America in Her depths

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Salutation to America

America: the fairest child of freedom, the first to fight for the divine gift of freedom and win it for the New World. None perhaps has a keener perception of freedom’s worth. America! The whole freedom-loving world salutes you. The holy flame that burned in your heart when you were smarting under the injustices of imperial domination is still alive in you. Your one single claim to Immortality is this flame. You live not for yourself alone. You live for freedom and for those who share your love for it. The years 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 bear shining witness to your heaven-kissing flame.

You may or may not know what you are doing. You have conquered matter, but you have kept it from conquering you. That is why your fund of scientific knowledge and your bountiful wealth you freely place at the service of suffering humanity. Another achievement of yours has been to build up the material basis for the coming great Age of Spirituality. The elite of your people, convinced of the interdependence and even the oneness of Matter and Spirit, are responding to the call of that Age. This can be seen in the eagerness with which your mind, with its youth and freshness, is seeking to listen to the message of that New Age.

Brought up in the atmosphere of freedom, you have self-confidence in all your undertakings. The benefits of your freedom have fostered in you a sense of responsibility in all matters of national and international interest.

Your progressive spirit, striving towards perfection in everything, is a divine blessing. But for your magnanimous participation in many fields of international activity, the world would not be knit together as closely as it is now, though you and the rest of the world have yet a long way to go to reach the destined Goal.

Victory in the War of Independence is the foundation stone of American nationality. The average American cannot conceive of the idea of a defeat anywhere. It goes ill with his national pride.

America is wealth. America is heart. America is sacrifice. Before long in America hopefully there will shine forth the world’s collective soul.

America in her depths

“Of what use to me are the things that cannot make me immortal?”

Thus, in her longing for Immortality, Maitreyi, the great woman of the Upanishads, rejects the riches of the world. By Immortality she does not mean the continuity of her human existence, but a life to be lived forever in her soul.

India’s history is aglow with stories of kings and potentates who enjoyed power and opulence without being in the least attached to them. Rajarshi Janaka was not an isolated example. Prince Siddhartha, afterwards the Buddha, and Emperor Asoka, are other such outstanding figures in India’s history.

Of all the nations in the world today, America is the one which, in the modern context, stands forth uniquely as the one most fit for the ideal of Janaka, Siddhartha and Asoka. By the flow of her wealth America has restored shattered Europe, not once but twice. Impoverished India has been helped towards her goal of achieving minimum conditions of life for her vast millions through large-scale and repeated American aid. Many other countries, large and small, have shared in America’s munificence. Not only her generosity but also her ever-progressive mind and dynamic spirit have been an asset to the whole international community.

A little over a century after achieving her independence, America accepted into her wide-open heart a wandering young Sannyasi’s message. The fact that Swami Vivekananda’s message on the pervasive oneness and unity of all creation was appreciated and understood at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893 showed, nearly a century ago, the character of America’s evolving progressive spirit.

This very spirit, being the essence of her national Self, is bound to transcend its present limits and soar to the heights of spiritual oneness. In the works of her advanced thinkers there are already indications of her mental growth towards the summit of her evolution, a summit which will manifest the successful spiritual transformation of her life and thought. She may well be the first to respond to the call of God, to the unique task of self-transmutation into the consciousness of the Soul. If in a post-war world she has been a great helper, what role will be hers in the world of tomorrow, when God’s Voice will be heard speaking through all human lips?

Every nation has its soul. The soul of a nation consists of its aspirations, aptitudes and capacities placed at the service of the Supreme. Judging by her history, America holds the brightest promise of placing at the service of the Divine her aspirations, aptitudes and capacities, as she has often, in times of need, placed them at the service of humanity.

Now that a spiritual awakening is upon the world, it is only a question of years — and certainly not centuries — before its golden glint falls on the face of every nation. The Divinity now hidden beneath the surface will shine forth, to a greater or lesser degree, upon each one.

Until now the world has seen largely the surfaces of American life, and it has formed its opinion accordingly. Not that her depths have not occasionally come to view, but such occasions have been few in relation to the vastness and variety of her population. Needless to say, there are great indications of a greater future; and as the Hour of God dawns and advances towards its fulness, the splendour of America’s soul will show more and more on the surface, even for crude eyes to see.

It is not only for political and economic purposes that the divine logic of events has brought India and America close together. What is visible in these external aspects of life will be seen in an incalculable measure on deeper levels in days to come. America is perhaps not conscious that in taking a major part in the economic rehabilitation of India she has been building up the base of a divine new world. And if America is doing so much for the base, she cannot but do much more for the superstructure. Then prosperous America will be doubly prosperous, spiritual prosperity being added to her material wealth, with both nourishing and serving the highest cause of a Divine New Creation.

