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Part I — Yoga and meditation

Question: What is Yoga?1

Sri Chinmoy: Yoga means man's conscious union with God. Right now we have a vague feeling that God is within us, but if we practise Yoga, then God becomes a practical reality.

SSL 1. These are transcripts of an interview with Sri Chinmoy which took place on 3 February 1974 and was later broadcast over cable television in New York.

Question: Does Yoga mean more than oneness with God? Does it mean that we have to act a certain way?

Sri Chinmoy: Yoga does not mean that we have to be indifferent to the world or aloof. No! On the contrary, he who practises Yoga will be extremely kind, sociable and polite to others.

Question: Some people who say they practise Yoga are often rude to others. Why is that?

Sri Chinmoy: Why they are rude to others I will not be able to say, but they are not doing the right thing. Yoga means conscious union with God. That means that we have to see and feel the presence of God in others. So if we see and feel the presence of God in others, how can we be rude to them?

Question: Guru, how do you meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: There are two ways to meditate. One way is to silence the mind. If we do not let any thought whatsoever enter into the mind, then we can receive God's Presence. When God comes to us, we will be able to welcome Him. The other way is to invoke the Presence of God inside our heart and to feel that there is nothing else within us except the heart, the pure heart. The heart is the only part in us that can receive and welcome God, who is all Beauty and all Joy.

Question: Do you have to sit in a certain posture or close your eyes to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: No, we don't have to sit in special posture. It is not necessary. Only we have to keep our backbone erect. We have to sit in an erect position so that we can breathe in properly. But we don't have to sit in the cross-legged position in order to practise Yoga. Yoga does not demand that kind of austerity. Only we have to keep our spine very straight, so that our breathing can be regulated properly.

Question: Can everyone learn to meditate?

Sri Chinmoy: Everybody can learn how to meditate. Since God is already within us, He is bound to give us someone who can teach us how to meditate on Him. Meditation is like a lesson. If one studies, then naturally one learns the lesson.

Question: What is the best way to begin to study Yoga and meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: The best way is to read spiritual books and to mix only with spiritual people. Then you can take help from a spiritual Master. If you have a spiritual Master, he will tell you what to do. But if you do not have one, then it is better to start with spiritual books.

Question: If someone has read about Yoga and meditated on his own, should he seek a Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, he should seek a Guru because a Guru is one who can expedite his spiritual knowledge, spiritual wisdom, spiritual journey. If one studies books, it will be to his advantage. But mere studying will not be enough to grant him realisation. Again, if someone reads spiritual books and has a Master, then reading adds to his inspiration and aspiration.

Question: What does the Guru demand from his disciples and what should the disciples expect from their Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: Each Guru demands from his disciples sincerity, purity and regularity. If a disciple does not have sincerity, purity or regularity, then he cannot make good progress. Aspiration a disciple already has; otherwise, he would not have stayed with the Guru.

Each Master makes his own demands. But the term "demand" is totally wrong. The Guru just tells his disciples what is best for them. In the spiritual life, there is no such thing as demand; only the Guru tries to make his disciples aware of what they have to do.

Question: How do Gurus help their students in the daily outer life?

Sri Chinmoy: In the daily life, the Guru can help his disciples by giving divine advice or suggestions. A Guru is he who has wisdom in the inner world. It is from the inner world that he gets the messages about what the disciples ought to do in the outer life. The outer life has no meaning, no reality, without the inner life. The inner life is the source. Most of us do not get messages from the inner life. Whatever the mind tells us we try to execute. So what the Guru does is to enter into the soul of the seeker and then tell the seeker what his own soul wants him to do. The Guru works in secret like a thief. He enters into the heart of the disciple and brings to the fore the messages or inner wealth that is found there and then he offers it to the disciple.

Question: God-realisation sounds like such a difficult goal. Why do people strive to attain it?

Sri Chinmoy: In this world people strive to attain something because they feel that they will get satisfaction after they attain that particular thing. It is very easy for me to drink a glass of water. But if I drink a glass of water, nobody is going to appreciate me, nobody is going to admire me. In the spiritual life I don't need appreciation or admiration. But I myself will not be satisfied with just drinking water. If I do something more meaningful and more significant, then only I will be satisfied. God-realisation is a most difficult task. But if we realise God, then we shall be totally satisfied. It is for our abiding satisfaction, our everlasting satisfaction, that we want to realise God.

Question: Are all Gurus the same, or are there good ones and bad ones, like regular people?

Sri Chinmoy: It is a very difficult question. The Gurus say that they have realised something which others have not realised. Some Gurus have realised the Truth; some perhaps have not realised the Truth. If they have not realised the Truth, then naturally they are bad Gurus. If all the Gurus had realised God, then I could say that they are all good ones. But unfortunately, there are some Gurus who have not realised God, so how can we expect from them good things, divine things?

If somebody has not studied medicine and wants to practise medicine, if he has to operate on someone, naturally he is not going to cure the person. On the contrary, he will probably kill the patient. Here also, there are some Gurus who are not spiritual but who are practising so-called spirituality and offering advice to their disciples and to the world. Naturally they cannot be as good or as divine as those who have really realised God and who have been commissioned by God to help mankind.

Question: Guru, how can someone tell whether he is following a good Guru or a bad one?

Sri Chinmoy: He can easily know whether he is following a good Guru or a bad Guru. Suppose the Guru says, "If you can give me twenty thousand dollars, then I will make you realise God, or at least I will give you a very high experience." Then immediately the student should leave that Master.

