Great Masters and the Cosmic Gods

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Part I: The Guru and his disciples

Question: If all Gurus are one instrument of God, why is it so important to have exclusive devotion to only one Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not a question of exclusive devotion. Only you have to know in whom you have implicit faith. All are one, true. But you have all love for your father and for your mother and not for somebody else's father and mother. A real Guru is like a parent. He personally guides you on your spiritual journey and takes you back home safely. Others, like your uncle, can take you, but you have more faith in your father because you know that your father has more concern, more love for you than your uncle does. All Gurus are one, but you have to know that some are like uncles, some are like cousins and some are like nephews. So naturally you have to pay more attention to your father.

One particular Guru has taken utmost responsibility for you, and has promised to take you to your destined goal. So he deserves your exclusive devotion. He is taking the full responsibility to show you the Face of God. Others are only inspiring you, giving you a little help. But in his case, he takes it as his own responsibility. Unless and until he can show you the Face of God, he will not be satisfied.

Question: It seems that the Supreme loves you more than He loves Himself.

Sri Chinmoy: If you consider God on the physical plane or vital plane or mental plane or psychic plane or any plane except His own highest plane, then He will have more love for me than for Himself. Where there is a sense of separativity between God and me and I am one inch lower than He is, then He will have more love for me, because I am His descendent. The mother knows that her son is one step lower. From the mother, the son came. Therefore, the mother has more love for the son than for herself.

The Creator has more love for the creation than He has for Himself. If the Creator feels that He and His creation are of the same standard, then they are one and inseparable. In that case, if you call someone the Creator, then the creation is also the Creator. If you call something the creation, then the Creator is also that thing. If they are of the same standard, then you cannot separate them. At that time, who is loving whom more? The Supreme is loving me more when I pray to my highest Consciousness. But when I actually enter into my highest Consciousness, at that time there is no difference between the Supreme and me; my lowest consciousness and my highest Consciousness are totally one. That is why sometimes I ask my disciples to try to realise the Supreme in me. Then a day will come when the disciples will have to realise the Supreme in themselves. But there is no difference. From the highest point of view, the Supreme in the disciples and the Supreme in the Master are one.

Question: Is it necessary to have any particular background before following your path?

Sri Chinmoy: In our path, one does not need a background. If one has gone to various spiritual groups and then comes to our path, it can create problems for that person. If one is sincere, that is more than enough. If one is ready to reach the highest goal at God's choice Hour, then that is more than enough.

If you have meditated for five or six or ten years at home or under some spiritual Master, or if you have read a few books, this background may help, true. Again, if many people have thrust knowledge or wisdom upon you, then it may only create confusion. Each Master has his own way of teaching. Each one is right, absolutely right, in his own way, but if a particular Master is not the Master who is meant for you, then some confusion may arise. This has happened in many cases. So if you get your own Master right at the beginning, if you are very fresh in the beginning and have not been influenced by other seekers or Masters, then it is much easier for you.

So I say that the only background you need is sincerity, your feeling that you want to follow our path. We start with a cry, an inner cry. A child is not taught by the mother how to cry. The mother does not tell the child that he has to cry. She does not teach the little baby, "If you cry, then I will give you candy. If you cry, I will give you milk." No, it comes spontaneously. When he needs a piece of candy or milk or something, he cries. In the spiritual life also, when the seeker enters onto a path, if he cries most sincerely and soulfully, then that is more than enough. At that time, the Inner Pilot, the Supreme, who is my Guru, your Guru and everybody's Guru, listens to this cry. Then He illumines the seeker in His own Way. At every moment, the Inner Pilot will guide you if you follow a specific path most sincerely and devotedly.

Question: I practised pranayama before I met you. Now you are offering a different technique. I was wondering if meditating on you is the same as delving within myself?

Sri Chinmoy: This is an interesting question. The answer is: it entirely depends on the individual. Suppose you are a disciple of mine. You have become my disciple precisely because you feel something in me — Peace, Light, Bliss or Power. Some divine quality you have felt in me, and you feel that this divine quality can easily enter into you or has already entered into you.

I have all kinds of disciples — first-class, second-class, third-class, fourth-class and fifth-class disciples. The fifth-class disciple naturally cannot be as good as the first-class disciple. But no matter which category one belongs to, if a disciple of mine can meditate on my Transcendental picture, then he is bound to enter into my inner divine consciousness.

Suppose you have not received any specific meditation from me, but you feel that you are inwardly drawn towards me. What you should do is concentrate on my picture and try to enter into the consciousness that you see there. If you have already seen something or felt something inside me, if you have seen around me a blue light or some other colour light, then you have faith and it becomes really easy for you to enter into me. The best way to enter into me is through my forehead, through my third eye, which is the eye of vision. If you find that difficult, then try to breathe in slowly and steadily and imagine that I am also breathing with you rhythmically at the same time. You can be as close as possible to my picture, and when you breathe in, try to imagine that I am also breathing in with you. If you feel that we are breathing simultaneously, then it will be extremely easy for you to enter into me consciously.

But if purification has not taken place in your outer nature, then it may be difficult for you to enter into me. Your own impurity prevents you. But don't think that you are the only impure person, and that all the other disciples are very pure. Far from it. You have asked me a sincere question, so I am answering you. Impurity can be in the physical, in the vital, in the mind, or in the heart. Only when you develop purity does it become very easy to enter into the consciousness of a spiritual person. When you have meditated for some time, a day will come when you will feel that there is no difference between your highest consciousness and the consciousness of your spiritual Master. You will feel that the spiritual Master is only your own highest part, the most developed part of your own self. When one realises God, one does not realise God as a third person or a second person or in somebody else. No! One realises one's own highest consciousness, and this consciousness one sees is really one and inseparable with the highest consciousness of the Master.

