Art's life and the soul's light

Part 1

The following questions on art were asked of Sri Chinmoy on September 17, 1974 during a meeting of his New Jersey Centre.

Question: What is the best way to get creative inspiration?

Sri Chinmoy: The best way to receive inspiration is through inner aspiration and outer dedication to the one cause. That cause is self-discovery.

Question: Is there a highest art form?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, the highest art form, the absolutely highest art, the supreme art for a seeker, is the art of God-realisation. God-realisation has to be achieved through aspiration and dedication. Aspiration and dedication go together. If you become a musician for your livelihood, you have to feel that your work is not work, but is a dedicated service to the Supreme. If you take it as work, a kind of work you do in order to make money, then it is not art. When you are playing, you have to aspire to reach the Highest, and you have to feel that you are dedicating your capacity, your willingness, or your achievement to the Supreme in yourself. If you do that, it is the best art on earth, the highest supreme art in your life of aspiration.

Question: How can a person write a spiritual play?

Sri Chinmoy: First you have to read a few spiritual books. Then you pray to the Supreme to give you the necessary inspiration and necessary capacity. If you read a few spiritual plays, your physical mind will be trained to some extent on how to use the form of the play. That does not mean that you are copying somebody else’s play. No! You learn the style, the form, but form is not life; form is the body. Inside the body the soul has to come, spirit has to come. Then if you pray to the Supreme for the capacity, which is inspiration, when you get capacity you will already know the form. Then you have to give it spirit. In order to add spirit from above, you have to invoke the Light of the Supreme or invoke the Supreme. When spirit enters the form, it is like life entering the body.

Question: What do spirituality and art have in common?

Sri Chinmoy: Spirituality and art always go together to the same Goal. You can say spirituality is the road which leads to the destination, and art is a traveller walking along the road. If the road reaches the Goal without a traveller, then the road is not satisfied. Because it has not carried anybody, because nobody has walked along it, the road feels useless. Again, if there is no road, how will the traveller reach his destination? Art is the earth-traveller, the pilgrim, and spirituality is the road. When both reach their common destination, both feel that they are satisfied. Both art and spirituality have one Goal, and that Goal is supreme Joy, supreme Delight.

Question: What is the supreme duty of an artist?

Sri Chinmoy: The supreme duty of an artist is to meditate before he creates something and, while creating, to be in a very contemplative, divine mood. Then, when the creation is completed, he will immediately place his creation at the Feet of the Lord Supreme. No matter what others say about his creation, no matter what his feelings are about his own creation, as soon as his creation is completed, he will place it at the Feet of the Supreme for Him to use in His own way. This is the supreme duty of the spiritual artist.

Question: Can we use meditation to increase our creativity?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly! Prayer and meditation are the only way. Many people are not born poets or born artists. But by practising meditation, they bring into their system literary capacities, painting capacities, musical capacities, because meditation means new life. When new life enters into you, you become a new man. Before, you were not an artist, let us say. God gave you a particular type of life, with particular capacities. But when a new life enters into you, that means a new opportunity, a new avenue, a new light enters. At that time you can easily acquire the capacity of art.

Question: How do we know which talent to develop if we have more than one artistic tendency?

Sri Chinmoy: If a seeker has more than one artistic tendency, he has to decide which one gives him the greatest satisfaction. Because I am a spiritual man I have a little mastery over various art forms. I have talent for writing poems and I also have talent for writing other things, like plays. But I have to say I have more talent for writing poems. I can easily write one hundred poems every day if I want to. Writing poetry for me is like drinking water. But even three plays a day would be very difficult for me. That is because in the literary field, poetry is much closer to spirituality than plays or stories or essays and articles. In India a poet is called a Seer of the Truth. He who sees is called Kavi, the Seer-poet. Why should I constantly exercise my spiritual capacity in order to write a few plays, when poetry comes spontaneously to me, with practically no effort at all? If I have to say which literary art I prefer, I will naturally say poetry; I will definitely give much more importance to my poetry than to plays or stories or other things. In your case, if you have two or three artistic capacities, you should try to develop whichever one gives you most joy and whichever comes to you spontaneously. Again, there is nothing wrong if you try to develop or increase your capacities in various art forms. Why do you have to restrict yourself only to poetry or to music if you have other talents as well? In sports we have the decathlon for those athletes who are all-round athletes. Similarly, if you have the capacity to do well in ten items, why be satisfied with only one? Again, it is not good to be a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. If that saying applies to you, then the best thing is to find out which form of creative activity gives you most spontaneous joy. That will be the right one for you to concentrate on developing.

Question: Does the colour silver have a significance in reference to art?

Sri Chinmoy: The colour silver does have a special significance which is applicable in any field. It means purity. When one sees this colour during meditation, one has to know that he has achieved tremendous progress in his life in terms of purity. When you see the colour silver, at that time you have to feel that your mind is becoming pure, your vital is becoming pure, your body-consciousness is becoming pure. Silver is purity. This also applies to the colour silver in art.

Question: How can one make his art spiritually alive?

Sri Chinmoy: Through aspiration you can do it. Even if you do two hundred paintings badly, still you have the aspiration to do something good. You are not painting for money or for any other earthly motives. If one is a really sincere seeker, his aspiration gives life to his art. But how many artists will you find who are sincere seekers? Most artists keep aspiration totally outside their art. Naturally, they will not succeed in making their art spiritual.

Question: Is all art an expression of the Supreme's Beauty?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes! All art, without fail, is an expression of the Supreme’s Beauty. Art is beauty and beauty is art. Art, beauty and joy are like three brothers. When Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” he was so right because joy is beauty itself. Keats said something else which is also extremely important, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” Truth represents the Highest. When Beauty becomes one with Truth, naturally Beauty also becomes the Highest, which is none other than God. Art is God’s creation, God’s expression. When you think of art and God’s Beauty, you will see that they are like the obverse and reverse of the same coin: they are inseparable.

Question: How can I bring more strength and warmth into the art of my life?

Sri Chinmoy: It is always through conscious dedication. Conscious dedication means that you are offering yourself to something to please it in its own way. If you are dedicating yourself to something with the idea that one day you will achieve it or acquire it and then utilise it in your own way, that is not real dedication at all. If you want to make money so that you will be able to use it in your own way, this is wrong. But if you want to make money so that the Supreme can utilise you and your money in His own way, if you have that kind of attitude, then automatically you get strength and warmth in your life. If someone who is superior uses us in his own way, automatically we get strength and energy; and the Supreme is our real superior. But when we want to do something for our own sake, even when we want to throw ourselves into it heart and soul because we know that ultimately we will be able to control it and regulate it, often strength, enthusiasm and warmth do not come. Again, when we are insincere we feel that if we can do something in our own way, then there is no need to listen to the Inner Pilot, the Supreme. We think that if He uses us in His way, we will become slaves and have to surrender to Him. But the moment we become sincere seekers, it pains us deeply whenever we do something in our own way without first approaching Him. If we do even one thing without His knowledge, His approval, His permission, His direction, then we feel miserable. Warmth, energy and strength sincere seekers get only when we know that we are doing something to please and fulfil our superior, the Supreme.

