A Sri Chinmoy primer

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Part I — Yoga

Question: You say that you teach Yoga. Could you please explain what Yoga is?

Sri Chinmoy: Yoga means union, man's conscious union with God. Yoga is the spiritual science that teaches us how the ultimate Reality can be realised in life itself.

Yoga is the language of God. If we wish to speak to God, we have to learn His language.

Yoga tells us that we have a divine quality called aspiration within us, and that God has a divine quality called Compassion. Yoga is the common link between our aspiration and God's Compassion.

Our human life is full of doubt, fear and frustration. Yoga helps us to replace fear with indomitable courage, doubt with absolute certainty, and frustration with golden achievement.

Yoga is not something unnatural, abnormal or unearthly. It is something practical, natural and spontaneous. Right now we do not know where God is or what God looks like, but by practising Yoga, we see God at first hand. As in the physical world we achieve success in an activity by constant practice, so also in the spiritual world, by practising Yoga we achieve the goal of goals: God-realisation.

Yoga is neither a philosophy nor a religion. Yoga houses both philosophy and religion and, at the same time, it transcends them. Religion and philosophy can lead a human being up to God's Palace, but Yoga leads the aspirant right up to God's Throne.

Yoga does not interfere with any religion. The real aspirant who has launched into spirituality and Yoga will find no difficulty in remaining in his own religion. I have disciples who are Catholics, Protestants, Jews and so forth. I tell them not to give up their own religion. It is always easier and safer in the beginning for one to remain in his own religion while he practises Yoga. But once he realises God, he transcends all religions. When one goes deep within and realises God, he sees that the whole universe belongs to him, and this realisation transcends all religions.

Religion is inspiration. Yoga is aspiration. Divinity is perfection. Inspiration, aspiration and perfection can easily and fruitfully blossom here on earth in transcendental harmony.

Question: Recently I read about a person who was buried alive for eighteen days and came out unharmed. Does the kind of meditation you teach enable one to eventually perform such feats?

Sri Chinmoy: My teaching is not a kind of miracle-mongering. My business is to help seekers to reach God. Being buried underground for eighteen days will not help us in our spiritual search. What leads us to God is our aspiration, our inner mounting cry.

If somebody performs miracles or supernatural feats, he is not helping us directly or indirectly to realise God. At most we learn from him that there is no end to human capacity if we enter into the secret domains of the cosmic realities. So my teachings have nothing to do with the display of these kinds of silly miracles. If you really want to realise God, if you really want God's infinite Light, Peace and Bliss, then you should keep millions and millions of miles away from fortune-tellers and miracle-mongers. If you think that they inspire you, then you are mistaken. Go deep within and you will discover that they have just aroused your idle, eyeless and fruitless curiosity. Curiosity is not spirituality. And secretly and consciously the fortune-tellers and miracle-mongers have offered you something more: temptation. Temptation is the harbinger of destruction. It is here that the divine mission of your life-unsuccessful, unfulfilled- comes to an end.

Let us be on the alert. I urge you not to confuse your heart's genuine meditation with fortune-telling and miracle-mongering. Don't waste your time. Your time is precious. Your meditation is priceless. Your achievement shall be the treasure of timeless Eternity, measureless Infinity and deathless Immortality. Don't wait. All things come to him who waits, except the realisation that today embodies and the liberation that now reveals.

Physical postures (Hatha Yoga)

Question: Most of us in the Western world who are not familiar with Yoga and meditation tend to associate the two with someone standing on his head or doing particular exercises. How are these exercises related to spirituality?

Sri Chinmoy: Right now many of us are physically very restless, no better than a monkey. We cannot stay still for more than a second without getting restless. These physical exercises and postures, called Hatha Yoga, relax our bodies and give us peace of mind for a short period. But these are only the preliminary stages. What they do is help the seeker enter into the true spiritual life. In the true spiritual system, the beginners in Hatha Yoga are like kindergarten students. From kindergarten we have to go to grammar school, high school, college. In fact, one can easily skip kindergarten. There are many aspirants who can just sit and make their minds calm and quiet and enter into the deeper regions of their being without ever doing any Hatha Yoga.

These exercises will never give us realisation, Never! Otherwise, just by taking physical exercises all the world's athletes would have realised God by this time. The body is necessary. We must have a sound and solid body so that the soul can act in and through the body in the field of manifestation. But if we expect something more from the body, then we are being foolish.

I must emphasise, however, that Hatha Yoga exercises are far superior to the Western system of exercises, which are often done abruptly, vigorously and, to some extent, violently. Hatha Yoga exercises are done calmly, quietly, in a meditative mood. They strengthen the nerves and calm the mind, unlike most Western exercises.

Proper breathing

Question: Would you speak a little about proper breathing in meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: If you are a beginner and want to breathe correctly, you should sit with your spinal cord erect. Now, while breathing, you have to think of purity first. When you breathe in, if you feel consciously or unconsciously that the breath is coming directly from God, from Purity itself, then the breath can be purified. When you breathe in, try to breathe in as slowly and quietly as possible, so that if somebody placed a tiny thread in front of your nose it would not move at all. And when you breathe out, try to breathe out even more slowly than when you breathed in. If possible, leave a short pause between the end of your first exhalation and the beginning of your second inhalation. If you can, hold your breath for a few seconds. But if it is difficult, do not do it. Never do anything that will harm your organs or respiratory system.

Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body Peace, infinite Peace. Now what is the opposite of Peace? You all know: restlessness. When you breathe out, please try to feel that you are expelling the restlessness of your inner and outer body, and the restlessness that you see all around you. When you breathe this way, you will find restlessness leaving you. After practising this a few times, please try to feel that you are breathing in Strength and Power from the universe, the cosmos. And when you exhale, try to expel your fear. When you breathe out, all your fear will come out of your body. After doing this a few times, try to feel that what you are breathing in is Joy, infinite Joy, and what you are breathing out is sorrow, suffering and melancholy.

Another thing you can try when you breathe in is to feel that you are breathing in, not air, but cosmic energy. Feel that tremendous cosmic energy is entering into you with each breath, and that you are going to use it to purify yourself: your body, vital, mind and heart. Feel that there is not a single place in your body that has not been occupied by the flow of cosmic energy. It is flowing like a river inside you. When you feel that your whole being has been washed or purified by the cosmic energy, then feel that you are breathing out all the rubbish inside you, all the undivine thoughts, impure actions, obscure ideas. Anything inside your system that you call undivine, anything that you do not want to claim as your own, feel that you are exhaling it.

This is not the traditional yogic pranayama, which is more complicated and systematised. But what I have just told you is the most effective spiritual method of breathing. If you practise this method of breathing, you will soon see that what you are doing is not imagination; it is reality. In the beginning you have to use your imagination, but after a while you will see and feel that it is not imagination at all, but reality. You are consciously breathing in the energy which is flowing all around you in the cosmos, purifying yourself, and emptying yourself of everything undivine. But this breathing has to be done in a very conscious way, not in a mechanical way. If you can breathe this way for five minutes every day, you will be able to make very fast progress.

When you reach a more advanced stage, when you breathe do not feel that your breath is coming and going only through your nose. Feel that you are breathing in through your heart, through your eyes, through your nose, through your pores. Now you are limited to breathing only through the nose or the mouth, but a time will come when you will know that any part of the body can breathe. Spiritual Masters can breathe even with their nose and mouth closed. When you have perfected this spiritual breathing, you will feel that all your impurity and ignorance is gone. What has come to replace your ignorance and your imperfection is God's Light, God's Peace and God's Power.

Vegetarian diet

Question: In connection with your meditation, do you follow any dietary rules? For example, is it necessary to be a vegetarian in order to follow the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: The vegetarian diet plays a most important role in the spiritual life. Purity is of paramount importance for an aspirant. This purity we must establish in the physical, the vital and the mental. When we eat meat and fish, the aggressive, animal consciousness enters into us. Our nerves become agitated; they become restless and aggressive, and this can interfere with our meditation. But the mild qualities of fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, help us to establish, in our inner life as well as in our outer life, the qualities of sweetness, softness, simplicity and purity. So if we are vegetarians, it helps our inner being to strengthen its own existence. Inwardly, we are praying and meditating; outwardly, the food we are taking from Mother Earth is helping us too, giving us not only energy but also aspiration.

There are some parts of the world where it is exceptionally cold and people living there find it impossible to live on vegetables alone. What can they do? They must eat meat. Or there are some sincere seekers whose physical constitutions are very weak. From the beginning of their lives, they have been eating meat, and now they have formed such a habit-such a bad habit, you can say-that without meat they cannot manage even for a day. On the one hand, they have sincere aspiration, but on the other hand, their bodies revolt. In such rare cases, these aspirants should also eat meat.

