Meeting With Beth Day Romulo

Beth Day Romulo: What are your plans while in the Philippines?

Sri Chinmoy: We will be traveling from Manila to Cebu City, Davao and Dumaguete. We have come to get blessings from the heart and soul of the Philippines. This is my second visit to this country. I came in 1967 to Manila, Dumaguete and Cebu City to give a few talks.

Beth Day Romulo: Was General Romulo here then?

Adhiratha Keefe: He was probably in office! We met him at the 15th anniversary of the Peace Meditation at the United Nations, when he was in charge of the delegation. We had a celebration and he came and spoke.

Beth Day Romulo: Yes, I know. I was with the General then at the UN This country could very much use what you have to offer. I don't know if you are familiar with this, but there is a great tendency for people here not to work together or cooperate. They say if you have a basket of crabs and one reaches the top, the others pull him back down again. Here, too, when someone is doing a good job or becoming prominent in some endeavour, there is a tendency for people to attack him. I don't know how you overcome that.

Adhiratha Keefe: It seems that General Romulo overcame that.

Beth Day Romulo: He had none of that. He used to lecture his countrymen about things like that! For the first time in a long time, we have had a peaceful transition of government, and the present administration is trying very hard to get people to pull together. But it's an uphill fight.

Sri Chinmoy: They have to ask themselves whether they actually become happy by pulling others down.

Beth Day Romulo: I don't think they do.

Sri Chinmoy: No, we cannot become happy by pulling someone down. Again, we cannot become happy by getting ahead of someone. Even if we are just one step ahead of someone else, we create problems for ourselves. We have to walk side by side with others. The feeling of superiority must go. There is no such thing as a superpower. There is only one power to believe in and that is the heart's oneness-power. All other power eventually fails. We can lord it over others for a few days, a few months or a few years. But eventually we will have to surrender to something else or someone else.

It is the mind-power, the power of division, that is creating this problem not only here in the Philippines but everywhere. The mind-power is always singing the song of superiority and making us feel that we can be happy only if we are one step ahead of others. But when we are ahead of others, they try to pull us back. Only if we are walking side by side with others does that problem not arise. When we pray and meditate, we feel the supreme necessity of heart-power, which is the power of unification and oneness. When we can establish our oneness with others, the question of superiority and inferiority does not arise.

Beth Day Romulo: How do people learn how to meditate? Does it take discipline or concentration?

Sri Chinmoy: We start with prayer and then we enter into meditation. They are two subjects, but they both lead to the same destination. If we pray very soulfully, with utmost love and devotion, we feel that Somebody is listening to our prayers. We are talking and Somebody is listening. In our prayers we speak to the Heavenly Father above and ask Him to bless us with this or that. So, very often, prayer includes a kind of desire. But the highest prayer is the one that was taught to us by the Saviour: "Let Thy Will be done." That is by far the highest prayer.

Again, there are times in our spiritual life when we feel the necessity of listening to Someone. That is meditation. When we meditate, we feel that God is asking us to do something: "My child, do this for Me. Do this for your own good." God is speaking and we are listening. So this is how prayer and meditation are combined in our life of aspiration. Sometimes we talk and sometimes we listen. In our prayer-life we go to the Father with all our hopes and longings. In our meditation-life we listen to the Messages from our Heavenly Father.

Beth Day Romulo: And it doesn't matter who the Father is and what the context?

Sri Chinmoy: Only that it is our highest. Father and daughter are not two different individuals or entities; we and our highest are one. When we pray, we feel that we are at the foot of the Himalayas and the Person to whom we are praying is at the top, listening to us. But when we meditate, we feel that the Person who is speaking to us is none other than our own highest Self. In meditation we come to realise that we and God are one. The One who is at the peak is coming down to bless us, and it is none other than ourselves. This moment I am at the top of the peak and the next moment I am at the bottom. I climb up the tree and climb down. When I am at the top I pluck the most delicious fruits and bring them down for those who are unable to climb at the moment. This is what meditation does for us.

Beth Day Romulo: So what you are reaching for is actually the best in you?

