Part I — The world of sleep

Question: Do you ever sleep?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not actually sleep. For a fleeting second or a minute I close my eyes and consciously energise my whole body, my existence. You may call it sleep, but how could sleep energise me in just a fleeting second? Sometimes I sleep when I am sick, for an hour or two; otherwise, fifteen minutes is more than enough. If I sleep more than that, I am just wasting my time.

Question: How long can a disciple sleep in your boat?

Sri Chinmoy: A disciple can sleep in my boat as long as he wants to. Stay in the boat, sleep and snore, but just stay in the boat. That is more than enough. Do anything you want to; just don't jump out of the boat.

Question: What do the spiritual Masters in India do when their disciples fall asleep during meditations?

Sri Chinmoy: In India, very sincere spiritual Masters ask their disciples to meditate at night in front of an open fire, so the disciples don't fall asleep. No matter how cold it is, the disciples have to meditate. If they fall asleep, the Master just strikes them mercilessly and says, "Why do you have to create problems for your parents and dear ones? You left them for God, and now you have to deceive God also?"

Many of you people leave the members of your family for God. That is wonderful. But if you leave them because you are afraid of accepting earthly life, then it is just deception. If you have accepted the spiritual life, then you have to be sincere to God. There are many, many absolutely authentic incidents told about Masters who strike their disciples like anything, because they feel that the disciples have broken their promise to God. Perhaps there was a time when this was an acceptable method, but the difficulty is that in the modern world, physical torture is not the worst torture. If the mind is illumined and the heart is awakened, then the physical torture is not necessary at all. Why should the Master strike you? If you know that you are doing something wrong by sleeping, then you will try to conquer it so that you don't sleep next time.

I feel that there is much truth in the method that they applied. I don't use it, I cannot use it; but I cannot say that their method is wrong. Their method is equally good. In this case, the Teacher is not getting malicious pleasure by striking the disciple. It is because of his love for the disciple that he is doing it. This is one method. But in general my policy is to disapprove of physical violence.

Mental violence goes on everywhere. When one person becomes jealous of another, he attacks that person mentally. Wrong forces attack you all the time like arrows, and you are also throwing arrows. But a physical attack is absolutely the worst kind of violence. If you can throw these forces aside on the mental plane, it is wonderful. If not, at least you should try to throw them aside on the vital plane. Now if you can't do this on the vital plane, then these forces come to the fore on the physical plane. Once two young men who are disciples of mine, who were intimate friends, had a fight on the vital plane. The next morning they meditated together and they never thought of striking each other on the physical plane. But on the vital plane they had fought just the night before. I had to intervene in order to end it. Fortunately, it did not come down to the physical plane. Quite often this happens between two men or between two women or sometimes between men and women, and I have to become the umpire. A fight can start with jealousy, insecurity, worry, depression or any negative force.

Question: Sometimes when I feel tired at work, humour helps me to wake up.

Sri Chinmoy: Excellent. So you have got an antidote to sleep. There are many ways you can conquer sleep. So if you are awakened by some funny incident or stories, then use that method. Disciples should learn it from you.

Question: Can you give us any suggestion as to how we can be more alert during morning meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: If you find that it is impossible to remain alert at the Centre at six a.m., then the best thing to do is to meditate at home. The traditional way of meditating is every day, early in the morning. Morning meditation is of greatest importance. If anybody is extremely tired and exhausted, or is feeling sleepy, or straining his eyes, or finding difficulty in meditating here, then he should not come. Please meditate at home. There you can meditate while sleeping. If you meditate that way here, you will ruin the sincere aspiration of your spiritual brothers and sisters. We shall not mind at all if you do not or cannot come in the mornings. But if you do come, kindly come fully prepared to meditate well and to inspire others to meditate well. In that way you will inspire others and others will inspire you.

Question: Sometimes when I fall asleep it's not because my mind is tired, but because it is roaming all over the place. What can you do when you mind starts roaming?

Sri Chinmoy: Just think of the mind as a load of rubbish. Just collect it, put it all in a garbage bag and then throw it away. Feel that everything in your mind is dirty and filthy. Just look for a garbage bag and then fill it and throw it away.

Question: Sometimes it seems a shame that we spend one third of our lives in sleep.

