The hunger of darkness and the feast of light, part 2

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Part I: Aspiring intensity and over-eagerness

Don't pull

No difficulty can appall you
If you do not try to pull down
Your future-life untimely.

No imperfection can frighten you
If you do not pull forward
Your past-life foolishly.

Question: How can I have intensity in my spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: Think of yourself as a runner in a race. When the starter says, "Get on your mark; get set," at that time you feel all your body weight, your whole existence, on your fingertips. The fingertips take the weight but the actual power is coming from your heart, from your soul. The determination is coming from your inner existence, and this determination itself is power. Similarly, in the spiritual life, when you are concentrating and meditating, you are running towards your goal; inwardly you are a spiritual runner.

Our physical body is composed of various parts: our head, arms, legs and so on. Although the body is one unit, you will see that the hands do not always co-operate with the legs or the eyes do not always co-operate with the nose. Everything seems disoriented. One limb has nothing to do with another. Then, besides the physical sheath, we have a vital sheath, mental sheath and psychic sheath. All of these also seem to act independently. But you also have to feel that there is a specific place where you receive all your strength, energy and determination so that you can run the fastest inwardly. Once again, that place is your heart and your soul.

Try to feel that all your strength, all your determination and will-power is in one particular place, here inside your heart. Feel that you don't exist at all except in this tiny place. You don't have eyes, you don't have a nose, you don't have anything. Intensity will come only when you feel that your entire existence is concentrated at one particular place and not scattered.

Question: Sometimes I really want the life of God and I aspire very intensely and I am very happy. But sometimes my mind makes me think that the spiritual life is just a wild goose chase, and then I feel sad and sort of lost. How can I maintain my aspiration at a high level all the time?

Sri Chinmoy: You know that the divine qualities of peace, light and bliss do exist. Most of you have come here to see a spiritual Master and to be with spiritual people. Only two or three have come out of curiosity. Your souls have brought you by making you feel that peace does exist, light does exist, bliss does exist. It is the victory of your soul's inner urge that has made you come.

Again, it is up to you to maintain this inner urge or to lose it. Your soul is victorious today, but this victory need not last. Tomorrow you may lose your inner cry. If you want to preserve today's inner victory, then you have to meditate again tomorrow and the day after. If you have a Master then try to get inner guidance from him. Every day when the time comes for you to meditate, just think of him for a few minutes and you are bound to get inspiration and aspiration.

To learn, we go to school. For every new endeavour a Master or guide is needed. If you do not have a Master, you should seek one. The sooner you get a Master, the better for your progress. You may feel that the time has not come for you to look for a Master because you are an absolute beginner. You want to lead a better and a higher life, but you are not prepared and you may feel that the Master will demand things from you that are beyond your capacity. In that case try to read spiritual books written by real spiritual Masters, not by mere philosophers or professors. If you read writings of spiritual Masters, their consciousness will enter into you. Then one day you will get inner awakening, and you will discover which path you should follow. Once you get your own realisation you won't need a teacher. At that time you will have all the inner capacities.

If you have to go somewhere far away, either a boat or a train or a plane will have to take you to your destination. If you don't know the way, somebody has to be your pilot. In the spiritual life you also need a guide and a path. Otherwise, today you will be inspired, but you won't know where to go. Today your vital will be stronger than your soul and no-one will be available to encourage you or inspire you. But if you have a guide and you are walking along the right path, then who can prevent you from reaching the goal?

If you do not have a path, your progress is bound to be very slow. One day you may even become totally disgusted and give up. Then you will say that the spiritual life is all useless; there is no goal. But once you have found your path, please stick to it. If you change your path every day or every month you will never reach your goal. Of course, if you have found a path that is not fulfilling you, you have every right to change. You have to be absolutely convinced that the path you are following is the right path for you. If you are in school and you don't like the school that you go to, you can leave and go to some other school. But if you make a habit of changing from school to school, then you will not be able to get a proper education. Once you are satisfied with a school, do not attend other schools out of curiosity. In spirituality you do not have to have ten teachers. God-realisation, Self-discovery, is only one subject: therefore one teacher, one realised Master, is enough to take you to your goal.

Question: What does it mean when you have a pain in your chest when you meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: First, you must be sure that there is no physical ailment — nothing wrong with your chest. If you know that there is nothing wrong with you physically, then if you feel pain at the time of meditation, you have to feel that you are not breathing properly when you are meditating. You are breathing in an abnormal way and this abnormal way of breathing comes when you are trying to pull light beyond your capacity. When you do that you have to feel that you are going against the law of your inner necessity. You should never try to pull light into your being. Just open yourself and allow the light to enter into you naturally and also to go back to its own region freely. When you have enough purity and you have one-pointed aspiration for God, for realisation of the highest Truth, then you will see that no matter how much light enters or wants to enter into you, you will have no pain.

