfections.

We cannot separate God from our existence or from our imperfections. Do you think that God is not there in all the imperfections that we see in this world? God is everywhere, but He is manifested to different degrees. God is in the thief as well as in the honest person. He is there, having an experience. God is in everything. He is in the highest and He is also in the lowest.

But we do not want to have the God who is in the lowest. We want to have the God who is in the highest. God is in filthy water as well as in pure, clean water. If I want to remain healthy, I shall drink the pure water. God is not manifested in sufficient degree in the filthy water to allow me to benefit from drinking it. In fact, I would become sick or even die if I did. So the God in the dirty water does me no good in my life of aspiration.

Similarly, if I want to be perfect and serve the Divine, I myself have to become divine. How many times in his daily existence does each human being become the victim of ugly thoughts, undivine thoughts? But during the same day he also gets divine, fulfilling and sublime thoughts. In the uncomely thoughts God is not manifested as He is in the divine thoughts. But again, God does not separate His Existence from one moment to another and stay only in the good thoughts. He is there in our undivine consciousness as well as in our aspiring consciousness. It is we who have to decide which aspect of God we want. The Supreme, the Spirit, has entered into matter, which is sleeping. Gradually the Spirit awakens from its own self-imposed sleep within matter. It pushes matter forward, encouraging it to evolve. It says, "Open your eyes: you have to grow into the Infinite." With our human consciousness, with our wisdom, with our conscious aspiration, we have to grow towards the best, the highest, the most fulfilling.

Our usual conception of God is that He is up above and cannot come down. I may say that I and my Father are one, but if I am an ordinary person, I believe that my Father is up in Heaven whereas I am down on earth. But no, my Father is here, too. Even if I am in hell, then He is also in hell. My Father cannot remain in Heaven while I am in hell. When I say that my Father and I are one, it means that even if I am in the most abysmal depths, He is there, too. He is where I am, if we are really one. And even if I am not conscious of our oneness, God is always with me and in me. If I am in prison, my Father will be there also. He can never stay aloof from me, for we are inseparably one.

To come back to your question, God is not saying to the soul, "Go ahead and develop as best you can." He Himself is always with us and in us. In fact, it is He who is secretly our highest Self.

Question: What is the difference between faith and belief?

Sri Chinmoy: We tend to believe everything that we hear from our parents, from our friends, from the world around us. When we speak of having 'faith', this is stronger than mere 'belief'. Faith deals with our strong inner convictions. George Bernard Shaw once said that we have not lost our faith in God, but we have transferred our faith to the medical profession. This is often true. Very often people have more faith in doctors than in God; most of us have more faith in human beings than in God.

Question: I feel that I am a child of God and I also feel, unfortunately, that I am a child of belief, tradition and all sorts of things. Is it possible to be free from all past beliefs and be absolutely one with God?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, a child of God, a true child of God, can have total oneness with God consciously. You can be one with God without acting on the strength of all the old beliefs, superstitions or unnecessary traditions that you have accumulated from your childhood. Your mind can be totally emptied of the old ideas, traditions and beliefs which you cherished or are still cherishing.

Through sincere aspiration you can get rid of the mental beliefs or worldly beliefs that you have kept in your heart and mind. You can replace them with your soul's spontaneous light, which expresses itself as inevitability or immediate assurance. This feeling of inevitability and assurance, which is based on the soul's light, can be established in your mind and heart. Then the so-called worldly beliefs you can discard as you discard old clothes. It is not only possible but inevitable; in fact it is necessary for God-realisation. Otherwise, these old beliefs in the form of society's dictates or in the form of traditional morality will hamper your spiritual progress.

In human belief there is always a mixture of doubt. Fifty per cent will be belief, fifty per cent will be doubt: or one per cent may be belief and as much as ninety-nine per cent may be doubt. But when you live in the soul and are illumined by the soul's light, at that time you will get assurance not only from the soul but also from the soul's inevitability, which is absolutely one with God's dynamic Reality and God's dynamic Vision. At that time you can go beyond all beliefs and be in direct, constant oneness with God, the highest Reality. Then you will live in the soul constantly and express its highest Truth. At that time, old beliefs will have no place in your life.

Question: In what way can we show a person who does not believe in God that God exists?

