The First Estate: Religion in Review

On 28 April 1977 Sri Chinmoy was one of three guests interviewed on the weekly WNBC television series “The First Estate: Religion in Review” which is hosted by Dr. Russell Barber. The program began with Sri Chinmoy playing the esraj, and after the three interviews were over, while the program credits were being shown, Sri Chinmoy played again, in place of the program’s usual theme music.

Following is a transcription of Sri Chinmoy’s portion of the program. The entire show is scheduled to be re-broadcast on 28 August.

Dr. Barber: That very peaceful music you have just heard Guru Sri Chinmoy play is one of over 1,000 of his original musical compositions for meditation. Sri Chinmoy is a spiritual teacher and leader of a world-wide religious organisation that is dedicated to an active outer life of service to humanity and a fruitful inner life of prayer and meditation. He is a prolific writer and artist, having written over 300 books and, in a single 24-hour span, 843 poems. He also created 100,000 paintings in just over eleven months. Since 1970 he has served as Director of the United Nations Meditation Group, conducting interdenominational meditation services for U.N. delegates and staff. And he is with us today to help us better understand the phenomenon of meditation. Welcome, Guru. It's a pleasure to have you with us. Guru, what is meditation, and what is its ultimate objective?

Sri Chinmoy: Meditation is our conscious awareness of God and constant oneness with God. When we meditate, our ultimate objective is to be constantly and consciously one with God. This has to be our main objective.

Dr. Barber: Does it differ from prayer in some way?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, it does differ from prayer. Although prayer and meditation lead us to the same goal, their approaches are different. When we pray, we speak to God, and when we meditate, God speaks to us. When we pray, we offer our prayer to God for something, and God listens to our prayers. And when we meditate, we hear God’s Command; we try to hear God’s dictates from above.

Dr. Barber: Guru, can everybody benefit from meditation, or is it something that only a gifted person can have?

Sri Chinmoy: We are all God’s children, so everybody can meditate. It is not for the selected few. If one is sincere enough, then one can meditate. Meditation is not the sole monopoly of any individual. Anybody can meditate, provided he has some sincerity in his heart.

Dr. Barber: Still, there are those who are given special gifts, and you, for example, as a teacher or Guru, must have realised at an early age that you did have some special religious gift. Could you tell me about that?

Sri Chinmoy: At the age of twelve I had quite a few major experiences, and these experiences have led me to what I am now. I went beyond the domain of the physical mind that doubts and suspects, the mind that is never satisfied with anything. I went beyond that mind, and also, by God’s infinite Bounty, I was in a position to have a free access to the Supreme Reality within me.

Dr. Barber: What kinds of special techniques are used by people who practice your form of meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: I ask my students to have a mind totally freed from thoughts. This is the first technique I offer. Then, after some time, I tell them to welcome only good thoughts, divine thoughts, the thoughts that are progressive, illumining and fulfilling. This is how I advise them to start their meditation, especially in the preliminary stages.

Dr. Barber: Well, for example, do they use a mantra, or a word to meditate on?

Sri Chinmoy: No, in our path we do not advocate mantra, incantation. We feel that our prayer and meditation are most effective. At the same time, we do not have a word to say against mantras. It is necessary for those who want to follow certain other paths. In our case love, devotion and surrender to God’s Will is the way to approach the Supreme Reality.

Dr. Barber: I understand that not everybody can be a disciple of yours; that you look into a person’s eyes and you can tell whether or not that person should be able to follow you. Would you look into my eyes and tell me whether or not I could be a disciple of yours?

Sri Chinmoy: I do not want to say in public.

Dr. Barber: I’m afraid it’s negative…

Sri Chinmoy: No, it is not for that, but then it will have a kind of commercial feeling. These things are very intimate, very soulful. When a seeker comes to me, at that time I have to take full responsibility of his entire life, as he has to dedicate himself totally to the inner command, to the Supreme within. So here on television, if I accept or reject someone, it will be an act of injustice to our spiritual belief, and your soul will not permit me to do this kind of thing on television. You have a very fine soul, and your soul will not believe in this kind of commercial acceptance of seekers.

Dr. Barber: Let me ask a question that is related to that. Is it possible for somebody of a particular religious faith — say a Jewish person or a Christian person — to be a disciple of yours and still maintain their faith?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. One can belong to any religion he wants to. Religion is like a house. He has to remain in his house. Then he has to come out to study. He has to go to school. We have implicit faith in all religions. Each religion is a house. You have to stay in your house; I have to stay in my house. But both of us are students. We can go to a common teacher.

Dr. Barber: So there are many paths?

Sri Chinmoy: Many paths that lead to the same realisation. Each religion represents a house.

Dr. Barber: Tell me for a moment about your work at the United Nations. How does meditation aid in the pursuit of world peace?

Sri Chinmoy: When we meditate, we acquire peace of mind, and once we have peace of mind, we simplify our outer life. Our mind is full of complicated thoughts and ideas, and it is constantly assailed by fear, doubt, anxiety and worry. But if we can soulfully meditate early in the morning, we see that there is a way to simplify our life and, at the same time, to see the Reality face to face.

Dr. Barber: How many disciples do you have, Sri Chinmoy?

Sri Chinmoy: I have about 900 disciples.

Dr. Barber: And of course your work goes on all over the world, doesn’t it?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes.

Dr. Barber: But your headquarters is here in New York?

Sri Chinmoy: It is in New York.

Dr. Barber: And do you find that you have many new converts to your brand of faith here in New York? Are there many new people coming in all the time?

Sri Chinmoy: Not all the time. As you know, I am very fussy, I am very strict, so I do not get disciples as some of the Masters get, as easily as possible.

Dr. Barber: Well, I know that you have met with religious leaders all around the world, and I’m very pleased that you’ve come to meet with us and our audience on The First Estate. Thank you very much for being with us.

Sri Chinmoy: Thank you, I am so grateful to you.

[After the taping of this program in mid-March, Sri Chinmoy received the following letters from Dr. Barber and from the associate producer of “The First Estate.”]

WN8C-TV4

NBC Television Stations Division
National Broadcasting Company, Inc.

Thirty Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10020 212-247-8300

Dr. Russell B. Barber
Producer, The First Estate

March 25, 1977

Sri Chinmoy
Sri Chinmoy Centre
P.O. Box 32433
Jamaica, New York 11431

Dear Sri Chinmoy:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for participating in our religious series, THE FIRST ESTATE: Religion in Review.

Your segment is an important contribution in understanding the religious community's opportunities and challenges. It can be seen in the New York Metropolitan Area Sunday, April 24 at 11:30 a.m.*

We deeply appreciate the time and preparation you committed to helping us show how modern men and women express their faith in God.

Sincerely, Dr. Russell B. Barber

*Repeat broadcast following the Sunday Night Film Festival.

cc: Mr. Neil Vineberg

WN8C-TV4

NBC Television Stations Division
National Broadcasting Company, Inc.

Thirty Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10020 212-247-8300

April 11, 1977

Sri Chinmoy
Sri Chinmoy Center
Jamaica, New York 11431

Dear Sri Chinmoy:

Dr. Russell Barber and I want to thank you for remembering us in such special ways.

We hope you will keep the enclosed photos as a rememberance of us and THE FIRST ESTATE. We truly enjoyed having you on the program and hope that we will have another opportunity to have you back again.

Wishing you a happy 13th Anniversary.

Sincerely,

Patricia T. Parker
Associate Producer