Problems! Problems! Are they really problems? part 1

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Part I — Attachment

Question: Guru, sometimes when I begin to meditate I feel overwhelmed by the pressure of all my attachments and I feel that my aspiration is dying. Shall I try to surrender them to you or shall I just try to aspire more?

Sri Chinmoy: To surrender your limitations to me is the most effective way to get rid of them. At the same time, you must not feel that since you have surrendered them all to me, you can allow attachments to enter into you again. You have to feel that once you have given something to me, it becomes my permanent possession, even if it is something undivine like attachments, worries and disrupting thoughts. You must not take them back again. If you have the feeling that once you have given your attachments to me, you will not ever allow them to enter into you a second time, that is the way to get rid of them permanently. If you give them to me today and tomorrow you take them back again, either consciously or unconsciously, then my help can only be effective for today.

If you cannot surrender these forces to me, then it is best to conquer them through aspiration. If wrong ideas come to you repeatedly and make your life miserable, then you have to aspire for the Supreme and meditate on the Supreme in order to remove them totally from your system. Your increased aspiration will bring more light into your system and this light will gradually illumine and transform your attachments and other limitations.

Question: Do you have any suggestions as to how I can be happy doing things I don't want to do?

Sri Chinmoy: The world is full of people who have to do unpleasant things and who feel that they are not making any progress because they derive no joy or pleasure from their work. What they need to feel is that they are only an instrument, that they are not the doer. When you are doing something unpleasant or boring and you are not getting any real joy from it, or if your work does not seem rewarding, you are bound to feel miserable if you think that it is you who are performing the action. But if you feel that God, the Inner Pilot, is doing it in and through you, that you are just His instrument, then you will lose your unconscious attachment to the work that you are doing. You may feel that you are not at all attached, but in the subconscious plane there is subtle attachment. If you had no attachment, then you would not mind doing the work if you knew it had to be done.

To be free from attachment and get joy from your work the best thing is to feel that you are the instrument, that somebody else is acting in and through you. If you can do that, you will find abundant peace in the day-to-day activities that now seem unpleasant to you. The burden of responsibility the tension and the difficult and disheartening thoughts and ideas that plague your mind will have to leave you.

Part II — Careers

Question: Guru, I used to be very active in my work and I liked it very much. But now I feel that it is taking away from my duties as an aspirant.

Sri Chinmoy: Here you are making a mistake. In our path realisation and manifestation must go together. There is a time to eat, there is a time to sleep, there is a time to meditate and there is a time to work.You have come into this world to manifest the Supreme. If you have the capacity to dance, the Supreme will use it for His purpose. If you have the capacity to sing, the Supreme will use your voice to manifest Himself in and through you. Now that you have become my disciple, this guidance is my responsibility and my problem. When someone accepts my path, it is my bounden duty to manifest the Supreme in and through him.

Unfortunately, sometimes a person thinks, "In action there is bondage. While acting I can't think of God." This is wrong. While meditating we can serve by offering good will. While working and while doing selfless service, if our consciousness remains in God, then we are also meditating as well as serving the world.

After a disciple has stayed with us for six months, a year or two years, if he wishes, I will tell him what he should do in the outer life. If I see that his soul wants to do something other than what he is doing, then I will tell him. Again, if I see that the soul wants to do what the person is doing, even though my disciple feels no inspiration in his work, I will not ask him to change his job. I will only provide inner and outer guidance.

There are young boys and girls who came into our life as students and we saw that they were brilliant, very brilliant. To some of these students I said, "You don't have to study any more. Your soul does not want you to." Again, there are others to whom I have said, "You should continue going to school." In your case also, when the time comes, I will tell you what you should do in the outer life.

In general, I advise people to take their work, whatever it may be, as a dedicated service. Money is necessary. If we go to the grocery store with only aspiration, they will not give us any food. If we offer them Light, Peace and Bliss, they will just laugh. For certain things money is required, so when we accept the spiritual life we should not shun money for spirituality. Money properly used for a divine Purpose is a veritable blessing; money misused is a curse. If we work, we have to know why we are working. We are working for a special purpose: to keep our body fit and to be a divine instrument. With our money-power we can serve God, the Supreme. Spiritual aspirants should try to get a job in which they will meet with the least disturbance to their inner poise. The salary may be low, but if it will meet with their expenses, then it is enough. Of course, if they are offered a position where the people are very nice and they will get a higher salary, naturally they should take it.

Question: I find that lately I am doing so many things that my outer activities take up most of my energy and I feel that my spiritual life suffers.

Sri Chinmoy: Feel that your outer activities are secondary in your life. God comes first. Of course if your outer activities are done for your spiritual Master, if your Master needs your help in any way, do not think that these outer activities will hamper your spiritual life in any way. These things are far more important than your personal gains. Think of helping your Master as a form of outer manifestation of your inner life. Right now do not try to reveal yourself or manifest yourself outwardly unless you have the inner approval of your Master. First you must become part and parcel of your Masters mission, then you will feel that in your outer activities you are doing the right thing.

Question: I work in a warehouse and the atmosphere is very unspiritual. How can I keep the undivine consciousness from my job and the outside world from interfering with my spiritual growth?

