The spiritual journey: oneness in diversity

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Part I — Who is the Guru?

Question: Sri Chinmoy, what is your definition of the Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: Guru is a Sanskrit word which means teacher. The one who illumines is called a Guru. Now, according to my own inner realisation, I wish to say that there is and there can be only one Guru and that is the Supreme. No human being can be a Guru. But although the Supreme alone is the real Guru, here on earth we value time. If we have someone who can help us in our journey towards the highest Goal, we take his help.

We need a human Guru precisely because we want to go faster. A Guru is a private tutor. He is not like a school teacher who will pass or fail the student in the examination. The Guru privately and inwardly teaches the disciples to stand in front of ignorance and face it and conquer it. A spiritual Master is like the eldest member in the family, and the seekers are like his younger spiritual brothers and sisters. Spiritual Masters tell or show their younger brothers and sisters where their Father is. The Father is bound to be the Absolute Guru. All the spiritual Masters are trying to help their younger brothers and sisters and show these aspiring souls where the real Guru is. The real Guru is not in the vast blue skies. He is inside the very depth of our hearts.

Now, you may ask, if He is inside our hearts, then why is it necessary for us to take help from somebody else? I wish to say that this invaluable treasure is inside our hearts, but we have misplaced it, so we need help. A friend of ours who is the spiritual teacher comes to us and searches for our treasure. When he finds it, he tells us, "Look, here is your treasure and here is the key. Now if you want me to show you how to open the box, that also I will do for you." And then when we see the treasure inside the box, immediately we come to realise that the treasure belongs entirely to us and does not belong to our helper. Now that we have seen the treasure, now that we have discovered it with the help of the friend, guide or teacher, we feel that it is necessary to have so that we can do more things in life.

To see the treasure is one thing, to grow into it is another and finally to manifest it is something else. There are three different things that we take one by one. First we try to realise God with the help of a teacher, then we try to reveal God in our activities and finally we try to manifest God.

The real Guru, the only Guru, is God the Supreme. He is manifesting Himself in and through all the seekers. We are all seekers, and a spiritual Master is also a seeker. But in the family, the younger members usually take help from the elder ones. All so-called spiritual Masters are trying to take their younger brothers and sisters to the Father, the Absolute Supreme.

Question: Why does one need a Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: In this world you usually need a teacher to learn something. So how is it that in God-knowledge, which is also a subject, you don't need a teacher? Even before you went to school to study English, your mother taught you the ABC's. Your mother was your teacher at that time. If your mother had not taught you the ABC's you would not have learned them. Spirituality or God-realisation is a subject, and for this subject you need a Master.

When you complete a course you no longer need a teacher. If you want to learn how to sing, you go to a singer to learn from him. If you want to be a dancer, you go to a dancer. Once you become a singer or dancer, you don't have to go to your teacher. In the spiritual life also, it is the same. You need help in the beginning, and once you also realise God, you don't need anybody's help.

Question: Does a Guru represent God to his students?

Sri Chinmoy: If the aspirant has a spiritual Master, then he has to feel that for him his Master represents God on earth and everything will come to him from and through the Master. If one constantly separates God from his representative, the Guru, then one is bound to meet with constant frustration. And if one does not renew one's love, devotion and surrender on the spiritual path under the guidance of one's Master, then dark forces will disturb and destroy the balance of that individual's human mind. The desiring vital, the uncertain life and the doubting mind can never offer satisfaction, peace and joy to a seeker. Unless an aspirant is totally sure of his inner journey and has complete confidence in his spiritual guide, he is bound to enter back into the world of illusion and delusion, where he has remained for many incarnations. The spiritual Master has a broad heart which houses understanding, wisdom, action and reaction. He is just an instrument of the Supreme. As a messenger from above, he plays his role on earth, especially for his disciples. He is happy only when he executes the Will of the Supreme. Again, he is happy when the disciples are happy with what they have and what they are. But a time comes when the disciples feel that their happiness can have meaning only when it is founded on the Supreme's Happiness. Right now we are living in an undivine world of personality and individuality. An aspirant's divine personality is his oneness with his Inner Pilot, or his Guru. An aspirant's divine individuality is to fulfil his Inner Pilot in and through his own life. So let the disciple always live in the world of divine personality and divine individuality. Then the disciple will be divinely fulfilled and the Master will be supremely manifested. A real aspirant has to feel that he is for God. Whether God is for him or not, is up to God.

If any of my disciples want to go to God directly or go to God through a church, synagogue or other spiritual place, I will not prevent them. I do not want to create any misunderstanding between God and my disciples. But if you consider me to be your Guru, and at the same time you have no faith in me, then to stay with me is a mere mockery of the spiritual life and a waste of your precious time and my precious time.

Question: What is the relationship between you and your disciples?

Sri Chinmoy: My hands have a function and my legs also have a function. But my legs will not tell my hands, "Come, let us change our respective jobs." It is not necessary. My hands are satisfied and my legs are satisfied. When it is time for my hands to work, they work; and when it is time for my legs to work, they also work. But both hands and legs are part and parcel of the same reality, the body. When the disciples merge into the Master's consciousness, they become inseparably one with the Master's existence. The disciples are the limbs and the Master is the body; each needs the other. In this way the Master and the disciples go together.

Question: Do the people who come to you follow your life?

Sri Chinmoy: Nobody is following me. I tell my students that I am not the leader. The leader is God. Nobody is following my path. It is just that I use the terms "I" and "my." I tell them that God is the Supreme Leader. But God has told me to inspire my students. I am inspiration only. I tell my students that I am just an inspiration and God is the realisation. God is my leader, your leader, everybody's leader. God is the Father, my Father, your Father. I tell my spiritual disciples that I am their elder brother. My spiritual development is one inch higher than theirs. The younger brother does not know where the Father is. The elder brother knows a little more than the younger brothers, so he tells them, "Look, there Father is seated." Then the elder brother's part is over. He is not the Father and he is not sitting on the throne. But just because he is the older brother in the family, he knows a little more than the younger brothers.