Sri Chinmoy: The only way you can show the existence of God to that kind of person is by your own personal inner peace, inner light and inner joy. You can show the Supreme in any of the infinite aspects or infinite ways in which He manifests Himself. You do not have to show Him in a human form, even if you were able to do this. Since the Supreme is infinite Joy, Peace, Light, Bliss and Power, you can reveal Him just by embodying these qualities in yourself. Your very appearance, your very presence, when you stand in front of that person, can make him feel the existence of God inside you.

When you are in the presence of a spiritual person, what do you feel? You feel peace, you feel light. His very presence makes you feel that there is something divine in him. What are you experiencing? It is actually the Supreme in the form of the aspirant's divine qualities. So the best way to demonstrate the existence of God is to manifest God in your own life, in your own consciousness.

You cannot convince others by using words, by endless talking and arguing. Every intellectual argument showing the existence of God can be met by a counter-argument. You will discover this if you study Western philosophy. There is no end to the statements and rebuttals about the existence or non-existence of God. These fruitless arguments have been going on for centuries. Whole philosophical systems have been built up around these intellectual theories. But even if your mind is illumined with your soul's light, that is not enough to convince someone who does not agree with you. The mind of the other person also has to be in touch with his own soul's truth to some extent. Then only will he be able to receive the inner truth of what you say. Needless to say, this rarely happens.

The best way to convince someone of the existence of God is to try to manifest His Divinity in your own life. If the other person is at all sincere or receptive, he will see that you have something that he lacks. He will also feel that your qualities of light and peace are coming from another source. He knows that you are leading a spiritual life. He knows that you believe in God. He will see and feel that you have got inner peace, poise, light and joy. If he is sincere, this is all the proof he needs. His inner perception of a better, higher consciousness in you is the only thing that will convince him. It will convince him more than thousands of words.

Question: Does a person have to obtain a temporary suspension of his karma so that he can obtain worthy aspiration?

Sri Chinmoy: Spiritually it does not happen in that way. Suppose an individual has done something wrong. What will happen is that the cosmic forces, or the cosmic law, we can say, will offer him the results of his action. It may happen that something wrong has been done, but for five or six months-or even more-the result may be suspended. The karma is due, but for a few months or a few years the cosmic forces are observing the person and waiting for the appropriate opportunity. During that time if they see that he is trying to turn over a new leaf, if he is praying and meditating and leading a better life, then this karma may be reduced or even cancelled. It is not actually that the karmic debt is being suspended or cancelled. No, the forces are operating. The forces that are going to punish him or, we can say, offer him the result of his action, are still operating. But if the divine forces come to the fore in that particular person, they can fight against these forces of karma. The karmic forces have already started to act and the result is coming. But in the meantime the divine Compassion may begin to operate in and through that particular person. He may feel, "All right, I have done something wrong, but now I am doing something right to make up for it. I have the capacity to do something wrong, but I also have the capacity to do something right. Let me do it and earn God's Forgiveness." Then God's Forgiveness will fight against his karmic punishment.

If a spiritual Master is involved in the life of a particular seeker, then what can the Master do? If he sees that somebody is about to be punished for his wrong actions, if the spiritual Master wants to and if it is the Will of God, he can take the punishment on himself. He will not suffer as much as the seeker would have suffered. If he wants, he can immediately throw the pain or suffering into the Universal Consciousness. For my disciples I do this kind of thing.

Question: I would like to know why so many obstacles arise in our way when we enter the spiritual path?

Sri Chinmoy: Here you have to know what the true and conscious acceptance of the spiritual life entails. Before you accepted the spiritual life you had all these problems, either in the subconscious part of yourself or in your outer daily life. But just because you were unconscious, you were not aware of them. Before you accepted the spiritual life, you were fast asleep in the world of inconscience, so you were not fully aware of the difficulties you had.

When you are fast asleep at night, somebody may be talking in your room, but just because you are asleep, you don't know about it. Similarly, you think that you had no difficulties before. But that is just because you were in another world. Once you enter into the world of reality, which is the world of spiritual aspiration, and your inner life is awakened, you will become aware of these problems.

This is a great opportunity for you to make progress. In the spiritual life you immediately know who your enemies are, who is standing in your way. Immediately you get the opportunity to face your enemies, fight them and transform them. When the enemy is hiding in the dark you don't see him. If you don't see the enemy, how are you going to fight him? How are you going to chase him away or capture him and transform him? But in broad daylight you can clearly see your obstacles. Now that you are conscious, you are seeing the difficulties-not necessarily as outer enemies but as your own imperfections. The more you run toward the Light, the more you will see the slightest darkness within yourself and feel it holding you back. When you are consciously trying to be perfect, just a slight imperfection will disappoint you. If you told me that you would come at three o'clock and you came one minute late, immediately it would bother you. "Oh, I told my Master that I would be there at three o'clock. How is it that I am late by one minute?" The nearer you are to the Light, the more importance you give to Light and the more clearly you will see what is darkness and what is Light.