Sri Chinmoy: For an aspirant, especially in the beginning, it is advisable to do some work which is congenial to his spiritual growth. If you leave this job, what are you going to lose? You say that the place where you are working now is not at all spiritual, that you are the only person there who cares for the spiritual life. Everyone else there is enjoying the animal life. If you have come to the point where your spiritual life is the most important thing to you, then I wish to tell you that you should give up that job. If you take some other job, you may get less salary, but what will you gain? In terms of money you will earn less, but in terms of Peace, Light and Bliss you will earn more, much more.

If you were well advanced in the spiritual life and had been meditating for many years and already you had achieved some Peace, Light and Bliss in your outer nature and in your inner life, then I would advise you to act like a lion and not be afraid of anything. With your divine capacity you would face the world bravely. But this is a time of preparation in your life. You are not yet surcharged with inner Light, Peace and Power. The day will dawn, in the near or distant future, when you will be able to stand and fight like a divine soldier, but right now it is necessary to adopt a temporary means of release from unnecessary outer attacks. This is not a permanent escape. Only, at this time you are not ready to wrestle successfully with the worst forces of the outside world. You are not strong enough inwardly. But the day will come when, no matter where you are working or who your associates are, you will be able to stand on your own spiritual strength.

Now you have two enemies. One enemy is outside you and visible in the form of outer disharmony and ignorance. The other enemy is your own ignorance and imperfection. You have to fight with your inner enemy constantly, twenty-four hours a day. From that enemy there is no possibility of release until you have conquered it. So for the time being you have to pay the utmost attention to perfecting yourself in the inner world. You can certainly find some job which will not stand in the way of your new spiritual experiences and realisations. In this way, you can minimise the necessities and demands of the outer world, and this will help you immensely in your inner life of aspiration.

Question: On my job as a tour guide I find it difficult to stay in my best consciousness. I listen to what people are saying and I am affected by what they say. How can I keep my consciousness high in a situation like this?

Sri Chinmoy: Your actual meditation needs to be stronger and more solid so that your consciousness will not be affected. When you are in deep meditation at the Centre, people are not talking; yet if you look at somebody near you who has a low consciousness, your consciousness drops also. At work you cannot make others keep quiet, but you can tell your mind not to pay attention to them. Tell your mind, "I will not allow you to act like a magnet." If you are vigilant, your mind need not be affected.

When you are with people who are not aspiring, feel that they are doing the right thing for them, according to their standard. Do not think that they are inferior and you are superior. Just pay attention to your own life, which is right for you, as theirs is right for them. When you have respect for someone, your own consciousness will not be affected by theirs. The best thing is to think of your consciousness as an ocean full of waves. When people swim in the ocean, although they move their arms and legs, the water is not affected. If you can feel this way, there will be no problem.

Question: I am studying to be an actor. Is it possible for me to follow a spiritual path and also to have this outside activity?

Sri Chinmoy: We have a very wrong concept of spirituality. Spirituality never negates our earthly life. It only simplifies, purifies and illumines our earthly life. We are now in bondage, in ignorance. Spirituality shows us how we can come out of ignorance-night, how we can free ourselves from the bondage that we have consciously or unconsciously accepted. If you want to be an actor, spirituality need not prevent you. On the contrary, spirituality can act like your private tutor. It can inspire you to do the best job and to be the best actor you can.

Again, you have to know what God wants you to do. If you don't fulfil Him, you may stay on earth for sixty, seventy or eighty years but inside you will feel a barren desert. No matter what kind of outer glory you get, what kind of success in the outer life, if you don't satisfy the Supreme even for a fleeting second in His own way, then your sincerity, your inner cry will make you feel dissatisfied.

Do not think that if you just meditate for five minutes, or offer a prayer or your admiration to the Supreme, that that is leading a spiritual life and that He will be pleased with you. You have to go deep within. You have to know what He wants from your life and when and how and why He wants it. You have to try to know what God actually wants from you at every second. Only then will you have abiding Peace, Light and Joy in your life. If you please the Supreme in His own way in the field of manifestation, you will see that your inner wealth has been well distributed to the world at large. Then the Supreme will be pleased with you and you will have the divine pride of manifestation in your life on earth.

Question: I know there are certain professions that are not ideal if you are trying to live the spiritual life. Is acting suitable for an aspirant?

Sri Chinmoy: There is no hard and fast rule that an actor cannot be a spiritual seeker. But if the seeker is not well-established in his inner life, then the life of an actor will create more temptation than we will find in another profession.

There are many professions on earth. If we want to simplify our life then we should enter a profession that will create as few problems as possible. We have to use our discretion. If we know that there is an easier way to reach God, let us follow it. Why make our life more complicated? But if one is strong enough not to be bothered by temptations, one can enter the acting profession.

Acting is an art; it is not something detestable. But we also have to know what kind of acting we will be doing. If we will be taking the part of some spiritual figure or a role in some religious work, something inspiring, something divine, then this acting will never bring our consciousness down. But if we are going to be involved in Broadway shows and similar things then spirituality will remain a far cry. Even if we are pure and sincere in our life, there will be hundreds and thousands of people who will look at us and throw their undivine, ugly, impure consciousness into us. Then we will unconsciously become a victim of their imperfections, their impurities. Why should we expose ourselves foolishly to others' weaknesses?

