On Wednesday, 26 October 1977, Sri Chinmoy visited with poet Francisco Matos Paoli, Puerto Rico’s Nobel Prize nominee for literature in 1977. The meeting took place at the poet’s home in Rio Piedras. Following is a transcript of the conversation.
Interview with Don Francisco Matos Paoli
Francisco Matos Paoli: I cannot speak English very well, but I can make an effort to communicate my personal feelings. I am extremely grateful to be meeting with you. You are a poet, and also you are a mystic. That is very special, because we are both living with God as the Guide of our mutual lives. There is perhaps some difference between Occidental mysticism and Oriental mysticism, but we can all realise that in human endeavours there is an identification between the body and the spirit. What is your belief?
Sri Chinmoy: My belief is also the same. You call it ‘spirit’, and we use the term ‘soul’, because there are two kinds of spirit. One spirit is the Transcendental Reality — that is Spirit with a capital ‘S’. The other is a vital spirit, an unsatisfied or dissatisfied being that exists after the death of some human beings. When people deal with these dissatisfied spirits, that is called spiritism. There is a great difference between spirituality and spiritism. Spiritism deals with entities in the vital world-spirits — whereas spirituality deals with the Transcendental Spirit. So we use the terms ‘body’ and ‘soul’. The body is the temple in which the soul resides.
Francisco Matos Paoli: The temple, yes.
Sri Chinmoy: And the soul is the deity that is housed in the temple. If there is no temple, then the deity will have no place of abode. The body is the manifestation, and inside the body what we have (we can call it ‘soul’ or we can call it ‘spirit’) is the essence. We need the body to manifest what we have within. If there is no body, then we cannot house anything, we cannot embody anything. This is your house. This house is protecting you but, at the same time, if you do not give life to the house with your achievements, with your poetical capacities, with your wisdom-light, with your inner spiritual development, then this house, which is like the body, is of no avail. Both the inner and the outer are complementary realities. We need the body in order to house the divinity within us. Again, the divinity needs the body to manifest its reality. So the body and the soul go together.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And there is also, after death, a spiritual body.
Sri Chinmoy: Yes. There are three bodies.
Francisco Matos Paoli: What you call the astral body — semi-material?
Sri Chinmoy: It is not actually material. The three bodies are called physical, subtle and causal. This is our physical body. Inside the physical there is our subtle body. It has the same form as the physical body, and we may sense it, but we can’t touch or feel it with our hands. With our inner vision, with our third eye, we can see it. Then there is the causal body, which keeps the quintessence of our life here on earth. Here we do many things, we get many experiences. The essence, the quintessence, of all the things that we do and grow into forms our causal body. We call it a body, but it is not like our physical body. It is very tiny.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Yes, there is a physical and a spiritual interrelation — what you call the cosmic apprehension of life and the spiritual apprehension of life — and you can’t divide that realm, because sometimes existence transforms into essence and vice versa, essence transforms into existence.
Sri Chinmoy: It is like water and ice. Water becomes ice; again, ice becomes water. At one moment it is essence, and at another moment it is substance. Reality is also like that. We always say that Reality is both with attributes and without attributes, like God with form and God without form. Here also, essence and substance are inseparable.
Francisco Matos Paoli: My contention is that I believe in this real life, although it is not an absolute life; it has finality. I don’t believe there is a contradiction between religious mysticism and political struggle for liberty. You know, in my life I have been in jail for five years for the struggle for our political independence here in Puerto Rico. But I think of politics as a sort of transubstantiation of life in God, a mystical comprehension of all matter, and that matter in transfiguration in God.
Sri Chinmoy: Mysticism and politics are two different realities, although they may aim at the same goal. Mysticism wants liberation for humanity, and politics also wants people to be liberated. But the foundation of politics is not the same foundation as you see in mysticism. The foundation of mysticism is not in the mind, whereas politics is in the mind, in the vital and in the physical reality. Mysticism has a deeper source. A pure mystic gets messages or revelations not from his mind, not even from his heart, but from something beyond this physical reality. A politician may be deeply inspired, but his inspiration is from either the heart, or the mind, or the vital, or the physical. But the true mystic will get his inspiration — actually we do not call it inspiration, we use another term, ‘intuition’ — from his third eye or from the Reality beyond. Politics deals with earth-bound reality, but mysticism deals with Heaven-free Reality. A mystic gets the messages from worlds beyond this physical earth-planet. His aim is spiritual liberation, absolute liberation. The politician’s liberation is on the physical, vital or mental plane. The ultimate desire, the ultimate aspiration, is the same: liberation. But they operate from two different planes.
