Flame-Waves, part 6

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Part I: A few questions on patriotism

//Sri Chinmoy:// I wish to invite a few questions on patriotism. I shall answer the questions from the spiritual point of view.

Question: What is patriotism?

Sri Chinmoy: Patriotism is love of one’s country, the country that has given one shelter, the country that claims one as her very own son or daughter. Patriotism is a golden opportunity for an individual to work together with his dearest motherland. When mother and son work together, they see their need of each other. The son needs the mother’s sacrifice, sympathy, love and concern; the mother needs the son’s heroism, dynamism and will-power. When all these divine qualities meet together, the country becomes a perfect instrument of God. Some countries are regarded as the fatherland. In these cases, the father’s wisdom, height, light, peace and bliss can meet with the dynamic qualities and boundless will-power of the son. At that time perfection dawns in the particular country. Both the country and the child become perfect instruments, supreme instruments for God-manifestation on earth.

Question: How can we be patriotic without separating ourselves from other countries?

Sri Chinmoy: I shall live in my own country, in my own home, and you will live in your own home. I will keep my house clean, and if you want to come, I shall welcome you as a divine guest and invite you to stay as long as you want to. I also will expect you to keep your house clean and welcome me when I want to come and visit you.

According to my experience and my capacity, I have built a house. According to your capacity, your talent, your aspiration and your determination, you have also built a house. Now our aspiration, capacity and ability have become one. We will come together, but your home will remain your home and my home will remain my home. While staying in my own home and loving my own home, I shall not criticise or belittle yours. I won’t say that my home is far superior to yours. I will feel that mine is good for me and yours is good for you. When the time comes, you will visit my house and see what it looks like and I will visit yours. This means we shall accept each other and derive benefit from each other’s experience.

When I love my country first, then my real power of love never becomes stagnant; it always runs, runs towards the Source, which is all-pervading. It is like a river flowing towards the sea. If I really love my country, then I will be able to love other countries, because by loving my own country I will learn to know what a country is to its children.

If I really love one thing, then I have the capacity to love something else. If I really love my body, I will some day have the capacity to love my soul or to love my vital or to love some other part of my being. But if I do not have love for myself, then I won’t be able to love anybody. I won’t even love God. Patriotism is a kind of expanding capacity. Today I love my mother, tomorrow I love my father, the day after tomorrow I love my brothers and sisters. Then, when I go to school, I love my teachers. Gradually I learn to love my town, then my province, then my country, then the whole world. But I start by loving one thing which is very close to me. From there my vision increases. From my mother I go to my father, then to my brothers and sisters and so on. But if I don’t love my own country, how will I be able to love somebody else’s country? If I really love my country, then gradually, gradually I will be able to expand my consciousness until finally I love the whole world.

Divine love, true love expands and expands. It has the power of constant expansion. If I really love my country divinely, then I will have a cosmopolitan view; I will love other countries as well. But if I constantly and deliberately try to find fault with my country, then gradually I will try to find fault with my city and with the members of my family, with myself and everything I have. I will find that my nose is not beautiful, my eyes are not beautiful, my hands are not beautiful and so on.

We start by loving something small and gradually we learn to love the whole universe. For a child his mother is the whole universe. Then, as he grows older, gradually his vision expands. That doesn’t mean that he loves his mother less, but inside his mother he learns to see the whole world, little by little. Similarly, inside your country you can see the existence of all other countries. Then, if you love your country, naturally you will also love all the other countries that exist inside the heart of your own country. Inside the divine qualities of your own country you are bound to see the existence of other countries; for anything that is good is vast, anything that is divine is all-pervasive. And since patriotism is good and divine, it is vast, it is infinite, it is all-pervasive.

Question: If we love our country but live elsewhere, how can we serve our country?

Sri Chinmoy: If geography separates you from your country, you can offer your goodwill to the soul of your country. You are from South Africa. Do you think that your goodwill, your love, your concern in the inner world will not enter into the soul of South Africa? When a mother is in India and her son is in America working in an office, the moment he gets a letter from his mother his whole face changes, his whole consciousness changes. He swims in the sea of his mother’s affection and love. Then immediately gratitude grows inside his heart; he becomes gratitude itself. And even if he has not received a letter, how many times his mother’s consciousness enters into the son when she thinks of him with her boundless love and concern. The mother may be far away and busy with many projects, but she constantly feels the existence of her son inside her.

If you really love your country as a son loves his mother, geographically you may remain far away, but spiritually your mother-country can be inside you and you can be inside your mother-country. This feeling is not an illusion or a product of the imagination. Far from it. From the inner world you have come to the outer world. When you cherish a divine thought, the world is divine. When you cherish an undivine thought, the world is undivine. The moment you cherish a divine thought you are bound to feel your existence inside that world. The moment you think of your mother’s love and concern for you, immediately you create a divine world of your own. And inside that world you feel the existence of your dearest mother. And when your mother thinks of you with all her affection, love, concern and blessings, she immediately creates a world of her own for you to exist inside her heart.

It is not the outer location but the inner feeling that is important. Where real concern exists, where real love exists, there the bond of oneness, inseparable oneness, reigns supreme. The son can stay in any part of the world and the mother can stay in any part of the world, but the bond of oneness which is inside their hearts can be felt and utilised at every moment. The mother will see the fulfilment of her existence inside the son no matter where he is. And the son will feel his success, his progress and the meaning and purpose of his life inside his mother.

Question: Is not patriotism restrictive even at its highest level?

