Meditation: God's Duty and man's beauty

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Part I — What is meditation?

What is meditation?

What is meditation? Meditation is man's self-awakening and God's Self-offering. When man's self-awakening and God's Self-offering meet together, man becomes immortal in his inner consciousness and God becomes fulfilled in the world of manifestation. 'Meditation' is a most complicated and most fulfilling word. When we meditate without knowing how to meditate, when we meditate with our mind, it is most complicated. But when we meditate with our inner conviction, with the feeling of divinity within us, it becomes most fulfilling.

Meditation means conscious self-expansion. Meditation means one's conscious awareness of the transcendental Reality. Meditation means the recognition or the discovery of one's own true self. It is through meditation that we transcend limitation, bondage and imperfection. First we face limitations, imperfections and bondage, then we transform them, and afterwards we transcend them.

Meditation is the language of God. Now I am speaking English and you are able to understand me. If we want to communicate with God, then meditation is the language. It is the common language of man and God. God uses it and we use it. When we go deep within, into the deepest recesses of our hearts, we commune with God through meditation. It is through meditation that we can know that God is both with form and without form, with attributes and without attributes.

Meditation is dynamism on the inner planes of consciousness. If we want to achieve anything, either in our inner life or our outer life, then the help of meditation is of paramount importance. When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into the deeper part of our being. At that time, we are able to bring to the fore the wealth that we have deep within us. Meditation shows us how we can aspire for something and, at the same time, how we can achieve it. It is through meditation that we can enter into an object, a subject, a person, or into Infinity and Eternity. If we practice meditation daily, then we can rest assured that the problems of our life, inner and outer, are solved.

Why do we meditate? We meditate precisely because this world of ours has disappointed us and because failure looms large in our day-to-day life. We want fulfilment. We want joy, peace, bliss and perfection within and without. Meditation is the answer, the only answer.

True meditation can never be done with the mind. Very often we make a mistake when we say that we are meditating in the mind and utilising the mind. Real meditation is done in the psychic being and in the soul. It goes hand in hand with flaming aspiration, the burning flame that wants to climb up to the Highest.

Each soul is running consciously or unconsciously toward the Goal, but those who are running consciously will reach the Goal sooner than those who are still asleep. All human beings without exception will reach God, but through meditation we reach our Goal sooner. We have to know how fast we want to reach our goal. If I want to come to Puerto Rico from New York, I can come by boat, I can take a direct flight, or I can take a plane that stops at various places on the way. It is entirely up to me whether I take a direct route or an indirect route. There are many roads that lead to the Goal, but one road is sure to be shorter than the others. In the spiritual life, it is when we meditate on the heart that we make the fastest progress. Naturally, if we are wise we will take the shortest route. Each second counts.

Real meditation we get from within or from a spiritual Master. We can never get it from books. From books we can get inspiration or an inner approach to the fulfilment of our outer life. But in order to have true meditation we have to go deep within or follow the guidance of a spiritual Master. Each individual must have a meditation of his own. Each one has to follow a particular path. There is collective meditation and, at the same time, there is a specific meditation for each individual. If you are sitting in a group meditating collectively, that is wonderful, but if you want to realise God, then you have to have your own specific method. This specific way of meditating either your soul will tell you or you will get it from someone who can enter into your soul and see its possibilities, someone who can see how your particular soul wants to manifest the divine Truth here on earth. Some souls want to manifest the Divine on earth through Beauty, while other souls want to manifest the Divine through Power, Light or Bliss. You have to know what your soul wants and how your soul wants to take part in the cosmic Play. Only then will your meditation fulfil the Divine within you and the Divine in the rest of humanity.

There are many seekers whose meditation is not fruitful because they are not doing the meditation that is necessary for them. They are not meditating in the right way. When we meditate properly and soulfully, we can eventually expect a bumper crop of realisation. But if we are constantly knocking at the wrong door and meditating in a wrong way, then we are wasting our time.

Again, I wish to say that in the process of evolution no human being will remain unrealised. It may take millennia, but each individual soul will realise God. Meditation tells us that yesterday's message is to be rejected, today's message is to be accepted and tomorrow's message is to be embraced. What is yesterday's message? Yesterday's message is frustration, imperfection and limitation. If we look backward we can immediately feel and realise that we were unfulfilled, we were imperfect, we were swimming in the sea of bondage. Today's message tells us to go deep within and see the face of reality. It makes us feel that the outer life can easily be transcended and that we can see God face to face. And tomorrow's message is that we can easily claim Divinity as our very own on the strength of our soulful aspiration and meditation.

Part II — Question and answers

Question: What is the aim of meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: The ultimate aim of meditation is to establish our conscious union with God. We are all God's children, but right now we do not have conscious oneness with God. Even an atheist, who denies the existence of God, can use the word 'God'. His mouth can pronounce it, but he is not going to feel God's qualities. He is not going to feel anything for God. Again, someone may believe in God, but his belief is not a reality in his life. He just believes God exists because a saint or a Yogi or a spiritual Master has said that there is a God. But if we practise meditation, a day comes when we have established our conscious oneness with God. At that time, God gives us His infinite Peace, infinite Light and infinite Bliss, and we grow into this infinite Peace, Light and Bliss.

In the Upanishads it says that when someone is consciously one with God, he sees that from Delight he came into existence, in Delight he is growing, and at the end of his journey he will enter into Delight again:

Anandadd hy eva khalv
Imani bhutani jayante
Anandena jatani jivanti
Anandam prayantyabhisam visanti

Ananda means Delight. God is Delight. When an aspirant realises God, he realises Delight and drinks Delight. When he becomes perfect in his meditation, or when he is on the verge of liberation, he sees that the ultimate aim of meditation is to achieve Light and Delight within himself in infinite measure.

