U Thant: Divinity's Smile, Humanity's Cry
Part I — Dedication to U Thant
Man of silence,
Man of peace,
May the Supreme grant your soul
— Sri Chinmoy
2U Thant’s compassion-philosophy explained and expanded becomes U Thant the forerunner and liberator of mankind.
The chosen instrument of God1U Thant was a chosen instrument of God. U Thant was a chosen instrument of man.
God gave him His Compassion-sky to offer to man. Man gave him his suffering-sea to offer to God.
U Thant started his earthly sojourn as a Rangoon, Burma Buddha-son. The Absolute Supreme gradually made him into a universal Wisdom-son and a universal Blessing-gift.
To us, peace is something that belongs in a dream-land. Since it belongs to dream-land we talk about it. To U Thant, peace is something that belongs to the reality-world. Therefore he lived in the reality-world of peace and was a solid and treasured member of the reality-peace-world.
To us, oneness is something that we seem to want but we do not actually feel the need for it. To U Thant, oneness was something of constant need, something indispensable. His heart cried for this oneness and the Lord Supreme, the Author of all good, fulfilled his heart’s burning desire.
The United Nations gave U Thant the opportunity to speak to the world-body as a supreme leader of mankind. In return, U Thant gave to the United Nations the message of the world-illumination, of the world-heart-perfection and the world-life-satisfaction.
U Thant was the supreme choice of the United Nations, and God was pleased. But God wanted U Thant to please Him more. Therefore, he made U Thant a pioneer voice of light from the higher worlds.
Simplicity, purity and integrity he was. He was a child’s simplicity. He was a saint’s purity. He was a God-lover’s integrity.
He struggled calmly. He suffered ceaselessly. He hoped sleeplessly. Again, he knew how to dream of success. He knew how to become the river of progress.
We feel that man is bad, imperfect and undivine. His conviction was that man is good, perfect and divine, for that is what each individual in the inner world eternally is.
U Thant’s life of humility was the result of his heart’s nobility. His heart of nobility was the result of his soul’s unparalleled divinity.
Sincerity spoke through him, integrity breathed in him, spirituality walked with him. He knew the world-problem: ignorance. He knew the world-answer: meditation, and this he practised in silence.
God practised His silence-meditation in and through U Thant. God practised His sound-dedication in and through U Thant.
U Thant was at once God-Humility and man-dignity. He was at once man-frustration and God-Illumination. He was at once the soulful son of God and the faithful slave of man.
Self-demonstration he ruthlessly shunned. Self-perfection he practised. God-Perfection he sought to embrace and treasure. Before him the United Nations was great, divinely great. With him, after him, the United Nations has become supremely good.
In the inner world he was God’s Promise, God’s Promise to the outer world. In the outer world he was man’s confidence, man’s confidence in becoming a dedicated instrument of the inner world.
Earth gave him the responsibility. Heaven knew it and saw it. Heaven gave him the authority but, unfortunately, earth did not know it or did not care to know it. His heart of brotherhood was misunderstood. His life of sacrifice was not valued. But his vision of oneness-goal will eternally be pursued by aspiring humanity.
An Asian seed he was. A world-fruit he has become and forever and forever he shall remain.
UT 3. Sri Chinmoy delivered this lecture in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, United Nations, New York, on 12 December 1974, as part of the continuing Dag Hammarskjold monthly lecture series sponsored by the United Nations Meditation Group.↩
Interview between U Thant and Sri Chinmoy2[The Secretary-General and Sri Chinmoy greeted each other with folded hands at the door of the room where the interview was to take place, and then U Thant invited Sri Chinmoy to come in.]
U Thant: Sri Chinmoy, please come in. I have been hearing about you from many, many people. Whoever speaks to me about you is all appreciation and admiration and I personally feel that you have been doing a most significant task for the United Nations. I have been observing it from the very beginning.
Sri Chinmoy: It is most kind of you to tell me all this. I am most grateful to you. Before our short interview, may I invoke the Lord Buddha to bless us? You are a most devoted child of the Lord Buddha and I have the greatest admiration and adoration for him.
U Thant: Yes, please, please chant.
[Sri Chinmoy chanted three times:]
Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham saranam gacchami
[I go to the Buddha for refuge.
I go to the Dharma for refuge.
I go to the Order for refuge.]
U Thant: [U Thant was silent for some moments, deeply moved.] I have not been able to see you before please forgive me. Because of my heavy schedule and politics, my inner life was not coming to the fore for me. That is why I hesitated a little to see you. Today I am seeing you and I wish to say that all I have heard from others about you is absolutely true.
Sri Chinmoy: The world knows you as a champion of peace. Being a spiritual man, I wish to tell you that in the inner world too you are something really great. Now that you are physically away from the outer battlefield you will be able to see the world situation with your intuitive light and you will make a contribution in the inner world that will be most effective and most fulfilling.
U Thant: I am so happy to hear that. This is what I wanted. Now I will be writing my memoirs and I need a peaceful life. My memoirs will be different, totally different, from the memoirs that others write. Here I want to show how spirituality and philosophy can lead and guide politics.
Sri Chinmoy: This is the thing that only you can do because in you I see a true seeker of Truth, Peace, Light and Bliss. I know nothing about politics, but I do feel that politics has to be guided by spirituality and philosophy. What you are saying, most revered Brother, gives me immense delight.
U Thant: I pray to the Lord Buddha for a continuous success in your mission in spreading God’s Peace and Light on earth.
Sri Chinmoy: I appreciate and admire you, not only as a great lover of mankind, but as a most devoted, dedicated child of God who wants to bring God’s wealth from the inner world and offer it to his brothers and sisters.
U Thant: It has been a great privilege for me to see you. Please feel my sincere respect and sincere concern for what you are doing for mankind.
Sri Chinmoy: Please feel my deepest joy and pride in you and my most soulful gratitude for what you have done for the United Nations and also for the entire world.
[As Sri Chinmoy left, he and U Thant saluted each other with palms joined together, in pranam.]
UT 4. United Nations, New York, N.Y. 29 February 1972↩
On the first meeting with Secretary-General U Thant3With your kind permission I wish to offer two most striking experiences of mine. The first was when I met with Secretary-General U Thant in his office. His simplicity, sincerity, humility, purity and divinity made me immediately feel that I had found in him a true and genuine spiritual brother. In him I also discovered a heart of universal oneness. Then, a few years ago, I had the golden opportunity to pay my most soulful respects to the soul of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold at his grave in Uppsala. While I was offering my most soulful love, appreciation and adoration to this divinely great soul, I discovered immediately the luminosity of his mind. In his mind I found the most illumining and fulfilling vastness. Two supremely giant souls — Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant, U Thant and Dag Hammarskjold. Inside the vastness of Dag Hammarskjold my heart felt the love of oneness, and inside the oneness of U Thant my soul envisioned the vastness. Their oneness and vastness and vastness and oneness make me feel and realise that this United Nations — their dream-fulfilling reality and reality-transcending dream — will forever and ever be cherished and treasured by the aspiring, self-giving and truth-loving humanity.
UT 5. During a meeting of the United Nations Meditation Group on 14 May 1976, various persons offered reminiscences about their most significant experiences at the United Nations. Sri Chinmoy spoke about his first meeting with U Thant.↩
6During the course of his life, U Thant received these honorary Doctor of Law degrees:
- Carleton University, 1962
- Williams College, 1962
- Princeton University, 1962
- Mount Holyoke College, 1963
- Harvard University, 1963
- Dartmouth College, 1963
- University of California, 1964
- University of Denver, 1964
- Swarthmore College, 1964
- New York University, 1964
- Moscow University, 1964
- Queen’s University, 1965
- Colby College, 1965
- Yale University, 1965
- University of Windsor, 1966
- Hamilton College, 1966
- Fordham University, 1966
- Manhattan College, 1966
- The University of Michigan, 1967
- Delhi University, 1967
- The University of Alberta, 1968
- Boston University, 1968
- Rutgers University, 1968
U Thant also received the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from Louvain University in 1968.