Sri Chinmoy: If the patriotism is based upon the physical consciousness or the vital consciousness or the mental consciousness, then it restricts, because that patriotism does not want to go beyond the boundary of the physical, the vital or the mind. But if the patriotism comes from the soul’s oneness with the universe or from the feeling that the soul is a divine instrument, a perfect instrument of the Supreme and for the Supreme on earth, then it will not restrict. Then the physical in us, the vital in us, the mind in us will want to become part and parcel of the soul’s light and the soul’s acceptance of light here on earth. That kind of patriotism is not a hindrance at all. It is a real benefit.

Some people have tremendous feeling for their country, but it is all on the physical level or on the vital level or on the mental level; it is not on the psychic level. In the psychic there is always oneness, constant oneness, and it is the nature of oneness to expand, if I love my country, I have become one with my country. Then, if I feel the inner urge to expand my oneness, to embrace other countries, I will find no inner restriction in my patriotism. But if I keep my love and oneness only for my country, naturally I will be restricted. This kind of patriotism will not allow me to go to the Highest, the Absolute, the Universal.

We have to know that oneness is not enough. From oneness we have to grow into vastness, I can have oneness with one finger, but I want to have oneness with all my fingers. If I love my eyes, I can establish oneness only with my eyes. But my poor nose, my poor ears — what will they do? I have to establish my oneness with them too. The moment I establish oneness with everything within me and around me, I enter into universality. There God is omnipresent. While I am for all, I am also in all. At that time I am in God, I am with God and I am for God. The real reality in me is the omnipresence of God — inside me, inside you, inside everything. If I consider the omnipresence of God as the only reality, then patriotism is a true blessing.

So our patriotism has to be based in our psychic consciousness. If it is in our psychic consciousness, it is constantly expanding its oneness and entering into the Infinite. This kind of patriotism will never limit our God-realisation. On the contrary, it will teach us the process of growing from the one to the many. As I expand my consciousness, gradually, gradually the whole world becomes mine. If we accept our country for the fulfilment of the real reality in us, and not for the pleasure of our physical or the fulfilment of our vital or mind, then patriotism is a gift, a real gift, the highest gift from Above which will illumine and liberate the human in us.

Otherwise, patriotism can become a curse. When it becomes narrow-minded, then I am only for my village or my country, and against yours. Narrowness comes when patriotism is in the physical, the vital or the mind, which are limited. But in the psychic, in the soul, there is no boundary. The soul’s feelings are based on oneness inside vastness. That kind of patriotism is all God-embodiment, God-revelation and God-perfection on earth. This is what God wants from patriotism.

Question: When a person who doesn't belong to the chosen few is faced with a decision in life, how does he or she know what is God's Will in matters like marriage, studies, professions and things like that?

Sri Chinmoy: If one is among the chosen few, then naturally one has a free access to one’s inner world, and from there one gets the direct message from the Inner Pilot. But if he is not one of the chosen few, what should he do? Since he feels that he is not in a position to decide what is best for himself, he should go to someone in whom he has all faith. Then his problem can easily be solved. Suppose you are sick. If you cannot cure yourself, you go to the doctor because you have faith in him and you feel that he will be able to cure you. You already have this faith in him; it is not something you have to acquire. In the spiritual life also, when you want to make a major decision regarding your earthly life — marriage and so forth — go to a spiritual person in whom you have faith. He will be able to enter into your soul and bring to the fore the real message from your soul. He will be able to tell you whether the marriage is a good idea or not.

But if one is not among the chosen few, this doesn’t mean that he will never be. Today he is not among them, but tomorrow he has every possibility of becoming one of them. In the spiritual life a time will come when the seeker will have more aspiration, abundant aspiration, boundless, infinite aspiration. When he has constant, burning aspiration, naturally he will become one of the chosen few. At that time, he can solve his own problems. But right now, if one feels he does not have the necessary capacity to solve his earthly problems, then it is advisable for him to go to a spiritual Master, who is bound to give him the correct message.

Question: How does spirituality help one decide between what is right and what is wrong?

Sri Chinmoy: Even a child knows what is right and what is wrong. He has something in his inner being which we call conscience, and this has been there from his very birth. Seekers of the infinite Truth, who walk along the path of spirituality, will especially be able to know what is right and what is wrong, because at every moment they try to listen to their inner voice or, you can say, conscience. The further we go along the path of reality, the deeper within we go, the clearer it becomes to us what is right and what is wrong. When we live on the surface, it is next to impossible for us to distinguish what is right from what is wrong. But when we follow the inner life and have the capacity to bring forward the inner message, then at every moment we are safe. From within we get the inner urge to do only the right thing.

The very purpose of spirituality is to enable us to have conscious oneness with the ultimate Truth. If somebody has this conscious oneness, naturally he will be able to distinguish right from wrong. Whoever practises the spiritual life has a special advantage as well. When he gets an inner message, he also gets the inspiration to obey the message. He gets additional inspiration or, let us say, aspiration, to do the right thing. But an ordinary person very often does the wrong thing in spite of knowing that he is doing something wrong. Why does he do it? Because his inner urge is not strong enough to compel him to do the right thing. In the case of a spiritual seeker it is otherwise. When a seeker feels the right thing, he gets abundant capacity from within to do it.

Question: Could you please explain why you give your followers spiritual names?