Sri Chinmoy: Ask your sincerity. If you sincerely need God then you don't have to spend that many hours in sleep. Sincerity has to answer this question: How desperately do you need God? Imagine that somebody is pressing your head under water. You are dying for a breath, your whole being cries only for air. If you need God as much as you would need air if you were in this situation, if God's existence comes first and foremost in your life, and if you feel that you can exist without air, water, food or anybody, but not without God, then you don't have to sleep so many hours. Sincerity is the answer. Your sincerity will solve the problem.

Question: If I have worked at length doing an important activity, I want to know if it is all right to miss meditation sometimes in order to get some sleep.

Sri Chinmoy: It is a matter of giving importance. To what do you give importance? Suppose something important is taking place and you are falling asleep. You have worked very hard and you can justify it. But by justifying it you are gaining nothing. You can say that you have worked for Guru and he will forgive you. But you also have to ask whether Guru has given you permission to miss it. If I tell someone not to come to the meeting, then I take the responsibility. I will give him the result of his meditation. If you work, I am responsible. But for the next occasion, if you do not ask my permission, then I may not take the responsibility. You will say that you are tired, but I will say that you are lazy and lethargic.

There are various ways to keep yourself awake. Do japa; say, "Supreme, Supreme, Supreme" as fast as possible. If that does not work, wash your face and eyes, and if even that does not work, then take a small drop of mustard oil and put it in the outer corner of your eyes. Rub it gently into the skin in the corner of the eyes. It will sting and burn your eyes, but it will not injure or destroy them. And it will keep you awake. That little bit of burning is nothing compared to what you get: peace, light and bliss.

The real problem is your sincerity. If you are sincere then you value everything correctly. When you know that something helps you, you do it. You have to give the right importance to things. You have to say that you will not dine with ignorance, and you will dine with light.

Some people feel that if they have meditated for two hours, then they can do anything they want: watch TV programmes, go to the movies, read silly books, or mix with unspiritual people. These things may be very good in the world's eyes, but spiritually they are nothing. For millions of years you have lived in sleep. Now do you want still to do things that give you nothing spiritually? You have to feel that your relaxation can actually negate your meditation. Suppose you have meditated for two hours. You cant meditate all day long. You have meditated well, but now you cannot go on. So what can you do? You can read my writings. When your eyes get tired, you can listen to my music, and when you can no longer do that, then you can look at prints of some of my paintings.

When you have done those things, you can sleep. You see that your Guru has quite a few things to offer — he has done hundreds of things. Instead of wasting your time with gossip and other worldly things, you can run the fastest. If you continue running you will make the fastest progress.

This is how you can live your life. At work you can repeat the name of the Supreme many times. When you come home you can meditate, read my writings, listen to my music and look at my pictures. That way you can stay in my consciousness all the time. Run the fastest when you can. If you give up running you are off the track, and then it will take a very long time to reach the goal.

Question: Do we receive anything from you when we sleep during meditations? Do you scold us?

Sri Chinmoy: When some of you are really asleep, sometimes it happens that you help me, even in a negative way. Sometimes you come to meditation agitated and angry with me or some of the disciples. When you are angry with me, you are consciously hurting me. You are not surrendering; you are only striking me again and again. But if you get tired of your action and you fall asleep, at that time what actually happens is that you surrender to me consciously or unconsciously, and you give up the fight. You are no longer striking me. At that time I am in a position to place you on my shoulder. You are like a child who is angry with the mother. He goes on throwing everything that he finds — dolls, toys, and everything — and then he becomes tired. Then what happens? When he is totally tired, he falls asleep and the mother can do anything with him. Similarly, when a disciple falls asleep, I can carry him, and show him light. So in such cases, it is better to fall asleep during meditation, so that you don't throw your anger and depression and other negative forces into me. Instead of throwing these forces into me, if you consciously fall asleep, then at that time I will lift them and I will lift you on my shoulder. Whatever you have and whatever you are will be on my shoulder. So at that time sleep is helpful.

