AUM

Man is Infinity's Heart.
Man is Eternity's Breath.
Man is Immortality's Life.

Is the West unspiritual?1

Is the West unspiritual? The immediate answer may be in the affirmative. But this answer is absurdity on the face of it. There are, in the West, countless souls who have a unique inner urge. I also dare to say that they are far more spiritual than those who pass for men of spirituality in the East.

It may sound strange, but I cannot help mentioning that there are many Westerners who are practising spirituality in the truest sense of the term but do not realise it. Alas, this irony of fate is all due to their mind, their mental upbringing. Their mind tells them, nay, makes them feel that they are here and God is elsewhere. What is worse is that they breathe in God and Fear at the same breath. The very idea of God’s omnipotence sends a shudder through them. Any grave error, on their part, they feel, can never escape God’s most severe punishment. This is precisely what they have learned from their mind. But in their spiritual quest, the mind is not all in all. They have a heart that makes them feel that their earthly existence and God’s Breath are one, inseparable; their aspiration and God’s Grace live together and fulfil each other.

God is not something that is outside, something to be attained, as the usual Western concept goes. God is something that has to be unfolded like a lotus, petal by petal, from within.

Our present-day world, especially the Western world, is ultramodern in its complexity. Complexity tends to misery. Misery is frustration. Frustration is the death of achievement and progress. Simplicity is inner delight. This inner delight is Nectar. Nectar is immortality, immortality of the physical, the vital and the mental. Simplicity is the spontaneity of the heart. Complexity, on the other hand, has become the natural expression of the unintegrated aspects of the physical mind. This mind sees through the eye of divisiveness and ignorance. Ignorance sees through the eye of Death. The heart sees through the eye of Truth. Truth sees through the eye of God.

It is an unpardonable mistake, nevertheless, I believe, on the part of the East to pronounce that the West is unspiritual. Both East and West should be fully aware of the fact that each human being needs five major experiences in his earthly existence. The animal in man gives him the first experience; this is the experience of the sense-pleasure. After the animal in him has played its role, out of his subtler existence, discrimination comes to the fore. In the process of his discrimination, man becomes conscious of right and wrong, the true and the false. This is the second experience. The third experience is the experience of self-control. The more a man acquires self-control, the easier it becomes for him to walk along the path of peace and bliss. At this stage man comes to learn and feel the meaning of an inner tug-of-war between his higher self and his lower self, between the transitory and the eternal. The fourth experience makes him feel that he has to realise God and that God-Realisation is the sole purpose of human existence. He feels the difference between the finite and the infinite, between the self that binds him to ignorance and death and the self that frees him into infinity and eternity. The fifth and last experience is the experience of divine manifestation and divine fulfilment which comes after having the full realisation of God. Man's soul becomes God's Vision and his life, God's Reality.

Since both East and West go through these stages, the East has no right to condemn the West so arbitrarily.

The Western mind is a scientific mind. Science has helped the Western mind profoundly and at the same time, science has deceived the Western heart mercilessly. Science says in effect: “Look, heart and mind, I have bravely and successfully entered into the sky with my telescope. But the sky fails to offer me God. I have fathomed the very depth of the ocean. The ocean, too, fails to offer me God. Nor has the tiniest atom escaped my attention. I thought that at least this particle would offer me some clue to God's existence. To my sorrow, like the sky and the ocean, the atom, too, has failed to show me the Face of God. I venture to say that there is no God, none at all.”

The mind immediately believes in science and is satisfied with the scientific discovery that there is no God. But the heart doubts the authenticity of the scientific discovery. It says: “I may not see God as minutely as science observes an object in its minute scrutiny. But I do feel the presence of God within me. To me, my feeling is as good as my realisation.”

Evolution has come to the point where it is high time for man to realise that science and spirituality are not one and the same. This does not mean that science and spirituality are two bitter enemies, always at daggers drawn. But what we should do is to expect from science what it can and does offer — the perfect mastery over the external nature. Similarly, from spirituality, we must expect the inner illumination and the realisation of God. Let us accept both science and spirituality and not accept one and reject the other, for both of them are serving God here on earth, unveiling and manifesting His Supreme Reality.

To me, the aspiration of the West is both touching and striking. I maintain that the West is spiritual in the truest sense of the term. But what is required of the West — and it is true that the East has already discovered this — is an inner conviction that spirituality is its Divine birthright.