Sri Chinmoy: Everyone has all the divine qualities, but one quality is often pre-eminent. One divine quality is usually more manifest in a certain person than the other divine qualities, and the soul has a way of manifesting the highest Truth through that particular quality. One soul will manifest through light, another through beauty, a third through power, a fourth through compassion, a fifth through peace, a sixth through joy. Each Sanskrit name I offer has a spiritual significance, and each aspirant has the capacity to realise and manifest the Highest through a particular quality which his name reveals and embodies. If the soul wants to realise and manifest the Highest on earth, then if the aspirant knows that particular quality, it becomes infinitely easier. When the disciples have spiritual names and they meditate on their names, at that time their divine qualities come to the fore most powerfully and make them feel what they are here for and why they have come into the world. That is why we give these names.

Question: Why should spiritual people accept life around them?

Sri Chinmoy: If you say that those who enter into the Himalayan caves and neglect society will find less difficulty in realising God, I may agree with you. But if they do not accept humanity, what do they ultimately gain? If I love God, my Father, and if I see that my brothers and sisters cannot yet approach Him, if I am a really fine person, what will I do? I will offer my light and my achievement to my brothers and sisters. I have received realisation from my Father, but if I do not give it to my brothers and sisters, then is it not shameful on my part?

You may say that other paths are easier than mine because there the seeker escapes from the world. But in the ordinary world only a culprit wants to escape. If one has done something wrong, he tries to escape. Some spiritual Masters do want to escape even though they are not thieves. They are sick of the world and sick of the world’s ingratitude. Constantly they try to help humanity, but humanity ignores them, misunderstands them, criticises them, abuses them. They become disgusted and feel that the thing to do is to escape from the world. Again, there are some who are real heroes. They say, “Let humanity insult us, speak ill of us; still we shall give humanity what we have to offer.”

Our path is the path of acceptance. If we do not accept something, how are we going to transform it? If the potter does not touch clay, how is he going to shape and mould the pot? If his ultimate aim is to make a pot or pitcher, he has to touch the clay. This clay is the world. A spiritual Master enters into the inconscience and ignorance of the seekers and throws light into them. Then he moulds, shapes and gives strength to their inner being. Our path is undoubtedly the heroic path. Those who follow our path are playing the role of divine warriors. Divine warriors are those who fight against doubt, worry, fear, obstruction, limitation, imperfection, bondage and death. Our path is a path for the brave.

At the same time, the results one gets from following our path come in infinite measure, because our path has accepted humanity. If you have a large plot of ground and if you have the capacity to cultivate it, then you are bound to get a bumper crop of realisation for humanity. But if your plot of land is very tiny, then what are you going to get? Our path is difficult because it has accepted the outer life. If you don’t love God, everything is difficult. But nothing is really difficult when you have true love for God. If you really love God, our path does not seem difficult at all; it seems very safe, secure, easy.

Our path is the path of acceptance. We accept our brothers and sisters as they are; then we give them what we have and what we are. Only then is God pleased with us and will He be eternally pleased with us, because we have consciously made our life a life of self-dedication. This is the easiest path for the sincere, the most fulfilling path for those who are totally dedicated and the best path for the brave souls who want to walk, march and run along the road of Eternity.

Question: How can I be more soulful and devoted in my work at the United Nations?

Sri Chinmoy: You can be more soulful and more devoted in your work if you feel that you are working here not just to earn money, but to serve God inside the soul of the United Nations and inside the body of the United Nations. The moment you think of the United Nations, you have to feel that it is a world organisation that sincerely wants to bring about peace and harmony on earth. To work here and serve the soul of the United Nations is a great honour, a great privilege, no matter in which capacity you are working. If you think of the soul of the United Nations and of your own soul’s commitment to the United Nations, your soul will work very hard in and through you. The United Nations has a very high, sublime goal. If you think of this, automatically you will become soulful and devoted because the goal itself will try to bring from the depth of your being your devoted heart qualities.

Question: How can we have more feeling of oneness with our fellow workers?

Sri Chinmoy: If your fellow workers are not spiritual or spiritually inclined, then you have to exercise more compassion and sacrifice. If somebody needs more kindness and affection, then you should be ready to give to that person — not according to what he deserves, but according to your own heart’s magnanimity. If somebody is nasty to you, or is not helping you in your work, you have to feel that this is another challenge to become extra nice, extra kind, extra sweet so you can bring forward the good qualities in that person. Some people are good, some are bad. Bad ones we try to conquer through patience, concern and love. If we treat them the way they treat us, we will enter into the animal world. So we have to work in a divine way.

Question: How can I illumine my mind?

Sri Chinmoy: Just by allowing your soul’s light to come to the mind through the heart. It is as if you have three rooms — mind, heart and soul — and the only way to reach the third room is to go through the second one. The soul has to come to the mind-room through the heart-room. First concentrate on the soul and feel its presence in the soul-room. Then try to bring the soul into the heart-room. Once the soul is well established in the heart-room, illumining the heart, the time has come to enter into the mind-room. So you bring the soul into the mind-room and the mind becomes illumined. The only way to illumine the mind is to bring the presence of the soul into the mind. First you bring the soul into the heart and let the heart be illumined. Then, when the heart is illumined, you let the soul come and serve the Supreme in the mind. There is no other way.

Question: If we find that certain situations disturb us, should we avoid the situations or try to face them and cope with them?

Sri Chinmoy: Avoiding a situation is not the right answer. We have to face the situation with our soul’s light. Today you will avoid a circumstance and, just because you have avoided it, the wrong forces of this circumstance will get more strength. Either they will think that you are avoiding them because you are weak, or they will think that you are avoiding them because it is beneath your dignity to deal with them. And in that case, they will come against you with more power.