America: transmitter of the New Light

When one has run through a very wide range of glittering ephemeral things and sought incessantly to perfect them, one may see a true light from beyond. From this point of view, America has a great possibility of taking to the life of the Spirit. This life does not mean withdrawal and inaction, retirement into the forest to give oneself up solely to the contemplation of the Supreme. That kind of isolation is of no avail. The Divine has to be manifested in all His aspects here and now in life. Life itself should be Yoga, union with the Divine; and Matter and Spirit must go hand in hand. Vida Reed Stone writes in The Dawn of the Cosmic Age:
"Loneliness is another fantasy of the self-mind. Lose thy separate self, and thou shalt find thy Universal Self: In union with the One Life all that exists is included, and all that was thought to be lost is found again."

Self-protection, then, must precede spiritual realisation. There can be no satisfactory attainment where one’s existence itself is under a threat. Life is a series of struggles and the fittest only will survive. The spiritual life is beset with difficulties, disturbances and dangers. One can hardly proceed in an even tenor of progression, however one may wish for it. So America has to prepare herself to meet the world’s challenges, and to do that she must be in the vanguard of countries possessing the latest scientific inventions. She has already achieved much in this field and much more is likely to follow. Thus only will the pursuit of her spiritual life be made secure. William O. Douglas, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in his thought-provoking book America Challenged, significantly observes:

"We need deep spiritual resources and active inventive genius to survive the oncoming challenges."

To a shallow observer, America appears to be rolling in luxury and cannot be expected to be deeply spiritual. But the falsity of this observation cannot better be described than in the words of Rabindranath Tagore, whose bold statement is borne out by personal experience:

"... when we say that America is materialistic, we speak of a fact that is too apparent to be completely true. ... there is a strong current of spiritual idealism flowing beneath the surface soil of the American mind."

Further, what he said to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a cablegram from Kalimpong, India, in June of 1940 shows what a significant role he expected America to play on the world-stage:

"All our individual political problems today are merged into one supreme world of politics which I believe is seeking help in the United States as the last refuge of spiritual men."

America has fully realised that the dollar and the bomb cannot quench her soul’s thirst. Spirituality alone can do this. The dollar can help friends, the bomb deter aggression — nothing more. The greatest of American thinkers have perfectly understood that it is through spirituality that the finite reaches its fulfilment in the Infinite. Now the pertinent question is, how can the aspirant know that his choice is inspired and secure and bears the divine sanction? Here is the answer given by Sri Aurobindo, the Seer of seers:

"He who chooses the Infinite has been chosen by the Infinite."

George Washington (1732-1799)

A divinely inspired dream, daring and desperate;
A surprise that made history:
A farmer’s son founds the New World.
“Inferior endowment from nature,” he thought of himself.
But the Divine made him
His efficient instrument.
High character and majestic will
Powerfully blended with courage and capacity:
Thus stood forth the Man of the Hour,
The Man of Destiny, the Man of God.
And from his mighty dream mightily executed
Burst forth a new free world,
Destined to be the hope and defence
Of more free worlds to be.
Victory in the War of Independence:
England lost to her own offspring.
England won for herself a mightier friend.
A new era heralded,
A new shattering blow
Struck at man’s domination over man:
Independence the first step to unity,
And unity, one Truth of God.
George Washington, first to embody
America’s hope,
First in inspiration, first in confidence,
First in war, first in victory,
First in conquering the heart of his Nation,
First to envisage a federation of states,
Single, powerful, united, whole.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Born under no lucky star,
But dynamic in his dreams,
He fought his way to Luck:
“From log cabin to White House.”

No soul on earth supreme over another —
Equality every man’s birthright and treasure —
Black and white, brown and red
Make no difference —
This nation cannot exist half-slave, half-free:
From his voice these bold truths rang out.

He had the gift to dream of union,
The courage and capacity to fight,
The confidence to win,
The patience that knew no flagging.
Faith in God’s Justice was his stamina,
Faith in God was his might.

Natural the affinity of vision-luminous souls,
So Emerson could say of Lincoln:
“His heart was as great as the world,
But there was no room in it to hold a wrong.”

“Force is all-conquering,
But its victories are short-lived.”
Love is all-conquering,
And its victories live on forever.

What is really important?
Are we God’s or is God ours?
The idealist in Lincoln reveals:
“We trust, Sir, that God is on our side.
It is more important to know
That we are on God’s side.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

A thinker in the sublimest sense of the term is Emerson. His philosophy touches the core of all earthly problems. “Ends,” said he, “pre-exist in the means.” Hence what matters is to cherish our highest aspirations in all sincerity and determination and rest assured in the faith that these will realise themselves.

He came of poor parents, but had an indomitable will and an utter self-reliance. Strangely enough, he was taught from within to be cheerful in the face of poverty. His father, William Emerson, a clergyman, passed away when Waldo was a boy of eight. Soon afterwards, the family was thrown into extreme poverty. It came to such a pass that Emerson and his elder brother had to share a single overcoat to help them through the terrible winter. Obviously one of them had to stay indoors while the other was out — and who but the younger of the two was the unfortunate one? Waldo missed the attractions, affections and amusements of the outside world; but at the same time this isolation gave him an opportunity to plunge into the sea of knowledge. Voraciously he studied. Plato’s Dialogues and Pascal’s Thoughts inspired all his moments. Later, impelled from within, he welcomed Spinoza and Montaigne along with his previous masters.

