Interview at Telecare Cable Television, 15 September 19978

Father Tom: I’m Father Tom. Gerard Manley Hopkins once said that “the earth is touched by the grandeur of God,” and I believe that. Walk outside; look at the sky, look at the plants, look at the animal creation, look at the extent of the Universe. But especially look at people. We’re all touched by God — given a soul, a character, spirituality. We have so many capacities to love and to care, to make this a better world. But it seems to me that those who actualise it the most are people of prayer, people who recognise that they need to work on their spirituality, people who learn how to be silent, people of faith, people of love and people of service.

I was blown away, as everyone was, in the week that both Princess Di and Mother Teresa died. I’d like to focus in on a very special relationship that our guest enjoyed with Mother Teresa. It’s true that Princess Di did many extraordinary things in her life — her humanity, her struggles, her willingness to break out of very tight confines, saying she wanted her kids to learn how to sing, her willingness to cheerfully touch an HIV person. She did not remove herself from the human story. She wanted to be a part of that. While she did that, her celebrity or her sanctity needed to touch base with the saint of our times, Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa! This is her business card: “The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.” She literally embraced a way of life in Calcutta in which she would go to the gutters and pick up a person with maggots, clutch that person to her breast, bring that person to her convent, take out the maggots, wash the person down, put them in new clothes. This saint of the gutters touched all of our lives. At her funeral when different people from different religions came and spoke about her, they said, “She is the saint of the world.” How proud I was of her! The grandeur of God certainly was revealed through her.

Joining me to talk about this very special saint, the saint of the gutters, the saint of our times, Mother Teresa, is my good friend Sri Chinmoy, spiritual leader of Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations and a mentor to me and to so many others. Sri Chinmoy, when you think of Mother Teresa — you met her, you talked with her — what comes to your mind?

Sri Chinmoy: Her compassion and her universal heart! She was the Mother of infinite compassion and she was, is and forever will remain a universal heart.

Father Tom: There’s a picture of her holding a one-pound ten-ounce child, saying that she and her Sisters want to live in such a way that before this child died, it would get a hug. Once I walked with her around the South Bronx. When the homeless people saw her pick up a child who had a contagious disease, they said they knew she had heart. Many of us know those pictures and know the stories. Can you tell me a little bit about how a person begins in the spiritual life, how a person like her got to the point where she was so one with creation?

Sri Chinmoy: She was destined to be a supremely chosen child of the Saviour Christ. She not only saw or felt in each individual the presence of the Saviour Christ, but she actually took each individual as the living embodiment of the Saviour Christ. When somebody was dying, in that person she saw the compassionate face of the living Christ. It was unimaginable! To her, each individual was the Saviour Christ.

She served the poor and the needy with the feeling that she was ordained to perform this supreme task. She was doing this not for the sake of any individual; she was doing this for her own highest Source. She saw her Source inside the other individual and felt the other individual as her Source itself. Whenever she helped someone, she was loving and serving the Christ and nobody else. So her compassion was unique. Her oneness with the compassion and forgiveness of the Saviour Christ and Mother Mary will not have any equal on earth.

Father Tom: There is a passage in Matthew’s Gospel which says, “Jesus at the end of time will gather everyone before Him and He’ll say, ‘I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink. I was in prison, and you visited Me. You did it to Me.’”

Mother Teresa would say, “If you want to know what the Gospel is about, that’s what it is about: You did it to Me.” In other words, she prayed that her eyes could see the Presence of God in each person. Sri Chinmoy had the privilege, as I had, of meeting with Mother Teresa shortly before she died. Members of his community went to see her. We now have a tape of Mother Teresa meeting with Sri Chinmoy.

A video tape is shown of Sri Chinmoy and his students meeting with Mother Teresa.

Father Tom: This woman, this saint, 87 years old, with all sorts of medical conditions, exposed to all sorts of diseases in the world, just went forward. Twelve years ago I remember she talked with me about coming back from seeing Fidel Castro. She said to him, “Fidel, you are such a good boy. Don’t you think it is time to come back?” And then she talked at that time about opening up convents in the Soviet Union, and she managed not just to open up one but actually four convents. But most recently, at age 87, she was talking about China, and I know the two of you talked about that. She really wanted to get to China.

Sri Chinmoy: She really wanted to have something in China. She told me at least six times that she wanted me to accompany her to China. She said, “China needs light. China needs light.” I am sure the Absolute Lord Supreme from Heaven will fulfil her desire through her Sisters.

Father Tom: So the first lesson we learn is that she was able to see God’s Life in each person. She didn’t see the leprosy; she saw the Life of God. She used to say that she was a pencil in the Hand of God. She was an instrument to be used by God. You are suggesting that she is saying that we are called to introduce the Light of God into circumstances where there may be darkness.