If you try to escape you may escape here, but there you will be caught. So it is best to face a problem when it arises, and not try to escape. But you should not face the situation in a military way: somebody is challenging you, so you will strike him. No, that is silly. Try instead to bring the divinity of the circumstance forward. If some undivine quality is inside an individual, it is not by striking or hitting him that you will overcome it, but by becoming more friendly. With more confidence in your approach to God you have to bring forward the divine qualities in the human being or the incident that is causing the problem. Accept the situation with compassion and love, and eventually these unpleasant circumstances are bound to become pleasant, soulful and fruitful.

Question: How can I develop and maintain a feeling of worthiness and self-respect?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to feel that you need God and that you have God. You are not aware of the fact that the thing that you want and need in order to discover your worth is already there. God is already there, but you don’t see Him. You are an instrument of God; His Capacity, His Vision, His Reality are there and He wants to manifest through you. But how can you be conscious of it? You can become conscious through your dedicated, soulful aspiration and service. If you pray and meditate you will become aware of God’s presence in your life, and you will see that you are really worthy of God’s Love. Because of your prayer and meditation, the Inner Pilot will make you conscious of His activities; and you will see that He is manifesting His Divinity in and through you. When you are conscious of this, who else but you can be worthy? So if you become more soulful, devoted and sincere in your approach to the Inner Pilot, you can easily become conscious of your own divine qualities. For you will realise that everything that God has, you are going to have as your own.

You have to feel that divine confidence is most necessary. Divine confidence makes you feel that you are worthy of becoming God’s instrument. And what is divine confidence? It is confidence in God and in yourself. Unless you have confidence in God and in yourself, you can never be worthy of anything. Your self-confidence tells you that you will do everything for God; and your God-confidence tells you that He will do everything in and through you, that He is more than eager to manifest through you. When you have confidence in yourself and confidence in God, you will be able to see your inner progress and inside that progress you will see that you are really worthy of God’s Compassion, Joy and Pride.

Question: How can I be more selfless?

Sri Chinmoy: You can be more selfless by watching the world situation, by watching people who are not selfless and by watching people who are selfless. People who are not selfless are greedy. Greedy people can never be happy. You want to become selfless because you want to be happy. People who are not selfless, who are greedy and miserly, are not happy at all. Again, people who are selfless and sacrificing are happy.

It is like night and day, and you are in between. When you are in night you want to grab and bind the world, and when you are in day you want to dedicate yourself to the world and serve the world. So you can either go to your friend darkness or to your friend day. When you are entering into darkness you are only struggling and binding; but in day-consciousness you are loving, showing concern and becoming one. So you have to see what is happening to those in day and those in night, and then make the choice. Once you are in the room of light, it is all love, sacrifice and concern. Once you enter the room of darkness, it is all fighting and struggling. That door is also open to you. It is you who have to make the choice. Enter the room of selflessness and don’t enter the other room.

Question: If someone comes to me and speaks sharply in a negative way, is it undivine on my part to ask that person not to speak to me in that way or should I be more compassionate?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends. Suppose you feel that it is a very important matter and that the person is talking in a rude, undivine manner. At that time say to the person, “Please be calm and quiet and talk politely. I am ready to hear you.” But if the person is only coming to harass and bother you, at that time you have every right to tell him to leave. If it is only casual talk and the person becomes unnecessarily rude and unkind, at that time tell him to leave you.

Question: How can we not bother about other people's opinions of us?

Sri Chinmoy: When you realise God, He will not ask you, “What did he think of you?” or “What did she think of you?” God will immediately ask you, “What did you think of yourself?” or “What did you think of Me?” God will not ask you what others thought of you. As soon as you stand in front of God, He is not going to give you a pass-mark according to others’ opinions of you. He is not going to look to see whether others appreciated or admired you. No, He is the boss; He doesn’t need others’ recommendation. When you go to the Supreme, at that time He will not ask what the world thought of you: He will ask if you paid attention to your spiritual life of aspiration and dedication. And you will have to prove that you have done this and you have done that for Him.

Suppose someone speaks highly of you. Do you think that person is lifting you up to the top of the Himalayas? Similarly, by depreciating you, by speaking ill of you, that person can’t bring you down. No! His opinion has no value. You are to God what you actually are: what you think of yourself and what you think of God in yourself. Your assessment is your own value. Again, our assessment may not always be right. Sometimes we think we are pure, but we are impure; but no harm. When we make a wrong assessment, God is there to show us compassion and kindness. But God doesn’t want us to waste a single minute worrying about what others think of us. Your life is God’s Life. God’s Life and your life are inseparable and God doesn’t need the opinion of the world to assess what you are doing. If you are praying and meditating, you are an excellent seeker. Your action is your certificate; your action is everything in God’s Eye.

Question: How can we keep our awareness?

Sri Chinmoy: When we don’t keep our awareness, what happens? We become friends with inconscience and ignorance. And when we keep our awareness, when we remain alert, what happens? If we are alert we go much faster. Alertness is speed in life. If we have to cover twenty miles, if we are alert, nothing can distract us or prevent us from running the fastest towards the goal. If we have a goal, then we can discard unnecessary things. Suppose your goal is a Master’s degree. If you go to movies and night clubs, how can you reach your goal? There is a goal and you want to run the fastest to the goal. So naturally you are going to do the thing that will automatically make you run the fastest. And that is to keep your awareness. If always you think of the goal, then there will be inspiration, aspiration and an inner urge to reach the goal as soon as possible.

Question: How can we conquer the dark forces in us?