Question: How can I make my everyday actions an art?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to feel that each hour in your life is a page of your life-book, and that you are studying, memorising and utilising the wisdom of that page in your life. Every hour you have to feel that you have studied one particular page of your life-book. When the wisdom of that page enters into you, immediately there appears in you a form of creativity. Creativity does not only mean writing poems or stories. No! Creativity can be inside one’s heart: creativity can take place inside one’s body-consciousness. Creativity means a kind of manifestation inside you. When you study that particular page, the wisdom recorded there is spread inside your being. That is called creativity. If you can feel that every hour is a page in your life-book and that you are studying it, then every action of yours will be an art.

Question: When Krishna and Arjuna fought in the battle of Kurukshetra, was that kind of fighting an art?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly! When Arjuna and Krishna engaged in battle against the asuric forces, the undivine forces of the Kauravas, it was an art. It was the art of justice, the art of light-manifestation on earth, the art of truth’s supremacy over falsehood. The very battle was an art, a supreme art which wanted to conquer the ignorance that was prevailing in the world at that time. To conquer ignorance, to conquer undivine forces, is a true form of art, because when you conquer ignorance, you clear the path for light, the light that needs constant expansion, constant manifestation. So what else can that battle have been but a pure form of art, the supreme art the art of realising the truth, the art of revealing the truth and the art of manifesting the truth.

Question: How does the cosmic goddess Saraswati help us in the arts?

Sri Chinmoy: Saraswati, according to our Indian philosophy, is the mother of art, the mother of music, the mother of knowledge. She plays on the vina and when she plays, she illumines the aspiring consciousness of humanity. She is the supreme artist, and when her Compassion flows in and through an individual, if that particular individual is receiving her Compassion-Light, then he becomes a supreme artist. When I was fourteen or fifteen years old, Saraswati came to me once and played on her vina most soulfully. Then afterwards she broke her vina into pieces and gave the pieces to me. She said that she had taken all her knowledge and all her musical capacities and other capacities and thrown them into me, but only as much as I was able to receive. So of wisdom perhaps I received a little.

Question: Can an artist paint a picture of your golden aura?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, an artist can do it very beautifully. Very recently when I was in Iceland, I met an artist who was also a very successful medium, though in spirituality she still needed tremendous progress. I showed her and her group how to concentrate, meditate and contemplate. And while I was doing this, she actually saw my golden aura and my blue aura. She was sitting right in front of me, and while she was there, she drew a picture of my aura. Spiritually she is not very developed yet, but as an artist I must say she drew my aura very successfully.

Question: When someone feels a beautiful poem inside, what prevents its outer expression?

Sri Chinmoy: There are two main reasons. The first reason is that when you feel a poem, you doubt it; you doubt whether it is real or not. You feel, “Oh, how can I have that kind of beautiful feeling? Five minutes ago I told a lie, ten minutes ago I was jealous of somebody, so it is impossible to feel this way now.” But what happened five minutes ago has nothing to do with what you are feeling right now. The mind is so clever. When you have a wonderful experience, a very good, high experience, your mind will immediately try to throw cold water on it, because your mind does not want you to have joy in its pure form. Your mind will immediately ask you how you can experience this kind of thing when you acted so undivinely just a little while ago. The mind will say it is all a mental hallucination. And the moment you give up the experience, the same mind will come and say, “See, you are such a fool! You have lost everything; you have thrown away everything. God alone knows how many months it will take you to get this experience back again.” The second reason why you cannot express a poem that you have inside you is that there is a gap between your feeling and your becoming. When you feel something, if you do not immediately become that thing, then your vital being revolts. The vital being feels that you have allowed a stranger to enter into you, and it becomes jealous. It acts just like a child when he sees that his mother and father have allowed somebody else to come and stay at his house. Naturally he becomes jealous because he feels that now his parents won’t be able to pay as much attention to him as before. When you feel something inside you, it means that you have invited someone or something to your house, but he has not yet entered. Once he enters, the expression is as good as achieved, but before he enters the child may revolt. He may start crying and say, “I don’t want him; I don’t want him.” But if the parents become serious and say, “I have invited him and he will definitely stay,” then it is all over. Once you become what you feel, the difficulty is over. These are the two main things that keep you from manifesting in your outer life what you feel within yourself.

Question: Is the field of art another form of meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the kind of art. If it is spiritual art, then certainly it is a form of meditation. But if you play undivine music or write unbearable books or keep your mind in the gutter while you are painting, this is not any kind of meditation. While you are creating, if your consciousness is in the lower vital world, it will not be a form of meditation. But if you are singing something soulful or if you are in a very high consciousness while you are creating, if you are giving yourself in a divine way to the object or subject that you are involved with, then definitely you are doing a form of meditation. You have to know what you are creating, and where your consciousness is while you are doing it.

Question: Is art from the Renaissance period more inspired than modern art?

Sri Chinmoy: In those days, art was more soulful and more meaningful than present-day art. I can make neither head nor tail of what many of the modern artists do. They will say that I am an ignorant fellow and what do I know about art. But I will simply say, “Yes, I am an ignorant fellow, true. But when a work of art by Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo is placed before me and when your painting is placed before me, why am I attracted and inspired by their art and not by yours? It is the same person who is judging: I have the same eyes, the same heart, the same inner qualities and the same lack of knowledge. I am not saying that all modern artists are bad artists. Far from it. There are some exceptional modern artists. But, in general, modern artists are not as inspiring or elevating as the artists of the Renaissance period. That era was far more progressive, spiritual and soul-elevating than the present in the field of creative art.

A few months ago I drew a series of drawings in which nobody could see anything. But I gave bombastic names to them in order to prove that they were all spiritual! Most of the modern artists do the same. What they paint, God alone knows. But when you ask them what they see in their art, it is absolutely all revelation and manifestation, all cosmic vision. But when Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa’s consciousness, he captured it all most vividly — Eternity’s Pride. You look at Mona Lisa and you see that she is divinity’s Light and Immortality’s Life.

If somebody is very ugly, he tries to put on most expensive, most beautiful garments. But if he is really ugly, that does not help. Modern artists are only dealing with colour, line and sound, but there is no soul behind it. How long can you appreciate the body and form if the spirit is lacking? Modern artists may paint a person’s body, his body-consciousness, but there is no spirit there. They may write music, but there is no divine harmony in it, generally. That is why modern art does not succeed in terms of spirituality. Many people may enjoy it, but it will not inspire them or elevate their consciousness at all.

Question: What Is the spiritual significance of Tibetan Tantric art?

Sri Chinmoy: The spiritual significance of Tantric art is the significance of life-energy, life-energy moving upward, downward, inward and outward. Wherever it gets a free passage, life-energy is flowing, so that it can become one with the universal Consciousness. Wherever there is no obstruction, there new life is being manifested.

Question: Do unaspiring artists and musicians lower our consciousness?

Sri Chinmoy: Unaspiring art and music will definitely lower our consciousness. All seekers, but especially beginners, must avoid unaspiring people and things because there is every possibility of their falling. Because we are seekers, we are trying all the time to keep our consciousness high, to elevate our consciousness. But if our consciousness is one inch higher than somebody else’s, there is every possibility that that person will either pull us down or that we ourselves will be tempted to go down. For ordinary people there is no real harm in it. If somebody is already in the lowest, he cannot go any farther down. But if we have begun to ascend, we can also descend quite comfortably. Birds of a feather flock together. Unaspiring music and unaspiring musicians go together, unaspiring artists and unaspiring art go together, and unaspiring people are the observers. When bad people do something there are always bad people available to appreciate it, and when good people do something there are also people to appreciate and admire it. Again, if someone is very powerful spiritually, he can pull unaspiring people up higher. But also, if someone is very powerful in a negative way, he can pull weak aspirants down.