7.U Thant was a seeker in the purest sense of the term. He reduced his bodily needs to the bare minimum. Sublime was his renunciation. Perfect was his meditation. Satisfied was the mother earth.
Part II — Kind words from world leaders
Abdelaziz BouteflikaThe past and the present can be united. The past can offer its wisdom-light to the present so the present can be a source of pride, light and delight to the future. It happens that sometimes it is necessary to break asunder the past in order to have a clear and illumining vision of the years to come. But U Thant had the unusual inner strength to do what was nearly impossible and unite the past, the present and the future.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of the UN General Assembly in 1974, has brought to the world’s attention something unique with regard to U Thant’s unusual capacity and unprecedented achievement: “Who was better qualified than U Thant to preside over such a transformation without breaking with the past while keeping a clear vision of the future, without frustrating the great powers or driving the small ones to despair? The metamorphosis through which our Organization went at that time resulted from a gradual evolution the scope or depth of which, since it took place smoothly, was often unguessed at.”
Secretary-General Kurt WaldheimMortals long for name and fame, for they feel that to have name and fame is to have everything. But U Thant did not see eye to eye with human beings. He felt that only service to mankind, acceptance of the inner light and the manifestation of truth, light and bliss on earth could quench his inner thirst.
He refused world acclaim sincerely and smilingly. Service was his joy. The result of all his actions he offered in silence at the Feet of the Lord Buddha. The supreme pilot of the United Nations-Boat, Kurt Waldheim, who brings about world progress with lightning speed, graciously tells us of U Thant’s genuine concern for world problems and his significant contribution to world hope and world peace: “In 1965, when full-scale war erupted between India and Pakistan, U Thant went to the subcontinent to negotiate a cease-fire. At about the same time also, the tragedy of Viet-Nam, in which the United Nations was never directly involved, began to assume its historical momentum. U Thant made a long personal effort to help in ending the Viet-Namese tragedy. In 1967, there was renewed war in the Middle East. In early 1971, the war clouds gathered again in the South Asian subcontinent and the situation dominated U Thant’s last months as Secretary-General.”
His body U Thant sacrificed. Untold suffering he embraced. Wild frustration he endured. The present-day world is extremely grateful to Secretary-General Waldheim for revealing these illumining and fulfilling secrets about his predecessor: “No one will ever know the intense internal struggle which U Thant’s discipline and his deep faith concealed from the public gaze. He was occasionally even reproached for his calm. His medical history, which he concealed as far as possible, tells another story — the story of a good and disciplined man doing his best to perform one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and privately enduring the extremes of fatigue, worry and frustration.”
Dr. Sarvepalli RadhakrishnanIn presenting the first Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding to U Thant at a ceremony on 12 April 1967, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India’s philosopher-king and former President, expressed his heartfelt congratulations to the esteemed Secretary-General: “We are all happy that U Thant is selected for the first Nehru Award for International Understanding. His outstanding work in this direction as Secretary-General of the United Nations has inspired confidence. All these years he has been engaged in a passionate quest for peace and his selection for the Award has evoked universal acclaim.” With these remarks, we see one world teacher appreciating another world teacher.
President John F KennedyOnly a man of vision can recognise another man of vision. Only a man of promise can recognise another man of promise. Only a man of concern can recognise another man of concern
President John F Kennedy saw in U Thant a sun of wisdom-light. President Kennedy discovered in U Thant a colossal achievement.
In a telegram, President Kennedy declared: “The election of His Excellency U Thant is a splendid achievement in which the whole world can rejoice.
“Please express the congratulations of the United States Government to the United Nations membership for their action in electing so distinguished a diplomat to succeed the late Dag Hammarskjöld.
“In preserving the integrity of the office of the Secretary-General, they have reaffirmed their dedication to the UN Charter… As he [U Thant] begins one of the world’s most difficult jobs, he has our confidence and also our prayers.”
Mr Zenon Rossides, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United Nations, described President Kennedy’s response to U Thant’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis: “The most dangerous of all crises since the Second World War was resolved in a manner that prompted President Kennedy to say, ‘U Thant has put the world deeply in his debt.’ ”
Prime Minister Jawaharlal NehruPrime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s peerless freedom-fighter and India’s matchless nation-transformer, offered these words of welcome and cooperation to U Thant in a speech to the UN General Assembly on 10 November 1961, a few days after U Thant had been appointed Acting Secretary-General: “To you, sir, who occupy now this high seat of the Secretary-General, I offer my warm welcome and regard and greeting. And I can assure you that we, in common with others, not only welcome you here but offer you our full cooperation, for you represent the United Nations, to which all of us must offer cooperation.”
Prime Minister Indira GandhiPrime Minister Indira Gandhi, Queen of India’s heart and veerless pilot of India, expressed her strong support and admiration for U Thant in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on 14 October 1968. Speaking of U Thant’s miraculous perseverance, she said: “I should like to pay a special tribute to the Secretary-General. Where others might have been overwhelmed by heartbreak, U Thant has persevered, undaunted, in his great work with rare faith, devotion and detachment. It is up to all of us to give him our fullest support.”
CV NarasimhanHis confidant and closest associate, CV Narasimhan, U Thant’s chef de Cabinet, shares rare insights about U Thant: “U Thant was a Buddhist, but not a fanatic. Indeed one could not conceive of his being fanatical on any subject, except perhaps in respect of his total commitment to the Charter of the United Nations. From his religion derived his modesty and humility. It was these qualities which made him repeatedly assert in the course of 1966 that he would not be available for a second term as Secretary-General. He used to say that no person should aspire to a second term as Secretary-General. His calmness in times of crisis bordered on nonchalance and was in fact sometimes even criticised when it was mistaken for indifference. His total serenity in his personal relations was no doubt the cause of his ulcers; although his doctors advised him to 'explode' now and again, it was inconceivable that he would, even to save his health.”
Swaran SinghThe Indian heart comforted him by presenting him with the first Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. By honouring him, India once more reaffirmed its message to the world at large — its motto Satyam eva jayate: “Truth alone prevails [triumphs].”
Swaran Singh, Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs, a man who perfectly blended mind and heart, said: “My country recognised his great contribution to world peace by conferring on him the first Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding on 12 April 1967. We wish him a well-earned rest but we hope his advice will still be available to all of us in the years to come.”
TN KaulTN Kaul, former Ambassador of India to the United States, who is highly esteemed around the world, illumines us as to U Thant’s success in bearing the burden of the Secretary-Generalship: “U Thant served the world community with rare distinction and understanding of the hopes and aspirations of peoples in different parts of the world. He was a firm believer in human dignity and brotherhood. U Thant realised that, in the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘Peace is indivisible; so is Freedom, so is Prosperity now, and so also is Disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.’ He also knew that ‘the consequences of acting in a passion are always bad for an individual; but they are indefinitely worse for a nation.’ It is not surprising, therefore, that he brought a great vision and a deep sense of compassion to bear on the solution of intricate international problems. These qualities, combined with a deeply felt commitment to social justice and practice of meditation, gave him the inner strength to bear the awesome burden of one of the loneliest jobs in the world and to face with equanimity the many crises which confounded the world community during the ten years of his tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations. India was one of the first countries to recognise his outstanding contribution to the promotion of peace and international understanding by conferring on him in 1967 the first Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. I have no doubt that his life and work will serve for many years to come as a beacon of light and a source of inspiration to increasing numbers of people in our world, which he did so much to bring together in peace and harmony.”