Your entire outer existence has to be totally dedicated to the spiritual life. If you really want God for God's sake, then there can be no pain during your meditation. If pain comes, then you have to feel that the vital wants something which is not approved by the soul. Usually we make a deplorable mistake when we say that a particular truth is coming from the soul or the inner being. Our vital is very clever and at times treacherous. In a clever way it makes us feel that the message we are getting in our physical mind is coming directly from the soul, which is not true. In your case sometimes the vital is acting without the approval of the soul. That is to say, the soul wants you to do something but the vital is telling you to do something else. Your physical mind is becoming unconsciously one with the vital. It thinks that the message, the light, the wisdom is coming from the soul — which is not true. Again, I must say that the soul need not offer its messages to your mind through the heart. You can get messages directly through your soul. Many times you have done it. But sometimes you don't listen to these messages. Sometimes you take the messages of the vital as the soul's messages, and sometimes you try to pull beyond your capacity.

What should you do to correct these mistakes? You should try to make your life a life of inner sacrifice. When you feel that you have become sacrifice itself, you will see that the vessel you have inside you is automatically enlarging itself. Then, inside the chest, inside the heart, the soul will be able to bloom like the lotus. When the heart vessel expands, you will feel no pain in your chest, no matter how much light enters.

Again, sometimes real physical pain inside the heart comes from the depth of your soul. This happens when your mission on earth is very high, but in fact you are accomplishing nothing. When the soul's aim is very lofty and sublime but the vital and physical are consciously negating the manifestation of the soul's loftiest aim, then you can feel most intense pain in your heart. At that time you see that there are two opposing parties and you are torn between the progressive soul and the aggressive vital; between the loving heart and the lethargic body. The soul and the heart are on one side, the vital and the physical on the other side, and you become one with the doubting and fearful mind. You do not take any side. Then, you are bound to feel pain inside your heart. This is real psychic pain. Psychic pain is good in a sense because it tells us that we are not fulfilling our inner possibilities. If you can make your outer life more pure and your inner life more secure on the basis of self-awakening and self-enlargement, then you will not experience pain. The psychic pain you have owing to your unconscious or conscious unwillingness will be transformed into sweetest joy and delight. The pain you have due to lack of receptivity will be transformed into boundless receptivity. Sacrifice means oneness — the oneness of the finite with the infinite. So, do not pull — do not push — let your life of inner sacrifice take care of your outer existence. Then there can be no pain anywhere.

Question: When I meditate I feel a lot of pressure in my head and my eyes. Can you tell me why that is and how I can get rid of it?

Sri Chinmoy: You are pulling beyond your capacity. Everybody has an inner vessel. You are trying to pull light from above beyond your capacity. When peace, light and bliss are forced into you, your vessel begins to give way because its capacity is very limited. First you have to make your inner vessel larger, much larger than it is now. How will you do this? You will try to aspire quietly, sincerely, devotedly. Do not pay any attention to the time limit. When you are in a position to meditate most intensely and soulfully for five minutes that is the best length of time for you. If you try to meditate intensely for half an hour, that is beyond your capacity. At that time if you continue to pull light from above, there will be a struggle between your heart and your mind. The mind is pulling and pulling, but the heart knows its capacity. The mind is putting the heart into difficulties. It is like the husband who brings all his friends home unexpectedly and asks his wife to give them a meal, although she is not at all prepared. In this way the mind pulls light, although the mind knows perfectly well that the heart-vessel will not be able to hold all this light or retain it. But the mind is a greedy fellow, so it just grabs as much as it can and brings it into the heart although it is beyond the capacity of your inner vessel. So when you meditate, meditate for a short time at first and see the heart's capacity for receptivity. Then do not allow the mind to try to pull down anything by force.

The heart of light

God gave me the heart of light
To live,
To cry
And succeed.

God gave me the light of heart
To be,
To smile
And proceed.

Part II: Patience and will-power

Sincerity speaks

Lethargy's sincerity speaks:
My body has supreme patience.

Aggression's sincerity speaks:
My vital has supreme patience.

Suspicion's sincerity speaks:
My mind has supreme patience.

Timidity's sincerity speaks:
My heart has supreme patience.

Uncertainty's sincerity speaks:
My soul has supreme patience.

Failure's sincerity speaks:
My life has supreme patience.

Question: Although we get along well, at times my husband's lack of aspiration is sheer torture to me, and I feel that if I want to make inner progress perhaps I should leave him.

Sri Chinmoy: When it is a matter of spiritual principles you and your husband should feel as one. When you don't feel oneness, if your husband's lack of aspiration tortures you, immediately feel that your dearest is God. In that way you are safe. This is only a temporary cure but you have to have patience. If the Supreme wants you and your husband to stay together, when suffering comes, when anger comes, when frustration comes, at that time be clever; have patience. Without patience we can't accomplish anything.

