Examiner: Do you have any disciples in India?
Sri Chinmoy: Here in America I have four or five Indian disciples. But I do not have any spiritual centre in India. I have quite a few admirers and followers in India, but I do not consider them to be my actual disciples.
Examiner: A few weeks ago I interviewed Baba Ram Das, and he contended that the spiritual teachers Americans get come here for a different reason than the spiritual teachers the Indians get. In this country we get the people who are still attached to power or wealth or the idea of doing a lot of good for a lot of people, which is still an attachment, he claimed. What is your comment on that?
Sri Chinmoy: What he thinks, he will say. I will say what I know. I am not trying to contradict his philosophy, but I know much better than anybody else does, what I am and what I stand for. But I have no idea why other spiritual Masters have come to the West. It is up to the individuals to answer this statement. In my case, I definitely listened to the dictates of my Inner Pilot. He wanted me to be of service to Him in the sincere seekers in the Western world, who are my spiritual brothers and sisters. He is like a father. A father has every right to have many homes, and if the father wants a particular son of his to go to some other house, and help or serve him inside the aspiration of his other children, then he is perfectly entitled to do so. And the son who is devoted to the father must listen to him. So America is one home of our Father Supreme; India is one home; Russia is one home; Japan is one home. All the countries are the homes of our Eternal Father. And being the Father, He has every right to ask His children to move from one home to another to help His other children.
Examiner: How did you get involved with the United Nations?
Sri Chinmoy: I had a student who worked at the United Nations. She spoke to the authorities and got permission for me to be of service to the United Nations by conducting meditations there. There are now over eighty seekers who attend these meetings. They are delegates, diplomats and U.N. staff. Twice a week we pray and meditate there. Sometimes I give talks and answer spiritual questions.
Examiner: I understand you recently met with Mrs. Lillian Carter. What was the reason for your visit?
Sri Chinmoy: The reason was very simple. She was in India for two years, and she is extremely sympathetic towards India. The suffering India, the poverty-stricken India, has received considerable compassion and assistance from her. Therefore, I wished to offer her my personal gratitude for what she has done for India.
Examiner: I understand that you don’t accept everyone who wants to be your disciple. But you do want to get the word out to those who might want to be. Is that it?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, certainly. This world belongs to the Supreme, and He has many spiritual children who are in a position to be of help to sincere seekers. Now, there are some seekers who will be able to go much faster if they take help from somebody else, rather than from me. If I just accumulate them and keep them in my family for the sake of numbers, their progress will not be satisfactory, so I would be doing an act of injustice to their souls. But the ones who are meant for our path should be encouraged and accepted, for they will make the fastest progress on this path. I will never say that if somebody cannot follow our path, he is not spiritual, or he is not a sincere seeker. Far from it. But they are also my spiritual brothers, and if I know that by following some other path, they will go much faster, then I should advise them to follow that path. I want everybody to reach the Goal as soon as possible.
Examiner: Are you familiar with some of the more popular spiritual paths from the East that people are following in this country?
Sri Chinmoy: Familiar in the sense that I have read about them and heard a little about them from some seekers. But I am not in direct contact with other Masters, either inwardly or outwardly. Only I have a close connection with Pir Vilayat Khan, the head of the Sufi order. We are good friends.
Examiner: He was here recently.
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, I think he was. But I have regards for all the sincere spiritual Masters.
Examiner: Do you think there are a lot of people who will claim to be Masters, but who aren’t?
Sri Chinmoy: In this world there are good people and bad people. In God’s creation there is day and there is night. But I am not in a position to say who are good teachers and who are bad teachers. Only I wish that the sincere seekers will get the good teachers. If they are really sincere, they will not remain with false teachers.
Examiner: How is someone to know who’s good and who isn’t?
Sri Chinmoy: Well, there are a few easy ways to recognise a false Master. If somebody says that he will be able to grant you God-realisation overnight, in the twinkling of an eye, then you have to discard that Master. Nobody can realise God overnight or in a matter of days or weeks. And if somebody says that he will be able to grant you God-realisation if you give him a large sum of money, this is absurd. Like that, a few people claim that they will be able to teach you realisation or spiritual powers for a sum of money. If they make it sound like instant tea or coffee, then it is absurd. Those teachers are undoubtedly not real ones.
Examiner: I’ve often heard lineage mentioned as an important characteristic for a teacher — that a teacher has to have had a teacher.