He had many antagonists. Hypocrisy and superstition were the worst of them. He fought and fought them, but success remained a far cry. He had also numerous friends. Truth and sincerity topped their ranks.

America, the fairest land of freedom, opportunity and progress, inspired in Emerson the thought that his countrymen should utilise all her divine gifts to strive for the most divine aims of life. Indeed, America will gain her true stature when she lives up to her philosopher-son’s towering aspirations.

Emerson’s love for the American student stemmed from his topmost aspiration:

"Our student must have a style and determination, and be a master in his own speciality. But having this, he must put it behind him. He must have a catholicity, a power to see with free and disengaged look every object."

In other words, he expected the American student to be a useful unit not only of the American nation but of the world-family in the making.

“The things taught in the schools and colleges,” Emerson strongly felt, “are not an education, but the means of education.” For a student to be furnished with “the means” is to have thrown upon him the responsibility for continuing to educate himself until at last the finite and the Infinite within and without him are unified into an expanded personality.

No doubt philanthropy and charity have much to their credit. But most people are unconscious of the great limitations of these two virtues. Being a genuine lover of Truth, Emerson made bold to say: “Philanthropies and charities have a certain air of quackery.” Truly few, perhaps none, have imprinted on the tablets of their hearts the great teaching of the Bible:

"When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right doeth."

For Emerson, poetry and philosophy were no mere intellectual embellishments. Philosophy was a dynamic factor in the shaping of his life. He was a true man of vision, and he used philosophy to sustain his vision and poetry to express it. His life was a happy blend of sublime dreams and creative gestures. He knew no compromise with his ingrained truth: “When he [the poet] sings the world listens with the assurance that now a secret of God is to be spoken.” Does this not conform to the Indian definition of the poet as the seer? Needless to say, Emerson’s high idealism lifted him far above his age.

On March 11, 1829, Emerson was awarded the post of minister of the Second (Unitarian) Church in Boston. Even his worst enemy could not deny his remarkable gift of speech-making. But he later had to sever himself from the church as he failed to be at one with his congregation regarding his method of teaching. He simply left the church without attacking anyone. It was advisable, he thought, that his congregation should have another pastor according to their choice. But one of the reactionaries could not help saying, “We are sorry for Mr. Emerson, but it certainly seems as if he is going to hell.” Neither are we to forget the immediate retort made by a true seeker: “It does indeed look so. But I am sure of one thing — if Emerson goes to hell, he will so change its climate that it will become a popular resort for all the good souls of Heaven.”

Emerson’s love of God was too deep for form and convention. That was perhaps why he left his ministry in the Unitarian Church of Boston. People below his level of culture must be pitied. It is quite natural that they should have taken him amiss. Emerson seems to have sailed “strange seas of thought, alone,” with deep self-knowledge. Emerson’s truth, “To be great is to be misunderstood,” finds its exquisite parallel in Sri Aurobindo, the greatest Seer of India:

Whoever is too great must lonely live,
Adored he walks in mighty solitude;
Vain is his labour to create his kins,
His only comrade is the Strength within.

Happily, two great contemporaries, Lincoln and Emerson, offer an historic example of mutual appreciation. During the ever-memorable Civil War in America, it was Emerson’s inspiration that offered “the best and the bravest words.” He fully supported President Lincoln in his mighty undertaking, and addressed him as “the Protector of American Freedom.” Neither could the President remain silent. He honoured the seer in Emerson with his warm appreciation: “The Prophet of American Faith.”

“The Prophet of American Faith.” Yes, but more truly a Prophet of Universal Faith, a seer visualising the future in the living present:

"One day all men will be lovers, and every calamity will be dissolved in the universal sunshine."

Walt Whitman

Whitman is nature. Whitman is vastness. Whitman is all inspiration. Solid and subtle, he is the body and soul of poetry that peers into Truth. His Leaves of Grass reveals the depth of his insight and the wideness of his outlook. His determined and forceful personality shines through these poems, which he called “New World Sons, and an epic of Democracy.”

When the wind and storm of today brings in the golden Tomorrow, Whitman will shine forth, haloed in a new glory on the new horizon. His poems and his nation’s consciousness are inseparable. A man’s poems must always be an absolute reflection of his character and personality. And Whitman is no exception.

Saint Beuve’s definition of the greatest poet applies most justifiably to Whitman:

"The greatest poet is not he who has done the best; it is he who suggests the most; he, not all of whose meaning is at first obvious, and who leaves you much to desire, to explain, to study, much to complete in your turn."

Let us see and feel Whitman in his “Song of Myself”:

I celebrate myself
and I sing myself,
And what I assume
you shall assume,
For every atom
belonging to me
as good belongs to you.

Who but the poet of Tomorrow could look across space and time into their very core? Again:

All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon ...

William Cowper said, “Wisdom is humble that it knows no more.”

Whitman says of wisdom:

"Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul."

Do we not hear in this the Voice of the Infinite and the Eternal? Whitman’s one foot is, as it were, firmly fixed on earth, the other in Heaven.

