Question: Is there a natural rate of progress a seeker makes on his own?

Sri Chinmoy: One can never make progress on one's own. Even on the physical plane — let us say, on the plane of desire, one cannot make progress on one's own. Someone may think that because of his strong desire he has succeeded, to some extent, on the physical plane. But there are millions of people on earth who have the same intense desire as he had, yet they do not succeed. If someone is successful in a particular thing, if he looks around he will see that there are many, many people with the same intense desire to become great in that particular field. So why are they not successful whereas he is successful?

It is because, even in the desire-world, the Grace descends — not just sometimes, but quite often. In a running race, there will be five or six competitors. They all have the same intensity to win the race, and perhaps all of them have practised to the same extent for years and years. But somebody receives the Grace and he stands first. In school, you will study and somebody else will study, but that other person may get a higher grade than you. You have also studied for ten hours, but he has received more Light from above. We call it Grace.

There is no such thing as success. It is all the descent of Grace. The Grace has descended and unconsciously a particular individual has received it. Since he does not aspire, we have to say that he has received it unconsciously. If he can receive the Grace consciously, then on the earth plane he does not have to work so hard. Again, if he is in the world of aspiration, as the Grace is descending, at that time his capacity to receive it is also increasing.

Two brothers were in the same class, and they used to study together. Both of them were disciples of a particular spiritual Master. They used to study very hard. One day, the Master said to them, "You don't have to study so hard. Just pray to me and study a little. If you pray to me, your study will be more effective." The younger one said, "No, by thinking of you I will not pass." So he studied for nine hours or twelve hours a day. The elder one had more faith. He only studied a very few things, and the rest of the time he repeated the Master's name.

So what happened? The day the examination came, the very things the older brother studied were on the examination. And the one who studied the things that he considered most important, the one who studied so many books — he failed. They started together with the same desire to do extremely well on the examination, but then there was someone, the Master, who offered them Light. To both of them he said the same: "You don't have to study for so many hours. Just think of me, think of me." One did, and one didn't. The one who studied for only a few hours and then meditated with devotion received the Grace that descended. The one who didn't believe the Master studied so hard, but even then he failed.

You study to start your journey in the desire-world, let us say. Naturally, there is progress. But then the Grace descends, and consciously or unconsciously you receive it. If you receive it consciously, then you go very fast. Even if unconsciously you receive it, still you make progress. But if someone doesn't receive it even unconsciously, then for him there is no progress at all.

In your case, let us say, you have done well in your outer life; you have been successful. But don't feel that it was because of your natural ability, natural capacity, that you have succeeded to the extent that you have. No, because you have accepted the spiritual life, the Grace is still operating. I have an extremely close connection with your soul. Many, many times your soul has come to me and asked me to do quite a few things, and each and every time I have done them. Your soul has received my blessing-light consciously. Then your soul has worked so hard to inject the things that it has received from me into your mind and vital. Your heart has always accepted these things consciously. Your mind and your vital have also accepted them, at times consciously and at times unconsciously.

So, all the success that you see in your outer life, I wish to say, is due to the fact that some parts of your being have accepted consciously and other parts have accepted unconsciously what I have offered to you. But it is the Grace that has brought about this success. There are many like you who are desperately trying to be successful in the same line. But they don't have your fate, because they have not received the Grace from above. That Grace is your success. If an individual accepts it unconsciously or consciously, then he moves very fast.

Again, Grace discriminates. When it operates in the desire-world, Grace will take the person a long distance. After covering a long distance, it says, "I am ready to take you even farther; very far I am ready to take you. But what you will get I am now showing you. If you are satisfied with this distance, I will definitely take you there. But if it does not satisfy you, then I wish to tell you that there is another road. That road is called aspiration. On that road, even if you don't get anything, still you are satisfied. It is not necessary to cover a very, very long distance. No, just by remaining on that road, you get satisfaction. At your very journey's start, the satisfaction that you get will far surpass the satisfaction that you will get after covering a very long distance on the desire-road, just because there is no satisfaction on the desire-road."

Sometimes from the desire-life people enter into the aspiration-world just because they are not happy all the time, or because they are not making considerable progress. So they feel it is better to give up. But what are they giving up? What do they actually have to give up? Very little either in the desire-world or in the aspiration-world. The thing is, somebody gives us something from above, and if we use it properly, then He gives us more. If we misuse it, then He feels sorry. He says, "All right, I will give you another chance. But that chance will come in a few more incarnations." When He gives us something from the desire-world, He gives and gives and then waits for the day when we wake up and say this is not what we want. Finally you will say, "No matter how much You give me, in the inner world I am not satisfied. So give me something else, something totally different." As soon as your soul makes you feel this, then your inner progress really starts. At that time He starts giving you from the aspiration-world, and if you properly use what He gives you, then it increases.