Sri Chinmoy: He who was the first to realise God, whom did he get as his teacher? It is good to have a teacher, but it is not absolutely indispensable. I always advocate having a teacher. A spiritual Master is like a private tutor. He teaches the student privately so that he will pass the ignorance-test, not fail it. So it is good to have a spiritual Master, but it is not obligatory. There are many who have realised God without having spiritual Masters. But if you get a good one, it is very good; you are lucky.
Examiner: How do you find time to accomplish so much in the way of artistic creation — all the paintings, all the writings, all the compositions?
Sri Chinmoy: It is all through unconditional divine Grace. My mind will not believe it. I will be the first one to doubt it and suspect it. But it is the unconditional Grace that acts in and through me. I am not the doer. Had I been the doer, I would not have accomplished so many things. But I constantly try to be a simple, devoted instrument of His. On the strength of my receptivity, My Beloved Supreme acts in and through me.
Examiner: How many hours sleep do you get each night?
Sri Chinmoy: Sometimes two and a half hours, sometimes three, sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes for days and weeks I don’t actually sleep.
Examiner: What about food?
Sri Chinmoy: I am a strict vegetarian. Of course, some people will say that if you take eggs, then you are not a strict vegetarian. I do take eggs and milk, but I do not eat any meat, fish or fowl.
Examiner: Do you do any kind of physical practise of Hatha Yoga, or is that not part of your path?
Sri Chinmoy: No, Hatha Yoga is not part of my path. But I do advise my students to take exercise. Physical fitness considerably helps us in our spiritual journey, so I ask them to run. Recently, about 30 of my disciples ran in the marathon in New York City. I do advise them to run.
Examiner: Your background is athletic too, as I recall?
Sri Chinmoy: I was a champion sprinter and decathlon champion in the community where I lived. According to Indian standards, I was quite good, but according to the world standard I was nowhere.
Examiner: So you’ve always had this interest in athletics?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes. It helps us. If we are physically fit, then early in the morning we will be able to get up and meditate. But if we constantly suffer from headache, stomach upset and other physical ailments, then we will not be inclined to get up early in the morning and pray and meditate. We will tend to be lazy and lethargic, whereas spiritual progress requires dynamism. So in this way physical fitness helps us considerably in our spiritual life.
Examiner: Is it possible to be artistically creative without being spiritual?
Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. Some creative people have free access to the inner world of creativity, but if they are not spiritually aspiring, they are not aware of it. But the spiritual people are bound to be aware of whatever they are doing in their everyday life. Whether they are painting or singing or writing, they will be aware of the depths and the heights of their existence-reality-life. Those who are creative without being spiritual will often find that their creativity is not at their command. That is to say, they cannot create at their sweet will. But those who are consciously aspiring will find that their creative inspiration is tremendously increased, and also that they can invoke the inspiration-bird to come to them whenever they need it.
Examiner: On your path, do you expect that after a certain amount of time the disciple will achieve enlightenment? I think traditionally a disciple is taught for twelve years, and then he graduates or something.
Sri Chinmoy: Our Indian spiritual institutes have four orders of life; four different stages we call it. After childhood the first 12 years is student life. Then they enter another phase. They accept earthly life and become householders. Then after 12 years they go into the forest to lead spiritual life most seriously, and after 12 years of that they become renunciates. First student life, then householder’s life, then proper spiritual life, then renunciation life. But I feel that everything can be done in one life. There is no need to separate them in this way. If you can pray and meditate soulfully, you don’t have to go through these traditional four stages of life.
Examiner: Do you expect that you will be able to produce enlightened disciples?
Sri Chinmoy: I do expect it. If we can’t produce enlightened disciples, then how can we succeed? This is not my mission; this is not my vision. I am merely an instrument of my Beloved Lord Supreme. Similarly, He will make others instruments also, who are right now my students. He will grant them illumination, liberation and realisation, which He has already given to me out of His infinite Bounty. I prayed, I cried, so He granted me this boon. Similarly, if my students are sincerely trying, then at God’s choice Hour, He will grant them the same boon.
Examiner: Is there anything you’d like to tell me that we haven’t gone into?
Sri Chinmoy: I think we have covered everything. This has been a fruitful interview. I am extremely grateful to you for your kind questions, and I am sure many, many people will derive spiritual benefit from our interview.
Examiner: Thank you very much.
On 7 November 1977 Sri Chinmoy was interviewed by a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner. A transcription of the interview appears below.↩