It is not enough just to see your enemies in order to conquer and transform them. Also you must have aspiration. This aspiration brings down the highest Light and highest Power for you. In you it acts, through you it acts and for you it acts just because you are aspiring. If you are not aspiring, this divine Grace, divine Power, will not descend into you. Then all these obstacles will remain in your life for many, many, many incarnations.

In this incarnation, however, you have accepted the spiritual life consciously, devotedly and soulfully. Now you can make wonderful progress. You have received the greatest opportunity to overcome all difficulties, and you should be happy that you are now aware of the obstacles and can fight them and transform them. It is your aspiration that will solve all your problems. When you did not have aspiration, that was the real problem. Now the problems that you are seeing can easily be conquered on the strength of your sincere aspiration.

Question: How can a man achieve will power — I mean the strength to go forward on the spiritual path?

Sri Chinmoy: There are quite a few things one has to do. You are using the term "will power" in the spiritual sense, so I am telling you from the spiritual point of view how you can develop and increase will power. First of all, you must mix only with spiritual people. It is true that everyone is God's child; we are all God's children. But God is not asking you to mix with everyone. He is asking you only to mix with those whom you feel are spiritually aspiring. By sitting beside an ordinary person, you may get pleasure. But by sitting beside someone who is spiritually aspiring, you will get divine joy, because his inspiration is increasing the divine strength inside you. Will power is in all divine qualities. In joy also there is tremendous will power. So you will be able to increase your will power by mixing with people who are spiritual.

Here is another way. You know that you eat twice or three times a day. Eating energises your body but it does not energise your soul; it does not fulfil your soul's mission on earth. For that you have to spend a few minutes two or three times a day in meditation.

Then you have to constantly ask yourself one thing: do you want God or do you want ignorance? Both are standing right in front of you at every moment and you must make a choice. You know and everybody knows that one cannot serve two masters. So when these two masters stand in front of you, you have to decide immediately which one you want. If you choose God, then you must come to Him and enter into Him. And each time you find that you have come out of a divine consciousness, you have to enter into it again. If you can re-enter into God's Consciousness faithfully every time you come out of it, then eventually you will reach the point where you will not come out of it and enter into ignorance anymore. A day will come when your conscious choice of God will be permanent and you will be totally merged in God forever.

As you begin your spiritual journey, always try to feel that you are God's child. Early in the morning you can soulfully repeat, "I am God's child, I am God's child, I am God's child." Immediately you will see that whatever is dark, impure and ugly in you will go away. Later in the day, when ignorance comes to tempt you, you will feel, "I am God's child. How can I do this? I cannot enter into ignorance." By repeating, "I am God's child," you will get abundant inner strength and will power.

These are some ways to increase your inner strength. You can practise all of them, but to start with, mix with spiritual people. Again, you should be careful. If you are following my path, you should mix with my disciples. This is not because I am mean or I am jealous of other spiritual seekers. But one cannot be in two boats at once. If you have one foot in our boat and the other foot in another boat, you will only fall into the sea of ignorance-confusion. It is for your own good that I ask you to associate only with the disciples of your own Master. A real Master cannot be jealous of any other path or any other Master. We shall all ultimately reach the same Goal. But as I said before, one cannot serve two masters. Two spiritual Masters can never be properly served by one individual at one time. If you want to serve the Supreme in me, come only to this place and do not go to any other spiritual place. If today you are here and tomorrow at some other group, then you will never make any progress. You will not get anything lasting, either from me or from the other Master. You will only become confused. By being regular in any path you develop inner will power. Regularity is a great help in developing will power.

Question: How can we tell which is our ego's will and which is the soul's will?

Sri Chinmoy: When it is our ego's will, we try to achieve something by hook or by crook. That is to say, we don't hesitate to employ foul means. We try to do something and then, if we see that we have not succeeded, immediately we try to achieve it by any means at all. That is our ego's will. If we don't achieve our goal even then, we curse the person from whom we expected the thing or we curse the thing which we wanted to achieve and could not achieve.

