The following excerpt was taken from “Life-Enquiry and Self-Discovery”, by Sri Chinmoy.
There is a great difference between liberation and realisation. Liberation is much inferior to realisation. One can reach liberation in one incarnation, and realisation in some later incarnation. Or one can become liberated and realised in the same incarnation. But it is not possible to be realised without first being liberated. Sometimes a great spiritual Master, if he is fortunate, will bring down with him a few really liberated souls to help him in his manifestation. Sri Ramakrishna, for example, brought down Vivekananda and Brahmananda. Some of these liberated souls who enter the earth scene with the great Masters don’t care for realisation. They come just to help. Others want realisation also.
A liberated soul is liberated from ignorance, from worldly undivine qualities. A liberated soul will inspire others with his presence. He will inspire them to be pure, simple, kind-hearted and loving. Tremendous purity and serenity will flow from him, and others will want to touch him, speak to him, look at his face. You can say that he is much more than a saint. True, worldly obscurities, impurities and other things will not enter into the liberated soul, or he will be all the time cautious so as not to allow them to enter into him. But a realised soul is much higher. He is consciously part and parcel of God.
A liberated soul knows that there is a special room where he stays and has his shrine. He knows that there is also a kitchen, which is all dirty and full of impurities. Ordinary human beings have no special room, no shrine at all. They are all the time locked in the kitchen, and naturally they cannot come into the room where the living deity is. The liberated soul is able to live in the room with the shrine, but he is afraid that if he enters into the kitchen, the undivine things there may attack him and he will again become their victim as he was before his liberation.
But realised souls are extremely powerful. They know what they are and where they have come from. On the strength of their universal and transcendental consciousness, they can enter into the ignorance of humanity, into the earth-consciousness as such, and illumine it with their torch-light. They do so only because of their infinite compassion, not because they still have some temptations or wrong forces in them. No! They enter into ignorance deliberately so that humanity can be radically transformed. But only realised souls of a high order accept this bold challenge.
A liberated soul is like a child, so beautiful and pure. But how long can you stay with a child? With his capacity you cannot go very far, or reach the Highest. But a realised soul is like a mature person, who can offer you tremendous aspiration, light and wisdom, the living reality. A liberated soul will inspire you to walk along the path, but a realised soul will not only inspire you but also guide you and lead you to your destination.
A realised soul is not only the guide, not only the way, but the Goal itself. First he pretends he is not even the guide, but just someone to inspire you. Then he comes and tells you he is the guide, but not the road. Gradually, however, he shows that he himself is also the road. And finally he makes the seeker feel his infinite compassion and shows him that he is not only the guide and the road, but the Goal as well, the seeker’s own Goal.
The realised soul touches the foot of the realisation-tree, climbs up to the topmost branch, and brings down the fruit to share with humanity waiting below. That is realisation. But even the one who only touches the realisation-tree and sits at the foot of the tree without climbing up or bringing anything down is far superior to the liberated soul.
But again, to reach liberation is no easy matter. It is very, very difficult to become freed from ignorance. Out of the millions and billions of human beings on earth, there may be ten or twenty or even a hundred liberated souls. But God alone knows how many realised souls exist. To realise the Highest Absolute as one’s very own and to constantly feel that this realisation is not something you have actually achieved but something you eternally are – that is called realisation.
– Sri Chinmoy