Question: What do we learn from meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: The first thing that we learn from meditation is vastness. Meditation is the only way to expand our outer existence, our limited being. Without meditation, we would never expand ourselves; but if we meditate even for one minute, we have expansion.

What does expansion mean? In our expansion, we cross beyond the finite, and the finite enters into the infinite. We have come from the infinite, but we are playing the game of the finite. Instead, we should play the game of the infinite in the finite body. God is deep inside us. He wants to manifest Himself and we want to be His conscious instruments. The sense of being a conscious instrument we get only in our meditation. Otherwise, we feel, "I am the doer." When the ego comes forward, we immediately feel "I can say this, I can do this; I, I, I," whereas in meditation, when we go deep within, we feel that we have become just an instrument, a channel. If a divine thought comes, we immediately express it in a divine way and become more divine. But we can only become channels when the mind is calm and quiet.

In our meditation, we always have to know what we are aspiring after. Some people, in the name of meditation, permit all the worst kinds of thoughts and desires to enter them. When distracting thoughts enter into our mind during meditation, we have to ask ourselves what we are going to gain. Nothing, nothing! The best thing in meditation is to have no thoughts, emotions or ideas. No thought, not an iota of thought, should penetrate our mind. The mind is fertile soil. Only the divine seed should grow there, and not any outer, human thought or idea. Then, if we start meditating, and the mind is calm and quiet, say for five minutes, we will see or feel our inner being or psychic being. This being starts speaking in a different language, and through meditation we will be able to learn its language and be able to hear its message. At that time, the psychic being can mould our outer life.

This opportunity is given to everyone, but unfortunately, most of us do not try to meditate. God is inside us, but we have compelled Him to keep His eyes closed. Like a child playing, He is just trying to open His eyes, but we say, "No, no You must not open your eyes." But a day comes when we will, with our meditation and aspiration, bring the divine Child who is within us to the fore and look at Him. And we will see that the divine Child is no one other than ourselves. With our meditation, we consciously are trying to bring forward that Self of ours. Only meditation can accomplish this, nothing else.

Question: What benefit can we get from meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Everybody has to fulfil himself either today or tomorrow. Why? If we are not fulfilled, we are not satisfied. Everybody wants to be fulfilled, everybody wants happiness. Without happiness we cannot stay on earth. In spite of being a multimillionaire, a rich man is unhappy because his money is not giving him satisfaction or happiness. Without happiness he remains miserable. Why do we want to be happy? Because we want fulfilment.

How can one be eternally happy? By making thousands of dollars a person may become happy for five minutes or for a day or for a few months. Then he becomes an ordinary beggar because his inner life is a barren desert. Eternal happiness is what he wants and needs. This eternal happiness he can get only from meditation. Meditation is the real soul of God and, at the same time, the real heart of man. The heart here is not the physical organ. It is that part of us which identifies itself with others. The heart means identification, identification with Truth and Light. During meditation, an aspiring heart can identify itself with Truth, Light and Beauty, with Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. But this identification is not complete; our inseparable oneness with Divinity is not complete. Identification is one thing and fulfilment is something else. This identification has to be manifested here on earth and that is the purpose of the soul. Meditation is the soul of God, meditation is the heart of man. Aspiring man becomes the heart; realised man is the soul.

When we meditate, what do we actually do? First we enter into our highest Self. Then the highest Self meets the lowest self for transformation. The highest Self has to be realised; the lowest self has to be transformed. When we meditate we enter into the Highest for the realisation of the Brahman. We then enter into the lowest for the transformation of our nature.

Meditation has two things to offer us: self-mastery and self-transformation. These two go together. When we meditate, immediately we have the beginnings of self-mastery, and when we have self-mastery, we see that we cannot cherish ugly or undivine thoughts; we cannot remain inside ignorance anymore. At that time we see that our transformation is taking place. Meditation is constantly giving us the message of self-transformation. Many years ago we were in plant life, then we were in animal life. Now we are in human life and we are bound to be in divine life. This self-transformation has to be done through inner meditation. When we meditate unconsciously, it takes a long, long time to reach the Goal. Only when we are at the human stage do we begin meditating consciously. When we meditate consciously, we make the fastest progress.

Without meditation no human being can have inseparable oneness with God. If we want any real peace, real joy, real love, then we have to meditate. The so-called peace we feel in our day-to-day lives is five minutes of peace after ten hours of anxiety, worry and frustration. But that is no peace at all. We are at the mercy of the monkeys around us — jealousy, fear, doubt, worries, anxiety and despair. The monkeys take rest for a few minutes, and then we say that we are enjoying peace. But no, it is only that monkeys are tired of biting us. The next moment all the negative monkey-forces will attack us again.

We get divine peace through meditation. Even if we meditate for fifteen minutes and get peace for only one minute, that one minute of peace, if it is solid peace, will be able to permeate our whole day. If in the morning we have meditated at six o'clock, in the evening we will still feel inner peace, inner joy, inner light. It is all solid power from our meditation that we are getting, and these things last for some time. When we have a meditation of the highest order, then we get really abiding peace, light and delight. We need meditation because we want to grow in light and we want to fulfil ourselves in light and through light. If this is our choice, if this is our aspiration, if this is our thirst, then meditation is the only way.

