Reflections1Interviewer: This morning we have a different “Reflections,” and I think this music really sets the scene. There you had Yehudi Menuhin playing violin with the Eastern musician, Ravi Shankar, playing sitar: the meeting of the East and the West.
And this is what we’re going to be talking about this morning — a meeting of the spiritual life of the East with the spiritual life of the West, because we are very lucky here at Medway to have a Guru, a Master from India, who has Centres of spirituality all over the world. And we’ve also got some of his students here. The Master, or Guru, is Sri Chinmoy.
You were born in India?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, I was born in India.
Sri Chinmoy: In Bengal, in 1931.
Interviewer: And what happened to you in those early years to make you a spiritual Master today?
Sri Chinmoy: As a young boy I was brought to a spiritual community in South India. I stayed there for twenty years and practised spirituality. I prayed and meditated every day for a considerable amount of time until I realised deep within me something very high, powerful and supreme. Then, in 1964, I was commanded by my Inner Pilot to come to the West to be of service to the Supreme inside aspiring seekers in the Western world.
Interviewer: You are a teacher. You are bringing to us the spirituality which you have discovered, and teaching it to us in the West. Does it matter that I’m not a Hindu, but a Christian?
Sri Chinmoy: In our path there is no problem whatsoever with regard to religion. One may practise Christianity, one may practise Judaism and one may practise Buddhism. I tell my students that religion is nothing but a house. You as an individual live in one house, and I as an individual live in another house. But although we live in different houses, if we both want to learn a certain subject, which is God-realisation, we will both go to the same school. This school is our inner school. When we pray to God and meditate on God, we go to our inner school, and in order to go there we may or we may not walk along the same road. But both of us leave aside the limitations of our respective houses when we go to study in our inner school. Irrespective of religion, one can practise spirituality.
Interviewer: I accept the fact that you are a Master, a Guru, a teacher. As a Christian, what am I expected to do, or what, in fact, would you teach me that would deepen my inner silence, my spiritual life?
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you. I deeply appreciate your sincerity and humility. Your soul is full of aspiration and dedication. When somebody comes to me as a seeker, I tell that person that each individual teacher has a way of teaching. Each teacher is right in his own way, and each student is right in his own way. On the basis of my own inner realisation, I advise each seeker to be as simple as possible, as sincere as possible, as humble as possible. Each teacher has a special path and ours is the path of love, devotion and surrender: divine love for God, divine devotion to God and divine surrender to God.
Human love ultimately fails. It ends in frustration and destruction. But divine love constantly expands. From the limited individual it grows into the Unlimited, the Infinite, the Vast, and there we feel our inseparable oneness with the entire universe.
Human devotion is nothing but unrecognised attachment. We say that we are devoted to someone or to something, but if we go deep within, we discover that this feeling is nothing short of our attachment to that individual or to that cause. But divine devotion is totally different. Divine devotion is to something high, deep, sublime. It helps us to grow into the infinite Consciousness. We know that there is a goal, and that we have to reach this destination; therefore, we devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the supreme Cause.
Human surrender is the surrender of a slave to his master. He is under compulsion to please the master; otherwise the master will punish him. But divine surrender is totally different. Here the finite in us tries to recognise the Infinite in us and become one with it; but there is no compulsion. Cheerfully, devotedly and unconditionally our lower part surrenders to our own highest part.
We have within us both the highest and the lowest. Right now, unfortunately, we are wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance. We have totally forgotten our own divinity, our own highest Reality. But on the strength of our prayer and meditation, there comes a time when we realise the highest part that is within us, and we surrender to our own highest part. We do not surrender to somebody else or to something else. This is what I try to share with my students.
Interviewer: You have written a number of books, and after reading what you have written, it seems to me that peace, the inner peace, is the thing that is the result of all this. I am very interested to see that you emphasize that to get this peace is not a matter of departing from the life of work and retreating into the Himalayan caves or sitting on snow-capped mountains, but that it can be achieved here on earth in the hustle and bustle of life. Can I move from you, Master, for just a moment, to one of your disciples?
What has this really meant to you as a human being? Has it obviously enriched your life very much over the past years?
Ms. Siegerman: Sri Chinmoy has given me my source. In him I have seen a being who embodies the divine Consciousness, and this has inspired my whole life. It tells me to follow his teachings and to make within myself some reflection of what I see in him. I see a great soul full of majesty and inner divinity.
He has touched my soul, has given me my own inner existence, so that the outer world which I had been involved in before is now flowering with a new significance because it is impelled and activated by my inner life. That is to say, my whole existence has a purpose and a meaning because in touching my own soul I have seen a link between my own soul and the Supreme.