  1. AUM 238. This talk was given on August 27, 1966, Sri Chinmoy's thirty-fifth birthday. It was held at the first quarters of the Aum Centre, 3817 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, New York.

Yoga — a radio interview

AUM 239-242. Bayamon, Puerto Rico, August 1, 1967. These are the highlights of a radio interview held during Sri Chinmoy's recent summer visit to Puerto Rico. The program was broadcast from Radio Station WLUZ, Bayamon, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 1, 1967, from 5:00 to 5:20 p.m. The interviewer was the well-known Puerto Rican radio personality Senor Jose Miguel Agrelot. He later invited Sri Chinmoy to be a guest on his program whenever the Guru visits the Island.

Senor Agrelot: What is actually meant by Yoga?

Sri Chinmoy: Yoga means union. This union is between man and God. Yoga tells us that we have a divine quality called Aspiration within us and that God has a divine quality called Compassion. Yoga is the common link between our Aspiration and God’s Compassion.

Question: Can anybody practise Yoga?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, anybody can practise Yoga and it can be practised irrespective of age. But we must understand what Yoga really involves. Unfortunately in the West, there are many people who think that Yoga means physical postures and breathing exercises. This is a deplorable mistake. These postures and exercises are preliminary and preparatory states, leading towards concentration and meditation which alone can take us to a deeper, higher and fuller life.

Yoga is not something unnatural, abnormal or unearthly. It is something practical, natural and spontaneous. Right now, we do not know where God is and what God looks like. But by practising Yoga, we see Him at first hand. As in the material world, we achieve success in our chosen activity by constant practice, so also in the spiritual world, by practising Yoga, we achieve the goal of Goals — God-Realisation.

Question: Can Yoga help us in our everyday life?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly. Yoga helps us in our everyday life. As a matter of fact, it is Yoga that can serve as the Supreme Help in our daily lives. Our human life is full of doubt, fear and frustration. Yoga helps us to replace fear with indomitable courage, doubt with absolute certainty and frustration with golden achievements.

Question: Can a person remain in his own religion and at the same time practise Yoga?

Sri Chinmoy: It is quite possible. It is always easier and safer, in fact, for one to practise Yoga at the beginning while remaining in his own religion. But once one has reached God by practising Yoga, he transcends all barriers of religion. God-Realisation reveals to him that each religion is nothing but a river that ultimately has to merge into the boundless Ocean. The ultimate aim of each religion is God-Realisation. And here also, Yoga comes as an inevitable aid, to transport the finite human being into the Infinite Divine Self.

Religion is Inspiration. Yoga is Aspiration. Divinity is Perfection. Inspiration, Aspiration and Divinity can easily and fruitfully blossom here on earth in transcendental harmony.

“Mother, I live!” — A Short Story

Madhu, a young man, suddenly died of cholera. He was the only son in the family. His death threw his parents into a sea of grief. Friends and relatives came to console the stricken family. A neighbour, Sadhika, consoled Madhu's mother most profoundly.

“Do not cry, do not weep,” said Sadhika. “Our dearest Madhu has gone back to his Eternal Father. We all loved him deeply and we shall continue to love him. But He who loves him most, that is, his Compassionate Father, his Divine Father, wanted him to go back to His infinite Love, Peace and Light. I beg you not to shed bitter tears. What I say, you yourself will feel to be true in the course of time.”

Madhu's mother was greatly consoled. She thanked her neighbour deeply and Sadhika left for her own home, quite happy that she had been of small help to the poor woman who had lost her only son.

The irony of fate! The following week Sadhika's daughter, Malati, suddenly died of heart failure without having been ill at all. Sadhika had five children; Malati was her third daughter. The entire family was overwhelmed with grief at this unexpected blow. Friends and relatives hurried to console the stricken family. Sadhika went practically mad from the sudden shock. Her friend, Madhu's mother, whom she had consoled so movingly just a week before, sympathised more deeply than anyone else. Madhu's mother used practically each and every piece of heartfelt advice that she had received from Sadhika only the other day when she had lost her only son. “Malati's Divine Father wanted her to go back to His Infinite Love and Peace...”

Sadhika paid no heed to her consolation. On the contrary, she became furious. “Stop your philosophy. I hate your philosophy. This is no time for me to learn philosophical theories from you!”

Poor Madhu's mother, in her soft, apologetic voice, said, 'This is no philosophy. These are precious truths which I learned from you just the other day. I felt them to be absolutely true. I am offering these precious thoughts to you at the time of your own need. My heart is so grateful to you for all that you did the other day at the loss of my dearest son.”