On our path you don't have to practise pranayama or any other spiritual techniques. I do not give importance to these things. I only give importance to aspiration. To practise pranayama without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it — a father and two sons. If you really want to practise pranayama, then you should do it under the guidance of a spiritual Master. But I tell you, there are other ways, other paths to the same goal. There are many ways to go to Rome, but one road may bring you there half an hour earlier or even one second earlier than the other roads. As all religions are true in their essence, so all spiritual paths are true; but one path is bound to be a short cut. We call this short cut the sunlit path.

The sunlit path is the path of aspiration. There can be nothing more fulfilling than aspiration. Through aspiration the seeker becomes part and parcel of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. As freedom is your birthright, God-realisation is also your birthright. You have to realise that at one time you knew God most intimately. But ignorance has entered into your consciousness, into your nature, and now you have forgotten Him. If you really want to get Him back in your life, then aspiration is the only answer. Inside the heart of aspiration, three things must loom large: love, devotion and surrender. They are the keys that can open the doors of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. Love, devotion and surrender make up our path, which we feel is the true sunlit path.

Question: How should we listen to your record albums?

Sri Chinmoy: Soulfully you have to listen to them. It will serve the purpose of meditation when you listen to my records in that way. It will really help you in your meditation and aspiration. As our Invocation helps, these records will also help.

Question: I would like to know what you demand from your disciples and what your relationship is with them. We have heard that you are very strict in accepting disciples and that you do not accept everyone that comes to you.

Sri Chinmoy: You are absolutely right when you say that I am strict in accepting disciples. Some disciples may think that this strictness is a weakness on my part. I can say only that I am helpless; I can't help being strict. You ask what I demand from my disciples. As a matter of fact, I have no right to demand anything. But I sincerely expect from them certain things, which you can call my fee. All spiritual Masters demand a fee, according to their own inner light. My fee is aspiration, my fee is regularity. If an individual has genuine aspiration, then he has given me my fee. And if he has regularity in his spiritual practice, then he has paid me my dues.

When an individual is regular, he must also feel the necessity of punctuality. In the spiritual life everything has to be disciplined. So if you meditate at the same time early every morning, it will help you considerably. It is at that hour that God will knock at your heart's door, or you will knock at the door to God's Heart. So aspiration, regularity and punctuality are all necessary.

There is something more that I expect from my disciples and that is love, divine love. Human love fails; we have heard from other people and we have seen ourselves in our own life how human love is bound to fail. Human love binds, and that is why it fails. Divine love expands, and that is why it excels and succeeds. So I tell my disciples, if you have to love an individual or a spiritual path, always try to offer your divine love.

When you offer your love, you have to offer it through your devoted feeling to God. I tell my disciples that I am not their Guru. There is only one Guru. Their Guru and everybody's Guru is the Supreme. No human being can be a Guru because only the Supreme, the Almighty, the Absolute, is the real Guru. Spiritual Masters are mere instruments. We are like elder brothers of the family. Younger brothers do not consciously know right now where the Father is. So the elder brother says, "Look, our Father is seated on a throne. Come here and see." Then the role of the spiritual Master is over. But first of all, before love, before regularity and punctuality, I need from my disciples the inner cry of aspiration.

Question: What is your relationship with your disciples based upon?

Sri Chinmoy: My relationship with my disciples is based upon love, concern and compassion. Each spiritual Master has the same relationship with his disciples. There is no spiritual Master who does not have concern for his spiritual children. He is like a father. Sometimes a father is strict and sometimes he is not. Some parents feel that it is through strictness that their children will make fast progress. Other parents may feel that it is through love that their children can make good progress. As a spiritual father, I have come to realise that love is undoubtedly the most powerful force, but that love and divine authority must go together.

There is a great difference between divine authority and human authority. Human authority is autocracy and dictatorship. Divine authority is based on the strength of inseparable oneness with the disciples. Because the Master has taken responsibility for bringing each disciple to God, he knows what is best for the disciple. An ordinary dictator or autocrat gets tremendous pleasure in lording his power over others. But the spiritual Master does not get any pleasure from his divine authority. It is only with deepest concern that he is acting for the disciples' own good. If he tells a disciple to do something, he knows that it is for the disciple's own progress. He says, "I will be one with you in your ignorance in order to take you to the Goal." Then the Master's divine authority encourages the disciple not to exploit his own soul's patience, or the patience of the Supreme, whom the Master represents.

So my relationship with my disciples is one of constant concern and love, and also divine authority. If you really follow my path, you will do as I tell you. If you don't like my path, you are at liberty to leave my path today. I will not compel you to stay with me. But if you follow my path and if you really want to make good progress, then along with my love and concern, I will also use my divine authority. If I see that you are wallowing in the meshes of ignorance, I will use my divine authority to compel you either to come out of ignorance or to leave my path.

My strictness is also a form of my divine concern. When I am strict with someone, at that time it is not punishment. I am only trying to bring to the fore the roaring lion inside the disciple, so that his ignorance will be destroyed. Because it is used in many forms, people may misunderstand it; but my disciples, my sincere and devoted disciples, know that when I use my divine authority, it is not my dictatorship; it is only my inseparable oneness with them.

Question: After the Master has inspired the seeker and the seeker chooses his path, how does he know what his function is?

Sri Chinmoy: After you have chosen the path, once you are sure of your path, it is the Master's responsibility to tell you what you should do and what you should not do. But the choice lies with you in the beginning. You have to decide whether that path or that Master is meant for you. Once you have chosen a path, then it is the responsibility of the Master to give you a specific meditation, or to inspire you inwardly. He may not speak to you, he may not be physically in front of you, but he will have an inner communion with you. He will have a free access to your soul and your soul will have a free access to his soul. He will be able to tell your soul how to guide you and mould you in both your outer and your inner life. The Master is fully responsible for you only when a mutual commitment has been made by your soul and by the Master. But the Master is not fully responsible for someone who has joined his path on a trial basis. If the Master makes a commitment at that time, he will be misunderstood. Immediately the seeker will find some motive behind the Master's acceptance. He will say, "Oh, I am a great singer," or "I come from a very rich family; that is why the Master needs me." This kind of wrong idea will enter into the mind of the seeker.