Ole AlgardOle Algard, UN Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Norway, with his penetrating insight and life-elevating vision, speaks very highly of the new consciousness that U Thant introduced at the United Nations: “It happened that, during his tenure of power as Secretary-General, we saw a great transformation in the world. And we saw another thing to which U Thant greatly contributed, which was the creation of a new consciousness, a consciousness that went much further than the small, petty political problems we were dealing with in the fifties and sixties. This had to do with a respect for the underdog. Today we are witnessing the results of this new consciousness that Secretary-General U Thant so greatly helped to introduce in his work at the United Nations. We see today a world where the old colonialism is, for all practical purposes, gone, and where the interest and political energy is now geared towards finding a better world where the underdog and the unprivileged will prevail. I think this is the greatest legacy that the great man U Thant has given to the United Nations and to the world at large.”
Piero VinciIn speaking about U Thant, Piero Vinci, Italian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a strikingly genuine thinker and a staunch supporter of U Thant, referred to what he called one of the former Secretary-General’s most inspiring statements: “U Thant was one of the most inspiring forces, if not the main force, in drawing the attention of the governments and of the peoples of the world to the ever-present global challenges: outer space, disarmament, environment, law of the sea. At one moment, on 26 May 1970, he came out with one of his most inspiring statements. He stated that, living in the shadow of atomic weapons, it is no longer enough for the member states of the United Nations to pay allegiance to their own country. What is required, he added, is a second allegiance: namely, the allegiance to the international community embodied by the United Nations. Speaking personally, I would say that I and many of my compatriots would give priority to our allegiance to the United Nations and to all it stands for.”
Mr. Robert MullerMr Robert Muller, Director and Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs and Coordination, treasures unforgettable memories of U Thant. A true seeker endowed with inner wisdom-light, he was deeply connected with U Thant and served the Secretary-General with true dedication. Here he tells us that it was U Thant’s spirituality-sea that brought him closer to the Secretary-General: “It was spirituality that brought me closest to the beautiful soul of U Thant. I had learned of the importance of religion in his life through the book U Thant, the Search for Peace by June Bingham. A neighbour of U Thant, she had written his biography on the basis of interviews while she rode with him from Riverdale to mid-Manhattan. I made a special effort to acquaint myself with Buddhism. After U Thant discovered that I was not the dry, pragmatic, Western economist he first thought I was, but that I had an inclination for humanism and spirituality, he became both a teacher and a second father to me. He would have long conversations with me after office hours. One evening I remember telling him that he had made me aware again that simplicity and kindness were the highest values a man could aim at and that he reminded me greatly of my father, who had always taught me that love and honesty were qualities far superior to intelligence.”
Leopoldo BenitesThe devout U Thant, like his Lord Buddha, discovered that the world is full of suffering. Like the Father, the son’s heart cried with humanity’s heart and suffered for humanity’s life.
Momentous are the words of Leopoldo Benites, the Ambassador of Ecuador to the United Nations: “It may well be that for U Thant, a Buddhist, the world was a painful illusion, as Prince Siddhartha Gautama discovered under the fig tree before he became the Buddha, and that a life of goodness, peace and justice led him to ultimate liberation.”
Gunapala P. MalalasekeraU Thant was and is and always will be in humanity’s heart. Him to choose unanimously as Secretary-General was absolutely the right thing to do.
Gunapala P Malalasekera, who was the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, said: “A unanimous decision was arrived at to recommend to the General Assembly the nomination of His Excellency U Thant … for appointment as Acting Secretary-General of this organization. The decision was followed by universal acclaim. This was very largely due to the fact that the qualifications of His Excellency U Thant to the post for which he was nominated were never in doubt.”
Mr Malalasekera also told the world that the strength U Thant possessed was unlike the strength that others possess: “In an age where strength is often equated with the booming voice and the bouncing fist… U Thant displays a strength of a different kind, the strength of quiet dignity. He combines in himself in a remarkable way the strength of the strong man with that of the diplomat who believes in consultation with others.”
Mr Rachid DrissU Thant meditated. His meditation was at once soulful and fruitful, as observed by Mr Rachid Driss, Ambassador of Tunisia to the United Nations: “The United Nations will always need the fruits of his meditation and the illumination shed by his free and universal spirit.”
Governor Rafael Hernandez ColonThe lion-hearted and most illustrious son of Puerto Rico, Governor Rafael Hernandez Colon, voices his strong support for U Thant’s cause of peace: “The life and work of U Thant is an example and inspiration for Puerto Ricans and all the world’s people.
“His fight for the cause of peace is a fight we all must take up if man is to rise above his historical limitations to build a just and lasting world society.”
U KhantHuman life is beset with difficulties, anxieties and worries. We are constantly assailed by these destructive forces. But he who practises spiritual discipline can remain far above the snares of these negative forces and enjoy supreme relaxation by virtue of detachment-light. To quote U Thant’s brother, U Khant: “He [U Thant] is one of the fortunate men who have the capacity to cast aside care and relax, however anxious the situation. He has that power of detachment in a most remarkable degree.”
France VacherFrance Vacher, who has been devotedly serving the United Nations for the last thirty years, speaks thus about this great soul: “During the last two years of U Thant’s service I was able to see a feeling of holiness surrounding him, so even though I was unaware of all his achievements, still I was able to know he was a great soul. And to his great soul, on behalf of all of us — the United Nations staff and the U.N. Meditation Group — I offer my deepest gratitude.”
Part III — Dedication to U Thant, part 2
26.An individual life always bristles with teeming and surmounting problems; more so when the individual has to deal with the comity of nations and the world-body. U Thant tried to solve these problems according to his heart’s illumining capacity and his soul’s fulfilling divinity. And he did succeed considerably.
27.Simplicity was U Thant’s life. Sincerity was U Thant’s mind. Purity was U Thant’s heart. His was the approach of serene and illumined dignity.
28.Trumpet-dynamism U Thant was not. Flute-dynamism he was.
A stranger was he to sound-life, an eternal friend of silence-life.
Might is right: that can be the goal of countless individuals. Right is might: that was his only goal, the goal of goals.
29.U Thant was a man of illumining and fulfilling determination. This determination was born of his disciplined life.
Some people are apt to distinguish academically between the earth-bound and the Heaven-free realities. Nevertheless, they do not or, rather, cannot come out of the snares of ignorance-life. Indeed, to our deepest joy and pride, U Thant was a very rare exception.
30.Time and again the soul of the United Nations unreservedly clasped her beloved son, U Thant, to her heart.
31.Each member of the United Nations basks in the sunshine of U Thant’s supreme glory.
32.What U Thant gave to the United Nations was nothing short of God’s bountiful Concern-Light.
33.U Thant was a perfect stranger to anger and rancour. What he offered was forgiveness. What he was, was a flood of compassion.
34.U Thant’s life of signal service to mankind was illumined because inner aspiration strikingly carried all its appurtenances — belief, simplicity, generosity, sincerity, humility and purity — to the loftiest height.
35.Some people are afraid of evil in life, others try to avoid evil, while still others do not even think of evil. In U Thant’s case, he was not afraid of evil and he did not think of evil. So how can the question of avoiding evil even arise? Absurd!
36.This world of ours is assailed by injustice and insecurity. To liberate the world from injustice and insecurity, U Thant served tirelessly the heart of mankind. His heart of peace and his heart of oneness he offered to see the appreciable progress of humanity.
Part IV — Performance of Siddhartha becomes the BuddhaUT 37-39. On the evening of 25 May 1973, U Thant attended the first performance of //Siddhartha becomes the Buddha//, a series of one-act plays based on incidents in the life of the Lord Buddha, written by Sri Chinmoy and performed by his disciples on an outdoor stage built for the occasion at Old Mill Farm in Harrison, New York. U Thant was accompanied by his daughter, son-in-law and young grandson.