Question: What is the difference between the terms "Guru," "Swami" and "Sri"?

Sri Chinmoy: There are two types of Gurus. One is a very high spiritual Master and the other one is like a mentor. Tagore, for example, did not claim to be a realised soul, far from it. But his students used to call him "Gurudev," and he used to sign himself "Gurudev." In Indian villages, each household must have a Guru. My mother had implicit faith in our Guru. A Guru can be a village-type of Guru, or he can be a very highly advanced soul.

The term "Sri" is used when the disciples feel that their Master has reached a very high state of consciousness. Ordinary people are also sometimes called "Sri"; for example "Sri" is sometimes used to address a minister. Usually one who has realised the Highest will be called "Sri," like Sri Ramakrishna. Sometimes disciples use two, even three "Sris" for their Master, instead of one. "Sri" is used for the highest spiritual Masters who are far superior to Swamis. Vivekananda, for example, called himself Swami. He would not dare to call himself "Sri" because he knew his status. He was infinitely inferior to his Guru Sri Ramakrishna in terms of height, as was another close disciple, Swami Brahmananda. If these men had achieved their highest realisation, whether others had recognised it or not, they could have called themselves "Sri." However, if a Swami attains a realisation on a lower level, he cannot be called "Sri" because he is still far inferior. There can be so much difference between one God-realised soul and another. Some ordinary Yogis in India are also far superior to the so-called "Swamis" that I see here. So these days the word "Guru" has become a farce; even Hatha Yoga teachers call themselves "Gurus." Everything has been twisted. But from the highest point of view, "Sri" and "Guru" go together.

Part II — The Guru's example

"The Guru has to be a perfect example of what he teaches"

You go to school with the idea that the teacher is good, that the school is good. Then, if you study there for a few months and the teacher disappoints you, what do you do? You give up. You don't believe in that school any longer, so you look for another school. When you are disappointed in a teacher you go to somebody else. And if you are not disappointed in a particular teacher, then you learn from him as much as he can teach you, provided he is very sincere. If he is very sincere but he has taught you as much as he can, then you don't have to stay with him. You went to him with a sincere belief and your sincerity has carried you along for a couple of years. Now he cannot teach you any longer. So naturally your sincerity will take you to some other place.

There are some teachers who cannot teach you even right from the beginning; they are not real teachers. They do not have the capacity, but they try to keep you as long as they can just to exploit you. There are some sincere teachers who can teach you for a couple of years, and there are some teachers who can teach right up to the highest height. It is you who have to know whether the teacher is sincere or insincere, and then your inner being will tell you whether you are making satisfactory progress or not. The moment you feel that you are not making any progress whatsoever, in spite of your sincerity and deepest eagerness to make progress in the spiritual life, then you should know that the path you are on is not meant for you.

The Guru has to be a perfect example of what he teaches. His outer being has to be the perfect example of what he is saying. Otherwise, he is not a Guru. Books have been written about everything. If you read or think about God-realisation or think of God a thousand times or pray to God, that is not enough to realise God. But the Guru can show you the way to realise God just by a mere touch. The responsibility of a Guru is tremendous. If the Guru is not a perfect example of his teachings, then he is not a true Guru. He is what in the medical world they call a "quack."

So the disciple must be very, very careful in selecting a Guru. If he makes one mistake in his spiritual life, it is not like an ordinary mistake: his whole life can be ruined. It is not as if he is eating a particular kind of vegetable one day and then if it does not suit his system, he can eat a different vegetable the next day. No, it is not as simple as that. Here if a seeker accepts a Master and if he is not the right Master for that seeker, then the experience can be very destructive. The poor disciple can lose faith even in God. He will say, "God, I was sincere. Why did You bring me to this kind of Guru? I did not know what he was like. I am a blind, innocent, helpless fellow. I was so devoted to my Guru and my Guru deceived me. Now to whom should I go? Must I go to some other Master? He will also deceive me." At that time the seeker starts judging God. Then the seeker loses all faith in the Guru, in God and in himself. At that time his mind and his heart become a barren desert. There is a saying that before getting married one should think a thousand times about whether or not he will marry a particular person. Similarly, in the spiritual life, before a seeker selects a Guru he should wait a while and dive deep within to see whether that Guru is meant for him or not. If the Master is not meant for the seeker then the seeker should forget him.

Question: I am confused because there is no single mind among those who have studied at the source of this philosophy of living. I have not found any two teachers who are alike, and I have met many. So it is very disturbing.

Sri Chinmoy: There is only one teacher, one Guru, and that teacher is the Supreme. I am not a teacher; and if there is anybody on earth who claims to be a teacher, then I will say that he is a fool. But the expression, the manifestation or the revelation of the Supreme is a different story. In the Supreme's Eye we are all Gods of tomorrow; but when we see with our own eyes, we see that we are all imperfect, we are no better than animals.

The younger brother feels that his older brother, who is studying at the college, has more knowledge or wisdom than he does. So he runs towards his brother to get more illumination. Similarly, in the process of evolution there are those who are actually helping their brothers and sisters who are spiritually younger than they are to lead a life of illumination. The younger members of the family can approach their elder brother as helper or guide or saviour. But it is the Supreme who has given a little more wisdom to that particular person, and at the same time he expects and he demands that this wisdom be distributed to everyone.

Question: How does one know whether he is ready for the spiritual path or not?

Sri Chinmoy: You can easily know whether you are ready for the spiritual path or not. When you are hungry you know that you have to eat. Your hunger compels you to eat something. In the inner life also when you are hungry for Peace, Light and Bliss, at that time you are ready. When you have that inner cry, that inner need for something, then you are ready for a spiritual path. So when you have the need, you have to realise that you are ready. If you don't have the need, then you are not ready. Instead of going to a movie or reading newspapers, you have come here. The fact that you have come here to our Centre means that you care for Peace, Light and Bliss. When you go to see a spiritual Master, that means that you are already ready. If you go to church or some other spiritual place, that means you are more than ready to follow a spiritual path. Again, in your readiness you have to know how sincere you can be. You may be ready to go to school and yet you may not be sincere, or you may not be as sincere as somebody else. So sincerity is also necessary, along with readiness. If you are ready and also sincere, then naturally you will go very far.