Question: Is the soul an artist?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly! The soul itself is an artist, and its capacity is boundless. The soul is the eldest brother who will give lessons to the younger brother as he paints. Then the soul will say to the younger brother, the body, “Let us work together; let us show our art together.” People will come to see the art of a great, well-known artist, but if an aspiring artist is unknown, nobody will come to see his work. However, if the insignificant one wants to learn from the advanced one, then the capacity of the advanced one enters into the other. In this way, the soul’s capacity enters into the body. It is like the ocean entering into a drop. The Infinite enters into the finite and the finite enters into the infinite, it is like having one dollar and one penny. When they become one, you have a hundred and one cents, and you offer it all together at the Feet of the Supreme.

Question: If the Supreme is the Creator, the supreme Artist, isn't He responsible for His creation?

Sri Chinmoy: The Supreme is responsible for everything; only we have to know that He has given us limited freedom. The parents have created the child, but they do not control his every breath. They have given him, say, just a dollar and they watch what he does with it. They observe whether he uses that dollar to buy a spiritual book, or whether he uses it to buy something undivine. Similarly, the Supreme gives you limited freedom and then watches what you do with it. This is how He plays. If He sees that you are using that freedom divinely, then He will give you much more freedom. But if you misuse it, then you have to suffer the consequences. How can you blame poor God? But even if you use your freedom in a good way, you do not get full satisfaction until you have used your freedom to become one with the Supreme. Then the Supreme will always be consciously acting in and through you. He is like the father who says, “You want to be happy in your own way. I will give you the opportunity. But since you always want to maintain your individuality, why do I have to guide you and protect you all the time? All right, use your individuality, but use it in a good way.” When He gives you capacity and opportunity, if you misuse it and make a mess out of your life, how can you blame God? The best thing to do is to let the Supreme act in and through your freedom. Only when you allow the Supreme to act in and through you, will the world become perfect.

Question: Are artistic capacity and the ability to manifest it the same?

Sri Chinmoy: There is a difference between the capacity to create and the capacity to manifest. Again, if God’s Grace descends, the capacity to create and the capacity to manifest become one. At that time, the capacity to manifest becomes an extension of the capacity to create. Suppose you get your Master’s degree. When you get your Master’s degree, immediately people expect you to be able to teach others. But in spite of having your Master’s degree, let us say that you can’t teach at all. The capacity to go high you have, but the capacity to manifest your height you don’t have. But when some people get their degree in a specific subject, they do have the capacity to teach others. In them the capacity to create and the capacity to manifest go together.

Let us say that even after getting your degree, still you want to learn. Even though you lack the capacity to teach, still you want to go higher. Even after you get your Ph.D., you go to the library and read hundreds of books. There is no end to your learning; since you are not stopping at a particular limit, your very movement will develop into some capacity to manifest. It is like a river that does not come to an end. While it is flowing, flowing, flowing, it is spreading water this side and that side; it is manifesting its consciousness. If it is a pond, then everything has stopped. If it is a pool, its movement has stopped. But when it becomes a river, it is continuously flowing and manifesting. So the capacity to create can eventually grow into a capacity to manifest if one continuously creates and creates. Even if one does not have the capacity to manifest right from the very beginning, it is quite possible to develop that capacity.

Some spiritual Masters who have realised God do not want to help mankind. They are frightened to death to mix with earthly people. They say, “Earthly people are worse than animals. If we mix with them, then all their animal qualities will enter into us. With greatest difficulty we have come out of the animal kingdom, so why mix with them?” But again, some Masters say, “No! We are stronger than animals and it is quite possible for us to mix with them and tame them and transform them.” And some, out of compassion, say, “Once upon a time we were also like them. Just because we have come out of the animal kingdom by spiritual practice, shall we leave our younger brothers in the lurch? No, we shall try to help them. If by chance we are caught by ignorance while helping our brothers and sisters, no harm. After all, if the elder brother is ready to give his life to save a younger brother, God will be really pleased with him and God will say, ‘All right, since you have tried to save your younger brother, I will give you a new life.’”

Question: How can we enter into the art of Immortality?

Sri Chinmoy: You can enter into the art of Immortality only through your constant aspiration. When you meditate, always you have to feel that which is infinite is immortal, and that which is finite is mortal. Anything that far surpasses and transcends your earthly vision can be the object of your meditation. If you want to meditate, meditate on something vast. Look at the sky and meditate and the vastness of the sky will enter into you. Or meditate on the vast ocean and the consciousness of the ocean will enter into you. Anything that is vast is immortal. The vast consciousness of the sky and the vast consciousness of the ocean are immortal. The finite binds, but the infinite always expands itself. The thing that binds can never be immortal, but the thing that expands and liberates is immortal. So please meditate only on things that are vast.

Question: How can I meditate on the Supreme in art?

Sri Chinmoy: Please do not separate the Supreme from art. Water and ice are inseparable; similarly, the Supreme and art are inseparable. When you meditate on art, feel that there is somebody inside the art who is the life-breath of the art. Feel that the art is the body, and that inside the body is the soul. If the soul goes away, the body is lifeless. Again, if there is a soul without a body, then there is no place for the soul to stay. It cannot stay in the street. A man without a house is homeless, and a house without a man is useless. House and man need each other to complete the game, as do body and soul. In the same way, art and the supreme Artist also go together to complete the game. If you see art, try to see the Artist inside it. You will do this only by taking them as one. When you see art, you will feel that inside the art there is something which you need badly, and that is the Supreme. The Supreme is both art and artist, both creator and creation. When you realise this, you can easily meditate on the Supreme in art.

Question: Is it necessary for a seeker to appreciate different forms of art?

Sri Chinmoy: Only if the seeker wants to. If the seeker does not have any appreciation for art, this will not stand in his way. If somebody does not have the capacity to appreciate art, his spiritual progress will not be delayed. Many spiritual Masters did not know even the ABC of art; they did not know about it and they did not care about it, but their realisation was in no way delayed. If you have the capacity to appreciate art, do it, and if you don’t have the capacity, no harm. Your God-realisation depends entirely upon your aspiration. Of course, if you can appreciate something good in others, it is a help to you. If somebody has achieved something great in the art world, and if you have the capacity to appreciate it, then it becomes easier for you to realise the Highest, because in art also there is God. If you lack the capacity to appreciate art, or if you have a personal prejudice against a certain form of art, then don’t bother with it. Only remain with your own aspiration, because your own aspiration will give you realisation. But if you don’t feel jealousy toward the artist, if you don’t have a personal prejudice against the artist or his art, and if you have the capacity to appreciate the art, then your progress becomes complete and integral.

Question: How can I use the art of love as inspiration in my everyday life?

Sri Chinmoy: When you pray and meditate, please feel that the love that you have is not to possess or to bind anyone. The love that you have is only for expansion, only for the illumination of others. When you want to give someone your divine love, it means that you want to see that person as you see yourself: you want to see him as an exact replica of your own life. You give so that you will see him as an extension of yourself. When you meditate, you have to tell the Supreme that what He has given you, that very thing you want to share with your brothers. You can share with those around you; it is not only possible, but it is inevitable.

Part 2

The following questions on art were asked of Sri Chinmoy on September 24, 1974 during a gathering at a disciple’s home.

