Reincarnation and evolution

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Part I — The world of sleep

Question: Do you ever sleep?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not actually sleep. For a fleeting second or a minute I close my eyes and consciously energise my whole body, my existence. You may call it sleep, but how could sleep energise me in just a fleeting second? Sometimes I sleep when I am sick, for an hour or two; otherwise, fifteen minutes is more than enough. If I sleep more than that, I am just wasting my time.

Question: How long can a disciple sleep in your boat?

Sri Chinmoy: A disciple can sleep in my boat as long as he wants to. Stay in the boat, sleep and snore, but just stay in the boat. That is more than enough. Do anything you want to; just don't jump out of the boat.

Question: What do the spiritual Masters in India do when their disciples fall asleep during meditations?

Sri Chinmoy: In India, very sincere spiritual Masters ask their disciples to meditate at night in front of an open fire, so the disciples don't fall asleep. No matter how cold it is, the disciples have to meditate. If they fall asleep, the Master just strikes them mercilessly and says, "Why do you have to create problems for your parents and dear ones? You left them for God, and now you have to deceive God also?"

Many of you people leave the members of your family for God. That is wonderful. But if you leave them because you are afraid of accepting earthly life, then it is just deception. If you have accepted the spiritual life, then you have to be sincere to God. There are many, many absolutely authentic incidents told about Masters who strike their disciples like anything, because they feel that the disciples have broken their promise to God. Perhaps there was a time when this was an acceptable method, but the difficulty is that in the modern world, physical torture is not the worst torture. If the mind is illumined and the heart is awakened, then the physical torture is not necessary at all. Why should the Master strike you? If you know that you are doing something wrong by sleeping, then you will try to conquer it so that you don't sleep next time.

I feel that there is much truth in the method that they applied. I don't use it, I cannot use it; but I cannot say that their method is wrong. Their method is equally good. In this case, the Teacher is not getting malicious pleasure by striking the disciple. It is because of his love for the disciple that he is doing it. This is one method. But in general my policy is to disapprove of physical violence.

Mental violence goes on everywhere. When one person becomes jealous of another, he attacks that person mentally. Wrong forces attack you all the time like arrows, and you are also throwing arrows. But a physical attack is absolutely the worst kind of violence. If you can throw these forces aside on the mental plane, it is wonderful. If not, at least you should try to throw them aside on the vital plane. Now if you can't do this on the vital plane, then these forces come to the fore on the physical plane.

Once two young men who are disciples of mine, who were intimate friends, had a fight on the vital plane. The next morning they meditated together and they never thought of striking each other on the physical plane. But on the vital plane they had fought just the night before. I had to intervene in order to end it. Fortunately, it did not come down to the physical plane. Quite often this happens between two men or between two women or sometimes between men and women, and I have to become the umpire. A fight can start with jealousy, insecurity, worry, depression or any negative force.

Question: Sometimes when I feel tired at work, humour helps me to wake up.

Sri Chinmoy: Excellent. So you have got an antidote to sleep. There are many ways you can conquer sleep. So if you are awakened by some funny incident or stories, then use that method. Disciples should learn it from you.

Question: Can you give us any suggestion as to how we can be more alert during morning meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: If you find that it is impossible to remain alert at the Centre at six am, then the best thing to do is to meditate at home. The traditional way of meditating is every day, early in the morning. Morning meditation is of greatest importance. If anybody is extremely tired and exhausted, or is feeling sleepy, or straining his eyes, or finding difficulty in meditating here, then he should not come. Please meditate at home. There you can meditate while sleeping. If you meditate that way here, you will ruin the sincere aspiration of your spiritual brothers and sisters. We shall not mind at all if you do not or cannot come in the mornings. But if you do come, kindly come fully prepared to meditate well and to inspire others to meditate well. In that way you will inspire others and others will inspire you.

Question: Sometimes when I fall asleep it's not because my mind is tired, but because it is roaming all over the place. What can you do when your mind starts roaming?

Sri Chinmoy: Just think of the mind as a load of rubbish. Just collect it, put it all in a garbage bag and then throw it away. Feel that everything in your mind is dirty and filthy. Just look for a garbage bag and then fill it and throw it away.

Question: Sometimes it seems a shame that we spend one third of our lives in sleep.

Sri Chinmoy: Ask your sincerity. If you sincerely need God then you don't have to spend that many hours in sleep. Sincerity has to answer this question: how desperately do you need God? Imagine that somebody is pressing your head under water. You are dying for a breath, your whole being cries only for air. If you need God as much as you would need air if you were in this situation, if God's existence comes first and foremost in your life, and if you feel that you can exist without air, water, food or anybody, but not without God, then you don't have to sleep so many hours. Sincerity is the answer. Your sincerity will solve the problem.

Question: If I have worked at length doing an important activity, I want to know if it is all right to miss meditation sometimes in order to get some sleep.

Sri Chinmoy: It is a matter of giving importance. To what do you give importance? Suppose something important is taking place and you are falling asleep. You have worked very hard and you can justify it. But by justifying it you are gaining nothing. You can say that you have worked for Guru and he will forgive you. But you also have to ask whether Guru has given you permission to miss it. If I tell someone not to come to the meeting, then I take the responsibility. I will give him the result of his meditation. If you work, I am responsible. But for the next occasion, if you do not ask my permission, then I may not take the responsibility. You will say that you are tired, but I will say that you are lazy and lethargic.

