We are all seekers-seekers of Truth. For us there can be nothing more valuable or significant than realisation.
There are three kinds of realisation: I can, I have and I am. I can see the face of Truth, the transcendental Truth. I have deep within me Eternity, Infinity and Immortality. I am God. These are the main realisations that each individual will eventually achieve.
In order to achieve realisation, aspiration is of supreme importance. Eternity's two immortal friends are aspiration and realisation. The goal of aspiration is to ascend. The goal of realisation is to transcend.
Inspiration is also of paramount importance. Our inspiration carries us from the foot of the life tree to the topmost branch of the life tree. Our aspiration takes us from the world of suffering to the world of light and delight. Our realisation transforms our Eternity's cry into our Infinity's smile. Our Eternity's cry is what we now have. Our Infinity's smile is what we shall one day become.
Each individual seeker has an inner cry, which we call aspiration. Again, each individual seeker has an inner message: dedication. Our dedication makes us feel that God the Creator and God the creation are inseparably one. Therefore, while serving God the creation, we are becoming one with God the Creator.
Aspiration teaches us the necessity of realisation, and realisation teaches us the ne-cessity of self-transcendence. Why? Because our Source, our Beloved Supreme Himself, at every moment is transcending His own Vision Reality and His own Reality Vision.
Dedication is part and parcel of God-manifestation. Since God is ever transcending, there is no end to our God manifestation. Therefore, manifestation also makes us feel the necessity of self-transcendence. Our self-transcendence takes place in and through our God manifestation here on earth. Each time we transcend ourselves we see that God is being manifested in and through us in a most special and significant way.
Our dedication and realisation tell us that we always have to go beyond, beyond, beyond. Today's goal is only the starting point for tomorrow's journey. Today's perfection marks the very beginning of tomorrow's new creation. Today's satisfaction is the harbinger of an even greater hunger for more purity, more beauty and more closeness and oneness with God.
Realisation is beauty's flower and duty's fruit. Beauty's flower is our heart, and duty's fruit is our life. Beauty is our self-giving; duty is our God becoming. Beauty reveals the Infinite in the finite; duty manifests the Immortal in the mortal. Beauty tells the God seeker that his source is in God. Duty tells the God seeker that his life is for God and God alone.
Indian philosophy, Indian religion and Indian spirituality from time immemorial have had only one message-the message of realisation, or "Know thyself." When a seeker knows himself, he declares, "Aham Brahmasmi"-"I am Brahman, the One without a second." This same message was offered here in the West when the Saviour declared, "I and my Father are one." This is the loftiest realisation of the soul.
In order to experience God realisation, each individual has to develop some inner discipline. Again, inside this inner discipline, the easiest way to approach the highest Reality is through love, devotion and surrender.
I am speaking here of divine love, which is altogether different from human love. Human love tries to possess and be possessed. Therefore, human love always fails to satisfy us. But divine love at each moment wants to expand, and while expanding, it liberates.
Human devotion is nothing short of attachment. In human devotion, the devotee and the object of his devotion are like two blind beggars with no goal or destination. But divine devotion only intensifies our inner cry for higher light and delight. Divine devotion intensifies our heart's purity at every moment, and this is of paramount importance in realising the absolute Reality. Last comes surrender. In human life we surrender to our superiors. Like slaves we surrender to those who have power over us. But this kind of surrender is a far cry from spiritual surrender. When a human being surrenders to a superior, there is no guarantee that this so called superior possesses more light.
In divine surrender we surrender to our Source, so that we can consciously become part and parcel of that Source. In the spiritual life we surrender cheerfully, soulfully and unconditionally to our higher Self in order to become one with our Highest. The tiny drop knows that its reality is the ocean. When it consciously merges with the ocean, it loses its individual identity and becomes the ocean itself.
We want to achieve quite a few things in life. In order to accomplish our outer goals, we try to influence others by every possible means. Sometimes we adopt foul means or try to deceive others; others also try to deceive us. But if our goal is God realisation, we cannot hope to deceive God or influence God through foul means. In fact, this is not at all necessary. God's dearest wish is for us to realise Him.
God says to us, "My child, I have countless ways for you to realise Me. If one particular way does not suit your nature, then there are many, many other ways. I shall present Myself before you in countless ways in order that you may realise Me. At every moment I shall knock at your heart's door, and if you sincerely want to receive Me, you will open the door."