Francisco Matos Paoli: But are they interrelated?
Sri Chinmoy: They are interconnected in the sense that their objective is the same. But one does not necessarily add to the other. A politician does not necessarily have to become a mystic, and a mystic does not have to become a politician. But the goal of both is liberation; let us say, to march into infinite freedom.
Francisco Matos Paoli: But not the liberation of this everyday life?
Sri Chinmoy: No, it is not the goal of freedom from political constraints in daily life. It is the liberation from the bondage of the finite consciousness. A mystic sees the Reality of the Beyond and then, like a magnet, he pulls it into him. A politician wants to go forward; he does not want to allow any obstruction. But the mystic looks beyond this world to the furthest point, and from there he brings divine light and delight into the earth-life. The politician says, “I will not allow any obstruction on my way. I want freedom. I am going straight forward.” But the mystic says, “Let me bring the message of light, delight and peace from the Beyond to transform this world.”
Francisco Matos Paoli: But do you not think that this spiritual peace that reaches the mystic is a sort of negation of life?
Sri Chinmoy: Not at all. Real spirituality is not the negation of life; it is the acceptance of life and the transformation of life. The old theory was that you have to retreat into the Himalayan caves, you have to seclude yourself, you have to hide, you have to renounce the world, which is full of suffering, darkness, impurity and temptation. But that is not the right approach anymore. The right approach to spirituality is to accept life as such, then transform the world with divine peace, light and delight.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And this endeavour of the mystic will result in a sort of inward communication?
Sri Chinmoy: The real mystic is one who has a free access to the Absolute Supreme, from Whom he gets direct commands. He is in tune with something very high, deep and profound. He tries to manifest in the outer world what he has found within himself, which is God. But false mysticism separates everything. False mysticism will say that earth-life is useless, that here you cannot do anything divine, so the best thing is to remain always aloof, not to mix with earthly people, not to have any connection with the realities of ordinary life. False spirituality says, “Give up everything." But what should we actually give up? If I give up my body, if I give up my vital, if I give up my mind, then I will have nothing left to reveal God, to manifest God, or even to realise God. So what should we do? We should accept life and transform it.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And what is the relation between personal self and Nirvana?
Sri Chinmoy: When we deal with the personal self, we want to enjoy freedom in our own limited way. Nirvana is the extinction of the human way. In Nirvana, on the strength of our deepest aspiration we enter into a very high state of consciousness. Then we decide that we do not want to mix with the world and its sufferings and problems anymore. Nirvana is the extinction of the earthly game. Here you are playing a game, I am playing a game, all people are playing a game, either consciously or unconsciously. It is God’s Cosmic Game that we are participating in. But when we achieve Nirvana, we put an end to our part in the Cosmic Game. We don’t want to play anymore. We choose to enjoy the static bliss, not the dynamic bliss.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Does it negate the individuality?
Sri Chinmoy: It does negate the individuality. In fact, it negates the full manifestation of one’s own reality. We can say that to some extent it is a narrow approach to the Reality. Some people play the game for a while and then they say, “I don’t want to play anymore.” But others say, “No, we shall play as long as our Captain commands.” Those who accept Nirvana do not care for the transformation of the world. They have suffered, and they have tried to give light to the world as much as possible. But when they see that earth is not receiving light from them in abundant measure, then they want to give up the battle.
Francisco Matos Paoli: This Nirvana is a sort of collective self?
Sri Chinmoy: No, Nirvana is a state of consciousness where you cut off your connection with the earth-realities. We have bound earth like a tight knot, and earth has bound us. It is a mutual attraction, a mutual bond. I pull somebody, and he pulls me. But when one enters into Nirvana one cuts that bond. One wants to remain all alone, immersed in a sea of bliss. But this sea of bliss is static bliss, not dynamic bliss. Just the other day a teacher from the World University asked me this same question about Nirvana.
Francisco Matos Paoli: I believe in individuality after life. And this is not what you call egotism, but a reaffirmation of the personal life in God.
Sri Chinmoy: Absolutely true. God Himself is one and many at the same time. As you are saying, individuality need not be egocentric. God, in His Vision, wanted to become many, so He created this creation. Before, God was One in the Silence-Life. Then He wanted to become the sound-life. When He wanted to become the sound-life, He projected Himself into many forms.
Francisco Matos Paoli: But if we transform into God, is there a negation of human life in that?
