Question: What is the difference between a liberated soul and a realised soul?

Sri Chinmoy: Liberated souls are many. But there is a great difference between liberation and realisation. A liberated soul is liberated from ignorance, from earthly imperfections and shortcomings. He has liberated himself, but he is always afraid that at any moment he will be attacked again and his liberation will go away. He remembers how much suffering he went through before he got liberation. There is only a remote possibility that he will go back to ignorance, but he is afraid. But a realised soul has established inseparable oneness with God. For him, Heaven, hell, everything is the same. He knows that God will be there. Whether or not he can keep God, he knows that God will keep him, no matter how bad he is. Realised souls have established oneness. Realisation is oneness, whereas liberation is freedom from suffering.

So, liberated souls are far inferior to realised Yogis. They are liberated from ignorance, but they are not twenty-four hours a day inseparably one with the Highest. They won't do anything undivine; they won't again wallow in the pleasures of ignorance. But a realised Yogi is someone who has gone far, far beyond ignorance. And even if he enters into ignorance, he is not at all affected. He is above it.

A liberated soul cannot illumine another person. Another person can get inspiration and aspiration from a liberated soul, but that soul will not be able to grant realisation. Liberated souls can only give you inspiration so that you will work out your own liberation. Realised souls not only have their own realisation but they can have disciples to whom they are trying to give realisation. A liberated soul can be very pure, very saintly, but he won't be able to transform even one bad person. He feels that bad people are truly bad, and he is afraid that these bad people will catch him and take him back to ignorance. But a realised person will say, "I see inside you the presence of God," and he will go to stay with bad people in order to change them.

Liberated souls do not care for nature's transformation. If a fully liberated soul does want nature's transformation, God is bound to give it to him. Usually the liberated soul wants only to be freed from bondage and ignorance. But the realised soul, while realising, is being transformed. Again, there is a very great difference between a Yogi and an Avatar. When one becomes a Yogi, he is able to do everything, but not on a large scale. He will be able to have a boat and carry some passengers. But an Avatar is for the whole world; his boat is for the whole world.