There are various ways to keep yourself awake. Do japa; say, "Supreme, Supreme, Supreme" as fast as possible. If that does not work, wash your face and eyes, and if even that does not work, then take a small drop of mustard oil and put it in the outer corner of your eyes. Rub it gently into the skin in the corner of the eyes. It will sting and burn your eyes, but it will not injure or destroy them. And it will keep you awake. That little bit of burning is nothing compared to what you get: peace, light and bliss.

The real problem is your sincerity. If you are sincere then you value everything correctly. When you know that something helps you, you do it. You have to give the right importance to things. You have to say that you will not dine with ignorance, and you will dine with light.

Some people feel that if they have meditated for two hours, then they can do anything they want: watch TV programmes, go to the movies, read silly books, or mix with unspiritual people. These things may be very good in the world's eyes, but spiritually they are nothing. For millions of years you have lived in sleep. Now do you want still to do things that give you nothing spiritually? You have to feel that your relaxation can actually negate your meditation. Suppose you have meditated for two hours. You can't meditate all day long. You have meditated well, but now you cannot go on. So what can you do? You can read my writings. When your eyes get tired, you can listen to my music, and when you can no longer do that, then you can look at prints of some of my paintings.

When you have done those things, you can sleep. You see that your Guru has quite a few things to offer — he has done hundreds of things. Instead of wasting your time with gossip and other worldly things, you can run the fastest. If you continue running you will make the fastest progress.

This is how you can live your life. At work you can repeat the name of the Supreme many times. When you come home you can meditate, read my writings, listen to my music and look at my pictures. That way you can stay in my consciousness all the time. Run the fastest when you can. If you give up running you are off the track, and then it will take a very long time to reach the goal.

Question: Do we receive anything from you when we sleep during meditations? Do you scold us?

Sri Chinmoy: When some of you are really asleep, sometimes it happens that you help me, even in a negative way. Sometimes you come to meditation agitated and angry with me or some of the disciples. When you are angry with me, you are consciously hurting me. You are not surrendering; you are only striking me again and again. But if you get tired of your action and you fall asleep, at that time what actually happens is that you surrender to me consciously or unconsciously, and you give up the fight. You are no longer striking me. At that time I am in a position to place you on my shoulder. You are like a child who is angry with the mother. He goes on throwing everything that he finds — dolls, toys, and everything — and then he becomes tired. Then what happens? When he is totally tired, he falls asleep and the mother can do anything with him. Similarly, when a disciple falls asleep, I can carry him, and show him light. So in such cases, it is better to fall asleep during meditation, so that you don't throw your anger and depression and other negative forces into me. Instead of throwing these forces into me, if you consciously fall asleep, then at that time I will lift them and I will lift you on my shoulder. Whatever you have and whatever you are will be on my shoulder. So at that time sleep is helpful.

But if you come to me with devotion, love, aspiration and intensity at that time, then it is a bad thing to fall asleep. At that time if you can give me all the good qualities that you have got, the father and son or father and daughter become one, and we become much stronger. I deal with infinite Light and Bliss, but the very fact that you are giving me something very good and very divine adds to your own capacity. When you offer any good quality, immediately it adds. If you have to fight against a tiger or a person, when you take my side and I take your side, it becomes very easy. When you have come with aspiration, it is really harmful for you to sleep. It is harmful in the sense that if you come with aspiration, then you can really be of great help to me. But if you don't come with aspiration, if you come with agitation and anger and depression, then the best thing is to fall asleep.

Question: It is difficult for me to get enough sleep, especially since I have to get up early in the morning to meditate.

Sri Chinmoy: In America, most people go to sleep at midnight or later. Here if you go to Greenwich Village at midnight, it is like midday. In India it is not like that. There, by ten o'clock everybody is in bed. So, in the same way, your Master is the culprit. He keeps you people up until one o'clock and so on. But if you come home at let us say, twelve o'clock, then you can still sleep for six hours. Some people get up at seven o'clock, and seven hours' sleep is, I think, more than enough. Eight hours of sleep is not for spiritual people. You could have taken eight hours of sleep a few years ago, but some of you still sleep ten hours. Perhaps you sleep on my behalf.

You should feel that more than seven hours of sleep, like drugs, wine, smoking and other things, is something really detrimental to your health and to your spiritual progress. If you take it in that way, as something really detrimental to your spiritual consciousness, then you will be able to discipline yourself.

Part II — Dreams and visions

Question: Do you believe in spiritual dreams?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. But we have to know that there are many places where dreams come from. Sometimes from the subconscious world we get many dreams which have no value. Sometimes we get dreams from the higher worlds. When we get dreams from the higher worlds, these dreams are bound to materialise. Today's dream is tomorrow's reality, when the dream is coming from a world which is living and palpable. Only we do not always know where a dream has come from. When we meditate we enter into many worlds consciously, and the reality of these worlds enters into us in our dreams. If the dream is from a higher world, it will be fulfilled today or tomorrow. It has to be fulfilled. But if it is just from the subconscious world where we are quarrelling, fighting and doing so many things, it need not materialise.

Question: Should we give importance to dreams or visions?

Sri Chinmoy: We have to know what kind of dreams we are dealing with. We get some dreams from the lower vital world. They have no value. Again, some dreams we get from the higher worlds. These dreams are not dreams, they are visions. Each vision is a harbinger of reality. Reality is bound to loom large in each vision at God's choice Hour. The vision is the seed and the seed is bound to grow, to germinate and in due course become a plant. Today's vision is tomorrow's reality. Today embodies tomorrow, which is reality itself.

Question: How can you tell the difference between the two kinds of dreams?