Many spiritual seekers have come to the conclusion that a vegetarian is in a position to make quick progress in the spiritual life. But along with a vegetarian diet, one must pray and meditate. Millions of people on earth are vegetarians, but there are not millions of God-realised souls on earth by any means. In India, widows are forbidden to eat meat. Now, in spite of my deepest love and respect for Indian widows, I am afraid that they are not all God-realised souls. For God-realisation one needs aspiration, inner cry. If one has aspiration, the vegetarian diet furthers one's progress, since the body's purity helps one's inner aspiration to become more intense and more soulful. But again, if one is not a vegetarian, that does not mean he will not realise God. Far from it. Christ, Vivekananda and many other spiritual Masters ate meat, and they realised God.


Question: In your opinion, can one realise the Highest or get closer to God through the use of certain drugs?

Sri Chinmoy: If somebody feels that by taking drugs he will get inner experiences or high experiences, then it is his business. Perhaps he will say that I am not the judge or authority, since I have not taken drugs. But I have meditated, and I have realised the Highest. Since you are asking me my opinion, on the strength of my own highest realisation I wish to say that the use of drugs is not proper. Those who take drugs are damaging their inner spiritual faculties which are of paramount importance in order to enter God's Kingdom.

If you throw me into the sea, immerse me forcibly in the water, not allowing me to come to the surface, then what will happen? Just before I lose consciousness I will see all blank, all white. This is the kind of experience that those who have taken drugs get. They get an experience, but it is dangerous, unnatural, forced. But when one prays, when one meditates, when one contemplates, one enters into the living Consciousness of God. One knows the real Truth, feels the real Ecstasy, sees the real Light. This is the positive and natural way of entering into God. By taking drugs and using artificial means, people are unconsciously, if not deliberately, negating the real Truth.

I have a few hundred disciples in the United States and in other places. About thirty or forty of them who are now my close disciples used to take drugs, and according to their own understanding and realisation at that time, they had very high, lofty experiences. But somehow they were not quite satisfied by these experiences. They came to me with the idea of seeing the difference between the experiences that they had had with drugs and the experiences they could get from meditation with me. After a while they began to get real spiritual experiences from their meditation. They say that the difference between drug experiences and meditation experiences is like the difference between sitting in a bathtub and swimming in the vast ocean. When you examine them properly, you see that one experience expands and liberates, while the other binds and limits. To my deepest joy and pride, all these disciples gladly continued to do without drugs. They are surely in a position to judge, since they have had experiences of both kinds.

All those who wish to be my disciples must give up drugs, alcohol and smoking. Taking drugs is very bad in the spiritual life, drinking is very bad in the spiritual life and smoking is very bad in the spiritual life. All these things damage the subtle spiritual nerves. I will not tolerate anybody who is still addicted to drugs and alcohol; I will not be involved in his life of aspiration. He is throwing poison into the sea of nectar. Either one should feel the total necessity of the spiritual life, or he should not come to me. I am not meant for the animal consciousness; I am meant for the aspiring consciousness.

So those who are thinking of becoming my disciples, please make it a point to go deep within and see if this path suits you. You are under no obligation to come here, but if you want to, then there are some rules that are obligatory. There are spiritual Masters who accept drug users, but I am not commissioned by the Supreme to do so. My path is the path chosen for me by the Supreme, and it is His Will that I deal only with those who are willing to abide by the decisions I make regarding my path.

If you want to realise God in this life, fulfil God in this life, if you want to be my disciple, you must be seated firmly in my boat-the boat that will carry you soulfully, devotedly and proudly to your destined Goal, the Goal of the Beyond. Let there be no more wrong movements in your life. At every moment you must cherish the divine inner urge. But you should not waste your precious time brooding on the kind of life you lived in the past. You should not feel sorry about what you did, for your sorrow will weaken your aspiration. I do not ask anybody to repent. It is true that repentance purifies the soul. But at the same time, if you are constantly repenting your past, you will have no time to aspire, to look forward towards the Light of the future. I wish all of you to turn your gaze toward the Light and not toward the darkness in which you lived in the past. The past is dust. It is the future that counts, and the future is now, in the immediacy of today. Forget the past. Only then can the golden future possess you and claim you.

Concentration, meditation, contemplation

Question: Could you please tell us the difference between concentration, meditation and contemplation?

Sri Chinmoy: When we concentrate we do not allow any thought to enter into our minds, whether it is divine or undivine, earthly or heavenly, good or bad. The mind, the entire mind, has to be focused on a particular object or subject. If you are concentrating on the petal of a flower, try to feel that only you and the petal exist, that nothing else exists in the entire world but you and the petal. You will look neither forward nor backward, upward nor inward. You will just try to pierce the object that you are focusing on with your one-pointed concentration. But this concentration is not an aggressive way of looking into a thing or entering into an object. Far from it! This concentration comes directly from the heart, or more precisely, from the soul. We call it the soul's indomitable Will, or Willpower.

Very often I hear aspirants say that they cannot concentrate for more than five minutes. After five minutes they get a headache or feel that their head is on fire. Why? It is because the power of their concentration is coming from the intellectual mind or, you can say, the disciplined mind. The mind knows that it must not wander; that much knowledge the mind has. But if the mind is to be utilised properly, in an illumined way, then the light of the soul has to come into it. When the light of the soul has entered the mind, it is extremely easy to concentrate on something for two or three hours or as long as you want. During this time there can be no thoughts or doubts or fears. No negative forces can enter into your mind if it is surcharged with the soul's light.

So when you concentrate, try to feel that the power of concentration comes from here, the heart centre, and then goes up to the third eye. The heart centre is where the soul is located. The physical heart is tiny, but the spiritual heart-your true home-is vaster than the universe. When you think of your soul at this time, please do not form any specific idea of it or try to think of what it looks like. Just think of it as God's representative, as boundless Light and Delight, which is in your heart. The Light comes from your heart and passes through your third eye, and then you enter into the object of your concentration and have your identification with it. The final stage of concentration is to discover the hidden ultimate truth in the object of concentration.

What concentration can do in our day-to-day life is unimaginable. Concentration is the surest way to reach our goal, whether the goal be God-realisation or merely the fulfilment of human desires. It is concentration that acts like an arrow and enters into the target. He who is wanting in the power of concentration is no better than a monkey. A real aspirant sooner or later acquires the power of concentration either through the Grace of God, through constant practice or through his aspiration. Each seeker can declare that he has a divine hero, a divine warrior, within himself. And what is that divine warrior? It is his concentration.

When we concentrate, we have to concentrate on one particular thing. If I am concentrating on a certain disciple, then he will be the only thing in my mind. He becomes, at that time, the sole object of my attention. But when we meditate, we feel that we have the capacity deep within us to see many, deal with many, welcome many- all at the same time. When we meditate, we have to try to expand our consciousness to encompass the vast sea or the vast, blue sky. We have to expand ourselves like a bird spreading its wings. We have to expand our finite consciousness and enter into the Universal Consciousness where there is no fear, no jealousy, no doubt, but all Joy, Peace and divine Power.

When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul. When we live in the soul, we feel that we are actually meditating spontaneously. On the surface of the sea are multitudes of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In the deepest depths, at the bottom of the sea, it is all tranquility. So when you start meditating, try to feel your own inner existence first. That is to say, the bottom of the sea: calm and quiet. Feel that your whole being is surcharged with peace and tranquility.

Then let the waves come from the outside world. Fear, doubt, worry-the earthly turmoils-will all be washed away, because inside is solid peace. You cannot be afraid of anything when you are in your highest meditation. Your mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. If thoughts or ideas want to come in, you control them with your inner peace, for they will not be able to affect you. Like fish in the sea, they jump and swim but leave no mark on the water. Like birds flying in the sky, they leave no trace behind them. So when you meditate, feel that you are the sea, and all the animals in the sea do not affect you. Feel that you are the sky, and all the birds flying past do not affect you. Feel that your mind is the sky and your heart is the infinite ocean. That is meditation.

When we are in meditation, we want only to commune with God. Now I am speaking in English and you are able to understand me because you know English well. Similarly, when you know how to meditate well, you will be able to commune with God, for meditation is the language we use to speak to God.

Through concentration we become one-pointed and through meditation we expand our consciousness into the Vast. But in contemplation we grow into the Vast itself. We have seen the Truth. We have felt the Truth. But the most important thing is to grow into the Truth and become totally one with the Truth. If we are concentrating on God, we may feel God right in front of us or beside us. When we are meditating, we are bound to feel Infinity, Eternity, Immortality within us. But when we are contemplating, we will see that we ourselves are Infinity, Eternity, Immortality. Contemplation means our conscious oneness with the Infinite, Eternal, Absolute. In contemplation we discover ourselves. When we contemplate, Creator and Creation become one. We become one with the Creator and see the whole universe at our feet, the whole universe inside us. At that time, when we look at our own existence, we don't see a human being. We see something like a dynamo of Light, Peace and Bliss. One should concentrate for a few minutes each day before entering into meditation. You are like a runner who has to clear the track-see if there are any obstacles and then remove them. Then when you begin meditating, feel that you are running very fast, with all obstacles out of your way. You are like an express train, an inner train, that only stops at the final destination. Then, when you reach the Goal, you have to become the Goal. This is the last stage, contemplation. Seekers who are just entering onto the spiritual path should start with concentration, for a few months at least, and then enter into meditation. Then they must meditate for a few years and finally enter into contemplation.


