Author’s introduction: Illumination

In this world there is only one thing worth having, and that is illumination. In order to have illumination, we must have sincerity and humility. Unfortunately, in this world sincerity is long dead and humility is yet to be born. Let us try to revive our sincerity and let us try, on the strength of our aspiration, to expedite the birth of our humility. Then only will we be able to realise God.

Illumination is not something very far away. It is very close; it is just inside us. At every moment we can consciously grow into illumination through our inner progress. Inner progress is made through constant sacrifice. Sacrifice of what? Sacrifice of wrong, evil thoughts and a wrong understanding of Truth. Sacrifice and renunciation go together. What are we going to renounce? The physical body, family, friends, relatives, our country, the world? No! We have to renounce our own ignorance, our own false ideas of God and Truth. Also, we have to sacrifice to God the result of each action. The divine vision no longer remains a far cry when we offer the result of our actions to the Inner Pilot.

In our day-to-day life, we very often speak of bondage and freedom. But realisation says that there is no such thing as bondage and freedom. What actually exists is consciousness — consciousness on various levels, consciousness enjoying itself in its various manifestations. In the field of manifestation, consciousness has different grades. Why do we pray? We pray because our prayer leads us from a lower degree of illumination to a higher degree. We pray because our prayer brings us closer to something pure, beautiful, inspiring and fulfilling. The highest illumination is God-realisation. This illumination must take place not only in the soul, but also in the heart, mind, vital and body. God-realisation is a conscious, complete and perfect union with God.

We want to love the world; the world wants to love us. We want to fulfil the world; the world wants to fulfil us. But there is no connecting link between us and the world. We feel that our existence and the world’s existence are two totally different things. We think that the world is something separate from us. But in this we are making a deplorable mistake. What is the proper connecting link between us and the world? God. If we approach God first and see God in the world, then no matter how many millions of mistakes we make, the world will not only indulge our mistakes; it will soulfully love us as well. Similarly, when we see the defects, weaknesses and imperfections of the world, we will be able to forgive the world and then inspire, energise and illumine the world just because we feel God’s existence there.

If we do not see God in all our activities, frustration will loom large in our day-to-day life. No matter how sincerely we try to please the world, no matter how sincerely the world tries to please us, frustration will be found between our understanding and the world’s understanding. The source of frustration is ignorance. Ignorance is the mother of devastating frustration, damaging frustration and strangling frustration. If we go deeper into ignorance, we see it is all a play of inconscience. Frustration can be removed totally from our lives only when we enter into the Source of all existence. When we enter into the Source of our own existence and the world’s existence, we are approaching the Reality. This Reality is our constant Delight, and Delight is the Breath of God.

This world is neither mine nor yours nor anyone’s. Never! It belongs to God, and God alone. So we have to be really wise. We have to go to the Possessor first, and not to the possession. The possession is helpless; it can do nothing on its own. It is the Possessor that can do what He wants to do with His possession. So first we have to become one with God, and then we shall automatically become one with God’s possessions. When we become one with God and with His possessions, we can certainly and unmistakably feel that the world is ours and we are the world’s.

Ignorance and illumination are like night and day. We have to enter into illumination first, and then bring illumination into ignorance-night. If we try to illumine ignorance the other way around, then the transformation of ignorance will be difficult, slow and uncertain. To enter into the field of ignorance is to take a negative path. If we pursue the path of darkness and try to find light in darkness, we are taking the negative path. The best way, the positive way to find light is to follow the path of light, more light, abundant light, infinite Light. If we follow the path of light, then illumination will assuredly dawn in us.

Let us look up and bring down the Light from above. The moment we look up, God’s Grace descends. The very nature of God’s Grace is to descend upon each individual on earth. When we want to go up to God with ignorance, it is like climbing up a mountain with a heavy bundle on our shoulders. Naturally it is a difficult task. Instead of doing that, we can remain at the foot of the mountain and cry for God’s Grace, which is ready and eager to come down to us from the highest. Needless to say, for God to come down into our ignorance is infinitely easier than for us to carry our ignorance up to God.