Sri Chinmoy: You can conquer the dark forces provided you know who your boss, your supreme boss, is. You have to feel that the forces are like two little boys. One is divine and the other is undivine. The divine one is afraid of the undivine one because the undivine one wants to strike him and he feels he doesn’t have enough strength to put up a brave fight. But if he sees that his father is standing beside him, he knows his father has more power than the other boy and will protect him. If you feel the presence of the Supreme inside you, the hostile forces can’t attack you because there is someone to protect you. If they attack, immediately He will come and frighten them. Just as the little divine boy knows his eternal Father is inside him to protect him, save him and illumine him, you also have to feel that the Absolute Supreme is inside you to do the needful for you. Provided you have confidence in Him, He will do everything for you and He will not allow the undivine forces to come and attack you.

Question: What is meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Meditation is conscious awareness of God. Here we are all seekers. When we are seekers, it is our duty to become aware of God twenty-four hours a day. If we are believers in God, then naturally we feel that God exists. But this feeling is not spontaneous; it does not last twenty-four hours a day. When we meditate, we come to feel and realise twenty-four hours a day that we are of God and we are for God. Constant and conscious awareness of God — His Truth, Light and Bliss — is called meditation.

Question: How can one increase one's purity?

Sri Chinmoy: One can increase one’s purity by repeating a special word or mantra. There can be no better word than “God”. One can repeat “God” while breathing in and out. While breathing in, you have to feel that at least seven breaths are coming inside each breath and offering you more life-energy. While breathing in, repeat “God”, and inside the breath try to see God seven times. And then, after some time, try to see or feel God fourteen times. In this way, try to increase your purity by increasing your count.

There is also something else which I advise my students to do. Start repeating God’s Name right from today. Today you try to repeat God’s Name twenty times most soulfully, tomorrow thirty times, the next day forty times. In this way, you bring the number up to one hundred. Then you start descending: ninety, eighty, seventy, sixty, fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, until the circle is complete. When you try to increase the number, please use your imagination to feel that your purity is increasing. And when you decrease the number, at that time please feel that you are not decreasing the number; you are only assimilating the increased purity that you have felt. While going up, try to increase your purity, and while going down try to assimilate in your system the purity-force that you achieved by repeating God’s Name.

Question: What Is God? Where is He?

Sri Chinmoy: God is everywhere. But if we do not see Him or feel Him inside our hearts, then we will not be able to see Him anywhere. First, we have to see Him within us and talk to Him inside our hearts. If we do this, then only will we be able to see God elsewhere also. If inside our heart God is missing, then we shall not be able to see God anywhere and we shall not be able to speak to God or mix with God.

Now, what is God? God is both formless and with form. He is pure energy and, at the same time, He is the most luminous form. He is endless energy and beginningless energy; and He is also the most luminous form. God is both water and ice. Some people like water, while others like ice. Again, some people at times like to drink water and at times like to have ice.

It depends on the seeker and what he wants. He may want to see God in a human form — but as absolutely divine, supreme, perfect. He feels that if there is a form, then it will be easier for him to recognise God or realise God. So he likes to see the personal God. But again, if one says that he wants to go beyond the personal God, beyond form, beyond duality and remain always in the infinite Peace, Light and Bliss, that also can be done. And the same seeker can in the morning ask for God with form-attributes and in the evening cry for God as formless, boundless energy.

Question: How can one maintain inner tranquillity at work when he is in an atmosphere with a great deal of pressure?

Sri Chinmoy: One can maintain inner tranquillity no matter what happens in his office or how many wrong forces from the office try to assail him. He can do this provided he feels that the forces which are attacking him are in no way a match for his love of Light.

Let us take an attack as a force of darkness. When you are in the office you are constantly attacked by the force of doubt, which is the representative of darkness. If you feel that you have nothing to break these forces, then you are totally lost. You have to feel that inside your heart there is something called Light — boundless Light — and that this boundless luminosity is definitely more powerful than the attacker. This Light that you have inside you can easily transform these forces. When darkness consciously or unconsciously enters into Light, it is bound to be transformed. You will be able to feel this just because you pray, just because you meditate, just because you want to increase your love of God every day, every hour, every minute, every second. Each second you are aware of God’s Presence inside your heart, so you can rest assured that you definitely embody Light and that this Light is constantly increasing in you. And if you see a constant increase of divine Light inside your heart, that means there is something immortal inside you which will never surrender to the wrong forces.

The wrong forces are coming from outside; and inside, the strongest force, the mightiest force, is Light. When you can bring your mightiest force, Light, to the fore, then you will see to your great astonishment that the outer forces immediately will give way, because the inner force is in constant communication with the Source, the Almighty Absolute. So the more you can increase your inner Light, which is the divine force, the sooner you will see that the outer wrong forces which are attacking you will be transformed into Light. When darkness consciously or unconsciously enters into Light, it is bound to be transformed.

Question: How can spiritual seekers working at the United Nations make other workers feel that prayer and meditation are a tangible way of dealing with world problems?

Sri Chinmoy: You have colleagues in your own department, and they speak to you every day. The days you meditate they see something totally different in you from the days when you do not meditate. If you have achieved something in your meditation, they are bound to see something pleasing, soothing, beautiful, enlightening and illumining. So the higher and deeper your meditation, the more your face and outer being will radiate. When your being radiates, your friends and colleagues will see something totally new. At the same time, they will feel something familiar although they don’t know what it is. Why familiar? Because we have all come from the same Source. They have not discovered this secret, whereas you have discovered it. You have tried, you have practised meditation. They have not yet practised it, but they will. Your own example — not only your example, but your very presence — will inspire them.