Question: Could you please say something about mantras.

Sri Chinmoy: A mantra is an incantation. It cam be a syllable or one word or a few words or a sentence. When you repeat a mantra many times it is called japa.

What benefit do we get from repeating a mantra? The first benefit we get is purity. Purity is of utmost importance in our spiritual life. If there is no purity, there is no certainty in the spiritual life. Today we may make progress and tomorrow we may drop back to where we started. But when we repeat a mantra which has been given by a spiritual Master — not by anybody else — we are bound to get purity. And from purity we get energy, pure energy. When we have pure energy we get something else: the feeling of universal oneness. And in our oneness with God's universe, we attain oneness with God Himself.

The best way to repeat a mantra to attain purity quickly is to ascend by steps. You all know the significance of AUM, the sacred name of God. Today, repeat five hundred times 'AUM,' 'Supreme,' or whatever mantra your Master has given you. Then tomorrow, repeat it six hundred times; the day after tomorrow, seven hundred; and so on, until you reach twelve hundred in one week's time. Then begin descending each day until you reach five hundred again. In this way you can climb up the tree and climb down the tree. When you climb down, please feel that you are trying to distribute this fruit through your heart to the aspiring people around you.

There are two ways to do japa. One is audible, the other is inaudible. If you repeat the mantra out loud, you will get physical purity. If you repeat the mantra in silence, you will get purity in your inner existence. Physical purity is necessary the spiritual life, but if inner purity is lacking the seeker will make no progress. A person may be physically clean, physically pure, but in his mind he may be thinking of undivine, impure things. Inner purity is lacking at that time. So it is better to practise japa in silence and feel that there is somebody inside you, your inner being, who is repeating the word on your behalf.

Please continue this exercise, week by week, for a month. Whether you want to change your name or not, the world will give you a new name. It will give you the name Purity. Your inner ear will make you hear it, and it will surpass your fondest imagination. In New York, some of my disciples have done this exercise and are still doing it. They have achieved, I must say, considerable purification of their nature and of their emotional problems.

Without purity, our inner achievements cannot remain permanently in our nature. If you lack purity, then no divine Truth can stay within you permanently. But whenever there is purity, then Peace, Light, Bliss and Power will be able to function most successfully and most fruitfully. The purer you are, the closer you come to the Supreme. So just by repeating your mantra soulfully and devotedly you can have everything-the Highest, the Supreme.

Part II — Importance of a Guru

Question: Do you think that an aspirant needs a living Guru in order to realise God?

Sri Chinmoy: A living Guru is not absolutely indispensable in order to realise God. The first person on earth who realised God, the very first realised soul, had no human Guru. He had only God as his Guru.

If you have a Guru, however, it facilitates your inner spiritual progress. A Guru is your private tutor in the spiritual life. Now there is a big difference between a private tutor and an ordinary teacher. An ordinary teacher will look at a student's paper and then give him a mark. He will examine the student and then pass him or fail him. But the private tutor is not like that. He encourages and inspires the student at home so that he can pass his examination. At every moment in life's journey, ignorance tries to test you, examine you and torture you, but this private tutor will teach you how to pass the examination most easily. It is the business of the spiritual teacher to inspire the seeker and increase his aspiration so that he can realise the Highest at God's choice hour.

In order to learn anything in this world we need a teacher in the beginning. To learn the ABCs we need a teacher. To learn higher mathematics we need a teacher. The teacher may be necessary for a second or for a year or for many years. Now, it is absurd to feel that for everything else in life we need a teacher but not for God-realisation As we need teachers for our outer knowledge. to illumine our outer being, so also we need a spiritual Master to help and guide us in our inner life, especially in the beginning. Otherwise, our progress will be very slow and uncertain. We may become terribly confused. We will get high, elevating experiences, but we will not give them adequate significance. Doubt may eclipse our mind and we will say, "I am just an ordinary person, so how can I have this kind of experience? Perhaps I am deluding myself." Or we will tell our friends, and they will say, "It is all mental hallucination. Forget about the spiritual life." But if there is someone who knows what the Reality is, he will say, "Don't act like a fool. The experiences which you have had are absolutely real." He encourages the seeker and inspires him, and gives him the proper explanations of his experiences. Again, if the seeker is doing something wrong in his meditation, he will be in a position to correct him.

A soul enters into a human body and the human being completes his first year of existence, his second year and so on. During this time his parents teach him how to speak, how to eat, how to dress, how to behave. The child learns everything from his parents. The parents play their part in the formative years. Similarly, in the spiritual life, the Master teaches the student how to pray, how to meditate, how to contemplate. Then, when the student learns to go deep within, he can do all this by himself.

Why does one go to the university when one can study at home? It is because he feels that he will get expert instruction from people who know the subject well. Now you know that there have been a few-very, very few- real men of knowledge who did not go to any university. Yes, there are exceptions. Every rule admits of exceptions. God is in everybody, and if a seeker feels that he does not need human help, he is most welcome to try his capacity alone. But if someone is wise enough and wants to run toward his Goal instead of stumbling or merely walking, then certainly the help of a Guru can be considerable.

Right now I am in London. I know that New York exists and that I have to go back there. What do I need to get me there? An airplane and a pilot. In spite of the fact that I know that New York exists, I cannot get there alone. Similarly, you know that God exists. You want to reach God, but someone has to take you there. As the airplane takes me to New York, someone has to carry you to the Consciousness of God which is deep within you. Someone has to show you how to enter into your own divinity, which is God.

A spiritual Master comes to you with a boat. He says, "Come. If you want to go to the Golden Shore, I will take you. Moreover, once you get into my boat, you can sing on the boat, you can dance, you can even sleep; but I will bring you safely to the Goal." If you say that you do not need anybody's help, if you want to swim across the sea of ignorance alone, then it is up to you. But how many years, or how many incarnations will it take you? And again, after swimming for some time you may become totally exhausted and then you may drown.

If someone becomes a true disciple of a Master, he does not feel that he and his Guru are two totally different beings. He does not feel that his Guru is at the top of the tree and he is at the foot of the tree, all the time washing the feet of the Guru. No! He feels that the Guru is his own highest part. He feels that he and the Guru are one, that the Guru is his own highest and most developed part. Therefore, a true disciple does not find any difficulty in surrendering his lowest part to his highest part. It is not beneath his dignity to be a devoted disciple, because he knows that both the highest and the lowest are his very own.

Question: How does a real spiritual Master actually teach meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: A real spiritual Master is he who has inseparable oneness with the Highest. On the strength of this oneness, he can easily enter into the seeker, see his growth and development and aspiration, and know everything about his inner and outer life. Then, if you want to be under the guidance of such a Master, his silent gaze will teach you how to meditate. The Master does not have to explain outwardly how to meditate or give you a specific form of meditation or a mantra. He will simply meditate on you. Your soul will enter into the Master's soul and bring the message, the knowledge of how you should meditate, from his soul.

Outwardly, I have given very few disciples a specific way of meditation. But I have a few hundred disciples, and most of them know how to meditate. How do they learn? When I meditate at the Centres or at public meetings they see something and feel something in me. And what actually sees this? It is their souls. Their souls enter into my soul and learn from my soul, and then with this wisdom they teach the disciples how to meditate.

All real spiritual Masters teach meditation to their disciples and admirers in silence. When a genuine spiritual Master meditates, Peace, Light and Bliss descend from above and enter into the sincere seeker. Then automatically he learns how to meditate from within.

Part III — Choosing a Guru

Question: How can a person recognise a genuine spiritual Master?

Sri Chinmoy: When you meditate with a spiritual Master, if out of his infinite kindness he wants to show you Light and Peace through his eyes or through his spiritual presence, he can do so. When a real spiritual Master looks at a genuine aspirant, the aspirant is bound to feel something in him. A God-realised man or spiritual Master is not someone with wings and a halo to identify him. He is normal, except that in his inner life he has abundant Peace, Light and Bliss. So if you come to a spiritual man expecting something other than boundless Peace, Light, Bliss and Power, then you will be disappointed.

But again, you must know if you are fit to judge. If I know nothing about medical science, how am I going to judge a great doctor? Only another doctor will know how to judge him properly. But a nurse, who knows a little about medical science, can appreciate a great doctor far better than I. In the spiritual life, a real seeker who has sincere aspiration and dedication has already achieved a little bit of inner Light. Because of his aspiration, God has endowed him with an iota of Light, and with that Light, he is bound to see and feel something in a true spiritual Master. If one is really advanced in the spiritual life and is making fast progress in his inner journey, then his aspiration will be the best judge as to whether the other person, the so-called spiritual Master, is genuine or not. So the best judge is one's sincere aspiration.

Question: Can you tell me how to choose a Master?

Sri Chinmoy: If you are looking for a Master, you have the opportunity and capacity to choose your own Master by doing something very simple. You should write down the names of all the Masters that you have come across or heard of or found out about in books you have read. There will be about six or seven names. Then, take the name of the first spiritual Master on the list and, as you repeat his name, place your right hand on your heart. Try to feel the sound in your heart as you repeat the name seven times. Go down the list, and as you repeat the name of each Master, try to feel your heartbeat. If you feel joy, delight or ecstasy, instantly give the Master a grade. You have to feel what kind of joy you are getting from repeating his name, and then rate it on a scale.