Just as you know when you are ready to become a student, so also you know when you are ready to become a disciple. If you have a hunger to learn more, or to learn something which you do not know, you go to school. Your hunger compels you to go to a teacher and study; your hunger prepares your readiness. In the spiritual life also, when you are hungry for Peace, Light and Bliss, that means you are already prepared for the spiritual life.

Question: Should we follow a specific spiritual path?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, each individual should have a path of his own. All roads lead to Rome, but you have to follow one road, one path. Gandhi said, "All religions are leading to the same goal." Now all religions may have some degree of error, but if you want to go home you have to follow a path. You have to continue walking in spite of any thorns that make it difficult for you to walk. In spite of the imperfections of the path, you have to walk on it if you want to reach your destination.

Question: But God is beyond everything. He is beyond a path, He is beyond concept.

Sri Chinmoy: We want to go from the finite to the Infinite. God is Infinite and just because He is Infinite, just because He is Omnipotent, He is also in the finite with us. When we stay on earth, we have the body which houses the soul. We should take religion or our path as our own body, as our own individual existence. Then when we go beyond the body and are one with the Infinite, at that time we don't have to follow a path. But before that if we don't follow a set path, then we will make no progress. Today it will be this path, tomorrow it will be that path.

Question: Does each individual have a specific path or are all paths relatively similar?

Sri Chinmoy: All the paths cannot be the same, only the ultimate goal will be the same. There are different roads, but each road leads to the same Goal. Each individual needs the guidance of a Master, and each individual has to discover his own path. Then he must follow only one path and one Master who is the leader or guide of that path. If someone constantly changes paths, then he will never reach his destination.

Sometimes it happens that the seeker is ready and the Master is moving around right in front of his nose, but the seeker does not know it. The other day at Fairfield University somebody told me that she has been looking for a Master for nineteen or twenty years and I was so surprised. I was positive that her Master was alive. If she had really been searching sincerely and crying for her Master, then her Master would have appeared before her.

So, here I wish to say that if the aspirant is really sincerely crying for a path, then his path will present itself before him. If he really cries for a spiritual Master, either the Master will come to him or he will be able to go to the Master.

Unfortunately, in the West I very often come across people who say that they have been searching for a path and a Master but they haven't found either. At this point I wish to say that their cry is not sincere, and they are not honest in their inner search. No sincere effort ends in vain. If someone makes a sincere effort, then I wish to say that his inner life and outer life are bound to be crowned with success.

So to come back to your question, each individual seeker must necessarily have a path of his own. That doesn't mean that there will not be other seekers in his path. As we say, "Birds of a feather flock together," so there will be others who will want to follow the same path. Souls that have a common feeling of oneness do move in groups just like human beings who have relatives, near ones and dear ones. Their souls move together, aspire together and occultly troop through the world at large together. These are the souls that we call group souls, souls that have inner affinities.

As regards his path, each seeker must have one path and not ten paths to lead him towards his goal. It is foolishness to have ten or twelve guides. Spirituality is not like a school where you have a teacher in each subject: history, geography and so on. No. God-realisation is one subject, and for that subject only one teacher is needed to help you to open the door of God-realisation.

Question: Sometimes I don't know if I should choose the spiritual life or the old life.

Sri Chinmoy: Accepting the spiritual life is like choosing a friend. Each moment you are standing between two persons, and it is up to you to go to your friend or to your enemy. You cannot say you don't know which one is your friend. The moment you accept the spiritual life you will know who is your friend and who is your enemy.

Your friend will say, "All right, if he doesn't want to stay with me, let me not impose on him. What else can I do?" But your enemy will say, "It is beneath my dignity to let him be. I have to grab him and make him my slave." Your friend will not grab you; only he will try to add to your strength. But your enemy will take you and use you for his own purpose.

The positive force is always there. You are between perfection and destruction. Now it is up to you to run to the room of perfection and not look to the room of imperfection.

Part III — Receptivity and the Master's Height

"Some students find it difficult to learn from the teacher"

Some students find it difficult to learn from the teacher. The teacher's way of teaching is too much for them. But if there is a good student in a class, a student who is a little higher or a little better than the other students, then for him it is easier to learn. To be very frank with you, sometimes I may ask a good student to go and convince someone who is not so good. I will not be able to convince the other person even if I take four hours. But if a good disciple speaks to the same person, then in five minutes' time he will be able to change the person. The good disciple is, say, ten inches higher than the other person, whereas I am ten feet higher. When the disciple talks, the other person sees that the disciple is a little higher than he is, and he listens to him. But my height is so much higher that either he will doubt me or he will be frustrated. First he will doubt me. He will say, "How is it possible that someone can have that much height? It is impossible." But when he sees that he is just a little below someone's height, then he will follow the good example of that person. The disciple is an intermediary, let us say, because his height is in-between.

It has happened many times that I fail, because my force is like an atom bomb to the disciples. But if I can give them only a limited amount of power, then they receive it. I always say, "Take according to your capacity. I am like the ocean. If you want to take a small quantity or if you want to take a large quantity, then just take it." But what happens is this: the moment they see that the quantity is so vast, they forget that they are allowed to take as much or as little as they want to. When they see the vastness, they are frightened to death. They feel that they came to drink just a few drops, but they have found the ocean and its vastness frightens them. Sometimes what do I do? I will show them a swimming pool or a pond. It is true that I have everything, but I if I show them a pond or a river, then they are most receptive.

This has happened many, many times. Let me tell you a true story. I was in a shop in the Virgin Islands, buying a gift, when the owner of the shop came up to me and said, "Do you know the term satsang?' It is an Indian word, so I said, "Of course, I know," and I told him the meaning. Then he said, "Do you know of anybody who can initiate me? I am planning to go to India."