I am the poet of the body,
And I am the poet of the soul.

At another place he sings:

"I have said that the soul is not more
than the body."

And again:

"The soul is always beautiful ... it appears more or it appears less ... it comes or lags behind,
It comes from its embowered garden and looks pleasantly and encloses the world."

Man and woman: different entities?

"I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man."

Could the picture of oneness be better painted?

Speaking of oneness and human sympathy, Carlyle affirmed,

"Of a truth, men are mystically united: a mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one."

Says Whitman:

"Whoever walks a mile without sympathy walks to his own funeral, dressed in his shroud."

Emerson and Whitman are twin-souls of the Truth: Emerson, soft, sweet and luminous; and Whitman, dynamically fronting the Reality which is manifesting to an ever-increasing extent. Fellow-pilgrims on their way to the Home of God, the culmination of today’s world, they march in stupendous glory.

Whitman’s vision of the oneness of everything and in everything compels him to reveal:

"O my soul! If I realise you I have satisfaction.
Animals and vegetables! If I realise you I have satisfaction.
Laws of the earth and air! If I realise you I have satisfaction."

And what could be more divinely prophetic and significantly true than this:

"Nature and man shall be disjoin’d and diffused no more,
The true son of God shall absolutely fuse them."

Born ahead of his time, Whitman pointed to his nation and to the world the Path of Tomorrow. And, by the Grace of the Supreme, the dawn-rays of Tomorrow have already become visible, however faintly, on today’s horizon.

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)

Ever-memorable is the name of Woodrow Wilson. He was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister.

Princeton University of New Jersey, one of the most important universities in the United States, nurtured Woodrow Wilson’s youth, and in 1902 he became its head. As president of the University, he successfully carried out a good many reforms. He held that high position for eight long years. Then he had to steer the course of his life in another direction: he was elected Governor of the state of New Jersey. Just two years later the leaders of the Democratic Party selected Wilson as their Presidential candidate, and he was elected President of the United States. The spirit of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the USA and founder-president of the Democratic Party, once more smiled through his worthy descendant, Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth President and a mighty champion of democracies the world over.

Wilson’s Inaugural Address on his assumption of the Presidential Chair is characteristic of the man: “This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication. Here muster, not the forces of party, but the forces of humanity.”

The election of Wilson has a special significance, for it marked the first time that all the forty-eight states took part in the election. For the two territories of New Mexico and Arizona had been admitted to the great family of the American Union by then. Between 1789 and 1912 the original thirteen states had increased to forty-eight and the population of four million to ninety-five million.

A notable feature: Wilson was the only President to deliver his own messages. The messages of his predecessors had been read out by somebody else. He had the gift of excellent speech-making.

In August 1914, the First World War broke out in Europe. America remained aloof and silent. In January 1917 Germany’s foolhardiness overleapt its bounds. Germany went to the length of declaring that her submarines or U-boats would sink on sight any ship belonging to any nation carrying goods to the enemy. America, true to her Monroe doctrine, kept clear of the European melee. But when a hundred American lives were lost with the torpedoed giant of the Atlantic, the passenger ship Lusitania, America was horror-struck. Her next move was to take arms against the submarine-infested sea of troubles. That was in April, 1917. Desperate Britain and France saw the benign Hand of God in America’s decision to come forward and stand by them. In his war message to Congress, Woodrow Wilson called upon America to put an end to the wanton aggression and brutal tyranny of Germany:

"The day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other."

Further, the truth of his democratic heart cried out:

"The world must be made safe for democracy."

America’s action saved France from being bled to death and Britain from being starved unto surrender.

Wilson was the chief architect of the organisation known as the League of Nations, which was potentially a step towards human unity. “Unless America takes part in this treaty,” Wilson was firmly convinced, “the world is going to lose heart. I cannot too often repeat to you how deep the impression made upon me on the other side of [the] water is that this was the nation upon which the whole world depended to hold the scales of justice even. If we fail them, God help the world! Then despair will ensue.”

In this connection let us not forget William Bolitho:

"Like Arthur and the legendary Alexander, and many other lesser men, he [Woodrow Wilson] left, even though defeated, a hope, a promise: that League which is as it were a symbol of his perished flesh and blood, a fragment torn out of his heart and left with us, to serve for one who will come after in a retaking up of his adventure."

That the League of Nations was later on used as an instrument of power politics was a sad deviation from Wilson’s high ideal which had motivated its creation.

His daughter Margaret seems to have gone one step ahead; she wanted to become one with all mankind through union with the Supreme. She was deeply convinced, while in America, that there was none on earth whom a person could love all his life. But then she chanced upon Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita. Deeply moved by this book, which she came to look upon as her Bible, she sailed for India and in 1938 joined Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram at Pondicherry. After meeting Sri Aurobindo she declared: “Here is one on earth whom one can love all one’s life and in whom one can lose oneself.”

She received the name “Nishtha” from the Master. He wrote about it: “Nishtha — the word means one-pointed, fixed and steady, concentration, devotion and faith in the single aim — the Divine and the Divine Realisation” (5 November 1938).