Question: Can you go to the spiritual world through meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, one can enter the spiritual world through constant meditation. It is inevitable. In fact, that is the very reason why we aspire. We aspire only to enter into the spiritual world, the inner world. You have already entered it thousands of times with your aspiration and meditation. But right now you do not have the capacity to distinguish the inner world from the outer world.

In the physical world, one person is on the animal level, another is on the human level and a third is on the divine level. In the spiritual world also there are grades; there is a ladder of consciousness. When you enter into the spiritual world with your sincere aspiration, a day will dawn when you will be able to recognise these planes of consciousness. There are seven higher worlds and seven lower worlds. When you are about to have your Self-realisation, or when your psychic being comes and tells you, you will know which world you are in. You can enter into these inner worlds and recognise them on the strength of your meditation.

Question: Does spiritual awareness come only through meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: It comes either through meditation or aspiration. Also, if a great, advanced soul, a spiritual Master, wants to make you aware of the inner, spiritual life, he can do so. If a person does not aspire and meditate, but a spiritual Master wants to inspire that person because he sees that he has spiritual capacity, he can do so. If somebody is fast asleep in the spiritual world, but he has potentiality, then the Master awakens the flame of aspiration within him.

But generally it is through meditation that one can become aware of one's inner life. Prayer is very good, but it does not help as much. With your prayer, you are making contact with an object or a person; but with your meditation you are entering into the vast universe. The universe becomes yours when you enter into your deepest meditation; the whole world is at your disposal. When we know how to meditate, then the entire world becomes ours; whereas in prayer it is only me and God. Humanity as a whole is not entering into the picture.

Question: What do you mean by God-realisation?

Sri Chinmoy: God-realisation means our constant, conscious feeling of inseparable oneness with the Highest. It is not a matter of feeling or thinking; it is our actual experience. When we realise God, we discover our own reality, our own Self-form. God-realisation and Self-discovery are the same thing. In our discovery, we see all that we truly are. We see that the entire universe is of us and for us. God-realisation means that we are part and parcel of God. At the same time it makes us feel that everything that is within and without belongs to us.

When the seeker becomes one with God, God uses him to fulfil the need of humanity. On the strength of his own oneness with humanity, he brings down a most delicious meal from above, to feed its hunger. And at the same time, he carries humanity to the highest Height. A God-realised person is a messenger. He carries humanity's aspiration to the highest plane and he brings down from above God's Compassion and Blessings. This moment he represents earth-consciousness; the next moment, Heaven-consciousness. What earth-consciousness is, he will bring to Heaven; what Heaven-consciousness offers, he carries to earth.

Question: What is the highest meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: The highest meditation is when you do not have any thoughts at all. Right now when we are meditating, we are victims to many thoughts undivine thoughts, ugly thoughts, evil thoughts. At other times we do a kind of meditation where we get fairly good thoughts, divine thoughts, fulfilling thoughts and illumining thoughts. This is a higher state. But when we are in the Highest, there will be no thoughts, either good or bad. There it is only Light.

In Light, vision and reality go together. Now you are sitting there and I am standing here. You are the reality, I am the vision. I have to look at you and see that you are the reality. Then I have to enter into you in order to know that you are the reality. But when we do the highest meditation, at that time it is not like that. Reality and vision are together. Where you are, I have to be. Where I am, you have to be, because we are one. That is why we do not need thoughts or ideas in the highest meditation. Now when a thought enters into us, we give it form. Then we come to understand what is going on, or what we are talking about. But when you see the Truth, when you see that the knower and the thing that is to be known are together, then there is no thought. This is the highest type of meditation.

Question: What are the stages of meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: There are three stages: concentration, meditation and contemplation. These are like three rungs of a ladder, the ladder of aspiration.

We start with concentration. When we concentrate, we focus all our attention on a particular object and become totally one with that object. When our concentration is very deep, there can be no thought, not an iota of thought inside us or around us. We and the object of our concentration are one.

Concentration is the mind's dynamic will that operates in us for our immediate acceptance of light and rejection of darkness. It also awakens within us the planes of consciousness that are fast asleep. What concentration can do in our life of aspiration is unimaginable. It can easily separate Heaven from hell, so that we can live in the constant delight of Heaven and not in the perpetual worries, anxieties and tortures of hell while we are here on earth. If we can concentrate well, we will be able to make fast progress. If we can focus all our attention on a particular object, if we can enter into it with our mind, we will be able to discover and reveal the hidden, ultimate Truth inside it. Now we are victims to unlit, obscure, destructive and malignant thoughts, but a day will come when, on the strength of our concentration, we will feel that disturbing thoughts are afraid of us. In concentration we work for an immediate result; but meditation does not care for success in this sense. Meditation only wants to enter into the Vast and swim in the vast sea of Peace, Light and Bliss. When we meditate, we have to feel that we are entering into something vast and infinite: the vast ocean or the infinite blue sky. We are trying to plunge into something boundless and measureless. All around us is the infinite blue sky where Peace is reigning supreme. First we have to feel this, and then we have to become fully one with the Vastness itself. When we are concentrating, we can use our mental willpower to some extent. But in meditation we use our psychic willpower, the soul's willpower. In meditation we have to go far beyond the domain of the mind, because the mental faculty is very limited. When we are in our highest, deepest meditation, we have to stop the functioning of the mind.

Concentration is like an arrow that hits the target. When we concentrate, we aim at something with a dynamic attitude. But meditation is calm, divine, soulful and elevating. When we meditate, we make the mind calm, quiet and still — without thoughts. At that time, we have to be fully aware of the arrival of thoughts and allow no idle thoughts to enter into the mind. The mind is vacant and tranquil, with neither good nor bad thoughts; nothing at all. Our whole existence becomes an empty vessel. When this vessel is absolutely empty, with our whole inner being we invoke infinite Peace, Light and Bliss so it will enter into the vessel and fill it. This is meditation.