Sri Chinmoy: When you study you learn many things. You learn to tell the difference between one thing and another. So also, when you meditate you learn things in the inner worlds, but this takes time. In order to get your Master's degree, how many years do you have to study? It is the same in the spiritual world. I spent twenty years right from my childhood studying and practising the spiritual life, and that is why I am in this position. If you study something for twenty years, I am sure that you will also be an authority on that particular subject.

Question: Should we encourage dreams? Is it good to dream about you?

Sri Chinmoy: No. One of the disciples writes to me every week about her dreams. Every night she has two or three dreams about me or the other disciples. There is not a single night that she will not have dreams, silly vital dreams. If you have a dream early in the morning that your father has died, then you shake for four hours. If you see your father, you will start trembling and he will say, "What is wrong with you?" Your dream has become more real than fact. If you have a dream that somebody has passed away, then for hours you suffer. But why should you encourage these kinds of dreams? Cowards die long before their death, and dreams also help people to die before their death.

But inspiring dreams are different. If somebody sees that I am blessing him, naturally that dream is good. At some ashrams, if someone gets just a little smile from the Master, he will be in Heaven for four days. So in the dream also, if you see me smiling at you, it has to last for a few minutes. A dream itself is reality in some other plane, some other world. That particular reality can be formulated either through vital desires or through psychic aspiration. If it is formulated through vital desires, even if they are unconscious, then you have to discard them. If it is formulated through the consciously aspiring heart, you should encourage it and try to have it regularly. They say that if you meditate after four am for about an hour and then go to sleep, you will get sweet dreams. First meditate, and if your meditation is very sound, then you go to sleep.

Question: If you have a dream that you have been in a place, or something happens, will it come true?

Sri Chinmoy: There is no hard and fast rule. There can be no categorical answer. You have to know what kind of dream you are having. Sometimes these are all imaginary dreams which come from the subconscient plane. For example, if you want to eat something, say chicken, and you don't get it, then at night the desire may be transmitted into a dream and in the dream you will be eating chicken. That kind of dream is no real dream. It is only an unfulfilled desire which comes from the subconscient plane and manifests itself in the dream state.

There are real dreams and these dreams generally take place in the small hours of the morning. We call it the Hour of God, which is between four and five o'clock in the morning. The actual hour starts at four o'clock. If you have dreams at that time they are likely to materialise. But these dreams also have to be properly guarded; they have to be without any impure thoughts. Then also, if you have dreams during a lunar eclipse or solar eclipse, these dreams are usually fulfilled.

Question: Six or seven times my uncle has had very vivid dreams which have actually taken place on the physical plane after he has woken up. He believes that it is his soul that is giving him the message.

Sri Chinmoy: It is absolutely true. If you get these messages from above, they are bound to take place. But if we meditate, if we concentrate, we can consciously enter into the dream worlds. Right now, to us the dream world is something vague, uncertain and to some extent obscure. But if we study it, we will know many things about it. It is a matter of studying. If you study the inner life, naturally you will be inundated with the inner knowledge. Self-knowledge is self-cultivation, inner discovery. When you study you discover many things. Similarly, if you study inwardly, then you will discover the inner life. There everything is recorded; only we have to unfold it.

Question: I dreamt that my mother was going to die. I knew it, so I prayed and prayed. Then she did die.

Sri Chinmoy: Your dream was only preparing you. If you hadn't known, your shock would have been more severe. Even if you had known only three hours before her death, it would have helped you to strengthen yourself. When your mother's death took place, on the one hand it was frightening and on the other hand your dream helped you to become stronger.

Question: Recently I woke up from a terrible nightmare in which something was strangling me. Why does this happen?

Sri Chinmoy: While you are sleeping, if your two hands are joined together and are right on your chest, over the heart, you will sometimes get nightmares. Many times this happens. Also, it is not good to cover your face with the blankets and sheets.

Part III — Death and the afterlife

Question: Does the Self continue after death?

Sri Chinmoy: The Self does not die. It has transcended death. We say, "That thou art." So it transcends so-called life and so-called death, because it is immortal, eternal, infinite.

Question: What happens to the soul after death?

Sri Chinmoy: The place that one enters right after death, the vital world, is not a nice place. Sometimes souls stay for three years in the vital zone. But if a spiritual Master intervenes he can very rapidly take a soul to the other inner worlds. The fastest that a spiritual Master can do this is nineteen days. In the vital itself there are better worlds and there are lower worlds. On earth we have countries, and there they are called worlds. Here we say that some countries are bad and other countries are nice. All the inner worlds other than the vital are good worlds, although some are higher than others. But in the vital, some worlds are not so nice. The higher the soul goes, from the lower vital to the higher vital to the psychic worlds, the better for it. In the higher inner worlds souls have better treatment and better nourishment. Everything is better.

These are not make-believe stories. In the worlds after death, things can be as definite and as real as they are here. If your father appears to you in a dream from the other world, then when you join him after thirty or forty years, your father will even remember the actual date that he appeared to you. In Heaven there is a chart and everything is recorded.

Question: How is it possible for someone to still be alive on the physical plane if his soul has left his body?

Sri Chinmoy: Your soul has left your body many, many times during your sleep and come to me, and still you are alive. The soul can leave the body for a few seconds. A fleeting second in the soul's world would seem like many years or many months here. There is a difference between the soul's time and our earthly time. An ordinary soul can leave the body for a maximum amount of eleven to thirteen hours. If the soul leaves the body and does not come back by that time, then usually it cannot come back into the cage which is the body. Otherwise, the soul can leave the body for half an hour or an hour and the body can function automatically during sleep and at other times. You may be sleeping for eight hours. During those eight hours, for half an hour or forty-five minutes your soul can come to New York or to the soul's region or to various other places. Again, the experience that your soul has in one second will take you an hour to narrate.