Question: What is the relationship between art and geometry?

Sri Chinmoy: Art is at once finite and infinite. Geometry offers us the message of the finite proceeding toward the infinite. Sometimes geometry wants to offer us a glimpse of the Infinite in the finite itself. Art also does this, but when art does it, it does it in a subtle, delicate and soul-stirring way. Geometry does it in a dry, one-pointed way with the intellectual mind and the developed brain.

Question: Is there any relation between art and sport?

Sri Chinmoy: Sport means joy. Sport means delight, inner delight. You know that we came from delight, we grow in delight and at the end of our journey’s close we enter into delight once again. The greatest gift of art is joy, and joy is the revelation of sport. They go together. But if you achieve joy through art, the joy is different. There the joy is coming in the mental and vital plane, whereas if you achieve joy through sport, it is coming on the physical and vital plane. But the goal of art and the goal of sport are the same. Both embody the same ultimate goal and have the same goal. Inside art is greatest joy and inside sport is greatest joy.

Question: Is it only the throat chakra that enables us to become artists or musicians?

Sri Chinmoy: If you concentrate on the throat chakra, you will be able to become a very good artist, musician, writer, dancer or singer. This does not mean that the other centres do not have the capacity to help you in this way, but the throat centre has the utmost capacity. It is like the refrigerator in a house. The food consciousness or the vibration of the food is in the house, but if I go to the refrigerator in the kitchen, then immediately I get the food.

Question: What is the relationship between evolution and art?

Sri Chinmoy: As we are evolving, art is also progressing. Let us take evolution as the tree and art as the seed. Art is inside and evolution is outside. God’s Silence in us is our inner art. God’s Sound is our outer evolution.

Question: Do you consider magic an art?

Sri Chinmoy: Magic is a form of art, but only when it is used in an innocent way. If you are giving innocent joy in an innocent way to innocent people, then magic is an art. But if you have the idea that you want to become the greatest magician and fool everybody, this is not art. When you are doing the trick, you should not have the idea of deceiving anybody; only feel that you are doing something which will give others joy. You have to know what motive you have in showing magic. If you have the idea of deceiving others, then that is not art. Art has to be on a higher plane. If you only want to distribute joy, if you embody innocent joy, then you have to know that the capacity to express and distribute joy is a form of art.

Question: Does everyone have artistic capacity in one lifetime or another?

Sri Chinmoy: Everybody has to have artistic capacity. Either in this incarnation or in a previous incarnation or in some future incarnation everybody will have artistic capacity. One form of artistic capacity is to be able to draw something or play some instrument. But life itself can also be an art. How sincere one is to oneself, how sincere one is to God, how devoted one is to Truth — that is also an art. That particular art is not denied to anybody. That art, which is the supreme art, everybody can have. The other kinds of art are like branches which branch out from the art that is the life-tree. If one particular branch has most delicious fruits or beautiful flowers, naturally it adds to the beauty and wealth of the tree itself.

Question: Can art exist without spiritual freedom?

Sri Chinmoy: Divine art cannot exist without spiritual freedom, but ordinary art can and does exist without spiritual freedom. Ordinary art is the art that plays only with colour and form, totally ignoring the supreme importance of the spirit and essence.

Question: How can we recognise a soulful work of art?

Sri Chinmoy: If a work of art makes you feel that there is a most beautiful child inside it, you can know that it is a soulful work of art. If you see inside it a most beautiful child, and if you feel that this child is talking to you and you are talking to him, then you can know that it is soulful art.

Question: Are all artists trying to express a hidden aspiration?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes. Some are doing it consciously, and some are doing it unconsciously. Those who are doing it unconsciously, we can’t always appreciate. All human beings are trying to realise God, but those who are not consciously aspiring we usually do not like to spend our time with. We shall all realise God in the course of Eternity, just because that is God’s Plan. But there is a great difference between you people who are aspiring consciously and those who are not aspiring. They may take millions of years to achieve what you will do in a few hundred years or so, now that you have begun to aspire consciously. Similarly, you have to know the difference between consciously aspiring artists and unconsciously aspiring artists.

Question: What is the difference between a poem that comes from the higher vital world and a poem that comes from the illumined mental world?

Sri Chinmoy: When you get a poem from the higher vital world, you will get the feeling of what you call a surge. It is like a very, very big wave, a huge wave, that washes ashore from the ocean. It covers the length and breadth of everything and washes away all impurity and everything else it touches. But when you get a poem from the illumined mental world, even if it just touches you, immediately you feel a sense of illumination in your entire being. The one is like a big, surging wave that spreads all around and inundates everything, washing away all impurity. The other totally illumines your whole being. Before, you felt that you were in darkness, that you were the ugliest person, absolutely impure. But when the flash comes from the illumined mind, the things that were dark become fully illumined. Your whole existence may have been in darkness, but as soon as you compose a poem from the illumined mind, immediately your outer being becomes radiant, illumined and totally transformed.

Question: Guru, there are some achievements that some people will call an art and others will call a science. What is the difference between an art and a science?

Sri Chinmoy: It is true that the same achievement some people will call science and some people will call art. But we have to know that a scientific achievement comes mostly from the mind or intellect or sometimes even from flashes of intuition. But the same thing, if it comes from the heart or soul rather than from the mind, is art. A scientific achievement need not be from the mind, not even from the intellect; the greatest scientific achievements come directly from the intuitive plane. But if the achievement comes from the heart, from the psychic being, the inner being, then it is art, spontaneous art. The thing is the same, but we call it different things according to which plane it comes from. Two factories may produce the same thing, but just because the product is coming from two different factories, it has two different brand names. But actually the thing is the same.

Question: Should we focus ourselves in a particular way to appreciate great art?

Sri Chinmoy: The best thing is to become an artist yourself. If you can’t become an artist, then you will appreciate the artist. First I want to become something; if I can’t become something, then immediately I will enter into somebody who has become that thing and become one with him. When I enter into his soul and establish a free access to it, when I become one with him, gradually I develop the same capacity that he has. There are some people who do not care for arts such as music, painting or dancing; they care only for their own spiritual realisation. There have been many spiritual Masters who did not care for any kind of art except the supreme art, which is God-realisation and God-discovery. But if you want to be a tree with branches all around and millions of leaves and flowers, then it is absolutely necessary for you to appreciate others who have the artistic capacity which you are crying for. By appreciating them, gradually, gradually you also develop the capacity to appreciate their art, and this is also one of the ways to develop artistic capacity.

Question: You hear poets speaking about the Muses. Is this merely a metaphor or are there actually beings in the higher worlds that preside over certain arts?

Sri Chinmoy: For each art there will be a particular deity. But also there is the goddess Saraswati who is the principal ruler of art. It is not that she only plays on the vina. She gives knowledge and wisdom, the greatest art. Of all arts, Wisdom-Light is the best. There are other deities who also preside over art in general. If a seeker does not want to accept life as an art, if he wants only to be a painter or a musician or a singer or something, then he does not approach the one who embodies everything. If I want to be a painter, then I approach a particular deity who has some divine painting capacity. But if I want to be God’s artist, if I want my life to be a supreme work of art, at that time my prayer goes to the highest, to one who embodies all the capacities of life. It need not be the Supreme, but perhaps somebody whom the Supreme has made His representative, someone who embodies all the artistic capacities which represent life as such. I will try to reach the cosmic god or goddess who embodies all the qualities of life as an art.