Again, he may say, "You stay with me for one or two years, and then I will be able to grant you God-realisation on such-and-such a date." If it happens that the seeker is extremely advanced and he comes to the spiritual Master just a few months or a few years before it is time for his realisation, then naturally the Master can make this kind of statement; otherwise, it is all absurd.

Question: What is the human soul really like?

Sri Chinmoy: The human soul is a portion of divinity. You can say this soul represents God, the almighty Father within us. According to Indian philosophy, the soul is neither masculine nor feminine. Again, you can see the soul in a physical form, in the subtle physical. It is most beautiful, infinitely more beautiful than any human being. You can't define the soul; but if you practise Yoga, if you pray and meditate, then you can feel the presence of the soul and eventually see the soul even with your naked eyes.

Question: Can a real spiritual Master help the soul of a disciple?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. A real spiritual Master must have the capacity to help the souls of his disciples. As a matter of fact, if he is a real Master, then every day, either in the morning or in the evening he has to feed the souls of his disciples. If you have children, early in the morning the first thing that you do is to feed your children. It is your bounden duty. When a spiritual Master accepts disciples, they become his spiritual children. Inside the spiritual children is a real hunger and this hunger is the hunger of the soul. So the spiritual Master has to feed the souls of his disciples every day.

Question: Can disciples feel that feeding?

Sri Chinmoy: The disciples do feel it if they are in tune with their Master. Otherwise they will be unconscious. The Master is meditating on them and perhaps they are sleeping. But if they themselves meditate, they will be able to feel it. Their meditation does not have to take place at the same time as the Master's meditation. Suppose the Master meditates on you at two o'clock in the morning, when you are fast asleep. But when you meditate at six o'clock, what the Master has given you is still preserved inside your being. And at that time you are bound to feel it.

Question: Is there life after death?

Sri Chinmoy: Life after death is inevitable. If there were only one life on earth, then it would be impossible for us to accomplish the things that we have to accomplish. God, being all Satisfaction, will not allow us to remain unsatisfied. He will always want us to be fully satisfied. In one incarnation we cannot fulfil our aspiration; we cannot reach the Highest. So here we have life and then we pass through a tunnel which we call death. There we take a little rest and then we come back again. If there were no reincarnation, then no soul would be able to manifest the ultimate Truth. In one incarnation it is impossible.

Question: Guru, why don't we remember any of our past lives?

Sri Chinmoy: Do we remember even what we ate this morning? If I asked you what you ate last Friday or Saturday, you would be totally lost. Why? Because you did not give any importance to it. It is the same thing in the case of our past lives. Right now it is not necessary for us to remember them.

Question: Can meditation help people overcome their fear of death?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. Meditation can easily help the seeker to overcome the fear of death. Meditation means conscious communication with God. If one can establish his oneness with God, who is all Life, then there can be no fear of death. He will not only conquer fear of death, but he will also conquer something else. He will conquer his doubt about God's existence in his own life or in others' lives. It is very easy for us to feel that God exists only in us, or only in spiritual people. But if we meditate, then it becomes clear to us that God exists not only within us but also inside the people whom we do not like or appreciate.

Question: Back in the 1960's a number of intelligent people said that they had intense spiritual experiences through drugs, and a lot of people still make this claim. How do you see the relationship between drugs and the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: Drugs and the spiritual life do not go together. They are like the North Pole and the South Pole. One is a real coin and one is a false, counterfeit coin. If you use the counterfeit coin, then one day you will be exposed; you will be caught. Just because you study history, you cannot say that you have learned mathematics well; it is absurd. History is history. If you have studied history for twenty years, then naturally you will know all about historical facts. But you won't know anything about mathematics, because you have not studied this subject. God-realisation is a matter of inner discipline, inner awakening. It is a different method, a different process, a different road. Here the destination is God. God has already told us how we can reach Him. He has told us that we can reach our destination through prayer and meditation. If we don't listen to Him and do something else, do you think He will be pleased with us?

Some people who have taken drugs feel that they have got high experiences. I will tell you what kind of experiences they have got. Take someone to a swimming pool and become a naughty boy and press his head down in the water. Then, after two minutes, let him get up. He will tell you that everything became white. So, this kind of experience people get when they take drugs. But real inner experiences, real realisation, we can never get from drugs, because God does not want us to come to Him in that way. He has already told us to pray and meditate. He never said that if we take drugs, then we will realise Him.

Question: Suppose someone comes to you, Guru, and says, "I take drugs. Can you help me get off drugs?" Could you help him?

Sri Chinmoy: These individuals have to excuse me, but unfortunately, I had quite a few sad experiences six or seven years ago when I accepted disciples who were taking drugs. So I decided that people may come to me only after they have given up drugs. It is not that I will not be able to help them, but here we have a family, a spiritual community. If people are still taking drugs when they come, then they may poison our system. If I didn't have any other disciples, I would tell them, "Yes, you may come. I will be able to help you." But right now I tell them that they have to conquer drugs first; they have to give up drugs totally. Only then can they enter into our family.

Question: Sir, why is it that so many American people are following Indian Gurus?

Sri Chinmoy: The reason is very simple. They are not getting or they have not got from their priests and rabbis the things that they are getting from the Indian Gurus. Some Indian Gurus may be fakes, while some may be sincere. But one thing Americans are getting from the Indian Gurus, which unfortunately they are not getting from their churches or synagogues, and that is love, concern. The Indian Gurus I must defend here. Some of them may be real rogues, but they are showing their hearts, and this is what Americans need. American parents blame their children for not being affectionate. The parents complain that the children are not showing their love and affection to them. But the children also have the same problem: they are not getting enough love, affection and concern from their parents.