If you get no response, no joy, no inspiration when you repeat the name of a particular Master, then you are in a perfect position to give him zero out of a hundred. If you get a tremendous response from the name of a Master on the list, if you are thrilled all over, if his very name sends an enormous palpitation from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, you are bound to give him ninety-five or even a hundred. Then you know without a doubt that this one is your Master. He is meant for you and you are meant for him. If he is not near you, but in India or elsewhere, then you have to go there or, if it is meant to happen, circumstances will bring your Master here. If you are destined to be the disciple of a particular Master, God will, without fail, either take you to him or bring him to you.


Question: What is initiation?

Sri Chinmoy: The Sanskrit word for initiation is diksha. Now what does diksha mean? It means 'giving,' or 'the offering of oneself.' When the Master initiates someone, he gives that person a portion of his life-breath, and the disciple gives his soulful promise that to the end of his life he will be totally faithful to the Master and serve him unconditionally.

At the time of initiation, the Guru makes a solemn promise to the individual seeker and to the Supreme that he will do his best to help the seeker in his spiritual life, that he will offer his heart and soul to take the disciple into the highest region of the Beyond. The Master says to the Supreme, "Unless and until I have brought this child to You, I shall not leave him; my game shall not be over." And to the disciple, he says, "From now on, you can count on me, you can think of me as your own."

At the time of initiation, the Master actually takes on the disciple's teeming imperfections, both from the present incarnation and from past incarnations. Of course, there are real and sincere spiritual Masters, as well as false Masters. Here I am speaking about the true Masters. Some Masters who are very sincere only initiate one disciple a month. After they initiate the disciple they fall sick and suffer terribly, because they have actually taken on the disciple's imperfections. This is true initiation. Again, there are some spiritual Masters who are able to initiate many disciples without suffering, because they have the capacity to throw the imperfections into the Universal Consciousness. But again, there are some false Masters who initiate fifty, sixty or a hundred disciples at a time or who initiate by proxy. Initiation is not like pills coming out of a factory thousands and millions at a time. This kind of mass initiation is an absurd deception.

The Guru can initiate the disciple in various ways. He can perform the initiation in India's traditional way, while the disciple is meditating. He can also initiate while the disciple is sleeping or when the disciple is in his normal consciousness, but calm and quiet. The Guru can initiate the disciple through the eyes alone. He will look at the disciple, and immediately the person will be initiated, but nobody will know. A Master can also perform a physical initiation, which is to press the head or the heart or any part of the body of the disciple. At this time, he tries to make the physical consciousness feel that initiation has taken place. But along with this physical action, the Guru will initiate the disciple in a psychic way. At that time the Guru sees and feels the soul of the disciple and acts upon the soul. Initiation can also be done by occult processes.

Initiation can also be done in a dream. If there is no spiritual Master available at the time, God Himself can take a very luminous human forth in your dream or during your meditation and can initiate you Himself. But this is very rare. Most of the time initiation is done by a Master.

My disciples do not need to ask me to initiate them outwardly, because I know what is best for them; that is to say, I know whether or not the outer initiation will expedite their inner progress. Very often I initiate my disciples through my third eye, which I feel is the most convincing and effective way. Many times you have observed my eyes when I am in my highest consciousness. At that time, my ordinary eyes, my human eyes, become totally one with my third eye and they take Light from my third eye. These two ordinary eyes receive and imbibe infinite Light from the third eye, and this Light from my divinely radiating eyes enters into the aspirant's eyes. Immediately the Light enters into the aspirant's whole body and scintillates there from head to foot. Then I see the Light, my own Light, the Light of the Supreme, glowing in the disciple's body. My Light enters into the disciple's ignorance, and that ignorance offers its gratitude. It says, "Now that I have become yours, now that you have made me yours, I shall be yours forever." I become responsible for illumining your ignorance, and you become responsible for my manifestation.

Now, just because I have initiated you, this does not mean you can go initiating somebody else. It is not as if I have told you a Truth and now you can tell it to somebody else. Very often I hear that a Master has initiated someone, and then the disciple feels that he knows the truth, so he goes on initiating somebody else, and then that person goes on to still another person-like family descendants. But this kind of initiation has no value. True initiation always has to be done by a God-realised Master; it cannot be done by proxy. If a Master has the spiritual power to initiate a disciple directly in the occult plane, that is all right. But if he says he can initiate someone through a disciple who is still a beginner, that kind of initiation is absurd. When we see people here in the United States who say they have been asked to initiate others by their spiritual Master who is in India, then rest assured that this is no initiation at all; it is only deception. Initiation has to be done directly by the Master, either on the physical plane or in the inner planes.

When the Guru initiates a disciple, he accepts the disciple unreservedly and unconditionally. Even if the disciple goes away after initiation, finding fault with the Guru, the Guru will act in and through that disciple forever. The disciple may even go to some other Guru, but the Guru who has initiated him will always help that particular seeker in the inner world. And if the new Guru is noble enough, then he will allow the original Guru to act in and through the disciple. Although the physical connection with the original Guru is cut off, and physically the Guru is not seeing the disciple, spiritually he is bound to help him because he has made a promise to the Supreme. Even if the disciple does not go to any other Guru, but simply falls from the path of Truth, still his original Guru has to keep his promise. The disciple may drop from the spiritual path for one incarnation, two incarnations or even many incarnations, but his Guru, whether he be in the body or in the higher regions, will constantly watch over the disciple and wait for the opportunity to help him actively when the disciple again turns to the spiritual path. The Guru is truly detached, but just because he made a promise to the disciple and to the Supreme in the disciple, the Guru waits indefinitely for an opportunity to take the disciple to the Goal.

Some of my disciples who at one time followed my path most sincerely have also left me most sincerely. But if they are my disciples in the inner world, if I had already accepted them and they were my real disciples, then I wish to say that I have not forgotten them. They may take one, two, five or six incarnations to come back to the life of aspiration, but no matter how long they take, I shall help them in their march towards God-realisation.

The main purpose of initiation is to bring the soul to the fore. If there is no initiation, the purification of the body, mind, heart and vital can never be complete. If there is no initiation, then the Highest Goal can never be realised. Those who are close to me have felt the actual flowering of their initiation the moment they have wholeheartedly dedicated to the Supreme in me their entire life-body, vital, mind, heart and soul. This flowering of the initiation is really more than initiation. It is the revelation of the disciples' own inner divinity. At this moment they feel that they and their Guru have totally become one. They feel that their Guru has no existence without them, and that they have no existence without their Guru. The Guru and the disciple mutually fulfil each other and feel that this fulfilment is coming directly from the Supreme. And the greatest secret the disciple has learned from the Guru is this: that only by fulfilling the Supreme first can he fulfil the rest of the world.

How can the Guru fulfil the Supreme? The Guru plays his part by taking the ignorance, imperfection, obscurity, impurity and unwillingness from the disciple and carrying them faithfully and devotedly to the Supreme. The disciple fulfils the Supreme by constantly staying in the Guru's boat and in the inmost recesses of the Guru's heart, and by feeling that he exists only for the fulfilment of his Master. Him to fulfil, him to manifest is the only meaning, the only purpose, the only significance of the disciple's life.

Living in society

Question: If a spiritual seeker is interested only in God but still does not want to reject humanity, how much does he have to contribute to society, and what should be the nature of his contribution?

Sri Chinmoy: First of all, we have to know the standard of the aspirant. If he feels that the inner life, the spiritual life, is of paramount importance and that he cannot do without it-if he is of that calibre-then he has to devote most of his time to God-realisation. His inner being will tell him to what extent he can contribute to society But if the aspirant is just learning the ABCs of the spiritual life, then he should accept society as something important and significant in his life, something that goes along with the inner life.

We have to know where the individual aspirant stands. In order to realise God, one does not have to leave society altogether. If one leaves society-or, in the larger sense, humanity-then how can one establish and manifest divinity here on earth? If one is a true aspirant, he has to go deep within in order to know how to help society. To be a philanthropist is a wonderful thing. But only if that particular philanthropist goes deep within and gets the direct message from his inner being, from God, will his help to society be meaningful. Otherwise, if he tries to help mankind in his own way, the so-called help or contribution will only be an act of self-aggrandisement, in which he feeds his own ego. A person says, "I have done this. I have done that." But the important thing is, "Was I inspired by God? Was I commissioned by God?" If his actions were not inspired by God but by his ego, then the service that he offers to the world will be full of darkness and imperfection.

One has to be wise in his spiritual search. He has to know that God comes first and then humanity. If one goes to humanity first and serves humanity according to his limited capacity, then he is not at all fulfilling God in humanity. To serve humanity properly, one has first to go to Divinity, and from there to humanity. If one does not meditate and achieve some inner wealth, if one does not possess something, then how is he going to give? First one has to achieve, then one has to offer. In this way, one can please God and fulfil mankind.