So there in the shop, he was asking me the name of a Master who could initiate him. There in the shop his receptivity was so limited. So I tried to tell the poor fellow that he did not have to go to India. I told him that there are other Masters here. But I didn't want to tell him that I am also a spiritual Master.

Then I said, "Are you really interested in the spiritual life?" He said, "I am desperately looking for a spiritual Master." So I told him, "Please come to San Juan, Puerto Rico. There you can attend a meditation." Then he was interested in knowing who was going to hold the meditation. How was I going to tell him? Finally, I told him that it was I. Then he looked at me with such curiosity. He said he wanted to read some of my books and he gave me his address. Then he said, "All right, I will try to come to Puerto Rico." But I knew that he would not come.

His soul was crying, but his mind would not accept. At that time if I had been wearing Indian dress, he would have come up to me and touched my feet. Then I would have told him that I can also initiate, and he would have followed me here to Puerto Rico. That is why my sister, Lily, sent me Indian garments when I came here. I said I didn't want them because I did not like to wear them. But she said, "Who cares for a policeman if he does not have a uniform? And a doctor should always have proper dress; otherwise, nobody will go to him. Once you become well-known, at that time you won't have to wear Indian dress. But until then you will definitely have to." I tell you, if I had been wearing Indian garments, at that time the man would have become my disciple.

But if some disciples had been there with me, they could have given a talk about me, and then naturally this man would have believed. Disciples can convince the new seekers. I bring the light, but that light sometimes frightens them. But if the disciples give them light, they can accept it. So that is why I beg the disciples who have been with us to mix with the newcomers. I am the elder brother, the disciples are the younger brothers, and the seekers are the youngest brothers.

God has so many children. Here I am the oldest and there will be some who are younger than you and some who are older than you. So you should take care of those people who are younger than you. Then, when they are older, I will take them.

It has happened that while a spiritual Master is talking to his disciples, visitors join in the meditation. The Master is sitting on the throne. The new seekers, according to their capacity and receptivity, sometimes receive much more than the disciples of the Master. Each time the Master talks, they look not at the Master, but they look at the disciples to see if they approve of what the Master is saying. They feel that they will not be able to judge, for they have just come. So if the disciples are nodding their heads, then immediately the newcomers will feel that the Master is telling the truth. But if the disciples are not serious, then the seekers may start thinking that perhaps the Master is not saying the right thing. So the Master is always judged by those who have already accepted him.

Question: Is it true that one can sleep in his Master's boat and still reach the destination?

Sri Chinmoy: If you stay in our boat, do you sometimes not feel the urge to help other passengers or to inspire the boatman, even to look around and see where the boat is heading? There will come time when you have reached the destination. Then you yourself will be called upon to bring the boat with new passengers from this shore to the destination. If you are sleeping while the boatman takes you to the destination now, then when he asks you to do him a favour and take few passengers, at that time you will say, "I don't know how to navigate the boat." So always keep your eyes wide open.

Question: I was initiated by a Jain Master in New York City who gave me my own mantra, but I've been finding it very difficult to adopt a specific technique for realising my inner self.

Sri Chinmoy: If you have a Master of your own, he is the best person to answer your questions. If you find it difficult, then you should ask him what to do. When you get a mantra from a Master, or if you were initiated by a Master, it is always best for you to speak to him. Your Master knows what your soul needs, in the same way that a doctor knows what medicine he has given you. If you feel that this doctor cannot cure you, then naturally you can go to another doctor. Similarly, if you don't feel confidence in your Master and you change Masters, at that time the new one will be able to help you and guide you. But as long as you are under the guidance of one spiritual Master, it is not advisable for another Master to tell you what you should do. Here I can answer general questions, such as, "What is the best time to meditate?" but I cannot become involved in anybody else's method. It would be a terrible mistake, because each Master has a method of his own which is absolutely right for his disciples. It may or may not be applicable to you. At the same time, my method will be totally different from his. I am not saying that my method is the most effective — far from it — but my method is only for those who will eventually follow my path.

Part IV — Sri Chinmoy's Path

This path is the path of the heart

Dear seekers, I came to the West in 1964, obeying an express command from my Inner Pilot. He wanted me, He wants me and I am sure that, out of His Infinite Bounty, He will always want me to be of service to Him in aspiring mankind.

I wish to tell you that I call my teachings a path, not a religion. I have seekers from all religions, faiths and denominations. At times I say my path is like a school. Students come here to learn and when they acquire wisdom, then they will teach others.

This path is the path of the heart. It is very simple and at the same time very fruitful. When I say it is the path of the heart, I am in no way trying to minimize or belittle the mind. I only wish to say that we are following the path of the heart because we have come to feel that this path is undoubtedly a short cut.

The mind doubts, the mind suspects others, and finally, to its wide surprise, the same mind doubts and suspects itself. Therefore it takes a very long time to walk along the path of the mind and reach the destination. But the path of the heart is the path of oneness, inseparable oneness. We see the reality, we accept the reality as such and then if the reality has to be changed and transformed, we try to transform it into divine perfection. The path of the heart is the path of acceptance. Here we do not negate or reject or renounce anything. We accept the world and want to be in the world in order to love God and serve God, to please and fulfil God in His own Way.

On our path we have a ladder called aspiration. It has three rungs: love, devotion and surrender. But this love is divine love and not human love. Human love binds and blinds, whereas divine love expands and illumines. Divine love is the love of the heart in the heart for the entire being. This love sings the song of expansion.

The second rung is devotion. In the ordinary human life what we know is nothing short of attachment. We are attached to someone and therefore we feel compelled to do things. It is our conscious or unconscious attachment that compels us to be of service to others. If our attachment goes away, we shall not spend even a fleeting second to please, serve or fulfil others. But devotion is something totally different. We are devoted to a supreme cause. We are devoted to our own highest Reality.