Here on earth oneness is not established. Oneness you cannot establish on the ordinary human level where there is anxiety, worry, fear and doubt — unless you aspire. If you aspire, then your inner being tries to act all the time like a magnet. It tries to see whether there is someone whom it can call its own. So, if somebody is sitting beside you with divine joy, divine love, divine peace, then naturally the magnet that you have inside you will draw these divine qualities from that person. Again, if an unaspiring person sits beside you, who is given to worldly life and worldly temptation, immediately you will find a kind of restlessness inside your own being.

Outwardly, you don’t have to tell others hundreds of times how you have changed your life or what you can do for them. This you can tell them once in a blue moon, but it will be almost useless. But they will see you on two different days: one day when you have not meditated well and on another day after you have had a good meditation. The day you have meditated well, they will see a tremendous change in you. They will try to know what makes you on one day divine and what makes you on another day undivine. What is it that they want to have from you when you meditate, and what is it that they don’t want from you when you do not meditate? What they do not want is darkness and ignorance. What they want is the inner divinity which comes to the fore and tries to illumine the persons and the things around you.

Question: Is meditation for everybody regardless of whether a person is consciously seeking God?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, meditation is for everybody whether he is consciously seeking God or not. The only thing is that one has to know how far one wants to go. Somebody can study at the kindergarten. Again, somebody else can go on to high school, college and university and get a Master’s degree or Ph.D. But this is outer knowledge. Meditation gives us inner wisdom.

You may be satisfied with an iota of inner wisdom. Again, you may find that you can satisfy yourself only with boundless Peace, Light and Bliss. So it depends on where the seeker wants to stop. Just as we go to school for outer knowledge we have to meditate in order to get inner wisdom. If the seeker wants to be satisfied only with a fraction of Peace, Light and Bliss, then he will get it. And if he wants to get boundless Peace, Light and Bliss, then he shall also get that provided he continues to meditate regularly, devotedly, soulfully, unreservedly and unconditionally.

Question: Can you tell us the place of good character in the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: In the spiritual life good character is of paramount importance. Good character means that life-energy — soulful, boundless energy — is operating in and through the seeker. If the seeker does not see the boundless Energy, Peace, Light and Bliss, then how can he remain in his highest consciousness?

If one is a seeker, then he has to be a man of character; otherwise, his life will be contradictory. God is all purity. It is through purity that one realises God. If one wants to realise God as fast as possible, then purity must come first. To make real, solid, tangible progress, purity is indispensable. Now, if one does not have a good character, then how can that person have purity? And if one does not have purity inside the heart and inside the physical then how can he make progress?

Purity and character come simultaneously. If someone has inner purity, then he also has good character. And if there is somebody with good character, then he is maintaining in his inner life tremendous purity. Purity is the ladder we climb up in order to reach God’s Abode. If there is no ladder, then how can we climb up?

Question: What does it mean to be a spiritual Master?

Sri Chinmoy: A spiritual Master is a private tutor. He is the elder brother in the family. Either you can call him a private tutor or you can call him an elder brother. The school teacher examines the student and either fails or passes him according to merit. If he has done well, the teacher will pass him in the examination. If he has not done well, the teacher will dispense justice. But the private tutor will all the time teach the student at home so that he can pass the examination. The spiritual teacher privately teaches the student how to stand in front of ignorance and face ignorance so that when ignorance challenges him, he will be able to pass the examination.

Again, the teacher is the eldest member in the family. Just because he has a little more Peace, Light and Bliss than others, God has chosen him to give his little Peace, Light and Bliss to his younger brothers and sisters. He knows that he is not the father. And, also, his younger brothers and sisters know that he is not the father. The father is somebody else. But because he is the elder brother, he is supposed to know where the father is. The elder brother of the family tells the younger ones, “Come, I will show you where our Father is.” And once he can bring the younger ones to their common Father, his role is over. They will be on their own as soon as he shows them where the Father is.

Question: How can we as individuals encourage a world-wide recognition of the basic unity of all major religions?

Sri Chinmoy: If we practise spirituality, if we pray and meditate soulfully, our very illumination will encourage others. It is we who have to be illumined first before we can encourage others. The world will be inspired by us only when we grow into something and become something. Each individual’s religion is, after all, his code of life. His code of life is his religion. When his life responds to some higher, deeper realities, then it is meaningful and fruitful and it can inspire others.

Question: How can the different religions best respect and value each other?

Sri Chinmoy: Each religion must feel that it is nothing but a branch. If there is a branch, then there has to be a tree; and the tree is love of Truth. Truth finds fulfilment only when it embraces the Vast as its very own. Each religion has to feel the necessity of embracing other religions for its own satisfaction, for its own perfection. Alone it can never be satisfied; alone it can never be perfect. Two hands are required to produce a sound. Similarly, two things or even more will be needed to create something beautiful, soulful and fruitful. But when you go deep within, you do not see two things or three things; you see only one thing that is operating in and through many forms, many ideas, many ideals and realisations.

Question: I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but when I grew up I stopped attending church. Now that I am again interested in the spiritual life, my mother cannot understand why I don't want to attend church again. How should I explain this to her?

Sri Chinmoy: You can tell your mother that you studied in that particular school and you did not care for it. Now you are studying in a different school and you like the teacher, you like the students and you like what you are being taught. The Catholic Church teaches Truth, Light, Peace and Bliss. You are also trying to bring to the fore Truth, Light, Peace and Bliss in a different way. So if you take the Roman Catholic Church as a school and our spiritual organisation as another school, then you have every right to say that you like one particular school and not another, and that is why you are going to that school.

Question: Can we transcend our religion for a more vast spirituality?