Now I wish to be of dedicated service to you all in a practical way by answering a few spiritual questions.
Professor David Eckel: Sri Chinmoy has asked for spiritual questions. If there are any issues that you would like to raise with him that come out of your study of Hindu myth and ritual, or out of your study of Hindu philosophy, this would be a good time to ask them.
Student: Where do ignorance and suffering come from? To put it another way, where does the first impulse of karma come from, especially if God is all things, and God is ostensibly free from karma and ignorance?
Sri Chinmoy: There is something in us that likes ignorance and enjoys wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance. We can call it the vital, or the physical consciousness, or the mental consciousness, or something else. But definitely there is something inside us that consciously or unconsciously supports ignorance. The camel's mouth bleeds when it eats thorns, but it continues to eat thorns. Similarly, we know how much suffering ignorance causes in our human life, but part of us does not want to go beyond ignorance.
Again, there is something inside us that does want to go beyond ignorance and suffering, and that is our soul. So at every moment, consciously or unconsciously we are supporting ignorance and, at the same time, we are consciously trying to go beyond it. But once we are awakened, we feel only the necessity of going beyond it and of remaining beyond it.
Ignorance is primarily a limitation of the human mind; this is where the problem starts. The mind has a very limited capacity. It has fixed and rigid rules. It says that if God is this, then He cannot be that. But why can God not be this and also that? If God is omniscient and omnipotent, if God is omnipresent, then He is everything. The mind is always dividing, and while dividing it is binding and limiting itself. Since human beings mostly live in the mind, we are constantly trying to bind and limit Reality. But the divine Reality is not something that can be bound. It can only be enlarged and expanded. Unlike the mind, the heart is all oneness, so it has the capacity to become one with the Reality, like a drop that enters into the ocean and becomes the ocean itself. If we can consciously remain all the time in the heart, then we will be able to establish our oneness with the divine Reality, which is the soul's Reality. In that realm there is no ignorance; there is only light and delight.
When we approach Reality with our heart and identify with that highest Reality, we see that what we call suffering, in a deeper sense is not suffering at all. When we enter into the Buddha consciousness, Krishna conscious-ness or Christ consciousness, at that time we see suffering as an experience that is growing and glowing inside us for the transformation of our human nature and the manifestation of a higher light from Above.
Student: You said oneness is living in the heart, not in the mind. But in order to become aware of the heart, don't you first have to know what it is you're trying to reach and have some concept of where you're going?
Sri Chinmoy: Let us speak in terms of what we want from life instead of what we are aiming at or trying to reach. If what we really want is happiness, if what we really want is peace and bliss, then we will cry for these things. The reason we have to go to the heart is because the heart hungers for these things, and also the heart knows how to cry. Unless I feel and express my hunger, who is going to feed me? The mind does not have that kind of hunger. And even if the mind manages to create a hunger in itself, the moment someone brings food, the mind will doubt and suspect it. The mind will say, "Is it food or is it poison?"
In the outer life, if a child cries, immediately the mother will come running to give him what he needs. The child may be in another room, but she will come running to give him food, or a toy, or whatever it is he is crying for. Similarly, if we sincerely cry inside our heart for the highest Reality, then no matter where we are, God will come running to give it to us.
The mind is always doubtful and suspicious. This moment my mind makes me feel that you are a good man, and the next moment my mind will say you are a very bad man. And then the mind will say, "Who am I to judge him? Let him remain whatever he is. Whether he is a good man or a bad man, it is his life after all." So where is satisfaction in this approach? But if my heart feels that you are a good man, then immediately it will try to know more about you. On the strength of its oneness, the heart is always trying to proceed forward, farther and deeper. But the mind just questions its own discoveries over and over again.
Student: You spoke of three types of realisation-I can, I have and I am. My question is about the second one-I have. What can one have in the final analysis?
Sri Chinmoy: In the final analysis, one has what one becomes. We have deep within us the things that we have always been longing for: Eternity, Infinity and Immortality, infinite peace, light and bliss. But right now we are not aware that we have these. Right now we are looking here, there and everywhere for these things, without knowing where to search for them.
But if we pray and meditate sincerely, there will come a time when we will realise the Truth. At that time we will see that the things we have been searching and crying for are things we have deep within us. We embody these very things.
