Interview for Radio WNYC22 October 1976
Interview for Radio WNYCAndre Bernard: At this time we are privileged to have on the morning’s programme, Sri Chinmoy, who I have already told you is a painter, a composer, a musician, a writer and a spiritual leader. Sri Chinmoy is going to be giving a concert on Saturday, October 30 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Church on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street. It’s a free concert and we’re going to be talking with Sri Chinmoy about this concert and, as I said, about other things also. He’s going to give us a short preview of this concert, but before he does that I want to tell you just a little bit about Sri Chinmoy.
He was born in Bengal, India in 1931. Sri Chinmoy entered an ashram or spiritual community at about the age of 12 and spent the next 20 years practicing intense spiritual disciplines. During this period he achieved a rare state of knowledge which later formed the basis for his various creative achievements. Sri Chinmoy has expressed his inner realisations not only through painting, but also through literature and music. Since coming to the West in 1964 he has written nearly 300 books of spiritual poems and essays, short stories, plays, aphorisms and questions and answers. He also serves as Director of the United Nations Meditation Group, conducting meditations twice a week for UN delegates and staff.
I’m going to welcome Sri Chinmoy to our microphones by asking him to play a little of the music that he composes and plays, and then we will be talking with him.
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you. (Sri Chinmoy played the esraj for a few minutes.)
Andre Bernard: That was Sri Chinmoy, who is going to be in concert playing music for meditation on Saturday, October 30. Sri Chinmoy, will you come closer to the microphone?
Sri Chinmoy: I am extremely happy to be here with you.
Andre Bernard: Thank you. I wanted to ask you about the instrument upon which you were playing. What is that called?
Sri Chinmoy: It is an Indian instrument called an ‘esraj’.
Andre Bernard: And is that a traditional instrument, or modern? It looks almost like a combination of a violin and guitar.
Sri Chinmoy: This is a traditional instrument, and it is played mostly in Bengal, West Bengal.
Andre Bernard: I couldn’t help but think, as I heard the lovely, restful music that you were making, of the difference in taste in music among at least the older generation in this country and in the East. It seems that we are very noisy people and our music reflects that. It is very noisy, loud, boisterous. Do you have any idea why this is? Is this a difference in temperament or in the people’s needs? Have you thought about that at all?
Sri Chinmoy: According to me it is a matter of personal preference. Whether it is actually a need is another question. When I prefer something, I try to do it. Whether I actually need it is a different matter. There are many things in life which we do just because we like them. But when it is a matter of need, the story may be totally different.
Andre Bernard: So we couldn’t say it was necessarily a need, but just a preference. That clarifies it, certainly. A man with your background, who is learned in all the arts practically, and who brings spirituality to the United Nations, (I mentioned that you conduct meditations there also, and I know you have been to many universities) have you noted any differences between the people you see in England, for instance, and in this country or in other countries, or do you see people as basically all the same?
Sri Chinmoy: People are basically all the same no matter where they are, for we are all children of God. We may say that God has many, many houses, countless houses and countless children. But just because we are all God’s children, we are all basically the same.
Andre Bernard: You were born in India and you’ve been all over the world. Now it seems that you spend most of your time in the West. Why have you chosen to do your work in the West in general and in New York in particular?
Sri Chinmoy: It was not left up to me. It was not my decision. My inner guide, whom I call the Supreme, commanded me to come to the West and to serve Him in the aspiring seekers here. It was not my personal choice.
Andre Bernard: We have a poet and writer — I’m sure you must be familiar with the English poet Rudyard Kipling — and he once said that, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” Yet it seems that East and West are meeting now. I would like to get your opinion on that.
Sri Chinmoy: Well, I have read that poem many many times. As a child I learned it by heart. But this is also an individual experience. According to my own inner experience the West and the East have already met, precisely because both the East and the West are inside the Heart of the Supreme. We notice two significant qualities in the East and in the West. The East has inner poise, and the West has dynamism, illumining dynamism. These two divine qualities are already spreading and combining; therefore, I feel that in the outer world also, both the East and the West are already becoming one. The inner poise of the East and the illumining dynamism of the West are combining and synthesising in a proper manner.
Andre Bernard: And you are suggesting then, if I infer correctly from your comments, that each complements the other.
Sri Chinmoy: Absolutely true. They are like two complementary souls. What we have to offer, we are offering to you. What you have to offer, you are offering to us.
Andre Bernard: Let’s talk for just a moment, before we have to conclude our conversation, about the concert that you will be giving on Saturday, 30 October at St. Thomas Church. It is listed as ‘Sri Chinmoy in concert playing music for meditation.’ Would you like to say what is going to happen at that time? What do you do? Do you simply play and people meditate, or do you lead a meditation group?
Sri Chinmoy: I shall play, and at the same time I shall be in a meditative, contemplative mood. I expect the audience to be seekers, and these seekers will be supporting me with their own aspiration and meditation. When I play, when I meditate, I have only one objective in mind and that is to be of inner service to the aspirants. So when I play, I shall do it with the spirit of dedication and in the consciousness of soulful meditation which I always offer to the aspiring seekers.
Andre Bernard: Does your meditation technique have any special procedure or quality which differs from the meditation we are generally exposed to now? There are many people in our audience who are into meditation techniques. Does yours differ from the others, or does it have any special quality that you would like to mention?
Sri Chinmoy: I have no idea as regards other methods or procedures, but our method I can tell you briefly. Our path is the path of the heart. We meditate on the heart and try to offer divine love, divine devotion and divine surrender to the Supreme. Human love is all possession, human devotion is nothing short of attachment, and human surrender is either compromise or compulsion. When a slave surrenders to his master out of fear, he gets no joy. But when a seeker surrenders his whole existence to the Supreme, he does it cheerfully and unconditionally; therefore, he derives abundant joy. So it is divine love, divine devotion and divine surrender which we are trying to attain through our soulful meditation.
Andre Bernard: One final question. Not only have you traveled throughout the world but, as I have said, you lead a meditation group at the United Nations here in New York, so you come into contact with people who control the nations and guide the destinies of our various nations. We are living in a very exciting time, a time of change, a time of tremendous technological development. But it is also, at the same time, a very dangerous period. For the first time in the history of mankind we possess the technology to destroy ourselves. What do you see? Are you optimistic about the future? Do you think man will destroy himself, or will he achieve the true brotherhood which you espouse and which would eliminate that catastrophe?
Sri Chinmoy: It is my inner conviction that man will have a better future. Man will not be so destructive. The power that man has discovered will eventually be used for constructive purposes, not to destroy. God has created the world for satisfaction and not for destruction, so eventually there must be brotherhood. Brotherhood will reign supreme on earth. It is only a matter of time. As more people begin to pray and meditate sincerely, the life of faith and the life of love will come to the fore. Then a divine harmony, peace and light will flow throughout the length and breadth of the world.
Andre Bernard: Thank you, Sri Chinmoy. We have been speaking to Sri Chinmoy, who is a composer, painter, writer and spiritual leader. He leads meditation groups at the United Nations and all over the world, and he is going to be in concert on Saturday, 30 October, that’s a week from tomorrow, at St. Thomas Church at 5th Avenue and 53rd Street. The public is invited to attend and the concert is free. Thank you again, Sri Chinmoy, for being here.
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you.