Again, if you are very strong inwardly and outwardly you can say, "No, I am like a fort. Nobody will be able to disturb me." If you have that kind of capacity and if you feel that you can really serve God by acting, you can try. But if your life wants to reach God, then you should try to serve those who really want God, not those who want pleasure. The life of pleasure will never give anyone realisation. On the one hand you want to realise God. On the other hand you are encouraging others to remain in the life of pleasure.

If you want to offer a gift of emotional indulgence to other people, then you are not doing them a favour. If there is something that would not contribute to my realisation, I must not encourage anybody else, even indirectly, to do it. If I cry for God privately, secretly and inwardly, while outwardly I create sensation or temptation for mankind, that is hypocrisy on my part. There are hundreds and thousands of actors and actresses on earth. If you don't follow that profession, God's creation will not fail.

A spiritual Master once asked his disciples not to get married. One disciple said, "Master, you ask us not to get married, but if we don't get married, there will be no future generations. Then how can God's creation continue? We have to get married." The Master said, "My child, there are millions and billions of other people on earth to fulfil this task. God does not need you for that. He needs you to remain unmarried. You do not have to worry about the preservation of God's creation."

In the same way if I say, "No spiritual aspirants should become actors," it is ridiculous for you to say, "If we can't become actors, there will be no actors in God's creation." If you have a burning cry for God, you can rest assured that God will be kind enough to supply someone else for the stage in your place. If you are a sincere seeker, your inner life should come first.

Part III — Depression

Question: What causes depression?

Sri Chinmoy: We want constant success, constant progress, constant achievement and fulfilment, but in our daily life we do not get it. Each moment is an opportunity to grow into more of God's Light, Peace, Bliss and Power, but if we misuse that opportunity, immediately the negative forces such as doubt, fear, jealousy, worry and depression enter into us.

We have to know what we actually want. If we want light and only light, we have to know where that light is. That light is in our peace of mind, in the tranquillity of our heart. When we unveil our inner peace, we will see that our life is all achievement and fulfilment: achievement in the process of infinite achievement, fulfilment in the process of infinite fulfilment. If we don't do that, we are bound to be the prince of depression.

What causes depression? Our acceptance of ignorance as our very own. We cannot go beyond it: we are caught; we are in the little self of ignorance, so we become depressed. But if we feel that we do not represent ignorance, we are not ignorance, we are not of ignorance and we are not for ignorance, but we are in light and we want to grow into deeper and deepest light, into all-fulfilling Light; then there can be no depression. The light which is the result of our sincere aspiration will immediately burn our depression into ashes, or it will transform our depression into constant aspiration.

We have to know that by being depressed we should not expect either God's Grace, or God's Love, or even sympathy from humanity. If I am depressed and a friend of mine comes to console me and sympathise with me, in that way the root of depression will not be cut. On the contrary, my depression will be nourished. Depression comes because we do not want to live in the truth; we want to live consciously or unconsciously in ignorance or, I should say, pleasure. This so-called pleasure is bound to be followed by depression. If we can identify with the soul's inner joy, which is spontaneous, we will always have joy within us and without us. Let us try to remain in the soul's spontaneous joy.

Question: I know that frustration and feeling sorry are wrong forces; yet I feel sad quite often.

Sri Chinmoy: First of all let us deal with frustration. Frustration is undoubtedly bad. Any kind of frustration is a precursor of destruction. It is not frustration that is destroyed, but frustration that destroys. If frustration were destroyed, then we would again have the life of cheerfulness. But that is not what happens.

Now the feeling of sorrow. Suppose we think about a person in our family who has passed away. For a few hours we feel sad because we miss the person who loved us or whom we loved. We feel that in our sad, sorrowful mood we are intensifying our oneness with that particular deceased person. This feeling is not bad because first we are intensifying our oneness and then we can bring down peace, light and bliss. But again, if we can maintain our oneness with that person's soul wherever it is, and feel its presence within us, then we need not feel sad even for one minute.

There is another way in which the spiritual Masters approach this case. When Sri Ramakrishna's nephew passed away, Sri Ramakrishna cried bitterly. Why was he so sad? Sri Ramakrishna felt sorrow not actually for the loss of the person but for the failure of that person to accomplish what he came on earth to accomplish. This soul had something to offer but could not do it because of the intervention of wrong forces.

Very often when we help others, when we become one with others' sorrow, we get a kind of joy. This is a very tricky thing. When somebody is sad or suffering, we try to help that person. But inwardly we may enjoy his suffering and have a glorified inner feeling that we have been of some help to him.

First we feel a little sorry; then we get joy because we feel superior. We think, "I am not suffering he is suffering. I am at the top of the tree and he is at the foot of the tree." This wrong idea very often enters in into our mind. If we identify ourselves with someone who is sad and depressed, if we are just enjoying his sadness, we are not helping him at all.

