Part IIFW 225-227. Sri Chinmoy answered these questions after his talk to UNDP staff members on 19 November 1975.
Question: What is the difference between Yoga, Zen and Hinduism?Sri Chinmoy: The root was Hinduism. Then from Hinduism came Buddhism, and from Buddhism came Zen. Let us take Hinduism as the grandfather, Buddhism as the father and Zen as the son.
Let us think of Hinduism as an eternal religion, or we can take it as a form of self-discipline that will one day allow us to feel boundless joy, boundless peace, boundless love. When we think of Buddhism, immediately the compassion-aspect of reality comes forward into our mind. The world needs compassion badly. I show compassion to you, you show compassion to me and with our mutual compassion we live on earth. When I am in need of your compassion, you show me compassion; when you are in need of my compassion, I show you compassion. In this way we exist together. If we don’t show compassion to humanity, then we don’t exist.
When we come to Zen, what we need is awareness. We have to be fully, consciously and constantly aware of what we are doing, what we are seeing, what we are growing into. Zen requires constant, conscious awareness. If we are meditating, we are aware of it; if we are eating, we are aware of it; if we are talking to our friend, we are aware of it.
When we come to Yoga, we sing the song of oneness. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means oneness. Yoga says that if we establish our oneness with something or someone, with an incident or an experience, then we get everything. If I am one with you, then I know what is happening inside your heart, inside your mind. If I am one with somebody else, them immediately I have a free access to him and I know what is happening in him. And if I can establish my oneness with an incident or experience, then I become part and parcel of that incident or experience in life.
At the highest point in Zen there is something called satori or illumination. If once you are illumined, then there is nothing and no one on earth with which or with whom you cannot establish your oneness. Before illumination there is darkness on one side and light on the other side. This side of the sea is darkness, the other side is light and you are in between. But if you go and take shelter in illumination, then your own inner effulgence envelops and encompasses the whole world.
Before illumination takes place, you are in ignorance and you feel that the world is in ignorance. But once illumination takes place, which is called satori in Zen, you become one with the Vision of the Absolute. At that time, you live in silence-life, you live in sound-life, but everywhere is illumination and you grow into this illumination. Once you are illumined, you are freed from the meshes of ignorance. For millennia you lived in ignorance, but once illumination has taken place, then there is no ignorance in you at all. This room is dark, but then an electrician brings in some light. For days and months and years this room has remained unlit, unillumined, dark, but then the electrician comes and the room is illumined. So the greatest gift of Zen is illumination: the highest illumination, all-illumining illumination, all-fulfilling illumination.
Yoga’s greatest contribution is not only illumination, but also perfection in our constant oneness with what God has offered to us, what God is going to give us and what God Himself is. If somebody is suffering, then Yoga becomes totally, inseparably one with that sufferer. If somebody is in the seventh heaven of delight, then Yoga becomes one with him in the seventh heaven of delight. Illumination, on the other hand, is a process, a regular process in which we come out from ignorance-night and enter into wisdom-light. Once we grow into wisdom-light, then we are totally freed from bondage, from limitation, from imperfection, from so-called death.
If we follow the path of Zen, then we go from ignorance to illumination: and when our whole consciousness is illumined, we derive boundless satisfaction. If we follow the path of Yoga, then on the strength of our identification we feel that we are that which we want and we actually become that thing. So Yoga is oneness and perfection, whereas Zen is illumination and liberation.