The soul's will has infinitely more power than the ego's will, but the soul uses its power only because God is inspiring it to achieve something divine. This is what makes the soul's will divine: God's Power is behind it. When we bring the soul's will to the fore, the first thing that we feel is a kind of inner conviction. From deep within we receive the inner conviction that our Inner Pilot wants a certain thing from us. We feel clearly what we want to be or what we want to achieve, plus we feel the inspiration to do the thing. The ego's will, on the other hand, does not offer us this inner assurance. Although we are not convinced inwardly, we try to convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing, even when we are adopting foul means. We try to convince ourselves through our mind, through our vital, through our physical.

When it is the soul's will, we automatically feel not only an inner conviction but also a kind of inner confidence. If God wants us to win, to succeed or to achieve, then we know that He will give indomitable will to the soul. This inner confidence is accompanied by an inner joy, sometimes an inner ecstasy. In the case of the ego, this does not happen. While we are exercising our ego's will, there will often be some fear in it. "Perhaps I will lose the battle. Perhaps my pride will be smashed. Perhaps I will be outdone by the other party." A constant battle is going on. Although we may feel that we are stronger, more powerful, more dynamic, we have no security or confidence. We are afraid that we will be defeated or will not have the capacity to achieve our desire. But the soul's will does not care for success. The soul's will cares only for progress and experience.

When the soul's will power is utilised, it is like a huge wave in the sea. Immediately it inundates the entire consciousness. Once the soul's will is expressed, we are bound to feel that our inner consciousness is inundated with divine energy, inner joy, inner delight, inner power and inner confidence. Everything negative is swept away by the surge of the soul's force. But when we use the ego's will, we feel that we are personally building a palace. We have enormous pride, but also fear that even while building it the palace may crack or collapse. With fear comes doubt. When fear and doubt go together, we see frustration and destruction looming large. But the soul's will is inundated with inner confidence, inner assurance and inner oneness with the Highest. In this inner confidence is true divinity.

Question: In one of your poems you say, "Hope lost, gloom grows/Dark poison-blight/Destruction flows." What can an aspirant do if he is losing hope?

Sri Chinmoy: First of all, I wish to tell you why a person loses hope. Someone loses hope because he makes himself feel that there is a certain period, a given time, in which he has to achieve something or in which he is going to achieve something. We decide, for example, that in two days we are going to achieve some specific thing. Outwardly we may say that in the near future we hope to get something or do something. But this is not entirely true. If we go deep within, we will see that our minds have already set a particular time limit. When the date arrives, our outer mind may not know that this was the deadline fixed on our inner mind's calendar. But on that day, if we have not achieved or received the hoped-for result, we will find that our whole world has collapsed. If we don't see the result on that day, we will be miserable.

What can we do to regain hope? First, we have to know that real hope is not something weak. Very often we think of hope as something very delicate-a sweet, smooth, soothing feeling with no reality in it. But this is not an adequate definition of hope. We have to know that hope is something very solid, very strong. Hope is not something that is crying for the world beyond or crying for a truth which does not exist. No, hope has seen the truth, but it cannot and does not yet possess it. It has seen the truth, only it is unable to bring the truth into the world.

This is divine hope that I am talking about. Divine hope is very different from human hope. Ordinary human hope can rarely be fulfilled because inside it there is no determination, no sincerity, no conscious willingness to accept the highest Truth. With our human hope, if we want to achieve the Highest, the Ultimate, we will not succeed. When the Highest is descending and approaching our physical being, at that time human hope will be terrified. It will try to escape the moment it sees the vastness of the Reality that it was hoping to possess.

But divine hope is something that has seen the truth which we are ultimately going to achieve. If we know what divine hope is, then we will get strength from the certainty that it offers us. Hope has not yet been able to bring the truth to the fore in our lives, but one day it shall. The time which has been planned by God has not yet come, but it will come.

Human hope expects something-say, five dollars. When fulfilment comes, immediately this human hope is overjoyed and it loses its inner poise. But if we start with divine hope, we will never lose our inner balance and poise. Our divine hope has already seen truth in its highest aspect. Now this truth needs only to be embodied. Our hope is only to bring that truth into manifestation. Then, when hope's fulfilment comes, we do not lose our inner balance because we knew that it was bound to happen.