Giving up old friends

Question: When you enter the spiritual life, is it necessary to give up your old friends who may be a bad influence, but whom you still love?

Sri Chinmoy: If these friends are not aspiring, if they are ridiculing you and constantly standing in your way, then they are like real enemies. To love them is to love a venomous snake. If a friend does not aspire, then you have to know that he is not your friend any more, and if you want to force him to aspire, you are also acting like his enemy. The friend who is not aspiring is sleeping. Now you are awake; you are ready to pray and meditate. You feel that you are doing your friend a great favour by pushing him and saying, "Get up, get up, get up. It is time to meditate." You are doing him a favour according to your standard, but according to his standard it is no favour at all. You feel that you are doing the right thing, but he is not ready to receive your Light. He wants to sleep, and he will feet that you are his real enemy. You are disturbing the sublime peace of his sleep, which to you is inertia and death. Your peace is meditation and prayer; his peace is lifeless sleep. Your peace comes from conscious meditation, and his comes from unconsciousness and inertia. So your peace and his peace do not go together.

Now, if you see your old friends on the street, you need not just turn away your face. You can say hello and talk for a minute or two. But if you spend your evening with them, thinking that you will go down to their standard and lift them up, then you will be caught. You have to know that the Hour has struck for you. Your turn has come, and you have listened to God's Will. When their Hour comes, they also will hear. But if you feel that you are responsible for them, you are simply overestimating your capacity. He who has awakened you has the capacity to awaken your friends when their time comes.

You are running towards your Goal. If you constantly look behind to see whether your friends are following you, you will never reach the Goal. First you have to reach the Goal yourself; only then can you bring somebody else to the Goal. Otherwise, you are likely to get lost yourself.

Again, you may have some friends who are very sincere and kind-hearted, but who have no aspiration. Now what will you do? Suppose you go to a store and the shopkeeper is very nice and polite to you. Just because he is nice and polite, will you spend all your money there if he has nothing you need? No. He is nice, and you appreciate it, and if you ever need something that he has in his store, you will buy it from him. But right now he has nothing you need. So here, also, if someone who is not aspiring is very nice to you on the moral or physical plane, you can spend a few minutes with him, too. But just because you see that he is sincere, it is stupidity to spend hours talking to him about spiritual matters if he is not interested. You have to know how developed the other person is, and how much his aspiration will allow him to receive through your spiritual light. There are many people who are very nice and sincere, but when it is a matter of praying for one minute, they are simply not interested. When it is a matter of aspiration, they are nowhere.

Unless someone has real, one-pointed aspiration for the Light, the aspirant should not spend much time with him. Otherwise, you will spend three hours at a party in someone's house and talk about his nephew, his niece and father-in-law and so forth. Now, there is nothing wrong with this kind of conversation. You are not criticising anybody. But when you come home from the party, you will curse yourself for wasting your time and lowering your consciousness. What have you given them? You have given them vital stimulation. And what have you got back from them? Absolute spiritual rubbish! These things have no value for your spiritual life. Unnecessary social dealings with people who do not aspire are just a waste of time.

But disciples belonging to the same boat should mix together. They should have a family feeling. Today your aspiration may be very high, while your friend's is low. So you will lift him up with your aspiration. Then, tomorrow, you may be low and your friend will lift you up. Even if neither of you is particularly high or low, I wish to say that just by being together you are helping one another. Even if you are speaking about absolutely unimportant things, the moment you mix with those who are in your own spiritual boat you will get inner strength. You may not be consciously aware that today you need some joy or strength, and the person you are talking to may also not be aware of it. But your souls are secretly playing a game. His soul is giving you something, even though you do not know you need it and he does not know he is giving it. Because you both follow the same path, my path, I tell you, your souls are more than eager to give. So I always say that when you see your brothers and sisters, you should talk and mix, because you do not know who needs something and who has the capacity to give.

Of course, all this is only for those who accept the spiritual life wholeheartedly, and feel that God and God-realisation come first in their life. Those who follow my path only to get a little peace, a little light, a little joy and satisfaction, can continue with their old friendships and old attachments. But they must know that their progress on the spiritual path will necessarily be slow, because every time they get an iota of peace, light or joy, they will just squander it when they mix with unaspiring people. Each individual aspirant has to know what kind of progress he wants to make.

Part IV — Marriage and the family life

Question: Do you think that marriage is necessarily an obstacle on the spiritual path?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the marriage. If one has the capacity to think of God while living a married life, if his inspiration is tremendous, his inner cry constant, then there is no obstacle. But when one gets married, very often he is pulled down, because tremendous responsibility starts. He wants to run fast but, consciously or unconsciously, he takes various burdens on his shoulders. Now, naturally, if a runner puts a heavy load on his shoulders, how can he run the fastest?

But again, if somebody wants to accept the challenge, if he feels, "Here on earth I have to establish perfection," then what will he do? Man will see God in woman, and woman will see God in man. If a man feels that he should take his other half with him, so that his realisation will be integral and complete, then he is certainly in a position to run the fastest towards the Goal. There are quite a few spiritual Masters, even Masters of the highest order, who got married. Their realisation was in no way inferior to that of others who did not get married.

It all depends on what God wants from the individual. If God wants you to remain unmarried, it is up to God. God feels that this way you will reach Him faster. If God feels that your friend needs the experience of married life, if your friend follows God's Dictates, he too, will reach the Goal faster than otherwise. There is no hard and fast rule about marriage. One cannot say that married life is undoubtedly a hindrance to spiritual realisation. Again, one cannot say that if one remains single, then his life can never be fulfilled. An unmarried man does not necessarily lead a better or purer life. No! He may not be married, but his mind may remain in the ordinary vital, in the lower worlds, and he will not make any progress.

When we meditate, when we aspire, we come to learn God's Will. If it is God's Will, naturally there will be no difficulty in realising the Truth after entering into married life. But if it is not God's Will, then we have to be very careful, for we are consciously or unconsciously putting a heavy burden on our shoulders.

Question: If meditation is the only way of seeing God face to face, what advice would you give to the man who has a family to look after?

Sri Chinmoy: When the family man gets up early in the morning, what does he think of? He thinks of the members of his family, the education of his children and so forth. But before he allows these thoughts to enter into him, before he enters into activities, if he can meditate, if he can think of God for five or ten minutes, these few minutes will be of great benefit to him. Yes, he shoulders responsibilities; he has to think of his whole earthly family. But again, who shoulders the responsibility of the entire universe? Not he, not the members of his family, but God, God Himself. If the head of the family meditates on God, on Light-for God means Light-then Light descends. It starts to decrease his worries and anxieties. When one concentrates, whatever he wants to do becomes easier. Similarly, if an individual who has big family problems meditates for five or ten minutes before he thinks of his family, it will immediately help him by reducing the difficulties he faces; also, the Light that he receives will operate in him. He does not have to meditate for ten or twelve hours. He knows that his progress may not necessarily be very fast, but slow and steady wins the race.

If you try to feel God every day, the living God, inside your children and the members of your family, then gradually you will see and feel Light operating within them. But people do not do that. They look upon their children as their possessions, and feel that they have every right to mould them and guide them according to their own sweet will. But if they can feel that they love their children and all the members of their family precisely because God is inside them, if they think of that and meditate on that, they are doing the best thing for their own and their family's spiritual progress.

In all your activities try to feel the presence of God. While you are feeding your child, feel that you are not feeding your child but rather the God within him. While you are talking to someone, feel that you are talking to the Divinity within him. You need not go to your shrine and meditate on God with tears of devotion if at that very moment you have something most important to do in the outer world. Whatever you do, please try to think that you are given the opportunity to do that by God; think that you are doing something which is ultimately leading you towards your realisation.


Question: I read some place that when one uses sexual energy he is using up some spiritual energy at the same time. Is this true? If so, what can be done if one wants to lead a spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: What you have read is absolutely true. Animal human life and divine God-life do not and cannot go together. To attain the highest Truth, the seeker needs total purification and transformation of his lower vital. If one wants to have real joy, everlasting joy, then he has to transcend the need of sex. If the seeker wants to be inundated with boundless Peace, Light and Bliss, then he has to eventually transcend his sex need. Otherwise, the transcendental Peace, Light and Bliss will remain a far cry for him.

But one cannot realise God overnight. It is impossible! You do not get your Master's degree in a day, or even in a year. It may require twenty years of study to achieve. God-realisation is a far more difficult subject. It may require twenty or thirty years, a lifetime, or many more incarnations for you to realise God, depending on your present aspiration and your previous spiritual life.

If you tell a beginner that he will have to give up his lower vital life, his sex life, all at once, he will say, "Impossible! How can I do that?" If he has to do it, he will never enter into the spiritual life. Slowly and steadily he has to make headway towards his Goal. If he tries to run too fast and does not have the capacity, he will simply drop in the field. He will lose what limited aspiration he has.

