Meeting with the Lord Mayor of Perth1

Sri Chinmoy: You are the Mayor of Perth, so you have the responsibility for thousands of children. I happen to be a teacher, so I also take responsibility, but for only a thousand children. I know how difficult it is to deal with only a few people, and you, being the Mayor, have to deal with many, many problems every day. I admire your dedication and hard work.

Lord Mayor: Thank you for your understanding. I find it very rewarding to be responsible for such a number of different types of people in the city. We have many ethnic groups here. There’s the Greek Community, the Italian Community and some from India and Sri Lanka, and our Aboriginal Community (I speak their language a little). I find it easier to please the average person than the odd man at the top. I often don’t quite understand the attitude of some people whom you would think could have the same sort of responsibility as we have to try and do the best they can for everybody, but avoid it because it is a burden.

Sri Chinmoy: From the spiritual point of view we take each responsibility as an opportunity. Responsibility means opportunity to widen our consciousness. If I have a responsibility toward you, then if I properly use that responsibility, I become one with you.

Lord Mayor: I’m very self-critical. I feel that ever since I was a little boy I clearly saw the right path, and I used to wonder why people like the Dean had to preach every week. Now I realise that they could preach every hour, on the hour, and still be needed to continue saying what they do. So it is an inspiration to meet someone such as yourself. I get a sense of re-dedication to the things that so obviously need to be done.

Sri Chinmoy: It is most kind of you to say so. We feel that spirituality is like our regular food. We can’t depend on yesterday’s food. Yesterday we ate because we were hungry. Today, when we are again hungry, can we say that yesterday we ate so that is enough? No. Today’s hunger needs and demands new food. Every day we have to strengthen ourselves with new food, with new inspiration. Then only can we be satisfied inwardly and outwardly.

Lord Mayor: Thank you, thank you. Well, you have brought a big meal for me today. I had a very rewarding task once. I had to lead a mission of good will to India, and it went off wonderfully well. We made a great number of friends among the average people we met while we were there, and I was very taken with the calm philosophy of so many. The Indians are a million years ahead of us in understanding not to fuss about things that don’t matter. They’ve got a sense of judgement of what matters and what doesn’t matter, probably from people like yourself teaching them and inspiring them. Are you enjoying your trip to Australia?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, I have been enjoying it very much. Right from the start of this journey, I have been blessed not only by the soul of Australia but by the kindness of its people as well.

Lord Mayor: You do a lot of good work for the people in the United Nations, I believe.

Sri Chinmoy: I try to serve mankind according to my capacity. Whenever I am given the opportunity to be of any service, I feel it is most rewarding. So I try my hardest to serve mankind, not only at the United Nations, but everywhere. I go from one place to another, like a bird, and try to offer to others the light that God, out of his infinite Bounty has granted me.

Lord Mayor: I think it’s wonderful that you do this, because so many people, particularly those who hold the so-called prominent positions for their countries at the U.N., seem to need it. In my experience with local government, it’s slightly disappointing to see the number of people who are ostensibly there to serve their fellow citizens when, in fact, their main motivation seems to be to glorify themselves. I think a person such as yourself who is so humble in himself, trying to give light to people in so-called prominent positions, probably reminds them to be more humble and more dedicated to the ideals they are supposed to be serving rather than to themselves.

Sri Chinmoy: I always say that when you really have something to offer to the world, then you can become truly humble. A tree, when it has no fruit to offer, remains erect. But when the tree is laden with fruit, it bends down. When you have genuine humility, it is a sign that you have something to offer to mankind. If you are all pride and ego, then nobody will be able to get anything worthwhile from you.

Lord Mayor: That is a very wonderful parable. Great men through the ages have been quietly preaching parables to other people. I’m so glad you have met the Dean. He’s new here. He seems a nice man.

Sri Chinmoy: He has been very kind and generous. One lady berated him on the phone for giving me the opportunity to speak in a Christian cathedral. This is why I find it difficult to accept the barriers of religion. Our Indian spirituality far transcends these barriers of religion. It feels that Truth is nobody’s monopoly. Truth is your birthright, my birthright, everybody’s birthright. When we think of Truth and cry for Truth, all problems are solved. But when we think of a particular religion, each religion claims to be by far the best. “My religion is far better than yours,” people will say. There is no end to this silly fruitless controversy.

Lord Mayor: Man’s inhumanity to man through different sects of religion is incredible! When you think of the French, for instance, tying people upside down on stakes and burning them because there was a slight difference in their Christianity. And the Spanish Inquisition, the Moslem and Christian war in Lebanon, the war in Ireland. It’s awful, isn’t it? What happens all around the world is unbelievable! In the name of Truth and God, people are led by their religions to this absolutely ridiculous bigotry.

Sri Chinmoy: What does it prove? It proves that the animal in us is not yet fully transformed. It is only waiting for the opportunity to come to the fore and devour the rest of the world. Only when we practise real spirituality, when we sincerely cry for God and the highest Truth through our prayer and meditation, is this animal in us transformed into a divine child. Then slowly, steadily and unerringly the divine child becomes absolutely perfect. This perfection is everybody’s ultimate aim and goal. Unfortunately, right now, the animal is still hiding in us like a hungry wolf. It is only waiting for the opportunity to devour us and the rest of the world.

Lord Mayor: You know, sometimes I find myself nearly preaching in my job here, because of people’s stubbornness. This was chosen as the site of a city where a lot of people would live; therefore, it’s necessary to have roads and interchanges. But there is always a group that says nothing should be done — you’re spoiling nature. My answer to that is twofold. First, if you don’t want to do anything around the river at all, then you should have put the capital city on some hot, dusty sandhill out back, and left the river exactly as it was. And the second is that at least we as humans have done better than perhaps the dinosaurs would have done. They would have been trudging around despoiling parts of the river. So I find myself almost preaching, God forgive me, by saying that I’m a great believer in the divinity of man and that for better or worse we’re the best He’s got. I say that we’re trying to look after people, not trying to worship the ground or the river. It may sometimes be bad luck from an aesthetic point of view, but we have to have some roads and some car parks since this is the place where people have decided to live. It’s my job as Lord Mayor to make Perth as comfortable as possible for the people while at the same time preserving the beauty as best I can. There’s a lot of Western Australia that hasn’t got anything on it except the ants and the birds. And so I keep finding myself almost preaching, saying that in my opinion man is made in the sight of God and this is what we are supposed to be doing. That falls on some deaf ears amongst some of the hard-headed people around, but is it not a reasonable philosophy?

Sri Chinmoy: Absolutely! With my heart’s implicit sincerity I wish to tell you that you are a real lover of God and Truth. What I practise and what my students practise you also try to practise. We use the term “seeker”. We seek God and Truth in a specific way. You are also seeking the Truth and believing and manifesting the Truth in your own way. But our ultimate Goal is the same. What you are doing is absolutely right. The seeker in you is most genuine and most soulful, and because of that I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be here. The seeker in me and the seeker in you have become eternal friends in the soul’s world. Our eternal friendship is recorded on the tablets of our aspiring hearts.

Sri Chinmoy wrote a dedication to the Mayor in one of his books, and presented it to the Mayor. The Lord Mayor presented a book about Perth to Sri Chinmoy and wrote in it: “To a truly great and humble man. ”


  1. Sri Chinmoy met with the Lord Mayor of Perth, the Honourable Earnest Lee-Steere, at the Lord Mayor's office at Council House, Perth, on 3 March 1976.