Part I

SCA 55-56. Interview by Art Speaks magazine on 3 August 1993, at an exhibition of 70,000 Dream-Freedom-Peace-Birds, Soho, New York.

Interviewer: Does the work of pop art have any relevance to your art — in other words, to very directly spiritual art?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to forgive me. It is not that I do not appreciate pop art. It is only that I have not been to a museum for a long, long time. In 1964, when I first came to New York, I went to the Asia Society, where they had the works of a few Eastern artists. Then I visited a few other museums, but I could not understand what I saw. Of course, art is not something to be understood; it is something to be felt. Only I am saying that it was so foreign to me that I could not appreciate it; I am in no way criticising or judging it.

I never thought that God would make me an artist. In my life I have done quite a few things through the Grace of God. I play a number of musical instruments, but there is nobody who teaches me. Again, although I did not complete high school, my philosophy is taught at some universities and many people read my books. I studied a little art in school, around 1944, but I never had real instruction.

Everything I do is entirely the result of God’s Grace. Out of His infinite Compassion, He blesses me with inspiration. His inspiration is all the time helping and guiding me in my painting and in everything else. Therefore, it has not been necessary for me to see the work of other artists in order to paint. It is not because I do not appreciate them; far from it. The reason is that I get all my inspiration from God.

Interviewer: That is wonderful! I don’t think you need it, obviously.

Sri Chinmoy: When I look at a painting, I try to feel its inner existence, which we call the soul. If a painting gives me an immediate inner thrill or a feeling of joy, if it touches my aspiring heart and makes me want to become a better person, then I feel that painting is meaningful for me. But if a particular work of art does not give my aspiring heart immediate inspiration, then I find it very difficult to appreciate. When I get a magnetic pull from a painting, then I become one with it. But if I see there is a yawning gulf between the painting and my own inspiration or aspiration, then I am unable to identify and become inseparably one with the artist and his painting. In no way am I judging these artists or their paintings; it is a question of my incapacity or my capacity. There are millions of people who do appreciate these paintings.

Interviewer: It makes absolute sense to me. You said what I was hoping you would say, because I perceive your work as very unique and apart from other artwork — and I like that.

Sri Chinmoy: Everything that I do comes from my life of prayer and meditation. I do not use the mind; I use the heart. I try to make my heart a receptive instrument so that God, the Supreme Artist, can paint in and through me. I am like a ballpoint pen. Somebody is using me to write something. Somebody is acting in and through me. Through my prayer and meditation, I try only to be receptive to God’s Grace, which is descending from Above. If somebody gives us a gift, we receive it with tremendous gratitude. Similarly, God is supplying me with inspiration and aspiration, and I am extremely, extremely grateful to Him. I know that without Him I can do nothing and I am nothing.

Interviewer: I can’t imagine any better reason to create art. I am very happy with that answer. I marvel at your work! Thank you very much.

Part II

SCA 57-64. Questions and answers at the Jharna-Kala exhibition, on 3 August 1993.

Question: How do you find the time to draw, to write, to do everything you do?

Sri Chinmoy: As you know, where there is a will, there is a way. I pray to God and meditate on God. Out of His infinite Compassion, He has given me the capacity to accomplish quite a few things. These creations of mine are not my personal belongings or my personal possessions. These are my dedicated offerings to my Inner Pilot. Out of His infinite Bounty He has given me the capacity, and it is He who receives the fruits.

Question: I notice the drawings are all birds. Why birds?

Sri Chinmoy: I am a man of prayer and meditation. For me, birds have a very special significance on a spiritual level. They fly in the sky, and the sky is all freedom. So when the birds fly in the sky, they remind me of the soul’s infinite freedom. The soul has come from Heaven. When we think of birds, we are also reminded of our Source, and this gives us enormous joy. I feel that if people come here to view these birds, their inner hunger to fly in the sky of infinite freedom will be fed.