Speech of welcome by Sri Chinmoy[Sri Chinmoy opened the programme by singing.]
Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham saranam gacchami
[Sri Chinmoy then gave a speech of welcome and garlanded U Thant. Sri Chinmoy’s remarks follow.]
When I go to the Buddha for refuge, He blesses me.
When I go to the Inner Law for refuge, He illumines me.
When I go to the Order for refuge, He utilises me.
A child of Bihar, a son of India, a citizen of the world, a denizen of the higher spheres: Siddhartha, the Buddha.
In the outer world He is known as the Light of Asia. In the inner world He is, indeed, an ever-illumining Light of the universe.
To the world-sorrows He offered His heart of infinite Compassion. To the world-aspiration He offered His soul of transcendental Illumination.
The Omnipotent did two things. Through Siddhartha Gautama, He revealed the ideal of Perfection in a human being. Through the Buddha, He revealed His Enlightenment and Compassion in a Divine Being.
With His Heart, the Unfathomable came to the Buddha.
With His Mind, the Unknowable came to the Buddha.
With His Bliss, the Transcendental came to the Buddha.
This evening we are deeply honoured and blessed by the gracious presence of our most esteemed Brother, U Thant. Two thousand five hundred years ago the World-Father, the Buddha, came with the Message of universal Peace. Now, two thousand five hundred years later, He has sent His chosen son, U Thant, to offer the same Message of Peace.
Dear Brother, for ten long years you have served the world-consciousness most devotedly and most significantly through the world body of the United Nations. Mother Earth and Father Heaven have bestowed their choicest blessings on your devoted head, aspiring heart and illumining soul. The outer political world has lost you, but the inner spiritual world has gained you and claims you as its very own. Your silent life of aspiration, dedication and illumination is guiding the outer world and leading it to its destined Goal.
With deepest joy and gratitude I am dedicating this play, Siddhartha becomes the Buddha, as a humble token of my treasured feeling towards you. In you I feel the pioneer-pilot of world-peace. In you I see a beacon-light of world-redemption. And in you I discover true love of human life and an utmost reverence for Truth, both in the inner world and in the outer world.
The Absolute Supreme claims you as His very own. The Lord Buddha claims you as His very own. We, your brothers and sisters of this world, claim you as our very own.
U Thant's replyRevered and highly esteemed Sri Chinmoy and brothers and sisters, it is a great privilege to be able to participate in this spiritually rewarding experience. And for this I am most grateful to our esteemed teacher, Sri Chinmoy, for this innovative undertaking. I also feel particularly moved and touched by his very gracious blessing bestowed on me.
Sri Chinmoy very kindly sent me a copy of the play, Siddhartha becomes the Buddha. I have read it with great interest and with great admiration and profit. Of course, it is extremely difficult to depict the important episodes of the life of the Buddha in the course of a few minutes or an hour or so. But I found that Sri Chinmoy has done a most remarkable job in presenting the play in simple language understandable even to the uninitiated. His stress on the basic characteristics of Buddhism — on compassion, love, renunciation, peace — should stimulate the thoughts of leaders of men and leaders of thought everywhere. As you all are aware, I was brought up as a Buddhist by tradition, by faith and by practice. And I find myself in complete agreement with Sri Chinmoy in his enunciation of the ethical and moral aspects of Buddhism which in my view should be the basis for each of us in our search for inner light, in our search for truth.
Sri Chinmoy in his play also has drawn a very vivid picture of the identity between God and Truth, soul and inner Light, which I very much hope will create an abiding interest in these two great religions — Hinduism and Buddhism — which in many ways constitute the key to all great religions. I feel very strongly, as some of my friends know, that only by the practical application of the teachings of great religious leaders, particularly the development of the moral and spiritual aspects of life as Sri Chinmoy has stressed in the play — love, compassion, tolerance, the philosophy of live-and-let-live, modesty and even humility — that only with this approach, only with this method, will we all be able to fashion the kind of society we want, a truly moral society, a decent society, a livable society, which is the goal of all great religions.
I want to thank particularly those friends who are participating in this play. I wish all of you peace of mind and eternal joy, and particularly the inner joy. Thank you very much, Sri Chinmoy, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Remarks on the meeting[Sri Chinmoy recalled afterwards:]
U Thant was very pleased with the performance. I was sitting beside him, and I remember that on his own, he went up to the stage to congratulate all the players, especially the young man who performed the role of the Buddha.
Part V — Prayers for U Thant's recovery
U Thant's recovery5Let us most fervently pray for the recovery of our most revered brother, U Thant, who is now in the hospital. As long as he is in the hospital, it is my fervent wish that every day we shall pray to the Supreme for his quick recovery. I have sent flowers to the hospital on behalf of our Meditation Group here.
Not because U Thant was once the Secretary-General but because he is a great seeker of Truth and a true lover of mankind, I wish all of us to pray to the Supreme for his quick recovery. He is our real spiritual brother, and it is our bounden duty to pray for him. Even though he is not in the political arena any longer, still his presence on earth is a great blessing for humanity.
While he was in the field of politics there were many things which he could not say or do. Owing to pressure from the world at large, he was unable to enter into the real divine life. Now, since he has freed himself from the United Nations, his inner life has come to the fore and he has become a real divine hero.
When his memoirs are published, we will see the real seeker and the real God-lover in him. May God’s transcendental Blessing and God’s highest Pride rain on his illumining head and consecrated heart.
Now, for a few minutes, let us most fervently pray for his recovery.
UT 40 On two separate occasions when U Thant was hospitalised, Sri Chinmoy requested the members of the United Nations Meditation Group to pray for his recovery. The first time was on 4 November 1971, following a lecture Sri Chinmoy delivered as part of his monthly Dag Hammarskjold Series. The second occasion was on 8 March 1974. At that time Sri Chinmoy said this.↩
41U Thant was a learned man. Therefore, he was honoured everywhere. U Thant was a man of compassion. Therefore, he was loved by everyone.
VI — Letters from U Thant
29 November 1971Dear Sri Chinmoy,
I am most grateful for your kind expression of concern for my indisposition. Thank you so much for your beautiful flowers which have brightened my stay in hospital. I am feeling much better and looking forward to resuming my activities.
With kind regards,
—- U Thant
43. 10 April 1972Dear Reverend Chinmoy:
I am most appreciative of your kind letter of 3 April 1972 which I received along with a coloured photograph while you were chanting blessings on me. You have indeed instilled in the minds of hundreds of people here the moral and spiritual values which both of us cherish very dearly. I shall always cherish the memorable occasion of our meeting at the United Nations.
Thanking you for your very kind sentiments,
—- U Thant
44. 23 January 1973Dear Sri Chinmoy,
I thank you most sincerely for your kind message on the occasion of my birthday. I am deeply touched by your thoughtfulness.
Let me take this opportunity of renewing my very best wishes and warm regards.
—- U Thant
45. 19 April 1973Dear Sri Chinmoy,
I am most grateful for your kindness in inviting me to attend a stage performance Siddhartha becomes the Buddha on Friday, 25 May in White Plains. I wish I could immediately accept your kind invitation, but as of this moment I have a plan to be in Chicago during the last week of May. If I can get out of this commitment, I shall be delighted to be present on that occasion. Let me write to you as soon as my schedule is firm.
I am also most appreciative of your thoughtfulness in sending me a copy of the play, as well as other copies of your collected spiritual statements.
With my warm esteem,
—- U Thant
46. 25 April 1973Dear Sri Chinmoy,
Thank you very much indeed for your second letter of 21 April.
My schedule for the month of May is now firm, and I am very happy to be able to tell you that I will be present at the performance of Siddhartha becomes the Buddha on the evening of Friday, 25 May in White Plains.
I am eagerly looking forward to the occasion.