In the Pandava family, Arjuna's mother, Kunti, knew that Lord Krishna was a great spiritual Master. She knew that Sri Krishna was God Himself. So she used to pray to him to give her sorrow and suffering all the time so that she would think only of him. She believed that only if she lived in suffering would she be inspired to think of God. This idea is not good at all. Just to think of God we need not invoke extra suffering. This is a wrong approach to the truth.

The right way to approach the truth is through joy and light. The soul is full of divine joy, and from the soul joy wants to come forward and express itself through the vital. If the vital does not want to become one with the soul's joy, the vital consciously and deliberately resents this joy and stands in its way. At that time this unaspiring vital prefers suffering because it feels that by expressing suffering outwardly it draws the sympathy, affection and concern of the world. Despite the vital's suffering it is actually getting a subtle Joy in a negative way. Very often we think that if we become a victim to sadness, there will be somebody to console us. This is a wrong idea. God does not approve of this idea. Today we will be sad and our mother or father or friend or somebody will console us. This consolation and attention gives us joy, so tomorrow we will feel sad with the same idea that somebody will come and console us. But tomorrow perhaps others will be tired of consoling us and we will be disappointed. In God's creation there are some people who are always sad because they feel that when somebody comes to console them they will get real joy. They feel that the best way to get attention and affection is to tell the world that it does not care for them or that they are totally lost. But even if they sincerely feel that they are totally lost, the world is not going to take care of them forever if it is not the Will of God. God's Concern always runs in a positive direction.

Very often psychic joy wants to express itself directly, without the vital and even without the mind. But when it is about to express or it has expressed itself, the depression of the vital and the doubt of the mind enter into the joy of the heart and soul. Then the vital's depression and the mind's doubt immediately act like a devouring tiger. When they see this joy, they take it as a fruit and devour it immediately. After several times, the soul sees that its joy is being devoured by the mind and vital, and the soul becomes cautious. It does not want to express its joy quite so often. It waits for the vital to be purified and for the mind to be free from doubts.

Question: Guru, how do we free ourselves from depressions?

Sri Chinmoy: With the light within us. When we meditate on light, light comes either from above or from within. We must bring light to the fore. Our heart is very vast. The spiritual heart, not the physical heart, is larger than the universe, and abundant light is inside that heart.

If we want to climb a mountain that is very tall, we have to know our capacity. If we are weak and we want to climb the mountain all at once, we will be doomed to disappointment. We have to climb up a little and then take rest. Then we climb up a little more and rest again before we go on. If we try to climb the mountain all at once, we may ruin our capacity. We can either overestimate or underestimate our capacity. When we underestimate ourselves, depression comes. If we have the capacity to climb up three or four miles, but feel, "I cannot do it; I can only climb a little," then we are depressed because we feel that we have no capacity. But when we overestimate our capacity, we also become depressed because we cannot accomplish what we expected to accomplish. It is always better to aim just an inch higher or lower than our capacity. If we expect too much or too little, depression will come.

The best way to free ourselves from depression is to bring light forward and illumine it. If that is difficult, then take depression as something quite unimportant that is a little bit dirty and throw it away. By dwelling on it, we can't conquer it. It will come back again and again to bother us if we give it undue importance. For two days or two months we will be free, but again it will come back unless and until it is illumined.

Question: Will people who are depressed ever realise God?

Sri Chinmoy: They will, but they will undoubtedly be the last group to realise God unless they conquer their depression. And when they reach God, God will not be proud of them. Out of Compassion God will allow them to drink His Nectar, but God will be pleased and will feed with pride only those who are constantly marching forward and not looking backward. God will tolerate doubt and depression, but only those who are truly cheerful inwardly and outwardly will have everything open to them.

God is Light, and those who suffer from depression are not accepting God's Light. If they think that by being depressed, they will get more Compassion from God or from their Guru, they are mistaken. God and the Guru may show them infinite Compassion, but it will not be wholehearted Compassion. God and the Guru will know that they are being exploited by the aspirant's constant demands for Compassion.

If they say that God does not love them enough, it is all their negative imagination and self-justification. Who loves His children more than the Father? Fortunately for them, God's Compassion is infinite. But although those who are depressed will eventually realise God also, the path of cheerfulness is infinitely swifter.

Question: If we feel elated or depressed and we don't know why, can there be an inner reason for it?

Sri Chinmoy: There is always a reason, but the mind has not grasped it. Sometimes outwardly we do not know the reason, but something has actually taken place to cause it. Sooner or later we will get the reason on the mental plane.

Question: Sometimes when I am very happy because I have had a very good meditation, the next day I get depressed. Why does that happen?/

Sri Chinmoy: There are two reasons. One is that hostile forces, undivine forces, become very annoyed that you have made progress. They are always alert and they are alarmed to see that you have made enormous progress through your good meditation. They are afraid that tomorrow you will make the same kind of progress. The undivine forces do not want to allow that, so they attack you. Only if you fight them can you continue to make progress.