Margaret used to live a secluded life and refused to be diverted by any outer movements that might stand in the way of her spiritual goal. Once when a physical ailment became grave and it was suggested that she go back to America and consult her family doctor, she flatly refused, saying: “They can take care of my body, but who will take care of my soul?”

She passed away on February 12, 1944. The cemetery of Pondicherry bears the simple inscription in French:

La Dépouille Mortelle
de Nishtha
Margaret Woodrow Wilson
16 avril 1886 — 12 février 1944
(Here lie
The Mortal Remains
of Nishtha
Margaret Woodrow Wilson
16 April 1886 -12 February 1944)"

I am often reminded of her dedicated life when I use my typewriter, since it originally belonged to her. It is as if something of her bright being lingered in this “Corona”.

Vivekananda and America

He who broke the barrier between East and West and placed the two on common ground is still a living force in both. Vivekananda’s function was to bring in oneness where there had been none before, by carrying the best of each to the other. The East had become lost by moving away from materialism; the West, by steering clear of spirituality. A happy marriage of the two, he deeply felt, was the world’s supreme need. Life without spirituality was as poor as life without material power, he believed. Hence he dynamised the East with the force of the West, and inspired the West with the ancient wisdom of the East.

It is foolish to think that he sailed for America to satisfy his mental curiosity. It is also an absurdity to believe that his feet touched foreign shores just so he could make a noise in the world. No! It was Sri Ramakrishna’s silent blessing that kindled the inspiration-fire of this beloved disciple to share his Master’s light with the soil and soul of America.

No country is superior to others in all spheres of life. Vivekananda, with his deeply penetrating insight, says: “As regards spirituality, the Americans are far inferior to us, but their society is far superior to ours.” He showed how a happy and true union could be effected between the other-world-loving Indians and the this-world-loving Americans: “We will teach them our spirituality and assimilate what is best in their society.”

Asia, Europe and America: each continent has made a contribution of its own to the world at large. With the help of his spirit’s vision, Vivekananda revealed this truth: “Asia laid the germs of civilisation, Europe developed man, and America is developing woman and the masses.”

It is an established fact that the women in America are the most advanced in the world, especially in the cultivation of knowledge. Vivekananda made a surprising observation: “The average American woman is far more cultivated than the average American man.” He further added: “The men slave all their life for money and the women snatch every opportunity to improve themselves.” His highest compliment to women came when he said: “I have seen thousands of women here whose hearts are as pure and stainless as snow.” And again: “American women! A hundred lives would not be sufficient to pay my deep debt of gratitude to you! I have not words enough to express my gratitude to you.”

However, he was also deeply indebted to American men. It was JH Wright, Professor of Greek at Harvard University, who was the first to realise who Vivekananda was. This was before the Indian monk had become a delegate to the Parliament of Religions, when he was almost destitute, no better than a street-beggar. Verily, Professor Wright, that blessed son of America, was a man of action. He introduced Vivekananda to the president of the Parliament in Chicago. The professor’s flaming and instructive words have echoed and re-echoed in the hearts of both East and West: “To ask you, Swami, for your credentials is like asking the Sun to state its right to shine.”

Vivekananda’s soul-stirring addresses inspired the audience to have faith in all the religions of the world and to embrace the best in each religion. There was a magic spell of throbbing delight woven around his very name at the Parliament of Religions, and he was the figure that dominated the world’s gaze there. A report appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript of September 30, 1893 about the great triumph of the Indian spiritual giant: “If he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded, and this marked approval of thousands he accepts in a childlike spirit of gratification, without a trace of conceit.”

The same paper on April 5, 1894 had an irresistible recollection:

"At the Parliament of Religions, they used to keep Vivekananda until the end of the programme, to make people stay until the end of the session. On a warm day, when a prosy speaker talked too long and people began going home by hundreds, the chairman would get up and announce that Swami Vivekananda would make a short address just before the benediction. Then he would have the peaceful hundreds perfectly in tether. The four thousand fanning people in the Hall of Columbus would sit smiling and expectant, waiting for an hour or two of other men’s speeches, to listen to Vivekananda for fifteen minutes."

In no time, America realised that Vivekananda was not any isolated dreamer; nor, unlike most spiritual figures of the East, did he care primarily for his own personal salvation. They discovered in him a lofty spiritual realist and a universal lover of humanity. It was his vast personality and his spiritual inspiration that achieved for him such acclaim in America. Vivekananda’s credo was characterised by its freedom; thus the freedom-loving Americans responded enthusiastically to his message. They accepted his teaching that material prosperity and spiritual aspiration must run abreast and help each other if man is to see the full face of Divine Knowledge. It is indeed only when we live in this truth that we can bask in the glorious sunshine of the soul that is Vivekananda.

Eisenhower (1890-1969)

We bow to fear.
Fear fearfully
Bowed and bowed
To Eisenhower.
We think of war.
War thought of Eisenhower;
Victory, too.

Two infinite extremes,
War and Peace:
War, the destroyer
Of the blooming world;
Peace, the devourer
Of roaring War.