Sadhika flew into a rage, her eyes emitting fire. “Stop your preaching, you stupid woman! You forget that it was YOUR son and not MINE. That is why I was able to offer you some philosophy. I had nothing to do with your son. I was quite detached when I spoke to you. But now, it is I who am the victim. It is I who bear the loss. So stop your philosophy and go home. This is neither the time nor the place to preach!”

At this cruel treatment, Madhu's mother was stung by sorrow and humiliation. She uttered the name of her neighbour's dead daughter, Malati, three times, her voice full of aspiration and prayer. Lo! Malati's disembodied soul was observing the whole situation in the room where the mourners were sitting. Suddenly the deceased girl's soul entered into Madhu's mother, who, in no time felt a kind of uneasiness all over her body. She felt the premonition of some catastrophe and immediately left for home.

While Madhu's mother was walking along the road, the dead girl's younger brother Bhupal, aged 12, saw her and cried out to his mother, “Look! Look! Malati is there! I see her in that woman. Look at her back; look at her movements; look at her feet... it is Malati, only Malati! The mother scoffed at her son's foolishness, but the boy insisted. “Look! Look! Just watch her!” Then to her utter astonishment, Sadhika saw her dearest daughter, Malati, fully alive, in the poor lady's body.

Both mother and son cried aloud, begging the woman to come back; but she paid no attention to their pleas. Then they ran up to her. This time, Madhu's mother lost control and replied: “This road is not your property. How dare you follow me to disturb me further after having humiliated me so mercilessly? The God within me forgives you, but I simply cannot. May God console you, Sadhika, in HIS own way.”

As Madhu's mother was thus speaking, both Sadhika and her son Bhupal observed the very eyes of their dear Malati shining through the woman. Then Bhupal saw his elder sister blessing him and he heard her voice saying, “I shall love you, Bhupal; I shall think of you and help you from the higher worlds from now on.”

Sadhika felt her daughter embracing her and heard Malati's voice saying, “Mother, I live!” At that moment both mother and son saw a red ball of light shooting from the head of Madhu's mother and piercing the western rim of the sky.

Lo! Malati's soul was on its way home. Madhu's mother was on her way home, too. Sadhika and her son likewise returned home carrying Malati's soulful message for the family: “Mother, I live!”

Questions and answers

Question: I understand you to say that some spiritual figures in India claim that today you are here, tomorrow you are not here., that the world is an illusion. But aren't those so-called spiritual figures actually corrupting the pure teaching of Shankara on the question of Maya? Shankara never really disavowed the existence of this phenomenal world. Am I right in saying this?1

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, you are right. But the general conception of Maya has been misinterpreted in the East. Even now ninety-nine percent will say that Shankara advocated Maya, the doctrine that the world is an illusion.

What Shankara wanted to say, if I am correct, is: “The world is not an illusion, but we must not give importance to the transitory things. There is something eternal, perpetual, everlasting and we must try to live in that Eternal and not in the transitory.”

Now at present, or very recently, you can say, about 80 years ago, some of the modern Indian thinkers came to the conclusion, after throwing considerable light on Shankara's philosophy, that he did not actually mean that — that the world is a colossal illusion.

“Neti, neti,” “Not this, not this,” the Upanishads cried and Shankara echoed. But what is that “this”? It is something that is finite, it is something that is binding us all the time. So people thought that if we leave the world, perhaps there would be a better world somewhere else. It is just like standing on one shore and thinking that the other shore is safe and full of joy and delight. But it is not true.

Each person has his own way of understanding the truth. You are at perfect liberty to understand it in your own way. How many people can go into the deeper meaning of the Truth? Some people think that the world is an illusion while others feel that it is not an illusion. It is deplorable that we do not or cannot see the world in its totality. We look at the truth with our finite consciousness, with our limited understanding. When we do that, we see that the world is nothing but an object of ignorance. We feel that we must enter another world, the world of Bliss and Perfection.

To come back to your question: Shankara's very short earthly existence was surcharged with dynamic energy. He strode the length and breadth of India on foot, preaching his philosophy; he set up temples in key parts of the country. What he offered to the world at large was, in fact, dynamic Truth and not the so-called Illusion which the world so forcefully associates with his teachings.