Americans have been to their churches, they have been to their priests. But they see something new in the Indian Gurus. The Indian Gurus, real Indian Gurus, will never speak ill of any Master or any path or any religion. If you go to church, then immediately you are caught or embraced by the Christian religion. If you follow Judaism, then immediately you are caught by Judaism. But if you follow Yoga, you are not caught; on the contrary, you get a tremendous sense of liberation and freedom. Yoga will not tell you that you cannot go to church or that you cannot speak to a priest. No, no! Yoga will say that it is not a religion at all; it is only a path.

Religion is just like a home. Immediately you will claim that your home is far better than my home and there will be no end to our quarrels. But Yoga is just a road. Everybody can walk along a road. Only a limited number of people can stay inside a house, let us say ten or twelve people. But every day thousands of people can walk along a road. Inside Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism, only a few people can stay. But Yoga is for everyone. So Americans have come to know that if they want freedom, if they need freedom, then Yoga is the answer and not any particular religion.

Question: Guru, is Yoga really for everybody?

Sri Chinmoy: Yoga is for everybody, everybody. But if one is sincere, then one can make better progress. If one is insincere, then he will take a long time to reach his goal.

Question: How can a person tell which Guru he should follow?

Sri Chinmoy: Each person has likes and dislikes. If you like someone, then you talk and mix with that person and he becomes your friend. In the spiritual life also, when you look at a Guru, if you feel some inner affinity, if you feel that he is someone whom you can trust or that he has the thing that you want or need, then you will know that he is meant for you. The moment you see him, if you get a kind of confidence in him and also a kind of confidence in yourself, a feeling that you will be able to listen to him, then he is the real Master for you.

Question: But how can you tell whether you are linking up with a fake or not?

Sri Chinmoy: That you will know from your personal experiences. A fake may deceive you for two days or two months or two years; but if you are sincere, then he cannot deceive you forever. Usually it happens that if a person is sincere, very sincere, extremely sincere, then he goes to the right Master. But if the seeker is very sincere and does go to the wrong person, still the experience that he gets does help him in some way. No experience is totally lost. An individual may delay his progress for a year or two, but this experience will make him very strong inwardly and he will not make the same mistake again. And from the mistake that he has made, he will get an added experience. The next time he will be careful and cautious when he wants to do something for the world or wants to get help from human beings. It will make him very careful in assessing people or in mixing with people in this world.

Question: Without naming names, are many people following fakes?

Sri Chinmoy: Not many people. But “many” is a vague term. Only you can say that there are more insincere Masters than sincere Masters. This I can say categorically. If you have to use numbers, if you want to make a comparison, then categorically I can say that there are more insincere Masters — not only in America, but all over the world.

Question: What are the ways that a God-realised Master can help his disciples realise God?

Sri Chinmoy: The God-realised Master will meditate on his disciples and bring forward their souls. This is the most important thing that a spiritual Master does. He enters into the soul, into the inner being of the disciple, and feeds it; and he helps the seeker to bring to the fore all his divine qualities. For that, the disciple also must have implicit faith in the Master. Otherwise, the Master will bring to the fore the disciple's divine qualities, but the disciple won't be able to utilise them. So with his meditation the Master helps his disciples. This is one way.

The other way is by giving constant outer concern and inner encouragement. He tells the disciples that they are doing the right thing or, if they do something wrong, then immediately he points it out to them. If you are doing something good, he will say, "Go on! There is no end to your achievement." If you do something wrong, then immediately he will prevent you from doing it again. So, it is through his inner meditation and his outer concern that he will be able to help.

Question: Sri Chinmoy, what is your philosophy on sex?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual. That is to say, if an individual is leading an animal life, then I will say, "Please come up to the human life." If the individual is in the human life, then I say, "Try to transcend sex and come to the divine life." In other words, God-realisation and sex-life do not and cannot go together. But if an individual wants to conquer all his emotional problems, lower vital problems, overnight, he will fail. He will only turn insane. So I tell my disciples to become wise. Slowly, steadily and unerringly they have to try to curb their lower vital needs.

I tell my disciples that they have to curb their lower vital life on the strength of their inner awakening. If we condemn something, then we will not be able to conquer it. If we hate someone, then that person will just come and strike us. We can only say that at a certain point sex is unnecessary in life. There are many things that are unnecessary. Right now a child eats mud, clay, sand, everything that he can find. But the same child, when he grows up, does not go near sand, mud and clay; he knows that it only makes him dirty and filthy. At that time he eats proper food. Similarly, when one becomes a seeker, he takes proper food; and this is his inner experience, his divine, fulfilling experience. But one has to go slowly and steadily. To the married people I say, "Be faithful to each other." If people are married, they should go on in their own way and slowly and steadily try to transcend the vital life. But if people are not married, then they must lead a totally celibate life. Otherwise, it is impossible for them to make progress. And this has to be not only on the physical plane, but also on the mental plane.

Question: Guru, America is rather preoccupied with sex. Is it harder now for people to practise the spiritual life than it was, say, twenty years ago?

Sri Chinmoy: To some extent it is true. If you are more interested in the vital life, then naturally it will be more difficult for you to practise the spiritual life. But again, many sincere Masters also have come to America recently. So, on the one hand, you are doing something wrong; on the other hand, you are fortunate enough to get help from someone who can help you. In this way, you can strike a balance.

Question: What is God-realisation and how can you recognise it in somebody?

