The other hour, WRVR-FM radioOn 3 July 1977 Sri Chinmoy was the guest on "The Other Hour," a radio program broadcast live in New York. Following is a transcription of the interview.
The other hour, WRVR-FM radioDonna Halper: You’re with “The Other Hour,” and with our theme song we are actually on the air, through the Grace of God. I’m Donna Halper. You never know what you are going to hear on “The Other Hour,” but what you are going to hear tonight is a little bit different and a little bit unique. We have a very, very great person, with whom you are probably familiar if you’re into music at all. He’s been the spiritual Master of a number of major musicians, and is also a great philosopher and teacher, and a musician himself. Of course, I am talking about Sri Chinmoy, who is our guest in the studio tonight. You can call in and speak with him a little bit later. I think before we do anything else, Sri Chinmoy, would you like to play some music for us? I believe this is connected with meditation. Am I correct, Guru? Music for meditation.
(Sri Chinmoy played the esraj.)
Donna Halper: Wow! How would you like to do that for the whole rest of the show? God, is that beautiful! We have a whole group of engineers who are saying that’s nice, seriously. For our audience, the instrument which he is playing is called the esraj. I’d like to ask you now, what is the purpose of this music when you are meditating? What is the effect it is supposed to have on a person while he is meditating?
Sri Chinmoy: Soulful music intensifies our meditation. Soulful music expedites our soul’s journey. Soulful music helps the seeker establish his conscious and inseparable oneness with the Supreme Pilot; therefore, I give so much importance to music in the spiritual life.
Donna Halper: In other words, to hear music helps one to become more in tune with God. How does it do this? If I were an atheist and I heard that music, I don’t know if I would think about God, but I know that I would feel very relaxed and peaceful. Would you say that that feeling means being closer to God?
Sri Chinmoy: We cannot define God in terms of a specific feeling. Each one has to experience God for himself. If we say God is all Peace or God is all Delight, then there will be people to contradict us. Each one has to define God for himself. We all want to have satisfaction. We will have satisfaction by experiencing truth and light, and others will also derive satisfaction from that reality-experience, although they may name it in a different way.
Donna Halper: But don’t people come to you looking to find out what God is?
Sri Chinmoy: They do come to me for that, but only people who believe in God come to me. Stark atheists do not come to me. For them God is something else. The God we speak of is not God for them. But again, I have deepest respect for their God. If they say there is no such thing as God, I say all right. As long as they believe in something, I feel that that very thing is God, for God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.
Donna Halper: So the person who believes in music, for instance, the person who is very, very into something like playing an instrument, that’s a form of religion, too.
Sri Chinmoy: It is not a form of religion, but it is a form of communication with the Source.
Donna Halper: Sri Chinmoy, when people come to you, what are they usually hoping to find?
Sri Chinmoy: Usually, they hope for peace of mind; they expect a better understanding of life. They expect inner ecstasy.
Donna Halper: Do you give them that?
Sri Chinmoy: I do offer it to them, and they receive from me according to their receptivity.
Donna Halper: There are so many people seeking, trying to find out about religion. They don’t feel satisfied with organized religion, let us say, so they come to you. How would they know whether or not you are the right spiritual Master for them?
Sri Chinmoy: They will be able to discover this in a few minutes’ time. As soon as they see me, if I am meant for them, they will get a kind of vibration, a kind of familiar feeling. They don’t have to talk to me. They will feel an inner communication. They will see and feel in me a friend, a true friend, an eternal friend.
Donna Halper: What about the person who comes to you and is very sceptical? Will you also be a friend to that person?
Sri Chinmoy: I will definitely be his friend, but he will feel uncomfortable. He will have to go to someone else, who will be able to guide him in a different way, and with whom he will feel comfortable.
Donna Halper: We’re talking about music and meditation and religion. To continue on the subject of religion, Guru, there are so many people claiming to be Gurus these days, there are so many people claiming to be Messiahs, claiming to have the right answer. How can a person who is serious about this tell who is a real spiritual Master and who is not?