Illumination is the conscious awareness of the soul. Illumination is the conscious vision of the Reality that is going to be manifested. Illumination is possibility transformed into practicality. Illumination is like God’s divine magic wand. An ordinary magician in this world uses his wand to make one thing turn into another. When God uses illumination in the world, immediately the finite consciousness of earth enters into the Infinite and becomes the Infinite.

Illumination is humanity’s first realisation of God’s omnipotent Power, boundless Compassion, infinite Light and perfect Perfection. It is our illumination that makes us feel what God really is. Before illumination, God is theoretical; after illumination, God becomes practical. So illumination is the divine magic power that makes us see the Reality which was once upon a time imagination. When illumination dawns in a human being, God is no longer just a promise, but an actual achievement.

Illumination is in the mind and in the heart. When the mind is illumined, we become God’s Choice. When the heart is illumined, we become God’s Voice. Here in the physical world the mind has evolved considerably. Because man has developed his intellectual mind, he has become superior to the animals, for the standard of the mind is higher than the standard of the physical or the vital. Man has cultivated the capacity of the mind, but he has not cultivated the capacity of the heart. When we cultivate the heart, we will see that its capacity is far greater than we had imagined. When we cultivate the unique sense in our heart that we are of God’s highest Vision and we are for God’s perfect Manifestation, then illumination will take place.

— Sri Chinmoy

Chapter I: Consciousness, Siddhi (God-realisation) and Infinity

Question: What is Consciousness?

Sri Chinmoy: Consciousness is the inner spark or inner link in us, the golden link within us that connects our highest and most illumined part with our lowest and most unillumined part. Consciousness is the connecting link between Heaven and earth. Now, where is Heaven? It is not upstairs or somewhere far away. Heaven is in our consciousness. But it is the divine consciousness that connects earth with Heaven. The ordinary human consciousness will only connect us with something very, very limited and, at the same time, very fleeting. For one second we will be able to focus our consciousness on another person, and then our concentration disappears. But when we deal with the inner consciousness, which is the boundless, illumined, transformed consciousness, then our focus of concentration can go on, go on, go on.

It is not that only spiritual people have divine consciousness. Ordinary people have it also, but in them it is dormant. If they would concentrate, meditate and contemplate properly, this consciousness would come forward, and then they would have a free access to the soul, which is all Light, Peace and Bliss.

Consciousness is only one. It houses silence and it houses power. When it houses silence, at that time it houses its own true form. When it houses power, at that time it manifests its inner reality. A portion of the infinite consciousness that has entered into the gross physical and is possessed and used by the physical itself, we call the physical consciousness, the vital consciousness and the mental consciousness. In these there is a tiny portion of the infinite consciousness, but it is not the pure infinite consciousness that we speak of.

The eternal soul and the infinite consciousness must go together. They have a common friend, or you can say, a common father, and that is life, eternal life. One complements the other. The soul expresses its divinity through consciousness, and consciousness expresses its all-pervading power or silence through the soul.

Consciousness and the soul can never be separated, whereas the body can easily be separated from consciousness. What we, in our human life, call consciousness is usually only a feeling. When we perceive something subtle, immediately we call it consciousness, but it is not consciousness at all; it is a very subtle desire. We enter into the desire and immediately feel that this is our consciousness. Everything which is subtle in us and which we cannot define with words, we call consciousness; but consciousness is something totally different.

Awareness and consciousness are also two totally different things. If I talk with someone or mix with someone, then my mind becomes aware of his qualities. That is awareness. But consciousness is not a mental awareness or understanding. Consciousness is an inner revelation or an inner state of being. It is something infinitely deeper and more inward than awareness.

Question: What is the difference between human consciousness and divine consciousness?