The Thunder
Of the Omnipotent,
Divinely arranged
For their dinner.
A dinner unprecedented,
And inimitable, too.

Both the Princes came in.
Two hearts became one
In a golden embrace.
They grew into All-Delight.

Dinner over,
War sat in absolute relief
At the feet of Eisenhower.
Peace commenced his dance,
A perfect stranger
To the dark hush of extinction-night.

God smiled.
In words of dynamic Silence, He spoke:
“The Man of the Hour.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of America, Prince of high idealism, Freedom incarnate, Helper of humanity.

The Inaugural Address of Kennedy on 20 January 1961 is eloquent evidence that the mantric utterance is no longer India’s monopoly. There are sentiments in that soul-stirring address that are as deep as the Atlantic in their outlook; ideals as high as the Himalayas and resolutions as powerful as Atomic Power.

"... my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

This ringing call for self-giving to the Motherland is a reminiscent echo of the Seer-Voice of India’s soul — Sri Aurobindo, when he was speaking to India’s young hopefuls more than half a century ago:

"There are times in a nation’s history when Providence places before it one work, one aim, to which everything else, however high and noble in itself, has to be sacrificed. Such a time has now arrived for our Motherland when nothing is dearer than her service, when everything else has to be directed to that end... Train yourself, body and mind and soul, for her service... Work that she may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice."

President Kennedy does not stop with his fellow Americans. From his head and heart goes forth an all-embracing call to mankind:

"My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

Nature seems to have bestowed half of her material power on America and half on Russia. How the Leader of America can take the lead in bringing the world out of its Cold War orbit into a noble scheme of One World and One Law can be seen in the following almost prophetic utterance:

"Today this country is ahead in the science and technology of space, while the Soviet Union is ahead in the capacity to lift large vehicles into orbit. Both nations would help themselves as well as other nations by removing these endeavours from the bitter and wasteful competition of Cold War. The United States would be willing to join with the Soviet Union and the scientists of all nations in a greater effort to make the fruits of this new knowledge available to all, and, beyond that, in an effort to extend farm technology to hungry nations, to wipe out disease, to increase the exchange of scientists and their knowledge, and to make our own laboratories available to technicians of other lands who lack the facilities to pursue their own work. Where nature makes natural allies of us all, we can demonstrate that beneficial relations are possible even with those with whom we most deeply disagree, and this must some day be the basis of world peace and world law."

Hope is strength. Hope is progress. When the sun of hope is eclipsed, the inevitable fear of bondage looms large. Kennedy, with his breadth of outlook and depth of insight, can help immensely to restore this hope to man.

"The hopes of all mankind rest upon us; not simply upon those of us in this chamber, but upon the peasant in Laos, the fisherman in Nigeria, the exile from Cuba, the spirit that moves every man and nation who shares our hopes for freedom and the future."

If America wants to be friends with all the world, who can be her enemy? Says her mouthpiece, President Kennedy:

"We are not against any man, or any nation, or any system, except as it is hostile to freedom."

It seems that in Kennedy’s dictionary there are two complementary words which enrich and fulfil the sense of each other and constitute together the master formula of the language: Freedom and Peace.

"We will make clear that America’s enduring concern is for both peace and freedom; that we are anxious to live in harmony with the Russian people; that we seek no conquests, no
satellites, no riches; that we seek only the day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”."

We may well recollect the momentous words of one of his illustrious predecessors, the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson:

"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Neither are we to forget the immortal utterance of the sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln:

"Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defence is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere."

True, poverty and ignorance are man’s bitter foes. But to replace poverty by affluence and ignorance by knowledge is not enough. Material success is not all. The quest of the spirit is of vital importance.

“For the first time,” says Kennedy, “we have the capacity to strike off the remaining bonds of poverty and ignorance, to free our people for the spiritual and intellectual fulfilment which has always been the goal of our civilization.”

President Kennedy is, as it were, the lineal descendant of the American nation’s traditional leadership. As George Washington was the Father of the United States, as Abraham Lincoln was its Saviour, as Franklin D Roosevelt was the Voice of America, even so is John F Kennedy the Noble Defender of World Freedom and World Peace.

“Defender of World Freedom and World Peace” is certainly a great and responsible role. But is that enough for a man of Kennedy’s calibre? In the “Hour of God” that has set in, there has appeared a man of high capacity and of unquestioned good will for all, a man of synthetic cast of mind, a man of faith and trust in God’s omnipotence, a man who has already caught an image of the One World to be. Unmistakably he will prove a Man of Destiny and launch a world-scale offensive for the “Hour of God” upon his own country as well as upon the rest of the world. Unmistakably he will help to establish over this dark, miserable world a New World Empire of Peace and Power, Truth and Knowledge, Health and Happiness, a world one with its Creator. It is not suggested that Kennedy, the mere man, has that superhuman power. The world must not forget that, despite the extremely poor resources at his disposal, Churchill successfully stemmed the Hitlerian tide upon England and became the instrument of a Higher Power, simply by his faith and determination. Who knows but that, like Arjuna in the Battle of Kurukshetra, like Churchill in the Second World War, Kennedy will be an instrument of God’s conquest of His own world for Himself? Not without reason, perhaps, has this young soul been called to the great Chair of the new world.

