The Master’s poetry: quantity or quality?

There was a great spiritual Master who was very well known both for his spiritual height and for his literary capacity. The Master had published innumerable books of essays, short stories, plays and poems, which were read and appreciated by his disciples and followers, as well as by spiritual seekers throughout the world. One day a poet-disciple of the Master came to him after reading the Master’s latest volume of poetry.

“Master, you know that I have always been a great admirer of the poet in you. You have written thousands of poems, and still it seems that your creativity will never end. But I know, Master, that it is your spiritual height that is the source of your poetic achievements. For a long time I have wanted to learn about poetry and poetic style from the spiritual point of view. Also, although you write primarily for the seeker in us, I would like to know how the critic in us should read your poetry.”

“Son, first let us define what we mean by style. If it is a matter of metre or poetic rhythm, then I wish to say I knew and still know English metre extremely well. In my earlier poems written in India, I was extremely faithful and devoted to English metre. But each poet has a way of expressing his inner experience, his inner vision; so each one has a style of his own. Right now, living in America, the freedom-loving country, I have begun to take advantage of this ideal of freedom. I now write in a modern style, having discarded the so-called English metrical style that I once used. My present style, though, will not fit into any set pattern, such as the one in which the modern world writes, or what you may call ultra-modern style. I am not able to write in this kind of style.

“About the quantity, my son, I wish to tell you that I will go on writing and writing because the Supreme has promised me that He will be responsible for the quality of my poetry. Since He has told me this, and I believe Him, I shall continue to write. It is my responsibility to create and to offer my creation, and it is His responsibility to inspire excellence in my creation, since He is creating in and through me. If inspiration to write in quantity comes, in one day I may write 360 poems. If it does not come, it may take three or four weeks for me to write the same number. On my last lecture tour, I wrote 1,000 poems in three weeks, apart from giving one and sometimes two talks a day, meeting with disciples, and flying from one country to another. Even during the hours and hours we spent driving in the car, we maintained silence, and I went on writing and writing.”

“Master, what is most amazing is that, with you, quantity and quality seem to go together.”

“As I said before, my son, since it is the Will of the Supreme, I will not refrain from writing and, while I am writing, the Supreme will pay attention to my quality. I have a certain standard of my own. When I write poems, only on very, very rare occasions do they fall below that standard. Otherwise, the poet in me and the critic in me constantly go together; my vision and my justice go together.

“Now, when we come to the question of criticism, we have to be very careful. It is true that there must be some kind of standard, literary or otherwise, but very often critics say things just for the sake of criticising, to make themselves feel important or great. How many great poets, not to speak of others who have gained world-renown, have been mercilessly destroyed by world criticism that was absolutely undeserved. These men may have contributed significantly to Mother Earth, but by its merciless criticism the world has destroyed their lives. The world’s jealousy, doubt, suspicion, self-importance and other undivine qualities have been thrown at many great poets, artists, writers and others, and because of this kind of negative pressure, some of them developed serious diseases and died.

“India’s greatest poet, Tagore, also fell victim to merciless criticism, especially before he won the Nobel Prize for his poetry. The critics could see no value, no meaning, in much of his work. They said it was all absurdity. But when Tagore won the Nobel Prize, the same critics who had previously seen nothing in his poems suddenly found that they were full of significance and contained unparalleled height and depth.

“God knows how many thousands more of poems I shall write if I stay on earth for a number of years. My children will have to bear with me. Some of them may be sick of my poems, I know, but I shall make them even more sick. Some of my disciples never fall sick, though, because they have not tasted this undivine fruit. They are really clever and wise. But some who are neither clever nor wise read my poems and find it difficult to digest them all, so they suffer.”

“Master, you joke about your literary capacity, but you know well how much your disciples read and cherish your poems. We find them a great help to us in our spiritual lives. I am not sick and I will never become sick of your poetry.”

“My child, I am proud of you. True, there are disciples who read my poems and who never become sick of them because, no matter what I write, they try to mould their lives according to my words. They sincerely want to mould their lives according to my will. They feel that no matter what I am — divine or undivine — they want to be my very own. The disciples who have come to this realisation are truly pleasing me in my own way.”

29 July 1974

From: Sri Chinmoy, The ambition-deer - , Agni Press, 1974
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