Question: Do we have to live in the material world to practise spirituality?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly, we have to live in the material world. But we have to know that the "material world" can mean two things. To some, the material world means eating, sleeping, enjoying, wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance. To others, the material world means God's creation-the world that we are living in, this planet. If we take "material world" in this second sense, then we can easily practise spirituality in the material world.

To live in the material world means to accept our duty. I tell all my disciples that they have to work. Work means physical discipline, dedicated service to God. You are working not to manifest me on earth; far from it. You are working to discipline your life so that at every moment, every second, you can divinise your life and be part and parcel of something spiritual, something divine.

God the Creator is inside the creation also. The creation cannot be separated from the Creator. So the creation, which we see in the form of the material world, must be accepted. If we don't accept it, how are we going to change it? If I don't touch something, if I don't enter into my disciples with their imperfections, then how can I transform them? We must not negate the world; we must accept the world. Whenever we see something wrong, we have to enter into that particular thing with our soul's Light in order to transform it.

You have a boat. The boat is in the water, but it is not affected by the water. You use the boat to take you to the other shore. We have to stay on earth in order to realise the Highest. But we have to know what we need from the material world. If we want the material world to devour us with its riches, then we are caught. But if we see the world as God's creation, then we feel that it is here that we have to realise the Highest. We don't have to go to the Himalayan caves; we don't have to torture our body and fast or starve to realise God. If my Father is standing there, in order to reach Him I don't have to cut off my arms and legs to prove how much love I have for Him. I come to Him running. We just have to be natural. We have to have a sound body and lead a normal life. God is absolutely normal. Our conception of God is wrong if we think that He is really something unusual.

We also have a wrong conception of God-realised people. When we think of a God-realised man, we think that he has to be completely different from us. He has to have two horns, or two very long arms or two different eyes. But this is not the case. God is inside you and God is inside me. If we go to a spiritual man, automatically we are bound to feel Peace, Light, Bliss and other divine qualities. But he won't be the tallest person; he won't have a peculiar form. Each spiritual Master has a normal physical body, but inside the physical he has God's Consciousness.