Then comes contemplation, which is the last stage before we realise God. With contemplation we enter into samadhi and the transcendental Consciousness. Contemplation is something extremely difficult for beginners in the spiritual life, but eventually the beginner becomes advanced and he, too, learns how to contemplate, for without contemplation one can never realise the Highest. In contemplation we are at once in our deepest concentration and our highest meditation. We lose our so-called outer existence, the existence that binds. At that time there is no mind; it is as though the physical mind did not exist. In contemplation we become totally one with God's universal Will, the transcendental Will, which plays the part of both the doer and the action. The doer and the action become totally one when we are in contemplation. The knower, the knowing and the known become one.

During contemplation we become merged into the inner stream; it is all one stream of consciousness. From the soles of our feet to the crown of our head, consciousness is flowing. We feel the flow of consciousness all over our body, and feel that we are nothing but the consciousness itself. We become part and parcel of the infinite Consciousness, the eternal Consciousness, the immortal Consciousness. We become totally one with Infinity, Eternity and Immortality in the highest state of contemplation.

There are two types of consciousness. One is earth-bound consciousness, the other is boundless Consciousness, infinite Consciousness. When we are limited, we become one with the earth-bound consciousness. Here we see 'me' and 'mine'. But the unlimited Consciousness that is flowing inside our being is one with Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. When we are contemplating, we feel that we are dealing with Infinity, not around us but inside us.

You may say, "My body is only five feet, eight inches tall, so how can I house Infinity inside me? How can I house Eternity and Immortality? It is all absurd." But no, you have to feel that you are not the body; you are the soul. Our Indian scriptures say that the soul has neither birth nor death, neither beginning nor end. It is something which is constantly moving — moving, flowing, manifesting the infinite Truth. In contemplation we become totally identified with our soul and go to the highest and spread our wings. From the finite we enter into the infinite; we enter into the world of Peace, Light and Bliss, where there is direct oneness with Infinity, Eternity and Immortality.

Infinity. The word will seem to come from your imagination. What is Infinity? Try to feel it is something that is going to make you free from ignorance. Now we are wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance, but Infinity is something that is freeing us from the meshes of ignorance.

Eternity. What is it? We have two lives — an ordinary human life, where we stay on earth for fifty, sixty or seventy years, and eternal Life. The eternal Life existed before our birth; it exists during this short span of our life; it passes through the dark tunnel of death. Then again it enters into its own Source. When you think of Eternity, feel that it is something which precedes everything and, at the same time, will succeed everything.

Immortality. Nothing remains permanent on earth. Today somebody is a great beauty; tomorrow her beauty pales into insignificance. Today somebody is very prominent in the world; tomorrow his prominence is forgotten. No matter how great or how sublime we are, the jaws of death devour us sooner or later. What can we do? We have to feel the Immortality of Consciousness. The finite consciousness, when it becomes one with the infinite, becomes immortal. When the finite consciousness becomes immortal, then God's divine Play can take place here on earth and God can be really fulfilled.

When you are contemplating, you will feel that you are dealing with three sublime, significant truths: Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. In contemplation your body, vital, mind and heart do not act separately. They become totally one. They are completely united and, like obedient children, they listen to the dictates of the soul. Once they listen to the soul, you become the soul itself, and this is the truest contemplation.

Question: Do we see God in contemplation?

Sri Chinmoy: Contemplation shows us God in both His personal and impersonal aspects. If we want to see the personal God, then we will see Him face to face. He will stand in front of us in a most luminous Form. If we want to see God's impersonal aspect, we will enter into the impersonal God as an infinite expanse of Peace, Light and Bliss. Again, we can know God in both aspects. Just as one may want to have milk today and tomorrow ice cream, the same person may like to see the personal God with form today, and tomorrow the formless, impersonal God.

Question: Could you please discuss how contemplation differs from meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: If you meditate on a specific divine quality, such as Light, Beauty, Peace, or Bliss in an unshaped form, or if you meditate in an abstract way on Infinity, Eternity or Immortality, then constantly you will feel an express train going forward inside you. You are meditating on Peace, Light or Bliss while the express train is constantly moving. Although your whole mind is calm, vacant and quiet, without thoughts, you will see there a movement towards your goal. Your mind is calm and quiet in the vastness of Infinity, but there is movement: a train is going endlessly toward your goal. In meditation there is a goal. You are envisioning a goal and meditation takes you there.

In contemplation it is not like that. The entire universe, the Goal, the farthest Goal, is deep inside you. When you have contemplated, your whole existence has become a perfect receptacle to hold all of Divinity deep inside you. When you are contemplating, you are holding within yourself the entire universe with all its infinite Light, Peace, Bliss and Truth. There is no thought, no form, no idea, nothing. Everything is merged in contemplation; all is one. In your highest contemplation, you are one with the Absolute. But in your highest meditation there is a dynamic movement. That movement is not aggressive; you are not beating or striking anyone, far from it. But a dynamic movement is going on in your alert consciousness. You are fully aware of what is happening in the inner world and in the outer world, and, at the same time, you are not affected. In contemplation you are also not affected, but there you and your whole existence have become part and parcel of the universe, which you are holding deep inside you. This is the main difference between contemplation and meditation.

Question: After we have finished meditating, how do we go about contemplating?