Sri Chinmoy: No, there is no negation. On the contrary, the human in us becomes divine and perfect. The individuality that a tiny drop of water has is very little — negligible. But when that tiny drop of water enters into the ocean, it becomes part and parcel of the vast ocean. Then the individuality that the tiny drop had becomes vast and powerful. So, when human beings merge into the Absolute, into God, we don’t lose our individuality. Only our finite human individuality at that time becomes transformed. It becomes vast, infinite. While the drop remains aloof, away from the ocean, it has only a very tiny individuality. But when the same drop enters the ocean, it becomes the ocean. At that time we can’t see the individuality of that tiny drop anymore.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Then, we do transform into God?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, we transform into God. When the finite enters into the Infinite, it becomes the Infinite. The individual is now finite, although he is carrying the message of the Infinite. But when the finite consciously, soulfully and devotedly enters into the Infinite, it becomes the Infinite Itself.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And what do you think about this Christian belief that our Lord Jesus Christ lived a human life and suffered death?
Sri Chinmoy: He lived, suffered and died because whoever comes into the world to fulfil the message of the Heavenly Father has to accept the suffering of the world. If you want to save someone who is drowning in the sea, where do you stay? You don’t stay on the top of a tree. You come near him; you jump into the sea and stretch out your arms to help him. So, the Christ endured the suffering of the world, because in order to save the world, he had to live here like any other human being.
Francisco Matos Paoli: There is the contention of Catholicism, you know, that Our Lord Jesus Christ has two natures, human and divine.
Sri Chinmoy: Each individual has two natures. The moment I have a good thought, I am divine. The moment I have a bad thought, I am undivine. The moment I become jealous of you, I am undivine. The moment I love you, I am divine. This moment I am divine; the next moment I am undivine. We have millions of thoughts; constantly we are assailed by thoughts. This moment we are in Heaven; the next moment we are in hell. Why? Our thought-world creates Heaven and hell inside us. When we make sacrifices, when we love humanity, when we do something for humanity or for God, then we are divine. But if we are only for ourselves, then we are undivine.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Our Lord Jesus Christ is an incarnation of God, is He not?
Sri Chinmoy: It is true. For God, Heaven and earth are like upstairs and downstairs in His House. When He is upstairs, we call Him ‘God’. When He goes downstairs, He becomes ‘man’. But it is still the same God who has gone downstairs. When He comes upstairs again, He is again called ‘God’.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Yes, but there is a connection between immanence and transcendence.
Sri Chinmoy: Absolutely. They are two manifestations of the same reality. When the bird spreads its wings and flies everywhere, it is immanent. But when it soars up high, higher, highest, into the Beyond, then it is transcendent.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Do you think there is a final termination of our human life in Nirvana?
Sri Chinmoy: Nirvana is the final termination of the human in us, but not of the divine in us. There are two aspects of the divine in us: the dynamic aspect and the static aspect. The dynamic aspect enters into Nirvana and passes beyond Nirvana. Only the static aspect remains in Nirvana. Our human consciousness will not reach Nirvana. The divine consciousness has the capacity to reach it. Nirvana can be attained by the human soul only after many lifetimes of spiritual aspiration. Each human incarnation is in the process of flowing from the eternal life of the soul. This is not your first life or my first life. It is a continuous process.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And the eternal life is the negation of time?
Sri Chinmoy: Eternal life is not the negation of time. Eternal life and time are intimate friends, most intimate friends. The only thing is that in order to appreciate time here on earth, we divide it into various parts. It is one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, one year, two years, three years. When we have stayed on earth for fifty, sixty, or seventy years, we feel that we have completed the reality which we call life. At the highest level of Reality, time is continuous and life is continuous; the eternal life flows in eternal time.
Francisco Matos Paoli: There is no moral irresponsibility in the spiritual life, in this sort of transcendence of earthly life?
Sri Chinmoy: No, no, there is responsibility. When we speak of transcendence of life, we have to know what we mean. Now we have many undivine qualities. We quarrel, we fight, we strangle, we kill each other. This is very bad. We have to transcend this level of consciousness. If we have a pure consciousness, then we love humanity; we do not quarrel, we do not kill. Is not this kind of transcendence our real responsibility? Why do we pray? Why do we meditate? Why do we aspire? Just because we want to transcend our shortcomings, our weaknesses. We have countless weaknesses which we must conquer. And how do we do it? By virtue of our prayer and meditation. It is our first responsibility, our soul’s responsibility, our life’s most important responsibility, to become divine. Human life is still half animal. This half animal is trying to see something and grow into something divine. It is the transcendence of the animal-human life that we are aiming at through our prayers and meditations.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Then the mystic is the real human?