How do these forces attack us? There are various ways. One way is that when somebody has had a significant experience, they come and say, "You have done so many things wrong. You don't deserve what Guru, out of his infinite kindness, has given You." Then the subtle ego inside you says, "It is true. I don't deserve that, so I won't keep it," and you just give it up. Although you have come to me with utmost humility and devoted qualities, these forces are so clever that they convince you that you didn't deserve what you received. In this world nobody wants to be a beggar; nobody wants to be an object of pity. The moment you hear that you didn't deserve it, you don't want it. Instead, you should say, "I worked for three or four hours. I meditated and I was happy. That is why he gave me the capacity to have that experience." The only time these hostile forces can enter is when you allow them. If you are adamant in rejecting them, then they have to leave you.

Another way the hostile forces attack you is by giving you an inferiority complex. If you think that the person who sat beside you had a better meditation than you, that feeling is very bad. In the outer world we compete "I was defeated by so-and-so or I defeated so-and-so," is what human beings say in the outer world. But in the inner world there is no competition, or at least competition is one-sided: with oneself alone. You will compete with your own doubt, fear, anxiety, jealousy and so forth. In the outer world, you have only two or three competitors and this competition will last for a day. But in the inner world you have many competitors. Fear, doubt, anxiety, depression, worry and many others are all ready to rob you of your joy. They come to you and say, "Yesterday we lost, but today we are here to challenge you again." What happens then? You are not prepared, but they have challenged and with your little ego you say, "All right, I accept your challenge." Then fear comes and runs ahead of you while doubt holds your legs, and jealousy pulls you backwards. If they were fair competitors, before the big race they would agree to run properly, but they don't. Just before you start, anxiety will come and strangle you. So you have to be really ready to run. You must be fully prepared so that when the competition begins, they won't have a chance.

When you have a divine experience, if you can hold on to its reality for a few days, then it becomes solid. At that time the hostile forces cannot enter. So try to hold your divine experiences very firmly, especially for the first few days. Always try to remember whenever you do something good. Forget about the bad things and do not allow the tricky hostile forces to remind you of them. They are not necessary; they are all dust. If you can remember only the good things, then you can make much progress.

Question: How can I prevent getting upset or depressed over small things, such as a car break-down or a screaming child?/

Sri Chinmoy: In the material world, whatever we handle, we should try to keep in perfect condition. If we are using an old car, naturally this may create problems. Even new cars sometimes give trouble. But we should always try to use a perfect instrument. Since we are trying to be perfect instruments of the Supreme, the things that we handle should also have perfection in them. Just as we cry and try for perfection of our own nature, whatever is our possession should also be perfect according to our standard. So the things that we are utilising as our instruments must be kept in perfect condition. But we have to know that in spite of the fact that something appears perfect, it often is not. And if it causes problems, does depression help us in any way? Never.

We must always be wise. A wise man will take an unfortunate happening as a challenge, an opportunity to face an unpleasant reality with a cheerful smile. A fool will curse his fate and will curse others. He will feel that this kind of misfortune only happens to him. A wise person will simply say, "Here I have another opportunity to conquer my anger or my depression." Every experience in life can be meaningful and beneficial if we accept it properly.

Now, when a child is screaming, what should we do? Immediately remember that his screaming is not stronger than your inner poise. Then try to bring forward your inner poise and let it drown out the screaming of the child. Every time you see something irritating or undivine, accept the challenge and conquer it. If you allow it to conquer you, you are bound to become upset or depressed.

Question: Guru, do you ever feel depressed?

Sri Chinmoy: Sometimes I feel depression, not for myself, but when I enter into my disciples and identify with them. I get all kinds of depression when I enter into my disciples, but depression does not come to me directly. Again, if I identify myself with the depressed person for a few minutes, I can transform his depression. So when I seem sad or depressed, you may think that I am depressed because of my own problems, but I am not. At that time what has happened is that I am identifying with someone else. But I do not keep this identification for long. I do not allow depression to stay inside me.

Part IV — Desire

Question: If we are not able to extinguish our desires, is there any point in trying to meditates?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly, as long as we really want to meditate, and not to welcome desires. Nobody can say in the beginning of his spiritual life that he has no desires. The very moment we are born, we enter into the world of ignorance. If we wait until all our desires are extinguished before we begin our spiritual life, then we will never begin our spiritual life — not in this incarnation or in any incarnation.

We have to see our goal. If our goal is God-realisation, and if we start running toward that goal with one-pointed aspiration, then gradually the desires and passions that are holding us back will fall away. We have to know where to place our attention. If we try to pay one hundred percent attention to our meditation, desire will soon leave us. But if we decide that we shall give fifty percent of our attention to desire and fifty percent to aspiration and God-Life, then we will never overcome desire.

If we meditate regularly today, desire may come tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow desire will leave us because, like everything in this world, desire will become jealous of its rival. But if we are unduly disturbed by the presence of desire in our heart or in our mind, then desire will never leave us. If we give more attention to our aspiration, for a while desire will torture us mercilessly. But eventually it will give up and leave us because we are not paying any attention to it. If we make someone feel that we don't need them, they will stop coming to us. So desire will say, "All right, let her go with meditation and aspiration. If she does not need me, I can also do without her."

