Question: Could you please tell us the difference between hope and expectation?

Sri Chinmoy: Hope is something sweet and deep, and it exists in the Heart of our Lord Beloved Supreme. Expectation is something in the physical mind, in the vital, in the physical consciousness. Hope was born the day God created His Dream, but expectation is a creation of the human mind and vital.

When we hope for something but we do not get it, we do not become angry or frustrated, because there is a divine touch there. But with expectation, we use mostly the vital — the hungry vital or the dynamic vital. If we do not get what we want, if our expectation is not fulfilled, we become frustrated, angry and destructive.

Hope is something sweet, divine and encouraging. But expectation is something earth-bound and limiting that we have created inside our vital or inside our mind for our satisfaction or gratification.

Question: In the translation of your song Bhulite diyona it asks that the Supreme not allow you to forget Him either in life or in death. Is it possible to forget the Supreme in the soul's world?

Sri Chinmoy: Here on earth many people have forgotten the promises that they made to God and to their own divinity. In exactly the same way, God's Consciousness is there in the soul's world, but how many souls remember? After six years, most souls have to come back to earth. Some do not want to come, but they are forced. If they get God's special Grace or the Master's special grace, they can stay indefinitely in the soul's world. Otherwise, ordinary human beings have to come back, because even while they are in the soul's world they are not doing anything for God or for their spiritual progress.

You can make a comparison between when the soul is in the physical on earth and when the soul is not in the physical, in the soul's world. On earth we see only the physical body, vital and mind, but there are also what we call the subtle body, subtle vital, subtle mind and the psychic being, the soul's representative. We expect the subtle beings to be a little better than the physical ones, but sometimes they can be equally useless. The subtle body, vital, mind and heart need preparation, or they can be as useless as the physical body, vital, mind and heart.

Ordinary, unaspiring souls can definitely forget God in Heaven. We may be standing in front of the temple, in front of the shrine, in front of the statue, but our mind is somewhere else, our heart is somewhere else. We are seeing the physical aspect, something made of stone, but if we are not conscious and aware, we are not considering that thing as representing the ultimate Supreme, although we are standing right in front of it and looking at it.

Question: Does gratitude cure everything?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, gratitude cures everything if inside gratitude there are prayerful tears. If you just say, "I am grateful to you," that gratitude is not deep. It is just like saying, "Thank you very much." But if gratitude comes from the very depth of our being, from the inmost recesses of our heart, because God has done so much for us unconditionally, then there are streaming tears inside that gratitude.

Sometimes if we go one step towards God, He will come ninety-nine steps towards us. Sometimes if we do not take even one step, God comes one hundred steps to awaken us and lift us. At that time we should develop prayerful tears, saying that we shall become a better person, we shall become a good person and we shall try to please God in His own Way. If we have that kind of gratitude, it will definitely cure all our shortcomings and weaknesses in our spiritual life. That kind of gratitude embodies inspiration, aspiration, readiness, willingness, self-giving — everything.

Question: What is the difference between imagination and vision?

Sri Chinmoy: Vision comes directly from the third eye. The source of vision is infinitely higher than the source of imagination. With His cosmic Vision, God created this world. Imagination can be high, higher, highest. But if we are touched by God's infinite Grace, we can know what His Vision is or even be endowed with God's Vision. Then we will easily see that imagination is infinitely, infinitely inferior to God-given vision.

There is a great difference between inner vision and imagination. Imagination has a reality of its own; it can be very high, very lofty and very deep. Imagination can come from a very, very high realm of consciousness. But the source of vision is infinitely higher than even the highest plane of imagination.

Vision is like the Himalayas in height, and imagination is like a small hill. When we imagine, usually our mind operates. I am not saying it has to be the earth-bound mind; it can be the higher mind. If we can imagine something very lofty, very divine and very pure, and if we can manifest it, then it is a great blessing for Mother-Earth. But when we use our vision or third eye, at that time the Source of creation is operating in and through us.

Question: As your disciples, does our aspiration or lack of aspiration affect the general public or people that we will never see?

Sri Chinmoy: Definitely it affects others. Our aspiration creates good results, and our lack of aspiration unconsciously weakens the inner strength or some of the good qualities of others. Either way, it starts with the immediate members of our family, our dear ones, and then it goes outward to our neighbourhood. If our aspiration is very strong, it covers a certain distance — a mile or two, or even more. Again, if somebody has most intense aspiration, the positive effect can cover a very, very long distance. After getting realisation, if one aspires in and through mankind by becoming one with humanity for the betterment and transformation of the world, at that time aspiration itself will cover the length and breadth of the world. God-manifestation is part of this kind of aspiration. If I decide, "I do not need manifestation anymore; I have suffered enough," immediately I will notice a difference in the world atmosphere. Whatever the world condition is now, it will be worse.

