University of Washington
2 April 1998
MRS. PAM SCHELL (First Lady of Seattle): I'm so pleased that I can be here and participate, and to be on this very stage with Sri Chinmoy. I will pass this wonderful feeling back to my husband so that he can bring it back to the people he sees every day. He sees thousands of people one way or another, or through Channel 28. We are so pleased that the former Mayor, Mayor Rice, made Seattle a Peace City, and we will carry on that tradition by promoting that idea to all our people.
(She reads the letter from her husband, Mayor Paul Schell.)
PROFESSOR SHAWN WONG (Chairman, Department of English): It gives me great joy to welcome all of you here tonight. I am extremely honoured and happy to introduce to you Sri Chinmoy, a true man of peace and a renowned spiritual leader. We are grateful that he accepted our invitation, on behalf of the Department of English and the entire University of Washington, to come to our university as a Visiting Poet.
Born in a small village in East Bengal, India and educated in a vibrant spiritual community in southern India, Sri Chinmoy has lived in America since 1964. He has tirelessly devoted his life to the pursuit of world peace and to the inspiration of millions of citizens from all walks of life. He has been a true friend and support to many of the revered leaders of our age, including Mother Teresa, Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana. In fact, Mother Teresa and Sri Chinmoy spoke for the last time on August 27th last year, the birthday they shared. Just ten days before she passed on, she said to him: "All that you are doing for the world is for the Glory of God and the good of people! Pray for me. I will pray for you and for all of your many projects for world peace."
We are especially happy to have this universal man of peace here with us at the University of Washington because he is an example of the unimaginable creative potential which we all possess, but to which we rarely have access. The beautiful peace-birds and uplifting poetry display which you saw upon entering Kane Hall are part of a vast collection of more than 9 million peace-bird drawings and over 62,000 poems which Sri Chinmoy has created. As well, he has authored over 1,200 published books and composed more than 14,000 songs. When asked to share the secret of his vast creative offerings, he answers: "My goal is self-transcendence. ... Every day I pray and meditate to become a better human being so that I can be of better service to mankind."
In his inspiring life's work, Sri Chinmoy is a living embodiment of the wisdom offered by our great moral and spiritual leaders...
Of Mahatma Gandhi, who said, "I believe that if one man gains spirituality, the whole world gains with him."
Of Martin Luther King, Jr., who in his sermon The Drum Major Instinct told us: "I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity."
Of his dear friend Mother Teresa, who recited the transformative Prayer of St. Francis during an interfaith programme at the United Nations in 1975 at which Sri Chinmoy offered the opening silent meditation:
"For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to selfishness that we are born to eternal life."
Sri Chinmoy has given of himself greatly as a servant to all those who wish to lead the life of the spirit. For him the Supreme is not the sole property of any particular spiritual faith, but all the world's enduring faiths are like many rivers that flow into the same sea of love and selfless service. He has become a shining exemplar of the motto of our own University, "Lux Sit," "Let there be Light."
It is with great joy, then, that I wish to present to Sri Chinmoy The Light of Asia Award.
NOTE: The text of the award plaque reads: "The Light of Asia Award is presented to Sri Chinmoy by the University of Washington, Department of English, April 2, 1998, for sharing his spiritual inspiration, his creativity and his wisdom with millions of people worldwide. Illumining the ancient Eastern message of humanity's oneness, he has shown us through his writings, art, music, silent peace invocation and global peace programmes that the betterment of humanity begins within the heart of each and every individual."