Sri Chinmoy: At this stage of your inner life, you need not do contemplation. Contemplation comes after quite a few years of spiritual practice. When one is very advanced in the spiritual life, at that time contemplation starts. Here among my disciples only very, very, very few have even a limited capacity for contemplation; otherwise, all are up to the meditation stage. Contemplation is a very high state, and even those few who have the capacity cannot contemplate at their sweet will. So please think only of meditation right now. Please don't be offended, but the time has not yet come for you. But one day, in the near or distant future, it is bound to come.

Contemplation is required before God-realisation. It cannot be ignored or avoided. But the necessity for contemplation has not yet come because your concentration and meditation are not yet perfect. When concentration is perfect and meditation is perfect, then the necessity of contemplation is imminent. Contemplation also has to be perfect. Then, after we have climbed up these three rungs on the ladder of Self-realisation, we really enter into the Highest.

Question: Could you explain the difference between meditation and thinking?

Sri Chinmoy: There is a tremendous difference. Meditation and thinking are like the North Pole and the South Pole. Of course it depends on who is meditating. My meditation will be different from yours, and yours will be different from your neighbour's. A rich man eats delicate food and a poor man eats coarse, simple food. But in either case, there is still no comparison between meditation and thinking. In meditation we try to go beyond the mind. The mind is restless and agitated. This thought, that thought, worries, plans: this is what fills the mind. The mind usually leads nowhere. Even a disciplined mind gets no truth or knowledge from itself. The mind is like a cage. But in meditation we try to get to a plane beyond the mind where Knowledge, Light, Peace and Bliss abound.

Even reflection, which is a quiet kind of introspective thinking, is far from the disciplined vastness of meditation. Only in meditation is the divine Bliss to be found. Meditation is liberation from the mind. The mind is limitation. The mind is bondage because it can never get away from the forces which make it work. The mind has its purpose, but in the spiritual life, we have to go far above the mind where there is eternal Peace, eternal Knowledge and eternal Light.

Question: What is Light?

Sri Chinmoy: Light is Delight. Again, Delight is God, God the Light. In one of our Upanishads it is said that all human beings come into the world from Delight. We grow in Delight, but we do not feel the Delight because we live on the surface of life. We live in ignorance; that is why we do not see and feel the inner Delight. We came from Delight. We grow in Delight. And at the end of our journey we enter into the effulgence of Delight, we retire into Delight.

This experience we get only when we meditate. When we meditate, we get inner peace, peace of mind. Delight is visible, palpable, tangible only when we have peace of mind. Unfortunately the modern, intellectual mind, the doubting mind, the sophisticated mind, does not care for this kind of Delight, which is nothing other than Light. The mind cries for outer information or it cries to achieve some partial truth. Again, while achieving the Truth, it negates the Truth. It doubts the Truth. The mind sees the Truth for five seconds, but just when it is about to achieve the Truth, it doubts the possibility, the reality of Truth. Then who is the loser? The Truth or the mind? Undoubtedly the mind.

If we live in the heart, then the heart gives us the message of identification. If we identify ourselves with Light, immediately we become Light. Inside the heart is the soul. So, if we can live even for a minute each day in our inner existence, then we can see Light in abundant measure. We can see it and we can feel it. When we feel this Light, we feel the possibility of growing into the effulgence of Light. The moment we see Light within us, the moment we see our inner Sun, which is infinitely brighter than the physical sun, we feel that the ignorance-night of millennia is gone. So let us try to go deep within and enter into the inner Sun, the cosmic Sun, that we all have. There we shall see that this Light, the infinite Light, is waiting for us and crying for us. It only needs our conscious acceptance and cooperation.

Question: Our path is the path of love, devotion, and surrender. Can there be oneness with each of these qualities, or does real oneness come only in surrender?

Sri Chinmoy: It is like this. Stand in front of a tree, preferably at night, and look at the tree's foliage, its leaves and branches. Try gradually to feel that you are the tree — you are the branches, you are the leaves and you are the roots. Each portion of this real tree is yours. This is the outer tree.

Then you have to imagine for a couple of minutes that you have a tree inside you. This tree has only three branches. The name of these three branches are love, devotion and surrender You will sit on the branch that is called love, and there you will try to feel that you and God are absolutely one.

Then you will sit on the branch called devotion. While sitting on the devotion branch you have to feel not only that God and you are one, but that there is a tremendous intimate concern and feeling of inseparable oneness between you and God. God devotes His infinite Light to the fulfilment of the aspirant and the aspirant devotes his utmost capacity, whatever capacity he has, to the fulfilment of God's Will. On the branch of devotion your oneness is thickened and intensified.

Next comes the branch of surrender. When you sit on the branch of surrender, you have to feel that the oneness that was on the love branch, and the intimacy that you felt on the branch of devotion came to you only on the strength of your implicit surrender to God's Will. You had aspiration to become one with God, but it was not your aspiration that made you one with Him. Inside your aspiration you had surrendering light. Your aspiration was not to get something by hook or by crook, by foul means. Inside your aspiration was surrendering light: "God, I am aspiring, but I have surrendered to You and it is up to You to fulfil my aspiration or leave me where I am." This was your prayer. When you sit on the branch of surrender, you have to feel that your oneness on the love branch and your intimate oneness on the devotion branch came because of the implicit, unconditional surrender that you had inside your flaming, climbing aspiration.

Who has silence? He who is firmly established. When a man can feel that he has an inner tree which is firmly rooted in his inner being; then naturally his outer life is founded on something very solid, which is deep inside his inner being. In his case, the higher silence is bound to permeate his outer being.