Question: Guru, can all parts of the being create art?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, all parts of the being can create art just by appreciating something. As soon as we appreciate somebody or something, we are creating art. Our appreciation itself is a form of beauty, a creative capacity or a form of art. Our appreciation becomes an act of offering. Offering is creation and creation is art. Even in eating food, if we appreciate the food, immediately our appreciation itself is a form of art, because our appreciation is giving life to the thing that we are eating. Otherwise, it is all lifeless. When we see a flower, when we appreciate the flower, immediately we add beauty to the flower. If we use our third eye, we shall see that the flower is already beautiful; but the moment we appreciate it, our appreciation becomes an added life to the beauty of the flower itself. So every part of us, if we use it properly, can create a form of art.

Question: If we would like to write poetry but we lose our inspiration, how can we regain that inspiration? Should we just force it?

Sri Chinmoy: If you try to force it, there will be a yawning gulf between your first line and your second line. The first line will be filled with light and the second line will be as prosaic as possible. If you try to force inspiration to come to you, it will bring you nothing. Just wait for inspiration. Some people write one line, then have to wait for ten days or even two years. In your case, since you are a seeker, you don’t have to wait for two years. Vivekananda used to say that if you can’t drink the purest distilled water or Ganges water, that does not mean that you have to drink water from the street. No, you know that it would make you ill. Here also, if you can’t get the highest inspiration or cannot maintain it after one line, the best thing is to not write any more. When you aspire the next day or the day after, in a few days you will get more inspiration. Don’t try to finish the poem right then and there. Otherwise, you will end up with one diamond and the rest just pieces of an earthen pot. That will be most deplorable. If you want to offer something to the world, you have to try to keep the same standard.

Question: Is there any difference between the goal of a writer or a musician or a painter?

Sri Chinmoy: They have the same goal but they take different roads. By writing an essay, one person gets tremendous joy; he feels a sense of accomplishment. Somebody else gets tremendous joy by playing a piece of music. This joy has tremendous intensity and the person’s whole body is permeated by inner joy. On the strength of that joy one walks along the road to the highest Goal. When you write a story, let us say, and you feel that you have really accomplished something, the joy that you get from your creativity is the speed with which you march or run toward your goal. And the joy that somebody else gets from playing a piece of music is the speed with which he goes to his goal. The goal is the same, but as a poet or an artist or a musician you will take a different road, depending on which plane you receive your inspiration from.

Question: Is it wrong to just appreciate artistic experience within yourself and not offer it outwardly?

Sri Chinmoy: If you have something within yourself and if you are appreciating it, then you have to know whether it is God’s Will that you offer it to others. If you feel from within that the hour has not struck for you to share your experience with others, if the Supreme within you tells you just to appreciate it yourself and keep it for yourself for the time being, that does not mean you will be acting like a miser. No! It is only that the hour has not struck for you to share it with anybody. The Supreme wants you to accumulate and amass more of this power of appreciation within yourself; He wants you to perfect it. Again, if it is God’s will that you offer it, and if you do not offer it to the right person, then you are making a mistake. You always have to know what the Will of the Supreme is. If the time has come for you to share your experience, you share it and if it is not time, then you keep it for yourself. That is the right thing.

Question: When you are writing a poem or a song, do you sometimes invoke the soul of another great artist and use his capacities?

Sri Chinmoy: If you want to write like Shakespeare, if his soul is still in the soul’s world and if you can invoke the soul and reach it, the soul may give you some of its capacities. This is absolutely true. Or if the person is still alive, you can also invoke the soul. But just by invoking the soul of a great writer or singer, for instance, you cannot get his highest achievements. Before you sing, if you pray to the Supreme and say, “Now I am going to sing. I will be so grateful to You if You give me a most soulful voice like he has or she has,” that is the most effective method. If you try to invoke the soul of someone who is a good singer, your mind may immediately think of his or her undivine qualities. You know that somebody sings well, but you may not be able to appreciate that particular person’s inner life. You only appreciate a certain capacity which you want, but your physical mind is so bad that it will not allow you to separate the person’s soul from his life on the physical plane. You want to think of the soul, but immediately the body comes before your mind. And when the body comes, immediately you think twenty bad things about the person, so you don’t derive much help from him. Pray to the Supreme, placing the Supreme in front of you. Say, “Supreme, I am praying to You to give me the singing capacity of so and so.” At that time, you are putting the Supreme in between you and the other person whose excellent voice you want to have. Then you do get capacity, and this capacity will not be of any harm to you. But this does not mean that you will get the same capacity or the same height as the other person. In India before soldiers go to fight they think of Bhima or Arjuna or some other world-renowned warrior. They do this to get strength and valour. But what often happens is something else. Bhima was very strong and powerful but, at the same time, he had many undivine qualities. These undivine qualities also may come into you along with his strength when you invoke him. But if you pray to Lord Krishna and ask for the capacity of Bhima, then Krishna will be able to give you only Bhima’s divine qualities; and according to your receptivity you will take them. This is quite possible.

Question: Taking creation as a work of art, what aspect of the creation is most fulfilling for the Creator?

Sri Chinmoy: Aspiration is the supreme form of art. There cannot be any art superior to aspiration. If one aspires wholeheartedly, then God is most pleased and, at the same time, fulfilled. Nature’s aspiration, individual aspiration, universal aspiration are what satisfy God most. If the entire being aspires — body, vital, mind, heart and soul, then God is most pleased, satisfied and most fulfilled.

Question: Is the purpose of art to add something to reality?

Sri Chinmoy: When you create a piece of art, immediately it adds to reality in terms of inspiration, in terms of capacity, in terms of beauty. If the artist is sincere and devoted, then each time he creates he is offering new life, ever-continuous and ever-transcending life, and entering into Immortality. A seeker deals with eternal Life, infinite Life. If the artist is a seeker, then he is constantly creating new life which is becoming one with Infinity and Eternity. If he is a seeker, then he is creating something in infinite measure, or entering into something infinite and eternal. But if the artist is not a seeker, in his art he will only be adding a tiny drop to the existing capacity of creation. If he is not a seeker, then he is like a child who adds one dollar to his father’s million dollars. His contribution is infinitesimal, but still it does add something.

Question: How can we learn to get inspiration from art instead of just enjoying it?

Sri Chinmoy: If you enjoy art with your heart’s love, then automatically you are getting inspiration from it. But if you enjoy it with your mind, then you are stuck there. You are only measuring the art, judging it. At that time, even if you enjoy it, still the art does not come as an inspiration. But if you enjoy it with your heart, you are identifying yourself with the work. Your heart receives the inspiration from the art because oneness is there. That inspiration is now inside you and is being transformed into aspiration. Tomorrow it will be revelation and manifestation. If you are enjoying with your heart, there is identification; but if you are enjoying with your mind, even while you are appreciating it you are cherishing the feeling that you yourself could paint that thing or write that thing better than the artist. With the mind you are enjoying plus examining and judging. When enjoyment and examination go together, you won’t be able to take the work as inspiration, because at that time you are busy judging and correcting it. You are enjoying it but you are also showing your superior feeling by trying to correct and perfect it. But if you enjoy it with your heart of identification, you automatically receive the inspiration in the creation of the artist. In the heart, you identify with the inspiration and sooner or later that inspiration will reveal itself as a new form of creation in your own life.