Sri Chinmoy: There are quite a few ways to know whether a Master is genuine or not. If the Master says that he will be able to grant you realisation overnight, then he is a false Master. If he says that if you give him a fee of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, then he will be able to help you enter into a higher realm of consciousness and attain peace, light and bliss, then he is a false Master. A true Master will tell the seeker all the time that he is not God; he is not even the Guru. God Himself is the real Master. He is only serving God in the seekers; he is not the Guru. The real Guru is God Himself. So, if a seeker wants to know who a true Master is, from these guidelines he can usually know the real from the false.
Donna Halper: So the person who claims that he has the magic answer is probably not a person who should be taken seriously?
Sri Chinmoy: Spiritual progress is not like instant tea. It is a slow and steady process. Slowly, steadily and unerringly we have to walk along Eternity’s Road in order to reach Infinity’s Goal.
Donna Halper: If someone comes to you and decides that you are the person he would like to study with, what does he have to do?
Sri Chinmoy: There are a few rules and regulations which the seekers must follow if I accept them as my students. First of all, I shall ask them to be very simple, very sincere, humble and pure. I recommend a very simple life.
Donna Halper: When you say a simple life, we read in the paper about various movements which are very austere, where the men and women are not allowed to associate with each other, they are not allowed to eat meat, and they pretty much just stay inside and meditate all the time. Is this the kind of life that your disciples live?
Sri Chinmoy: No, I do not advocate austerity. I do not want my disciples to live in the Himalayan caves. We advocate acceptance of life. We have to accept life, and then we have to transform life. There are many things in human life which we cannot appreciate. We find them to be our deplorable weaknesses. So we try to illumine these weaknesses. We do not shun life. We accept life, but we transform the things that have to be transformed.
Donna Halper: In addition to meditation, do your disciples practise any chanting, or anything of that nature?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, they do chant occasionally. I have composed quite a few chants to verses from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. I have set tune to quite a few verses, and my students occasionally chant them.
Donna Halper: What I am wondering about as far as meditation goes (and I am sure there are a number of other people interested in this as well) is, what is the difference between what we might call secular meditation — that is, just going off someplace in the country where it is nice and quiet, and thinking peaceful thoughts — and the meditation that you do with that kind of music and things of that nature? Is there any difference between the two, or are both just steps along the same way?
Sri Chinmoy: If some individuals get peace of mind by living in the countryside and leading a relaxed life, it is good for them. Others want to go through a more disciplined life. They feel that meditation is something very sacred; it is not something casual. For them it is advisable to meditate with utmost concentration in a meditation hall. Whether it is in the city or in the country is not important. Undoubtedly these people will make faster progress than those who just go into the countryside to enjoy the beauty and think good thoughts. But ultimately both the roads lead to the same destination.
Donna Halper: Do you tell your students how to meditate, or are they free to choose for themselves the best way?
Sri Chinmoy: Outwardly I give them only very general guidelines, because each individual’s way of meditation is personal and unique. But out of God’s infinite Bounty I have the capacity to teach their souls inwardly how to meditate. Each disciple of mine learns his best way of meditation from the soul. Also, I have written considerably on meditation and different inner techniques, so they can read my writings.
Donna Halper: For the person who is just by himself and really would like to meditate, is there a way that he can get into it without going to a school or to a teacher and learning how?
Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. They can read some spiritual books for instruction, and then start meditating at home. The best possible thing is to have a peaceful mind — not to allow any thoughts whatsoever to enter into the mind. But they will see that some thoughts are entering in spite of their best efforts, so they will have to make a selection, and only allow the good thoughts to remain in the mind. The bad thoughts they will discard as soon as possible. By allowing only the good thoughts they will be able to get some peace of mind. Meditation means peace of mind and bliss in the heart.
Donna Halper: Now you are raising a question. I can hear people out there saying, “That’s great, to sit there and think good thoughts and things like that. But what about when you are in the middle of the material life and everything is going wrong and it has been a bad day at the office and your boss just yelled at you and so forth and so on. How do you get the good thoughts in your mind at a time like that?”
Sri Chinmoy: Morning shows the day in most cases. In the morning, before we enter into the hustle and bustle of life, before we go out of our house and enter into the day’s activities, if we meditate soulfully for a few minutes, then definitely we will get some inner peace. This peace we shall carry inside our hearts when we go to the office or enter into the multifarious activities and confusion of our daily life. Then we can bring to the fore this inner peace, and we will definitely be able to control the situation,
Donna Halper: I think there is a tremendous precedent for that. If I remember correctly, in the Bible it says that the best time to pray is in the morning, because you start out your day thinking about spiritual things, and that carries you through the rest of the day. So what you are saying is not really very different from what we call Western religion.