Patience is a river waiting for the time when aspiration will dawn. Whether the time will come tomorrow or two years from now, we don't know. Aspiration is bound to dawn eventually because it is something divine and necessary for the transformation of your husband's nature. The Supreme is bound to give it to him but at His choice Hour. Your time is this moment, but his time may be later. In the spiritual life you should meditate, but you should not expect anything. You should have patience. If you have patience, you will be able to deal with any situation as long as God wants you to.

Question: Sometimes when I am meditating I feel that my vital being tries to create a noise in my mind and fill my head with darkness.

Sri Chinmoy: Undoubtedly you will overcome this problem, but what you need is patience. You have just plunged into the spiritual life. When you start studying in kindergarten, you have to realise that it will take you sixteen, eighteen or twenty years to get your Master's degree. If you want your Master's degree right now, how can the teacher give it to you? Right now you have barely started your spiritual journey. You cannot expect to get everything you want from God immediately. God is not indifferent; He simply has His own divine Hour. If you get whatever you want without waiting for the proper hour, without developing your aspiration, you will not value it. If a father gives thousands of dollars to a young child, the child will not use it properly; he will just squander it. In your case also, you are still a beginner, a very young spiritual child. It is the father's concern to do the right thing for the child at the right time. So the Supreme is bound to give you whatever you need at His choice Hour. It may take a few months, it may take a few years, but when the Hour strikes you will get everything from God.

If you do not get the things that you want right now, do not lose heart, do not be disappointed and disheartened. Sometimes you become aggressive in your prayer and you try to pull and push. In the spiritual life it is very bad to pull or push beyond your capacity. You just have to do your part in the best way you can and let God do His part in His own Way. Your part is your daily meditation. God's part is to fulfil you, but at His choice Hour. You are doing the right thing by accepting the spiritual life, but you need to develop patience, which is God's Light operating in you. God is only waiting for the right moment in our inner development to shower His infinite Blessings on us. We need patience because we want to get everything done in the twinkling of an eye. But God will only give us what we want when the right moment arrives.

Question: Do we need to use our will in our spiritual journey?

Sri Chinmoy: It all depends. If we use the will of our mind, it will not be very effective. It will not last. There is also the will of the heart, and of the vital. There may even be a physical will which comes from the subtle body. If we use the will of the vital, it may be aggressive rather than dynamic, and it may actually interfere with our progress. Even the heart's will may not be lastingly effective. Only the soul's will can inspire our aspiration with a burning flame. If we use the soul's will, then nothing can stand in our way.

Question: Can self-effort ever be detrimental to our meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Self-effort is not detrimental. You must not make friends with inertia. You have to put forth some effort in order to go deep within. Otherwise you will just relax and take a nap and then you will say that God has meditated for you. While you are praying and meditating sincerely and soulfully, then only can the Supreme act in and through you. You have to co-operate.

Sooner or later you will get intuition. In the meantime God has given you intelligence. If you get up early in the morning, then you will be inspired to meditate; if you get up at eleven o'clock your inspiration will be gone. We have to use our common sense. We have to make the effort to get up early in the morning if we want to have a good meditation, and we have to meditate during the day or in the evening as well if we want to make considerable progress.

But you should also feel that if you are determined to do something, actually there is somebody else within you who will do it. You are not the doer; you are the instrument. Somebody else is acting in and through you, and that Somebody is the Supreme.

The Supreme will do everything for you, true, but you have to prepare yourself for Him. You have to prepare the field within you; then only will the farmer come and plough. If you do not make yourself into a field, then the farmer will not be able to cultivate, and you will never reap the bumper crop of divinity.

Part III: Sleep-world

His mistakes

He sleeps too much;
He desires.

He thinks too much;
He cries.

He fears;
He fails so soon.

He doubts;
He dies so soon.

Question: When I am meditating in the morning and feel sleepy, it is a real struggle to concentrate. But if I don't struggle, then there is complacency. How can I prevent this feeling of struggling with sleep?

Sri Chinmoy: You must choose between the life of struggle and the life of sincere aspiration. On one side is aspiration and on the other side is this feeling of struggling. Try to feel on the strength of your heart's sincerity that aspiration is your only choice. The moment you take the side of aspiration, I tell you, it is bound to be stronger and it will win the battle. Right now neither side is the permanent winner, but if you can make aspiration the permanent winner, then struggle will totally leave you.

Early in the morning when you are meditating, please feel that your Master is there. This is not false imagination. You must keep his living presence inside you. If you have that kind of feeling, that he is physically present, then you will not sleep during meditation. If you feel that you can only meditate when your Master is actually in front of you, then I tell you it will be impossible for you to meditate. If you need his physical presence to give you a good meditation, that is a terrible insult to your soul and to your Master's soul. Your soul will feel that you are useless and your Master's soul will feel that you are more helpless than an infant. Even a child feels his mother's presence protecting him when she is not in sight.

