Spiritual experiences

Once Sri Chinmoy was asked how a seeker could recognise a spiritual experience as such. The answer was not what I might have expected, Sri Chinmoy mentioned spiritual experience could involve:

  • Having a dynamic feeling to serve the world.
  • The feeling of wanted to be guided by the Supreme.


Question: How can I recognise a spiritual experience as such?

Sri Chinmoy: “Millions of times you have had the feeling of true eagerness to help humanity, and with God’s Grace you have helped humanity according to your capacity. Then you have gotten joy.” [1]

This is interesting because I would have defined spiritual experience as something quite different. I would have defined spiritual experience as a sense of peace, a vision of spiritual light, entering trace. (I might even have included take levitating off the floor…)

Perhaps, I think spiritual experience in terms of something that can be measured, something that isn’t just a steady evolution, but a sudden sense of enlightenment.

Occasionally, these flashes of partial enlightenment may occur, but if we define the spiritual life by these kinds of experience there is a danger of disappointment, even a sense of futility. However, if we place value on Sri Chinmoy’s description of spiritual experience, it is something we can cultivate everyday.

When giving meditation classes, I always talk about what is a good meditation.

Sri Chinmoy writes:

“We can easily know whether we are meditating well or not just by the way we feel and see and think. Right after our meditation, if we have a good feeling for the world, then we know our meditation was good. If we see the world in a loving way in spite of its imperfections, if we can love the world even while seeing its teeming imperfections, then we know that our meditation was good.”

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

The reason I feel this is important is that often people come to our classes and perhaps they find meditation difficult. Yet, at the end of the evening, the seekers usually feel very happy, enthused and have an inner sense of satisfaction.

The point is that even if we can’t meditate particularly well, we can still have a positive experience, gaining a different perspective on life and ourself. Rather than a mind filled with negativity, after meditation, we start to view the world in a loving way. If this is not a spiritual experience, what is?

Serving others

When I became interested in meditation, it was purely with the thought – what could I get out of it?

It never really occurred to me the idea of working with detachment / serving the world, trying to share the fruits of meditation with others. Sri Chinmoy places great value on this concept of service – karma yoga. For example, we organise many running races through the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team; we don’t talk about meditation at races or anything like that. It is valuing running for its own sake – encouraging people to have the chance to promote individual self-transcendence. The important aspect of karma yoga, is that we do action without regard to the fruits of the action. The work is not dependent on the result, but the inner motivation.

Setting up a running race at 6am in the morning when it is cold, is not so appealing from our human aspect which likes comfort. But, after putting on a race, there is a sense of achievement, a sense of doing something positive. By putting on a race, you get a lot yourself.

“Movement is always equipped
With the capacity to destroy
The stagnant negativity
Of the mind.”

Sri Chinmoy [1]

It is interesting to see this willingness to participate as a spiritual experience. Sri Chinmoy once said something along the lines of “I don’t know what you do in the rest of your spiritual life, but I feel that when you participate in the the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and put on races for the public, you are really offering something to the world.”

I participate in amateur cycle races in the UK. The races are put on by local volunteers who give up their time to organise and marshal, without payment. It is often hard to get sufficient volunteers – generally people prefer to race than stand on a roundabout with a fluorescent jacket. Often it is the same key people who do the bulk of the organising. The way, Sri Chinmoy describes spiritual experience, this willingness to serve without reward is a spiritual quality. It shows even those who might not think they are outwardly following a spiritual path or even have a particular belief system are motivated to act in a way that is selfless. This is a key element of spirituality.

The feeling of wanted to be guided by God

Again, when I took to the spiritual life and meditation, I assumed that the spiritual life was like running or school work – it was about the effort you put in. To an extent, this is true – you do need to put in personal effort. But, the real secret of the spiritual life is that we are trying to become one with God. To be aware of the Highest spiritual realities, we need the humility that it is not our little self which will do this. To transform our nature, to realise the Highest, we need the help and guidance of our Inner Pilot. If we feel we can do everything ourselves, we are not ready for the spiritual life, if we feel we want and need to be guided by the inner divine presence, then that is a spiritual experience in its own way.

Sometimes, I try really hard to inner the Inner Pilot, but I don’t hear anything or perhaps there is a confusion of message, with the heart feeling something, but the message being clouded by doubts of the mind. I feel this is a failure. I want to listen to God, but can’t hear what He’s saying.

Previously I may have defined this as another failed spiritual experience. But, again from Sri Chinmoy’s perspective just the willingness to listen, the willingness to be guided is itself a spiritual experience.

If we are really sincere to listen to the guidance of the Inner Pilot, I do feel eventually the message will filter through. It is not like you actually hear a voice, but you start to get an inner feeling of the best way to proceed. When doubts and tension dissipate, and it is replaced by a calmness, poise, lack of ego, then we feel we are on the right track.

Is this not a spiritual experience to feel guided to a choice that gives greater inner peace and poise?

The ultimate spiritual experience

The great Masters and sages say, that the ultimate spiritual experience is to know who you really are, then all your problems will be solved. But, on the way to the goal, we have to be happy with small steps.