So my outer life has meaning and purpose now. And the activities of the Sri Chinmoy Centres are all done with the purpose of putting us into a higher consciousness so that everything we do, everything we involve ourselves in, is something good, something progressive and something of a higher consciousness. In Sri Chinmoy I see the most perfect spiritual Master, because in him I found a perfect balance of acceptance of the world and God-realisation.
Interviewer: You’re not retreating from the world? This isn’t sort of a retreat; this isn’t sort of getting away from it all?
Ms. Siegerman: It’s not an isolated community at all. We are involved completely in the outside world. Sri Chinmoy’s disciples are in every kind of occupation. There are students, nurses, secretaries, businessmen, teachers, musicians, artists. Our lives in the Centres are full of very normal activities. We have dramas, choirs, sports, music, jokes. We are like a community that wants to operate in every field from a yogic consciousness, from the Consciousness of the Supreme.
Interviewer: I know that there is a Centre in London. And Mary Plumbly here, comes from London. You run the London Centre?
Ms. Plumbly: Yes, I do.
Interwewer: How long have you been with Sri Chinmoy?
Ms. Plumbly: It will be five years in October, on October 14th.
Interviewer: What did meeting Sri Chinmoy mean to you?
Ms. Plumbly: Longing to meet Sri Chinmoy and being able to become his student have given purpose to my life, given it some real meaning and depth which it didn’t have before. I was looking for something which I didn’t have, and now I have got it.
Interviewer: If I had known you ten years ago, and then I hadn’t met you for ten years and I met you now, do you think that I would have seen a great difference?
Ms. Plumbly: Oh yes, I think so.
Interviewer: Peter Orsell also belongs to the London Centre. Peter, what has this meant to you in your life?
Mr. Orsell: When I first saw Sri Chinmoy, I was feeling at that time a sense of frustration with the world around me. But now I feel a sense of expansion and progression towards the higher life which is deep inside myself. I feel a true sense of progression in my inner life, and I feel different in the outer life also. Before I met Sri Chinmoy, I felt very inadequate to deal with the world. Now I am starting to feel a sense of oneness in my own way. I feel more peace; I can accept peace much more now. I can accept the world more.
Interviewer: Were you a Christian?
Mr. Orsell: I never had any religious faith.
Interviewer: What about you?
Ms. Siegerman: I was from a Jewish background, a Russian Jewish family. But when I graduated from college, I went to India because I had become very interested in Oriental philosophy and I was searching for the source of that philosophy in India. I wanted to transcend the background I had been brought up in, because I had a great leaning toward the Orient.
Ms. Plumbly: I was brought up in a Christian background and I had a complete education. I found it very helpful to have a Christian background.
Interviewer: But you’re not a Christian now?
Ms. Plumbly: Oh, yes. Although I don’t attend any church, I couldn’t say I’m not a Christian now. I haven’t accepted any other religion, and Sri Chinmoy’s teachings easily embrace Christianity. Spirituality doesn't really reject anything one truly believes in. I’ve learned to understand Christianity more than I ever did before.
Interviewer: Maybe the spiritual life is missing in Christianity today?
Ms. Plumbly: Unfortunately, I think a lot of it has become just paying lip service to something people don’t really understand. In the spiritual life, we are trying to live what we believe. That is something, I think, that the majority of Christians do not sincerely try to do.
Interviewer: Master, I’ll come back to you now. I think we know a little more about it all now. You mentioned Yoga. One of your books is called Yoga and the Spiritual Life. For many people, Yoga is nothing more nor less than a set of physical exercises where you stand on your head, or fold your legs into impossible positions. But that’s not what you mean by the word ‘Yoga,’ is it? Are there exercises? Are there physical postures that you try to teach your students?
Sri Chinmoy: No, not at all. ‘Yoga’ means conscious union with God. The fastest way to achieve this is to concentrate, meditate and contemplate. This is the most effective way to realise God, to discover one’s own Reality. If one practices Hatha Yoga, which is the physical exercises, it may help to some extent. But there are thousands of people, especially in India, who can do all the physical exercises most correctly. But God-realisation is still a far cry for them. If it were only by practising physical exercises that one could realise God, then everybody would have done it by now. These are like kindergarten courses. If one wants to study in kindergarten, one can. But if one wants to skip that course, one can easily do so.
Spirituality, which is true Yoga, demands concentration, meditation and contemplation. These three steps only are of paramount importance. As far as we all know, the Christ did not practise physical postures. Lord Krishna did not do it. Lord Buddha did not do it. But all of them did realise God and become one with God on the strength of their prayer, meditation and contemplation. They did not practise Hatha Yoga, but they did pray, they did meditate, and on the strength of their prayer and meditation they became one with the transcendental Consciousness and the universal Reality of the Supreme.