Sri Chinmoy: Human consciousness is made up primarily of limitation, imperfection, bondage and ignorance. This consciousness wants to remain here on earth. It gets joy in the finite: in family, in society, in earthly affairs. Divine consciousness is made up of Peace, Bliss, divine Power and so forth. Its nature is to expand constantly. Human consciousness feels there is nothing more important than earthly pleasure. Divine consciousness feels there is nothing more important and significant than heavenly Joy and Bliss on earth. Human consciousness tries to convince us that we are nowhere near Truth or fulfilment. It tries to make us feel that God is somewhere else, millions of miles away from us. But divine consciousness makes us feel that God is right here, inside each life-breath, inside each heartbeat, inside everyone and everything around us.

Human consciousness makes us feel that we can exist without God. When it is in deep ignorance, human consciousness feels that there is no necessity for God. We see millions and billions of people who do not pray or meditate. They feel, “If God exists, well and good; if He does not exist, we don’t lose anything.” Although they may use the term ‘God’ in season and out of season, they do not care for the reality, the existence of God either in Heaven or in their day-to-day earthly lives.

But the divine consciousness is not at all like that. Even the limited divine consciousness that we have makes us feel that at every moment there is a supreme necessity for God. It makes us feel that we are on earth precisely because He exists. And when we cherish divine thoughts, the divine consciousness makes us feel it is He who is inspiring us to cherish these divine ideas. In everything the divine consciousness makes us feel that there is a divine purpose, divine aim, divine ideal, divine goal. In ordinary human consciousness there is no purpose, no positive goal; it is only a mad elephant running amuck. In the divine consciousness there is always a goal, and this goal is always transcending itself. Today we regard one thing as our goal, but when we reach the threshold of our goal, immediately we are inspired to go beyond that goal. That goal becomes a stepping-stone to a higher goal. This happens because God is constantly transcending Himself. God is limitless and infinite, but even His own Infinity He is transcending. Since God is always making progress, we also are making progress when we are in the divine consciousness. In the divine consciousness, everything is constantly expanding and growing into higher and more fulfilling Light.

Question: Could you please speak briefly about the different states of consciousness.

Sri Chinmoy: There are three main states of consciousness: jagriti, swapna and sushupti. Jagriti is the waking state, swapna is the dream state and sushupti is the state of deep sleep. When we are in the waking state, our consciousness is focused outward; when we are in the dream state, our consciousness is turned inward; when we are in the state of deep sleep, our consciousness is roaming in the Beyond.

When we are in the waking state, the identification that we make with anything or anyone is vaishwanara, that which is common to all men. When we are in the dream state, we identify with tejasa, which is our inner brilliant capacity, our inner vigour. And when we enter into deep sleep, there we identify with and experience the subtle. In this third state it is not the mental consciousness, not the intellectual consciousness, but the inner, intuitive consciousness that we deal with. In sushupti there is no collective form; everything is indefinite. It is all infinite mass. In this state we get an experience of a very high order.

There is also a fourth state, turiya, which means the transcendental consciousness. This consciousness is neither outward nor inward; at the same time, it is both outward and inward. It is and it is not. It has the capacity to identify itself with anything and everything in the world and, again, it has the capacity to transcend anything and everything on earth. Furthermore, it constantly transcends itself. Turiya is the highest state of consciousness, but there is no end, no fixed limit, to the turiya consciousness. It is constantly transcending, transcending its own beyond.

The turiya state is like being at the top of a tree. When we are at the foot of a tree, with great difficulty we see a little bit of what is around us; but when we are at the top of the tree, we see everything around and below. So when we enter into the turiya state, we have to feel that we have entered into the highest plane of consciousness. From there we can observe everything.

In order to enter into the turiya state, for at least five or ten minutes every day we have to consciously separate our body from our soul. We have to say and feel, “I am not the body; I am the soul.” When we say, “I am the soul,” immediately the qualities of the soul come to the fore. When we are one with the soul, that state is a kind of samadhi. We can function in that particular state safely and effectively.