Please feel that physical presence is not needed at all; only spiritual presence is necessary. If you can meditate well at home then you will always be able to meditate well. Otherwise your meditation or will always be uncertain.

Question: Sometimes when I wake up at night and I am lying awake in bed, I feel as if I am meditating; I feel very blissful. But if I sit up it all goes away.

Sri Chinmoy: Forgive me, but you have not yet developed the capacity to meditate lying down. None of my disciples has come to that stage yet. There is still too much inertia in you. My meditation can be as powerful when I am lying down as when I am sitting in front of you. But only when you are realised or on the verge of realisation can you meditate while lying in bed. The tricky mind makes you feel that you are meditating but it is not actual meditation. It is just a feeling of peace or quietude, but not actually meditation.

Your age-long hunger

Lord, today You are
My most distinguished guest.
Alas, how can I offer You my food,
My ignorance-night?
"Son, I am terribly hungry;
Just give Me what you have.
My cosmic hunger cares not for taste;
It cares only for food.
Soon I shall invite you to be My guest.
I shall give you My food, Nectar-flood.
Like Me, you too must not care for taste,
But for the satisfaction
Of your age-long hunger."

Part IV: Self-discipline and loving obedience

Your obedience

You fool,
Your obedience does not
Humiliate you.
Your obedience illumines you,
Your obedience takes you
To your own long-forgotten heights.
Your obedience
Is your earth-life's
Friend unparalleled.

Question: Would you please say something about self-discipline?

Sri Chinmoy: Self-discipline is a most important thing in our spiritual life. Even in the ordinary life it is necessary. If a student is not disciplined, then he will not do well in school. And in the spiritual life, if one is not self-disciplined, then God-realisation will remain a far cry.

How can you discipline yourself? Through concentration on the things you want most in life. There are very few things on earth we should feel we really need, but unfortunately we are cherishing everything and everyone around us. What we must cherish is truth, light, peace and bliss. If you concentrate on truth, inner truth, then it is truth that will come to the fore in you. Truth can come to you in the form of divine peace or divine light or divine power, but if you really concentrate on the inner truth, automatically and spontaneously truth will come to you.

If you feel the necessity right now of having thousands and millions of things from life, try to minimise your needs. You will see that, while you are in the process of minimising your needs, your life will automatically become disciplined. When you don't give countless outer things your attention, you will see that truth is looking right at you and giving you the strength to discipline your life. The best way to discipline oneself is to pay attention only to the things that are of real need, that are of importance in the inner life. In the outer life we cry for name, fame and many things. Then immediately we are besieged by worries, anxieties and fears. But in the inner life we cry only for God's Concern and God's Compassion. If we will try to feel God's Concern and God's Compassion, then we will see that our life is becoming disciplined.

Right now we do not feel God's Concern for us. We feel that God is in Heaven or somewhere else. But we should feel that God's abode is inside us. The presence of ego is the absence of God; the absence of ego is the presence of God. The sooner we give up ego, the sooner we can feel the presence of God. If we feel God in our day-to-day existence, if we think of God constantly, if we give God utmost importance in our life, then our life is bound to be disciplined.

Question: How can I develop self-control in my life when everyone makes fun of my efforts?

Sri Chinmoy: Self-control requires simplicity, sincerity and humility. We can say that the breakfast of self-control is simplicity, the lunch of self-control is sincerity and the dinner of self-control is humility.

Unfortunately, we are living in an age when self-control is not appreciated; it has become an object of ridicule. A man will be trying hard for self-mastery while his friends, neighbours, relatives, acquaintances and the rest of the world mock at him. They find no reason for his sincere attempt to master his life. They think the uncontrolled way they are living this life is far more worthwhile, and that the man who is trying to control his life is a fool, wasting his time and giving up all his joy.

Who is the fool: he who wants to have control of his life or he who wants to remain a constant victim to fear, doubt and anxieties? Needless to say, he who wants to conquer himself is not only the wisest man, but the greatest divine hero, the divine warrior. He fights against ignorance in the battlefield of life to establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

It is true that people mock the sincerity of a man who is trying to control himself. At times we see that even the spiritual Masters are ridiculed and mercilessly condemned by society. Even the Master or the great aspirant whose snow-white heart is purity itself, whose life, whose very breath is the flower of purity, falls victim to the criticism of the ignorant world. This reminds me of a Zen story. Perhaps most of you know it. There was a Zen Master who was very pure, very illumined. It happened that near the place where he was living there was a food store, and the owner of the store had a beautiful daughter. As ill-luck would have it, one day she was found with child. Her parents flew into a rage. They wanted to know the name of the father, but the girl would not name the man. After repeated scolding and merciless harassment, she gave up and named this Zen Master as the father of her child. The parents believed her and they went to the Zen Master, scolded him most vehemently and left the child with him. The Zen Master accepted the child and took care of it. All his good reputation came to an end and he became an object of ridicule. In this way days passed into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. But there is something called conscience in our human life. The young girl was tortured by her conscience and finally, one day, she disclosed the name of the real father of her child to her parents. The man who operated the fish market happened to be the father of the child. The parents again flew into a rage.

