Interview between Sri Chinmoy and Muhammad Ali

MAM 1e1. This interview took place in Herbert Muhammad's apartment in Manhattan on 29 September 1977, the day that Muhammad Ali defeated Earnie Shavers for the world heavyweight boxing championship.

Conversation — part I

Sri Chinmoy (enroute to the apartment): Were you in India?

Jeremiah (Muhammad Ali’s assistant): Bombay.

Sri Chinmoy: You come from Bombay?

Jeremiah: No, I went to Bombay. I’m from America. I was reading some of your little book with the conversation between you and Muhammad Ali and Herbert Muhammad. It was very interesting, very interesting. You share many of our own views and I thought it was very, very interesting.

Sri Chinmoy: In Allah’s Heart we are all one.

Jeremiah: Right, right!

Sri Chinmoy: We are all one. How is Herbert Muhammad? The last time I saw him he was not well.

Jeremiah: He’s doing fine. He will be here about one o’clock today. His health has improved. You know, he has a little sugar diabetes, and he is overweight, too. Now, please come this way. Have a seat, Sir.

Sri Chinmoy (to Muhammad Ali): Dearest brother, greater than the greatest, dearest brother, I have come to greet you and offer you once more my soulful salute — my soulful salute and deepest appreciation, admiration and love.

Muhammad Ali: God bless you. Have a seat.

Sri Chinmoy: Yesterday it was our strong desire to honour you at the United Nations. Unfortunately, you could not be at the United Nations.

Muhammad Ali: I was so obligated; I couldn’t make it. I appreciated it. I was real honoured to get that invitation, but we couldn’t make it. What do you do there?

Sri Chinmoy: We pray and meditate twice a week. On Tuesdays and Fridays we pray together with the delegates and staff. There I was going to offer you my deepest gratitude for what you are doing — not only for the black Muslims but also for mankind. You are changing the face and fate of mankind. Your very name encourages and inspires. As soon as people hear ‘Muhammad Ali,’ they are inspired. They get tremendous joy. They get such dynamism to be brave and face ignorance. Your very name does that. That’s why I’m so grateful to you, so proud of you.

Muhammad Ali: My goal is to be like you one day — to be peaceful and out of this sport working for humanity and for God. I was telling Jeremiah that after we finish boxing I want to learn how to get out of this life and use my popularity and my intelligence for humanity — to help people in whatever way I can. I don’t know how, but I want to do something — bring people together, work for God and help people. I know there is something I am supposed to do, but I don’t know really exactly what its purpose is; but it’s something.

Sri Chinmoy: You know the purpose. It is only a question of Allah’s Hour. You are the supreme instrument of Allah. Today He is utilising you as the greatest boxer. One day He will utilise you as the greatest preacher. The other day I was reading in the newspaper about you as a preacher and minister. So, now your heart of love you are using for a special purpose.

Muhammad Ali: I’ll only say one thing, Brother, not to cut you off. But I don’t want and I never wanted the image of being the greatest preacher. Boxing is all publicity. In this country this is how we promote: “I’m the greatest. I’ll get him in round seven.” But this is not really my heart. This is just outer appearance to promote fights. I don’t really feel this way. Ministry is so serious, and there everybody is equal before God. Therefore, I don’t want to get the image of being the greatest preacher, because that’s boastful; it is not humble, it is not spiritual. So I don’t want to go into that thing — that I am the greatest preacher: just a minister, just a lecturer or helper.

There are so many people who are great; but only God, Allah, is really great. Therefore, I want to get out of this brashness, this image. We’ve got to stop that “I’m the greatest” thing and forget it. I am just a humble servant and I have a lot to learn. I need people like yourself to teach me what to say and what to do and how to approach certain things. So I don’t want to talk that “I am the greatest” attitude and preach it. Do you understand what I mean? I don’t want that.