Nirvikalpa samadhi is also a state of the soul. When we have become one with the soul and are enjoying the eternal Peace, Bliss and Light of the soul, this is called nirvikalpa samadhi. In this state there is no thought. The cosmic play has ended; there is absolute Peace and Bliss.

In sahaja samadhi, while we are meditating, thoughts may be taking form in us, but we are not disturbed by them. In ordinary life we are disturbed by thoughts, but when we are in sahaja samadhi with the waking consciousness, although the earth sends a variety of thoughts from various angles, we are not disturbed by them.

Question: Would you please explain the seven higher worlds?

Sri Chinmoy: Deep inside us there are seven lower worlds and seven higher worlds. We are trying to transform the lower worlds into luminous worlds, worlds of perfection; and, at the same time, we are trying to bring the higher worlds into outer manifestation. Some of the higher worlds we already see operating in our physical world, on earth. First comes the physical, then the vital, then the mind, then the plane of intuition or the intuitive mind, then the overmind and the supermind. After the supermind comes Existence-Consciousness-Bliss — Sat-Chit-Ananda.

If you know how to observe them, you can see that some of these worlds are already functioning in you. During meditation, you can clearly see that it is not the physical world that you are entering into. It is something else: the higher mind or the overmind, or intuition or some other subtle world. But only spiritual Masters and great aspirants are conscious of the fact that these worlds are manifesting in their day-to-day activities, in the outer world itself. The ordinary person, even when flashes of intuition enter into his mind, will not be able to know that they are coming from the world of intuition. But each person, either today or tomorrow, has to become conscious of these worlds. Not only that, but also he has to manifest the truth, the light, the beauty, the wealth of all the higher worlds in this world.

You are a disciple of mine, and I can tell you that even now you sometimes get true, conscious, higher light from the intuitive mind. I know that your writings, your poems, come entirely from another world. From another world you are getting the truths and ideas which you express. I see that you get joy in writing entirely from the intuitive world, the higher mind. So, in the world of manifestation, the physical world, you are expressing the ideas, the light, the truth of another world. At the same time, if you want to enter into that world without manifesting, just to realise or see the vision of the truth of that particular world, you can. But for manifestation you have to bring this vision down here to earth.

Question: How can we tell which plane of consciousness we are in?

Sri Chinmoy: If you can meditate deeply, each plane of consciousness will present itself before you. Just in a flash it will come and present itself to you. The seven main planes of consciousness are like seven rungs of a ladder. As we aspire sincerely and soulfully, we climb up the ladder rung by rung. Or you can say that there is a tree with seven branches, and our consciousness is like a bird that flies from one branch to another. When you are seated on one branch, you can see the next branch which is a little higher. Then, when you climb up to that one, you will see another one, which is still higher. Similarly, when you are making progress in the inner world, you will see these different planes, each one higher than the other. But when you are at the top of the tree, you are at a place where there is no limit, no distance above you. At that time, you are looking at the sky and you forget that the tree even has branches.

Right now if you try to learn about the seven planes of consciousness, your knowledge will be all mental and theoretical, a matter of curiosity. You feel that by knowing the seven planes of consciousness, or by concentrating on them, you will make rapid progress. But I wish to say that at this stage in your development it is not advisable for you to think of them or meditate on them. Always do the first thing first. Right now only pay attention to your own aspiration. For a sincere seeker, what is of paramount importance is conscious and constant aspiration. This conscious and constant aspiration can alone lead you to the destined Goal. Try to ask yourself this most significant question: “Am I ready to cry for God, the Supreme?” As a child cries to the mother for food, so also you have to cry to the Supreme for Nectar. And if you can drink Nectar from Him, then you will be energised and your consciousness will be immortalised.

Question: When you meditate, sometimes your eyes shift back and forth sideways very rapidly. Why do they do that?

Sri Chinmoy: This movement you see indicates that my soul is moving from one region to another. Like a bird moving from one branch of a tree to the next, my consciousness is moving from one level to another. Each branch gives a special satisfaction to the bird: Light, Peace, Bliss, Power and so on. Similarly, each plane of consciousness I enter offers me its wealth, which I then bring down to my disciples and those meditating with me.