Question: I come from Puerto Rico and I was wondering if you could say something about the Spanish culture.

Sri Chinmoy: The most significant event in my life during the years I have lived in the West took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I came to America in 1964, and at the end of 1966 we established our first Centre in San Juan. So my aspiration, my dedication and my vision started in Puerto Rico. I am eternally grateful to Spanish culture and Spanish spirituality, for it accepted me first.

Question: When you first went to Puerto Rico, was it difficult for the people to accept you or difficult for you to get accustomed to them?

Sri Chinmoy: No, because they used their hearts and I used my heart. My philosophy is founded upon the heart and not upon the mind. The Puerto Ricans have such a simple mind and pure heart, and my life also tries to be all simplicity, purity and oneness. So when I went to Puerto Rico at the end of 1966, immediately they accepted me and I also found it extremely, extremely easy to accept them as my own.

Question: What gives you the most satisfaction?

Sri Chinmoy: I get the most satisfaction when I am able to please my Beloved Lord Supreme in His own Way. Also, when I see that somebody else is really happy, it gives me the greatest joy; immediately I try to identify myself with that person. When children are moving around and not using their mind, there is no tension, no jealousy, no insecurity, no doubt, no impurity. When I look at the children, they give me immediate joy.

Question: Among your disciples are there people who not only share your beliefs but also whom you are very proud of?

Sri Chinmoy: I am proud of many, many of my spiritual children because not only do they have talent, but also inside their talent they have an inner hunger. If I see that they have an inner hunger, then I deeply appreciate them. Otherwise, there are many, many talented people on earth who are not practising the spiritual life. So, from the strict spiritual point of view, we cannot appreciate them. Our way is that God comes first. If someone puts God first in his life, and then if he is also endowed with capacities, well and good. Again, there are many simple-minded, pure-hearted human beings who do not have outer capacities, but at every moment they are thinking of God and praying to God to become good citizens of the world. So I appreciate them, admire them and love them deeply.

Question: In the span of a 24-hour day, how many hours do you meditate, how many hours do you paint, how many hours do you write and how many hours do you have left for leisure?

Sri Chinmoy: In my case, I fill the time in different ways. And each time I change my activity, I get tremendous satisfaction. Each time I do something new, I feel that I am getting an extra supply of energy to give me joy. I meditate early in the morning — from two or two-thirty until five o’clock. That time is very peaceful. Again, when I enter into the hustle and bustle of life, when I am playing tennis or talking to people, at that time also I can inwardly pray and meditate. It is like being an expert. When someone is an expert, he can do more than one thing at the same time.

Question: What is the most important message that you want to offer to humanity?

Sri Chinmoy: I wish to offer only one message: Pray to the Supreme, meditate on the Supreme Lord, our Heavenly Father, to be of service to Him, most soulfully, most devotedly and most unconditionally. Each and every human being is praying to God in his own way, but there is usually some condition: “God, if You do this for me, then I shall pray to You.” Or someone is praying to God only to fulfil his personal goals — to make him the world’s best singer or the world’s best artist. So most of the time we are praying with conditions. But we have to pray to God unconditionally and meditate on God unconditionally to fulfil God in God’s own Way. Then it is up to God whether or not He wants to fulfil our prayers. We should not pray to God to make us great or unique. No, our goal must be only to please God in God’s own Way. This is my supreme message. It was the same yesterday, it is the same today and it will be the same tomorrow: to please and fulfil God in God’s own Way.

Part III

SCA 65-72. Interview by The New Yorker magazine on 6 August 1993, at an exhibition of 70,000 Dream-Freedom-Peace-Birds, Soho, New York.

Interviewer: Is there one thing that inspired you to do all these small drawings of birds?

Sri Chinmoy: I am a truth-seeker and God-lover. I pray and meditate. From my prayer and meditation I receive inner messages and inner inspiration to compose songs, write poems, draw and do various other things. This inspiration carries me. I try to receive inspiration and aspiration from within, and with this inspiration and aspiration I try to be of service to mankind in various ways.