When you see something with your ordinary human eyes, you just see that one thing. But if you see with the soul's light, you will be able to see everything in a fleeting second. And again, when you try to express that fleeting second with your mind, you can spend one hour in dealing with details: who sat beside you and what she looked like or what was on the wall. You can go on and on. So when you say that a soul came and had a conversation with your soul, this conversation may have lasted only for a fleeting second, but when the physical mind records it in its own way and wants to narrate it, it may take one or two hours.

So the soul can leave the body for a few minutes or a few hours, and the body can function. But again, if it is over thirteen hours, then it is impossible to keep the connection. The cord is snapped. Sometimes it happens that the soul goes to various soul's worlds or distant parts of the world, and after four or five hours it doesn't want to come back.

Question: Do spiritual Masters ever appear in the subtle body after their death?

Sri Chinmoy: In India, many spiritual Masters have proved to their dear ones that death is not the end by appearing most vividly in the subtle body. Just one example I will give you. There was a great spiritual Master named Sri Ramakrishna. When he left the body, his wife became a widow. It is customary in India that when the husband dies, the wife stops wearing her bangles and jewels. But when Sri Ramakrishna's wife was removing her jewellery, her husband appeared before her so vividly and said to her, "What are you doing? You should not take off these bangles and jewels. On the contrary, from now on you should wear golden bracelets and golden jewellery. I am now immortal; therefore, you should wear something more beautiful, more meaningful and more fruitful." There are many incidents like that, only they are not recorded.

Question: Why don't souls of disciples that see death forces around them inform you in time?

Sri Chinmoy: They do inform me, but sometimes the soul will know only five minutes or half an hour before. It is not that the soul will know twenty years before. And sometimes it happens that an accidental death is caused by a very powerful hostile force, and in this case the soul itself may not know. Somebody has stayed on earth seventy or eighty years, and a terrible hostile force has attacked, but the soul is not aware. The soul is supposed to be always conscious, but sometimes when it mixes with the physical and the mind, the soul is unable to operate with eternal and inseparable oneness with the Supreme. The soul is covered layer by layer, and it becomes difficult for the soul's light to come forward.

Question: Does the soul ever linger on earth after death in order to help its near and dear ones?

Sri Chinmoy: Some souls don't waste much time. They just go away. They only wait for a few days to see if their relatives and friends care for them. After three or four days they have experienced enough.

Again, some wise souls stay in spite of being very bright and powerful. They want to see if they can help their friends and relatives before they enter into the mental world. If they can be of some service to their dear ones, they do it. They help them in many ways by inspiring them. Sometimes they come to a friend or relative in a dream with some light, and they give some inspiration. Or they come to them and say, "There is nothing lasting on earth. As I have left the body, so also you will have to leave. My time is expired. Now I can't do anything more for God on earth. So the best thing is to achieve something for God on earth. Don't waste time. Do as much as you can." Before it leaves the body, each soul feels sorry that it has wasted time. We all waste time. The soul can also give people answers either through luck or through inner communication. So there are many ways the soul can help its near and dear ones.

Question: How do you feel about preserving the body after death?

Sri Chinmoy: There is no purpose to it when the soul leaves the body. It is up to the soul to leave any fragment of its existence in the body. When the tenant of an apartment goes away, he can take everything away from his apartment, and again he can leave some expensive things that he feels he does not need. If the soul wants to leave a portion, an iota of its infinite wealth in the body, then it can. But the soul usually does not do this; it thinks that since the house is broken, there is no use in keeping something very valuable there. If I know that I am giving up my apartment, and I am not only giving it up, but smashing it, then the game is over. If the soul does want to leave something, then usually it is only for five or six months.

It may happen that some spiritual Masters will leave light. But again, the Masters may say, "What is the use of it? We have stopped playing the earthly game." It depends entirely on the soul. Only I wish to say that by keeping the body of a realised person on earth for six months, you cannot make others realise God. A Master stays on earth for forty or fifty years. If his physical presence on earth cannot make somebody realise God, then what can a little light accomplish in the body six or eight months after death?

No miracle on earth will help any human being realise God. Miracles the Christ did, but it is not because of his miracles that the world is appreciating and admiring and worshipping him. If you think that it is just because he came back after his death that the world is appreciating him, you are absolutely wrong. He came to the world with the message of Compassion, Peace and Love in infinite measure. He is being worshipped by the world not because of his miracles, but because of his Peace, Light and Compassion, because of the Reality that he embodied, that he still embodies and will eternally embody.

Question: I have made a commitment to donate my bodily organs to a hospital at death. Have I done the right thing?

Sri Chinmoy: It is a matter of personal opinion. In India they purify the body after death by burning it. They feel that there have been impurities in the body during life, so after death they purify it by burning. Here in the West they bury the body. They feel that since the body has made tremendous sacrifices, it has to offer itself to the earth. In your case, if you feel that by sacrificing your body to medical science you are doing something helpful, then you can do it. But again, if you feel that when you sacrifice your body, some silly doctor will have no concern and respect for it, and will just butcher it in order to gain some experience, then you may not want to do it. It is you who must decide. When you pray and meditate you will be able to know what is the right thing for you to do.

Question: Guru, I work in a hospital and sometimes there are people who are terminally ill. What is the best way of dealing with those people?