Question: What does God-realisation really mean?

Sri Chinmoy: God-realisation, or siddhi, means Self-discovery in the highest sense of the term. One consciously realises his oneness with God. As long as the seeker remains in ignorance, he will feel that God is somebody else who has infinite Power, while he, the seeker, is the feeblest person on earth. But the moment he realises God, he comes to know that he and God are absolutely one in both the inner and the outer life. God-realisation means one’s identification with one’s absolute highest Self. When one can identify with one’s highest Self and remain in that consciousness forever, when one can reveal and manifest it at one’s own command, that is God-realisation.

Now, you have studied books on God, and people have told you that God is in everybody. But you have not realised God in your conscious life. For you this is all mental speculation. But when one is God-realised, one consciously knows what God is, what He looks like, what He wills. When one achieves Self-realisation, one remains in God’s Consciousness and speaks to God face to face. He sees God both in the finite and in the infinite; he sees God as both personal and impersonal. And in his case, this is not mental hallucination or imagination; it is direct reality. This reality is more authentic than my seeing you right here in front of me. When one speaks to a human being, there is always a veil of ignorance: darkness, imperfection, misunderstanding. But between God and the inner being of one who has realised Him, there can be no ignorance, no veil. So at that time one can speak to God more clearly, more convincingly, more openly than to a human being.

As ordinary human beings, we feel that infinite Peace, infinite Light, infinite Bliss and infinite divine Power are all sheer imagination. We are victims to doubt, fear and negative forces which we feel are quite normal and natural. We cannot love anything purely, not even ourselves. We are in the finite, quarrelling and fighting, and there is no such thing as Peace or Light or Bliss in us. But those who practise meditation go deep within and see that there is real Peace, Light and Bliss. They get boundless inner strength and see that doubt and fear can be challenged and conquered. When we achieve God-realisation, our inner existence is flooded with Peace, Poise, Equanimity and Light.

Question: When you speak of seeing God face to face, what is your conception of God? Is He some being?

Sri Chinmoy: God is with form; He is without form. He is with attributes; He is without attributes. If an individual wants to see God as an infinite expanse of Light and Delight, God will come to that person as an infinite expanse of Light and Delight. But if he wants to see God as a most brilliant, most luminous being, then God will come to him like that. Of course, when I say God takes the form of a luminous being, I am understating the case. He is not merely luminous; He is something I cannot describe to you in human terms.

In my case, I have seen God in both ways — with form and without form. But when I speak of God, I speak of Him as a being, because this idea is easier for the human mind to grasp. When you say there is a form, a shape, it appeals to individuals. Otherwise, God becomes only a vague idea. If I say God is Bliss, and if the seeker has not experienced Bliss, then he will be hopelessly confused. But if I tell a seeker that God is like a person, an all-powerful father who can say this or do this, he can conceive of it and believe it.

When a human being thinks of some being greater than himself, immediately he thinks of it as similar to a human being. It is much easier to conceive of the idea of God through form. But I will never say that those who want to see God without form, as an infinite expanse of Light, Delight, Energy or Consciousness, are wrong. I just feel that the other way is easier.

Question: What part of man achieves realisation?

Sri Chinmoy: When realisation takes place, it is the entire being that realises God. The soul has already realised God, but the soul is bringing to the fore its realised consciousness. It is entering into the heart and trying to permeate the heart with its divine consciousness. Then, from the heart realisation comes to the mind, from the mind to the vital and from the vital to the physical body. When it envelops the physical, the vital, the mental and the psychic, realisation is complete.

Real realisation makes one know that one is neither the body nor the mind nor anything else but the soul, which is a manifestation of the Divine. Each person, when he realises God, will feel that he is a conscious portion of God. The physical is limited, but the soul is unlimited. When we speak of realisation, we are referring to something unlimited, infinite. When we realise God, we go beyond the body-consciousness and become one with the soul’s unlimited capacity.