But if you come to me with devotion, love, aspiration and intensity at that time, then it is a bad thing to fall asleep. At that time if you can give me all the good qualities that you have got, the father and son or father and daughter become one, and we become much stronger. I deal with infinite Light and Bliss, but the very fact that you are giving me something very good and very divine adds to your own capacity. When you offer any good quality, immediately it adds. If you have to fight against a tiger or a person, when you take my side and I take your side, it becomes very easy. When you have come with aspiration, it is really harmful for you to sleep. It is harmful in the sense that if you come with aspiration, then you can really be of great help to me. But if you don't come with aspiration, if you come with agitation and anger and depression, then the best thing is to fall asleep.

Question: It is difficult for me to get enough sleep, especially since I have to get up early in the morning to meditate.

Sri Chinmoy: In America, most people go to sleep at midnight or later. Here if you go to Greenwich Village at midnight, it is like midday. In India it is not like that. There, by ten o'clock everybody is in bed. So, in the same way, your Master is the culprit. He keeps you people up until one o'clock and so on. But if you come home at let us say, twelve o'clock, then you can still sleep for six hours. Some people get up at seven o'clock, and seven hours' sleep is, I think, more than enough. Eight hours of sleep is not for spiritual people. You could have taken eight hours of sleep a few years ago, but some of you still sleep ten hours. Perhaps you sleep on my behalf.

You should feel that more than seven hours of sleep, like drugs, wine, smoking and other things, is something really detrimental to your health and to your spiritual progress. If you take it in that way, as something really detrimental to your spiritual consciousness, then you will be able to discipline yourself.

Part II — Dreams and visions

Question: Do you believe in spiritual dreams?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. But we have to know that there are many places where dreams come from. Sometimes from the subconscious world we get many dreams which have no value. Sometimes we get dreams from the higher worlds. When we get dreams from the higher worlds, these dreams are bound to materialise. Today's dream is tomorrow's reality, when the dream is coming from a world which is living and palpable. Only we do not always know where a dream has come from. When we meditate we enter into many worlds consciously, and the reality of these worlds enters into us in our dreams. If the dream is from a higher world, it will be fulfilled today or tomorrow. It has to be fulfilled. But if it is just from the subconscious world where we are quarrelling, fighting and doing so many things, it need not materialise.

Question: Should we give importance to dreams or visions?

Sri Chinmoy: We have to know what kind of dreams we are dealing with. We get some dreams from the lower vital world. They have no value. Again, some dreams we get from the higher worlds. These dreams are not dreams, they are visions. Each vision is a harbinger of reality. Reality is bound to loom large in each vision at God's choice Hour. The vision is the seed and the seed is bound to grow, to germinate and in due course become a plant. Today's vision is tomorrow's reality. Today embodies tomorrow, which is reality itself.

Question: How can you tell the difference between the two kinds of dreams?

Sri Chinmoy: When you study you learn many things. You learn to tell the difference between one thing and another. So also, when you meditate you learn things in the inner worlds, but this takes time. In order to get your Master's degree, how many years do you have to study? It is the same in the spiritual world. I spent twenty years right from my childhood studying and practising the spiritual life, and that is why I am in this position. If you study something for twenty years, I am sure that you will also be an authority on that particular subject.

Question: Should we encourage dreams? Is it good to dream about you?

Sri Chinmoy: No. One of the disciples writes to me every week about her dreams. Every night she has two or three dreams about me or the other disciples. There is not a single night that she will not have dreams, silly vital dreams. If you have a dream early in the morning that your father has died, then you shake for four hours. If you see your father, you will start trembling and he will say, "What is wrong with you?" Your dream has become more real than fact. If you have a dream that somebody has passed away, then for hours you suffer. But why should you encourage these kinds of dreams? Cowards die long before their death, and dreams also help people to die before their death.

But inspiring dreams are different. If somebody sees that I am blessing him, naturally that dream is good. At some ashrams, if someone gets just a little smile from the Master, he will be in Heaven for four days. So in the dream also, if you see me smiling at you, it has to last for a few minutes. A dream itself is reality in some other plane, some other world. That particular reality can be formulated either through vital desires or through psychic aspiration. If it is formulated through vital desires, even if they are unconscious, then you have to discard them. If it is formulated through the consciously aspiring heart, you should encourage it and try to have it regularly. They say that if you meditate after four a.m. for about an hour and then go to sleep, you will get sweet dreams. First meditate, and if your meditation is very sound, then you go to sleep.