Interviewer: So as part of this inspiration, did you feel that birds were something that you should draw?

Sri Chinmoy: For me, birds have a very special significance; they embody freedom. We see a bird flying in the sky, and it reminds us of our own inner freedom. As I said before, I am a truth-seeker and a God-lover. I feel that inside each of us there is an inner existence that we call the soul. The soul, like a bird, flies in the sky of God’s Infinity. When we think of birds flying in the sky, we are reminded of our own soul-bird flying in the sky of Infinity.

If we buy a cage and put a bird inside it, the bird is limited. But if we release the bird, it will fly high, higher, highest. When the bird is flying in the boundless sky, there is no limit to its flight. Similarly, when we live inside the mind, we are encaged by limited, earth-bound thoughts — undivine, impure, destructive thoughts. But when we live in the soul, we are able to fly in the sky of divine freedom. Through prayer and meditation we become simple, sincere, humble and pure. We feel that we can go beyond our ordinary, silly earth-bound thoughts and fly in the sky of divine illumination and perfection.

Interviewer: By sharing these birds with the public, are you trying to inspire people with that message?

Sri Chinmoy: It is exactly so. Let us say you have gone to the market and bought a mango. Now you feel that if you can share it with the members of your family, you will get more joy than if you eat it all by yourself. Similarly, I have received some inspiration from my Inner Pilot. I feel that He is the one who is drawing these birds in and through me, according to my receptivity. I am only His instrument. Since He has given me the inspiration to draw, I feel it is my bounden duty to share this inspiration with others, for I take the whole world as one family.

We are trying to see the Divine inside each human being. If I see something beautiful and divine in you, then I will be filled with the inspiration and aspiration to be of service to you. And if you see something beautiful and divine in me, then you will be filled with the inspiration and aspiration to be of service to me. In this way we are inspired to become good citizens of the world and to serve one another. Otherwise, we exist only for ourselves. As individuals, no matter how many things we get or how many of our desires we fulfil, we will never have lasting happiness unless and until we see that others are also happy. We can never be satisfied with our own happiness because true happiness has to be all-encompassing. If everyone does not have it, I cannot have it either. Even if God fulfils all my desires, still I cannot be happy. For I will look around and see that somebody else is unhappy. And how can I be happy when I see that my brothers and sisters are not?

These birds remind me of a happiness that is all-pervading. I look to this side and see birds, and I look to that side and see birds. No matter in which direction I look, I see birds, and this gives me a childlike happiness. Think of a child inside a beautiful garden. The child does not stay at one place. He looks at one flower and appreciates its beauty and fragrance. Then he runs to look at another flower. He gets tremendous joy in moving from place to place and seeing the beauty, fragrance, light and delight inside so many flowers. Everywhere he goes inside the garden he is happy, happy, happy. But if he remains confined to one place, he will not be happy.

In exactly the same way, we human beings move from one place to another appreciating the different flowers in God’s life-garden. One flower is called America; another is called India or France. But these are just names and forms. Beyond the name and form comes the reality, which is all oneness. We all belong to one family, and we get tremendous joy when we share our heart’s love and delight with the other members of our family. So that is what I am trying to do with my drawings.

Interviewer: Does it make you happy to see people looking at your exhibit and walking through it?

Sri Chinmoy: It is my own inner feeling that when people look at the drawings, they get a certain sense of peace. I have observed a few visitors and have heard quite a few of the comments that they have made. When they look at these birds, they feel a sense of peace. What more can I offer to humanity? As a human being, the greatest reward that I can have is the opportunity to be of service to mankind. If I see that somebody is getting an iota of peace from my service to mankind — from my drawings, from my paintings, from my songs, from my poems or from anything else that I do — then I feel that I have accomplished something. I feel that I have been able to share my inspiration and my aspiration with others.