Sri Chinmoy: Just try to be more compassionate and more loving. What you are doing now is absolutely right, only try to do it more. Feel that you are not doing anything wrong. You are doing the right thing. You may be criticised, but when you are doing something right and people misunderstand you, then what can you do?

There are two ways to serve mankind, the inner and the outer way. There are two ways of serving patients. One way is to talk to them and mix with them very compassionately. The other way is to offer good will, love and concern inwardly. If you feel that the inner way is not effective, then you are making a mistake. I do not work at the hospital, but since necessity demands, you have to work there. You should try not to spend more time in the hospital than necessary. Suppose a member of your family is sick in the hospital. Then you have to go. But if you go to the hospital and spend hours and hours there with the idea that you are becoming a great philanthropist, that you are helping mankind, then God will say, "How do you know that is the thing that I want from you?" It is good to help, to give five dollars or ten dollars to the poor, the needy. But charity may not be God's Will for you at a particular time. It is good to go to work at the hospital. But if you feel that that kind of philanthropy will make you realise God, you are making a mistake. There are millions of doctors and nurses, and thousands of hospitals. God alone knows how many incarnations the doctors and nurses will take to realise God. You don't have to be indifferent. But at the same time you must not forget your goal.

Sometimes it happens that outer things demand so much of your attention that you cannot do the inner things. At that time, when you meditate, like a miser you meditate only for yourself. You cannot give the hospital patients even an iota of peace inwardly during your meditation. At that time they don't exist. The outer absorbs so much of your attention that you cannot do anything inwardly for the patients. But when you are finished with your meditation, then you think of your friends and dear ones.

If you have to work at the hospital, please be nice and kind, but do not go out of your way, for if you do it will be difficult for you to maintain your own spiritual life. Generally, the terminally ill are not divine. They are people who have one foot in the grave. What can you expect from them? They won't accept the spiritual life consciously. If you want to help them, then be kind, more kind. But do not go out of your way.

Question: If the soul has already left the body, is it possible for the body to be kept alive by doctors?

Sri Chinmoy: It is possible if the soul keeps a little physical vibration. But in the inner world they are dead.

Question: Is it written in a person's palm when he will die?

Sri Chinmoy: From the palm you cannot always tell when someone will die. If it is an accidental death, the palm may not be correct, but the forehead is always correct. It gives an immediate vibration. The forehead will have written on it what will happen to the individual tomorrow, or in two or three days. It will be written on the nose if there is going to be an accidental death.

I once had a friend who was very fond of me. His name was Ravi. One day he was practising javelin at six o'clock in the evening. When I took the javelin from him I saw death forces in him. I thought, "Best thing is to forget about it, or pray to God." I didn't want to know about it. The following day, I was going down some stairs, and he was near the staircase. There I saw the same force and I cursed myself, saying it was all my mental hallucination. An hour and a half later, I heard that he had had an accident. He was riding a motor bike behind a truck with his friend. They were following the truck. The truck lowered its speed, and this fellow thought he also was lowering his speed, but he pressed the handle the wrong way and increased the speed, so he dashed against the truck. The truck driver heard the sound. He came and grabbed both of them and took them to the hospital. They were put in one room. Ravi's mother came to see him, but she was not allowed in because the doctor said that both the cases were serious. I think he lived only for three hours. So an apparition came to me while I was practising javelin and the day he died was the day of our javelin competition. I did not go there; I only went to the funeral. In his case it was destined that he die.

Part IV — Reincarnation and evolution

Question: You said that we are all evolving and progressing. But where did this whole process start? Was there a beginning?

Sri Chinmoy: We came into existence from God's Delight. When we entered the creation, we evolved through the lower stages: mineral life, plant life, animal life. It is true that we are constantly progressing. Although we have now entered into the human life, we are still half animal. There are some who want to kill or hurt others, and exhibit all kinds of animal and destructive tendencies.

But in the case of a spiritual aspirant, it is different. He tries to dispose of all the lower, animal parts of his nature and aspires to be aware of and live in his divine nature where he experiences all Peace and Joy and Love.

In the beginning we came from Delight; we are now growing in Delight; and we shall consciously return to Delight.

Question: Why did we go from light to darkness when we took birth?

Sri Chinmoy: Actually we did not go from light to darkness when we entered into the world. It is a very complicated matter. Each birth is part of the process of evolution. Each person has a soul. The soul enters into matter and from matter it aspires. Mother Earth has the inner urge, the aspiration to be one with the Highest, the cosmic Self, and eventually all human beings on earth will become one with the highest Spirit. This is an evolutionary process leading towards perfect Perfection.

Some will say that God is everywhere, God is inside us and likewise God is inside a thief. When He is not in creation but beyond creation, He is all Light and He enjoys the Light of the Beyond. But when He enters into manifestation, He wants to enjoy Himself in a million ways. The cosmic Self wants to fulfil its cosmic play in each individual and in each creature here on earth. For that, evolution is proceeding.

