Sri Chinmoy: Our admiration for you is also boundless. Just recently in Central Park, you gave so much joy to 500,000 people — not for a fleeting second but for hours. It is beyond the flight of our imagination how a single God-lover can inspire, illumine and give joy to 500,000 people. For us, this is something unheard of!
Leonard Bernstein: I think the secret is what you said about not a fleeting second. The secret of music is that it makes time stop. We are all prisoners of clock time: "I have to be at my job" or "I have to see my wife" or "I promised I would be there at eight o'clock and it's now that time." What music does is release you from that, so that you can be in the time of the music. And though it may last 35 minutes or 65 minutes, it's an eternity because within the dimensions of each composition there exists an eternal time, which is the time of that composition. Even if it's a little piece like the "Marriage of Figaro Overture," which is four minutes, while you are listening to that Overture, you are in cosmic time. It could be the equivalent of four years of experience — a lifetime! And if it's "Tristan and Isolde," which is four and a half hours plus intermissions, then that's another kind of lifetime that you live during the duration of the music. Some kinds of time cannot be counted. It's neither hours nor minutes nor seconds, but the time that is expressed by the genius who wrote the music: Mozart, Wagner, Stravinski or whoever it is. And it's a great privilege to live in that piece of time — to exist within that piece of music forever. It is a privilege like being with Sri Chinmoy. It is timeless, whatever the duration of the work is. While in this world, you don't have to make an appointment. You don't have to rush. You just listen for the next inevitable note or chord or pause. Those of us who are musical are privileged to have that experience. You are all so musical. How do you sing so well in tune? I don't understand that either.
Singer: It does not always happen.
Leonard Bernstein: You mean he has to correct you a lot? I never could sing in tune even when I had a decent voice — before it got ruined by cigarettes and screaming at orchestras. I hear the notes exactly, but what comes out of my mouth are ugly toads, and they get uglier all the time. When I sing something for an orchestra to show them how I mean it to sound, they say, "What?" I say, "Well, you know what I mean." I know that it's the wrong notes and the wrong key, but they always know what I mean. But if I had to be one of you and sing in this chorus, I couldn't do it. I would love to be able to do that.
Haridas: I invite you.
Leonard Bernstein: You would regret that invitation, I assure you; you would rue the day that you ever asked me because I would ruin your chorus. I can't sing two phrases in tune. (He sings "Leonard Bernstein.") Is that right?
Haridas: It is perfect!
Leonard Bernstein: No, it's not perfect! I have often thought that I would exchange all the gifts that I have been blessed with from Heaven if I could only have the ability to sing.
Sri Chinmoy: Then what would happen to those who have got such inspiration, joy and satisfaction in life from you? If you want to change your field, what will happen to them?
Leonard Bernstein: If I could sing, if I could get out on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House and make people thrill to the ringing conviction of my resounding baritone, I would give everything up. Singing is what it is all about. That's all I try to do with the orchestra. That's what I try to teach and try to do on the piano. That's why I admire so much what you are doing. King David sang his psalms before the Lord on the steps of the temple with his musicians accompanying him. One hundred and fifty-odd psalms — no small repertoire, but it is nothing compared to Sri Chinmoy's! That is my ideal in life — to be able to sing like David and praise God. Maybe I did it in a former life. Maybe I used to be a second-rate baritone in an opera company.
Sri Chinmoy: Perhaps you did everything, so now you are fed up with it. Now you are giving a new experience to the world. I would like to offer you this.
Leonard Bernstein: Oh, not something else! You gave me this, you gave me that, you gave me so much!
Sri Chinmoy: This is something for your birthday. Better late than never!
Leonard Bernstein (looking at the cake with his picture etched in icing): Who is that silly looking man?
Sri Chinmoy (to the choir): Please sing the Happy Birthday song.
(Choir sings "Happy Birthday" and at the end Leonard Bernstein conducts them.)
Leonard Bernstein: Thank you very much. You are godly people (clasps Sri Chinmoy's hands). It is a privilege to be with you. Have yourselves a piece of cake. I mean it. Is there somebody with a cake knife? You deserve at least a piece of cake. You are probably all very hungry. It is way past your dinner time.
Sri Chinmoy: Would you kindly come to our tennis court to play tennis?
Leonard Bernstein: Sunday I am going to Europe and I will be gone for a month or more. When I come back, I think it will be post-tennis time. It will be late October. Then until March I am a composer. I am very busy. That is the hardest work I do — much harder than all this public stuff. I am very private, and I am usually in Connecticut, most of the time alone, just seeking these notes. It is hard work, but at least I can control my own schedule. I am off the clock. That's like being in a piece of music. If I want to work all night, I can, and I can sleep in the day, or the other way around. I can play tennis or meditate or walk in the woods. I love that. It is very lonely. It is a completely different kind of life from the one I have now, which is with many people and photographers and newspaper people from Paris and Hong Kong. They are around all the time.
Did you people get a piece of cake?
Singer: On the way out, we will be able to take some cake.
Leonard Bernstein: But I would like to see you eating it now. I would like to see you happy and well fed. (He embraces Sri Chinmoy.) I don't know what to say. I am just overwhelmed by the perfection. Perfection is your key word.
Sri Chinmoy: We are all dreamers of perfection, but perfection is still a far cry.
(Leonard Bernstein speaks with Haridas briefly in French, then chats with the singers as they leave.)