By sympathy and understanding he has won a high place in the heart of India. Her outlook towards the material aspect of life has now conspired to bring him nearer to her soul. The gulf between Matter and Spirit is going to close. The two Poles will meet.


Kennedy is unique.
God kindled him with His Dream.
On him God showered
His Blessings divine,

Kennedy is unique.
God threw on him
The burden of the world at large,

Kennedy is unique.
His soul visioned Tomorrow’s Dawn,
Far beyond the flight of imagination,
Far above the strongest investigation,
Deep within the core of transformation.

Kennedy is unique.
He pined with his bleeding heart
To free the world
From the spiked wounds of life.

This eyeless earth of ours
Will burst into glorious bloom:
He saw this diamond truth,
While dreaming,

  1. AHD 12. Written in 1964 after Sri Chinmoy came to America.

Never was he alone

Never was he alone.
Tragedy and sovereignty,
Catastrophe and victory,
Freely in him were grown.

Never was he alone.
God’s bright Promise and Bliss,
Earth’s wild ignorance and her kiss,
Lavishly in him were grown.

Alone he stood

Alone he stood
Above all storms of life.
He stood alone
To challenge pain and strife.

Alone he stood
To feed a blooming race.
He stood alone
To change earth’s tearful face.


Slowly, steadily, unerringly,
Nehru fought.
He won the fight.
Youthfully, speedily, dynamically,
Kennedy ran.
He won the race.

Two are the hearts
That ached to fling wide
The windows of slumbering faith
In the house of humanity.

God’s Fragrance of Peace,
God’s Bliss of Freedom,
In measureless measure
They knew how to inhale,
They knew.

Never were they parched
In the deserts of false hopes.
Desires they had for the world;
God slaked their thirst
In His own mystic Way.

They are one, indivisible.
They are one, invincible.
They are one,
A tornado of God’s stupendous Smile,
Toppling the towers
Of sorrow, fear and defeat.

  1. AHD 15. Written in 1964 after Sri Chinmoy came to America.

Nehru and America

America is swift and direct. She is also decisive; incertitude fails to touch her. Nehru was wakeful and unfailing. He was also untiring. No gulf was to be found between his life and his message. As America is a clarion call for the development of a universal Freedom, so also is Nehru’s soul a clarion call for the blossoming of a sustaining Peace. Nehru saw in America an evolution which is at once enormously dynamic and unimaginably unparalleled. America saw in Nehru, in his vision, an evolution which is supremely peaceful and divinely meaningful.

On November 6, 1961, President Kennedy greeted Nehru at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland:

"Prime Minister, we welcome you here to the shores of this country as a friend, as a great world leader, as one who has in his life and times stood for those basic aspirations which the United States stands for today."

Significant are these words. For with them President Kennedy brought forward clearly to the American consciousness one of the basic aspects of Nehru’s mission. Nehru was perfectly mirrored in Kennedy’s accurate scrutiny. And the Prime Minister, on his part, did not lag behind in assessing Kennedy:

"We face mighty problems in the world today, and you, Mr. President, bear perhaps the greatest responsibility in this world. And so we look up to you and to your country, and seek to learn from you, and sometimes also to express what we have on our minds: that we can achieve the greatest aim that the world needs today — peace and [the] opportunity to grow and flourish in peace."

America discovered in Nehru’s soul the secret of how a man’s characteristics can be uplifted into character. Nehru discovered in America’s soul the secret of how human dynamism can be transmuted into international unity.

Worried by a shoreless sea of debts, hounded by the undying throes of poverty and faced with a rapidly increasing population: this fate of hers, India cannot so easily overcome.

Threatened by her own creation — the two roaring bombs, suffering from the pressures of others’ demands, eclipsed by doubts about her own future in the world of tomorrow: this fate of hers, America cannot so easily escape.

President Johnson characterises Nehru’s contribution to the four frontiers with a profound insight:

"History has already recorded his monumental contribution to the moulding of a strong and independent India. And yet, it is not just as a leader of India that he has served humanity. Perhaps more than any other world leader, he has given expression to man’s yearning for peace. This is the issue of our age. In his fearless pursuit of a world free from war, he has served all humanity."

Unlike the reputations of a good many luminaries of the world, Nehru’s did not rise and fall like the flash of a skyrocket. With his passing behind the curtain of eternity, India’s heart was smitten with excruciating pangs and slow-healing sorrows, while America was deprived of two far-flung embracing arms. To America, Nehru was a fount of inspiration and an unforgettable international. To Nehru, America was a towering achievement, a great boon to the world at large.

East and West: two Olympian influences, surprisingly luminous and instructive, ran simultaneously through the span of Nehru’s life. Kipling’s prophetic utterance, “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” proved empty in the life of Jawaharlal Nehru.