Sri Chinmoy: She tried to illumine darkness on the strength of her compassion, on the strength of her oneness. She felt that we have to come down to the level of the ones we are serving. If someone is poor, then we have to renounce our wealth and live at the poverty level with them. She felt that the richer we are, the more complaints we have. According to her, poor people do not complain; they just suffer. And it is God who is experiencing suffering in and through them. They are not aware of it, but Mother Teresa was fully aware of it.

If we do not make complaints, we go forward. We see the better side of life, the purer side of life. By seeing the better and purer side of life even in the midst of direst poverty, she was able to derive tremendous satisfaction from what she was doing. She received satisfaction not only because she was seeing the living presence of Jesus Christ in those she served, but also because they were so receptive to what she was trying to offer. With utmost gratitude they were receiving the light that she was bringing down from Above.

Father Tom: When she first moved into the Bronx, the convent that she embraced was in a very difficult section of the Bronx. There’s a lot of poverty, a lot of drugs, a lot of homelessness, a lot of hunger. One of the first things she did was have them take the beds out. The Sisters slept on the floor. She did not want her Sisters to have any privilege that the poorest person in the community did not have. And she went on to say, “How can I say to the poor that I understand them and love them when I live differently than they?” Each of her Sisters had two saris and a bucket.

You are indicating that sometimes the richer we are, the more complaints we have. Is it necessary or is it advisable in the spiritual life that we do with less, that we have fewer possessions and maybe more heart?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly! Each extra possession is an extra headache. In the outer life, the more we try to possess things that we do not need, the more problems we create for ourselves. The simpler the better! In the spiritual life, it is always good to find a short cut to our destination. All roads lead to Rome, true, but there is a way to arrive in Rome that is faster than the other ways, and that way is the simplicity-road. The simpler we are, the quicker we can arrive at our destination.

Father Tom: David Suskind was once doing a documentary on Mother Teresa, and he was following her around for a week. At the end of the week, Joy Suskind, his wife, looked at Mother Teresa and said, “Mother, where do you get this energy? Where do you get this spirituality? Where do you find all of this joy?” Mother looked at her and said, “Would you like this energy?” Joy said, “Yes.” So Mother said, “Receive the Eucharist.”

Sri Chinmoy, you are a person of deep prayer. Those who are viewing us may be moved by Mother Teresa’s death and may want to live more like Mother Teresa did. They may be inspired to embrace the life of prayer. So let me ask you what it is that gives somebody energy, perspective, hope and love from prayer?

Sri Chinmoy: Prayer is everything. Prayer is our inseparable oneness with the Source. “Let Thy Will be done” — this is the highest prayer. No prayer can be compared with this prayer that the Saviour taught us. A tiny drop can maintain its own separate existence. Again, the same drop, if it is wise, will throw itself into the mighty ocean and become one with the infinite ocean. So this prayer — “Let Thy Will be done” — is the supreme secret that enables the finite not only to enter into the Infinite but to become the Infinite itself. I am an ordinary, insignificant human being, a tiny drop. But the moment I realise that God is my All and surrender what little I have to Him, the moment I lose my existence in God and become one with God, I become what He has and what He is. I have nothing, but if I can give that very nothingness to God cheerfully and unconditionally, then God will give me what He has and what He is. So prayer is the secret of secrets to become one with the Absolute Lord Supreme.

Father Tom: Mother Teresa certainly saw the tougher side of life. She saw people hungry, people dying, people diseased. And yet she had great joy. I think that many of us would get burned out and feel stressed in a similar situation. We might after a while become pretty negative about life. How could she maintain her poise and positive outlook?

Sri Chinmoy: Father, precisely because she did it not for herself but for her highest Self, which is all-pervading. If my leg needs something, my hand will not hesitate to do the needful because my hand knows that my leg is part and parcel of my body. Similarly, Mother Teresa did not have any sense of separativity; she took humanity as her own, very own. If I take somebody as my own, then I will not take my service-life to them as a sacrifice, but as my bounden duty.

Father Tom: She was not separated. She was connected to God and she was doing God’s work in the world.

Sri Chinmoy: She was doing God’s work, and also she felt that it was God who was acting in and through her. With His right Hand, God offered her the capacity to give, and with His left Hand, God offered her the capacity to receive. God in her was both the Giver and the Receiver. So God gave her the energy, light, compassion and all the other divine virtues that she needed to serve Him in the poor.

Father Tom: So she was opening up her soul to the Grace of God.

Sri Chinmoy: She was unfolding and blossoming. While she was blossoming, she became a fountain of affection, compassion and forgiveness.

Father Tom: And yet when she received the Nobel Prize, she said, “I am unworthy, but I receive this on behalf of those who are hungry and sick and poor.”