In your spiritual life all of you are trying to conquer your lower vital. Either today or tomorrow, in the near future or in the most distant future, you are bound to conquer the lower vital. But in the process of your self-transformation, if people do not understand you and do not care for your pure life, please do not pay any attention to their criticism or mockery. If they do not appreciate your sincerity, your attempt and your success in controlling your life, no harm. If you want them to appreciate you and admire your efforts, then you will unnecessarily bring into your life their criticism, their mockery, their doubts and their temptations.

Question: It seems to me that self-control can be carried too far. I don't see any necessity for things like flagellation and semi-starvation and things like that.

Sri Chinmoy: Self-control does not mean self-torture; it does not mean austerity. Unfortunately, in the West self-control has been misunderstood. Westerners think that the austere, arduous life that the Indian saints of the past led is the ideal of self-control. But it is not. Torturing the body, punishing the body, is not self-control, but self-mortification. If somebody fasts for days and weeks together, then he will be embraced by death, not by God. God wants from us a normal, natural life. Buddha taught us to follow the middle path, not to go to extremes. Self-torture is not a sign of self-control. The material foundation has to be very strong and sound; otherwise, the building will collapse.

Self-control means self-transcendence. Self-torture, self-mortification, lead us to abysmal self-destruction in the heart of ignorance. For self-mastery, self-control is of paramount importance. Self-control leads us to self-illumination. But this takes time; it cannot be achieved overnight.

Through self-examination one can achieve self-control. Here I wish to tell an incident that took place in the life of Socrates. Socrates, with a host of his admirers, went to see a palmist. The palmist read Socrates' hand. "What a bad person you are, full of lower vital problems and corruption of all sorts," he said. Socrates' admirers were thunderstruck and they wanted to punish the palmist for having the audacity to say such uncomplimentary things about their teacher, who was a very pious man, a real saint. Socrates immediately said, "Wait. Let us ask if he has something else to say." He said, "This man has all these undivine qualities in him, but they are all under his self-control. They are all at his command."

Self-control is the answer to your worst problems. Before one gets illumination, one may be attacked by undivine forces and may be the victim of all these forces of the lower vital. But one can easily place them at one's feet. Socrates did it, and all aspirants, who are more conscious of God-realisation than ordinary people, can also conquer the wrong forces within themselves eventually. Countless times they may be attacked by vital impulses, but each time they can manfully, boldly and courageously place their feet on the heads of the dark forces.

When the golden day of self-control dawns and the light shines in us, everything in our nature will be transformed. Emotional problems are transformed into a dynamic strength for God to use. But until then the aspirant has to fight hard.

In the outer world one can be the slave of only one master. But in the inner world one can easily be the slave of many masters, and these masters are doubt, fear, anxiety, temptation, frustration, imperfection and limitation. Self-control can only be achieved if we stop deceiving ourselves. We are apt to say that the world is deceiving us, but if we are sincere enough, if we go deep within, then we come to see, feel and realise that it is we ourselves who started this game of deception. We came from God. We could have continued the game in infinite Light and, at the end of our journey's close, returned into infinite Light. But we entered into ignorance instead; we became enamoured of ignorance. Ignorance loved us and we loved ignorance. Finally, we started eating the fruits of ignorance voraciously. The result was self-limitation and self-destruction.

It is we who opened the door of deception. Now other undivine forces have entered into the inmost recesses of our being. How can we push them out? Through aspiration, through our inner mounting flame, we can illumine the unlit forces in us and awaken the slumbering being in us to see the light within and without. Aspiration is the answer. Impurity in our heart is spiritual sickness. This sickness has only one medicine: devotion — devotion for the cause, devotion for the goal, devotion for the Inner Pilot.

Self-control also means self-giving. The more we give, the more we gain. Self-control means self-sacrifice. The more we sacrifice ourselves, the more the Supreme's infinite Power and Plenitude enter into us. Let us play our part; let us give what we have. The Supreme will play His part; He will give us what He is. What we have is a bundle of ignorance; what He is is the infinite inner Wealth.

The world-atmosphere is not yet changed. But it is bound to be changed. Who will change it? We the aspirants, we the seekers of the infinite Light. God has given us this matchless, unique task to accomplish here on earth.

Question: Guru, I have a tendency to feel resentful when somebody tells me to do something, even the most unimportant thing, and even if it is you who is telling me. How can I become more obedient?

Sri Chinmoy: He who commands soulfully and he who obeys unconditionally enjoy the selfsame Bliss of the Supreme.