Question: How can we best help the supreme Artist in His art?

Sri Chinmoy: The way to help the supreme Artist, who is the Supreme, is through consciously praying for His Victory. There cannot be any greater service. Let us use the term ‘service’ rather than ‘help’. If we say ‘help’, immediately ego comes forward. But how are we going to help the Supreme, who has everything and is everything? When we say ‘service’, then we get a sense of devotion, a sense of identification. When we take our prayer as service, He is proud of us, but when we take it as help, then we ourselves become proud. The moment we say, “O Supreme, may Thy Victory be proclaimed in me and through me at every second throughout Eternity,” at that moment we have to feel that we are serving the Supreme. The best service we will be able to give Him is to pray constantly that His Victory should be proclaimed in and through us, in and through our dear ones and in and through each individual on earth. If we have that kind of constant prayer, then we are serving the supreme Artist best.

Question: Guru, does the ultimate goal of art and the artist lie in expressing the purest spirituality?

Sri Chinmoy: Absolutely! The ultimate goal lies only in pure spirituality. Spirituality here means Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. Spirituality is one’s own reality. If one does not ultimately reach his own reality, then he is always a failure. So the ultimate goal of any artist, no matter what kind of artist he is, is spirituality — if he has any ultimate goal as such. That is because spirituality is the only reality which embodies Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. The artist can achieve that goal through his artistic expression while remaining in the highest consciousness. Spirituality does not mean staying inside a cave or on top of the Himalayas. It does not mean praying and meditating in some corner. No! Spirituality means the divine fulfilment of life, the divine revelation and divine manifestation of life. Life in its full blossom is called spirituality. Life has to be blossomed petal by petal and then, when it becomes a real flower, it is called spirituality. The divine smile in us, the Smile of the Supreme, has to be manifested. When it is manifested, we call it spirituality. Spirituality means accepting life in every form and seeing at every second the Creator creating and dancing in each action. Every second we have to feel that inside us the Supreme is dancing. He is dancing because He is achieving something and becoming something in and through us.

Question: Why do some people have artistic capacities while others do not?

Sri Chinmoy: Why are some people hungry for God-realisation, while others are not? You are hungry for God-realisation: that is why God is giving you this food. If you were not hungry, then God would not feed you. These things depend entirely on one’s inner hunger. Some people feel the necessity of developing artistic capacities and some people don’t, just as some people want to become poets while others want to become singers. You may ask why God did not give the same hunger to everybody. The answer is that God gave us limited freedom, and with that limited freedom some people said that they did not care to become musicians or singers or artists. But others felt that artistic capacity was something very good, very great, and very necessary in their lives. It depends on individual choice. Limited freedom we are given. With that freedom somebody will practise for twenty hours a day to become a musician and somebody else will spend his time reading the newspapers and watching television. If you spend your time reading The New York Times or the Daily News, you will get world information, but you will not become a great musician. Opportunity is given; time is also given. But you are using the time for one purpose and somebody else is using the same time for another purpose. With this limited freedom and limited opportunity, he is aiming at a particular goal which he will eventually reach. It depends entirely on your inner hunger and what you want to become.

Question: How can we perform all our responsibilities as artists?

Sri Chinmoy: We can perform all our responsibilities as artists if we see the life-inspiring and life-fulfilling supreme Artist inside all our responsibilities. If we take all our responsibilities as opportunities and not as heavy burdens, then whatever we offer to the world is undoubtedly a devoted and glorious work of art.

Question: Does humanity's interest in the performing arts help the world's progress?

Sri Chinmoy: Dance, theatre and music are meant to help the world’s progress. Aspiration is bound to be followed by realisation, and realisation is bound to be followed by manifestation. If the performers do everything with a divine attitude to inspire and elevate the audience in some way, then certainly it helps the audience’s progress. Otherwise, the wrong motive of the performers and the wrong motive of the audience cannot be of any help to the world’s progress. Again, the inspiration that the audience gets today must be expanded tomorrow to a higher and deeper truth, which we call aspiration.

Question: How can we remember that even the most menial action is a form of art?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to remember at each moment that you are not the doer you are only the instrument. While you are in the kitchen touching the stove, you have to feel that it is not you who is touching the stove; it is somebody within you who is touching the stove. Always you have to identify yourself with some inner reality, some higher reality, the thing that is really divine in you. Right now when you think of yourself, you immediately think of all your imperfections. But when you think of yourself, you have to think that somebody divine is operating in and through you, and that you are just an instrument. If you can feel this, then automatically the realisation of that somebody within you becomes yours. When you think of yourself as the representative or conscious channel of somebody who is all Wisdom and all Light, and that He is acting in and through you, then immediately you will see that everything you do and touch is leading you to your destined goal. Otherwise, if you touch a material object which you consider undivine, and if you as an individual think of yourself as undivine, then there are two undivine, sick soldiers together. You have to feel that something within you is really strong, divine and beautiful, and that that very thing is utilising you to fulfil itself. If you become an expression or instrument of the divine within you, then everything that you touch or do will be a new discovery for you; everything will have new life for you at every moment. Your actions will not seem menial; they will not seem monotonous or mechanical. No, no, no! Each time you touch something you will give life to it and it will give new life to you. New inspiration, new life will enter into and flow out of whatever you touch. At that time you will be singing the song of ever-expanding life and ever-transcending life.

Question: Can listening to music raise one's consciousness?

Sri Chinmoy: If you listen to and identify yourself with spiritual music, music from the heart and soul, naturally it will raise your consciousness. But if you listen to ordinary vital music, then it will lower your consciousness. Soulful music already has its own height. While you are listening you identify with it so, like a magnet, it pulls you up. Already the height is there. If somebody has already gone to the top floor of a building, it means that there is a staircase. You have to identify yourself with the staircase and also with the person who has already climbed up it. Then only will he be able to show you how he climbed up and where the staircase is. Appreciation means identification. If you become one with the staircase and also with the person who has created the staircase for you in his music, then you also can reach the top floor.

Question: What is the supreme goal of art?

Sri Chinmoy: The supreme goal of art is Self-discovery or God-realisation and life-perfection. We know what God-realisation is. What is life-perfection? Life-perfection is unconditional and constant surrender to God’s Will, the Will of the Supreme.

Question: What does the Supreme want us to learn from our artistic creations?

Sri Chinmoy: The Supreme wants us to learn gratitude, a sense of constant gratitude. This gratitude does not only expand itself, but it also expands our consciousness. Each divinely inspired artistic creation is a clear indication of the expansion of our aspiring, God-reaching and God-manifesting consciousness.

Question: Can a work of art manifest a higher state of consciousness than the artist himself has actually attained?

Sri Chinmoy: An artist, just like an elevator, can go very high for a fleeting second and create something very high. Then, the next moment, he can drop. But even if he falls as a human being, the thing that he has achieved remains at its original height. Perhaps the artist will never reach that same height in this incarnation again, but his artistic creation remains. But without reaching a certain height at least for a fleeting second, the artist cannot create anything at that particular height.

When Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” he was in a very high consciousness. But did he remain in that consciousness? When you read the whole of ‘Endymion’, you see that there are many lines that are not at all good. But the first line is so powerful. He reached that height for a fleeting second and wrote an immortal line, but then he fell down most comfortably and stayed there. But his achievement remains immortal. It has become humanity’s achievement and humanity’s treasure. It is like a builder who builds a superb house. For a while he feels that it is his house: but then the person who employed him to build the house starts occupying the house and throws the builder out.