Sri Chinmoy: They usually have a party to celebrate the Nobel laureates. In her case she said, “You give me the seven thousand or ten thousand dollars that you had planned to spend on the party, and I will use it for a better cause — for the poor.”

Father Tom: She would go to somebody’s house. They would offer her food. She would turn down the food, but as she was leaving she would say, “Could you make a doggy bag? I can bring this food to the poor.” Extraordinary!

Sri Chinmoy: Sleeplessly and breathlessly she thought of the poor, but not in the sense of being superior. She saw them as part and parcel of her own existence. Her compassion, love, affection and blessings were for everybody. She was like the sun. The sun is for everybody. It is up to me to receive its light by keeping my doors and windows open.

Father Tom: Isn’t that wonderful! This earth is really for everyone. We are all loved by God. You had the privilege of knowing her personally and talking with her. She is obviously a saint. When I went to see her, she looked at me and said, “Father, please pray for me.” It was so humbling because here is a saint asking me to pray for her.

Sri Chinmoy: Forgive me to say, in my case she used to show her emotional aspect. With sisterly, motherly affection, she used to tell me, “I pray for you every day. You must pray for me.” On the phone she would say, “Sri Chinmoy, I pray for you; you must pray for me.”

I met with her for the first time in 1975. The Temple of Understanding sponsored a meeting at the United Nations with about 20 religious leaders. They asked me to offer a minute of silence and then to give roses to each religious leader. As soon as I stood in front of her, I saw and felt that she was simplicity, purity and humility incarnate. When I went to her, I felt like a drop merging into the ocean. This was the experience I had.

Father Tom: As great a person as she was, when you were in her presence, for me it was like being with my grandmother, who was saying the rosary. When I would see my grandmother, she would say, “What are you doing?” And I would say, “I have a test to study for.” She would say, “I’ll pray for you.”

Sri Chinmoy: I had exactly the same experience — that she was like a grandmother. She was for us in every aspect of life, not only while we were in the seventh Heaven of delight but also while we were swimming in the sea of sorrows. She became inseparably one with us in all our day-to-day activities.

Father Tom: Sometimes in this world you are encouraged to be efficient and effective and all that. Mother Teresa stands out to remind us that we are called just to be faithful, just to be loving, just to be engaging, to see the presence of God in every aspect. She attained happiness. She attained sanctity. What a model for us! She took the words in the Bible and put them into her heart and lived those words.

Sri Chinmoy: That is absolutely true. She did not want us to be self-sufficient. She wanted us to be God-efficient, that is to say, to depend upon God’s Compassion, Love and Forgiveness. No matter how hard we try on our own to become perfect human beings, it is impossible. It is only God’s infinite Compassion and Forgiveness that can one day transform our nature and make us good citizens of the world. She taught us to depend entirely upon God and not upon our own capacity.

If we human beings have a little capacity in any field, we tend to extol ourselves to the skies. If we are sincere, we will see that our human capacity is next to nothing; it is useless. But if we depend upon God’s Compassion and God’s Forgiveness, then His infinite Capacity becomes our own. Mother Teresa always taught us to become one with God’s Will and to make His Capacity our own, rather than to rely on our own physical, vital or mental power.

Father Tom: A number of Sri Chinmoy’s students are now going to sing a song that Sri Chinmoy wrote about Mother Teresa, and we are going to have the privilege of listening to that song. After that, you will be able to hear the special prayer that Sri Chinmoy has written for Mother Teresa.

A video clip is shown of the Sri Chinmoy Bhajan Singers performing “My Morning-Evening-Prayer-Song.”

Father Tom: People throughout the world, grateful for Mother Teresa, are offering prayers and songs on her behalf. This document contains a special prayer by Sri Chinmoy. Could you read your prayer?

Sri Chinmoy reads:

Mother Teresa:
Calcutta’s Soaring Bird
India’s Sailing Moon
The World’s Weeping Sky
Earth’s Tearing Loss
Heaven’s Dancing Gain
The Christ’s Blossoming Promise
The Mother Mary’s Harvesting Pride.

Father Tom: We have known a saint. We believe that she is with God. But even though she is dead, her cause continues — the cause of sanctity, the cause of caring for the poorest of the poor. Consider making a donation to the Missionaries of Charity on her behalf. They will need your help. God bless you.

To end the programme, the tape is played once more of the Sri Chinmoy Bhajan Singers singing “Mother Teresa: Humanity’s Flower-Heart, Divinity’s Fragrance-Soul.”

MT 88. Rockville Centre, Long Island. Host: Monsignor Thomas Hartman (Father Tom). Introductory music: a tape of the Sri Chinmoy Bhajan Singers performing a song composed by Sri Chinmoy in honour of Mother Teresa: "Mother Teresa: Humanity's Flower-Heart, Divinity's Fragrance-Soul."