He who listens has the same strength as he who commands. I am your spiritual Master. I may tell you to do something and you have the power to listen to me. If you don't have the power to listen to me, then at that time you and I are not equal. If I say, "Do this," and you say, "Oh yes, I have done it," then we are one. Otherwise, if I tell you to do something and you don't do it, we will be in two different worlds. In the spiritual life obedience comes first. The Supreme has told me and I tell you, "Do this." An ordinary person might call this blind obedience because the person who is obeying is not using his brain. But I say he is using his wisdom-light. I have real Light and you are becoming one with me, so you are not so much listening to me as fulfilling the Supreme.

Try to keep your heart open; do not use the mind at all. When the mind is illumined by the heart's light, at that time you will be able to use it. Right now the mind is all confusion while the heart is all illumination. This heart will not keep the illumination only for itself. Far from it. The heart is the mother. When a real mother has something she will share it with her child. Still, the child has to be ready, or he will not appreciate it or want it or know how to utilise it. So the mother has to wait for the time when the child knows that the mango is something sweet and delicious.

Part V: How to live in two worlds

Not even once

Not even once
Did my inner life take me away
From the outer world.

My inner life is kindness incarnate.
It made me aware of the needs
Of the outer world.

My inner life taught me
What to love in God —

My inner life taught me
Whom to serve in the outer world —

Question: How can we protect ourselves from unaspiring people that we're constantly thrown in contact with and make them feel our aspiration, even though they may be almost hostile in their attitude?

Sri Chinmoy: When we are truly sincere we come to realise at one point that we have an inner urge to help people, or to let others see that we have discovered something divine. First we want to show the world that we have aspiration, tremendous aspiration. Then we feel that they should have it too. We have changed our lives. They should also change their lives. It is for their good that we are mixing with them.

If we sincerely do not want to be affected by our unaspiring neighbours, then our own aspiration will protect us. But we have to have a constant and humble desire to inspire them or to influence them divinely. We must not feel that we are so divine because we are praying and meditating and they are undivine because they are still sleeping. If we feel that others are full of undivine forces, evil forces, what is the next step? We will begin to show off. We will try to make them notice that we are doing something magnificent, something superior.

We have to live with ordinary people as well as with those who are aspiring. The world is very vast. We have to move around: we have to mix with others. We should mix with the spiritual world as much as possible in order to gain inner strength and to share our inspiration and at the same time to be inspired. But when we mix with the ordinary world we must also be ready not only to offer but also to receive inspiration.

You may ask how we can be inspired by someone who is inferior to us in the field of spirituality. We can. When I was a runner, I happened to be the best runner in the community where I lived. But I used to get inspiration during the time of practice from runners who were far inferior to me. Just because they were running with me, I used to get inspiration. They were also, according to their standard, trying their best to improve their capacity. In the spiritual life also, we are running towards our goal and those who are behind us are running towards their goal. The goal is the same. The very fact that they are running can inspire us to some extent. In the spiritual life, you should mix with sincere people. If they don't become disciples of your Master, you are still bound to get inspiration and aspiration from their own effort to reach the goal in their own way. But if someone is really undivine, even hostile, then we should not try to mix with him or influence him. His undivine forces will try to devour our divine forces. When we are forced to mix with people like this, in rare cases when there is some real necessity for it, then we should just bring our own inner purity and divinity to the fore as much as possible. Our own divine consciousness will be our best protection at that time.

Question: I feel aggressive and destructive vibrations in the atmosphere all around me. How can I cope with this?

Sri Chinmoy: Do you want to know how to cope with it or how to conquer it? In the outer world, the world of desire, we have made friends with temptation. Temptation is followed by frustration, and frustration is followed by destruction. But in the inner world, aspiration, divinity and immortality go together. If we want to be strong in the outer world, we should not allow the destructive forces to enter us. One has to be inwardly strong. It is inner strength that can conquer the undivine forces. To develop and cultivate this inner strength, one has to meditate daily without fail, early in the morning and if possible in the evening. Meditation means peace and peace is a solid wall within us, protecting us constantly from the turbulent and destructive atmosphere of the outer world.

Within us, we can build a fort, or let us call it an adamantine wall. We create it through our inmost aspiration. The higher the flame of our aspiration climbs, the stronger our inner wall becomes. The destructive forces from outside cannot pass through this adamantine wall.

Question: Isn't it easier for people who have very little money, as is true in many Eastern countries, to be detached from worldly things and make faster spiritual progress than we in the West?

Sri Chinmoy: If that were so, then the poorest people would all be inclined to follow the spiritual life, but it is not like that. There are millions of beggars in India, and in the West also, who do not care for the spiritual life at all. Poverty does not mean that we are one inch closer to God. It is our mistake to think so. What we own is not responsible for what he does; it is the possessor who is responsible. Some of you may have heard the name of the Indian King Janaka. In spite of having a vast kingdom, he devoted his whole life to God and God-realisation. Similarly, the material prosperity of the West need not be an obstacle to God-realisation. We must feel that we are the possessor, and that we will not be possessed by what we have. Those who do not have, will always harbour the feeling that they are poor and would like to have more things. For them, also, the same difficulties of desire and attachment will arise.