Sri Chinmoy: There is not so much difference as people think between Western and Eastern religion. We are all God’s children. We speak in different languages, but when it is a matter of the heart — your heart, my heart, his heart, her heart — they are all in tune. It is only the mind that creates problems. The aspiring heart is constantly in communication with the soul, and the soul is the representative of God, so there is always an abiding truth inside all of us. When it is a matter of real spirituality, there is no geographical barrier — no east, no west, no north, no south. There is only hearts’ oneness. It is through our hearts’ oneness that we fulfil ourselves and fulfil God in and through us.
Donna Halper: When a person becomes more involved in spirituality, this would lead to, let us say, their becoming less tied to things like prejudices. So they wouldn’t have any feelings against any race or any creed or anything like this. People who are caught up in prejudicial thoughts, let us say, have they turned away from God, or do they just not understand God, or what?
Sri Chinmoy: They have not necessarily turned away from God, only they understand God according to their limited capacities. But a true seeker will not condemn them. On the contrary, he will try to see and feel that the mistakes committed by them are his own mistakes, because he has accepted God totally, including God’s entire creation, and these people who are making mistakes are also God’s children. So the sincere aspirant feels that it is obligatory on his part to consider the weaknesses, the failures and the shortcomings of others as his own. Because he loves God, he feels that he has to be identified with God’s creation. He cannot negate God’s creation; he cannot speak ill of God’s creation. He can only accept God’s creation as such and pray to God, meditate on God, to illumine His creation.
Donna Halper: So if a person becomes involved in meditating, the more they meditate and the more they understand about God, will they get more understanding of the world as well?
Sri Chinmoy: They will get more understanding, more illumination. They will be able to accept the world, not negate the world, for the world is God’s creation, and Creator and creation always go together. If we accept them together, then we will be able to fulfil the Supreme Reality within us.
Donna Halper: You get a lot of students, I gather, who would be considered middle class, in that they are products of pretty much the average American home. When they come to you, do they stay, or do you find that they regard meditating as a kind of an interesting fad and after a while they get tired of it?
Sri Chinmoy: Oh, no. In my case I am fortunate enough to be able to tell you that my students have taken spirituality and meditation very seriously. Of course, some people do leave. But in comparison to the number that come, very few people have left. Meditation is not something that becomes boring after a few years. But because people have their set ways of thinking, or because they have personal problems or vital problems, they may leave. They come to feel that this way of meditation is not suitable for them anymore, but not because meditation was just a fad for them. They took meditation seriously. But many thoughts, many desires, many fantasies, many idiosyncracies may come in, and the path is not suitable anymore, so then they leave.
Donna Halper: I understand. While we are talking to Sri Chinmoy, if you have any question you would like to ask him, you can call in. If you would like to speak with Sri Chinmoy and ask him some questions on meditation, on Yoga, or on life in general, please call. What you are listening to is “The Other Hour” here on WRVR …
In the meantime, Sri Chinmoy, you’ve had a number of musicians as your students, people in our audience would be interested in knowing. Why do you think musicians, such as Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, who was so involved in what might be considered the material life — drugs, and things Like that — may seek a Guru?
Sri Chinmoy: The answer is very simple. The things that they did before did not help them find the true divinity within themselves. They did not find what they were looking for, so they wanted to find a spiritual Master to help them.
Donna Halper: What did John McLaughlin come to you looking for? Did you give him the answer to better music, or was he just unhappy with his life when you met him?
Sri Chinmoy: He wanted to lead a higher life, and he wanted to make tremendous change and progress in his life of music.
Donna Halper: Was he able to do that?
Sri Chinmoy: I am sure he did.
Donna Halper: So it seems like you are saying you give the student that which you feel he wants to receive.
Sri Chinmoy: I do not give, but I become an instrument. I meditate on God, and pray to Him to grant them the things that they want if they are good things, if they are divine, if they are spiritual, if they are worthwhile. If the student is longing for something earthbound, for something that is going to bind him, I will be the last person to help him get it.
[To be continued in next issue.]