Question: Every now and then my consciousness soars very high during the day. Is that because you are meditating on me?

Sri Chinmoy: I don't want to take the credit. Your consciousness is like a bird. You have the bird and you have the tree. The bird is flying up to sit on a higher branch; later it may come down. But it is true that every day I meditate on you. Very often I get vibrations from you and others and then spiritually I project my consciousness into your physical consciousness.

Question: Is it bothersome if you get these vibrations from us twenty-four hours a day?

Sri Chinmoy: No, on the contrary, I will be very happy if my spiritual child is thinking of me. If he is cursing me, then I will feel miserable; but even if someone spends his time cursing me, it is a blessing for him. There was one particular individual who hated the Buddha. But the Buddha said that one day this person would attain Nirvana because at least he was thinking of the Buddha twenty-four hours a day. He was thinking all the time how to capture the Buddha or how to destroy him. That was a negative approach. But at least he had focused his whole consciousness on the Buddha. Of course, it is always better to approach the Master in a positive way.

Question: Is it a good idea to discuss your spiritual experiences with your brothers and sisters?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not advisable to discuss inner experiences with your spiritual brothers and sisters. Although they belong to the same family as you do, they have not yet conquered jealousy. Outwardly they will act happy and extol you to the skies. But inwardly their hearts will burn and they will try to take away the essence of your experience through jealousy and other low forces. There is no hard and fast rule, but even if a disciple is extremely close to you — let us say your husband or wife — still jealousy can arise.

Sometimes when people have an experience and tell their friends about it, their friends doubt it. At that time, immediately the strength, power and light of the experience disappears. Doubt has the power to immediately take your experience away. In the outer life, if you tell others that you are suffering or in a low consciousness, then you will get some sympathy from them and they will try to elevate your consciousness. But when it is a matter of very high, sublime experiences, there is every possibility of being misunderstood or creating jealousy or being assailed by others' doubts. So please keep these things to yourself. Your experiences will eventually turn into realisation, which is like broad daylight. You cannot hide the daylight, but you have to hide the flame because there are people who can blow out the flame with jealousy or doubt.

You should, however, let your Master know. Your spiritual Master alone is not jealous of you, because he has had infinitely higher experiences. Also, he knows that no disciple will have a major experience without his personal inspiration, knowledge and conscious or indirect help. If you tell the Master about an experience that you have, it will only add to your conviction. Or if it was only a mental hallucination, the Master can tell you so. Some people do get false experiences. They read a few books dealing with higher experiences and then these experiences unconsciously enter into their minds; unconsciously they are trying to assimilate the sublime experiences of the person who has written a book. But sometimes even that person has not had the experiences. He has only borrowed them from somebody else's book. At that time the Master will be able to tell the seeker whether or not his experiences are genuine and really the result of his inner aspiration.

If you do not have a Master to tell your experiences to, then what can you do? You have to try to observe where the result of the experience leads you and what you are getting from it. If you get peace, light and bliss in abundant measure, then you will know that the experience is genuine. If it is a real, genuine experience, your mind will become calm and quiet and your heart will enter into perfect poise. Only in perfect poise does one get the highest type of experience. But if the experience is false, it will create excitement in you and it will compel you to tell your friends about it so you will get their appreciation and admiration. But this will only create jealousy in them. You have no right either consciously or unconsciously to increase their jealousy. So the best thing is to keep your inner experiences to yourself.

Question: Please tell me what to do when I feel rejection from my spiritual brothers and sisters.

Sri Chinmoy: When you feel rejected by your spiritual brothers and sisters, the human in you will be sad, frustrated and furious. But the divine within you will immediately pray to the Supreme for forgiveness for your brothers and sisters. The only way they will get illumination is if the Supreme forgives them.

Suppose I am your spiritual brother and I have rejected you. The human in you will immediately become furious and try to take revenge, or it may withdraw. You will want to have nothing to do with me because I have rejected you or insulted you. But at that time the divine in you will try to come forward with compassion because it knows that I have made a serious mistake in rejecting you. If you also reject me, tit for tat, then in what way are you superior to me? What I have done is wrong. It is very bad, true, but if you do not want to do the same wrong thing, then you have to forgive me and you have to ask God to forgive me as well.

The Christ prayed "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." Similarly, you should pray to God on behalf of your brother or sister, who is the real culprit at that time. This is the first thing required. Secondly, you should pray to God for his illumination, so that he does not reject you or anyone else in the future. If he is really forgiven and illumined by the Supreme, then he will not reject you again.

But if you also play the same role, and reject someone who has rejected you, then both of you are going to be swimming in the sea of ignorance. He has done something wrong, and you are doing the same thing. Paying him back in his own coin does not serve any purpose. What you want, after all, is the illumination of your spiritual brothers and sisters.

Question: You say that God's Divinity meditated and created man. Isn't it also true that man meditated and created God's Divinity?

Sri Chinmoy: God created man's divinity. Again, when man meditates, man realises God's Divinity and becomes one with God's Divinity. When man consciously becomes inseparably one with God's Divinity, his own divinity and God's Divinity become absolutely one at that point. And at that time man feels that he and God have always been inseparably one.

Everything started with God's own Unity. He was One, but He felt that He wanted to be fulfilled in and through the many. God was One, but He wanted to hear the message of multiplicity in Unity. So He meditated and created man's divinity. Man wants to grow into the very image of God and hear the message of unity in multiplicity. So man meditates on God's Divinity. This is how man meditates on God's Divinity and how God meditates on man's divinity.

Question: In your poetry, you often speak of the indifference of Heaven. How is Heaven indifferent?

Sri Chinmoy: If you go high up, then you will see. Spiritual Masters often say that the cosmic gods and goddesses try to prevent them from going beyond their domain. In the beginning parents teach their children to pray to God. They take them to churches and spiritual places. And then, when the same children want to follow the spiritual path strictly, the parents stand in their way. When the children grow up and take spirituality seriously, the parents feel jealous of the spiritual path. They are afraid that they will lose their children, or that their children are going to surpass them in their love for God. Either with a sense of jealousy or a sense of insufficiency, they feel that the children will transcend them. Here also, the cosmic gods and goddesses try to help spiritual seekers, but when they see that we are transcending them, they try to stop us. When we go into their realm, we will see that the power they have is not unlimited. So they are afraid that we will surpass them.