Transforming one's sex life is like giving up a bad habit, but it is usually more difficult and it takes a longer time. Suppose somebody drinks a lot. If he drinks six or seven times a day, let him first come to realise the fact that this is something harmful for his God-realisation. Then let him try to drink less. If he drinks six times a day, let him change to five times. After a few days, let him drink four times a day. Then, after a while longer, let him drink three times a day. Gradually, let him diminish his desire for alcohol. In our ordinary human life we have many weaknesses. If we try to conquer them all at once, the body will resist and break down. The body will revolt, and we shall be torn into pieces.

We have to have a real inner will, the soul's will, to conquer our desires slowly and steadily. Gradually we have to diminish our need for sex on the strength of our aspiration. There will be a tug-of-war between aspiration and the gross physical desire, and slowly our nature will be purified. On the strength of our inner urge, we have to run towards the Light. Then we will see that there is a great difference between pleasure and joy. Pleasure is always followed by frustration, and frustration is inevitably followed by destruction. But joy is followed by more joy and abundant joy, and in joy we get real fulfilment.

If one enters into the spiritual life and says, "Today I shall conquer all my lower propensities," he is just fooling himself. Tomorrow his physical mind will torture him with doubts. His impure and cruel vital will try to punish him in every way. He will feel miserable. He will be frustrated, and inside his frustration his own destruction will loom large. The lower vital life must be transformed completely before God-realisation can take place, but I advise my students to do it gradually and with sincere determination.

The world's imperfections

Question: Why did God create all this misery and unhappiness in the world? Why didn't He make man perfect to begin with?

Sri Chinmoy: God could have started His creation with perfection. But, fortunately or unfortunately, that was not His intention. What God wanted was to go through ignorance to Knowledge, through limitation to Plenitude, through death to Immortality. The miseries, troubles, frustrations and despair that we are going through in the physical world are nothing but experiences on our way to the Ultimate Goal. And who, after all, is having these experiences? It is God and God alone. God is a Divine Player. He is playing His divine Game and He knows the ultimate end. The more we play, the more we become conscious of the fact that we do nothing and can do nothing. We are all instruments. At each moment God is revealing Himself in and through us, in spite of the fact that we see and create a vast gulf between ourselves and God.

When God created the world, He gave each individual very limited freedom. Unfortunately, we have been misusing this freedom. He gave to each person limited capacity. But this capacity we have been using for the wrong purpose. Early in the morning we know that we have the time to do whatever we want. We know that at 5:30 in the morning we can pray to God and receive His Joy and Love. But instead of getting up early, we get up very late. What is worse, we do not meditate at all. So you see how we misuse our limited freedom and capacity, how we misuse God's precious Concern and Compassion for us.

All the great spiritual Masters — Krishna, Buddha, Christ and so on — did realise the highest Truth. But when they wanted to offer the world their own realisations, the world laughed at them. Realising the Truth is one thing, and manifesting the Truth is another. As far as realisation is concerned, they were perfect, but when it was a matter of manifestation, most of the spiritual Masters were not accepted. The earth-consciousness denied their inner wealth. Even some of the Masters' own disciples betrayed them or did not listen to them. Now why does the earth-consciousness revolt when it is going to get something divine and fulfilling? It is because it wants to remain in bondage and ignorance. The camel eats the cactus and its mouth bleeds. But a few hours later the same camel again eats cactus and bleeds once more.

God wants us to be perfect and fulfilled, but if we go deep within, we see that we are satisfied with our pleasures, desires, limited consciousness, jealousy, doubt, fear and negative thoughts. Human beings as such do not want real joy. What they want is pleasure, which is something very different. When we are satisfied with something undivine, how can we blame God? How can we say that He is not giving us the right thing? We have to know and feel that God is doing everything for us. At His choice hour He will grant us the supreme realisation. When we aspire and enter into the highest, it is He who takes us to our destined Goal. And if we do not want to do that, God says, "Sleep, my child, sleep. The time has not come for you."

Look around and see how many people really want God. Most people don't have five minutes a day to meditate on God. Days will run into weeks and weeks into months, and they have not meditated even for five minutes. God comes last in their lives. When somebody is dying they may cry out, "O God, O God, O God!" But otherwise, how many times a day do people utter the names of their own children, and how many times do they utter the name of God? It is God who is our Divine Child, who has the message of Perfection, and not those we think about all day long.

In the outer world we see limitations, imperfections, doubt, fear and death. But in the inner world we see Light, Peace, Bliss and Perfection. When we consciously identify ourselves with and live in God's Consciousness, there is no imperfection. There is all Perfection. But if we do not live in the Divine Consciousness, naturally we will be yoked to the imperfection of the outer world. A seeker of the Supreme, living in the Supreme, being one with the Consciousness of the Supreme, sees and feels that his consciousness and life, both inner and outer, are projections of God's ever-transcending Perfection, which is growing into perfect Perfection.

The world of realisation and manifestation can be established only on the strength of our aspiration. When there is aspiration in our heart, perfection will eventually dawn. Only when each individual wants to sing the song of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality can God offer here on earth the message of Perfection. Only if we accept God as our very own can He give us what He has and what He is.

Part V — Why some are not accepted as disciples

Question: Why is it that you do not accept everybody who wants to become your disciple?

Sri Chinmoy: There are some Masters who desire a great number of disciples and accept anybody who wants to follow their path. But I am very strict I am not interested in having a great number of disciples; I am interested only in the sincerity and aspiration of my disciples. Also, I do not accept drug addicts, alcoholics or hippies. It is not that I dislike these people, but they are seeking happiness of a different kind from what I can offer. I have identified myself with the hippie consciousness, with the consciousness of the alcoholic and of the drug addict, so I know what is within them. I do not doubt their aspiration, but the thing is that they are hungry for something that I do not have. How can I deceive them and say, "Come to me, and I will give you what you want."

In our New York Centre there are four or five disciples who were once drug addicts. They sent me their pictures and I said to them, "If for two months you can remain without drugs, then I will accept you." They did this, and now they have changed for good. In their case, I saw that their aspiration was stronger than their drug problem, and they proved that I was right. But most of these people — ninety-nine out of a hundred — are in the world of self-deception and escape. We care for the reality that God has created, but unfortunately they are creating their own reality, which is all false.

All the people whom I do not accept as my disciples are also God's children, and God is looking after them far better than we can imagine. But I am not qualified tot teach them. To be very frank, I do not have the capacity. I am not competent, I am not ready, I do not have the time. There are many people whom I can help, and I feel that my time is precious, like everybody else's. God has sent me to help those who are meant for my boat, whom I am in a position to help.

If I do not accept you, please do not feet that you are not meant for the spiritual life. Far from it. You may have tremendous aspiration, and I may be most pleased with you, but being a sincere man, I feel that you will run the fastest if you follow somebody else's path. And God, who is my Father and your Father, will not be pleased with me if I accept ten million disciples who will not fit into my boat, who will delay the progress of others who are in the boat and cause the boat to capsize. No! He will be pleased with me only when I carry the ones who are meant for me and tell others that they belong to somebody else. I do not give the names of other Masters, because I may be misunderstood by both the disciple and the Master. But this much I can say: If I do not feel you are meant for my path, then you are absolutely meant for somebody else's path. There are many paths that lead to the Goal, and each aspirant has to take one path. Those who are not meant for my path are doing the right thing in going some other way, and we are doing the right thing in our own way, the way the Supreme wants.

Question: But don't you feel it is your responsibility to help all men?

Sri Chinmoy: I do feel the responsibility to help all men. But help is a very big word. Only God can really help. I want to serve. With some people I feel that I can be of service on the physical plane. I am their spiritual leader, and I know that I will be able to deal with their material and spiritual problems. But with others, if I speak to them and try to help them on the physical plane, I will only create confusion. With them, I feel that my prayer, my concentration, my meditation will be more effective.

You have to know that there are different ways to serve the world. In the Himalayas, there are spiritual figures who live in caves and see no one. Yet, through their meditation, they send a divine vibration to the entire world. Here in the physical world I am unable to accept all and sundry as my disciples. I do not have the capacity. But those whom I do not accept as my own on the physical plane, I am not rejecting. I am helping them in the inner world. Starting at two o'clock every morning, I concentrate on humanity, on the universe. In the inner world I send my love and blessings to all. This is how God expects me to help or serve the world.

A disciple's responsibilities

Question: After someone is accepted as a disciple, is there anything he is supposed to do?

Sri Chinmoy: When a seeker becomes a disciple, I make one or two requests. My inner request is aspiration, that he aspire. Then, he has to come faithfully, devotedly to our meetings. We are proud of him, and we want him to feel our pride at every moment. At the same time we expect him to be worthy of our pride. If, owing to unavoidable circumstances, a disciple has to miss a meeting, we cannot blame him. But there should be no casual reason whatsoever that will prevent him from coming to the Centre. He will not miss meetings because he is tired from work or because he has shopping or laundry to do or because he has to clean up his house. The one or two evenings a week when his Centre meets, a disciple will not make appointments to have dinner with his relatives or go out with his old friends. Only on very rare occasions, when it is absolutely unavoidable, will he miss a meeting for any reason other than illness.