Sri Chinmoy: There comes a time when we have to transcend our religion-barriers. Religion is good, but we have to go far beyond religion. Religion will tell us about God; sometimes it will create fear in us when we do something wrong. The religious approach to God is mostly through fear. But the spiritual approach to God is always through love. It is not out of fear that we approach God but out of love. We want to establish our inseparable oneness with God. I don’t want to say that religion does not have love for God, because it has. But fear of God very often looms large in people who practise religion. People who practise Yoga do not have that kind of fear. They have only love of God. Oneness with God is what they want.

Religion feels that there is someone called God who is high above, in the sky or in Heaven or somewhere else, and that all Peace, Light and Bliss are with Him. But Yoga will say that where I am is Light, Peace and Bliss; where I move around is Truth. Truth and I are inseparable. Religion does not claim that oneness. Religion will say Truth is somewhere else; we can have a free access to it eventually. It says Truth is somewhere, Light is somewhere, and only if we pray and meditate will we one day see the face of Truth and Light. But Yoga will say, “No. Where I am, the very thing I am looking for is also there. I am the very thing that I am now looking for, searching for, striving for. Everything is already inside me, only I have forgotten it, I cannot recognise it or I have misplaced it.” Yoga tells us to look for our inner wealth, to discover and bring to the fore what we eternally have. Spirituality is Yoga in a vast and broad sense.

Question: Is it possible to reach the state of God-realisation by devotedly practising one's religion?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, by practising one’s own religion one can realise God. But one has to feel that there is something else higher and deeper than religion and that is the constant inner cry. Religion as such will tell us there is a God. It will tell us that we have to be good, we have to be kind, we have to be simple, sincere and pure. This much religion will offer us. This is general religion. But there is also a spiritual religion which is higher and deeper. It will say that it is not enough just to know that God exists. We also have to see Him, we have to feel Him, we have to grow into Him. And this we do through prayer and meditation.

Question: Why does reference to God or religion embarrass so many people?

Sri Chinmoy: People have become very sophisticated; they now have a machine-like consciousness. Anything that does not give them satisfaction on the physical plane, vital plane or mental plane, or anything that does not exist right in front of their nose, that thing they feel is unreal, embarrassing. And anything that they do not or cannot know immediately, or anything that they do not have an immediate need for in their life, they do not value.

Also, many people who claim to follow a religion at times do not lead even an ordinary, simple human life. In the name of religious life, in the name of spiritual life, they do quite a few unthinkable, unbelievable, unimaginable things. So people who feel and think that they are normal, feel that this kind of life is all abnormality. But I wish to say that the strange behaviour of some so-called spiritual people is in no way an indication of their inner progress or illumination. Some people are fanatic; some people are not sincere in their approach or they approach religion in a very aggressive way. Some people are at times embarrassed when they happen to mix with those individuals.

But the really religious people never create embarrassment. Actually, who should be embarrassed? He who has seen the light, or he who is crying for the light? No! Only he who does not care for the light should be embarrassed. If I as an individual have seen the light, then why should I feel embarrassed to speak to you? And if you as an individual need light and are crying for light, then why should you be embarrassed? He who has and he who needs light will never be embarrassed. We should be embarrassed only when we do not have something that others need and have, and when we do not care for that very thing and do not appreciate the persons who have it. We should be embarrassed only then.

Question: Please explain the difference between "religious fervour" and "Delight". Can the two complement each other?

Sri Chinmoy: No. Religious fervour can be in the vital, in the mind or in some other part of our existence. It can satisfy us only on the vital or mental level. Religious fervour, religious joy we get mainly on the vital level. But when one experiences Delight, it permeates his entire being. Delight is something infinitely higher than religious fervour. It is on the strength of our oneness with the Absolute Supreme, or on the strength of our total dedication to His Will, that we get Delight. Delight deals with our own birthless and deathless inner existence, with the full manifestation of the divine within us. So these are two different things.

Question: Is religion indispensable for our Self-realisation?

Sri Chinmoy: Everything within us that is good is responsible for Self-realisation. But if you ask what is indispensable, then I will say that only one thing is indispensable and that is our inner cry, our constant, inmost cry.

Question: How does religious discipline differ from spiritual discipline?

Sri Chinmoy: Religious discipline is not asking you to pray and meditate every second of your life. Religious discipline may tell you to go to church once a week and pray to God. That is more than enough for religious discipline. But if it is spiritual discipline, then it will tell you to be conscious of God twenty-four hours a day and to pray and meditate at least twice a day — in the morning and in the evening. Spiritual discipline is a conscious, constant process. It is infinitely more significant than religious discipline, for when one practises spiritual discipline, one tries to be a conscious and constant living instrument of God so that God can manifest in and through him in His own Way. If one follows spiritual discipline, then at the end of the road one feels that one is growing into the very Image of God; whereas if one follows religious discipline, at the end of the road one will say that one has come and seen the goal. Religious discipline at most can lead you to the goal, whereas spiritual discipline or yogic discipline will not only take you to the goal but also make you feel that you are nothing short of the goal itself.

Question: How can self-offering be distinguished from other kinds of actions?

Sri Chinmoy: Somebody may do something to fulfil his own purpose without a higher goal or even without a higher ideal. Each thing we do is not necessarily a self-offering. You may be working in an office — your physical is working, your vital is working, your mind is working — but your attitude need not be spiritual. Self-offering has to be done with a consecrated attitude inside the entire being. If the attitude is spiritual, only then is it self-offering. While working, you have to feel that this is what the divine within you, the Supreme within you is asking you to do. And then you have to go one step ahead. You have to feel that God Himself is acting in and through you for His own satisfaction. This is the divine attitude. Only when we embody this attitude is our work a self-giving and a self-offering.