Question: I have read that realisation is not an achievement but a discovery.

Sri Chinmoy: It is not an achievement, but a discovery. But when we discover something, it then becomes our achievement. The moment we discover something, it becomes part and parcel of our existence; and whatever becomes part and parcel of our existence becomes our achievement. Right inside discovery, achievement looms large. When a scientist discovers something, it becomes the property of the entire world, but it is still his achievement. Similarly, when one realises God, although God has always been there and belongs to both the inner world and the outer world, God-realisation is still the most significant achievement for any individual.

Truth and Divinity already exist inside us, but we neglect them. Because we do not use them, they have become foreigners to us. But the moment we discover them already within us, they become our own achievement. They become our achievement through our sincere personal effort and through God's constant inner Grace.

Question: Is realisation a fairly common experience during any single generation of human beings? In India, for example, are there many realised spiritual Masters?

Sri Chinmoy: There are millions and billions of people on earth, but only a very few of these are actually realised. If you feel there are hundreds of spiritually realised people on earth, then you are mistaken. The world is quite vast, but when it is a matter of truly realised persons, then I wish to say that there are only ten or twelve on earth right now. There are some swamis and teachers who have meditated and sincerely practised Yoga for ten or fifteen years, and who are far superior to their students, but who are not actually God-realised souls. One need not have reached the Highest to teach a beginner, just as one does not need a master’s degree to teach kindergarten. To be very frank with you, these so-called Masters have indulged in doubt, impurity and other undivine things. But those who have really realised the highest Truth are infinitely above such self-indulgences.

There are sincere and insincere Masters. Many insincere Masters come to the West and exploit people. In India, also, false Masters exploit seekers. But God will not allow a sincere student to be deceived forever. The seeker’s own inner cry will take him to a real teacher. If it is God’s Will, the student may get a really high Master who will take him right from the beginning to the Highest. Otherwise, he will get a Master who will take him only through kindergarten, and then he will have to find another teacher.

Question: There are some paths which speak of the goal as enlightenment, and there are other paths which speak of the goal as God-realisation. What is the difference between enlightenment and God-realisation?

Sri Chinmoy: Full enlightenment, complete and all-illumining enlightenment, is God-realisation. But sometimes, when a seeker is in his highest meditation, he gets a kind of inner illumination or enlightenment, and for half an hour or an hour his whole being, his whole existence, is illumined. But then, after an hour or two, he becomes his same old self; he again becomes a victim to desire and undivine qualities. Enlightenment has taken place, but it is not the Transcendental Enlightenment which occurred in the case of the Buddha and other spiritual Masters. That kind of all-fulfilling, all-illumining enlightenment is equivalent to God-realisation. God-realisation means constant and eternal enlightenment, Transcendental Enlightenment. When we get God-realisation, automatically infinite illumination takes place in our outer as well as our inner existence.

The enlightenment that is spoken of here in the West and also in Japan is only a temporary burst of light in the aspiring consciousness. After a short while it pales into insignificance, because there is no abiding reality in it. Abiding reality we will get only with constant, eternal and Transcendental Illumination, which is God-realisation.

Sometimes when we speak of enlightenment, we mean that we have been in darkness about a particular subject for many years and now we have inner wisdom, or now that particular place in our consciousness is enlightened. But this is just a spark of the boundless illumination, and that little spark we cannot call God-realisation.

Question: What is the relationship between realisation and the law of karma?

Sri Chinmoy: When one realises God, one has the capacity to stand above one’s own fate or karma. But if God wants him to accept his own karma and go through the pain and suffering, he will do so and offer it as an experience to God. At that time, he feels that God is having these experiences in and through him. After realisation one can nullify the law of karma. Again, if one wants to accept the punishment or retribution of others’ karma, one can do it. If it is God’s Will, a realised person can nullify his own and others’ karma, or he can consciously, deliberately and smilingly accept both his own karma and the karma of others.