Each disciple has to feel that this is his spiritual home, and that it is his divine duty and opportunity to live inside this home, inside this spiritual temple. With all our joy, all our love, all our blessings, all our concern, we wish to say that this kind of disciple is ours and he also has every right to claim us as his very own.

Sri Chinmoy Centre meetings

Question: What sort of meetings do you have at your Centres?

Sri Chinmoy: We have quite a few Centres, but most of the time I stay at the New York Centre. Let me speak about our New York Centre, which is our main Centre.

On Thursdays the disciples come to our church and I hold a very high meditation. For about two hours, sometimes more, the disciples sit in front of me and meditate. At that time I go into my highest consciousness and enter into them. I enter into each individual soul and see what that soul wants from me: Peace, Light, Bliss. Whatever the soul wants I offer in utmost silence. There is no talking at all. The disciples receive according to their inner receptivity. Some may be extremely receptive, while others are not so receptive. On Sundays we also hold a high meditation, but I also give a short talk on the spiritual life, answer questions, tell stories, read poems and do many other things.

Part VI — Cleanliness

Question: Is it important to take a shower before coming to meditate at the Centre?

Sri Chinmoy: This Centre is a place of purity. This is a temple. Please try to come here as clean and pure as possible. Make it a point to bathe or take a shower and put on clean clothes before coming to the Centre. If you have to come directly from your office and you cannot go home to have a shower, please wash properly at least. Otherwise, you will disturb the meditation and pull down the consciousness of the persons sitting near you. In India, no matter how many times a day the disciples visit their spiritual Master, the first thing they will do is take a bath. Even if they finished bathing just an hour before, they will bathe again. They feel that physical cleanliness is important and they are basically right, since it adds to the mind's purity.

A few years ago I was invited to see a hippie commune near San Francisco. Believe me, the life that they were leading was worse than an animal's life. Their huts, God knows what you can call them, were infested by all kinds of insects and vermin. The vibrations were unbearable! It was sheer torture for me to go in there. In India, many spiritual aspirants also live in huts without any modern sanitary facilities. But they keep in their minds a sense of cleanliness. Three times a day they will enter into the village pond to take a bath. But here there are many so-called seekers, who do not take a bath even once a month. This is unthinkable.

We all know that on the spiritual path some people wish to lead an austere life. This is not at all necessary, but they feel that it will help them make progress. However, austerity does not mean torturing the body and ignoring society. Fighting against human progress and civilisation is not austerity; it is perverted self-indulgence. This kind of life is not spirituality at all. The people who live in communes, like the one I visited, speak about freedom to live in their own way. But the freedom that takes me back to the animal kingdom is not real freedom, but bondage and ignorance. The freedom that takes me to the infinite Peace, Light and Bliss is the real freedom.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. I believe this. Every day, even when you do not come to the Centre, you should take a shower or bath. This does not mean that if you stay all the time in the water you will be pure. No, a fish is not purer than we are. A swimmer is not necessarily purer, even though he stays in the water a lot. The consciousness is the most important thing. But the purification of the body is absolutely necessary for purification of the consciousness. If there is no purity established in our nature, the divine Power cannot permanently remain in us. If purity is taken away from spirituality, there is nothing left. It is in the physical purity that the divine Power can act most powerfully and successfully, and last forever.

Some spiritual figures neglect the body. They do not care about physical cleanliness. But in my path, we feel that the outer life and the inner life have to go together. We care for the physical because we know that the fulfilment of the Divine Mission can only take place in this physical world. If we ignore the outer life, then we will remain imperfect. If we ignore the inner life, then we will have nothing to offer. The inner and the outer must go together.

If you take a shower and then wear a garment that is not fresh and washed, you will not feel clean. You will have an uneasy feeling and immediately your aspiration will decrease. If anybody thinks differently, I will say he is fooling himself. Similarly, if you put on brand new clothes but do not take a shower, again you will also not feel clean and comfortable.

Let us say that taking a shower represents outer purity. We see that the outer can help the inner, that wearing fresh clothes can help our inner being, our consciousness. In our life of aspiration, the inner and the outer must go together. If I can get a little help from the outer, if I am wise I will take it. If the inner can give me one thousand dollars and the outer can give me one dollar, then if I take help from both I will have one thousand and one dollars, while someone else will only have one thousand dollars.

Question: For girls it is sometimes a complicated process to wash their hair every day. Is it necessary to do so before coming to the Centre to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: It is my fervent request to all my women disciples without exception to pay more attention to their hair, both for cleanliness and for neatness. Even if it is long, the hair should be washed often. Hair needs water. Water signifies consciousness in the spiritual world and also, as you know, water purifies outwardly. If you want your entire body to be surcharged with divine consciousness, you must use water on the hair. Water is a life-giving element and even the hair needs life. Some cosmeticians and chemists say that it is not good to use soap and water on the hair every day, because it harms the hair. But water will never, never harm your hair. So I wish all of you to wash your hair each day. If you do not want to wash it thoroughly and properly then at least take a small quantity of water and sprinkle it on your hair every day. Hair must get some life from water.

Oil is also good for the hair. When you use oil on your hair, immediately it will give a subtle wave-like vibration to your entire body. You put the oil on your hair, but the whole body gets the vibration, a living rhythm. If you put oil on your hair every day, you will also feel more inclined to wash it every day. Hair that does not have any oil on it, even if it is clean and neat, gives a vibration which I can only describe as ferocious.

Part VII — Short hair and beards

Question: Why do you ask your male disciples to have short hair and not to wear a beard?

Sri Chinmoy: It is my inner feeling that when men have short hair, they look smarter, more handsome and more charming. The vibration that I get from them is infinitely better when they have short hair than when they have long hair. Also, their masculine qualities, their dynamic qualities, come to the fore immediately when their hair is short.

When I look into the soul, I see that it is absolutely unnecessary for a man to grow long hair. For women, it is all right. Men and women have different soul's qualities which they have to manifest. When you look at a person, his general appearance should immediately give the feeling that he is a man or a woman. Man and woman are like right hand and left hand. The right hand should play the role of the right hand, and the left hand should play the role of the left hand. When I first saw some of my disciples, with my human eyes I could not immediately recognise whether they were men or women.

When men have long hair, they often do not wash it or keep it tidy. Women are generally better in this respect. Then, when others sit near a man with dirty or unkempt hair, they feel uneasy; it disturbs their meditation. Also, when someone has a beard so big that it obscures his face, even though he may not be aware of it, the people who are trying to meditate near him get a kind of unnatural vibration from him. They feel that he is deliberately disturbing them. Now, he may feel that it is his face, and that he can grow a beard or have long hair if he wants to, but what right does he have to create problems for others? He may say, "It is not your business if I have long hair. It is, after all, my life. I am responsible for myself." But I wish to say that if he does not follow a Master and he meditates by himself, then naturally he can do whatever he wants. But if he follows a Master, and if that Master has other spiritual children, then there has to be some discipline so that the disciples can inspire one another. At that time the Master cannot allow each disciple to follow all his own inclinations.

An aspirant is crying for his own salvation, and yet consciously or unconsciously he is interfering with the little possibility or potentiality of his fellow man. We have come into the world to love God. If we really love God, then we will also love mankind. If we love our brothers and sisters, then let us help them at least by not interfering with their aspiration. If by making a little sacrifice we can help others, we should do so. Love is my philosophy, devotion is my philosophy, surrender is my philosophy. Of course, my philosophy is not meant for everybody.

I insist absolutely upon short hair for my men disciples. On rare occasions I make exceptions in the case of beards. But I have to follow my principles, because they are based upon my own inner realisation. If I know that there is a tiger lurking along a certain path, then I will not take that path, and I will also advise my loved ones not to take that path. But if someone else does not see the tiger and does not believe in it, then he goes on. There are many Masters who allow long hair, and you are at perfect liberty to follow them. But if you want to follow my path, this is what I want. I do not have to give any justification at all, but I explain my reasons to you so that your minds will understand and be satisfied.

When somebody comes to me with the request, "Please help me to realise God," I assume that this person knows that he has not been able to accomplish this himself. For thousands of years he has been trying to realise God. I tell him inwardly: "You are asking for something very high, very deep, very significant. It is most difficult, but I shall help you. I shall take up the challenge." Now, since I am trying to please him, I ask him also to try to please me. What he is asking of me is a lifelong task, and extremely difficult. The small favour I ask of him is very easy to do. It takes only a few minutes for him to cut his hair and shave his beard. If he cannot please me in something as simple as this, why should I spend my life trying to please him? And what will happen when I ask him to perform some really rigorous spiritual discipline?

A sincere spiritual aspirant will not care more for his beard and long hair than he cares for God. If a Master gives him joy, if he feels that this Master is meant for him and will be able to take him to God, then he will gladly give up his long hair and beard.

Progress in the spiritual life is a matter of acceptance. The Master must accept the disciple and the disciple must accept the Master. The Master is someone in whom you can place all your faith. There should be no question in your mind that he knows better than you do. Otherwise, today the Master will say one thing, and it will not please you. Then, tomorrow he will say something else and there, too, you will find fault. In this way you will make no progress at all. You have to start with faith, and not let your questioning and doubting mind interfere with your life of aspiration.