Part II — Great Masters and the cosmic gods

Question: It seems the Christ never meditated but all of a sudden became very high. Is this true?

Sri Chinmoy: No. The Christ definitely meditated. What do we know about the past? The Christ stayed on earth for thirty-three years and even so there is a gap of about ten or twelve years where history does not know what he did. During this time he was in India and other places, and he definitely meditated.

Question: Was Christ a painter, an athlete or a poet?

Sri Chinmoy: In the broadest sense, the Christ was undoubtedly a poet, a painter and an athlete. He was a poet, for his utterances are all poetic, visionary and revolutionary. Each of the Christ's works is a seer-vision of the Father Supreme.

He was also a painter. His mother was a painter, whether the world believes it or not; she was an excellent painter. She painted as we ordinary painters do. But the Christ was a divine painter. He painted the suffering of human life and the delight of the divine life, in and through his own life.

He was an athlete. He ran the fastest in thirty-three years. In the short span of his life, he completed his course according to the Vision-Dispensation of His Father Supreme. Again, he was a supreme athlete. He braved the buffets of human life and offered his oneness to the suffering and aspiring mankind.

Question: Who was Ramakrishna?

Sri Chinmoy: Ramakrishna is the child of Mother Kali, child of the Divine Mother. And the Divine Mother is compassion and love. First he went to Mother Kali, the cosmic Mother, and then he became the Mother Herself.

Question: There are many Gurus now who have come to the West. Are they coming to share the inspiration that they have received or is there a movement to exploit seekers in the West?

Sri Chinmoy: There are some sincere Gurus and some insincere Gurus. The sincere Gurus have been inwardly commanded and guided by God to come and serve Him in the West. But the insincere ones have come to the West to show off and make money so they can go back to India and lead a most comfortable life. So deception is there.

Insincere Masters say, "Give me thousands of dollars and I will give you realisation." You give them the money and they leave with it. Then where is your realisation? If God-realisation could be achieved by money, then all rich men would immediately realise God. Just for a bundle of dollars, you could get your realisation! But it is not like that. For God-realisation you must cry and cry and cry. Insincere Gurus exploit you and tell you that they will be able to give you God-realisation overnight. They say that they have made it very easy. But is it possible? It takes us twenty years to get our Master's degree, just for ordinary knowledge. And for God-realisation, which is infinitely more difficult, it takes far longer.

Question: I have been reading Autobiography of a Yogi and was startled at the findings of Kriya Yoga. Is it true that this Yoga can hasten the evolution of a positive mind?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not only that Yoga, but many Yogas can expedite spiritual evolution. Our Yoga, which embodies love, devotion and surrender, we call the sunlit path. On the strength of my own highest realisation, I can say that this Yoga leads the aspirant towards the goal faster than any other. I have not followed all the other Yogas but I know them on the strength of my realisation. When one is realised, one can see how many years or how many centuries others took in order to come to Self-realisation. I feel that our path, which is the path of absolute surrender, is the quickest. To be very frank with you, there is no other Yoga which is as simple and, at the same time, as profound as the Yoga of surrender. In this Yoga the finite loses its own existence and immediately becomes one with the Infinite. This is not the surrender of a beggar to a king. In true surrender the finite feels that it has the capacity and potentiality to enter into the Highest, which is its very own.

Since you are my disciples and you are in my boat, please read my writings as much as possible and study and live our Yoga. In that way you will not be confused and you will not enter into any kind of competition with other paths.

I have read the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I know him very, very well. In the spiritual world I know his Master, and his Master's Master and his Master, Babaji. But I wish to tell you that Kriya Yoga is not meant for you since you have accepted our Yoga. If you know thoroughly what I represent here on earth and what my teachings are, your progress will be the swiftest.

Question: I read that Mother Kali is your family deity. Could you speak on her a little please?

Sri Chinmoy: Kali is one of the four aspects of the Supreme Mother. She is the Mother of power, the Mother of compassion and the Mother of speed. She wants her devotees to run the fastest. Those who want to please her should be extremely sincere, because on the one hand she is compassionate, but on the other hand she is very strict. Other Mother aspects of the Supreme, like Mahalakshmi, are also compassionate; but they do not care for the same kind of speed. Mother Kali wants the fastest speed. She will not tolerate anything impure or undivine. She wants her devotees to be totally pure immediately. One has to be extremely pure, sincere and heroic in order to be her chosen instrument. She is not for the weak; she is only for the strong. She cares only for the strong who are ready to fight against ignorance.

Very often when we see Kali on the vital plane, we are disturbed or frightened. She is killing many undivine forces, so she looks serious and ferocious. But on the inner plane she is full of compassion. On the outer plane she may look dark or black, but on the inner plane she is a very beautiful, golden colour.

In India each family has a presiding deity. Mother Kali happens to be my family's deity, so she has special blessings for my entire family. There are also many other families who have Kali as their presiding deity.

Question: Why is Kali's tongue red in pictures?

Sri Chinmoy: Kali is showing her power aspect so that unaspiring humanity will not wallow in the pleasures of ignorance. On the physical, vital, and mental plane she shows her supreme power, for there is no other way for human ignorance to open to light. Her power itself is compassion, but also she has to inject fear. Otherwise, the ignorance of humanity will never come forward for illumination.

Question: I would like to know the relationship between Lord Shiva and Mother Kali?

Sri Chinmoy: Mother Kali is the consort of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is the silent aspect of the Transcendental Reality, and Mother Kali is the dynamic aspect of the Transcendental Reality. Truth is complete when it is both dynamic and silent. Truth is complete when the dynamic aspect and the silent aspect function together.

