All times may legitimately lay claim to call themselves extreme, for in all times human beings respond by extreme means to the brutal or brutish lives of their contemporaries. In our own world extreme forms are not wanting; and in the spiritual life, no less than in the political, we are subjected to conflicting calls — calls to a radical inwardness advising contempt for the world, or to apocalyptic militancy urging vehement means for the ends of peace. All days may seem like the last days.
At such times one looks to persons and to institutions which unify, which hold to a center, call to a centering, and offer our disparate selves a chance for peace. That peace, however, may appear chimerical, for political settlements are ever precarious, and in our inner lives multiple allegiances make coherence hard: "the center cannot hold." The yogis who urge that peace within yields peace without seem irreconcilable with the political visionaries who assure us that peace without permits peace within. One senses that both are right, but one looks in vain for spirits wise enough to harmonize both perspectives and lead us home.
In the light of such a predicament, the appearance of this modest book is an event of some moment. It indicates that a unique alliance has been formed: a man of the center and an institution of the center brought into mutually enriching contact with one another. The man is Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual Master of the highest attainment; the institution is the United Nations, doggedly pursuing its mandate to make our fractured world whole. For the past two years, in the lecture hall and the chapel, Sri Chinmoy has been pouring his energy and grace into the United Nations, and, as he says in one of his talks, "trying to throw light on love in today's world." Light and Love: these are the two best words to introduce him.
These essays are transcriptions of talks given from April, 1970 through October, 1972 in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium. These talks were open to all members of the United Nations and were attended by a diverse gathering of its constituents. By circumstance as well as by the eminence of his spiritual achievement, Sri Chinmoy is uniquely suited to take a position at the United Nations. His spiritual mission is essentially international, with centres established across the United States, in Puerto Rico, Scotland, London, Zurich, France and in Canada. From the outset his work has been dedicated to the resolution of apparent contraries, to the reciprocity of strengths:
Western dynamism and Eastern spirituality are the two wings of God the Eternal Bird....
He sees each nation as possessing a soul and having unique contributions to make to a community of nations, and it is for this reason that he values the United Nations, and sees it as a "chosen instrument of God."
What may strike a reader of this book most forcibly is something unexpected: a kind of underlying practicality. These essays are no effusions of idealism; the spirit behind these words has looked upon the predicaments of the world with a luminous eye and sees solutions. In his view the United Nations is the outward and visible form of a means for hope we have at our disposal:
God's Light is here for humanity to receive on a practical level, in an earthly manner. God's Light is here to illumine us. Consciously and unconsciously the world is receiving this Light from the United Nations.
But the United Nations cannot bring us to an inner peace.
. . . in this world of turmoil, mediation is necessary ... in the world of frustration and despair, meditation is necessary.... Mediation is a temporary mental relief, a pause, a rest in the life of the vital it is a clever compromise. But to expect abiding peace and illumining fulfilment from mediation is simply absurd.
Here a most practical note is sounded: this has all the candor of common sense. Moreover, this passage raises a question, central to the book and to its deep consoling wisdom for us, can we really aspire to achieve "abiding peace and illumining fulfilment"? Admitting how provisional our arbitration, can there be anything like an all-encompassing peace? What does Sri Chinmoy mean by peace, and where may we seek it?
Sri Chinmoy sees man as a peace-seeker not because man is necessarily idealistic, but because man recognizes that only in peace will he be able to satisfy himself.
Man seeks peace because he needs peace desperately. Man welcomes peace because it is in peace alone that he can have his own true achievement and fulfilment.
This pursuit of peace is the central human aspiration, though we may think that deeper in us lies the search to be creative, or to fulfil our responsibilities to the world, or to live a righteous life. But these are all tributaries to the principal flow. In Sri Chinmoy's terms "spirituality" is quintessentially our aspiration for peace; "Yoga," the pursuit of union, of oneness, is the practice of this pursuit.
When we have learned what we can expect from aspiration and what we can expect from Yoga, world peace will no longer remain a far cry.
However, we may still feel the need for a more practical approach. Let us accept as a given this definition of our true needs, what then is the connection between the peace we might desire for the world and the peace we might desire for ourselves? What is the process of attainment?
World peace will begin when the so-called human expectation ends. World peace can dawn only when each individual realises the Supreme Truth:
Love is the revelation of life and Life is the manifestation of Love.
"World peace will begin when the so-called human expectation ends." It would appear here as if we were being asked to throw the reins on the withers and trust the horse to take us home. And in truth, something like this is required, for we are being asked to recognize that our efforts are bringing us no closer to what we seek; it is as if we were out of touch with what is most natural in us.
What happens when we try to love the world or when we attempt to fulfil our responsibility to the world? We try to possess and bind the world, and while we are doing this we see that we have already been bound and possessed by the world ....