Now the last rung is surrender. This surrender is totally different from the surrender of a slave to his master. The slave is under compulsion to please his master and if he does not please him, his services will be dispensed with. He has to be always at the beck and call of his master. This is forced surrender, not surrender that spontaneously comes to the fore. But in the spiritual life the surrender that we offer is a constant source of energy and satisfaction. It comes from within. Nobody compels us or forces us to do anything.

We feel that we have two existences. One is illumined, the other is now unillumined. The finite in us surrenders its existence to the Infinite, the totally illumined in us. The finite in us is like a tiny drop that enters into the mighty ocean and loses its individuality and personality. It becomes the ocean itself. Here surrender makes us vast and infinite; conscious, constant and soulful. Devoted, unconditional surrender reveals one's own highest reality. At the beginning of our journey's start we try to discover our own highest Height. Then we offer our low, lower, lowest existence to that highest Height, and once our lowest existence enters into the highest Existence, it is transformed, illumined and perfected. The lowest becomes totally ready for the Highest to operate in and through it.

Again I wish to say that I am on earth only to be of service to the Supreme, my Inner Pilot, my Supreme Beloved. Out of His Infinite Bounty, He has given me the capacity to write, or I should say, He has written through me thousands of pages of poems, stories, articles, essays and plays. He has utilised me to give talks and hold public meetings to serve Him in another way. And out of His infinite Compassion, He is using me to serve the seekers of the absolute Truth through music and art. He has done thousands of paintings and written hundreds of songs in and through me. According to my inner receptivity, He has been able to manifest Himself. I do not dare to take any credit for I don't deserve it. I know perfectly well that it is He who has done all these things in and through me out of His boundless flood of Compassion. I am a mere instrument. I am eternally grateful to Him at every second, for He has granted me the golden opportunity to be of service to Him.

I have quite a few students. My students and I have the same goal: to pray and meditate and to serve God and please God in His own Way. There are a few disciples' parents here. It has happened in a few cases that when the children left their parents, the parents were deeply annoyed and they had many things to say against me. Once upon a time the parents criticised their children's teacher mercilessly. But the same children now are in the good books of their parents. Now the parents have a few good words to say about me. Quite a few of my students had taken to drugs and had embraced the hippie life style. But now they have accepted life in a proper, divine, soulful way and they are the true pride of society.

I always tell my students to visit their parents and be of service to them. Out of millions and billions of souls, how is it that the children chose a particular family? It was out of special necessity. There was a special reason why they chose this particular family. I wish to say to the parents that I have not taken anybody's children away. On the contrary, I am trying to make their children realise their proper roles in God's creation. They will go deep within to please their parents, relatives and dear ones.

God is inside everyone, including the parents. The parents deserve most soulful gratitude from their children. For quite a few years they have brought up their children and tried to satisfy them. Unfortunately, the children were not completely satisfied, although the parents tried their best to offer them satisfaction. Then the children went to spiritual teachers who offered them more satisfaction.

So now just because the parents want pure satisfaction from their children, most of the parents have come out of the snare of ego. They feel that someone has really given happiness to their children. True parents are happy only when they can see that their children are happy. I have met with parents of disciples from several Centres. Last year I met with one disciple's parents who once upon a time wanted to dig my grave. Now they come with flowers to thank me. I would like to say to the parents that I have not come to take any of your children away. I am only trying to do what your own soul wants. Your soul wants your children to be good, kind and devoted to truth, light, peace and bliss. This is your soul's wish which I am carrying out according to my limited capacity.

I am extremely grateful to my students for they have given me ample opportunity to serve the Supreme, who is everybody's real Guru. I am not the Guru, I will never claim to be the Guru. The real Guru is inside you. Guru is a Sanskrit word which means "he who illumines." Who can illumine us save and except God? But there can be someone who can take his younger brothers and sisters to God so that God can give them illumination. The physical Guru is not going to illumine others; he cannot do anything without God. He is not the Saviour; the Saviour is inside us. The Saviour is within me and within you. It is in the inmost recesses of our hearts that the Saviour abides. Our Beloved Supreme is everybody's Guru, everybody's Master. I have told my disciples repeatedly that I am only an elder brother in the family and the Lord Supreme is their Father, my Father, everybody's Father. Just because I know a little bit about inner light, spiritual light, the Supreme considers me to be an elder brother to humanity. The role of the elder brother is to take the younger brothers and sisters to the Father, their common Father. Then his role is over.

I am extremely grateful to all the seekers of truth, light, peace and bliss who have come here to be with us. This is only an experience that I wish to share with you. Conscious and continuous self-giving is the precursor of God-becoming. The message of a perfect earth can be told only when we all become one, inseparably one, and sing the song of our unconditional service to the Eternal Pilot in us. It is our soulful service that can make us feel and discover what we eternally are. Now we are unrealised, consciously unrealised, but God will fulfil us on the strength of our prayers and vision, and we will not only become consciously realised, but we will grow into His very Name.

Question: What is the process involved in joining your Centre?

Sri Chinmoy: The process here is acceptance. If you feel that you can accept our path the first time you come here, then that is very good. Then you can start your journey immediately. But if you have come here for five or six times and still you do not feel anything in me or in our path, then I wish to tell you that this path will not satisfy you. After four or five times, it is useless to continue coming with the hope that this is your path. If you find it difficult to follow our path, I will never say that you are not sincere or aspiring. It is only that you are not meant for our path; you are meant for somebody else. So, if you are satisfied with us at the very beginning, then tell the Centre president that you would like to follow our path. But if you are not sure, then please come four or five times and try to decide.

You can easily make your decision. Feel that you have a matchstick and just strike it immediately. You need not come here three or four times, because when you first see your own Master, you are bound to feel something. Little by little your aspiration grows, your realisation grows; but the acceptance of the Master comes immediately. If you look at your own Master, you feel immediately who the Master is. If he is not your Master, you can come to see him twenty times and still not be sure. So four times is more than enough for any aspirant to recognise if I am his spiritual Master.