Sri Chinmoy: If somebody says that he is God-realised, how will he prove it? He won't prove it by having two big horns or any other physical characteristics. He will be able to prove to others that he has realised God by bringing down Peace, Light and Bliss from above in infinite measure. When you see a spiritual Master, he may have all kinds of physical defects. But you have to try to see and feel the consciousness in him. In his presence, if you feel that your consciousness is elevated, then you will know that he has realised some Truth, some Light, some Peace from above.

God-realisation means conscious oneness with God, and in this conscious oneness one feels complete satisfaction. God-realisation is complete inner satisfaction. But there is a need for complete satisfaction in the outer life as well. This satisfaction comes from God-manifestation. God-realisation will give satisfaction in the inner life, true. But when a spiritual Master has to deal with imperfect, impure people, then you cannot expect perfection. If the Master has realised God, then in his inner life he is perfect. But in his outer life also he has to become perfect. Since he has accepted disciples as members of his spiritual family, his outer perfection depends on the perfection of his disciples. So God-realisation is constant satisfaction in one's inner life and God-manifestation is constant satisfaction in one's outer life.

Question: How does one achieve God-realisation?

Sri Chinmoy: It is done through prayer and meditation.

Question: Guru, can you tell us what happens when you chant Aum?

Sri Chinmoy: When we chant Aum, we enter into a higher realm of consciousness. Aum embodies God in His three aspects: God the Creator, God the Preserver and God the Transformer. There are many who feel that God is a destroyer, not a transformer. But our philosophy says that God cannot destroy. He can only transform the things that are undivine in us. God has some wisdom. He will not create something just for the sake of fun and then destroy it for the sake of fun. No! He does not destroy us; only He transforms what is undivine in us.

Aum is the mother of all mantras. “Mantra” means incantation. You can realise God just by chanting Aum most soulfully. That is enough, because with this mantra, you are invoking God.

[Sri Chinmoy chants Aum.]

Question: What happens inside you when you do that?

Sri Chinmoy: When I chant Aum, immediately I feel inside my heart the presence of the cosmic gods and the Supreme. When we chant, we are feeding our nearest and dearest ones. They are hungry, and we have to feed them. This is the experience I get. Again, sometimes I get the opposite experience: I am hungry, and they are feeding me. Sometimes they are hungry and at that time I feed them. Sometimes I am hungry, so they come and feed me. We have to nourish each other.

Question: Why are your eyes half-closed so often?

Sri Chinmoy: My eyes I keep half-closed because I feel that this is the most effective way to have full control over both the physical world and the spiritual world. If I keep my eyes wide open, at that time my eyes are very strained and I see only what is happening in this world. But if I keep my eyes half-open, then I am communing with my inner beings and, at the same time, I am seeing the outer beings, human beings, who are in front of me. So I am killing two birds with one stone. I am getting the wealth from the inner world and distributing it to the outer world. When I do this, on the one hand I am receiving and on the other hand I am offering.

Question: Many people seem to have the idea that a spiritual Master shouldn't have any dislikes or likes. He should never feel happy or sad. He should never be sick or tired, or have a favourite food. But why shouldn't a Master be normal?

Sri Chinmoy: After a spiritual Master has attained God-realisation, if he wants to maintain likes and dislikes on the physical plane, he can do it. Likes and dislikes on the physical plane need not and cannot take away the realisation of a spiritual Master or prevent them from manifesting the Truth.

You ask why a Master should not act in a normal way. But who is normal here? To me, only spiritual people are normal. After God-realisation, we feel that only he who has realised God is normal. We are all abnormal people if we don't do the first thing first. In the spiritual life, God-realisation is the first thing and absolutely the normal thing to do.

Question: Guru, when you enter into a trance and go into samadhi, what does it actually feel like? Do you see God there, or do you feel certain kinds of experiences?

Sri Chinmoy: At that time I see God and I communicate with God. The sense of separativity goes away and the lover and the Beloved become totally one. I enjoy infinite Peace, Light and Bliss. In samadhi, we do not see God as something to be achieved or something foreign to us. His whole Consciousness inundates us to such an extent that we don't feel that God is somebody other than ourselves. At that time, we feel that we have become totally one with God and that He and we are absolutely one. So, when I go into samadhi, I enjoy infinite Peace and Joy and Love in the inner world.

Question: Guru, how would you describe the people who have become your disciples?

Sri Chinmoy: I will describe them as my own spiritual children. My love for them is boundless and infinite. But I will not say that my children are by far superior to others. In an ordinary family, the parents will always extol their children to the skies. They will say, "My children are all divine. They are absolutely perfect perfection." But in my case I will say, "My children have imperfections, they have limitations, but they are trying. As other spiritual Masters have their spiritual children and are teaching them in a particular way, so also I have my disciples and I am teaching these children of mine in my own way." When it is a matter of comparison, I will not say that my children are superior to others. Only I will say that my children are eating the food that I have in my refrigerator. They like my food; so I am giving them this food. Others who do not like my food go to other Masters and eat their food.

I always tell my children not to make any comparison. I say, "You love me and I love you; that is enough." It is our mutual love that has compelled us to stay together in the same boat. Otherwise they would go to some other boat, to some other Master. It is the love-aspect of our inner life that has made me very close to them and made them very close to me. Our path is the path of love. We feel that love is the greatest knowledge, the greatest wisdom, the greatest treasure.

We are offering divine love, the love of oneness. When this oneness is manifested totally, the Universal Heart becomes ours. Right now each of us has a limited heart. But when you are one with me, when he is one with me, when she is one with me, at that time we become universal.

When we have the Universal Consciousness at our disposal, we feel that we are perfect.

