Part VI: My aspiring heart's poetry-flames, United Nations

Introduction and award presentation7

[On 30 March 1993 the United Nations Staff Recreation Council Society of Writers honoured Sri Chinmoy for the publication of his 900th book and for receiving the degree of Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa, from the University of Southern Philippines in January of that year.]

Mr Hans Janitschek (President, Society of Writers): I am a writer, not a poet, but I have learned a lot from poetry. And Sri Chinmoy's writing touches me deeply. Whether it is 9,000 poems or just one, it is beautiful, it is wonderful, it warms your heart and inspires you, lifts you up and makes you move. Most great poets have also been great movers. They have changed the world by changing the minds and the hearts of people.

We are gathered here at a building where billions of words are being written which no one reads, which have no effect, which no one would ever want to have because the quantity is meaningless if there is no substance or spirit.

Yesterday during the Oscars, Federico Fellini, another great poet, was quoted as having said, "The visionaries are the true realists." Sri Chinmoy, you are a visionary of the first order, and what you are saying, what you are writing is real — real for each of us as individuals, real for the United Nations as an organisation.

I have been watching you over the decades quietly walking the halls of the United Nations. I have heard you play instruments. But above all I have felt your presence. And that is poetry of the highest order, because what poetry does is convey feelings. Again, Federico Fellini said: "The message is the feeling." The message is hard to describe without feelings, and this is why the presence of a great man, a holy man to many, changes the picture. In your presence, things change. In your presence, we feel something that we would not feel otherwise, and when we leave you, we take something with us. Sometimes it is a rose; sometimes it is a piece of delicious chocolate, if we are lucky. But above all, it is that feeling of eternity, of goodness, of warmth, of love.

In this spirit it gives me special pleasure to present you today with an award that we have given to other interesting people before. One of them comes to mind instantly because of the special relationship you have to him, and that, of course, is Mikhail S. Gorbachev. I know you met him when he was in power, and I saw a photograph of you together soon after the fall. You were there, and he wanted you there, in the moment of glory and in the moment of defeat because, again, I do believe your spirit played a role. And he knew it. A man that was the most powerful man in the world in terms of material power gave it all up because of faith in the spirit of man and the dignity of man.

We gave this award to Vanessa Redgrave; we gave this award to Jason Robards; we gave it to Carl Bernstein; we gave it to Norman Mailer; to Arthur Miller. I could go on and on. Today we are giving it to you. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to give you this beautiful piece of art with three wonderful words, just three words on it: Ex mente orbis — "From the mind comes the world." Nothing can describe you better than these three Latin words.

BI 21. Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, United Nations Headquarters, New York, 30 March 1993.