How will you know that this is your path? You will know if you get a kind of joy, peace and love that you do not find elsewhere. If you get peace of mind, inner joy, inner love and a kind of satisfaction here and nowhere else, then this is your path. But if you find that these are the very things that you do not get here, then this path is absolutely wrong for you. I will never say, "Oh, you are a fool. I have everything. How is it that you don't get it?" I may have certain things, but if you do not appreciate what I have, then you can go to another Guru. Then, from him you can get the things that you need. But I have no right to say, "My things are better, far better than the ones he has." No. You are the customer. You accept or reject. Again, the shopkeeper also has the right to say sometimes, "I don't want to sell." But in this case, if the spiritual Master does not accept a student, it is not because the student is bad, but because he will do far better if he goes to another Master.

When a spiritual Master is face to face with the Supreme, the Supreme will ask him, "Have you brought your own children?" He will not ask the Master, "Have you brought the whole world?" Some spiritual Masters have millions and billions of disciples. But it may happen that the Supreme did not ask them to bring this many disciples. Each Master has been allotted some disciples by the Supreme. If I take somebody else's students or disciples, I don't think the Supreme will be pleased with me, because He has not made me the leader, the captain, for those particular persons. The Supreme wants somebody else to be the leader or captain for them. What the Supreme wants from a spiritual Master is of paramount importance. If He wants me to take one of these disciples, I will take him. But the Supreme will be really pleased with me if I take only the ones that He wants me to take. He has sent down quite a few sincere spiritual Masters. But if we start taking each other's disciples, then there will be problems.

So you have every right to accept or reject me, and I also have the same right to accept or reject you. But if the acceptance is good and wholehearted, then you will offer all your aspiration to the Centre, and I will bring from the Supreme His Compassion, Love and Concern. You will receive according to your receptivity. You will give me what you have and I will give you what I have. This is how we accept. It is mutual.

I have said many, many times that each Master has his own path. Mine is very limited. I don't tell any disciple that he is under an obligation to help me financially. Nobody will be compelled to help financially or to make any financial commitment. No. The commitment, the obligation I ask is aspiration and regularity. The real commitment is aspiration. If you can aspire and be regular, and if you can accept me and I can accept you, then all our problems are solved.

Question: Do you tell seekers if they have been accepted as your disciples?

Sri Chinmoy: I always do that. There are many people whom I have not accepted. But if I don't accept a particular person, that doesn't mean that he is not meant for the spiritual life. Only he is not meant for my path. I have to be sincere. If somebody belongs to another boat, I cannot take that person in my boat. Spirituality is not like that. If I say to God, "Look, I have ten million disciples," God may not be pleased with me. He will be pleased with me only if I take the disciples whom He wants me to take. He does not care for the number.

Suppose you are not meant for our path. The very fact that you have come here means that you are meant for some path, although it may not be my path. The moment an individual comes to any spiritual Master, it means that he is meant for a spiritual path. It may not be the path of the Master that he has seen. But there will be somebody whose path he is meant to follow.

Again, there are thousands of people who have seen me, who have not seen anything in me. According to their realisation they are absolutely right. Somebody else is meant for them. So, to come back to your question, if I feel that somebody is not meant for my path, immediately I will say so. It is not out of any unkindness that I will say this. No. I will accept only the ones that are meant for my boat, for God will be pleased with someone only when he goes to God with the right Master.

Question: How long does it take you to know if someone is your disciple?

Sri Chinmoy: It may take you four or more visits to my Centre to decide whether I am your spiritual Master or not. But for me, it is a matter of a few seconds to determine if I will accept you or not. I don't find it difficult to accept seekers, but for the seekers to accept me is often quite difficult. They will first judge me and test me. But if I allow too long for them to decide, then I will be in difficulty.

Question: If you know someone is meant for another path, how will you tell them?

Sri Chinmoy: I don't want to create any problems either for the seeker or for me. It is my sincere heart that tells the person, "You have to go to somebody else." But I will not be able to give the name of the particular Master, for I may be misunderstood. That Master may not accept the person, and then I will be totally lost. So I tell the person, "I am not the right person, but I appreciate your sincerity and aspiration. You have to go to somebody else. Before you get a Master you can meditate at home, and if you want to get inspiration you can read my books. And as soon as you get a Master, then you ask the Master what he wants you to do. Leave everything at his feet and study under his guidance. I may not be your Guru, your spiritual Master, but my writings embody spiritual consciousness, which will be a great help to you before you get your own Master. And then once you get him, you ask him what you should do."

Question: Does reading your writings help my aspiration?

Sri Chinmoy: The more you read, the more you listen to my music and my soulful utterances, the greater will be your aspiration, and the more intense will be your meditation. From the disciples I expect everything. Since you have given me the responsibility for your spiritual life, I wish to tell you that there is a way to run the fastest, and that way is to be totally and wholeheartedly in my boat.

Question: Is initiation necessary for real spirituality to develop?

Sri Chinmoy: Real spirituality is the transformation of what you are into what you are really searching for: abundant, infinite light. When I meditate, I bring down peace, light and bliss. You know what kind of consciousness you had before meditation, and right after meditation you also know what kind of consciousness you have. The difference is like night and day. Before you entered the spiritual life, you were in total darkness, you were leading an animal life. Now you are in the human life and tomorrow you will be in the divine life. This is absolutely a miracle. Darkness is being transformed into light. What is undivine is becoming divine. If you are sincere, you will know that this change is a gradual change of consciousness. I give value to transcendence, and for this, change of consciousness is most important.

He who chooses the Divine has already been chosen by the Divine. I accept many disciples long before their letters come asking for acceptance. Many I accept before they write their letters. The human in you will not know it. But immediately when I see a new disciple, I recognise that he has been brought by the Supreme in me. Out of the millions and billions of people on earth, many will come to me. But when I ask who wants to become my disciple, perhaps only two will come up. Their inner lives have already made their selection. When others see me they are frightened, because they feel they will have to give up many precious things — vital life, emotional life, and so on. People see me and acknowledge my spirituality, but they feel that they still have to experience the outer life for some time. They feel that if they fulfil the outer life first, then they will be more suitable for the spiritual life later on. But this is a mistake. As soon as you see your real Master you have to know that it means the time has come, your hour has struck.