Part II — Progress and spirituality

Question: How can I make the fastest progress?

Sri Chinmoy: First pray for gratitude. Pray to the Supreme for gratitude and offer gratitude to the Supreme. This is the first lesson. There are millions of people on earth who are not praying and meditating, but you have been given the inspiration to pray to the Supreme. So naturally you are grateful.

In some cases the disciples feel that they are not sincere, that they are not pure. But this only hinders their progress. When you think of sincerity, think of it in such a way that your mind does not get a chance to bring forward your insincerity. When you repeat, "I want to be sincere, I want to be sincere," this does not mean that all the insincere actions that you did yesterday must come forward. Use the positive side, "I want to be sincere, I want to be sincere," and offer your sincerity to the Supreme. Don't consciously think of insincerity or cherish insincere thoughts. While you are praying for sincerity, if they come, well and good. You will offer them to the Supreme. Otherwise, your prayer for sincerity has to become one with the light, since prayer itself is light, and that light will enter into you in the form of sincerity. Prayer is like a magnet bringing light, and that light will illumine your insincerity. But consciously if you think of your impurity and insincerity, then purity and sincerity will never visit you. If they come, they will be totally lost. Your prayer for purity, your prayer for sincerity is enough. Your prayer is bringing down light and that light will enter into your obscure vital and illumine you.

Question: Guru, how is it possible to tell whether you are ascending or descending when the movement takes place in such small steps?

Sri Chinmoy: Anybody can know whether he is ascending or descending. When you are descending, immediately your inner joy, your inner satisfaction goes away. You can fool others, but you can't fool yourself if you are sincere. You can try to fool yourself or deceive yourself by grasping some divine quality with your mind or your vital. But when your inner world becomes barren, you really feel miserable if you are sincere. If you don't feel miserable when your inner life is barren, that means that you are trying to convince yourself that nothing is wrong, when actually everything is wrong. Your house is totally burnt down, destroyed, but you say, "Oh no, my house is not burnt. This is not my house. My home is somewhere else." But you definitely know that it is destroyed. Or if you have one dollar and then you don't see it again, you know that you have lost it. How can you say that you have not lost it? It is just a dollar, but you know that it is gone.

Question: Guru, how do we get so fooled that we don't know exactly when we lose some divine qualities?

Sri Chinmoy: When you lose something, for a few days you feel a little sad. Then, afterwards, the thing that you lost does not come to your physical mind. You feel that you did not have that very thing or that the thing which you lost was not important.

In this world people are so clever in deceiving themselves. They achieve something today and they are satisfied. Then they lose that thing and still they are satisfied. We think this means that we are perfect. But here we have to know that it is not true. It means that we don't have aspiration, that we are like absolutely ordinary human beings. They say, "If you get something, well and good; if you don't get something, well and good." This is the attitude on the lowest plane, where there is no aspiration. When there is no aspiration, people lead a very ordinary life. If one day they get a morsel of food, they are satisfied; another day, if they don't get food, again they will accept this.

But spiritual people aspire to go high, higher, highest, and then they surrender to God's Will. If God feels that they should wait at one point for a few days before climbing up still higher, then they wait. But there is a great difference between these people and absolutely undivine people who are not aspiring at all. The undivine people are happy; but their happiness is the happiness of inconscience, where there is no light. Your happiness will come when you go up high, higher, highest and then surrender yourself to God's Will. When you surrender to God's Will, God Himself will take care of your life.

Just think of where you were six months ago, eight months ago, one year ago. Immediately you will see that you have lost the intense feeling that you had for the inner life when you first began. But the spiritual life should not be like that. You have to feel that every day means new hope, new life. The journey is eternal. Every day you have to feel that there is something new to achieve, something new to grow into. Every day, when morning dawns, feel that you have something new to accomplish. You are running and every day you are advancing one step ahead. You are always in the process of running in the inner life. Each day please feel that you have to cover one metre more.

Question: How can I regain the spiritual height that I once achieved?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to feel that what you have lost is really something worth having. If you have lost something and you feel, "Oh, that thing that I have lost is not worth anything," then you will never get it back. Some people are so clever. They try to be happy by forgetting about what they have lost. But that is no good. If you forget about what you have lost, then you will not try to regain it. Only by running for it will you get it again. Again, it is not good to feel miserable all the time because you have lost something. But you do have to feel that the thing you have lost is very valuable.

If just for twenty-four hours you are repentant, then you will not get it back. You will only say, "I have lost it, I have lost it, I have lost it." You have lost it, that is true; but what are you doing to gain it back? It is easy for me to say that I have lost ten thousand dollars. But by repeating, "I have lost ten thousand dollars," I am not going to get back one cent. I have to work hard again in order to make ten thousand dollars.

Now I have lost my inner wealth, which to me was very significant, very important, very valuable. That very thing I want to get back again. And how do I get it? It is through aspiration. I have to work hard. If I work hard, my work itself is my aspiration. If I again aspire then I will get back my inner wealth and reach my highest standard.

Question: Is suffering necessary for spiritual progress?

Sri Chinmoy: According to my personal belief, according to my own realisation, suffering is not to be glorified. No! We suffer because we identify ourselves with ignorance. When we are in the vital world, we suffer. When we are in the emotional world, we suffer. When we do something wrong, we suffer. God is not imposing suffering on us; far from it. But if we have done something wrong and the Cosmic Law offers us suffering, then we have to feel that this is something that we need for our own progress. When we do something right, even then sometimes we suffer. The world does not understand us; the world finds it difficult to see the truth in us, and we suffer.