When an artist creates something that has a particular level of consciousness, he has to reach that consciousness himself, if only for a fleeting second. When you say that his achievement is at a particular height, this means that he did enter into that height; otherwise he could not have created it. Sometimes an artist can enter into the Supreme’s Height by praying or invoking the Supreme’s Compassion or Blessing. He may not actually reach the particular height; but he just goes to the Source and asks the Supreme for help. Even if he stays at the foot of the tree, if he sincerely cries for a mango, then the Owner of the tree, the Supreme, will say, “All right, you sit here and let Me climb up on your behalf and bring the mango down for you.” But this is very rare. Generally, if you are very hungry for a mango, you have to go and climb up the tree yourself.

Question: Is there any spiritual significance to dance as an art?

Sri Chinmoy: Dance is undoubtedly a form of art. Lord Shiva is the supreme Dancer. With his world-destroying dance which is called Tandava, he transforms and gives new life to the creation. In him the significance of dance reaches the highest height of art.

Question: Is the bond of oneness between the Guru and the disciple a form of art?

Sri Chinmoy: Absolutely! It is a supreme form of art. This art remains for Eternity. Even if the disciple leaves the Master, this bond does not fail. Because of ignorance, the disciple may break the outer bond, but if the Master is a real Yogi, then the inner bond is for Eternity. The Master’s very acceptance of the disciple is itself called union, oneness. Once the disciple has been accepted by a great Yogi or an Avatar, even if the disciple leaves, he ultimately comes back. It may be ten years or twenty years or two hundred years, and the Master may not be in the physical body at the time, but the disciple does come back. Then the Master can identify himself with another Master who is in the physical if he wants to. If he feels that the other Master can be of some help to his disciple, he will allow the disciple to go to this other Master. Then, at that time, he will work in and through the other Master. The Master’s oneness with the disciple and the disciple’s oneness with the Master is supreme. When the disciple becomes one with the Master, naturally it is a supreme form of art because the Master embodies, reveals and manifests the Supreme for his disciples. Let us say that he represents the Supreme for them. What else can be the supreme art if not the disciple’s establishment of oneness with his Guru who represents the Supreme for him?

Question: Can an artist realise the Supreme through the perfection of his art?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to know what kind of art he creates. Suppose I am an artist and I have drawn a cucumber. It is an excellent cucumber because I am very fond of cucumbers. Immediately you can see that it is a cucumber; even a blind person can see it. But no matter how perfect a cucumber I draw, it cannot give me realisation. Impossible! Suppose I drew a wonderful chair. Even a child could say, “Oh, yes, it is a beautiful chair"’ But by drawing this chair I am not going to realise God. Everybody will say it is perfect; even if a carpenter examines it, he will say that it is perfect. Perfection is there, but this perfection is not going to give me God-realisation. I have to know, while I am creating art, how much soul’s height I have. I may be a very bad artist, the worst artist in the world, and I may not draw well at all. But what is important is how much of my intense aspiration is in my effort to create. Not the creation itself, but how much aspiration I have used will take me to God.

Question: Does the use of the physical body in dancing make it more difficult to integrate dance into the spiritual life than to integrate other art forms?

Sri Chinmoy: In general, it does. But in India there are some dancers who, when they dance, really offer their dedication and devotion to the Inner Pilot, the Supreme. When they look at the audience they don’t see any individuals as such; they see all the human beings as supreme gods and goddesses. When they see the audience in that way, it helps them tremendously in their spiritual life. If the audience is in a high consciousness and the dancer himself is in a high consciousness, then dance can be a truly spiritual art. Like a child, the dancer is giving an innocent, absolutely soulful thrill to the audience. The dancer is giving to the world what he has, and the world is receiving from him with intense gratitude. And the very fact that the audience is appreciating and admiring the dancer is adding to his own capacity and beauty.

But what often happens is that the dancers start with a good motive, but then the mind starts to play its role. It wants to get appreciation and admiration. The physical is dancing, the vital is dancing, but the mind is like a magnet, trying all the time to get appreciation and admiration. While the mind is getting appreciation and admiration, the lower vital of the person who is appreciating the dance brings its impurity into the system of the dancer. Then the dancer’s own consciousness falls like anything, and his original purity is totally lost. Even if the dancer is at the height of purity, the audience can just devour his spiritual qualities.

Again, the dancer sometimes thinks that he will offer only absolute purity and divinity but the moment he starts dancing, instead of the soul’s beauty, he spreads vulgarity and lower vital movements. The audience may be in an aspiring mood, but the dancer may be very low and be consciously or unconsciously spreading lower vital forces. The audience may start with absolute purity, after meditation or something, but as soon as the dancer starts, immediately the physical beauty of the dancer attracts the lower vital of the audience to such an extent that the audience cannot remain in a high consciousness. Then the dance becomes just physical and vital attraction. Then there is no spirituality there.

The aspirant has to be very careful when the movement of the body starts. The difficulty is that we don’t know where the body’s temptation hides. Temptation need not be in any particular place. It can hide even inside the eyes. The moment you look at someone with one eye, it is enough to capture that person with your temptation. Even with one finger you can make a gesture that is enough to disturb people. Or the audience may stab the dancer with just one look and the dancer’s purity is finished. If the audience and the dancer remain in their highest spiritual consciousness, that is the ideal of dance, but it is almost impossible to achieve.

Question: When God made nature, was that His artistic creation?

Sri Chinmoy: God did not use the word ‘artistic’ at that time. Only He thought that what He wanted was to manifest His Dream, His Vision. When we say ‘artistic’, immediately we bring the creation down to the mental level. But if you see the creation as the expression or the revelation or the manifestation of God’s Vision, that is a better way to describe what God actually did. You have to say that God created nature with the view of manifesting His Dream as Reality. His Dream in the beginning was unreal, but He wanted to make it real to us by bringing it into the earth-consciousness and manifesting it as something tangible.

Question: Is there art in other worlds besides earth?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, there is art in other worlds and other planes of consciousness apart from earth, but this art is not for manifestation. This art is something that exists for its own sake. It comes spontaneously. Here on earth, whenever we do something, even if we just exist, we do it for the sake of others. Suppose you exist here on earth as a tree. A tree will have flowers and fruits. Even if the tree doesn’t want to give me anything, still I can climb up its trunk and eat its fruits or pluck its flowers or I can just enjoy its shade if I want to. But in the other worlds it is not like that. There you can appreciate the beauty of something, but you can’t have it. You can appreciate the beauty of something, but you can’t claim it or use it for your own purpose. Here on earth, as soon as art is created, you can steal it with force or buy it or plead with the artist to give it to you. In the other worlds, you can at most appreciate it, but you can’t capture the art, you can’t claim it, you can’t acquire it, because it is not manifested. In other worlds, you see the Gandharvas — the celestial musicians like Narada, who is the most prominent one. There is a particular world of musicians where a constant assembly of musicians is held. There is also a world for artists in the inner world. There are some artists who have not taken incarnations but just remain in this inner world. Again, some great artists, spiritual artists from earth, go to this world to enjoy it when they leave the body.

Question: Are great artists inspired spiritually, and is their art an expression of their soul?

Sri Chinmoy: If they are spiritual, then only will they be inspired spiritually. Otherwise, art as a piece of delightful expression can come from the mental plane or from the vital plane or from the physical plane.