Sri Chinmoy: What we are reaching for is our own treasure. We have everything that is needed deep inside us — in the inmost recesses of our heart. There is the safe; there is our wealth. When we pray and meditate, God opens the safe and we see our own treasure. This is why we use the term 'self-discovery.' Through God's Grace, we discover the truth about ourselves; we discover our own inner light and divinity.

Beth Day Romulo: So you can go through your life without being able to see your own inner light?

Sri Chinmoy: Once you are in a room that is already lit, you don't need any outer light in order to see. Once you dive deep within your heart and enter into your inner existence, which is flooded with light, you don't need any outer light to see it.

Beth Day Romulo: Does that give you energy to accomplish things?

Sri Chinmoy: If we know how to pray and meditate, we can easily bring down life-energy from Above. It flows down like a stream and permeates our entire existence. When we pray and meditate, God gives us love, joy, peace, harmony and all the other divine qualities. These are all divine attributes of God's. All the good things that are given to us by God can only increase and multiply. Again, God will slowly and steadily take away from us all our undivine and unaspiring qualities. So whatever is unaspiring in us will be gradually replaced by divine things that are aspiring in and through us.

Beth Day Romulo: How are you able to be so prolific?

Sri Chinmoy: It is all God's Grace. Everything that I have done or am going to do is entirely due to God's Grace. Each and every moment I most sincerely try to depend on God's Grace. As an individual, I do nothing and I know how to do nothing. But if His Grace descends, then He will do everything in and through me.

I have accomplished a few things, but I cannot take any credit myself, for I know that God can make me helpless and useless at any moment He wants to. Since I am always at His mercy, the best thing is to remain only at His Feet. If I am at His Feet, then I can't mislead any human being. But if I am somewhere else, I am bound to mislead and misguide not only a few people but the whole world. So I feel that God's Feet are the safest place for me to be if I really want to be of service to His creation, humanity.

Beth Day Romulo: How many instruments do you play?

Sri Chinmoy: I am a jack of all trades and master of none! I have not studied with any teacher; my only teacher in everything is God, my Inner Pilot. Out of His infinite Bounty He has placed me in His Golden Boat, and at His choice Hour He will take me to the Golden Shore, which is our goal. I play usually between 20 and 25 instruments when I give a major concert.

Beth Day Romulo: A whole orchestra!

Sri Chinmoy: If it is a large audience, then I play many instruments. Otherwise, I play 10 or twelve instruments. But for amusement and entertainment, I practise on 50 or 60 instruments. Altogether I have about 115 instruments from all over the world.

Five or six years ago I played about 100 instruments at a concert in the Swiss Alps. Last month, on the 5th of December, I played 107 instruments at a concert for my students in New York. They were praying and meditating while I was playing. I also prayed and meditated while playing.

So from 100 I have gone to 107. I believe in progress. Ours is the philosophy of self-transcendence. We do not compete with anybody; we compete only with ourselves. When we compete with others, we are bound to feel miserable, for no matter how good we are, there will always be somebody who can smash our pride and defeat us. If we try to live in the success-world, we are bound to be frustrated. But if we live in the world of progress, then we are always happy because we are all the time increasing our capacity and going forward.

When I started lifting weights, I could only lift 40 pounds. I was not competing with anybody. But gradually, gradually I increased my capacity until I could lift over 7,000 pounds. When I started lifting up human beings with one arm, I started with one individual. Now, over the course of a few years I have lifted over 1,900 different people.

I don't need others to doubt my capacities. When I live in the mind, I am the first person to doubt myself. My own mind doubts all the things that I have done. Although I am not a weightlifter, I have lifted up an elephant, a boat, a truck and many, many things. Although I am not an artist, I have completed over 140,000 paintings. It was all God's Grace. I have lifted my student here, Adhiratha, with one hand. If I use my mind, immediately I will call it impossible. My mind will say, "He is so heavy, so tall!" But my heart will say that easily I can lift him on the strength of my love for him and my oneness with him. If I use my heart-power, I do not feel that he is heavy at all.