We have to know that we have come into the world to fulfil God's Will. If it is God's Will that we undergo suffering, then we shall have to accept it. But by praying to God and meditating on God, we can change His Will. If we do the right thing, if we act divinely, then He will minimise our suffering or He may eliminate it altogether.

If suffering comes, we have to face it; we have to accept it as an experience on our way. But we do not have to add to our suffering in order to make further progress. We do not have to glorify suffering in order to make higher progress. I don't have to cut off my arms or my nose in order to go to my Eternal Father. I don't have to prove to Him how much I have suffered in order to reach Him. He is my all-loving Father and I have to approach Him with all my love.

Why do we suffer? We suffer because we do not identify ourselves with our inner joy. There is abundant joy in our inner being, but we do not consciously or even unconsciously identify ourselves with the joy that we have within. Many times we consciously and deliberately identify ourselves with outer suffering. Then we are caught in the prison cell of suffering and we don't want to come out. At that time suffering enters into us and plays its role and we cherish it. Then we are helpless.

In the spiritual life, there are many undivine qualities that add to our suffering: fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, depression, jealousy and so forth. When we are a victim to doubt or fear, we suffer mercilessly. But for this suffering we ourselves are responsible. God has given us the necessary faith to know that He loves us and thinks of us and meditates on us. So why should we doubt either God or our own existence?

An aspirant has to feel that God is all the time thinking of us, whether we think of Him or not. But if we are not seekers, then we can never have that feeling. We will think that since we are not thinking of God, then naturally God is also not thinking of us. That is our realisation. But when we follow the spiritual life we come to know that God thinks of us infinitely more than we think of ourselves. Such being the case, we must not be victims to fear, doubt and anxiety, which all contribute to our suffering.

Our philosophy is this: from light we shall grow into more light, abundant light, infinite Light. From joy we shall grow into more joy, infinite Joy. We shall go ahead and not go backwards. We shall not stay in the dark room of suffering. We shall only move forward to the room that is light.

Question: How can we avoid tension in our aspiration?

Sri Chinmoy: We can avoid tension in our aspiration if we know how to observe our life properly and wisely. On the one hand, we have to say that every moment is a golden opportunity. We have to feel that if we lose this moment, if we lose this golden opportunity, then we are going to lose everything in God's creation; there will be nothing left for us. We will be totally lost. That is why we won't waste any time. We have today, here and now, or nothing. We have to fight for the light immediately.

God-realisation is such a difficult thing. God-revelation is more difficult and God-manifestation is even more difficult. So the best thing is to be sincere and dedicated and to do everything unconditionally so that we can realise God. We have so many things to do. If we don't do the first thing first, then how shall we reveal God and manifest God?

But there is also another approach. We will do whatever we feel is best for our body, vital, mind, heart and soul. But at the same time we will keep in mind that Eternity is at our disposal. Our source is God, the Infinite, the Eternal. If God is eternal, then naturally we also are. Whatever God is, we also are. If God is dealing with Eternity, then we also have every right to deal with Eternity. If we are aware of our inner life, which is eternal, then there can be no tension. If we can't do something today, then we can do it tomorrow. Ours is not the eternal time of an idle fellow. We are seekers; we are praying, meditating and devoting our lives to God. We are doing our best. But we have to keep in mind that while we will do our very best, it is God who will fix the hour for us. This is the wise way to avoid tension. Every day we are doing our prayer and meditation, so now it is up to God to grant us realisation in His own Way. Let God fix the hour for us. On our part, we shall do our very best every day.

Question: If something wrong happens or if I miss some good opportunity, I just pray for surrender, but I don't achieve it.

Sri Chinmoy: You have to feel that you are in a running race. When it is over, you will offer the result to the Supreme. But in your case, when you have lost or done poorly, you suffer and you curse the Supreme. Right before the action takes place, it is easy to offer the action to the Supreme. But afterwards, you blame Him to whom you offered your most soulful surrender.

Again, when we win the race, when the result is most satisfactory, very often the result does not go to the Supreme; it goes to our pride and vanity. We say, "Because of my personal effort, I have achieved this victory. I have worked very hard. That is why I deserve it." Outwardly we say that the result must go to the Supreme, but inwardly we don't offer it.

We have to keep the attitude of surrender and it has to be a living attitude in our life, whether we win or lose. We may fail hundreds of times, but we will keep offering our failure to the Supreme. We shall offer the result either in the form of failure or success with the same cheerfulness. It is a very difficult task and a long process; but this is the only way we can be really happy.

Question: Why do we still experience anger and irritation?

Sri Chinmoy: We are in the process of evolution and continually we are making progress. But perfection does not dawn overnight. Once upon a time, we know how many desires we had. If we become sincere to ourselves, then we know that previously our anger was of the quickest. We used to become furious when anything happened contrary to our volition. Now we don't experience that kind of animal anger. We may become angry when we see undivine things in ourselves or in others, but we are progressing. It may not be continuous progress, but it is continual progress. Slowly and steadily we are freeing ourselves from anger, from doubt and from other undivine qualities that obstruct our path. Just because we have these shortcomings today, we cannot say that these undivine forces will never leave us. Only we have to see whether these undivine forces are increasing or decreasing. We have to look back into the past and see how many hours a day we lived in ignorance and desire-life, and how many hours a day we now live in aspiration-life. If we do this, then we will definitely see that we are progressing.

Part III — Selfless service

Question: When you ask us to do selfless service, sometimes we seem to have things to do on the outside. Are we consciously creating burdens on the outside so that we don't have to work for the Centre?