When you as a seeker maintain your highest aspiration, it definitely helps your near and dear ones. This will not only happen in your own Centre; your aspiration can go and help your brother or sister disciples in a Japanese Centre or somewhere else. That is why I say, if one person is in his highest, it helps his dear ones, no matter where they are. Our dear ones are members of our spiritual family, not only in the same Centre but also in other Centres. The aspiration of an individual, no matter which Centre he or she belongs to, can be of tremendous help to others. Similarly, when something unfortunate happens, immediately it lowers the consciousness of others.

Definitely our aspiration or lack of aspiration affects the world around us — both the little world in our immediate vicinity, and even the larger world, the earth-planet.

Question: In the song Bhulite diyona there are four aspects of the Supreme mentioned: His Feet, His Eyes, His Message and His Dream. What should we imagine or visualise while we are singing each of those words, and what do we receive from them?

Sri Chinmoy: At that time you have to imagine the personal aspect of the Supreme. The Supreme is both personal and impersonal. Try to imagine a beautiful golden Being right in front of you. When we see Mother Kali's picture, she seems very dark. But Mother Kali in Her highest reality is golden. Our Supreme also we have to take as the most beautiful golden Being.

Exercise your imagination-power. If you use your imagination-power, you will be able to visualise His Feet, His Eyes, His Message and His Dream — the Dream that He has in you, in each individual — His own Dream that He wants to manifest in and through you. For each individual he has sown a new Dream. You have to pray to Him to manifest His Dream in you. When you sing the second part, with utmost humility you have to feel that your body, vital, mind, heart and soul have made their prostration. Imagine that your soul is bowing to the Supreme, followed by your heart, mind, vital and physical. Everything that you have and everything that you are is absolutely at the Feet of the Supreme.

I use the term bowing, but bowing is not the right word. Bowing can be just a nod of the head. You have to feel that you are bowing in the traditional Indian way of lying down prostrate in front of a statue in the temple. This does not mean to make a display, far from it! If you lie down at the feet of a statue while you are only thinking of tomorrow's breakfast, that will not do any good. You have to absolutely make yourself feel that you are as humble as a speck of dust or a grain of sand. When Swami Vivekananda's humility came to the fore, he used to say that Sri Ramakrishna could make thousands and millions of Vivekanandas just from specks of dust and grains of sand. That is sincere humility. That is the kind of bowing down that you need to imagine in this song — where you become the embodiment of purest humility. You have to feel that you are nothing but a speck of dust, and you are placing this worthless thing at the Feet of the Supreme.

Question: Will our sincerity always tell us whether we are pleasing God in God's own Way?

Sri Chinmoy: No, sincerity can be fooled by the vital. Very often our sincerity is a slave to our vital. The vital can make the mind understand certain things in a very peculiar way. Your mind may tell you that if you do something in a certain way, that is the sincere way. But the vital can easily fool the mind and say, "No, this is not the sincere way. The other way is sincere."

We have to know where sincerity is coming from. If it is from the heart, then that sincerity will be helped by the soul's illumination. But if it is coming from the mind, the mind's sincerity is not reliable. The mind's sincerity is like an opportunist: I will be sincere to you if you do me a big favour, but if you do not do me a big favour, I am not going to be sincere. Very often mental sincerity acts like a first-class opportunist and the human vital is such a rogue. When the vital comes, it can easily change the mind's ideas, even if the mind has good intentions. The vital can change the feeling of sincerity that the mind has.

Sincerity itself is not enough for us to know if we are pleasing God. Sincerity is the first step. The second step is determination. Every day we can be sincere to ourselves. After having wrong thoughts, we can say, "I have wrong thoughts. I am recognising them; I am acknowledging them; I am making a confession that I have wrong thoughts, undivine thoughts, unhealthy thoughts and unaspiring thoughts. I am so sincere." But that is useless. True, we are behaving far better than others, who will not acknowledge or recognise their wrong thoughts. In our case at least we are ready to admit that we cherish wrong thoughts, undivine thoughts, vital thoughts. But then determination has to come. If determination is not there, you are not going to take the next step.

How many people recognise their wrong actions? Again, how many of those are determined not to repeat those actions? Only if determination comes can you go one step forward. Again, even if determination comes today, you may not be successful in changing your wrong thoughts or wrong actions. How many times does a child fall down before he can walk properly? In the very beginning he is sincerely trying to stand up and walk, but his sincerity is not enough. He needs determination. Otherwise if he falls down, he will give up. Again and again he has to show his determination.