  1. AUM 244. This is the concluding question put to Sri Chinmoy at a meeting of the Aum Centre on August 20, 1966. The meeting was part of the 1966 Summer Series on Yoga held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Gant, 467 Central Park West, New York City.

My subway experiences

AUM 245-246. These are the last of the six anecdotes in which Sri Chinmoy tells of his amusing (and sometimes frightening) experiences in the New York City subways during the years 1964-65.

V. Surrender not accepted

We were upwards of seventy in a subway coach. Young girls were reading blood-and-thunder novels; lovers were sitting cheek to cheek; the train was running at top speed.

All of a sudden a young worker outside the train approached the tracks from an open construction area and threw himself down in front of the fast approaching train, ready to surrender his life in suicide. But the driver refused to accept his offering. He violently applied the brakes. The resulting jerk was indescribable.

All of us in the coach were suddenly thrown on each other. The physical shock was almost as cruel as death itself. Some people were severely injured, especially those who were sitting. I fell on top of about thirty passengers who had already been thrown down. We were mercilessly and swiftly precipitated towards the end of the coach like stones in a gunny-sack. Perhaps an unseen force breathed for us while so many bodies became one.

The name KALI left my mouth and entered my heart. I escaped entirely without injury, but I was ashamed of my poor left thumb which was bleeding a little. When the train resumed its journey and reached the next station, it was found that, besides those with serious injuries, many other passengers had fainted. They were all taken to hospital. Some young boys, at this point, began turning somersaults and embracing each other out of a wild, nervous excitement.

Many painful injuries had to pay the price for saving one life. My KALI refused an unsolicited surrender.

VI. “My Scottish father,” “my Indian son.”

I worked at the Consulate General of India and lived in Brooklyn, which is one of the five boroughs of New York City. It took me forty-five minutes to reach Manhattan where my office was located. On August 8, 1965, I went as usual to the Fort Hamilton Parkway subway station and took my train.

We had only covered two stops when we heard a voice commanding us: “All out, all out!” We were all taken a back but we emptied the train in no time. A sea of human bodies, utterly perplexed and not knowing which way to move, was milling heavily on the platform. There were thousands upon thousands of individuals pushing and struggling on the narrow platform, for each successive train was unloading hundreds more as it came to this spot.

The reason? It was very simple. A water main running through the subway tunnel had burst, flooding our particular line, the BMT. The trains could run no further than the place where we were now halted and discharged. Now the problem was to continue our journey in some way or other, to reach our destinations without further delay.

But to get out of the subway station to the surface was itself a herculean task. It took us no less than forty-five minutes just to inch our way forward in the jampacked crowd, painfully ascend the slow-moving staircase and finally reach the street level. Once we had completed this exhausting task and were able to breathe fresh air once more, we had to consider how to proceed.

Fortunately, buses had been provided to take us to another subway line, the IRT, from which we could reach Manhattan. This we managed without mishap, though the buses which transported us had probably never in their existence carried at one time so many crushed bodies! Our arrival at the IRT line was by no means the end of our troubles, for here too, the crowd was as thick as before. By the time I reached the Consulate, it had taken me three full hours instead of my usual forty-five minutes. My co-workers living in other parts of Brooklyn took one further precious hour to accomplish the ordeal.

During the day at the Consulate, I was haunted by the apprehension about my return journey and sure enough, my misgivings were justified. The return journey was a painful repetition of the morning's nightmare. In the evening, at the Lexington Avenue and 59th Street station, my attention was drawn to a frail octogenarian. He drew forth all my sympathy with the spell of his pitiful look. He had completely lost his way and in this crowd he was quite helpless. I was not much more fortunate, by way of knowledge, than he. But my sympathy boldly surpassed my discretion. On learning where he was going, I caught him by the hand and led him into what I believed to be the correct train. We managed this only with great difficulty. By pushing and elbowing with my former athletic heart, I managed to procure a seat for this old man.

As he sat down, another aged man, looking at me, inquired of him, “Who is he?” The immediate reply was, “My son, my Indian son.” I was surprised at his affectionate words and delighted that he had guessed my nationality. Lo, his gratitude could not remain inactive. He started pushing along the seat, gradually and quietly, a fraction of an inch at a time. The young girl sitting beside him could make neither head nor tail of his odd manoeuvring. He continued his efforts for about twenty minutes, until he had acquired enough room for me to sit down beside him. Great indeed was his triumph as he bade me, in his Scottish brogue, to sit. “A true father,” my grateful heart voiced forth. “My Scottish father!”