People railed at Nehru’s neutralism, but his neutralism had a profound purpose of its own which was appreciated by the deepest minds in America.

The Hanford (California) Sentinel wrote on May 28, 1964:

"Nehru’s great contribution has been reason and patience. His influence helped to cool national tempers, to work the nations away from each crisis. Sometimes his efforts were misunderstood, his complicated neutralism condemned. But if we are safer in the world today, as we seem to be, much of the credit goes to India’s gentle leader."

Life to the American consciousness is nothing short of completing one task after another with the hope of realising the all-liberating Freedom. Life to the Indian consciousness is nothing short of completing one endeavour after another with the hope of realising the all-nourishing Peace.

In our salutations to America, we see God the Warrior and Protector. In our salutations to Nehru, we see God the Divine Dreamer and Torch-Bearer of Truth.

My New York

I admire New York. My eyes are enamoured of her soul’s dynamic beauty. My New York is always astir and bustling. Also, is she marching in gigantic strides. Success emerges before her very eyes.

The dawn breaks each day feeling New York’s heart consumed with new zeal. She hates to be absorbed in a fog of fruitless brooding and empty inactivity. Moreover, she wants to be free, eternally free. Never within her four corners will she tolerate the air of captivity. If it is part of her nature to express herself boldly, I cannot blame her. To me, first of all she deserves this acme of self-confidence. And secondly, God wants New York to be what she is.

My New York has courage. My New York has confidence. The problems of anxiety and uncertainty may cover the length and breadth of the world, but my New York is an exception. Her youthful certainty is my heart’s delight.

When I think of my India, it seems that she has endless time. If she does not avail herself of an opportunity today, it will return to her tomorrow. But when I think of my New York, it seems that she is facing a unique opportunity at every moment. If she loses a golden opportunity today, it will never return. New York knows how to seize. She knows how to struggle. She knows how to push forward. She knows how to exert herself, consciously and dynamically. Old blunders fail to plague her. Empty of fear is her heart, which ever grows into the fulfilment of her promising future. Blessed is she.

My New York is not a challenge. She is not a competition. She is not a running race. She is not a victory. What then is she? She is a great Promise, wherein grows and flowers the Infinite Unknown.

Part III — Poems from The Dance of Life

AHD 18-24. The Dance of Life, Agni Press, 1973.

O my friends

O my English friend,
Let me see your smiling face.

O my Canadian friend,
Let me see your daring heart.

O my Indian friend,
Let me see your thinking mind.

O my American friend,
Let me see your resting life.

O my other friends,
I think of you, too.
I love you, too.
I adore you, too.

I am proud

O my America,
I am proud of your dollar-power
In India,
Not in England.

O my England,
I am proud of your politeness-power
In America,
Not in India.

O my India,
I am proud of your love-power
In England,
Not in America.

Dear Naren

Dear Naren,
Did America love you?
“That I don’t know, Chinmoy,
But I loved America and forever shall love America.

Dear Naren,
Did America satisfy you?
“That I don’t know, Chinmoy,
But I satisfied America beyond her imagination.

Dear Naren,
What will be the fate of America?
“Chinmoy, I love you and bless you
For asking me such a divine question.
You know, brother,
America’s fate is exactly the way
You and your Supreme see it.
America’s fate is exactly the way
You and your Supreme feel it.
America’s fate is exactly the way
You and your Supreme shape it.

Are there any Gurus in America?

Are there any Gurus
In America?
There are.

Where are they?
They are right
In front of your nose.

Who are they?
Those who tell you
That you are a future God.

O my dear friends

"All Americans lecture.
I suppose it is something in their climate.
— Oscar Wilde"

All Indians procrastinate too long.
I suppose it is something
In our climate.

All Englishmen think too much.
I suppose it is something
In their climate.

All Canadians follow too far.
I suppose it is something
In their climate.

A reformed character

Woodrow Wilson said:
“I used to be a lawyer,
But now I am a reformed character.

I say:
I used to be a doubter,
But now I am a reformed character.
I am now a staunch believer.

I used to be a man-hater,
But now I am a reformed character.
I am now a universal lover.

I used to be a truth-examiner,
But now I am a reformed character.
I am now a constant truth-learner.

Being American means

Mr Heinrich Böll, West Germany’s 1972 Nobel Laureate in literature, declared: “Being American means the chance to be what you want.

I asked my God two small questions:
What is the meaning of chance?
What do Americans want to be?

“My son, you are a God-lover.
For a God-lover there is no such thing as chance.
My dictionary does not house that particular word.
What you and I call Grace, others call chance.

“My son, here is My answer
To your second question:
Americans want to be perfect slaves to their freedom.

Father, what do You mean?
I don’t understand Your answer.
Please be a little more explicit.

“What I mean is this:
Americans are not profitably,
Consciously and unreservedly
Using their freedom-soul
To reach the acme of their Freedom-Goal.

Editor's preface to the first edition

Most of these essays and poems were written in India between 1961 and 1962. The poems “Unique” and “Kennedy-Nehru” were written in 1964 after Sri Chinmoy came to America.