We should meditate early in the morning and sometime in the evening, without fail. If we don't eat, eventually we will die. And We have to feel that there is a divine child inside us and that is the soul. Just as we take the time to feed our human body three times a day, we must also feed the divine child within us. If we really care for the divine child, the soul, who makes us consciously one with the Absolute, then we have to feed this luminous child within us at least once every day. If we don't meditate, our inner life will starve and we will never be consciously one with God.

We want to realise God. The more we feed the soul, the more quickly we progress and the nearer we come to our God-realisation. We must not waste time worrying about our worldly desires. What we want is aspiration and meditation. We must start paying attention to aspiration and meditation. Then desire will feel unwanted and will automatically leave us.

Question: Is watching TV a hindrance to the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: TV itself is not at all a hindrance, but to watch it when you should be meditating or doing something for your spiritual life shows a lack of wisdom. There are many things that may distract you or prevent you from following the spiritual path or the inner life, and TV is one of them. But it is you who are the master of your possessions. You have to deal with them according to the dictates of your soul.

If you have a TV in your room, it is you who must use the TV; you must not allow the TV to use you. So long as you are the master of your possessions, so long as you can discipline your life and say, "Now I have to go and meditate or go and listen to a spiritual talk, which is much more important than watching a TV show," then TV will not hinder your spiritual life. As long as you have strong self-discipline, you are safe. If you have no aspiration, even if you have no TV, you will still find excuses not to attend meditation. But if you are just weak, if you have a TV, you will be unnecessarily tempted. We always have to see the consciousness of the possessor.

Question: Why do you stress regularity in the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: Regularity is needed. We eat food regularly in order to strengthen our bodies. We may eat almost the same food each day, but we have to eat regularly. Meditation is our spiritual food. In the spiritual life one has to meditate regularly every day, and if he belongs to a spiritual centre, he has to participate in its activities regularly. This will strengthen his inner being and ensure his continual progress.

Question: Is pranayama necessary?

Sri Chinmoy: Some teachers say that before entering into the practice of meditation one must go through asanas and then through pranayama, but I say that this is not necessary. It is through aspiration, through invoking the presence of God inside our heart, that we can reach and unveil our divinity.

Part V — Drugs

Question: What is your opinion about the use of drugs?

Sri Chinmoy: These of you who want to go with me to the ultimate Goal must stop taking drugs. I will make you drink nectar, I promise to each of you, if you will stop taking drugs. During your meditation I promise to bring you the highest nectar, which we call ananda. If you can enter into my highest consciousness during your meditation here and even at home, you will drink in the immortalising nectar of Bliss.

I have spoken about drugs hundreds of times and I am tired of the subject. If you want to ruin your life, you are at perfect liberty to do so. But since you have come to me for guidance, I assume that you don't want to ruin your life consciously. When you go to a doctor, you must have faith in the doctor and take his prescribed medicine. Otherwise, the doctor can do nothing for you. You have come to me with the hope that I will cure your spiritual ailments. Now I hope you will give me the chance to help you. You have come to me, but if you don't listen to me, I will be totally helpless. After you give me a chance, and if I cannot transform your life, then you can say it is no good and just leave me.

I have had problems with quite a few hippies, but most of those who decided to accept me are transformed, totally transformed, radically transformed. Again, there are some who could not or would not accept my spiritual guidance, and they have left the Centre with God's Blessing. Our Centres, to be very frank with you, are not for those who are leading a hippie life. If one will give up that life, he can become a disciple of mine. But if he wants to continue his hippie life and at the same time enter into the real spiritual life, then he will have to find some other Master. I cannot accept him. I don't blame him for what he did yesterday, but he must do something else today if he wants my direct spiritual guidance.

For at least fifteen days before anyone comes to my Centre he has to stop taking drugs. Then, if he accepts my path and I accept the responsibility for his God-realisation, he has to give up drugs forever. Otherwise, this acceptance would simply be mutual insincerity. If I accept you, that means I promise to take you back to your eternal Father, and I know I cannot do this if you continue taking drugs. If you accept me and at the same time you take drugs, this means you do not have real faith in my spiritual capacity. If you will listen to me and become one with me, I promise you that one day you will drink the nectar which the cosmic gods drink in abundant measure. If you use drugs you will ruin your consciousness and damage your subtle nerves. At that time I will not be able to help you.

If someone wants to change his life, even though yesterday he was a complete hippie, I will immediately welcome him. But if he wants to continue his old life and keep the spiritual life as just a side-dish, then he will find no place here. Either accept me wholeheartedly or reject me totally. If anyone wants to be in our school they have to follow the rules and regulations of our school. The moment they give up their old life and enter into me completely, they will discover a new life.

Part VI — Spiritual dryness

Question: Quite often it happens that after I have high experiences, they are followed by the feeling that I am in a spiritual desert.

Sri Chinmoy: When this happens you have to feel that you cannot eat most delicious food every day. Even if you have immense material wealth, you do not expect your cook to prepare the most delicious meal every day. You have given the money to the cook, you have supplied her with everything she needs: but sometimes the food is just not delicious.

When something inside you gives you inner joy, whatever you eat will taste delicious even if others say that it is tasteless. But without inner joy, the best food served to you by the best cook will not satisfy you. Experience is your soul's food. Yesterday you got very good food so you were happy. On the following day, even if the food you get is not so good, try to remember that you had a very good meal the day before. If you were in a position to eat it, the Almighty Father would give you a banquet every day. But once you have eaten good food, even after ten or fifteen days you can remember it and say, "I ate something most tasty that day."