Sri Chinmoy: It entirely depends on your sincerity. If you are one hundred per cent sincere, then God gives you the opportunity to work for Him and takes away your worldly problems. If we want to cry for Him and to please Him every second of our life, is it not His bounden duty at that time to keep our path clear? But we are not so desperately in need of God. We feel that there should be a compromise between God and the earthly life.

But there can be no compromise in the spiritual life. In the beginning of your spiritual life you may want to go very slowly, like an Indian bullock cart. Because you are afraid of your mother or your father or somebody else in your family, you go slowly, slowly, slowly. But a day comes when you are no longer afraid of the members of your family and then there should be no compromise. You are not afraid of the world; only you are afraid of your own self. At that time if you don't do the right thing, if God does not come first in life, then you are doomed.

If you can do the right thing, then you will run very fast. But it entirely depends on how sincerely you need God. Worldly problems arise because your necessity for God is not strong enough. Today you see problems, real problems, in your family. But tomorrow, when your own aspiration increases, you will just laugh at these so-called problems. The same difficulties may arise and will arise, but you will laugh at them. The deeper you go and the more intense your aspiration becomes, the easier it becomes to solve your worldly problems. When you become one hundred per cent spiritual, I tell you, no matter how many problems you have — even ten or twenty problems a day — you will laugh at them. You will think that solving them is just like drinking water. You just have to get a glass and turn on the water in the sink. It is so easy! Why? Because you have a tremendous thirst which you have to quench. Just because you are extremely thirsty, your thirst compels you to go immediately and get water.

Very often among some of the disciples, I have seen that their worldly life comes first. Many of them are busy with their own achievement or with their own work. Think of what you would say if I were to ask you what you have done for our mission. But even if you don't care for the mission, at least care for your own aspiration. Actually you cannot separate your aspiration from the mission, for I am in both aspiration and manifestation. If you don't care for the manifestation, I won't find fault with you. But I shall find fault with you if you do not have aspiration, because that should come first. And if you really aspire, then you won't be able to separate manifestation from aspiration. But if you do want to separate aspiration from manifestation, and unfortunately some disciples do, then I wish to say that you can stay here with your aspiration, but you must prove to me that you are aspiring. Your face will be the proof of your aspiration.

Question: Should we do selfless service if we cannot do it in a good consciousness, with surrender? Should we go ahead and do this service even though we can't do away with our negative feelings about it?

Sri Chinmoy: If an individual finds it extremely difficult to do selfless service devotedly and soulfully all the time, then that individual should pray and meditate in order to develop soulful qualities. Suppose you cannot do selfless service soulfully. Each time you are asked to do it, inwardly you feel reluctance, but you do it because you want other people to feel that you are a very devoted seeker, or you don't want to be criticised. Outwardly you are trying to draw their admiration, but inwardly you are finding it difficult to work. While working, your inner bitterness and animosity towards the Master is coming out. If this happens every time, then the best thing is for you to think of your inner sincerity. It is better to develop some sincerity before doing selfless service. Try to develop a kind of oneness with the Master and the Master's path.

These negative feelings are like enemies that attack us. If they are outside us, then we can accept the challenge and fight and conquer them, even though it is a very difficult task. But if animosity and bitter feelings against the Master come from within, then it is better for the individual not to do selfless service.

This is not the case for disciples who usually do selfless service soulfully and devotedly, and who have been doing it this way for years. They are basically good disciples who feel the necessity of selfless service, but occasionally they are attacked by negative forces from the world of suspicion or jealousy. They quarrel with an individual, or jealousy, insecurity or some other undivine quality attacks them, and their consciousness falls. At that time, it is advisable for them to go and do selfless service. This is the only way for them to get rid of their problem. If an individual has done selfless service hundreds of times with real devotion and dedication, and then once or twice he is attacked by wrong forces, the best thing for him is to do selfless service. For others who are constantly rejecting the idea of selfless service, it is best to fight the inner enemies and conquer the wrong forces in their inner being first. Otherwise, there is every possibility that they will attack others who are doing selfless service. The disease is contagious; it takes a long time to conquer.

Part IV — Questions on science

Question: Do people today have more confidence in what they know because of science?

Sri Chinmoy: Science has made human beings consciously confident. Science is progressing through the mind and intellect, and even through intuition. When human beings on earth achieve something, it immediately becomes more or less humanity's mental, vital or physical possession. Even if something is achieved on the scientific plane, it immediately becomes established on the physical, vital and mental planes. Now people are confident about everything. These days people don't care to speak of God; they know everything. Even a child knows everything. A few hundred years ago, when people did not know something, they said they didn't know. They would never say that they did know. But now people don't say, "I don't know." No, they won't confess that they don't know something. People often have such disproportionate confidence in their realisation, which is completely undivine.

The problem is that people are insincere. We tell a lie ten times and then we believe it. Ten times we say that we know all about God. Once we are convinced that we have realised God, we feel that we are giving realisation to everybody. So a kind of confidence has entered that is founded on nothing. It is false confidence. Even some of the disciples have the feeling that they know everything. Some people don't touch my books. Why? They know my philosophy: love, devotion and surrender. Out of a thousand disciples, on some days only twenty read my writings. Some read only five minutes or ten minutes; others don't have even that much time. Many watch television or read newspapers. But if they read my writings for even five minutes, they would enter into my world as well as into their meditation-world.

Question: What is the supreme goal of the scientist?

