Meeting with Senator Leticia Shahani

Sri Chinmoy: My most esteemed sister, yesterday I read and reread the compassion-flooded words you wrote about me to our beloved President Ramos. Although I have written millions of words in quite a few books, I do not know how I can adequately express the gratitude I have in the inmost recesses of my heart. In deep silence I am offering to you my heart's soulful and prayerful gratitude.

[Sri Chinmoy meditates briefly.]

Just an hour ago these young student-friends of mine left under my door a very short résumé of your life's activities and achievements. I was so deeply moved. Your lofty vision and your illumining and fulfilling achievements belong not only to your country but to the whole world.

Each individual comes into existence in a particular country. From the one life-tree come many branches with countless flowers, fruits and leaves. The life-tree blossoms in the various parts of the world and brings us the message of Eternity's oneness. This Eternity's oneness you see and feel so clearly. You feel the entire world as your oneness-home and you are consciously expressing this soulful love for the entire world. Forgive me, esteemed sister, I have not come to offer you a sermon. Only I am expressing my heart's most sincere gratitude for the kind message that you gave to your dear brother about me.

Senator Shahani: You are welcome, Sri Chinmoy. I am glad to have this pleasure of meeting you before you leave the Philippines. I used to hear about you when I was at the UN because U Thant was my first boss. But I never had the chance to meet you. And I have many Indian links. My late husband was Indian, and my father was the first Ambassador of the Philippines to India.

Sri Chinmoy: There is a time we call God's choice Hour. You were at the UN in New York for so many years working in so many capacities. I also have been living in New York for the last twenty-nine years, but we never had the opportunity to meet. Here — at long last!

Secretary-General U Thant was extremely, extremely kind to me, and with my heart's utmost humility I would like to say we became very close friends. I wrote a book about him and also we exchanged quite a few letters. As you know, he was a devotee of Lord Buddha. I wrote a play about the Lord Buddha, and U Thant was so kind as to come and preside over the function where it was performed. He encouraged me sincerely and blessingfully in my activities at the United Nations. There we have lots of activities. We invite the delegates and staff to come and pray. And if countries have a special day, we try to bring to the fore their good qualities. We try to encourage and inspire them in our own way with our prayers and meditations.

You have three children, I believe? Their names are Ranjit, Chandra and Lila?

Senator Shahani: Ranjit is Vice-Governor of a province here. He is a young, idealistic, still unmarried young man. Chandra is a boy, actually. He was born in 1969, when the first man landed on the moon. My husband said we had to link this boy with the moon somehow, so that's how he came to have a girl's name. But he likes it. Lila is a girl. She teaches at the University.

Sri Chinmoy: Lila means Cosmic Game, Ranjit is conqueror and Chandra represents the moon. And may I know the meaning of your name?

Senator Shahani: It's a Latin name — really, a Spanish name. Our ancestors were Ba'hai. It means joy.

Are you happy with the results of your trip here, Sri Chinmoy?

Sri Chinmoy: I am more than happy. I have been blessed most generously by the heart and the soul of your country. Mine, as you know, is not a mission. It is only a feeling of oneness I try to express wherever we go. We are trying to serve mankind. We depend on the light that we have within. Our inner light has to come to the fore. Otherwise, we will not be able to fulfil our God-ordained task on earth.

As I mentioned a few minutes ago, we are all part of the one life-tree. So the life-tree wants to branch out and offer its good qualities to others. I tell my students that each individual is composed of good and bad qualities. Our shortcomings we try to minimise with the hope we will be able to diminish them and eventually do away with them. Again, our good qualities we try to increase and multiply. Today if I have one good thought or one good feeling, then tomorrow I would like to have two. Like this there is no end to our progress. When we want to descend, easily we can touch the abysmal abyss. Again, if we want to go up, we can go high, higher, highest.

Senator Shahani: Don't you feel, Sri Chinmoy, there is so much escalation of violence these days?

Sri Chinmoy: Has there ever been a time in world history when there was no conflict, no violence, no war? These wrong forces reached the height of imperfection in the Second World War at Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other places. How the undivine forces attacked! Japan had to come all the way to the Philippines to destroy your country!

There was a time forty or so years ago when the undivine forces, the destructive forces, reigned supreme. They were like a mad elephant going this way and that way. Now those forces are not so destructive. An iota of light, an iota of illumination, has entered into them. That's why a third World War has not taken place. Before we saw countless elephants. Now we are still seeing wrong forces, but they are not constantly thinking of world-destruction.

Thirty or forty or fifty years ago the countries wanted supremacy. They wanted to conquer the whole world. Still the supremacy tendency is there, but it is not as destructive as before. For quite a few years, forgive me, some countries didn't pay any attention to the UN They neglected the wisdom and message of this world body although it had the capacity and the vision. But now they take the UN into consideration because they are afraid of world criticism. They may not always listen to the UN, but at least they bring the UN into the picture and try to get the UN to approve or sanction their actions. Although still it is not able to play its role most satisfactorily, slowly and steadily the UN is getting its due importance and the countries are taking it seriously. So this is humanity's progress.

Senator Shahani: What qualities do you like in the Philippines?

Sri Chinmoy: I see here sweetness, kindness and the willingness to make very fast progress. These are all divine qualities. These divine qualities deserve appreciation and admiration from those who are dreamers of peace.

Around four o'clock I was inspired to compose a short song about you. My prayerful and soulful words are:

Senator Shahani, wisdom-fountain,
Within, without, mankind's progress-captain.
Your life-boat plies between
Compassion-shore and perfection-shore
In your light-flooded core.
Ranjit, Chandra, Lila: your fragrance-flowers.
May they all grow into fulness-towers.

[Sri Chinmoy sings the song.]

Senator Shahani: Thank you. It's a beautiful song.

[They speak about Sri Chinmoy's music and Peace Concerts.]

Sri Chinmoy: What do you think of President Gorbachev?

Senator Shahani: I still respect and admire him a lot. I was ambassador to a Communist country, Romania, from 1975 to 1978. It is very hard to bring about change in a system like that. Gorbachev came from within and made changes in the system. So it was a very big political achievement. Of course, he also paid the price because then they told him he was too slow for the reforms that he had started.

Sri Chinmoy: He was caught between two parties. One wanted him to run at breakneck speed — faster than the fastest — and the other party wanted only to sleep. In the tug-of-war he was in between.

Senator Shahani: But he is still young. We can't predict what will happen.

Sri Chinmoy: De Gaulle came into power again after many years. So Gorbachev also has a great chance.

Senator Shahani: I was in Russia last July. Quite a number of young people were starting to realise that they wouldn't have this kind of freedom if it were not for him. They wanted him out, but now they are realising that he did do something that they wanted, and they are starting to appreciate what he has done.

Sri Chinmoy: President Gorbachev and I have developed a very close friendship. We are both in the same boat; we both want peace. But sometimes people can be misunderstood. A prophet is not honoured in his own country. But his vision is infallible.

In terms of spiritual light, his country was fast asleep. He aroused the people, but then he said, "Let us go slowly." For he saw that spiritually they were still in their infancy. But they wanted to run the fastest, so he was misunderstood. Slow and steady wins the race. They will come to realise that he was right.

[Senator Shahani describes a personal project involving Indian writers who write in English and she and Sri Chinmoy speak about India and Indian culture. At the end, Sri Chinmoy presents her with the "Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart" award.]