Our soul is all light. But on earth the atmosphere is not aspiring. When somebody takes birth the first thing he sees is ignorance and illusion all around. In the highest plane we are all perfect, but now in the material plane, we are experiencing the play of ignorance. During our meditation we raise our level of consciousness a little, and find ourselves hundreds of miles above the bed of thorns. Yet, if we remain only where our meditation takes us, above the thorns, and if we cry for perfection, our cry is only partially fulfilled. We are not eating the full fruit. God is inside everything. He must be realised in the material plane also. In the deepest philosophy what we call night is not absolutely night. There is some light there also. A person who is realised naturally has more inner light than a person who is not realised. The world will say that the unrealised person is all ignorance because he has not realised God. We are always comparing someone with somebody else. What is really happening is that we are growing from little light to more light, to abundant light, each according to his own understanding and capacity. What we call night is also light in an infinitesimal form. It is because we are marching forward that we see the difference between effulgent light and darkest night. Strictly speaking, in everything there is light, but our human understanding makes us see both light and darkness. But from the highest point of view we should always feel that we are marching from light to more light, to abundant light.

Question: How does the Supreme incarnate on earth? Does He use evolution or something else?

Sri Chinmoy: All the possibilities have taken place. Sometimes He has literally taken a human body and gone through birth. Other times He has projected a portion of the body. Sometimes He is eighty percent upstairs in the higher worlds and twenty percent downstairs in the earth plane, and other times He wants to be one hundred percent conscious both upstairs and downstairs. It is as if someone is living on the first floor, but has access to the whole building. Sometimes He incarnates with His whole Consciousness and sometimes with a portion of His Consciousness.

When God began His creation, higher souls occasionally took incarnation in one of four or five types of forms. Sometimes cosmic gods took a human form directly. They did not go through the animal process. Then afterwards, the gods would not take human incarnation again because they were satisfied. The cosmic gods did not care for realisation, which has to be achieved through evolution on earth; they cared only for limited power. Of course, this limited power is infinitely more powerful than the power any human being can have.

So there was no one process of evolution for the higher souls. Some began from the mineral and some from the animal kingdoms. Some took human incarnations immediately. If all spiritual Masters had started with the animal form, then God alone knows how spiritual evolution would have taken place.

Question: Is there a special evolution for advanced souls?

Sri Chinmoy: A holy man in his next incarnation can become a Yogi, and then he can become a real spiritual Master. In each life he will only increase his capacity. Each time he becomes stronger, so he will dare to challenge and transform ignorance more. First, as a holy man, he is afraid and does not want to challenge ignorance. He feels that he will lose his purity and divinity. Then, when he becomes a spiritual Master, he is not at all afraid; he knows he can dare to accept it because he has the capacity to transform it. Even without touching it, he can throw ignorance into the universal Consciousness and he can transform the nature of humanity. He started as a holy man. There he is strengthened and his power has increased infinitely. Each time it increases, he becomes a greater manifestation, a greater perfection, a greater fulfilment of the Supreme.

Question: Must a person evolve in every incarnation?

Sri Chinmoy: Each incarnation is meant for progress. Either you can take one step or ten steps or ten million steps. Progress depends on how much aspiration one has. Each incarnation indicates that the soul is entering into the world arena to manifest something. The soul enters into the physical. It has made a fervent promise to God, but because of earthly pleasures and human ignorance, the soul finds it very difficult to make progress. In each life the soul comes to the physical with one sincere will: to go forward. So each incarnation is meant for that. The only thing is that some can cover only one step with greatest difficulty while others can take countless steps. Each incarnation is meant for gradual progress.

Question: Do you have the divine power to reduce the number of our future incarnations?

Sri Chinmoy: Most of the sincere, dedicated disciples have already made such progress in the spiritual life that they have eliminated the need for quite a few incarnations. Dear disciples, first-class disciples, have already made such progress that although it will take them many more incarnations to realise God, they will be realised much sooner than they would have otherwise been.

It depends on how fast you run. If you are a slow runner it will take you forty or fifty seconds to run one hundred metres. But a first-class runner will do it in eleven seconds because he has the capacity to run faster. If someone has the eagerness to learn from a coach or an instructor, naturally he will run the fastest. But if somebody does not practise or take instruction from the coach, then how will he run as fast as someone who does? So speed is of utmost importance. In the case of running a race, it is a matter of ten or twenty or thirty seconds. But in the case of the spiritual life, it is a matter of ten or twenty or forty or sixty incarnations. If you run the fastest when a spiritual Master enters into your life, at that time you have a golden opportunity. All spiritual Masters have said that when spiritual figures descend, it is like an ocean liner that can carry many people very fast. The individual seeker is like a ferry, a little tiny boat that may capsize at any moment.

Question: Is it possible that this is my last incarnation? I have been through so much suffering that I do not want to come back again.

Sri Chinmoy: You are not the only person on earth who is miserable. There are billions of people on earth who will say that they are miserable if you ask them. But you are going to come back anyway. God is very clever. He wants His Game to continue and continue. Unless He sees that you are playing the Game extremely well, that is to say, until you have realised Him, God will not allow you to retire. Even after you have realised God, He still may not leave you alone. Still you may have to work.

Again, who am I to say that this is your last incarnation? If I say yes, then difficulties will arise; and if I say no, then you will really feel miserable. So I won't say. Only let us offer our prayer to God to remove suffering from this earth.

Question: Master, if I have to come back to earth in another incarnation, who is going to take care of my soul? If you won't come to this world again, will you name someone else to take care of me?

Sri Chinmoy: I will not come back any more. I have played my role. Once the game is over, you don't play again. When you are playing your part in a game sometimes you lose the game and sometimes you win. But you will only be concerned that you have played your part. In your case, the most important thing you have to feel is whether or not you have achieved an inseparable oneness with my soul in this incarnation. In the ordinary human life we see the bond between mother and son. You are in Puerto Rico and your son may be in New York. But although you are here working in the office, your heart is inside your son, who may be studying in New York in the University. His heart is also inside you, his mother. From New York the message of all his affection, love and concern is coming to your heart. Even human love, a human bond, has crossed thousands of miles. Your human body will stay on earth for perhaps seventy or eighty years. But in this body you have got something which is called heart. How it is crossing the distance of thousands of miles! This is your offering and his offering.