In the Upanishads it says: "That is far and at the same time, that is near. That moves and that moves not. That is within and that is without. It moves and it moves not." When Kali is performing her role, reality is moving. When Shiva is performing, reality is silent. When they perform together, that moves and that moves not. With our human consciousness, when we try to see the Truth, it is far, very far. But with our divine consciousness, when we try to see the Truth, it is all near; it is right in front of our nose.

"That is within and that is without." These conflicting terms cease when our inner consciousness is fully awakened. If something is within, then that very thing also has to be without. If there is a seed, then there will be a tree. If there is a tree, there also is a seed. If the Truth is already there within, then the Truth has to be manifested sooner or later outside.

Mother Kali is the dynamic aspect of the Transcendental Truth and Lord Shiva is the silent aspect of the highest Transcendental Truth. They fulfil the highest Supreme together, like the obverse and the reverse of the same coin. Shiva is silent and Kali is active and dynamic. If we see with our ordinary human eyes, then we say that they are separate. But with our inner eye if we see them, we see that they are together.

Question: What does the god Agni represent?

Sri Chinmoy: Agni is fire. Fire is aspiration. In Indian scriptures we have four Vedas and the Rig Veda is the most important. The first word of the Rig Veda is "Agni". So Agni is the fire-god or the god of aspiration. Without aspiration, you cannot make progress. Agni is the most important god for seekers. But when you aspire you do not necessarily have to worship the cosmic god Agni. Just aspire.

Part III — Prayer and mandalas

Question: What is the relative importance of prayer?

Sri Chinmoy: For a genuine seeker who wants Peace, Light, Bliss and divine Power in infinite measure, prayer can never be as important as meditation. When we pray, most of the time we have the feeling of begging. "Oh God, give me this; do this for me." Automatically we feel that we are beggars and that somebody else will offer us his boons. A beggar goes and knocks at the door of anyone; whether he is a rich man or a poor man, he doesn't care. He just knocks and knocks in order to get the money. So when we pray, we are like beggars. We pray to God this side, that side, looking up, looking down and whatever. We don't know from which quarter or from which level God is going to fulfil our desires. We look up and cry, "God, give me, give me, give me!" There is a yawning gulf between His existence and our existence.

If we go deep within, we will see that it is a subtle or gross desire that prompts us to pray. It is for one drop, two drops or three drops of Compassion or Light or Peace that we are praying. Unfortunately, when we pray our whole attention is focused on a particular object or desire, and we feel that if we achieve the particular thing that we are crying for, then it is enough. So if prayer is fulfilled, then prayer stops. Through prayer, we hope that God will give us what we want, and then when God gives, when our prayer is answered, at that time we stop praying. For a few months or a few years we stop praying until desire again prompts us. Then again we pray.

But meditation is different. In meditation, we will stay at a particular divine region where we can all the time feel the expansion of our consciousness. The more we can feel the expansion of our consciousness, the clearer it becomes that Peace, Light and Bliss are growing inside our meditation. Meditation itself becomes the fertile soil where the bumper crop of Peace, Light and Bliss can grow.

As there is no end to our aspiration, so also there is no end to our meditation. Here we are dealing with Eternity, Infinity and Immortality; so our progress is constant and, at the same time, unending.

When we meditate, we are in the sea of tranquility. At that time there is no one to pray to and God feels our need more than we can imagine. Always He is there; only we have to receive Him. When we meditate, God feels the need to fulfil Himself in and through us. So in the true spiritual life, there is no comparison between prayer and meditation. There are times when we will pray, but if we are a real seeker, if we really want to go to the ultimate Goal, then for most of us meditation is the highest rung in the ladder of spiritual evolution. Again, if we pray for the fulfilment of God's Will, if we pray for His divine Victory in and through our lives, then this kind of prayer is very high, very powerful. Many of the great spiritual giants of the West realised God through this kind of prayer.

Question: What is your feeling about your disciples using japa beads?

Sri Chinmoy: I am not totally against the use of japa beads, but I am not too much in favour of them either. If some of you want to wear japa beads, it is my most sincere request that you keep them inside your shirt. Otherwise, this can create a wrong vibration within the Centre. Please do not display them. If you want to use them at all, please do so at home when you meditate. You can keep them in your room on your shrine.

I wish to tell you that japa is not necessary for our path. But if you wish to do japa, then please do it slowly and soulfully. The difficulty with japa is that while you are doing it, you pay all attention to the number. If you have decided to repeat "Supreme" a few hundred times, then you only count one, two, three and see when you can finish. So there is no value in it, no progress, nothing. In India and in America I have seen many, many people doing japa. Most of the time they go on like an express train: "Supreme," "Supreme," like they are fighting against time. But if you want to repeat the name of the Supreme most soulfully, then it will definitely increase your capacity for concentration, and deep, soulful meditation.

Question: Guru, is it good to meditate on mandalas?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, you can meditate on mandalas. You can meditate on anything that gives you joy. If it gives you joy, then you can meditate on a flower, on a candle, on my picture, even on your own picture. Just stand or sit in front of a mirror and look at yourself without appreciating your physical face. Look at yourself and feel that this is what you are, but you want to be something else. Look at yourself and enter into what you are seeing. Say to yourself, "I don't want to have this kind of face; I want to have a most luminous face."

Again, you can meditate on a flower and say, "How beautiful this flower is. Let me meditate on this flower and become as pure as the flower." Or you can meditate on the sea and say, "Look, the sea is so vast, so full of spiritual consciousness. Let me meditate on it and become Infinite Consciousness." Whatever gives you most joy, utmost joy, is the best thing for you to meditate upon.

Question: What is the best way to chant our soul's name? What should we feel or imagine?

Sri Chinmoy: Your spiritual name is Savita. If you chant "Savita", you have to immediately think of your connection with the sun goddess, the creative source. Think of the creation; then think of the sun's rays. It is not actually thinking; it is imagination. Just try to bring forward in your mind's eye the idea that it is dawn and the sun is appearing. Imagine that you see the golden rays of the sun. Then put all the qualities right in front of you and develop them with your imagination.