If you can maintain in the inner joy of those experiences, then they will carry you though the desert. But if you lose the joy for some reason — let us say because doubt or fear or some vital problems have entered into you — then the experience too will be lost. If you can maintain your cheerfulness from the good experiences that you have had, then you can easily pass through the Sahara desert in the inner life.

Every seeker has had high experiences, but everybody's high experience is of a different type. Your experience may be low according to somebody else, but if your high experience has given you enormous joy, that is more than enough. Somebody else's experience may be low in comparison to yours, whereas according to his capacity, that experience is the highest. But if he can carry his life forward with the joy of that experience, then there cannot be any problem for him. I always tell my disciples, "When you are depressed, think of the day when you were happy or when you had a wonderful experience or vision, and of the inner joy it gave you." Unfortunately, you usually allow today's depression to overpower the joyful reality that you experienced yesterday.

If you wish to enter into the divine reality which you had two months ago, think of that reality until you no longer feel it is in the past. Think of that reality until the sweetest, most intimate feeling of intense joy that you got from it at the time begins to return. Then immediately bring it to the fore with all its strength. It may take you ten minutes or half an hour, but once the feeling comes, depression and wrong thoughts are bound to go away.Unfortunately, once a wrong thought or depression or jealousy enters into us, we dwell on it and then we are bound. Always try to bring forward the highest or the most fulfilling experiences you have had. Then the dryness caused by these negative forces cannot last.

Question: I often find that in the spiritual life I go up and down. I always hope that I will not fall down again, but it happens constantly.

Sri Chinmoy: In the beginning everybody experiences ups and downs in their Spiritual life. When a child is learning to walk, in the beginning he stumbles and falls again and again and again. But after a while he learns to walk properly, and finally to run. Eventually he can run as fast as his capacity will allow. But a small child cannot expect to run as fast as his father does, because his father has much more capacity.

You experience ups and downs. When you are up you have to feel that you are getting a glimpse of your eventual capacity. When you are down, you should simply feel that this is only a temporary incapacity. Just because you see that those who are more advanced than you in the spiritual life are running, you must not be discouraged. Once upon a time they also stumbled.

Doubt is our worst enemy. If we are weak and we have allowed doubt to enter into us and poison our inner aspiration, we have to cry from the depth of our heart to be cured. Right now the sky may be full of clouds, but a day will come when the sun will shine again with its full effulgence. When you experience low moments of fear, of doubt, of lack of aspiration, you should feel that this won't last forever. Like a child who has fallen, you must try to stand up again. Some day you will be able to walk, then run, and finally run the fastest without falling.

What is of paramount importance in such cases is to have faith in one's own sincere attempt. No matter how many times you fall, if you are more than ready and eager to stand up again, these so-called failures are no failures at all. As they say "Failures are the pillars of success." This is absolutely true. In the beginning, everybody is bound to meet with failures.

Nobody ever received God-realisation overnight or without any difficulty. Just to acquire earthly wisdom of the highest standard, we must study and learn for many, many years. And this hard-earned wisdom may disappear after a few years if we don't practise it or continue to study. But God is eternal, infinite and immortal. Spiritual knowledge once gained can never be lost, because it is the soul's knowledge that we have achieved, and we are growing constantly into the soul's highest Light, which is also eternal, infinite and immortal. To get that kind of knowledge, to inundate our outer life with inner wisdom, takes time.

In the meantime, if we are attacked by depression, anxieties and worries, or by a sense of unworthiness, we have to feel that these are negative, destructive forces. They have to be conquered and they will be conquered. They can be conquered and they must be conquered by our aspiring soul under the proper guidance of the Master and with the infinite Compassion of the Supreme.

Part VII — Expectation

Question: What can we expect from the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: Whenever we do something, we expect. But when we accept the spiritual life there should be very little expectation. The One that we are entrusting ourselves to, the Supreme, is infinitely kind, affectionate and compassionate. Naturally, He will give us whatever we need. We don't have to cry for appreciation or affection from Him. In the outer world if we give one dollar, we get the equivalent of that one dollar in return. But in the spiritual life we are all clever people. God is the only fool. He gives us infinitely more than we give Him.

Part VIII — Fear

Question: Can you tell me if I'm meditating correctly?

Sri Chinmoy: You are meditating well; yet you have unconscious fear in your meditation. This is not good. If you are trying to do the right thing, why should you be afraid? You want to meditate well, but unfortunately fear is constantly torturing your mind. Since you have not deliberately done anything wrong and you are not purposely going to do anything wrong, please feel that there is nothing to fear. Then your meditation will be very deep and sublime.

Part IX — Habits

Question: Is there a spiritual way to break bad habits?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly there is. Before you do anything always meditate for a minute or at least for a few seconds. The power of that meditation will enter into the bad habit like an arrow. Meditation, the soldier, will use his divine arrows against bad habits. This is absolutely the best way.