In your case, in everybody's case, sincerity is absolutely necessary. It is of paramount importance, but it is not enough. You need determination as well. And even when you have determination, God's Grace is also necessary. Otherwise, determination itself can come from the vital, not from the psychic being or the soul. Vital determination says, "By hook or by crook, tomorrow I will become a good person." That does not work to transform your actions.

The only thing that works is God's Grace. You have to pray to God prayerfully and tearfully: "Give me the determination to change my life. Then I will be able to please You always in Your own Way." If you get determination from prayer or meditation, then that is real determination. Otherwise, in an aggressive way if you are bringing some thoughts or ideas into your being, that determination is no determination. Real determination has to come from tearful prayers or very profound meditation. If determination comes from these, only then can it change your life. Otherwise, sincerity alone is not enough, although it is better than insincerity.

Question: When you see non-seekers, do you see them as being the same as you, as if a part of you is in them, but has been covered with ignorance or darkness?

Sri Chinmoy: When I see a non-seeker, at that time I do not really see him or her as a person. Inside the non-seeker I see the Supreme. It is something like seeing a large temple that is in very bad condition. This side and that side may be broken, but even then I can see a little shrine or statue. As soon as I see anyone, my goal is to see that little shrine or statue. It draws my attention like a magnetic pull. When I look around, I may see that the whole temple is practically smashed to pieces, but immediately the shrine draws my attention. So I see the divinity or the Supreme inside that person first. Then I will see all the things that need to be changed, fixed and made perfect.

From the spiritual point of view, you cannot separate darkness from light. God is both darkness and light. But we want the God who is in light, not the other one. Sri Ramakrishna said, "God is in the mad elephant and also in the man who is on top of the mad elephant. Will I listen to the God who is on top, shouting to me to get out of the way, or will I let the elephant destroy me?" Of course, if it is God's Will, the mad elephant will gradually become a docile elephant. It will become good and divine.

So when I see someone, immediately I see the divine aspect inside them. After realisation, you see everything as divinity. That is why I say that God sees you as another God. As soon as you look in a mirror or at another person, you see the physical body. But when I see someone, the magnetic pull is immediately to the highest divinity of the person. When I look at a person, even if he is a drunkard or hooligan, I will immediately see his divinity. Then I will see that the divinity is only one infinitesimal portion, an iota, and undivine things are all around it. But my focus or attention will be immediately on his divine aspect.

Question: How can we best develop the capacity to be able to feel your presence inside our heart as if we are in your physical presence?

Sri Chinmoy: Imagination is a reality in its own right. If you want to feel my presence, you do not have to think of me as I am at that particular moment. Just imagine me at a place where once upon a time you got the utmost compassion, affection or blessings from me. It could be the tennis court or the meditation hall or somewhere else. So many times you have received from me. Remember a few most significant times when you felt the most powerful blessing or appreciation from me. Imagine my face and your own heart, and carry that with you.

When you are at work, you do not have to think: "Oh, it is eleven o'clock. Guru is either at home or at the tennis court. He is playing tennis or taking exercise." No, just remember that on a certain date or at a particular place you got utmost blessings, compassion, affection, gratitude or something that gave you tremendous, boundless joy. Let that joy become part and parcel of your life-breath. Remember not only one, but several occasions. If you can keep these inside your heart and inside your mind, then you can carry me wherever you go. Once the joy that you got from me or that you gave me becomes part and parcel of your life-breath, that is enough to feel me anywhere you are.

Question: Does it actually help the earth-atmosphere when we sing your songs or when you play and sing your music in concerts?

Sri Chinmoy: When my disciples sing my songs prayerfully, soulfully and self-givingly, it helps so much! When the children sing at the tennis ground, or people sing my songs soulfully at other places, the singing aspect gives much more inspiration, aspiration and dedication to mankind than the music aspect. The music aspect has its grandeur, but many times it loses its pristine purity. If we lose pristine purity, we lose many things.

When you see the natural beauty of a tree, you get one kind of feeling. Inside your entire being you feel the Presence of God. But if Christmas lights are on the tree and it is covered with decorations, this gives you joy for a few minutes but that joy does not last. It gives joy to the vital, but it does not touch the very depths of the being.

Occasionally when a musician enters into his soul or his very depths, then his playing is absolutely as good as prayerful and soulful singing. But unfortunately, if I have to be very frank, most of the time that does not happen. I know that as a singer, I am far better than as a musician. When I sing soulfully and devotedly, my voice carries much more divinity than my instruments. My most favourite instrument is the esraj. But even my esraj is no match for my voice.