Question: Is dynamic silence really divine action, that is, doing the Will of God by serving man?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes. The role of dynamic silence is to fulfil the Will of God in humanity. But what God's Will is, we learn only from inner silence, static silence. Once we know the Will of God then it is our divine duty to dedicate ourselves to the service of mankind.

Some people only want to meditate. They do not want to give anything to the world. This is selfishness. Again, there are some who want to give but do not want to meditate. This is foolishness. If we do not meditate, if we do not possess something, then how are we going to give? There are many people on earth who are ready to give, but what do they have? There are some people who have acquired something and do not want to give it. They are acting like misers. They are afraid that the moment they try to give their wealth to the ignorant world, the world will misunderstand them or misuse them. But we have to play our part. First we have to achieve, then we have to offer. In this way we can please God and fulfil mankind.

Question: Is inner silence equated with prayer and meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Prayer, meditation, concentration, contemplation are the inner silence. The outer silence is dedication, service, action. Dedicate yourself, fulfil the Will of God, but only after knowing the Will of God. We can know the Will of God only by practising inner silence. Otherwise, if we try to help mankind in our own way, we think that we are serving God but really we are just aggrandising our own ego. We say, "I have done this, I have done that." But the important thing is, "Was I inspired by God? Was I commissioned by God?" If our actions are not inspired by God, they are inspired by our ego. Then the service that we offer to the world will be full of darkness and imperfections.

Question: When you meditate for people can you see their souls and can you lift them to a higher level of consciousness?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, I can do it. It is the easiest thing possible to see the soul and lift it up, because a real spiritual Master is he who has inseparable oneness with the Highest. On the strength of this oneness, he can have free access to anybody's soul.

Question: It seems that beauty and meditation always go together. Could you say a few words about beauty and meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Meditation is the embodiment and manifestation of beauty. Before you realise beauty, it is embodied beauty. After you realise it, it is manifested beauty.

Question: Does meditation include healing?

Sri Chinmoy: Meditation includes everything. In meditation we enlarge our consciousness until it includes everything in the universe. There is nothing we cannot achieve through meditation. Each individual has the capacity to heal if a person knows how to concentrate and meditate, and especially how to concentrate on physical ailments. There is no ailment in God's creation that he won't be able to cure. But we have to know if it is God's Will for us to heal someone. Otherwise, we may act like the hostile forces who want to break the rules of the divine Game.

There is a difference between healing that is done by an ordinary healer and healing done by a realised soul. The ordinary healer has learned some techniques for removing an illness from someone, but after some time he himself may become the victim of the diseases he heals in others. Why? Because he doesn't know where to throw the diseases after he has taken them away. If we take healing as a profession, if we just pray and think good thoughts for a few minutes and then go and cure someone, then we are acting against the divine Force, the divine Law. It is in our deepest meditation that we come to know what we should do and what we should not do. If the Supreme asks us to heal someone, at that time He gives us the power, and when He gives us the power, we are not responsible. The result immediately belongs to Him. But if we are responsible, we may be caught by the result of our own action. This is the difference between acting with the help of our meditation and acting out of our own so-called human compassion.

A realised soul only heals when God asks him to do so. He knows that in the cosmic Play of his Father, the Supreme, everything that happens is a necessary experience. He only intervenes when the Supreme asks him to. And when he heals someone's illness, he knows that he can throw the illness into the ocean, into his infinite Father who has commanded him to take it. He has no responsibility because he is an instrument of the Supreme. The ordinary healer thinks he is being supremely compassionate in healing others of their diseases, but is this healer more compassionate than God? God knows what experiences people need. If He wants to cure them of their illnesses, He will give the right instrument of His the power to do it successfully. In most cases, the Supreme will not use an ordinary aspirant to do healing, because if he is a sincere aspirant, the Supreme wants him to have realisation first. That is the most important thing.

Question: Through meditation is one able to create or master psychic powers?

Sri Chinmoy: Through meditation it is possible to get psychic powers, but it depends on the soul whether an individual will actually get them. The soul may feel that once you get psychic powers they may take you away from the spiritual life. Sometimes an aspirant will acquire psychic powers and then not want to pray or meditate anymore. Instead, he will want to help people. Unfortunately, the ignorance of these people will capture and infect him and finally he may leave the spiritual path. So acquiring psychic powers may be dangerous.

But when one becomes perfect, when one realises God, if then one starts using psychic powers, it is safe. Psychic powers do not necessarily help one in realising God, but they may come to the seeker on the way to realisation. Psychic powers are like beautiful trees and plants or delicious fruits on the way to the Goal. If somebody walks along a road where there are no trees, no flowers, nothing, then he is not tempted to stop on his journey. Psychic powers will very often take sincere seekers away from the path. Once you have realised the Goal, the psychic powers are bound to come. So it is better not to pay any attention to the psychic powers now. Only pay attention to your aspiration and inner cry. When it is time, God Himself will give you all the psychic powers. But right now what He wants is for you to realise Him.

Question: If we have an experience which we feel may be coming from God, how do we know whether we are experiencing God, the Devil, or something from our own imagination?

Sri Chinmoy: The Devil will destroy you, but the real God, the compassionate God, will fulfil you. When you meditate, if you get inner Peace or inner Joy, then immediately you can feel that there is some Truth, some Light, that is compelling you to go faster, to move forward or upward or inward. But if you feel that it is not like that, then naturally some wrong forces, hostile forces, are entering into you. You must know that the spiritual life is not a life of imagination. It is something real, absolutely real.

Question: How can you tell the difference between true intuition and imagination?