Part X — Impatience

Question: In the beginning of my spiritual life I had a lot of enthusiasm but it has waned. How can I continue to make steady progress?

Sri Chinmoy: When we launch into the spiritual life we need enthusiasm: Without it we won't budge an inch. Enthusiasm is very good but over-eagerness is bad. If we eat beyond our capacity, we will suffer from indigestion. In your case it was not enthusiasm. Like a greedy fellow you became over eager and tried to eat too much. We must not feel that we will be able to realise God overnight, or that we are running in a competition where we are trying to beat everybody. We are really competing only with our own ignorance. We need patience as well as enthusiasm to win the race.

We must always feel that we have something to achieve and something to give. If we expect abundant peace of mind without self-giving, we are bound to be frustrated. But time is an important factor. We may think with all sincerity, "I am going to realise God tomorrow," but our utmost sincerity won't get us a master's degree overnight. Sincerity is good, but we must also be wise. We have to know our capacity. If we decide that by such and such a date we have to realise God, then we are doomed to disappointment. We should remember that we are like a child who studies a year, then goes one grade higher. We also have to study, to meditate with greatest enthusiasm, but it is a bad mistake to set a date for the achievement of our goal. If we are sincere, God is bound to give us realisation at His choice Hour.

When a stove is turned on just a little, we may not see the flame at all. When we turn the handle quite far, we see the flame. In the spiritual life also, at first our aspiration is quite small. But gradually we turn a little more and a little more toward God. When we have turned completely to God, our aspiration-flame will burn brightly. In the spiritual life there comes a time, after five or fifteen or even thirty years, depending on God's Will, when meditation is spontaneous. Once everything is spontaneous we no longer experience enthusiasm for five minutes, and then spend the rest of the day in depression because we thought that during those five minutes we would earn millions of spiritual dollars.

It is always good to have enthusiasm in our life. Otherwise there will be no progress. But if we are over-eager, we will be trying to get things from God long before we are ready to receive them. We are running toward our destination, but if we try to go beyond our capacity we will only stumble and fall and bruise ourselves. This can only delay our progress ultimately. So let us be patient and content to get a little slowly, but steadily and surely.

Question: Sometimes I feel that if I don't realise God soon, I shall commit suicide.

Sri Chinmoy: Good! The next thing you may as well say is, "It would be so nice if I could turn over my entire existence to the worst possible ferocious beast." Your first realisation is that you must reach the goal right away. Your next realisation will be that you should sacrifice your existence entirely to someone, any being — it doesn't matter who. When your so-called inner life gives you that kind of wisdom, since you have invited him, the destruction-tiger will immediately come and devour you. Perhaps you think that if you have this kind of attitude, the Supreme will say, "Oh, don't commit suicide. I will give you realisation." But if He gives you realisation untimely, that will be the quickest form of suicide.

In India they say that if you want to take your life, but you are afraid to do it, then just brag as much as you can. Some people say that they will do something great and then, if they cannot do it, they want to commit suicide. When they fail, they are ready to commit suicide, but at the same time they are afraid. But in our scriptures it is mentioned that if you brag that you did this and that, and you said this and that, if you brag about all the things you and your forefathers supposedly did, then you will have committed real suicide. So if you cannot fulfil your promise either about realising God or about committing suicide, then boast as much as you can. That will be your best way of committing suicide.

Here is a book that all of us have been waiting for: a book about the obstacles on our spiritual path and how to surmount them. In this book the seeker will discover that his life-torturing and heart-discouraging problems are shared, suffered, survived and finally illumined and transcended by other spiritual seekers, too. Here he will find guidance and inspiration as well as encouragement and consolation. Here he will find the compassionate Wisdom of the Supreme leading and guiding him into His very Heart.

Problems, problems; are they really problems? Only until they are transformed into divine opportunities by our sincere love of light, by our soulful cry for God.

Part XI - Poems from the first edition

Problem, problem!

Problem, problem!
How to purify earth-impurity?

Problem, problem!
How to illumine earth-obscurity?

Problem, problem!
How to strengthen earth-insecurity?

Problem, problem!
How to enlighten earth-futility?

Protect yourself

Protect yourself
From your own teeming fears.

Protect yourself
From your own darkening doubts.

Protect yourself
From your own binding thoughts.

Protect yourself
From your own strangling will.

Hopeless, useless and helpless

He is hopeless.
His darkness
Has corrupted the beauty of his mind.

He is useless.
His insincerity
Has corrupted the lustre of his heart.

He is helpless.
His ingratitude
Has corrupted the effulgence of his soul.

Under control

Your fear is under control.
Therefore
God the omnipotent Power loves you.

Your doubt is under control.
Therefore
God the transcendental Light loves you.

Your impurity is under control.
Therefore
God the supreme Pride loves you.

Your insecurity is under control.
Therefore
God the boundless Delight loves you.

He and his

He and his ego worship each other,
He and his doubt love each other,
He and his fear torture each other,
He and his failure hate each other,
He and his perfection reject each other,
He and his death live in each other.

No little enemy

There is no little enemy.
A wee fear
Tortures our whole existence.
A tiny doubt
Devours our entire being.
A puny jealousy
Destroys our universal oneness.