Still, instrumental music does give us joy. We cannot remain all the time inside the soul or inside the heart. We have to come into the vital. Here I am talking about the dynamic, active vital, not the emotional vital or lower vital. We can feed the dynamic, active and enthusiastic vital with instrumental music. But when we want to get something very, very deep, something that will help us to climb up high, higher, highest, soulful singing is the right thing.

Many, many times I have seen that when people sing very prayerfully and soulfully — not the songs that are fast and lively and give joy to our vital — but songs like Jiban debata or Bhulite diyona, Mother-Earth or the soul of that particular place receives light. Afterwards, that light spreads like a fountain from any part of the world where people are singing soulfully.

The same singers may also be excellent musicians, but usually their voices carry more of their divinity than their instruments do. Again, when some super-excellent musicians play from their own highest and deepest, it is as good as singing. But many times it happens that our restless vital comes forward when we hear instrumental music. At that time music can never be as inspiring as soulful and prayerful singing.

To come back to your question, my music definitely helps the earth-atmosphere. It does not have to be me who is playing or singing. When any group or excellent singer sings soulfully, not only does it melt my heart, but also it immediately enters into the universal consciousness.

Question: When we disobey you, how can we get rid of the guilt?

Sri Chinmoy: You can get rid of the guilt only if you can smile at me with your entire being. That is to say, you have to feel that not only your heart but also your eyes, your ears and even your nose is smiling at me. Also, this smile has to contain and embody gratitude. When your body, vital, mind and heart are all smiling at me with soulful gratitude, then you will see that I am smiling back at you most powerfully. At that time guilt goes away. Guilt is something that feels very heavy in the body. It is like garbage. Once you empty the garbage, you feel so light. So when your whole being is smiling at me and I am also smiling most powerfully at you, guilt disappears and you feel very light, very clean, very pure.

I am the last person in God's entire creation to hold anything against anybody. Others can hold things against me to the end of their lives. But I do not want to carry my displeasure and frustration to my grave. Others may carry their anger and frustration with them to their last breath, and even with their last breath they may not forgive humanity. But this is foolish, and I happen to be wise. Again, in my case, if the Supreme wants me to hold my depression, frustration or displeasure, I have to do so. But I do not hold these like ordinary human beings for days and months and years. That is too much. I express my displeasure for a few seconds or a few minutes or a few hours. If the crime is very, very serious, I may hold these things for a few days or weeks, but never for months or years.

Insincere seekers do not suffer if they disobey their Master. After disobeying, they become defiant; then comes betrayal and they are finished! But when disciples who are extremely sincere disobey me, they will suffer deeply unless they can get rid of their guilt by offering me the smile of gratitude. They can offer this smile to me either in the physical, or they can offer it to my transcendental picture. So if you disobey me, then sit in front of my transcendental picture and try to bring forward a smile from your heart, from your mind, from your vital and from your body. Then you will empty the garbage inside you, and also my boundless compassion and boundless affection will come forward. This is how you can get rid of guilt.

If there is sincere gratitude, God takes away all your sins — all the bad things you have done. If there is no sincere gratitude, then you may suffer to the end of your life. If gratitude comes as a most soulful prayer or most soulful meditation, then it embodies everything. But if it is only a casual feeling like saying, "Thank you," then that gratitude is virtually worthless. Sometimes it is only vital pleasure we enjoy and share with others when we say "thank you." That feeling is millions and billions of miles away from real gratitude.

Question: How can we maintain the light feeling of soulfulness we get while singing spiritual songs after we have stopped singing?

Sri Chinmoy: If you see most beautiful and fragrant flowers in a flower shop, then afterwards you will still see the flowers in your imagination and remember their fragrance. If you go swimming or running or play tennis, afterwards you will remember the joy that you got. Similarly, after you have finished singing, try to remember the joy that you felt inside your mind, inside your heart, inside your vital and inside your body. How? By exercising your imagination-power. Nobody can sing twenty-four hours a day, but you can easily carry inside your heart the fragrance and the beauty of your singing by using your imagination-power.

In the morning you meditate at six o'clock. By nine or ten o'clock you are involved in the hustle and bustle of life. But if you can imagine that the prayer and meditation that you did at six o'clock are still living inside your heart, then you will get the benefit of your prayer and meditation throughout the day.

Then, during your evening meditation try to recollect all the good things that you have done during the day. The bad things you will forget; only the good things you will remember. What you are doing is not false; you are not living in a dream world. You have done these things in reality; now you are practising that reality. Imagination is only bringing the reality forward again and again.