Outer initiation is not necessary; acceptance itself is initiation. When you accept me, and I promise to take you from the ignorance-sea to wisdom-light, is not my promise your initiation? The Indian traditional way is to chant a few slokas from sacred books. I will give outer initiation. I will bless people in a way that they will understand. But the real initiation takes place inwardly. Sometimes I press someone hard on the head or look intently into his eyes. There are various ways. But always I give to the seeker's soul and the soul gives to the individual seeker.

Part V — The Spiritual Journey: Oneness In Diversity

Question: If you were comparing your religion to Islam, Christianity or Buddhism, which one is nearest to your belief?

Sri Chinmoy: Being a spiritual man, I must say that there is only one religion. You call it Christianity, I call it Hinduism, somebody calls it Judaism and somebody else calls it Islam. But there is only one religion. So when there is one religion, there cannot be nearness or distance. There are many branches of the religion-tree, but there is only one religion, and that religion is God-realisation. The ultimate Goal of all religion is God-realisation.

Religions may fight on the way to the goal, but at the end of the journey they become most intimate friends, and then they feel that they were all the time together on the same journey, only following different paths. True, sincere followers of any religion, either Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or Judaism, will never find fault in the truths of other religions. They know that the ultimate Truth exists in each religion. But in the field of practice or manifestation, human thoughts, human ideas, human vibrations can alter the truth. This is at the root of conflict between religions. The moment we go deep within, however, we see that there is no religion, only Truth. India's greatest political leader, Mahatma Gandhi, said, 'Where is religion? To me religion is just Truth." The word "religion" can cause conflict and fighting. But when we use the word "Truth," the conflicting parties remain silent.

Question: Do you believe in sin?

Sri Chinmoy: I do not believe in the word "sin" at all. I only believe in imperfection. We came from God. Our original Father was not a devil or evil. Our original Father was God, who is all Love, all Delight.

When we can remove the veil of ignorance from our consciousness, we will immediately enter into the world of perfection. There, there is no such thing as sin. Sin is in our mind; it can never be in our soul. And what is sin? It is something that binds and restricts, like a prison-cell. And what is delight? It is the boundless freedom of perfection.

Question: When do you begin to teach children about spirituality?

Sri Chinmoy: We start the day the child enters into the world. In India, mothers sing religious songs, spiritual songs, prayers, from the day the child is born. Then at the age of four, most of the Indian mothers teach their children to learn a few spiritual verses or chants. The mother spends much time at home chanting spiritual prayers or praying and meditating with the young child. The child may not be aware of these prayers, but he learns from his mother.

Then when the child is six years old, he is taught by the village priest and the parents the meaning of the inner life and spirituality. They make it very clear to the children that God is not in Heaven, God is not in the caves of the Himalayas; God is inside their hearts. God is everywhere. For these children, the very name of God makes them feel that He is all Love and Compassion for them. First we try to make the children feel that God is all Love, rather than all Justice. Through love of God we try to help children grow.

Question: Guru, how would you relate your mission with Christ's mission?

Sri Chinmoy: There is no difference between the Christ's mission and the mission of any spiritual Master. Each spiritual Master feels that he is a conscious son of God. An ordinary human being, before he has realised God, does not consciously feel that he is a son of God. Unfortunately, you have not yet realised God so you cannot yet claim that you are a son of God. Sometimes nice, divine thoughts will enter into you and you will feel that you are a son of God. The next moment, when undivine thoughts enter into you, you will say that you are the son of the devil.

This is your life; but in the case of a spiritual Master, once he has realised God, he knows consciously that he is a son of God, a chosen son of God. So, as the Christ claimed on the strength of his realisation that he was the son of God, you also have every right to say that you are a son of God. You also can claim this, but right now you have not established your conscious inner oneness with God. That is why you cannot feel the same as a great spiritual Master or the Christ.

So, to come back to your question, there is no difference between his help to mankind and the service that other Masters are offering. That is to say, we are bringing down the same message that all spiritual Masters have brought down from Heaven: that earth has to lead a better life, a life of illumination. There is no difference, there can be no difference between the Christ's mission and the mission of any spiritual Master. It is necessary from time to time for a spiritual Master to come into the world to illumine the consciousness of the earth. Lord Rama, Sri Krishna, the Buddha, the Christ, Sri Ramakrishna and others came, and now spiritual Masters are coming and they are doing the same things. It is like an eternal game with a continuous flow of divine players.

Question: If someone is following his own religion, does that mean he is leading a spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: We have to know if he is following his religion on a purely human level or on a divine level. If it is on a purely human level, then he is not leading a true spiritual life. What if I tell a disciple of mine, "Don't smoke," and then when that disciple unexpectedly knocks at my door, he sees that I am smoking at home? If he asked me, "What are you doing?" I could say that even if I smoke, I am not affected. But the disciple would say, "If you are not affected, why do you tell us not to smoke?" If I say, "I am above you, so I can do this," that will not satisfy him. The disciple will just say, "Then how can I have faith in you? The disciple wants something from his Master and that is sincerity. If the Master cannot do something himself, how can he demand it of his disciples? It is ridiculous.

Let me tell you a story. One day a mother took her son to a doctor. The child was suffering from a stomach ache because of something he had eaten. When they arrived, the doctor was eating sugar and molasses. The mother said, "My child is suffering from a stomach ache, from some kind of internal pain. Please help him."

The doctor said, "I will give you some medicine that will relieve his pain temporarily, but the real cure I won't give you today. You must bring him tomorrow." When the mother brought the child the next day, the doctor said, "Look, my child, don't take sugar. Then the medicine I am giving you will cure you permanently."

The mother said, "Why didn't you tell him that yesterday?"