Question: Through meditation are you able to master or create any psychic powers?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly, through meditation one can get psychic power. One is bound to get psychic power through meditation. But if you get psychic power, it may take you away from the spiritual life. Sometimes people get psychic power and then they don't want to pray any more; they want to go help people. Then the ignorance of the people they try to help captures them and they go away from the spiritual path. So it is very dangerous. But after one realises God, then it is safe to start using psychic powers.

Psychic power does not necessarily help one in realising God. You can take psychic powers as beautiful trees, plants or fruits that you encounter during your spiritual journey. Somebody may walk along another road where there are no trees, no flowers, nothing to tempt him. When one gets psychic power, there is every possibility of being tempted by these powers. They will very often take the sincere seekers away from the goal. So it is better not to pay any attention to the psychic powers. Only pay attention to your inner cry, your aspiration. When it is time, God Himself will give you all the psychic powers. But right now what He wants you to do and what He wants all the seekers to do is to realise Him.

Part IV — Spirituality and the outer world

Question: Guru, you said that from our meditation we have to face the outer world with the correct attitude. What sort of attitude is that?

Sri Chinmoy: You should always have the attitude of a divine hero. A divine hero is not an ordinary soldier who will strike and kill. No, he is a spiritual soldier who will fight for the divine manifestation here on earth, who will act for the sake of the Divine, the Supreme. If you are scared to death when a problem arises, then you cannot be a chosen instrument of the Divine, of the Supreme. Life has to be accepted. This acceptance does not mean mere enjoyment. No, acceptance has particular spiritual significance. There is a kind of meditation that feels that the world is unreal and barren. But I wish to say no, the world is most fertile. The world is not a dream; it is not a chimerical mist.

This world of ours is the reality, but this reality is not yet manifested fully. It is our meditation, our inner life, our aspiration, that can hasten the process of divine manifestation in the form of reality. This world embodies divinity, but we deny even this simple truth. What we have to do first is to feel the embodiment of the ultimate Truth in this world of ours, and then to reveal and manifest that ultimate Truth with our dynamic meditation, conscious aspiration and sincere dedication.

Question: If I pray for my own salvation, does that mean that I am ignoring the salvation of humanity?

Sri Chinmoy: If you pray to God, how can you be indifferent? You may say that you are looking only for your own salvation and not caring about others. But I tell you, the very fact that you are looking for your own salvation means that others will be saved. The day you realise God, you will be doing a great favour for Mother Earth, for one less person will be caught by ignorance.

Vivekananda used to say that if one person stood on top of the Himalayas and offered his good will to God, then he was also offering his highest to humanity. You are a representative of Mother Earth. As others have imperfections, you also have imperfections. But you are trying to reach the most Beautiful, the Highest, the Absolute. While you are meditating, while your highest and most purified will is trying to reach the Highest, on the outer plane you might not be looking from side to side to this fellow or that fellow, but on the inner plane you are one with them. You will see that the day you get illumination, there will be others who will also get some of your illumination. Others will come to you precisely because you have got illumination. If you become good, if you achieve some peace or light, then there is one less person who is in ignorance. Then, when others observe you, they are so surprised. At one moment you look so ordinary, just like them; but the next moment they see something in your face.

So if you have got some love for God and pray to God, don't think that you are caring only for yourself. You are caring for yourself, but you are also caring for God. First you realise God, but that is not the ultimate goal. When you realise God and see His Kindness, His Affection, His Love, His Compassion, then your realisation will immediately be followed by manifestation. Automatically the concern you have for your own manifestation also becomes your concern for mankind.

So, if anybody thinks that if he is praying to God, then he is not caring for other people, then he is mistaken. If he is praying to God, he is automatically spreading his inner consciousness, like a bird spreading its wings. If you go to the foot of the tree, you will see that God is the root. If you water the tree, then the creation-tree will grow the way the divine Law wants it to. So, the concern you show for the root of the tree, for God, will feed all the branches which will survive and live according to God's Perfection.

Question: Is our path going to bring about some sort of social change?

Sri Chinmoy: I have not come here to bring about any social change. I have come to the West only to bring light, to be of service to you people, only to bring to the fore what is real in you so that you can become perfect instruments of God.

Unfortunately, you are claiming unreality as your very own because you do not know the real from the unreal. When the real in you comes forward, then you become a perfect instrument of God. If the real comes to the fore in you, in him, in her, in everybody, then you will see some significant changes in society.

Society is like a house. If all the members of the house become perfect, then the house will flow with peace, light and harmony. It is from individual progress that the collective progress comes. If I become perfect, if you become perfect, if everybody becomes perfect, then you will see that the social changes will be unnecessary. But if we try to make society perfect when it is still full of imperfect human beings, we will sadly fail.

Question: How can we do well in our studies and also be involved in meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: First of all, I wish to tell you that I have quite a few university students who are doing extremely well in the spiritual life and, at the same time, they are doing very well in their studies.

If you want to do well in your studies, what you need at this stage is concentration. If you cannot concentrate well, you will not do well in your studies either. So spirituality is the answer. You have to know that what you get from your spiritual life is natural, normal, spontaneous and fulfilling. Early in the morning, if you can concentrate for ten minutes or even five minutes, then you will accomplish two things. You will feel boundless energy within you and you will simplify your life. These qualities will be a great help to you in your studies.

Spirituality you have to take as your private tutor. The private tutor teaches you at home and helps you to pass the examination. When you pray to God, when you concentrate and meditate on God, when you go deep within, at that time you are getting help and energy from your Source. Then it becomes infinitely easier to achieve success in your outer life. Spirituality will never stand in your way. Spirituality is not the negation of life; true spirituality is acceptance of the real life in us.

You spend eight or ten hours daily in order to get your degree, but this degree will only help you in making money or improving your social status. It won't help you to get inner peace or inner joy. You may be at the top of the class, but the strength of this achievement will last only for a fleeting hour and then you will feel a barren desert within you; there will be no satisfaction. The things that will give you permanent satisfaction are peace of mind and inner joy. And these things you can only get from meditation.