It is the attitude inside the action that determines whether the action is selfless self-giving or whether it is something done in a subtle way for self-glory. If an action is motivated and inspired by a higher cause, then only can we say it is self-offering. Otherwise, here on earth we do thousands and millions of things just because we have to meet with earthly responsibilities and earthly obligations. Here there need not be any divine inspiration; there need not be any divine inner awakening. If there is no inner awakening, if there is no inner awareness of what we are doing, why we are doing it and how it should be done, then we cannot call it self-offering.

Question: Sometimes when I am meditating I fall asleep, not because I am tired, but because I feel that I am somehow trapped in my mind. I try to get into my heart, but I do not succeed; thoughts keep racing through my mind, and then I fall asleep.

Sri Chinmoy: You are having a terrible battle inside your mind and you are an unwitting victim. Your thought-world is attacking you and your life of aspiration is fighting with the thought-world, and finally aspiration gives way to the thought-world. Take thought as a soldier and aspiration as another soldier. Aspiration is trying to go up and thought is trying to put an end to aspiration. Now they fight and you are the battlefield. When soldiers fight in the battlefield and one side wins, they win the field itself. In your case, they fight inside you. When the thought-world wins the fight, it takes you. At this time you are tired from the battle and you fall asleep. When you fall asleep, there can be no aspiration and there cannot be any thought either.

How can you prevent yourself from sleeping? There are various ways. The simplest way is to repeat the name of the Supreme or any other word you like, as fast as possible. Imagine that you are an express train with only one destination. The driver of that train is constantly repeating God’s name to derive energy, strength, stamina, encouragement, concern and all divine qualities. Now, an express train stops only at the end of its journey, the goal; on the way it does not stop at all. Your goal will be to reach or achieve a profound meditation. Always try to feel inside you a dynamic and progressive movement, but not an aggressive one. This movement undoubtedly will take you to your destination. If there is a dynamic and progressive movement, then you cannot fall asleep. Inside you, feel that the train is running, running towards the destination; feel that you yourself are this very train. Then you cannot fall asleep.

When you meditate you try to create inside yourself a dynamic peace, not a lethargic peace. Peace need not be lethargic. Sometimes people feel that they are enjoying peace when they are fast asleep, but this is a lethargic peace.

Appendix: these quotes, from other writings of Sri Chinmoy, were included in the first editions.

"Pray with fear. God sheds bitter tears.
  Pray with love. God smiles with the Beauty of the Golden Dawn.
  Pray with all that you have. God wings towards you to clasp you.
  Pray with all that you are. God becomes your Liberation."

"Life and death. These are the two Blessings that I have received from God.
  Life inspires me to realise the highest Truth.
  Death wants me to wake up and hurry up."

"I have realised my error. I shall no longer stay with ignorance.
  Ignorance has understood its folly. It will no longer stay with me.
  I say to ignorance: You have tortured me.
  Ignorance says to me: You have fooled me."

"Love the world. You will be suspected.
  Love God. You will be emancipated.
  Love the world with the feeling that the world is God. You will revive the truth.
  Love God with the feeling that God is the world. You will immortalise the truth."

"I look upward. I earn time.
  I look forward. I utilise time.
  I look inward. I save time.
  I look backward. I waste time."

"I stayed with death. Death offered me its life: Ignorance. Death told me that I could never see the Face of God.
  I stayed with God. He gave me His Life: Immortality. God told me that I shall not only see Him, but eventually I shall have to become God."

"YES speaks through my heart: Since there is only God, I am sure to see Him one day. Although I see Him not, I feel Him all-where.
  The mind sleeps while the heart aspires. The Heart cries for God, while the mind doubts God and shouts at Him."

"God gave me the happiest news that He loves me even if I don’t care to love Him.
  I gave God the greatest news that I think of Him although ignorance constantly thinks of me."

"When the power of love replaces the love of power, man will have a new name: God."

"When I desire, impossibility frowns at me. When I aspire, possibility beckons me. When I will, I smash the pride of impossibility and transform possibility into inevitability."

"Knowledge says that this is right and that is wrong.
  Wisdom does the right and shuns the wrong.
  Spirituality embodies the journey of knowledge and the goal of wisdom."

"To help humanity is to see Unity.
  To serve humanity is to earn Divinity.
  To possess humanity is to welcome Multiplicity."

"Never underestimate your soul’s potentiality.
  Never overestimate your body’s capacity."

"Man’s cry is the ascending soul.
  God’s Smile is the descending Goal."

"Good promises keep ever.
  Bad promises skip over."

Editor's preface to the first edition

The questions in this book were asked by members of the United Nations Meditation Group, an informal group of United Nations staff members, delegates and representatives from non-governmental organisations accredited to the United Nations who believe that there is a spiritual way to work for world peace as well as a political way. Twice a week, the Group meets at the U.N. for non-sectarian meditations and spiritual discussions on brotherhood and world union under the guidance of Sri Chinmoy.

Sri Chinmoy also delivers the continuing Dag Hammarskjold monthly lecture series at the U.N. It is Sri Chinmoy who best sums up the credo to which the Group adheres:

  ... and we hold that each man has the potentiality of reaching the Ultimate Truth. We also believe that man cannot and will not remain imperfect forever. Each man is an instrument of God. When the hour strikes, each individual soul listens to the inner dictates of God. When man listens to God, his imperfections are turned into perfections, his ignorance into knowledge, his searching mind into revealing light and his uncertain reality into all-fulfilling Divinity."

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