With my warm esteem,
—- U Thant
47. 11 June 1973Dear Sri Chinmoy,
I was deeply touched by your kind letter of 6 June 1973, which I received along with a beautiful album of photographs taken on that memorable occasion on the evening of 25 May 1973.
I shall always cherish the happy memories of that delightful occasion.
With my very best wishes and respect,
—- U Thant
48. 25 March 1974Dear Sri Chinmoy,
I just want you to know how appreciative I am for your kindness in sending me those lovely flowers which cheered me up during my moment of illness in the hospital.
I am now recuperating and hope to recover my health in a few weeks time.
—- U Thant
49. 10 May 1974Dear Revered Sri Chinmoy,
I thank you so much indeed for your very kind letter of 3 May 1974, which I received together with a bound volume of the 1973 issues of the UN Meditation Group’s monthly bulletin. I look forward to reading it as soon as I am fit enough to do so.
After two major operations I am still receiving chemo-therapy treatment and, of course, I am doing meditation every day. I am confident that I will fully recover my health in a few months time.
Needless to say, I am deeply touched by your prayers, love and concern for my health.
— U Thant
50. 28 June 1974Dear Sri Chinmoy,
I was deeply moved by your kind letter of 21 June 1974, which I received together with a copy of Meditation at the United Nations. I was particularly touched to know that you and your group have been praying for my health while I was in the hospital, and for this I am most grateful. I am now recovering, although slowly and on doctor’s advice I am still not receiving any guests.
I am so glad to know that Siddhartha becomes the Buddha was recently performed by a group of young ten-year old students from a school in New Jersey. I wish you continued success in your propagation of the moral and spiritual values which are so essential to everyone.
With my sincere esteem and appreciation.
—- U Thant
VII — Prayers and tributes
51The Lord Buddha granted U Thant an illumined mind, a oneness-heart, a liberated soul. He also learned from the compassionate Buddha that war is insanity, war stupidity, war is futility; that a warless world is a soulful and fruitful world.
52Lovingly we all received from U Thant his very own: his life’s Vision-Truth. Devotedly we all received from U Thant his very own: his Goal’s Reality-Bliss.
Prayerful tribute6[In silence the Group meditates on a photograph of U Thant which stands surrounded by flowers on the altar of the Chapel.Sri Chinmoy offered his prayerful tribute:]
“Beloved Brother, man of silence, man of peace, may the Supreme grant your soul Eternity’s Silence, Infinity’s Peace.”
[Sri Chinmoy then quietly addressed the Group:]
The passing of our beloved Brother U Thant marks the real death of a colossal hope for the twentieth century. Divinely great he was; supremely good he is. The greatness of his earth-height his body-consciousness is carrying. The goodness of his Heaven-Delight his soul has left for us, for Mother Earth to claim as her very own and treasure forever and ever.
We the members of the United Nations Meditation Group, have a special place for him, for our beloved Brother U Thant, in the inmost recesses of our gratitude-heart, for he has helped us unreservedly with his aspiring heart and with his illumining soul, both inwardly and outwardly. We have been extremely fortunate in being blessed by his soul’s light. I have received from him quite a few letters of deepest light and profoundest wisdom encouraging us and inspiring us to be of greater service to the soul of the United Nations and to aspiring mankind.
UT 53. On 26 November 1974, the United Nations Meditation Group held a special meditation in the Chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations in tribute to U Thant, who had passed away the previous day.↩
Part VIII — Reminiscences about U ThantUT 54-56. U Thant's death left the whole world deeply bereaved. These are some reminiscences about the late Secretary-General.
Kurt WaldheimWhy does the world remember U Thant? We are extremely fortunate to have the most apposite answer by none other than his great successor Kurt Waldheim: “His integrity and his courage were rooted in his firm Buddhist faith and in an unshakable belief in humanity and in the necessity of improving the quality of lives of all mankind. We remember him for his achievements and for the difficulties he faced in presiding over our Organization for ten tumultuous years.”
Consul General Lakhan MehrotraConsul General Lakhan Mehrotra of the Consulate General of India in San Francisco, a man of illumining vision and a rising sun of Tomorrow’s Dawn, speaks most soulfully of U Thant’s spiritual presence with these significant words: “It was a matter of the greatest privilege for me to have met Mr U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in 1963 and 1964 when I was myself posted in New York at the Consulate General of India. I was deeply impressed by the spiritual glow which seemed to emanate from the personality of the Secretary-General. I had known him for several years as a devout Buddhist and as one who carried something of the Buddha in him in terms of sympathy for the suffering humanity. But one had to see him to believe what was preserved of the spiritual strength he carried within himself. His passing has been a great loss, particularly to us in Asia who had known him as one sincerely anxious for the liberation of regimes under colonial rule. It was only right and proper that among the many distinctions with which Mr U Thant was honoured, he should have received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding.”
Mayor Abraham BeameNew York’s untiringly dedicated Mayor Abraham Beame remarks on the former Secretary General’s adeptness in piloting the world-boat: “In stormy times, he was an island of calm in a sea of controversy. His meditative ways helped him to maintain the neutrality so necessary to sustaining the confidence of differing nations.
“The people of our own nation always respected his ability to mediate differences among the nations, and we always admired his desire to attain justice for all.
“The City, which is proud to be the home of the United Nations, will always revere the memory of the Burma-born schoolteacher who guided the world through a particularly turbulent decade in its history.”
Mr Donald KeysU Thant’s service to the United Nations and his dream for mankind will forever flourish, irrevocably affirms Donald Keys, a very good friend and genuine well-wisher of U Thant. Mr Keys, who is UN Representative for the World Association of World Federalists, declares: “U Thant was one with the soul of the United Nations, which is the soul of mankind. He lived and worked for the enlightenment, freedom and unification of mankind in all that he did. Out of his own divinity he created a bridge between humanity and the Supreme — the Father of us all. His service to man is not ended with his passing, because it will persist forever, proceeding out of his own spiritual stature. It is only universalised, transformed to a greater and more powerful dimension. The touch of sadness in his going comes from his own sadness that he was unable to serve more, do more, to be received more fully by mankind. We will all endeavour to take up more effectively the little part that we may play in realising his dream of human enlightenment and liberation.”
Jose D InglesJose D. Ingles, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said, “Although U Thant stepped down from the high position of Secretary-General soon after the silver anniversary of the Organization, he remained its living symbol, and was affectionately called ‘Mr. United Nations’. His death marks the close of an era in the life of the United Nations.”
The world knew U Thant as the Secretary-General. Some devoted friends and admirers called him “Mr. United Nations.” The seekers called him a giant apostle of peace. God called him His Manifestation-Fulfilment son.
Bradford MorseIn silence U Thant adhered dauntlessly to his wise principles. It happens that sometimes when one is unyielding and forthright, one loses friends, dear ones and even the world’s good will. But in the case of U Thant, the story is otherwise during the ten years that he so successfully piloted the United Nations-Boat.
Bradford Morse, Under-Secretary-General for Political and General Assembly Affairs at the time, has offered us abundant light and convincing assurance on this matter: “Both in the political crises which occurred during his time as Secretary-General and in the development of the economic and social work of the Organization, he displayed courage and total dedication to the United Nations in disregard of any private interests or even of his own physical well-being.”
Something more that Mr. Morse tells the world is quite soul-stirring: “Many of us here became his devoted friends. We admired, above all, his humanity, his respect for human dignity and his complete integrity. To me, U Thant was a personal friend whose wisdom, kindness and generosity I shall never forget. We shall all remember him as a man who gave himself unstintingly to the cause of peace, progress and justice in the world.”
From Mrs Aye Aye Myint-U, 1 April 1975Dear Sri Chinmoy,
My mother, my husband and I would like to thank you for the copies of “Meditation at the United Nations.” It was so beautiful, and we are deeply moved by the warmth and affection you have shown towards my father. We will always be grateful for your kind words and will always treasure these issues.