When we embark on our journey, the first thing we have to know is that we can: we can reach the ultimate Truth. Then we have to realise that this ultimate Truth is not somewhere else or someone else's. It is deep within us; it has always been ours. Our third and ultimate discovery is that we represent the Truth; we are the Truth.
So, to come back to your question, the second realisation-I have-in the final analysis is transformed into the third realisation-I am. What we have is what we have always had, and when we consciously realise this, we grow into it. Then we see that what we have consciously become is what we have always been and eternally are.
Student: How do we explain the suffering that people undergo through no fault of their own-like the Holocaust, for example?
Sri Chinmoy: We human beings do not know the present, past or future. We have no idea of what an individual or a collective group did in previous incarnations. We do not know the karma they have accrued. The law of karma says that each person reaps what he sows, but we do not know when the particular seed was sowed. So when it is time to reap the fruit, sometimes people have very unfortunate experiences in life which they cannot explain or understand.
Apart from that, ignorance forces are all around; ignorance itself, let us say, is a force. You may be a saint, but these forces are all around, and you may not have mastery over them. So although you may have done nothing wrong, these forces may still attack you. Many innocent people are affected by these forces. So if someone is suffering, we can usually attribute it to the karma he got from some previous incarnation, but it is also possible that his suffering is caused by undivine forces.
Each of us has a soul, a heart, a mind, a vital and a physical consciousness. Our soul is entirely divine; it is God's representative within us. Our heart at times wants to identify itself with others and feel its oneness with the world, but at times it also suffers from insecurity. Our mind, on the one hand, wants to know the truth and to have peace in itself and in the world; but, on the other hand, it immediately becomes suspicious when it sees peace, and it constantly tries to separate and divide things. Our vital can be dynamic, but it can also be aggressive. Our body allows itself to be guided by the stronger tendencies of the other parts of our being; but its own tendency is just to be inert.
So each part of our being has a good part and a discouraging part. This moment one part of our being will act divinely and the next moment it will act undivinely. The divine in us is trying all the time to make us perfect and thus to make the world perfect. It is constantly praying for God realisation, God revelation and God manifestation. But we also have another reality inside us, which only wants to lord it over others and destroy others.
The divine in us feels miserable if some catastrophe takes place in the world. But the human in us or the animal in us may get malicious pleasure, because the catastrophe is happening in some other part of the world, and we are unaffected. Not only do these undivine forces inside us get pleasure when bad things happen, but they can actually cause bad things to happen. The undivine forces that we have or that we embody can create countless problems in the world.
Professor Diana Eck: When you speak of the Beloved Supreme Himself, how do you imagine the Supreme to be?
Sri Chinmoy: It is not a matter of imagination; it is a matter of experience. You can experience the Beloved Supreme in one particular way. I may experience Him in a different way. Each one, on the strength of his or her aspiration, experience and realisation, will see the Supreme in a different but most convincing way.
If I am looking for a policeman and I find someone in a policeman's uniform, I will be very pleased. Because he is wearing his uniform, I will know that he is a policeman. But if you are looking for a policeman, and you happen to know that so and so is a policeman, then you will be in a position to approach him even if he isn't wearing his uniform. Similarly, if one is already in tune with the higher realities, he will have the experience of the Beloved Supreme in one form, whereas someone who is having the experience of the Highest for the first time may have it in a different way.
It is like the child whose father is a Supreme Court judge. When the child sees his father in ordinary street clothes, he still knows that his father is a Supreme Court judge. And when he goes to the courtroom and sees his father in a judge's robe, he still knows that this individual is his father. But if somebody who is not a member of the family sees the judge on the street, he will not recognise him. Similarly, each individual sees the Beloved Supreme in a specific way that will be totally convincing to him.
Professor Diana Eck: When we think then of the ways in which people from different parts of our human family have experienced the Beloved Supreme-as Krishna, or Christ, or the rather horrific form of Kali-can we feel that all these are equal?
Sri Chinmoy: They are all equal. But we are making a mistake when we see one aspect of the divine Reality as horrifying or terrifying. It is not like that. In Hinduism we often speak of creation, preservation and destruction. But 'destruction' is the wrong term; a better term is 'transformation'. When we see Kali's powerful aspect, we feel that she is torturing us and destroying us. But she is actually transforming us. When the doctor gives us an injection, or when he operates on us, it is very painful; we consider it sheer torture. But he is doing it only to cure some disease or ailment that we have.