The outer knowledge and the inner knowledge must run abreast. But eventually the outer knowledge has to surrender its existence to the inner knowledge. When the inner knowledge takes full charge of the outer knowledge, then outer knowledge finds its real purpose and true fulfilment. Spirituality is the light-seed within you and this light you have to bring to the fore. Around you is tenebrous darkness, but if you can bring your inner light to the fore, then true knowledge can dawn in you.

Question: What is your opinion about reading newspapers?

Sri Chinmoy: Some spiritual Masters went to the length of saying that newspapers were nothing short of falsehood. I do not wish to go to that extreme. But if you are carried away by the news, then it becomes like a novel; there are so many things in the news that create sensation in you. After sensation will come irritation and many, many bad things will happen.

But again, you have to remain in the world. If you do not know that the President has died or if something very important takes place and you do not know about it, then you are not conscious of the world. You are not conscious of what is happening around you, and that is not good. But if you read the newspapers from the first page to the last page only for the sake of information, then you will remain in the world of information and illumination will not take place. So you have to be very careful.

Question: How can we deal with this world, which is literally wracked by agony?

Sri Chinmoy: There is only one way to deal with it. We have to feel that the world is not around us or in front of us, but deep within. It is not outside us; it is within us.

Then we have to try for our own nature's purification and transformation. The more we are purified and fulfilled inwardly, the sooner will world transformation take place. By telling someone, "Come here, you are imperfect. You have to become perfect," you will never make him perfect. But if you can purify your own emotion, if you can illumine your own inner life, then it will be infinitely easier for you to convince him to illumine his life. So we always say that aspirants have to go deep within to have their own inner illumination first. Then, when they have their own inner illumination, it becomes easier for them to give inspiration or dynamic energy or mounting aspiration to others and to illumine the rest of the world. We can illumine the world only through our own awakening and our own inner illumination.

Question: Should we concern ourselves with the world if the world is going downhill and we are trying to climb uphill?

Sri Chinmoy: In order to lift somebody, you have to be one inch higher than he is. If you feel that you are secure, then lift up the world. If you are not secure and you try to lift up someone else, then he will pull you down.

Question: How can we stop the suffering of the world by gaining access to illumining light?

Sri Chinmoy: Each individual here, unfortunately, is subject right now to suffering, sorrow and painful experiences. When an individual achieves liberation by virtue of his aspiration, Peace, Light and Bliss enter into him. At that time he is free from the world of suffering and excruciating pangs. Today he has become liberated; tomorrow he will inspire somebody else to come out of the net of suffering. Then the following day, he and the second person will inspire a third person. So someone has to start the game. You come out of the ignorance-sea, which is full of pain and suffering. Then your own illumination will inspire others to come out of the ignorance-sea.

Question: In the spiritual life, are we supposed to feel responsible for other people or not?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on which plane you feel responsibility. When you breathe in, God alone knows how many tiny insects you destroy. If you have to think, "Oh God, I am destroying so many insects, so let me close my nose," then I tell you, this kind of responsibility will take you to the other world.

Clever people will say that there is no responsibility at all on earth. They say, "I didn't create the world. God created the world. So let God suffer; it is His business." Again, others will say, "God has created the world, that is true. But since God is an Old Man and we are young people, it is our bounden duty to help God."

But God says, "No. I am eternally young. I know what is best for Me and what is best for you. If you really care for Me, if you have such love for Me, then try to please Me in My own Way. I have created the world. You feel that although I have created the world, it has now gone out of My control, so you have come to help Me. But even if it has gone out of My control, which it hasn't — be kind to Me. Since I have created the world, don't try to become the manager or proprietor. Please just feel that since I have started this whole business, I am the employer and you are the employee. Don't reverse the game."

So God tells us to listen to Him and feel that we are employed by Him. If we are employed, then naturally our duty is to please the Boss in His own Way. This is our only responsibility. Once we accept the spiritual life, we have to feel at that time that God is our only responsibility. Even if we have wives and husbands, still we have to feel that God is our only responsibility. That does not mean that we will not love our husbands and wives, far from it. But we have to know why we are loving our husbands, why we are loving our wives, why we are loving our children. We are loving our dear ones just because inside them God is there. God may say to us, "Since you are here on earth, I am giving you a specific mission. You take care of your daughter. You take care of your son. You take care of your husband. That is your responsibility." Once we enter into the spiritual life, our only responsibility is obedience. There is no other responsibility. Obedience is our conscious oneness with our own highest part.

If God or your spiritual Master tells you that your only responsibility is to take care of your daughter, then you have to obey your Master. But if you say, "No! There was a special reason why I came into that family; my responsibility is also to my father, my mother, my sister," then this may be wrong. True, there was a special reason why you came into that family, but how do you know that reason has not already been fulfilled? Once you accept the spiritual life, at that time you have to feel that you have no mother, no father, no brother, no sister. When you come to the spiritual life, at that time your family has already played its role. In most of the cases, the parents have already played their role and the children have also played their role in such a way that the parents have actually got what they wanted from their children. Unconsciously the parents want their children to become good, kind and spiritual. The parents tried and the parents failed; they could not make the children good, kind and spiritual. But the children have done that themselves because they have entered into the spiritual life. So what the parents even unconsciously felt was their responsibility for their children, the children have done on their own. They have done the job infinitely better than the parents ever imagined was possible.