Sri Chinmoy: If you soulfully follow a spiritual path for a few months and if your prayer, your concentration, your meditation is intense, then you mill be able to feel the inner guidance within you. When you meditate early in the morning, your inner being will tell you what is going to happen, what others think of you. If you want to get proper intuition, or the intuitive faculty, then your aspiration has to be very, very sincere and intense. Otherwise, it will be all mental hallucination or imagination.

Try to feel that there is a burning flame inside you which is mounting up all the time. This flame is the flame of aspiration. You will see that in the process of mounting high, higher, highest, it is spreading its divine Light all around. And in this Light you are bound to develop a direct vision of Truth. You will see that the length and breadth of the world, your inner world, have been illumined. In darkness we don't see anything. Even if you place the most invaluable treasure right in front of me, I won't see it, because all is darkness. But if the flame of aspiration within me is rising towards the highest and spreading its Light all around, then I will get an immediate flash of intuition because in Light there is Reality. In Light there is constant Divinity. Divinity and Reality are at your disposal when you have the flame of aspiration within you. So try to feel the divine flame of aspiration within you. Then you will always get these flashes of intuition and you will not remain in the world of imagination. But again, if you just imagine something nice about God, don't worry at all. If you feel that God is all Compassion for you but you have not yet felt God's compassionate aspect, or if you feel that God is all Concern and Love for you but you have not yet felt God's divine Love and Concern, no harm. Today these qualities may be imagination to you but tomorrow you will feel them, because these are all realities. You have not felt them, but the spiritual Masters have felt them and realised them. In your mounting aspiration, intuition is bound to grow.

Question: How do I know that while meditating I am entering into a higher plane and that it is not just my imagination?

Sri Chinmoy: There is a very easy way to know. If you are actually entering into a higher plane, you will feel that your body is becoming very light. Although you don't have wings, you will feel that you can fly. In fact, when you have reached a very high world, you will actually see a bird inside you that can easily fly in the sky as real birds do.

When it is your imagination, you will get a very sweet feeling for a few minutes and then immediately dark or frustrating thoughts will come into you. You will say, "I studied so hard, but I did not do well in my examination," or "I worked so hard in the office today, but I could not please my boss." These negative forces in the form of frustration will immediately come in. Or doubt will enter and you may say, "How can I meditate so well? Yesterday I did so many wrong things; I told so many lies. How can God be pleased with me? How can I be having such a high meditation?" But if it is really a high meditation, you will feel that your whole existence, like a divine bird, is soaring up and flying. While you have this feeling, there is no sad thought, no negative thought, no frustrating thought, no doubt. It is all Joy, all Bliss, all Peace. You are flying in the skies of Delight.

Question: How do we know what plane of consciousness we are in during meditation? Is there a limit to the planes that we can reach?

Sri Chinmoy: One can be aware of the planes of consciousness only when one is on the verge of realisation or when one is already realised. An ordinary aspirant will not be able to know in which plane of consciousness he abides during his meditation. He will be confused. He may be in a particular world or plane of consciousness, but he will not know what the actual plane of consciousness is.

There are seven higher worlds and seven lower worlds. A spiritual Master can easily be in all these fourteen worlds at the same time and see things that are happening in all the worlds.

An aspirant can also be in two, three, four or five worlds at a time, but he will not be able to know which worlds they are. Only someone who is advanced in the spiritual life, someone who is about to step onto the highest rung of the spiritual ladder, will be able to see easily in which plane of consciousness he stays during his meditation. For realised souls it is very easy.

There is no limit to the planes we can reach. Your spiritual Master can tell you which plane a particular experience has come from. If he tells you that particular experience comes from the vital world or the mental world, then you will be able to know in the future when you get a similar experience that it comes from that world.

Question: When does a person know that he has control of the vital plane?

Sri Chinmoy: Now, 'vital' plane is a very vague term. If you use the word 'vital' in the emotional sense, then you are talking about emotions and passions. But there is also another vital which is called the spiritual vital or the dynamic, energising vital. This vital is surcharged with divine energy, divine power. When you ask how one individual can know that he has control over the vital, you are referring to the emotional plane or lower vital plane where there is pleasure, passion and so forth.

How can one know? One can know only when one sees through the eye of the soul. You may ask, "How am I to know where the eye of the soul is?" I wish to tell you that you can see with the eye of your soul when you concentrate or meditate. The best way is through meditation. During your meditation, try to feel that your whole body from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head has become one tiny ball and that this ball is at your command. You can pick it up and you can throw it. You should feel the lightness in your whole physical body. If you can have this kind of feeling about your body during your meditation, then easily you can have control over the emotional vital, since the emotional vital is inside the gross physical body. When the house is at your command, how can a tiny portion inside the house not be under your control? When you become this tiny ball, how do you see it? Not with your mind, not with your physical eyes, but with the Light inside you; and that Light is the eye of your soul.

Question: How can I tell if my inner experiences are genuine or fake?

Sri Chinmoy: Only if you do not have a Master will this problem arise. If you have a Master, then he will immediately be able to tell you whether you are deceiving yourself or whether you are getting fruitful inner experiences. The Master can easily tell without the least possible doubt or hesitation.

If you do not have a Master, you can still solve this problem. If you are in doubt when you have an inner experience, then concentrate on the heart. If the experience is genuine then you will feel a subtle tingling sensation. If you feel as though an ant were climbing or crawling in your heart, then you will know that your experience is genuine.