There is no difference between the Master's will and the Goal. In his will itself is the Goal, and the Goal is his divine will. The Master has realised the Highest. If somebody wants to become part and parcel of the Highest, then the Master will tell him what is the best thing for him to do. The Master is not just a person, but the representative of God, the Supreme. The Supreme is your Master; the Supreme is his Master; the Supreme is everybody's Master.

Question: But Jesus Christ had long hair.

Sri Chinmoy: If I see Christ I will run to him and touch his feet. But when I see the consciousness that some of today's hippies are offering me I will just run away. The Christ was simply radiating divine spiritual Light, but they, unfortunately, are not. Also, at the time of Christ long hair was the norm for men. Today very long hair on men is often a sign of social discontent and rebellion. Even the cleanest, neatest and nicest young man, if he has very long hair, will unconsciously be housing arrogance and rebellion in his consciousness. Needless to say, these qualities will seriously hamper his spiritual progress.

In India you will see many spiritual Masters with long hair. But look at their eyes and see what vibration they are giving. Their eyes are glowing with peace, with purity, with inner light. Now look at the hippies with long hair. In most cases they simply create fear and disgust all around them. In the spiritual Masters you will see tremendous purity, but in these hippies you will see the perfect embodiment of inner impurity and outer uncleanliness. You have to realise that the length of your hair does not make you comparable to Christ. Consciousness is the main thing.

Question: Why do your women disciples wear saris and your men disciples wear white?

Sri Chinmoy: You have noticed that some of the women disciples who have accepted me wholeheartedly are wearing saris. Now you ask me, "Why are they doing this? Why have you turned them into Indian women?" But I wish to say I have not converted them into Indians. No! I was born in India, but I am cosmopolitan. I am God's child. In the spiritual life you have to be very, very wise. By this I mean that if something helps you in your aspiration, you should gladly accept it. Even if it adds only one drop to your aspiration, you should do it, if you possibly can.

God-realisation does not depend on your wearing a sari; far from it. If it did, all Indian women would be God-realised souls. But I wish to say that if you wear a sari instead of slacks or the tight and immodest garments that most Western women wear, the divine feminine qualities in the form of modesty, humility, purity and divinity will automatically come to the fore in you. You may say that you do not notice anything wrong with your consciousness when you wear Western clothes, but you are wrong. You simply are not paying attention to the tremendous difference.

Ninety-nine percent of your realisation will depend on your aspiration. But if you can get the one percent from wearing a sari, then you should do it. Again, if you say, "No, I don't want to wear it. My parents will be disturbed and my friends will mock me," then you don't have to wear it. You are under no obligation. I need your aspiration; I don't need your saris.

But if you want to wear Western clothes, please dress modestly. Skirts should not be above the knee, and if you must wear slacks, they should be loose, not tight. Also, if you want to please me still more, you will wear long-sleeved or short-sleeved blouses and sweaters, not sleeveless. If you do these things, not only will they purify and divinise your own consciousness, but also they will inspire a purer consciousness in others who look at you.

Now, about the boys. I have asked my male disciples to wear white trousers and white shirts if and when they can. We know in the spiritual world that white represents purity. Purity is the consciousness of the Divine Mother. God is one; but in the feminine form He is the Mother, in the masculine form He is the Father. When men wear white clothes, immediately their purity comes forward.

Men and women each have their own particular good qualities and their own particular weaknesses. So, what each man needs is purity in abundant measure. There is not a single man who will say that he does not need purity. If today you wear a dark or coloured suit, and tomorrow you wear white, you will see the difference. When you wear white, you feel the inner message of purity. And if you have purity, the aspiration and experiences that you get from your spiritual life you can retain. Otherwise, this morning you will have a wonderful meditation and in two hours' time you will totally lose it. Why? Because you have indulged in impure thoughts, impure ideas, impure consciousness. Impurity need not be in the physical plane at all. In the mental plane it is just as bad.

Again, the men should know that it is not their white clothes that will give them realisation. Never! But it will help a little. If your mind becomes pure for one second because you are wearing white, then this adds to your aspiration. If your goal is to get one hundred dollars and you already have ninety-nine, then if you are wise you will take the last dollar wherever you can and then say, "I have reached my goal." But just by having that one dollar you cannot reach the goal.

If somebody says, "I don't want to wear a sari, I don't need to wear white. I am ready to wait five minutes more or one day more to get the extra dollar from my own aspiration," then I will say that this person can wait. But you have to know that time is a great factor. Today I came to San Francisco from Los Angeles. It took an hour to get here on the airplane, and then I entered into my activities. But some of my disciples drove here, and it took them six or seven hours. So this is the difference. Our realisation is without end. Today we realise God, tomorrow we reveal God and the day after tomorrow we manifest God. But if we do not do today's job as soon as possible, then everything else will also be delayed.

Flowers, candles and incense

Question: Why do you use flowers and burn candles and incense when you meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: There are some people who say that it is not necessary to have flowers around us when we meditate. They say, "The flower is inside, the thousand-petalled lotus is inside." But this physical flower reminds us of purity, of divinity. When we look at the flower, we get a little inspiration. If we do not have any inspiration, we will not get up to pray and meditate. We will simply make friends with sleep. But the colour of a flower, its fragrance, its pure consciousness immediately give us a little inspiration. From inspiration we get aspiration, and from aspiration we get realisation.

It is the same with the flame from a candle. This will not in itself give us aspiration; it is the inner flame that will give us aspiration, But when we see the outer flame, then immediately we feel that the flame in our inner being is being kindled and is climbing high, higher, highest. And when we smell the scent of incense, we get perhaps only a little inspiration, a little purification, but this inspiration and purification can be added to our inner treasure.

Removing one's shoes

Question: Why do you ask people to leave their shoes outside and not bring them into the meditation hall?

Sri Chinmoy: In the spiritual life two things are of greatest importance: one is purity and the other is aspiration, the inner cry. Purity and aspiration must go together. Purity intensifies aspiration, and aspiration increases purity. He who is pure inwardly and outwardly will have spontaneous aspiration, and he who aspires is bound to see purity dawn in his devoted life.

We ask people to leave their shoes outside before coming into the meditation hall because we come here to aspire. When we come to aspire, we have to make our physical consciousness, our physical body, also aware that we are aspiring. With our shoes we walk around all day in the dirty streets. After that, if we walk into the meditation hall with them on and try to meditate, all the impurity of the streets will enter into the consciousness of the room, into our consciousness, and into the consciousness of all the people who are meditating there. Naturally it will disturb us. Also, we should think of our meditation room as a shrine, a holy place. There we come to commune with God. When we enter a church, out of respect we remove our hats. Similarly, before we enter the meditation room, out of respect we remove our shoes.

When we meditate we are trying to throw away our animal consciousness. Shoes come from an animal. When we leave the shoes outside, we should feel that we are leaving the animal consciousness outside and entering into the human consciousness. It is not just the animal hide but the whole consciousness that we are leaving. Then, from the human consciousness we try to go one step ahead, during our meditation, to the divine consciousness. We try to go beyond the human in us — with its doubt, fear, jealousy and worry — and enter into the consciousness of perfection.

Now you will say from your practical mind, "These shoes help me. If I didn't have shoes, I would suffer from heat and cold when I walk along the streets. So why is it when I meditate I do not need them?" Now, we can offer our gratitude to the things that help us, but this does not mean that at every hour of our existence we have to keep them with us. A broom helps us clean our house, but after it has played its role, we put it in a particular corner until we need it again. We don't take it with us when we sit down to eat. In the spiritual life also, we do appreciate things that help us. But they have to have their proper place.

At one time the animal consciousness was necessary for movement. If we had not had animal qualities we would have remained inert, like trees, or we would have remained in the stone consciousness where there is no activity, no movement. Now movement can either be destructive or dynamic. With our dynamic movement we try to run to our goal; with our destructive consciousness we try to destroy others and destroy ourselves. Unfortunately, in the animal we see the destructive quality looming large. But it is better to have this animal consciousness, to fight and struggle, than to remain in the stone consciousness where there is no movement, no progress. Now the animal has played its role, and we have come to the human consciousness. We know that movement is necessary, but that it has to be a dynamic movement. In the human consciousness we try to go a little farther with our dynamic movement, but unfortunately, the animal consciousness still lies dormant in us. We try to purify the destructive quality through our dynamic quality in the human. Then from the dynamic movement in the human, we try to go to the Divine. And when the dynamic movement of the human enters into the Divine, then we get perfect perfection.

Step by step, we are freeing ourselves from previous helpers which are of no use to us in reaching our ultimate Goal. Many times our human friends are helpers, but when we want to go farther and deeper into the inner life, we see that our human friends stand in our way. The animal consciousness did help us when we were trying to go beyond the plant consciousness, but it only drags us backwards when we enter into the human consciousness. So the farther, the higher we go, the more we have to be aware of whether or not our previous friends can be of any help to its. If they cannot be of any help, we shall leave them behind us and go forward alone.

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