In the spiritual plane the teacher himself represents God. His soul is infinitely more illumined than his disciples' souls. But each disciple's soul also wants to be as illumined as the Master's soul.

It is most important for the disciple to establish a real feeling, a radiant feeling of oneness with his Master. If the disciple does not realise God in this incarnation, there will be a definite, direct, express connection between that disciple and his Master. Then in the next incarnation, or in one or two incarnations, the disciple can realise the Highest, the Absolute.

Everybody has to realise God. You may say that you won't eat anything. But there is one thing that you will have to eat, and that is the fruit of the tree of realisation. Other food you may deny, but realisation-food you won't be able to deny. God will say, "All right, if you don't want to eat, don't eat, but this food, the realisation-food, you have to eat sooner or later, in this incarnation or in ten incarnations."

When your master is in the physical, it is the greatest opportunity, because at that time your physical mind is bound to be convinced. When a spiritual Master descends to earth, you get the greatest opportunity. Ramakrishna used to say, "The cow is already there. The cow has milk, but where does the actual milk lie? In the udder. When you milk the cow, you should try not to get milk from the leg of the cow or from the tail of the cow or from the ear of the cow. There is no milk there. So also, divine Bliss is everywhere. But there is a particular time when infinite Grace and Compassion can descend consciously and constantly. And that is when a realised Master descends to earth.

At the end of the game everybody will be judged on where he or she stands in the heart of the Master. Everybody will be given the opportunity; everybody will act; everybody will see the results.

Question: When one remembers one's previous incarnation, does he remember the totality of it and not just the negative?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to know that when our progress is slow and we are fully aware of it, then we lose all interest. This is true even after accepting the spiritual life. You have accepted the spiritual life for three or four years, let us say. Your hope will be to realise God and manifest God at the end of fifteen or sixteen years. But if at the end of your incarnation you have not realised God, then you will feel miserable. The progress is so slow. Being fully conscious in this incarnation, you are trying to realise God and you are seeing how hard the spiritual path is. In previous incarnations you may not have accepted the spiritual life, so you were not aware of how slow your progress was. If you are totally unconscious of the existence of spirituality, then how are you going to make any satisfactory progress?

When you don't make satisfactory progress, what happens? You feel miserable, because at that time the negative forces predominate. You do have a positive force to some extent; that is why you are still going forward. But then when you make a comparison between your life of desire and your life of aspiration, you feel that it is the life of desire that looms large and that there is no aspiration, or very little aspiration in you.

But you have to feel that there is definitely something positive inside you; otherwise, you would not have come to the spiritual life proper in this incarnation.

But progress can be very, very slow, and when we come to realise how slow the progress is, we take the negative approach. We become discouraged, and think, "Oh, I spent so many years — four hundred or five hundred years — just to come to the spiritual life. It has taken me hundreds and hundreds of years just to come to the school, and now I have to study for God knows how many years!" It is as if someone has come all the way from India to America to God's school, and when he sees the school, he realises that he will have to study there for many years. So if you take it in this way, the spiritual life may disappoint and dishearten you. But this is the wrong attitude. Right now do not think of the goal. Think only of the next step. Think of what you have to do today. In this way slowly and steadily you will make progress.

Question: Did any of your disciples know each other in past incarnations?

Sri Chinmoy: This is not our first and this cannot be our last incarnation. Previously I used to speak much about past incarnations, but recently I have stopped because it only creates confusion. On rare occasions when the Supreme tells me to make disciples aware of their past incarnations, I do so. When the Supreme asks me to do it, that means it is going to help the persons concerned and also others who are present. There are two disciples here who are close friends in this incarnation. When I was meditating on them, I saw that they were physical brothers in their previous incarnation. They were physical brothers in their immediate past and were very close to each other. In their last incarnation, they had two more brothers, and in this incarnation they will see them. When the other brothers come to me, I shall show them both to you. I cannot say that all four brothers will stay with me as disciples all of this life. But when they come, I will definitely be able to show these friends that they were their brothers in the past. I believe the last two brothers are going to come in six or seven months' time. Either these two friends will bring them or they will come in some other way. Then it will be up to them to follow my path or not.

The past doesn't end with this. In their previous incarnation the two friends here were brothers but, prior to that, they were son and father. Nothing can eclipse my third eye's vision. I see that one was the father and one was the son. In this incarnation, the father and the son, the two brothers, have come to my path. In this incarnation both of them will also be one on the spiritual level. Human brothers and human fathers and sons come and go. But when you have established real spiritual oneness, that feeling cannot disappear. When a spiritual father unites two spiritual brothers, they are bound forever. When I say that they are bound, that doesn't mean that they will be so completely bound that they want to kill each other. No. They will only have the feeling of true inseparable oneness. Both will help each other immensely.

Indeed, it is a great joy to see the members of our family coming back to us from past incarnations. In this incarnation if the relationship is based on spirituality, then the members can really help each other considerably. However, if one is following the spiritual path and the other is following an ordinary path, it is usually hopeless. The spiritual one will think the other is still in ignorance, and the one who is leading an ordinary life will think that the spiritual one is of no use because he has given up the world. They will misunderstand each other. But if both follow the spiritual life, it is a real divine blessing.