Sri Chinmoy: You are a biologist. As a scientist, you should know that the supreme goal of the scientist is to discover life in everything. What a Yogi calls life, a scientist should also call life. The Yogi has discovered the truth that there is life in everything. When a machine is operating, there is a cosmic life-force operating in and through it. Science also sees life in everything, but it does not want to give life the credit. Science gets malicious pleasure by refusing to acknowledge this force as life. With its fertile brain science has created the machine, and inside the machine is the life-force. The scientist sees this force operating within the machine, he sees that the machine is working, but he does not want to call it life.

So, if the scientist wants to become the real son of God, then he has to find life in everything. This life is God's real Dream that is trying to manifest itself in everything. When the scientist discovers this force, he will enter into God's real Dream. At that time he will see that he has not actually discovered anything. Although the scientist may at first think that he is the discoverer of life, in truth, life itself is the discoverer of the scientist. Man's science is trying to create life, but that life is not the life we are talking about. The life we are talking about is the hidden cosmic force that the Yogi embodies in his inner life. The scientist has to discover that inner life-force. When he discovers it, he has to feel that this life is nothing but his own realisation. This should be the scientist's ultimate goal. In my translation of Lotus-Petals by Nolini, the great Indian savant, there is an article written many years ago, entitled “God and the Scientist”. If you read that article, then you will get much information about the scientist's approach to the spiritual life and God.

Question: Scientists say that the physical universe is expanding all the time. Some of them say that it is going to keep expanding forever and others say that it is going to contract again. What is your view?

Sri Chinmoy: Anything that expands is not going to contract. The only thing is, after expansion you can play a different type of game. Expansion itself is a game. Once this game ends, another game takes place. It is like the manifestation of a spiritual mission, let us say. A mission is expanding and expanding. But a time may come when people are no longer inspired by it; they are not doing anything. So naturally there will no longer be expansion. But that doesn't mean that the mission will come back to the state it was in before it started expanding. No! Only it is dead, lifeless. The river was flowing, flowing, but now all of a sudden there is no impetus, no energy, no life. The river is no longer flowing. But we cannot say that it has come back to the same state. Once we leave our starting point, we can't come back. We may not run, we may walk or stumble but the starting point is gone. Once evolution starts on any plane, we don't come back to the initial stage.

Only on very rare occasions in human life, when people have not satisfied their lowest vital desires, do they go back to the animal world. The soul actually enters into the animal life there, but that is only for a few months. Otherwise, once we leave the starting point, we don't go back there. So nobody here is going back to stone-life or plant-life or animal-life. Once something has happened, it is done, it is finished. It will not again become the starting point, because evolution is always taking place.

Question: How does giving your body to science affect you spiritually?

Sri Chinmoy: It is neither noble nor ignoble. It is only an individual choice. As you know, sometimes the body is cremated, sometimes it is buried. Once the soul leaves the body, the soul does not care what happens to the body. Once the bird flies away, only the cage remains. At that time we can do anything we want with the cage. One individual gets satisfaction by saying, "After I die I want to give my body to a hospital so that medical science can make some experiments which will be of great help in the future." But another person says, "Only let God's Will operate in and through my relatives. Let my relatives bury me if they want to; if they want to cremate me let them cremate me." So he leaves it entirely up to the wishes of the relatives. Or an individual may say, "No, I want tradition to be carried on. I want my body to be buried or cremated in the normal way." But no particular way will necessarily please God more. God has given us the freedom to make an individual choice. If we want cremation, God will say, "Wonderful!" If we want burial, God will say, "Wonderful!" If we want our body to be taken to a hospital for experimentation after the soul leaves, God will in no way be displeased or dissatisfied with us.

Part V — Attachment and devotion

Attachment and devotion

Our personal life is usually a life of emotion, a life of attachment — attachment to our own name and fame, attachment to our own physical needs or attachment to somebody else. But let us be frank. Is there anything divine in this kind of life? If I am attached to my physical body, I am useless. If I am attached to my emotional life, I am useless. If I am attached to somebody else, I am useless. So what shall I do? Shall I remain useless? No, let me accept the life of dedication. If I dedicate myself to the mission, to the Centre, to the Supreme, then only I am useful. A moment ago I was useless because I was attached to something. Now I am devoted to something infinitely higher. So the difference between attachment and devotion we can easily see.

When we devote our life, we offer it to a higher cause, a higher reality. But when we are attached to something, we are either on the same level as that thing or on a lower level, even the lowest level. Attachment will bind us either to the same standard as the object of our attachment or to a lower standard. But devotion, like a river, will carry us to the ocean. Devotion is like a river flowing into the ocean. Like a magnet, devotion is pulling us towards the goal.

If you are devoted to something higher and deeper within yourself, then you have a life of aspiration, a life of manifestation, and this life becomes your higher reality. Then, if you are devoted to a higher reality, at that time you can't be attached to a lower reality. It is impossible. If this moment you think of God, then you can't think of somebody else. The next moment if you think of somebody else, then you can't think of God. Right now you must only think of God. If you think of someone else, then you are thinking only of that person and of no one else. But if you devote most of your time to thinking of God or our spiritual mission, then you will be successful.

Is there anybody who does not know that by doing one thing he will gain and by doing something else he will lose? If a child places his finger in a flame, his finger will be burnt; so immediately he will learn to stay away from fire. The child does not have a developed brain, but immediately his instinct tells him that if he touches fire his finger will be burnt. When you enter into the lower vital life, the life of desire, it is just like touching fire. Constantly you burn yourself, but again and again you go back. The child does not go back to fire a second time, but you do it. Once children are punished for doing something wrong, they don't do it again, because they know that they will again receive punishment. But you do the wrong thing again and again by repeatedly entering into the life of attachment, so you are worse than children at that time.

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