Question: How can we love the path that we are taking to the Supreme at every moment and maintain a deep respect and gratitude for it?

Sri Chinmoy: Divine love is spontaneous. It is not something that we can build with bricks and mortar like a building. We see a flower and immediately we love the flower. We see a child and immediately we love the child. We love something or someone because we feel a magnetic pull from that person or thing. You accepted me as your spiritual Master and I accepted you as my spiritual disciple because your soul immediately saw and felt something in me, and I immediately saw and felt something in your soul. It was mutual, reciprocal — like two magnets.

You gave your heart, your soul and your life to our path; it is your entire spiritual existence. Between your life and our path, between you and your Master, there is an eternal magnetic pull. I am feeling only divine love for you, and you are feeling only divine love for me. Divine love is all oneness. In divine love the Master's heart and the disciple's heart are one. In divine love your heart's cry and the path are one. In divine love you and your Master are one.

There is a great difference between this kind of divine love and ordinary human love. Divine love is bound to grow and glow at every moment. Human love will grow only to burst like a balloon. For a while it will grow and grow, but eventually it will burst into pieces. But love that comes from the soul starts spontaneously and does not stop. And at every moment it gives us tremendous joy. The love that you feel for the Supreme and for the path is like this. It began spontaneously, and it will not stop. At every moment it gives you joy

Human love is like earthly food. If you continue eating earthly food for two or three hours, you will get sick. But divine food we can eat endlessly. Our hunger for human food is finite, but our hunger for divine food is infinite. Divine food is God's Compassion and God's Affection. These are eternal, infinite, immortal. My compassion, concern and affection for you and for humanity are infinite. These divine qualities are not my monopoly. They are everybody's birthright, but everybody does not use them. Divine love is simple, pure and unending. If you can remain inside your own heart-garden, inside your Master's heart-garden and inside the Heart-Garden of our Beloved Supreme, at every moment you will feel the spontaneous pull of divine love. Then you will see and feel inside the path, inside your Master and inside your own heart the beauty and fragrance of a flower, and spontaneously you will love them.

Question: How can we willingly throw off our desires?

Sri Chinmoy: Right in front of you God places an ocean of light. Then He shows you that it is composed of countless tiny drops. All the tiny drops are so beautiful because they are all filled with light. A few minutes later God shows you an ocean of darkness. That ocean is also composed of countless little drops. So God is giving you the capacity to observe the countless drops in the ocean of darkness and ignorance and also the countless drops in the ocean of light and beauty. Now you have to decide which ocean you want to enter.

In the /Ramayana,/ Ravana was the most powerful hostile force, but under him were many lesser hostile forces. The ocean of darkness is like Ravana, and its tiny drops are like all the hostile forces under him. If you enter into the darkness-ocean, you will see that each little drop is trying to devour you and destroy you. At the same time, the commander-in-chief, the darkness-ocean itself, is also trying to destroy you. And for the darkness-ocean to devour you is easier than the easiest.

But if you enter into the ocean of light, you will see that each drop is only trying to feed you. Each tiny drop is like a little child giving you food. The bigger drops are giving you nectar. And the ocean itself, like the mother or father, is feeding you abundantly. So one ocean is trying to kill you and all its children are also trying to kill you. The other ocean is only trying to feed you with affection and love.

Each thought that you have is like a tiny drop in either the ocean of darkness or the ocean of light. If it is an aspiring thought, it is trying to feed you with affection, sweetness and love. If it is a desire-filled thought, it is only trying to bind you, blind you, capture you and devour you. You have to use your wisdom, which is found inside the heart. If you do not have wisdom, then at least use your intelligence, which is inside the mind. Each time a thought comes, observe it with your wisdom or intelligence. Ask yourself, "Is this thought going to bind me or make me free? Does this thought embody purity, humility, sweetness, affection, concern and sympathy, or does it embody all the negative qualities? Is this thought going to help me make progress or stop me from making progress?" The answer has to come directly from you.

Once you decide whether a thought is a good thought or a bad thought, then you have to act. If you see that a thought is good and aspiring, if you see that it is trying to feed you with affection, sweetness and love, then follow it. Good thoughts are like a boat. If you get into this boat, it will carry you down the river of all your good qualities to the ocean of light. But if you see that a particular thought is bad, that it is filled with desire and it is only trying to capture you and devour you, then do not follow it. Just discard it.

So do not think about getting rid of your desires. These desires are coming from thoughts. Thought is always the culprit. If you can save yourself from wrong thoughts, if you can follow only your good thoughts and immediately discard all your bad thoughts, then everything that happens in your life will be positive, constructive, illumining and fulfilling.