We also want you to know that daddy had great respect for your spiritual leadership, and we send our best wishes for your continued success in helping for a better mankind.
— Aye Aye Myint-U
PS: We would be very happy to receive a few more issues of the bulletin to send to friends in Burma. Thank you.
Part IX — U Thant
61.U Thant’s wisdom-light removed the pall of suspicion-night that had fallen on many unfortunate human beings and certain countries.
U Thant the peace-loverU Thant the peace-lover illumines the human mind in us: “There is no peace in the world today because there is no peace in the minds of men.”
The human mind needs peace for its transformation and illumination. Peace needs the human mind for its continuous expansion and complete manifestation on earth. Therefore, both divine peace and the human mind need each other and are supposed to work like two complementary souls.
U Thant the peace-educatorPeace is a universal hunger. Each individual needs peace right from the cradle to the grave. When the young generation acquires peace, the teeming problems of the world will not remain problems any longer. The young generation will unite the old and the new with its dynamic achievement: peace.
Peace spreads, peace flows, peace becomes, peace is. In the domain of the vital, peace spreads. In the domain of the mind, peace flows. In the domain of the heart, peace becomes. In the domain of the soul, peace is.
Peace spreads its illumining beauty. Peace flows with its satisfying delight. Peace becomes perfection. Peace is Immortality’s infinite treasure.
U Thant the peace-educator teaches us: “One of the great tasks of education all over the world is to educate the young for peace because, on the question of peace, no man of good will can be neutral.”
U Thant the wisdom-bestowerU Thant the wisdom-bestower is unique in presenting us with his soul’s largesse: “We have already begun to realise that in modern war there is no such thing as victor and vanquished: that there is only a loser, and that loser is mankind.”
We are all aware of the undeniable fact that war results in victory and defeat. But this is a surface experience that covers our human mind and our human life. The inner experience is totally different. In the inner world, war is an immediate experience of separativity, and separativity is nothing short of tremendous loss in the world of oneness. Oneness alone can feed humanity’s eternal hunger and bring about satisfaction. Those who cherish the body-reality’s separation-consciousness are deplorable losers in the process of God’s evolution in and through mankind.
U Thant the reality-dreamer of tomorrow's dawnBefore the dawn of civilisation and after the dawn of civilisation, what the world saw and has always seen has been an endless series of fights, battles and wars. Humanity could have easily avoided the destructive experiences of the hoary past if it had longed for a higher vision and a deeper reality.
U Thant the reality-dreamer says to us: “In the wake of the most catastrophic war in the history of mankind, humanity had a new vision: it saw the glimmer of dawn of a warless world.”
Humanity’s preparation depends on humanity’s willingness. Humanity’s willingness depends on humanity’s consecrated surrender to God’s Will. A oneness-world either in the near or in the distant future is not only possible and practicable, but inevitable. A oneness-world expedites God’s Hour, and it is only in God’s Hour that humanity’s age-long hunger drinks in Divinity’s Nectar-Delight.
Undoubtedly, the fruit of the Immortals is for mortals, too, for God the finite reality and God the Reality infinite are inseparable. Together they are heading towards one goal: satisfaction in perfection.
U Thant the miracle-embodiment and exponent of an integral lifeHappiness: where is it, if not in the core of an integral life?
Happiness: what is it, if not an expansion-vision of an integral life?
U Thant, the exponent and embodiment of an integral life, affirms: “Pure intellectual development unaccompanied by a corresponding moral and spiritual development will lead mankind from one crisis to another. Moral qualities of friendship, humility and the desire to understand the other point of view are as important as intellectual excellence.”
On the earth plane, an integral life is the glad unification of intellectual, moral and spiritual fulfilment. An intellectual life need not be an expansion of a dry, aloof and superior feeling. Love of intellect, in its purest sense, is a life that desires to see the reality in its minute and subtle details. In the skies of the mind, this yearning itself is a higher step towards the ultimate heights of the Beyond.
Morality does not mean a life-torturing needle. Morality does not mean a constant vigil over the animal in us. Morality is an illumining reality that takes us from a lesser goal of confusion-bondage to a greater goal of perfection-freedom. Morality is not the rope that strangles us; it is the rope that saves us.
Spirituality is not an act of withdrawal from world activities. Spirituality is not hallucination-reality. Spirituality is not something that has a liking for Heaven and a constant dislike of earth. No! Real spirituality is the conscious awareness of God the Creator and God the creation. It is the feeling of constant oneness with God the One and God the many. It is the continuous transcendence of the animal into the human, of the human into the divine and of the divine into the supreme Reality.
If we view life as a unified experience of an intellectual reality, moral reality and spiritual reality, then this world of ours can be nothing but satisfaction-happiness in God’s cosmic Play.
U Thant the task-giverU Thant the task-giver asks two questions that can not only keep us on the alert constantly but also fulfil us eventually: “Every man or woman should not only ask himself or herself what he or she is going to do in the world, but also ask, ‘Will there be a world in which I can live?’ ”
Satisfaction of the individual is undoubtedly a most significant achievement. No doubt it is a form of perfection. But the individual has to ask himself whether, with this perfection, he can remain outside the world-boundary. The answer will always be in the negative. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the world in which we live also be perfect.
As we strive for our individual perfection, even so we shall strive for the collective perfection and the perfection of the world-body. Perfection has to loom large simultaneously in the individual soul, in the collective soul and in the world-soul. This is the only thing that we are supposed to accomplish here on earth and we shall, without fail, accomplish it.
U Thant the freedom-revolutionaryRevolution, inner and outer. The outer revolution quite often leads to destruction. The inner revolution is our constant cry for illumining progress, which is derived from the heart of freedom.
Freedom is humanity’s choice. Freedom is Divinity’s choice. With freedom, humanity ultimately grows into God the transcendental Vision. With freedom, Divinity ultimately grows into the universal Reality.
U Thant the freedom-revolutionary tells us: “The revolution brought by science and technology to the developed nations is a revolutionary extension of human freedom. Freedom is choice. Freedom is the ability to act…. ”
Science and technology help us walk along a particular road of freedom. Spirituality helps us walk along a different road of freedom. But before we walk along the freedom-road of science and technology, science and technology advise us to look around and grasp the secrets of the world’s beauty-reality. Before we walk along the freedom-road of spirituality, spirituality advises us to dive deep within and unveil the world’s soul-reality. If we abide by their wise advice, we please the science and technology world with our dedication-service and we satisfy the spirituality world with our aspiration-cry. Dedication-service leads us to the Reality that we are supposed to grow into. Aspiration-cry leads us to the Reality which we eternally are.
U Thant the education-loverTeacher and student. The teacher prepares; the student completes. The teacher begins; the student ends. The teacher is the vision in reality; the student is the reality in vision. The teacher helps the student climb; the student helps the teacher spread.
“Self-giving is delight.” So says the teacher. “Receiving is delight.” So says the student.
When giving and receiving can be accomplished cheerfully and unconditionally, seed the teacher and fruit the student fulfil each other.
U Thant the education-lover sees student and teacher as two eternal friends: “…the teachers are the true architects of minds, and the students are the true builders of peace. If the teachers instruct the younger generation in the ways of peace, not only will their work succeed, but the basic idea of peace in our time will triumph.”
U Thant the education-seerEducation is cultivation of knowledge. The outer world feels that world-information is enough for cultivation of knowledge. The inner world feels that there is only one kind of knowledge that can cure the ignorance-night which is humanity’s malady of millennia. The cure is called wisdom-light.