Question: Guru, what is the secret to the art of self-perfection?

Sri Chinmoy: The secret to the art of self-perfection can be found in self-giving. There can be no other way to perfect yourself than to give yourself to the right cause — not in a blind way to whomever you see on the street, but to the right person. Who is the right person? The right person is God. If you want to give yourself to the best thing, the most perfect thing, then you have to go to the One who is best in yourself, and that is God, the Inner Pilot. In order to become perfect, you have to mix with the One who is already perfect. If you mix with Him and give to Him what you have, then He will tell you how He has become perfect.

Question: How can my life become a true work of art?

Sri Chinmoy: Only through self-giving. Whenever you do something, feel that you are giving of yourself. The other day I told you that when you give a glass of juice to a customer in your store, you have to repeat the name of the Supreme once, at least once. When you give that juice, feel that you are not just giving a liquid substance and a paper cup to some individual. No! You have to feel that you are giving to the Supreme Himself, to the One whom you are invoking and adoring. When you feel that you are giving it to the Supreme Himself, then naturally utmost devotion and surrender comes. At that time, your whole existence is entering into the Supreme in that person. The best form of art is self-giving with the clear vision of whom you are giving to. You are not giving to the individual, but to the living embodiment of the Supreme or to the Supreme Himself whom you are seeing inside the person. If self-giving is done in that way, at every second every action of yours becomes the supreme art, and life itself becomes the supreme art.

Question: Does all art that has ever been created and that ever will be created first exist on some other plane and, if so, in what form?

Sri Chinmoy: Everything that is here is also in a higher plane. Nothing on earth can exist that has not first existed in the inner world. Every capacity that one has comes from some other plane. But there the capacity is not as manifested or as clear. It is like a nebula. Only the essence of the capacity is there. When it is manifested, it becomes something solid and palpable. What exists in another plane does not have a material form. From the formless it takes form on the earth plane, as water, which is formless, becomes ice.

We can say that in the other planes the creation is like a seed. There can be no achievement, no creation, no manifestation on earth unless there is first a seed on the inner plane. That seed embodies the thing that is going to be manifested. But unless the seed has germinated into a plant, we cannot even see it, let alone appreciate it. When it is on the inner plane, our outer vision will not see it because it is too subtle. Just because it is so subtle, we feel that there is no capacity inside it. Then, when the creation appears on the earth plane, we feel that it came out of the blue, that somebody waved a wand and it just appeared like magic. But it is not like that. Everything is in seed form in the inner world first, and then only can it become manifested in the outer world. The embodiment of Truth-reality which is manifested here in the form of art or in any other form first existed in the inner world.

In Indian scriptures it is said that the cosmic banyan tree is different from an ordinary tree. With an ordinary tree we see that the seed is underground and the tree rises up from it. But with the cosmic tree the seed is above and the tree grows down from it. The Vedic Seers said that this tree faces the ground and its root is on the top, on the highest plane of consciousness. They realised that creation in the seed form is above, not below.

Question: Guru, at my job I have to work with unspiritual music. How can I be creative and not be affected by it?

Sri Chinmoy: In your case, it is not that you are actually creating. If the music is not spiritual or divine, then what can you create? If you want to create something with it, you are only adding your capacity to ignorance. At that time you are not expected to create anything. The best thing you can do is try not to be affected by the unspiritual music and remain in a high consciousness. Your best creation is not to be affected by something which is trying to lower your consciousness. Your creation is to maintain your spiritual height. If you can remain in your aspiration, that aspiration itself is creation.

Question: How can you keep your ego out of your art?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to be clever. If the ego comes, then think that you are one individual and your ego is another individual. This other individual is undivine, but you are mixing with him. You have got a piece of bread and you are sharing it with somebody whom outwardly you call a friend. But from your personal inner experience you know that this ego is really your enemy. Why should you share with somebody who does not have the same goal as you have? If somebody has the same goal, naturally you will share with that person. But the ego does not have the same goal. On the contrary, it will stand in your way when you try to run toward your goal. By feeding someone who has a different goal from you, you are only delaying your own progress and weakening your own strength. Your Beloved Supreme is waiting for you; He is crying, crying for you to reach Him. Yet you are giving half your strength to somebody who is really your enemy. The Supreme gives you the opportunity and the capacity to run the fastest, but you are sharing half your capacity with somebody who is running to another goal, to the goal of destruction. You have to feel at that time that he is your real enemy. If you feed a real enemy, then you are only delaying your own progress. If you see the ego in this way, then you can easily separate your creative capacity from ego.

Question: Is there a spiritual centre for art and should we concentrate on it before we create?

Sri Chinmoy: The throat chakra is the spiritual centre for art. If you can open this centre, then you can be a very good musician or a very good artist of any kind. All kinds of artistic capacities can be developed from this centre. The difficulty is that if your nature is not pure, then if you open this centre and become a great artist it will be all for name and fame, and all your aspiration will go away. When you open the throat centre, if your navel centre and lower centres are not properly purified, then as soon as you create something, worldly appreciation will lower your consciousness. It may happen that you will only create for world applause and not with the idea of serving God through your creation. If you cannot have the inner assurance of purity, the best thing is to pray to the Supreme to purify you and illumine your consciousness so that you will not fall from the spiritual life when you get boundless artistic capacity by opening this chakra. But if you have consciously established a certain standard of peace, light and bliss in your life, then you can safely open this centre and create something beautiful, meaningful and everlasting.

Question: Guru, how can one determine whether his poetry comes from the soul's inspiration rather than from the workings of the ordinary mind?

Sri Chinmoy: If anything comes from the soul’s inspiration, you will get such a thrill that every nerve, every part of your being, inner and outer, will dance with joy. Your little finger, your nose, your eyes, your consciousness will all dance with joy. If something has come as an expression of the soul, then there will not be any part of your body which will not respond with delight and become delight itself. You will swim in joy from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. But if your creation comes from the searching mind or from the brilliant mind through much labour and hard work, then you will feel only a certain amount of joy. You will not feel joy like a wave sweeping you from head to foot. Anything that comes through the mind, any mental creation, will never give you satisfaction in your entire being. But if it is the soul’s creation, then there will be no portion of your body, your vital or your mind which is not touched and illumined, which does not respond to the inner thrill that you have.

Question: What is the supreme art of one's aspiring life as a seeker and as a realised soul?

Sri Chinmoy: As a seeker, the supreme art of life is to realise the highest absolute Truth. As a realised soul, who is an eternal seeker, the supreme art of one’s aspiring life is to become part and parcel of the universal Consciousness and make it available to all those who need it.

Editor's note to the first edition

The role of art and creativity in human life has intrigued man from time immemorial. In this volume of questions and answers, Sri Chinmoy discusses art from the highest spiritual point of view. As an illumined Yogi with access to the highest artistic planes, Sri Chinmoy is able to offer a kind of light rarely found in discussions of the subject. He takes the reader beyond all mental and philosophical formulations to a world seldom seen and rarely, if ever, described. He takes the reader on a journey into the inner world where creativity first begins. He takes the reader to the world where art exists in seed form before it is ever manifested in the physical. This, then, is not really a book at all. It is more like an opening to a deeper, more sublime reality ... to a higher, more subtle plane of consciousness.

From:Sri Chinmoy,Art's life and the soul's light, Agni Press, 1974
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