Interviewer: So Yoga really means union with God?
Sri Chinmoy: Conscious union with God.
Interviewer: God is within each one of us?
Sri Chinmoy: God has always been within each one of us. Each individual has to realise God according to his inner capacity. And each individual can choose to accept the aspect of God that pleases him most. Somebody may like God’s personal aspect, as a most luminous Being, while another person may like the impersonal aspect: God as infinite Energy. Again, somebody else will be pleased only if the God he realises is a God beyond his imagination.
God is both personal and impersonal. God will come to each individual according to that individual’s choice, to please him in his own way. If you care for the impersonal aspect, God will come to you as the impersonal Existence. If I care for God in His personal aspect, then He will come to me as a personal Being.
Interviewer: Now, for the many listeners who are living in this county of Kent in England, how can your spirituality, your teachings, help them?
Sri Chinmoy: As you know, there are two lives: the inner life and the outer life. The inner life is the seed, and the outer life is the plant. If we sow the seed, then only will it germinate and grow into a plant. So before we go to work, before we enter into the hustle and bustle of the world, we should pray and meditate for a few minutes in order to inundate our inner life with peace, light and bliss. Then we can enter into the battlefield of outer life with inner strength, inner courage and inner light. When we do this, we see that there is no difficulty, no insurmountable problem, in the outer world. First we must have inner courage, inner strength, inner peace, light and bliss. Then we can regulate our lives most satisfactorily.
Interviewer: Mrs. Plumbly, what can interested people from here do who are listening to us now? Can they write to you at the London Centre?
Ms. Plumbly: Yes, they can write to me at the London Centre for literature or come talk to us in London. The address of the Sri Chinmoy London Centre is 31 Niagara Avenue; Ealing, London W5, England.
Interviewer: Thank you, Master, in addition you seem to have done many things. You paint, you write, you compose and play music.
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, right from my childhood I have been composing songs and poems, and I have written considerably. Over two hundred and fifty books I have completed. I have also done thousands of paintings. All this I do with one view, one purpose: to share with aspirants all over the world my aspiration and my realisation. One individual may be inspired by a particular painting or a particular song or a particular poem. Another individual may like another painting, another song, another poem. At the same time, I wish to say that I will remain an eternal seeker. While seeking ever higher Truth and Light, by the Grace of the Supreme, I am able to express my aspiration in various ways. I am trying to share with other seekers my own aspiration in various forms.
Interviewer: I notice, too, that you were a decathlon champion in your youth, that you were a fine athlete.
Sri Chinmoy: I was a very good sprinter. Now I am trying to run in the inner world as I once did in the outer world. So I am encouraging my students to run both in the inner world and in the outer world. When we run in the inner world, we realise our divinity, and when we run in the outer world, we manifest our divinity. First we realise, then we manifest. These two worlds, the inner and the outer, must go side by side. This is our acceptance of life. When we pray and meditate, we go up high, higher, highest. Then, when we serve humanity, we come down and share with humanity whatever we got at the top of the tree.
Interviewer: Now we are going to end this morning’s “Reflections.” I want to read out one poem you have written, called “The Absolute.” And while I read it we will hear the music of Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar again. But before we end, I would like to go around the table and ask each of you for one very short sentence about what life really means to you now.
Ms. Siegerman: For me, the meaning of life is to know what one really is, to discover one’s inner life, which is the soul, the representative of God in the human body. And when we find the soul, then our lives find purpose, meaning, joy and fulfilment.
Ms. Plumbly: It means development and progress, spiritual progress.
Interviewer: Something which is so lacking in many people’s lives.
Mr. Orsell: For me it has taken me from sadness and frustration to joy. I think joy, divine joy, is what life really means to me now.
Interviewer: Master, for once you are not going to have the final word. But, in a way, you will have the final word, because I am going to read your poem. This is a poem written by Sri Chinmoy, called “The Absolute.”
No mind, no form, I only exist;
Now ceased all will and thought.
The final end of Nature’s dance,
I am It whom I have sought.
A realm of Bliss bare, ultimate
Beyond both knower and known;
A rest immense I enjoy at last;
I face the One alone.
I have crossed the secret ways of life,
I have become the Goal.
The Truth immutable is revealed;
I am the way, the God-Soul.
My spirit aware of all the heights,
I am mute in the core of the Sun.
I barter nothing with time and deeds;
My cosmic play is done.
— from My Flute by Sri Chinmoy
Medway Radio, Chatham, Kent, England, 20 June 1976↩