U Thant the education-seer illumines us about education, outer and inner: “In Asia, if I may say so, the traditional aim of education is to impress on the young the importance of the mind rather than the body, and even more basically, the importance of the spirit rather than the mind. Education thus becomes inward looking, and the aim of education is the discovery of one’s self rather than the discovery of things external to us.”
There are two aspects to reality: the body-reality and the soul-reality. The body-reality looks around for its satisfaction. The soul-reality looks within for its satisfaction. The Eastern approach or, let us say, the Asian approach to reality is to dive deep within and discover the soul and, thus, know everything and become everything. The other approach, which we may call the Western approach, instructs us to look inside the body-reality and around the body-reality to see what it really is and what it can contribute to world-success.
U Thant the friend of the mass mediaU Thant, ever a friend to the mass media, wrote in the September 1955 issue of Guardian Magazine: “One of the impressions I have gained… is the essential similarity of national characters on which a world-wide understanding can be built and global solidarity can rest. Everywhere men and women, young and old, love peace, enjoy a good joke and lead affectionate family lives. No doubt mass media… have bred in the minds of people certain prejudices and bias… but I believe that the same mass media… can turn such people into their real selves.”
Individuals can go together, mix together and fulfil themselves together. There is and there will always be an underlying oneness, an essential similarity of human beings, nations and national characters. It is not that each one must discover his goal totally apart from the rest of the world. Together we must strive to achieve the selfsame goal, for it is collective oneness alone that can grant us perfect satisfaction.
Again, we are afraid that the mass media have created tremendous confusion in life, a sense of superiority and inferiority that can ruin human minds. But U Thant’s prophetic utterance is that the same mass media can help human beings see, realise and become their true selves.
Interview on 21 September 19638David Sureck: “The first United Nations Secretary-General, Trygve Lie has described your job as ‘the most impossible job in the world.’ What did you think about it on the day you were sworn in?”
U Thant: A feeling of humility and an overwhelming sense of responsibility, to which was added a dawning hope that the unanimous support which has so generously been accorded to me would make ‘the most impossible job in the world’ a little less impossible.
UT 72. From an interview in The Saturday Evening Post of 21 September 1963.↩
U Thant the champion of human dignityDignity is not a philosophical dream. Dignity is not an expression of ego’s aggrandisement. Dignity is a supreme necessity if we want to touch each other, feel each other and realise each other on a higher level of consciousness.
U Thant the champion of human dignity says:"… The dignity and worth of the human person is not merely a philosophic concept. It is, and should be, a working principle of human existence guiding our daily lives. Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves. This, as the sages of many lands have taught us, is a golden rule in individual and group, as well as international, relations.”/
When we show our dignity, we bring to the fore our divine capacities. When others show their dignity, they also do the same thing. In the expression of dignity, all of us bring forward our inner, divine, illumining and fulfilling capacities and we triumphantly arrive at a higher goal which has been the aspiration of human beings from time immemorial. The sages of the hoary past offered us this sublime vision, and now we are trying in our own age to transform this vision into concrete reality.
U Thant the teacher of mankindU Thant has served the world in various capacities, but he started his career as a schoolteacher. We notice in him a born teacher of mankind. He taught the world how to bring to the fore the capacities of the heart and thus create a oneness-world.
U Thant the teacher of mankind offered this momentous advice in his farewell speech: “In this world, try to be both good and able men. If you do not become able men, at least try to be good men. The country has no use for able but bad men.”
According to him, what the world needs is a combination of good men and able men. It is good men and able men combined that can create a new society, new progress, new perfection.
U Thant the world citizen and defender of human rightsIn an address to the General Assembly commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U Thant the world citizen declared: “In this age of the jet plane and the Telstar, the world is fast becoming a community, a community with common interests and common aspirations. Gone are the days when each nation was an island unto itself. Today, questions of human rights are a matter of international concern.”
U Thant not only felt humanity’s excruciating pangs but also became one with humanity’s astounding progress. This progress gave him abundant joy and a true sense of satisfaction. He saw that mind-division is surrendering to heart-oneness and national pride is yielding to international light, creating a new and illumining world-society.
U Thant the exemplar of religious toleranceWith his cosmopolitan heart, the unparalleled seeker U Thant climbed up the aspiration-tree to a surprisingly lofty height. From there he illumined the votaries of the world-illumining religious faiths.
At the opening of the African Summit Conference in Cairo on 19 July 1964, U Thant the exemplar of religious tolerance said: “How are we to practise tolerance? What states of mind are necessary for all of us to live together in peace with one another as good neighbours? How are we to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security? The answers to these questions lie, it seems to me, in our ability to bring out the best in us and to return to the basic moral and ethical principles of all great religions. Let us, therefore, dedicate ourselves anew to a new pledge: to make Muslims better Muslims, Hindus better Hindus, Christians better Christians and Buddhists better Buddhists.”
U Thant the visionaryU Thant feels that as different religions live in the peace room, even so societies can live in the peace room. There is no hard and fast rule that societies cannot have the same inner growth and the same outer broadness as religions.
U Thant the visionary says: “…As Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and all other religions are existing peacefully in amity, I believe a day will come when these different societies — communist societies, capitalist societies, socialist societies, and any other type of societies — are going to exist peacefully. I believe in these things.”
Peace is within, peace is without. The core of society we touch with our inner peace. The body of society we touch with our outer peace. The inner peace unites the heart and the soul of the world. The outer peace unites the body and the mind of the world.
Spirituality has achieved considerable success in casting aside unfortunate and unlit conflicts with regard to religious beliefs that once upon a time dominated the human mind. Likewise, aspiration is going to achieve towering success in different societies. U Thant’s belief in these things is nothing short of his infallible vision.
U Thant the prophet of the United NationsWe have already possessed the body-consciousness but we have not yet possessed the soul-reality. If we know what the United Nations truly is and what it stands for and what it can do to serve, illumine and fulfil mankind, then only we can embody fulfilling hopes for tomorrow’s dawn.
U Thant, the United Nations pilot, while most successfully steering the United Nations boat, voiced forth during a United Nations Day address in 1964: “The United Nations… is simply an Organization, serving all nations but dominated by none, which has the continual obligation to avoid disaster and misery and to provide for a better and more productive future for all peoples. The emergence of such a mechanism is both a great step forward and a historic challenge. This is, indeed, an idea to possess men’s souls.”
U Thant the soul-voice of the United NationsThere is a time when we see eye to eye with one another in solving the world problems. Again, there is a time when we totally disagree. There is a time when we have individual goals. Again, there is a time when we have a common goal.
U Thant speaks on behalf of the soul of the United Nations with regard to the common goal: “Here in the United Nations we also have a basic aim in common, which is to preserve the peace and to enhance human happiness and dignity throughout the world in accordance with our Charter.”
At the United Nations, many nations with different opinions are working together. Although outwardly they seem to have divergent goals, they are running towards an inner goal which is nothing short of a common goal.
After talks with Indian Prime Minister ShastriAfter talks with Indian Prime Minister Shastri, U Thant expressed his optimism that the India-Pakistan conflict would be solved. Speaking at Delhi airport on 15 September 1965, he declared:
“I would, however, like to say here that even if an end to the fighting has not yet been achieved, that is no reason for any cessation of the efforts of all men of good will to achieve it.
"For myself, I shall continue to work toward a ceasefire and a peaceful solution to this tragic problem in the light of the very frank and useful talks I have had in both countries in the last few days. I look forward to the co-operation and support of both Governments and of public opinion in this effort and I dare to express the hope and the belief that we may soon see better days.”
"Moral force and inner light"Former Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and U Thant were both frail in body and dauntless in spirit. But both of them conquered the world with their moral force and inner light.
Confidence in Kurt Waldheim9On 22 December 1971, U Thant expressed his boundless confidence in Kurt Waldheim and warmly welcomed him as his worthy successor:
“I was right to insist that I should leave my office at this time. In doing so I am greatly heartened and encouraged by the thought that I shall be leaving this office in such capable hands.