How can we avoid losing hope? We must try to cast aside all expectations from our desiring mind. It is our outer mind which feels that it needs something or wants something. When we feel that we need something, hope begins to play its part. It is the desiring mind that feeds our outer hope. If we can be above the desiring mind and remain all the time in the spontaneity of the heart, then we will have a constant feeling of possessing the divine truth. Our inner heart is always full and complete, requiring nothing. When we need nothing, hope does not enter into the picture, for it is not at all necessary.

So if you can remain with your heart's burning aspiration, it will be impossible for earthly hope to knock at your door because your divine hope is already self-sufficient. When you remain with your heart's aspiration, you are constantly identified with God's Will, and at that time your earthly hope is transformed into divine hope.

Your question was, "What can you do when you lose hope?" When you lose hope, you have to tell yourself that the Reality is bound to come to you precisely because you are in the world of aspiration. You are aspiring most sincerely, most devotedly. You know that you are doing the right thing. If the truth or the fulfilment that your hope has seen has not yet been able to come into manifestation, you need not worry. It is only when you lose your aspiration that you can feel that you are lost.

When I said, "Hope lost, ... destruction flows," I was speaking about the ordinary man who is not aspiring in any way. It is hope, human hope, that keeps him alive on earth. Hope plays a great part in the ordinary human life on earth. For example, some people say that they are doing disinterested work and so on. But only aspirants and truly spiritual people really do this. Ninety-nine percent of the human beings are only feeding their own hopes and desires when they work. That is why they are living, working, existing. Otherwise, they would not budge an inch.

For a spiritual person this does not apply. Where is destruction for a spiritual person? For him there is no destruction. He acts only to fulfil God's Will. God's Will can be fulfilled in two ways: in the form of success or in the form of failure. But God Himself is above both success and failure. So if you want to become identified totally and inseparably with God's Will, then think neither of success nor of failure. Think only of pleasing the Supreme. According to our human eyes the fulfilment of hope is success. But the fulfilment of God's Will goes far beyond so-called failure or success, and this is what is of paramount importance. Divine fulfilment is always beyond outer results. We understand the results and we derive the utmost benefit from the results only when we are one with God's Will unreservedly. When we are identified with His Will unreservedly, at that time we will undoubtedly feel that we are fulfilled also.

So what can you do when you have lost hope? Only feel the necessity for the flame of your aspiration to burn more brightly and more intensely. Then hope you won't even need. An ordinary person needs hope in order to make any move forward, and if there is no forward movement, then self-destruction starts. So without hope, life for an ordinary person becomes a stagnant pool. But if you have sincere aspiration, you do not have to worry; you will get everything.

Question: Sometimes we think that we have surrendered to God, but later we find out that part of our ego has not surrendered at all. It has been hiding and afterwards comes out. How can we attain complete surrender? How can we make all this ego surrender as a whole?

Sri Chinmoy: Let us view surrender as a muscle. By taking exercise we develop our muscles. If we exercise every day, our muscles become strong, stronger. strongest. Surrender also grows by regular exercise. We can develop this surrender day by day. In one day we cannot make complete surrender to God. It is impossible. Nobody on earth has done such a thing. It is not your fault; it is not my fault; it is nobody's fault. But in order to achieve absolute surrender we have to exercise this spiritual quality constantly.

Our greatest enemy is the ego. At the time we want to surrender, ego gets up and stands defiantly in front of us. We have to know where ego actually lives. The ego hides most of the time in our vital. It hides more in our vital than in our mind, and more in our mind than in our heart. In the mind and in the heart there is some ego, but in the soul there is no ego at all. The soul is egoless. The moment we leave the domain of the soul, the moment we come into the heart, with its affections, likes and dislikes, we find ego. Then, when we come to the mind, we see that ego looms large ( the mental ego. When we come to the vital, again there is tremendous ego. And when we enter into the physical, it is all ego.

Question: Spiritually speaking, what is meant by God-realisation?

Sri Chinmoy: God-realisation means the realisation of one's own Self. When you realise your highest Self, you will know that you are nothing other than God. According to our Indian philosophy, "As many men, so many gods." What does this mean? You may think that it means there are innumerable gods who take care of human beings, and that the gods are infinitely superior to human beings and have to look after them. But it does not mean that. The ancient Hindus, when they said, "As many men, so many gods," meant that each person is God. But each person is not consciously aware of this. When he becomes divinely aware of what he is and what he stands for, he knows automatically and spontaneously that he is nothing other than God. God and he are absolutely one both in the inner life and in the outer life.