Sri Chinmoy: The mystic is the illumined and purified human in us. The mystic has received the message of the Beyond. He sees farther than we see. When we see with our human eyes, it is a very limited distance. But the mystic does not see with the human eyes. He sees with the Third Eye, the eye of inner vision. With this eye he sees the past, the present and the future. But he is not satisfied just by seeing something. He wants to bring it into his system to illumine it. The mystic is the illumined human in us, and this illumined human in us is trying to illumine others who want to be illumined.
Francisco Matos Paoli: I am convinced about that — reincarnation — and that there is a final point to reincarnation in Nirvana.
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, this is not your first life, and this is not your last life. Through each incarnation the soul is receiving more light, abundant light, infinite Light. At the same time, it is revealing and manifesting this light that it is receiving from above. We believe in reincarnation, because in one incarnation we cannot achieve everything.
Francisco Matos Paoli: No, no, it is impossible!
Sri Chinmoy: At the age of four perhaps we had a desire, and at the age of fifty we have not yet fulfilled it. We may have fulfilled only a few desires out of countless desires which we have had in our lifetime, so we must incarnate again in order to fulfil our unfulfilled desires, and also to do something for God. Eventually we do not want to go through the desire process anymore; we want to go through the aspiration process. In aspiration we pray to God to make us good, to make us divine, to make us perfect. Now, it is very easy, it takes only a few seconds, to say, “Oh Lord, make us good, divine and perfect.” But in order to actually become good, divine and perfect, God knows how many incarnations it takes. So, we feel that the road of aspiration is the road that can lead us to real happiness.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Can we reach a state of eternal Bliss where there is no reincarnation at all?
Sri Chinmoy: If you enter into Nirvana, or when God says to you, “My son, you have worked so hard for Me. Now you can enjoy a rest. I have many other children. Let them now work for me.” Before the Christ, Lord Krishna was also a great spiritual Master; the Buddha was also a great spiritual Master. The Absolute Supreme sent Krishna, sent Buddha, sent Christ and a few other Masters to help the earth-consciousness. They are no longer in the physical body, but their consciousness is alive. They are spirit, as you said at the very beginning of our talk.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Absolute Spirit.
Sri Chinmoy: And in that form they are still on earth guiding us, moulding us, shaping us, transforming us, liberating us. In spirit they are guiding us, but not in the physical body.
Francisco Matos Paoli: When we have that illumination and we have entered into the eternal life, can we come back again?
Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. It is like a game that we are playing with God. After he has played for a long time, the son says, “I’m tired. I don’t want to play anymore.” The Father says, “All right.” Then tomorrow the son says, “I want to play again.” So the Father allows him to play. The Cosmic Game is like that. If you don’t want to play, you don’t play. You are not forced. But if you want to play, you can. There is full liberty. If you play and enjoy yourself, wonderful. If you suffer and you say, “No, I am tired of this game. I want to watch from above,” that also you can do. The Supreme wants only happiness from you. By playing, if you are happy, it is wonderful. Just by watching, if you want to become happy, it is all right, too.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And what do you believe of evil?
Sri Chinmoy: In our philosophy we don’t see it as evil. We see it as limited reality. Anything that is limited creates problems for us. But if we see something as evil, then our minds become polluted, the mind becomes dark.
Francisco Matos Paoli: There is no existence of evil?
Sri Chinmoy: No, there is only limited light. One person will have tremendous light and wisdom, while another will have less. But if we say that the one who has less light is evil, then we are making a mistake. A child does not have the knowledge of a university graduate, but he has the capacity to gain that knowledge. Just because the child does not have the knowledge and cannot read college books, can you call him an uneducated illiterate fool? No, you have to allow him to grow up and get the same opportunity. Gradually, gradually, over the years he will go to school, high school, college and university and get the same knowledge. Anything that has very limited light we tend to see as evil, but it is only at the beginning of the gradual process of evolution of our reality.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And what is the relationship of the mystic with the world of limitation?
Sri Chinmoy: He can live on earth very firmly and well-established, like a boat in the water. The boat is in the water, but it is not affected by the water. You live inside this house, but you are not bound by this house. You can neglect it or you can make it better. You are the lord of this house. In this way the true mystic lives with humanity. The mystic has the capacity to illumine the consciousness of mankind, to change the world, illumine the world, to make it more divine and more perfect. Or, if he wants, he can just ignore the world, neglect the world.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Sri Chinmoy, I would like to give you my latest books. Paramesh can translate for you. You don’t know Spanish?
Sri Chinmoy: No, I do not know.