If the dear ones, the brothers and sisters, come back again together and they are conscious of what they were, that does help them make real progress. Their progress will be very fast because they will get some benefit from the past. I always say that the past is dust. Yes, the past did not give the disciples realisation but, if in the past they had a feeling of oneness or closeness with someone, then when they learn of their past association, they recover that closeness and that oneness. It is not actually the past, but only the disciple's sense of oneness, only their larger self, that I am bringing back into the disciple's own consciousness.

Question: Do a person's relatives in this incarnation have any connection with his relatives in a past incarnation?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on God's Will. Your grandfather in this incarnation may not want to keep any connection with your family, so in his next incarnation he will enter into some other family. Sometimes souls try to change the game. They do not want to continue the same game. One soul will say, "I have played my part. Now I want to have a connection with another family." Again, someone may be your grandfather in this incarnation, but if he wants to remain in the same family he can come back to you in another incarnation as your grandson. Naturally he will come in a different form, as a grandson, a nephew or cousin. In the same way the mother can come as a daughter, a cousin or a sister. So there is no hard and fast rule. In this way they continue.

Question: Many people do not believe in reincarnation. Why do you believe in it?

Sri Chinmoy: There are some who say that they do not believe in reincarnation, but I find it difficult to subscribe to their views. In the morning, people have their breakfast without fail. Ask them in the evening what they ate in the morning, and they will not be able to answer. But can you say that the morning did not exist at all for them? The morning existed, but they have totally forgotten what they ate. Again, let us say that you did something extraordinary at the age of four. Do you still remember it? You may be twenty-three or twenty-four years old. What you did yesterday you may not recollect, but at the age of four you did something extraordinary and you do remember it. If you deny your previous incarnation you are making a mistake. Just because you cannot recollect what you did yesterday or previously, you cannot say that it did not exist for you. It did exist.

Again, how much of your past is it necessary for you to know? In the spiritual life, the past is dust. If the past has not given you what you want right now, then it is not necessary to delve into the past. The past has not given you God-realisation. That is why you are still yearning for God-realisation. You are crying for something. If you do not have something and you are trying to get it, then from where will you get it — behind you or from ahead of you? Naturally you will get it from ahead, while you are walking along the path towards the Goal. That is why I tell my disciples that it is not necessary to pay attention to previous incarnations. It does not help you at all; and sometimes it may even create tremendous problems in the spiritual life. In this incarnation, you are very good, very kind, very spiritual. But who knows? Perhaps in your past incarnation, you were a totally different person. Perhaps you were absolutely ordinary and unaspiring, and you did many undivine things. In this incarnation if you come to know what you did, you may be totally disappointed. You may think, "Oh, that is why I am not making any progress. It is because in my past incarnation I was not at all spiritual." The past may be so discouraging it will not allow you to run faster towards your goal. Again, suppose in your past incarnation you were very spiritual and very devoted. If you do not have the same kind of inspiration, aspiration and inner cry in this incarnation, then will you not feel miserable? In the morning you had a wonderful breakfast and at lunchtime you are not getting anything. If you come to learn that in your past incarnation you had tremendous aspiration and you did extremely well in the spiritual life, and if you feel that in this incarnation you are not doing well, that your progress is not at all satisfactory, then you will feel miserable. Only on rare occasions, when seekers come to know that they did something well in their past incarnation, do they feel, "If I could do something outstanding in my previous incarnation, how is it that I am not making rapid progress in this incarnation?" Then they get adamantine determination. With that determination, they go very fast. But this happens only rarely. Usually when you come to know about your past incarnation it does not help you. If you know about unhappy experiences this becomes an additional problem for you in this incarnation; and if you come to know that you were really great, and in this incarnation are not that great, then again it becomes a serious problem. This is why I always say it is better not to dig into the past — only to look forward, to see what is ahead for you. Then only will you reach the Goal.

Question: How can I get rid of bad karma?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on whether it comes from this incarnation or past incarnations. Sometimes a person will say, "In my past incarnation I did many wrong things." But it may be due to circumstance: your husband or son did something wrong in the past. You have to know that the law of karma is very complicated. Many times an individual gets punishment from association, because he is a member of a certain family. You may say that the very fact that he is in that particular family is karma. Otherwise, why did he come into that family? There is a great difference between karma you have accrued and karma caused by others. So, in your case, please tell me, is it your own karma or others' bad karma from which you are suffering?

Questioner: I think it is my karma.

Sri Chinmoy: Is it from this incarnation or the past?

Questioner: This incarnation.

Sri Chinmoy: In this incarnation you feel that you have done a few things wrong and now you are suffering. If you have done something wrong, then you know about it and God knows about it. Others also know that you have done something wrong, but they cannot rectify your mistake. Only God can help. If you go deep within, God will tell you that your wrong karma is just an experience and that now that experience is over. You have done something wrong and have suffered. That experience was written in God's Heart, and now it is deleted. The moment you suffered, your bad karma entered into God's cosmic flow.

The voice of silence within you tells you to feel that you did something wrong and that you have offered the experience to God. So now you are in no way responsible. Whenever you do something wrong, act like a child. Whenever a child does something wrong, he runs to his mother. He knows that his mother will protect him. The soul is like a mother. The soul will protect you and give you wisdom. If you know you have done something wrong, immediately run to your Eternal Mother, the soul inside you. Then the law of karma will not affect you, because the soul has more power than the mistakes that you have committed. The soul gets that power from the Supreme. Even if you have suffered and are afraid that your suffering will come back, you will not suffer if you run towards the soul. In this way the law of karma can be nullified.

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