Beth Day Romulo: Do you practise any sort of daily regimen to keep in condition?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, for a minimum of two and a half hours a day! First I take exercise. Then I run, lift weights and play tennis. Here I am unable to play tennis, but in New York I play tennis for an hour every day with my students. At least two or three hours a day I practise sports. Then I do mental work — writing, dictating and so on. Since we have come to the Philippines, I have already written 15 books and also I have drawn quite a few thousand birds. I am very fond of drawing birds. Birds signify the soul. A bird flying in the sky reminds us of our inner freedom. I have two more books to go and then I will have completed 900 books in English. I will finish these two books in a day or two. I have decided to dedicate my 900th book to President Gorbachev. I have already written two or three books about him.

Beth Day Romulo: Do you write in long hand?

Sri Chinmoy: Sometimes I write in long hand, but most of the time I dictate.

Beth Day Romulo: Do you carry paints, crayons and other art supplies with you?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, I use acrylics in my paintings. There will be an exhibit of my paintings in Cebu City. We have brought a few hundred of my paintings from New York.

Beth Day Romulo: Are they abstract?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, most of them are abstract. When I paint, I see a streak of light and I follow that streak of light very faithfully. Art is not my forte. When I started painting, I did not dislike it; I just did not have any particular interest in the subject. But who am I? My Inner Pilot inspired me and I just obeyed His command.

There are many, many things that I have done because I have been inspired from deep within. In no way had I ever thought of doing these things. I just try to be receptive to God's Will and, according to the power of my receptivity, He acts in and through me. So I can't take any credit for what people see in me. His Grace descends and I try to be a humble instrument of His.

Beth Day Romulo: When were you first in touch with your inner self?

Sri Chinmoy: I don't know why or how, but at the age of four I started praying because I felt something within me. The kind of prayer that I did was not taught to me by anybody. Then, at the age of seven, I started praying consciously. When I was eleven and a half I joined a spiritual community where there was a spiritual Master. Then I started praying and meditating very, very seriously. In a couple of years I felt my inner potential.

My prayer-life and meditation-life can never end. I have not stopped and I will never be able to stop praying and meditating. It is a one-way street, with no U-turns. Once you start, you have to go on. You can crawl, you can walk, you can run or you can sprint. If you want to take rest for a while and sleep, you can. But God will never allow you to go back to the starting point.

We believe in the process of evolution. Sometimes we are evolving slowly and sometimes we are going very fast. But we can't go back to our mineral life or animal life. Although we still have animal propensities, although we still quarrel and fight and do many things that animals do, we have evolved to the point where we are praying to God to make us good. Animals do not consciously pray to God to make them good. So this is the difference between animal life and human life. Human beings still embody many animal qualities, but we are trying to get rid of them and lead a divine life.

Beth Day Romulo: When you visit a country like the Philippines, do you pick up what's happening here and the attitude of people?

Sri Chinmoy: Forgive me, I am not criticising, but there are certain things that I notice. Restlessness I see in the atmosphere. Outwardly the people are restless, but they do not know what they are searching for. Again, in their inner life they have confidence that they will win in the battlefield of life. There are many countries which outwardly are restless to the extreme, but they do not have the inner assurance that someday their outer restlessness will be transformed into poise and tranquility. In their hearts the Filipinos definitely feel that there shall come a time when their outer life will have poise, peace and harmony. The Filipino heart has received this assurance from the soul, and this is something that I deeply appreciate.

Each individual is always contradicting himself. He doesn't have to fight with somebody else. One idea he will get in the morning, and a contradictory idea he will get in the evening. In the morning he will say that someone is great, and by evening he will be saying that the same person is very bad. This is the mind that is speaking.

If we remain in the heart, good or bad doesn't matter. If someone is good, fine; if someone is bad, then it is our bounden duty to make that person good. That is how the heart feels once it has accepted someone. It is like the mother's acceptance of the child. After playing soccer, the child's whole body is besmeared with mud, sand and clay; so he comes running to the mother. The mother will not say, "Don't come near!" She knows and feels that it is her bounden duty to clean the child and make him pure again. The mother claims the child as her own, very own. The heart is like this, too.