Francisco Matos Paoli: These are my latest books. Ya se Oye el Cenit.
Paramesh: We can Now Hear the Zenith.
Francisco Matos Paoli: This one is called In Praise of Space.
Sri Chinmoy: I am accepting these two creations of yours with my heart’s deepest gratitude. And I also wish to present to you some of my books.
Francisco Matos Paoli: I have already read some books of yours. Your disciples have given some to me.
Sri Chinmoy: Which are the books?
Francisco Matos Paoli: Yoga and the Spiritual Life.
Sri Chinmoy: I will send some of my poetry books to you. This has been a most meaningful and fruitful meeting. I wish to offer you my soulful love and my most soulful gratitude.
Francisco Matos Paoli: You know, here in Puerto Rico, some people have nominated my poetry for the Nobel Prize. But I think that my poetry is sort of mystic poetry, you know, and there is a sort of obstacle in that.
Sri Chinmoy: [Laughter]
Francisco Matos Paoli: [Laughter] Yes, for winning the prize, I think it is so.
Sri Chinmoy: I am also in the same difficulty. My books also have been sent for the Nobel Prize.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Yes.
Sri Chinmoy: This time a Spaniard got it.
Francisco Matos Paoli: A Spaniard, yes, Vicente Alexaindre.
Sri Chinmoy: Do you send the original, or translate it into English? I believe the Committee asks for it in English.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Yes. There is a friend of mine, a poetess, who is translating my books into English. And also I have received a communication from France, from Les Editeurs Franais Unis. Como se dice eso en ingles?
Paramesh: United French Editors.
Francisco Matos Paoli: They are going to publish an anthology of my poetry translated into French.
Sri Chinmoy: Marvelous! Excellent! May I offer this to you? I understand that you are a great admirer of this person. [Sri Chinmoy presents Señor Paoli with a plaque embossed with the face of Pedro Albizu Campos.]
Francisco Matos Paoli: Oh! I am very grateful! This is our apostle Albizu Campos.
Sri Chinmoy: A patriot.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And I was a companion of his in jail in 1950. I was in jail from 1950 to 1955. I lost my reason in jail, you know, because I could not resist jail. I am very grateful. Well, this is your home.
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you.
Francisco Matos Paoli: And you can come whenever you wish. Well, Paramesh.
Paramesh: Muchas gracias.
Dhananjaya: Don Paco, ha sido un placer.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Dile que yo me arrastro por la tierra. Diganselo a el, que yo me arrastro por la tierra ante el. Si, je, je, je.
Paramesh: Guru, he says that he throws himself at your feet, completely before you.
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you.
Francisco Matos Paoli: I feel humbled, because you are in the eternal Peace of God. I am a human that is fighting against evil and the limited life, but I endeavour also for that eternal Peace.
Sri Chinmoy: It is your humility that is speaking. We are in the same boat, sailing toward the same destination. I am your inner brother. We are both trying to be of some service to mankind.
Francisco Matos Paoli: I am only a follower of your inner light, that is a sort of beauty transcendental. I create beauty with my poetry, but the kind of beauty that I create is bound to earth sometimes. But even in that physical boundary I endeavour for this peace, this inner peace in God.
Sri Chinmoy: You are an extremely high soul. This I am telling you from the very depths of my consciousness, from the inmost recesses of my heart. You are a very, very highly developed soul, a mature soul, a fulfilling soul. I do not have to read any book of yours. I have, by God’s infinite Bounty, some inner capacities, and one of them is called intuitive faculties. On the strength of my intuitive faculties I can see, feel and have easy communication with your soul. While I was talking to you, answering some of your questions, my soul was in constant communication with your soul. They were mutually offering their good wishes, love and feeling of oneness.
Francisco Matos Paoli: I am very grateful for this dedication. You know, that is the motto of Pedro Albizu Campos: “La Patria es Valor y Sacri-ficio.” We believe in that political credo, and we are fighting for constituting our people a free people, without any colonial relations to the United States.
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, I understand.
Francisco Matos Paoli: That is the same as Gandhi.
Sri Chinmoy: Non-violence.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Our apostle Pedro Albizu Campos was a great admirer of Gandhi.
Sri Chinmoy: Gandhi and Martin Luther King both worked in the same way, through non-violence. Through their soul’s light from within they wanted to work for human freedom.
Francisco Matos Paoli: He was also a sort of mystic, Don Pedro. Catholic, but a political mystic.
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you.
Francisco Matos Paoli: Well, good-bye.
Sri Chinmoy: Good-bye.