If a child is unruly, at some point the father may threaten the child or even strike him. That doesn't mean that the father at that time has less affection or less compassion for the child. No, the father is only doing the needful. The child needs to learn, but he does not know where or how to find the truth. So the father may come in a powerful or frightening aspect to teach him. At another time, when the child is doing something good, the father will show his affectionate side, and that will also help the child to learn.
So the Supreme will come in different aspects, depending on what each individual needs and wants. If the Divine comes in the Kali aspect, it is not to punish someone but to perfect that individual. Our ordinary human consciousness may take it as punishment, but from the highest point of view it is for our transformation and perfection.
Student: Sri Chinmoy, you've been teaching us about self-realisation and realisation of the Supreme. In the spiritual life, what should be one's responsibility to others?
Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual's inner growth. If you are an absolute beginner, I will tell you to go very slowly. If you are advanced, then I will tell you to go very fast. But at every step you have to dive deep within to see if you are doing the right thing. Then you will get the inner message whether it is God's Will for you to mix with so and so. It may or may not be God's Will that you mix with certain people at this stage of your spiritual development.
Just because God wants someone to spend his time praying and meditating rather than entering into human interactions, that individual should not think that he is spiritually superior to others. No, it is simply that God does not want him to be involved in the social life at this particular stage of his development. Again, someone else cannot say that just because he is deeply involved in philanthropy or social work that he is superior. In the spiritual life, the first and foremost thing is to hear the message from within and to obey that message. Only then are you doing the right thing.
So there is no hard and fast rule as to whether it is desirable or undesirable for spiritual people to mix with the rest of the world. You may say, "If I don't serve the world, then how am I going to realise God?" This type of question can be answered only from within. What I have to do for my inner progress may be different from what you have to do. If it is difficult for the seeker to get this message from within, then he has to go to a teacher who can identify himself with the soul's needs and then tell the individual what they are.
Student: Once a seeker attains realisation, does he always have that realisation within him, or does the seeker have to experience the human aspect again?
Sri Chinmoy: Let us take realisation as a tree. If somebody can sit at the foot of the realisation tree, then we can't deny that he is a realised soul-especially if we ourselves are hundreds of miles away from the tree. Again, there may be somebody else who has climbed up the tree a little or even reached the highest branch, but he cannot come down. Again, there will be a third person who will be able to go up and come down at his sweet will. He will go up and eat the mangoes, and then bring some down to give to his brothers and sisters. When he goes up he takes the cry of earth, and when he comes down he brings the smile of Heaven.
So we have to know how much capacity an individual has. Some can sit at the foot of the tree. Some can climb up but do not dare to come down because they are afraid they will be engulfed by earthly ignorance. Again, there are a few great Masters, like Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Sri Ramakrishna and others, who can freely go up and come down again. When they come down from the realisation tree and enter into the earth consciousness again, they don't lose anything. At any time they can climb up and drink Nectar Delight, and then they can come down and offer Nectar Delight to humanity.
Student: Some thinkers have allowed the possibility of complete enlightenment and release while here on earth, while others say that the final release from karmic bondage comes only with death. What is your feeling on this?
Sri Chinmoy: From the highest spiritual point of view, we have to attain illumination here on earth; we cannot attain illumination in the higher worlds. If I do bad things all throughout my life and think of God or pray to God only at the last moment, I cannot expect to achieve illumination in the other world. When it is time for me to leave the body, I will not be able to enter into a very high state of consciousness. While I am alive I have to achieve illumination, liberation or realisation through prayer, meditation and right action. If someone does not attain something while in the physical body, he will not be able to get it after he leaves the body.
The Buddha, the Christ and all the spiritual Masters realised God here on earth. It is in the physical that we have to achieve and embody the highest states of consciousness. The body is like a temple. Inside some temples, unfortunately, there is no shrine, no living God-consciousness. But inside the body temple of those who have attained liberation and realisation are the most beautiful shrines. It is absurd to think that someone will attain the highest realisation or get illumination after he has left the body if he has not achieved it during his life on earth. God has to be seen, felt and realised here on earth.
Professor David Eckel: Thank you very much.
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you. I am so grateful to you, Sir, for having given me the oppor-tunity to be of dedicated service to your students.
Professor David Eckel: Thank you very much for coming and sharing your insights with us.