How can we fulfil all our responsibilities? We have tried in human ways, but we have failed. We think of the world with good thoughts and ideas, but the world remains exactly the same as it was yesterday. We love the world, but the world still remains full of cruelty and hatred. And why does all this happen? It is because we have not yet pleased our Inner Pilot, the One we have to please first.... Unless and until we have pleased the Inner Pilot, the world will always remain a battlefield where the soldiers of fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, imperfection, limitation and bondage will fight; and consciously or unconsciously we will play with these undivine soldiers ....
...World peace can be achieved...when the Divine Power of Love replaces the undivine love of power.
The fruit of our human expectation is always the same; continually we come up against ourselves. Human expectation is frustration. Sri Chinmoy points us within, to an internal guidance system, to the Inner Pilot, "the inner voice." It is the source of truth in us; it is our divine life. To reach it, to discern it, Sri Chinmoy urges us to a "transcendence of human ego."
The transcendence of ego is man's real dignity and true worth.And as it is for individuals, so might it be for nations; they too may follow Truth rather than self-interest. Difficult as it might sound to engage that inner voice and learn to obey it, only by such a means are we ever to be free:
The very pursuit of Truth can make the existence of a nation free, meaningful, purposeful and fruitful.
Still, reading these words, we might again ask for practical help. How might one learn to hear a sound one has never heard before? How does one learn to look within? One begins personally to look for a teacher; politically one turns towards an institution like the United Nations. Outwardly one practises patiently the intricacies of mediation; inwardly one may begin to practise meditation.
Meditation is, among other ways of describing it, a learning to listen for the inner voice, a practice in discerning the selfish from the selfless. We are called to transcend our egos; "meditation is self-transcendence." It is the way we grow into who we really are. It need not be done at an altar or in ritual, but implicitly meditation is a form of dedication, and dedication an act of meditation.
He who meditates, consciously dedicates his life to God. He who dedicates his life to mankind, soulfully meditates on the real God.
Thus in Sri Chinmoy's terms, meditation is action, a form of peace-making. Meditation is service to the true spirit in ourselves and the acknowledgement of that spirit as one and the same within everyone. Over the rim of the ego rises the discovery of who we really are:
Aspiration tells man that he will be able to see the Truth of the Beyond. Yoga goes one step ahead. Yoga tells man that the Truth of the Beyond is within him. Finally, God comes and tells man, "My child, you are the Truth of the Beyond. You are My Beyond."
At this astonishing point, we discover our capacity for peace, inner and outer, for we have recovered a primary, a unitary relationship with the world. We are at peace.
Feeling the truth of this oneness, we will inevitably move to a collective sense of our mission on this small round planet. We will no longer be gripped by the desperation to control, to compete, or to surpass. The play with the undivine soldiers can end in the light of our interconnectedness:
. . . from the spiritual point of view we can surpass only when we become one: one nation, one soul. One nation can surpass all the other nations only by becoming one with them in their suffering, in their joy and in their achievements. When we become one, we really surpass ... we surpass not only the capacity of our own achievements and of others' achievements, but also the capacity of limited feelings. Real supremacy comes when we grow into vastness. If we become the vastness of Self, then who or what can be superior to us?The United Nations is crucial to our times because it is the only institution that may answer to the mediatory and meditative needs of a peace-seeking world. The United Nations means "the usefulness of the united notions, united thoughts and united feelings, and the expansion of oneness ..." in the eyes of this great teacher who has experienced the oneness of Self, the United Nations appears as a Garland of Nation-Souls; and it is a matter only of our aspiration for the flags to flower into this reality.
Another man fully immersed in the experience of oneness, Swami Vivekananda, wrote at the beginning of this century:
There are evils in every society; everybody knows it ... but he is a friend to mankind who finds a way out of the difficulty. Like the drowning boy and the philosopher — when the philosopher was lecturing him, the boy cried, "Take me out of the water first ..." Where is the man who will lend a hand to drag us out? Where is the man who really loves us? Where is the man who has sympathy for us? Ay, that man is wanted.
Sri Chinmoy is such a man. It may be hard at first for us to believe what he tells us about ourselves. Our culture, after all, has led us to imagine God as separate, hidden, perhaps even dead. Here once again we are asked to open ourselves to the radical hope, the root truth, that, God not only exists, but exists for us, in us and as us. We have forgotten how to be merciful to ourselves; continually we exile ourselves from God's loving presence within us; we attempt to navigate without a pilot. We perpetuate our confusion. "We are little worlds made cunningly," John Donne said of us, and indeed we are the world in miniature. Nothing can be more practical then than this work for peace.
In his outer being and inner being each man has only two words: war and peace. Outer war we all know. Inner war is constant. At every moment a sincere seeker has to fight against his own doubt, imperfections, limitations, bondage and death. This inner war is constant; and when we achieve our victory in the inner life, only then can we claim to be God's children, worthy children of God, divine children of God, the true representatives of God. At that moment God beckons us, and He uses us in His own Way. He takes us for His own Use.
Says yet another spiritual Master:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Aum Shanti Shanti
Assistant Professor of English
November 23, 1972