Sri Chinmoy: Among the world figures of our time, there are many whom I admire, but first and foremost is President Gorbachev. After him come Mother Teresa, the present Pope1 and President Nelson Mandela. There are other world figures whom I have met and greatly admire, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Vaclav Havel and several Secretaries-General of the United Nations.
I would like to say something about my first few choices. In Mother Teresa I find two aspects: the mother and the sister. One moment she is the mother of compassion; the next moment she is the sister of affection. When I see her and talk to her, she blesses me as a mother blesses her child, and again she shows me the utmost sisterly affection.
The Pope also has two aspects: that of a father and that of a grandfather. According to me, he is not only the Holy Father, but also the Holy Grandfather. A father believes in justice. If his children do something wrong, the father will be upset, and he may take action. But the grandfather is all forgiveness for his grandchildren. In his eye, the grandchildren cannot do anything wrong. In this respect, the Pope is like a grandfather.
In my humble opinion, President Gorbachev is the world’s greatest man. He could have acted like his predecessors, like Stalin and others, but his heart came to the fore. Now there is one Berlin; previously there were two Berlins. He was the main instrument to liberate Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and so many other countries in the Eastern Bloc. I am not saying he was the only instrument, but he was the main instrument to liberate those countries. I know how difficult it is to unite two countries, but he has done it. Because of him, there is now one Germany. But his greatest service has been in his own country. He has opened the door to the West. You may call it democracy or something else, but there is an openness now which did not exist previously. How far he has succeeded is up to God and humanity to decide. Humanity will always misjudge us. What is important is how we are judged in God’s Eye.
Before President Gorbachev came to power, world peace was only a dictionary word. Discussion about disarmament and reducing nuclear weapons all came from him. He started it; he was the pioneer. Many people did not trust him in the beginning, but he proved he was sincere. When President Gorbachev took over, for a few years he could have acted like an autocrat, the way his predecessors did, but he did not do this. Instead, he introduced perestroika, glasnost and democracy.
To be frank, politics is not my forté. I am a spiritual seeker. But if I see that somebody is trying to elevate the consciousness of humanity, then I offer that person my wholehearted support. President Gorbachev showed how human beings can be united. In his case, he acted. Many other political figures, forgive me, only talk about peace. One moment they propose world peace; the next moment they drop bombs somewhere. They use the term ‘nuclear weapon reduction’; then we see that they are increasing their weapons. But in President Gorbachev’s case, when he said something, he did it. That is why I take him as the world’s greatest living figure.
Another rare quality President Gorbachev has: he is sincere and brave enough to say that he has made many Himalayan blunders. There are many political leaders who will never admit that they have made any mistakes. President Gorbachev writes in his memoirs that he has made mistakes and now he is trying to rectify them. We are human beings. To err is human; everybody makes mistakes. But there are some who admit that they have made mistakes, while others do not want to admit this. People who admit that they have made mistakes are, according to me, not only great but good people.
SCA 433. At the time of this answer, the present Pope was Pope John Paul II.↩