When you have an inner experience, try to breathe as slowly and quietly as possible and feel that you are bringing purity into your system. Feel that purity is entering into you like a thread and it is revolving around your navel. It you feel that your spiritual heart is not willing to enter into your navel, then your experience is a mere hallucination. But if the heart gladly enters into the navel, then you can rest assured that your experience is not a hallucination at all; it is absolutely true and genuine.

Again, when you have an experience and you want to know its worth, try to feel for a couple of minutes whether you can grow into that experience or not. If you feel that you can grow into that experience, sooner or later, in an hour or two hours or a day or six months, then your experience is genuine. But if you feel that reality is something else and you can never grow into the experience, then that experience is not genuine.

When you have an experience, try to separate your outer life from your inner life. The outer life is a life of necessity and demands and requirements. The inner life is also a life of necessity, but it is God's necessity, not your necessity; God's requirements, not your demands or your requirements. Try to feel whether it is God's necessity that is operating in and through your experience and whether God needs you and wants to fulfil Himself in and through you. If you can grow into that kind of feeling or realisation, then your experience is genuine. But if you identify yourself consciously with your demands, then the experience is not true; it is just a hallucination.

Real experience comes only when you sincerely want and need the inner life and when God needs and wants the inner life in and through you. If you have come to that understanding, then all your experiences will be true; they have to be true.

Question: When I have an experience, how do I know that my soul is working through the experience?

Sri Chinmoy: First of all, you have to see your soul a few times. If you see a person, then you can see what he is doing. Similarly, if you do see your soul, then you will be able to know whether your soul is acting through a particular experience. But you have not yet seen the soul even once in your life. Right now you are simply playing tricks with words. First you have to see and feel the soul. You have to see what kind of form it takes. The soul is not bound by any form. Our soul very often changes its form according to our development and growth. Please excuse me, I am not discouraging you. I am saying that when you see the soul, when you become one with the soul, then you can have the knowledge of the soul. This is not discouragement. If you see the soul and know the soul, then immediately you can get the soul's knowledge and truth. But your present consciousness is completely separated from the soul's knowledge. While you are in the dark, you are trying to find out about the soul, which is all light.

Question: Then in my case I am living in my unconscious mind?

Sri Chinmoy: It is your unconscious mind or subconscious mind. In the unconscious mind nothing is clear. Things seem to be clear to you but actually they are not at all clear. If you are entering into a dark room, you may think that everything is in order. But when someone else who has more light enters into the room, you see that it is all chaos and confusion and you are unable to pick out anything.

Question: Something positive is happening because I definitely feel an inner joy. I have not seen anything; all I know is that I have this feeling inside.

Sri Chinmoy: What you are seeing and feeling is a base. This is not the end of your journey; there is a farther goal. Don't be discouraged. It is a beginning; you have started. Now that you are walking along the path, you will see God and you will listen to the dictates of God as a child listens to his father. We are still walking, marching along the path of Infinity. Everything is bound to come, but we have to continue our journey.

Question: How can I tell if I really want God? And how do I know whether I am hearing God's Voice or the voice of the devil?

Sri Chinmoy: If you accept the spiritual life out of sincerity and not out of curiosity, then you will be able to know if you really want God. But again, God is not realised overnight; you have to know that it takes time. You have to act like a real spiritual farmer and cultivate your inner soil every day. Then the time comes when you reap the fruits of your prayer, concentration and meditation. Please concentrate on your heart. If you discover that you want God because of your real, desperate need for Him, if you sincerely want God and nothing else, then God will come to you.

Spiritual seekers have to realise that if they want millions of things besides God, then God is not going to come to them. But if they have a real inner cry, if they are truly sincere in their spiritual life, then God's Voice or their own soul's voice will come to them from within. This voice can never come from the devil; for a real, sincere seeker there are no devils. For someone who accepts the spiritual life out of curiosity or a desire for occult powers, there will be all kinds of temptations to stand in his way. He will be misled and misguided. But if a seeker really wants God, then God Himself will protect him from temptations and from wrong forces. If God does not immediately show a seeker the Light, it is because God needs cheerfulness.

When some disciples look at me with sad faces, I tell them, "Please, please, don't be depressed. Smile at me, smile at me." Then they smile at me but I know it is an absolutely false smile. But I feel, "All right, start with false happiness. Instead of showing me a face of low depression, arrogance and other undivine qualities, at least start with a false smile; then one day you will give me a sincere, soulful smile."

If you don't have sincerity, then enter into the spiritual life with curiosity. In a few months time, your curiosity will be transformed into sincerity. How will you recognise sincerity's arrival? You will recognise it very easily if you do not have preconceived ideas of how your life will take shape or form. But if you cherish preconceptions, then automatically many thoughts will come into your mind and you may adopt many foul means to fulfil them. You may even try to fulfil them by devious or hostile means. But when you are fully surrendered, you will not cherish any ideas. You will feel that you can let the Inner Pilot make all your choices for you.

We sometimes become insincere when we try to do something or accomplish something and do not know where the ideas to do these things are coming from. Since we do not know, the best thing is just to wait, wait, wait. Let the ideas come from within. But you will wait for centuries if you feel that you can get the right answer from the mind. The mind has to surrender to the heart. There is no other way.

The surrender of the mind to the heart is not the surrender of a slave to the master. Far from it! The mind has to be wise. The mind has to feel that the heart has something that it does not have, and the moment the mind gets it, it becomes the mind's own wealth. It is like a student who is very smart. He goes to the right teacher who knows the subject. After he has learned from the teacher, then he does not go to him anymore. He himself becomes a teacher. The mind should be a student and go to the heart and learn. As the heart gets illumination from the soul, so the mind also can get illumination from the soul through the heart, and then the mind can be independent.

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