This quality is missing in the Philippines — not just in the Philippines, but almost everywhere. Our philosophy is the philosophy of acceptance. We do not believe in superiority or inferiority. I may have studied a particular subject and somebody else may be a beginner. But I know that there was a time when I also was a beginner. Again, no matter how advanced I am, I know that there are many who are still ahead of me. The life-tree starts as a tiny seed, then grows into a sapling, a small tree and, finally, a giant banyan tree. Everyone is going to grow into a banyan tree. Just because today somebody is a seed or a tiny plant, we can never say that he will not one day become a huge banyan tree.

When a child is learning the alphabet from his mother, he feels that his mother knows everything. She teaches him A, then B. and then tells him about C. From this alphabet the child knows that countless books have been written. If the child starts arguing with the mother and asking why C comes after B instead of after D, he will never learn. He has to learn the alphabet according to the proper order. Similarly, when we study the spiritual life, we have to listen to our teacher. If we do not have faith or confidence in the teacher, then we will remain fools all our life.

Beth Day Romulo: Do you think world leaders with all the pressures on them are able to continue to grow spiritually?

Sri Chinmoy: A world leader may not pray consciously, but sometimes what he is doing may be absolutely spiritual. Three or four years ago, President Gorbachev said he did not believe in God. But who did what God wanted — liberating so many countries in the Eastern bloc and reuniting Germany? It is not necessary for him to use the term 'God.' As long as he believes in something inspiring and aspiring, that very thing is God for him. God means light, and Gorbachev is filled with light. Guided by his inner light, he has changed the face and fate of the 20th-century world. So it is absurd to say that he is not a spiritual person. Previously he said that he does believe in God, but now he often speaks of God. At the United Nations, he told the previous Secretary-General, "Don't worry, God is on your side." He has visited the Pope twice. So how can he not believe in God?

Some politicians are definitely being guided by their Inner Pilot, but they are facing opposition. They want to do something great for mankind, but there are many obstacles. So they have to act like divine heroes. Once they overcome one obstacle, they have to face the next obstacle. But if they consciously pray and meditate and illumination takes place, then they can avoid many of these obstacles.

We use the term 'sunlit path.' Ahead of us and around us is darkness. If this darkness can be illumined, then the road ahead will be full of illumination and we will be able to run fast, faster, fastest. But if we don't pray and meditate, then there will always be obstacles and problems ahead of us and at every moment we will have to be very, very brave.

Ignorance is all the time standing against us. We can try to destroy ignorance or we can try to illumine it. If we see a thief, we can strike him and kill him. But then, the next day another thief will come and rob our house. Again, if we see a thief, we can try to inject inner wisdom into him and make him feel that stealing is bad. If we can make him feel that God wants him to do something good and great for mankind, then this thief will become our friend and help us in the tug-of-war against ignorance.

If I can change one thief on the strength of my prayer, meditation and good advice, then he will go and tell his friends, "Look how happy I am now. When I used to steal things, I never had joy or peace because I was always afraid that I would be caught red-handed. But now that I have given up that profession and am trying to become a saint, I am filled with peace." His friends will see that his face is shining and that he is no longer beset by worry and anxiety. Then they also will give up stealing. So in this way we will try to bring to our side the undivine forces.

Beth Day Romulo: I will soon be going to India as an official guest of the Government. They're going to take me around and show me what they think I ought to see and have me interview various people in the government and in the arts. I look forward to it. What should I look for in India?

Sri Chinmoy: If you look for India's inner wealth, you will be happy. India's inner wealth means the message of the ancient Vedic seers and sages. I spoke about the restlessness of the Philippines. You will see the same kind of restlessness in India — if not worse. Outwardly there is so much fighting taking place in India. Even in the name of God they are fighting. The India of yore offered the message that all religions are one. But today, because of one particular temple, the whole nation, the whole subcontinent, is suffering.

If you only look at the outer life of India, I am sure you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for the inner divinity of India, then I am sure you will be satisfied. India is like the ocean. On the surface there are frightening waves and huge surges. But if we dive deep within, we see it is all peace and poise.

The inner India has not lost its peace and divinity, but the outer India is all restlessness and discord. Many things that are destructive and undivine you may see in the outer life of India. But everything that is positive, constructive, illumining and fulfilling will be found in the inner life of India. The outer existence of India may seem deplorable, but its inner existence is something unique. I say this not because I am an Indian but on the strength of my oneness with the soul of India.