Question: Why is there so much selfishness in the world right now?

Sri Chinmoy: The origin of selfishness is the limited consciousness of “I” and “mine”. There is a difference between “I” and “mine”. “I” is the individual consciousness of this body, but anything beyond the body becomes “mine”. This is how we limit ourselves.

Selfishness comes into our lives only when we want to see the man-made truth and not the God-made Truth. There is a great difference between man-made truth and God-made Truth. God-made Truth means infinite, boundless Consciousness and Light. Man-made truth is the immediate satisfaction of desire. This is the truth that man sees. This is the truth that we, as ordinary human beings, understand.

God-made Truth is infinite Bliss, infinite Consciousness. But we do not care to have this infinite Bliss at our disposal. We want only immediate pleasure, immediate satisfaction; we want everything instantly. Even when we try to achieve something inwardly, we feel that it must be either now or never. When we don't get what we want immediately from our outer life, we revolt against our inner life, and at that moment we invite selfishness into our life.

The inner life is always in touch with the highest Truth, Light and Bliss. But we consciously cherish the outer life with all its ignorance, darkness and imperfection. We are totally afraid of the wealth of Truth and Light in the inner life. We feel that inside us there are very powerful, dynamic forces that will destroy us the moment we meditate for a minute. We feel that inside us there is a volcano that will destroy us. At the same time that we are trying to possess the world, we are afraid of our own inner possessions.

Selfishness comes when we refuse to be satisfied with what we already have, when by hook or by crook we want to obtain something which does not belong to us. And when we don't get these possessions we feel miserable. But we will never get everything we hope for in the outer life. Even if we do get it, there will be no satisfaction for us. If we get thousands of dollars today, tomorrow we will say, "I need millions of dollars." But if we enter into our inner life instead, there we will get infinite Peace, infinite Light, infinite divine Wealth.

When we are dealing with Infinity, how can selfishness exist? "From Infinity, when Infinity is taken away, Infinity remains." So say our Upanishads. When everything is boundless inside us, why should selfishness exist? It is only because we are limited that we want to compete with others and have more than they have. We don't want to bring to the fore what we already have inside — Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. Because we live in the superficial outer world we want to possess and be possessed. We feel that we will be satisfied only with the wealth and achievements of the outer world, and not with those of the inner world.

But this selfishness can be uprooted. There can be no selfishness if we feel that the inner life is the real life. From the inner life if we enter into the outer life, then the outer life will have meaning. If we don't do this, then selfishness is bound to remain.

In the aspiring heart, the inner heart, there is no selfishness. It is in the physical consciousness, in the vital and in the mind that selfishness exists. If we bring forward the light of the soul into the heart, and from the heart into the mind, from the mind into the vital, and from the vital into the physical, once we have illumined all the parts of our being, then there can be no selfishness in our lives.

Question: Who is responsible for the ugliness in this world?

Sri Chinmoy: Human beings who cherish darkness are responsible. Very often we cherish darkness. Someone tells us, "That movie is very bad." Then the next day we go and see it. We claim that we want to improve the world, yet we contribute to its undivine qualities.

Until perfect Perfection dawns on earth, God's Vision will not be completely manifested. God's Vision can be transformed into His Reality only when the earth-consciousness is totally transformed. In order to transform the earth-consciousness, man has to aspire physically, vitally, mentally, psychically and spiritually.

Question: I want to realise God, but I also feel there are many world problems I should help solve. How do I reconcile the two aims?

Sri Chinmoy: If you really want to realise God; if you feel the burning cry inside you that you need God, then you should realise God first, and then try to solve the world's problems, You have a wonderful heart, a magnanimous heart, but without accepting the spiritual life you cannot know how God wishes you to help the world. I am not saying that all political leaders must realise God before they start their political lives, far from it. But if one has aspiration for God-realisation, then that should come first.

You are having inner experiences, so in your case God-realisation should be given the utmost importance. Politics is also God's creation, science is also God's creation, everything is God's creation. But if we realise the Creator first, then it becomes easier to deal with the creation.

If we try to create perfection in the outer world and in our own inner world at the same time, then at every moment we shall expect or demand something from God. We will say, "Why is God not interfering in this particular problem? This family is suffering, that country is starving and there are all sorts of similar problems." Demanding thoughts will enter into us and we will become God's judge. We will say, "God is indifferent. That is why He is not doing anything." But if we approach God with aspiration, love, devotion and surrender, we will feel, "Let me realise the highest and deepest in me, let me realise myself first. Until I know who I am and who others are, how can I dare to judge the world on the strength of my limited knowledge?" We may have more knowledge than a particular person, but at the same time there are others who have far more knowledge and wisdom than we have. But who has the infinite Knowledge, the infinite Wisdom? Only God. If we can enter into God's Consciousness for God's Light, Truth and Bliss here on earth.