The doctor replied, "If I had told him yesterday, he would have had no faith in me. He would have said, 'Look, he is eating the thing he is asking me not to eat.' Today I am a good man; I am not eating sugar, so I can tell your child, 'See, I am not taking sugar, so you should also stop.'

So, if your Guru does something and then professes that you should not do it, why should you have faith in him? You will ask how your Guru can make that kind of demand from you. Everything is reciprocal. If I am nice and kind to you, you are bound to reciprocate. But if I deceive you consciously or unconsciously, then it is different. Consciously you may not know what I am doing at home. If I drink liquor, how will you be able to know? But inwardly your inner being will tell you whether I am drinking or meditating. I cannot deceive you if you are my true disciple because my inner connection with you is so close.

If I am doing something wrong, a true disciple will easily be able to catch me, even if he is in our Puerto Rico Centre and I am in New York. This shows how close the relationship is between a Guru and his disciple. So my personal feeling is always that whatever the Guru tells others to do he must also do in his own life. It is like this. A child always tries to imitate his parents. In his childhood, if he tells a lie, immediately he gets a slap from his parents. Then he says to himself that since his parents tell the truth all the time, since they are so nice and sincere, he also wants to do the same. Then he grows like a flower. But he may see that his parents are telling him to stop telling lies while they are telling lies in season and out of season. When the child is small he is somewhat afraid of his parents. He does not know what to say to them. But when he grows up he will say, "Look at what you yourselves are doing."

So in the beginning the disciples are very devoted to their Guru, just like a child to his parents. They do not argue with him, for they are afraid of what their Guru might do. They think he might have tremendous occult and spiritual power and burn them into ashes. Then when they mature inwardly the disciples also get some spiritual knowledge and they say, "Guru, what are you doing?"

Question: Does each spiritual Master have a different path, or are the differences between paths due simply to personality differences?

Sri Chinmoy: Each Master has a specific path. It is not actually his personality. The Master has been ordained by the Inner Pilot to have a path of his own, and if seekers are suitable for his path, then naturally he will take them as his disciples. Now, you may say that each Master has a way of dealing with the disciples according to the Master's own individuality and personality. But this individuality is not the human individuality, the human ego. Again, it is not the personality or individuality of the Master that separates or creates the paths. It is the Will of the Supreme that commands each Master to have a path of his own. The Master just executes the Will of the Supreme, who says, "I want your path to be the path of love, devotion and surrender," or "I want your path to be based on mysticism," or "I want your path to follow Kundalini Yoga." So the Supreme deals with each individual Master in His own Way. The Masters are exponents or channels.

The Supreme may tell the Master, "When the time comes, accept this particular disciple." The Supreme does not necessarily say this according to the seeker's present way of approaching the Truth. The sincere seeker himself may not yet know which path to follow. Again, if it is the Will of the Supreme, the Master will definitely tell a seeker, "My path is not meant for you." But he will usually not be able to direct the seeker to somebody else's path, for he is not in a position to say anything.

It is like this. Suppose I find it difficult to accept a seeker into my path. I will not be able to tell him to go to a given Master, in spite of knowing that this is the kind of path he should follow. This is because he might go there and the Master might not accept him. There may not necessarily be any personality conflict between the Master and the seeker. It is only that the different paths are run in different ways. So a Master of a particular path may not accept someone who I feel may benefit from that Master.

Question: Which Western spiritual Masters can enter into all seven spheres?

Sri Chinmoy: Unfortunately, I am not in touch with any of the spiritual Masters. I am so ignorant of the names of the Western spiritual Masters. And I do not like to tell the names of the Eastern spiritual Masters, because it is the seeker who has to make the decision and who has to feel the height of the Master for himself. If I say that this Master has the capacity, then you will go to him, but you may not feel it. And if I say that this Master does not have the capacity, and if you have faith in that Master, then I will be your enemy. It is the seeker who has to see and feel the height and the inner light in his Master. If you see this kind of light and if you are convinced, then that is more than enough for you. But if I say that this person has something, and if he does not show that capacity to you or if you do not see it in him, then you will think that I have played the part of a liar. So it is you who have to make this discovery when you see a spiritual Master who can convince you of his capacity and his willingness. Some people have the capacity, but they don't have the willingness. It is best to have a Master who has not only the capacity but also the willingness to share his inner wealth with the rest of the world.

Question: Are there any Gurus in India who are also householders?

Sri Chinmoy: There are Gurus who are householders and, at the same time, they are realised souls. Whose house are they inhabiting? It is God's House. And who are their children and family? They are the children that God has chosen for them. The Guru is like a tree, and a tree without branches is nothing.

Question: But I mean, right now do they live with their own wife and children, and at the same time, have their disciples?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, there are quite a few. But what actually happens is that when their children are grown up, they set up an ashram. If their family is interested in the spiritual life, they will come to the ashram. If they want to live the ordinary life, then they don't come to the ashram.

The Guru's real children are not the children of his flesh and blood, but his spiritual children. His disciples become his true children at that time. His ordinary children come from his flesh, but the disciples are the children of his soul. They are his spiritual children. He has given considerable time to his physical children; now he has to think of his spiritual children. So those who are interested in the spiritual life, the inner life, come to him, and he gives them spiritual guidance. At that time, of course, he does not lead a so-called human life, emotional life. He has to lead a strict moral and spiritual life.

There are many Gurus in India who are bachelors. Again, there are second or third class Gurus who are far inferior to the householders. Although they follow a strict and disciplined life, their mind is roaming elsewhere — here and there — whereas these householder Gurus are in the family but, at the same time, are not attached to the family.

Question: Is your attitude the same as that of the Christian missionaries who said that only their path leads to salvation?

Sri Chinmoy: Some Christian missionaries made this mistake. They said, "Either accept us or there is no salvation for you." We can say that if you accept us, we feel that your salvation will come sooner. That much we can say. But we will never say that if you don't accept us, you are doomed and you have to go to hell. That we will never, never say.