Once children accept the spiritual life, at that time their parents' responsibility is over. Then they become the Master's responsibility. Once you accept the spiritual life, at that time your responsibility is obedience to the Master or obedience to God, if you get the inner command. You may say, "Oh, my parents have taken care of me, paid for my university degree, done everything for me." That is true. But if you follow the spiritual life, you will realise God. At that time your soul, out of its infinite compassion, will give an iota of light to your parents. And even if you do not give consciously, unconsciously it will flow. This iota of light that you will give to your parents, who are not spiritual, is worth infinitely more than the thousands of dollars they have given you to study in the university. Thousands of students are coming out of Harvard and Yale every year with the highest degree. But out of the millions and billions of souls entering into the world each year, if even one realises God, then what happens? In India they say that when one person in a family realises God, then twelve generations from both sides — predecessors and successors — will all be liberated. When one realises God, compassion flows immediately: "He was the instrument, she was the instrument for my entrance into earth, so let me do something for them."

Question: Why do you recommend vegetarianism? Is it related to purity?

Sri Chinmoy: If you want to lead a better life, a disciplined life, a pure life, I feel that a vegetarian diet is necessary. Those who eat meat, unconsciously are taking in the consciousness of an animal. In addition to their hostile and other undivine qualities, animals have tremendous restlessness. When we take in mild foods, our consciousness automatically becomes mild, soft and sweet. But when we eat meat, we take in the restless, destructive consciousness of animals.

All the time we are taking in the consciousness of other persons and objects. When we stand in front of a spiritual Master, immediately we take in his consciousness, his vibration. He is offering us what he has to give. Similarly, the animal offers us what it has to give; and what it has to give are its animal qualities. It is up to us to accept or reject these qualities. So for the beginner, or for anyone who is following the spiritual path, it is advisable to have a pure vegetarian diet. This helps considerably.

Purity is also necessary. One has to feel that purity does not come from merely washing the body ten times a day. Some people feel that if they take a shower six times a day they will be pure. Far from it! A fish is in the water twenty-four hours a day, yet the consciousness of a fish is not purer than that of any human. Cleanliness is next to godliness, true. We can take two or three showers a day, but to go on taking showers six or seven times in order to be pure is absolutely wrong. We can easily make the gross physical body pure if we install a living shrine inside our heart for the object of our adoration, who is God. We know that God exists, but where? Where can we see Him first? Inside our heart. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, but that does not satisfy us. What satisfies us is that God is all love. And where is this love? It is inside our heart. We can establish purity within ourselves by feeling God's Presence inside our heart.

Then, if we really want to lead a better life, a disciplined life, and to have a pure character, we have to mix with those who have already established some purity in their outer lives. Every day a sincere seeker must associate with someone who is fairly advanced in the spiritual life. If the seeker has the opportunity to see his Master regularly, then the living presence of the Master will inundate his outer being with purity. It is not possible for the Master to be physically present everywhere, but if the seeker is sincere, if the seeker can have free access to the Master's heart on the strength of his own inner need, then the Master's divine consciousness can enter into the seeker's life every day and flood his life with purity.

Question: How can we concentrate better in sports without interference from ego?

Sri Chinmoy: If you are trying to conquer ego or jealousy, immediately your inner will comes to the fore. Then you will have your best performance. When you practise sports, try to compete only with yourself. Do not think that you will come in first or you will come last. Your goal is progress; your goal is not to defeat someone else. If yesterday you threw the shot put seven metres, then today you will try to do a little better. But if you see that you are not making progress, then you have to surrender to God's Will. When you make constant surrender to God's Will, there cannot be any ego. So, in three successive ways you can make your surrender to God's Will complete.

Question: How important is outer knowledge on our path?

Sri Chinmoy: Your goal is God-realisation. The goal is like the top of a tree. When you get there, you will see around you millions of leaves, but nobody is going to ask if you see the leaves. The God-realisation that you have achieved is more than enough.

Whoever is studying world-information should ask himself, "Does it help me in God-realisation?" Absolutely not. Sri Ramakrishna did not have world information. He wrote his name with the greatest difficulty. His wife did not even go that far. His wife could not even write "God-realisation". She used to challenge Vivekananda because he could write.

But was Ramakrishna's manifestation inferior to others' manifestation? No. When it is a matter of manifestation, his identification with the Universal Consciousness was such that he got Vivekananda, Brahmananda and others to work as his instruments. If you realise the Highest, even if you are not a mental giant, no harm. If it is God's Will to manifest your light, He will bring you instruments who will be able to manifest your light. As an individual you have two arms and one mind. But when you attain God-realisation, at that time your mission can be inundated with thousands of arms and fertile brains. You need God; God needs you, so He is bound to give you what you need.

In India there is a famous saying about a particular sweetmeat. They say that he who has tasted it feels miserable, and he who has not tasted it also feels miserable. They say it about marriage. You are miserable if you have got it and if you have not tasted it you also feel miserable. In the spiritual life some who are still unripe and who are not ready to go to the Highest, hesitate on the way. While they are constantly moving in the spiritual life, they don't have time to think of what their previous life could have given them. But the moment they stop moving ahead and making progress, their time becomes occupied by past experiences. They begin to feel that they were not given the full opportunity in their former life to make all the progress that they could have made. They say, "We have lost everything that we had in the worldly life. We could have been well-established in the material life, but we gave it all up."

But when we enter the spiritual life we are in no way the loser. We have a goal and this goal gives us everything. Although the highest outer reality is lacking, we have to know that it is spirituality alone that holds the true highest Reality. There is nothing on earth that can give us the highest Reality. Earth-realities are based on information, but spiritual realities are based on inner awakening and revelation. Knowledge or information we can easily challenge, but we will not dare to challenge the reality founded on inner experience and realisation, because light is there right in front of us. How will we deny it?

When we live in the outer life, we possess something; in the inner life, we become something. The inner life always makes us feel what we are. The outer life, on rare occasions, makes us feel that we have something. But most of the time it does not even dare to say that we have something. When we remain in the inner world, the thing that we are seeking for, we eternally are. How will you deny it? But in the outer world we will deny our own life. We will say it is not meant for us; it is for somebody else.

So let us feel that we are actually the inner life. What we wanted to be in the outer life is all outer show and pretence. We are just trying to put things on ourselves and it becomes so difficult to get rid of them. Outer life is like an onion peel; the peel never ends. The inner life is like an orange; it is all orange. We just eat.