Spirituality is one thing, but when we say “God-realisation”, it is something most important. We may say, "I am spiritual," because we are repeating the name of God a hundred times daily or because we always tell the truth and try to do the right thing. The word “spirituality” covers so many things. But the end of spirituality is God-realisation. If we are actually thinking of God-realisation, then our aspiration for God-realisation should be the first and foremost thing in our life.

Question: I am new to the spiritual life, and feel an uncontrollable urge to share my experiences with everyone I meet. Is it true that this is not desirable?

Sri Chinmoy: If you are inspired from within to share your experiences with a certain person, that is wonderful. If your Inner Pilot says, "Do it!" then do it, even if the whole world rejects your truth. But if God does not inspire you, if the Inner Pilot does not sanction it, then what will happen? You will just boast of the experiences you have had to anyone and everyone. Then some will mock you and ruin all your joy and inspiration, some will doubt you and make you doubt yourself, and some will be jealous of you and just stab you inwardly with all their undivine thought-power. Then your experiences will disappear, your aspiration will descend, and you will lose all your joy and all your inspiration.

When you get inspiration to help or inspire people in any way, you have to know whether the message that you want to offer to the world has been approved by God or has been commanded by God. If you feel that God has asked you to share your experiences with some particular person, then do it. Whether he accepts it or not is unimportant.

Even if your experience is absolutely real there is something called time, which is a great factor. If what you want to offer is untimely, you will create more disharmony than harmony in the world. If you give a child a university lesson while he is in kindergarten you will only confuse him and overwhelm him. Similarly if you offer your inner realisation to someone who is not ready, you may destroy the little possibility that he has. And if you yourself are not strong spiritually, the other person may also destroy the little capacity that you have. But if God asks you to help others, that means He has already given you the capacity and He has given others the proper receptivity.

Question: How can I best please the Supreme in my inner and outer life? I would like to go back to college and get a higher degree, but I don't know if I should.

Sri Chinmoy: Now that you have launched into the path of spirituality, first you have to know what you want and what the Supreme wants from your life. After entering into the spiritual life, if you want to have success in your own way, then there will always be a conflict between the divine Will and your human will. Before entering the spiritual life, if one wants to have success, say, in getting a degree or a diploma, one can easily be successful according to one's human capacity. But if one offers oneself to the spiritual life and then tries to think of earthly success, there will be confusion in his inner life. If you enter into deeper realms, from there you will learn what God's Will is for your inner and outer life.

If you see that the Supreme wants you to have success in the ordinary, human life, then you will meditate and at the same time you will have to enter into the world of outer achievement. You will have to take your outer activities as an expression of your inner capacity. But if the Supreme says, "First things first. You have to realise Me first," then your inner life is your only duty and in fulfilling that duty you are fulfilling the Supreme in every way. If the Supreme wants you to meditate for your own realisation and at the same time help those who are sincerely in need of your help, you have to embrace the spiritual life for yourself and also help others who feel that you have the capacity to help them. But, if you want to help the world with your capacity, you have to be very careful to know whether it is the Will of the Supreme or not. Here ego may come in.

If you want the material life and the spiritual life to be combined, then the material life should be a spontaneous expression of your spiritual life. If you feel that in the material world, in the intellectual world, you need something more solid than what you have right now so that ordinary people will have more respect for your wisdom in accepting the spiritual life, then at that time you can get a university degree or take a very active role in society. In your case, it will not be a hindrance to your spiritual life if you get the degree and diploma which are required in this world in order to convince the human mind. But as far as your inner wisdom, inner knowledge is concerned, you already have enough to help and teach, to inspire you and to cure those who are coming to you. But the practical human mind only gets joy when there is a degree behind you. So if it is desirable for your work and you are sure that you will not have to neglect your spiritual life when you enter into the university, then this material accomplishment to further your career will not be a hindrance to your spiritual life.

Editor's introduction to the first edition

The opposing forces of darkness and light are locked in a fierce battle for world-domination. In spite of the innumerable millions of earth’s inhabitants who take the side of darkness consciously or unconsciously, and in spite of the relative few who fight in the army of light, the earth has not yet succumbed to the hostile forces. Yet for the countless soldiers in the army of night, life is a sad affair. Placing their hopes in the fulfilment of desires, they are disappointed in their expectations again and again.

Most of earth’s millions travel the road of frustration from birth to death without ever considering embarking upon a more fulfilling journey. But a few do stop and try another route. Their road is more difficult, but also more beautiful. Their road is harder to follow but also more fulfilling. On their road they are often attacked by the hunger of darkness. But at the end of their journey they sit down with God to the Feast of Light.

Translations of this page: Russian
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