I have known Ambassador Waldheim ever since he first came to New York as Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in 1964. Subsequently he has been Foreign Minister of his own country, and I was personally very pleased when he was reappointed as Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations last year. I know that he is held in very high esteem by all of those who have come to know him during his many years in New York. Apart from his wellknown diplomatic ability, he has shown a special talent for conciliation in his work as Chairman of the Outer Space Committee and in other United Nations bodies. I wish him every success in his new and high responsibilities.”
UT 82. 16 January 1977↩
83. From Mrs Aye Aye Myint-U, 15 January 1977Dear Sri Chinmoy,
On behalf of my mother, Mrs Thant and my family may I take this opportunity to express our profound gratitude to you for your kind sentiments and love for my father. Father had always cherished the time he spent with you for he found in you love and tranquillity. He shared with you the importance of morality and spirituality in this complex and troubled world, and he was always inspired by your humility and dedication for the enlightenment of innerself.
We are deeply proud to share father’s life, and are most fortunate to have received his unselfish love and care.
We pray and hope that your continued effort may bring forth the dreams of my father, peace, happiness and prosperity for all mankind.
With our esteem admiration and respect,
—- Aye Aye Myint-U
To Aye Aye Myint-U, 16 January 1977Dear Aye Aye,
Your beloved Father and my beloved spiritual Brother, U Thant, will always triumphantly stand in the vanguard of humanity’s soulful success and fruitful progress.
I liked him. I admired him. I adored him. I loved him. I liked him because in him I saw a sea of simplicity, humility and purity. I admired him because I saw a wisdom-sun upon him constantly radiating its unhorizoned effulgence. I adored him because his heart’s Illumination lovingly covered the length and breadth of the entire world. I loved him because his life of self-giving to humanity’s cry and Divinity’s Smile made him the supremely perfect instrument of the Lord Buddha.
Your unparalleled oneness-heart with your Father’s vastness-heart and your Father’s soul-concern for you have touched the very depth of my heart. The human in us misses him badly. The divine in us tells us that he is with the Lord Buddha here on earth, there in Heaven, inside all human beings and all divine souls.
He is at once with the Creator’s ever-transcending Vision and ever-manifesting Reality.
As the Creator and the creation are inseparable, even so his unconditionally surrendered will to the Will of the Lord Buddha are eternally inseparable. Infinity’s greatness he has. Immortality’s goodness he is.
I wish to offer my most respectful salutation to your mother, my loving regards to your kind and good husband, Dr Myint-U, and my soulful love to your divinely sweet children.
I pray to the Lord Buddha to bless you and your whole family with His infinite Compassion-Light and His eternal Satisfaction-Delight.
— Sri Chinmoy
85Only a highly advanced soul like U Thant can achieve detachment-light. Most illumining was U Thant’s intrepid detachment from the fruitless trivialities of human life. To our deep sorrow, some unlit human beings took his detachment-light for insouciance-night. Again, to our deep joy and satisfaction, they eventually realised their grave folly.
A man of silenceThe human mind, like the wind, is uncontrollable. By virtue of scientific development, we have discovered the ways and means of controlling the restless wind to a considerable degree. But alas, control of the human mind is still a far cry to millions and billions. It just baffles human understanding
But U Thant was endowed with preternatural qualities. He was adept in the divine art of controlling the mind. Therefore, with aplomb and purity in his heart he was able to throw himself into the tornado of world-activities while maintaining silence soulful and fruitful.
Faithful son and fruitful father of the third worldU Thant had a cosmopolitan heart. Impartiality was one of his names. His modesty, kindness, sacrifice and oneness have made him Eternity’s treasure.
What he wanted for mankind was happiness. From where? From a self-disciplined oneness-heart.
He was an emblem of the ideals of justice. Sublime was his spiritual message to the world at large: “Give totally what you have; become what Truth-satisfaction eternally is.”
His heart made him feel that he was of all and for all. Most sincere was his effort to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, between the strong and the weak, between the unlit human beings and the illumined human beings.
It is most astonishing how God played in and through him the role of an untiring and faithful son of the third world and, at the same time, unfailing and fruitful father.
Colossal soulFour are the most special gifts that humanity received from U Thant’s colossal soul: concern-sun, sympathy-sea, dedication-realisation and compassion-perfection.
Unlike U Thant, we wrap ourselves in the cocoons of self-concern, self-sympathy, self-dedication and self-compassion.
U Thant’s soul knew that he was of all. U Thant’s heart felt that he was for all.
89U Thant gave us his soul’s glorious leadership. U Thant gave us his heart’s precious friendship. U Thant gave us his Lord Buddha-worship.
A heart of pole-star purityU Thant was more than successful in veiling his minds stupendous brilliance with his heart’s pole-star purity and humility.
The great seeker in him discovered the truth that the fastest way to become part and parcel of humanity is the way of the heart and not that of the mind.
He also discovered that it is the heart that has infinitely more capacity than the mind to establish an abiding oneness with the world community.
He further realised the supreme fact that the mind has to be illumined by the soul, for this is the only way to bring about a radical transformation of human nature and the world family.
A life of self-transcendenceHis was the life of conscience. His was the heart of compassion. His was the mind of serenity. His was the vital of determination. His was the body of sanctity.
To him, an outer life of violation indicated an inner life of imminent destruction.
His single-minded service to the United Nations for ten long years showed the world what mental equanimity and psychic luminosity can do for mankind.
He showed the world that a life of self-transcendence, a life of truth-discovery and a life of light-manifestation must not remain always a far cry.
In him the United Nations quite astonishingly discovered a faithful servant, a soulful friend and a fruitful leader.
The Garland of Nation-Souls10Each nation has five members in its family: inspiration, aspiration, realisation, revelation and manifestation. The body needs inspiration. The vital needs aspiration. The mind needs realisation. The heart needs revelation. The soul needs manifestation.
The body wants to walk. The vital wants to run. The mind wants to fly. The heart wants to dive. The soul wants to be.
Inspiration without aspiration cannot see God. Aspiration without realisation cannot reach God. Realisation without revelation cannot glorify God. Revelation without manifestation cannot fulfil God.
Each nation has a soul of its own. The soul is at once God's illumining Activity and the nation's fulfilling capacity. Each nation is the involution of its highest Light and the evolution of its inmost Power. Immortality is the homeland of the soul. Eternity is the life of the soul. Infinity is the reality of the soul.
The Garland of Nation-Souls: a garland is the embodiment of God's Smile and man's achievement. God's Divine Smile is supremely expansive, and man's divine achievement is eternally impressive. Now, where is the Garland of Nation-Souls? It is here, inside the boat of the United Nations. Who deserves to be garlanded? Undoubtedly the Seeker-Pilot, U Thant. This able, genuine and divine Pilot of ours is blessed with a far-reaching, growing vision, and a wide, expanding, energising reality.
When a nation's outer life listens to the inner dictates of its soul, its earthly desires decrease, its heavenly aspirations increase, its human wants are lessened and its divine needs are heightened. It envisions the Truth Transcendental and grows into God's Pride Supreme.
The great philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once remarked, "Every nation ridicules other nations, and all are right." It is true that all nations, with no exception, will one day be flooded with God's perfect Perfection, at God's choice Hour. The nations that are aspiring consciously are hastening God's Hour. The nations that are aspiring unconsciously are inwardly valuing God's Hour, and soon their aspiration will increase. The nations that are wallowing in the pleasures of darkening and darkened night are God's so-called failures, but before long even they will open their eyes and, along with their forerunners, will hear God ringing the bell of inner Victory.
The ascending aspiration of the fully awakened souls and the descending Blessing-Light of God can eventually transform the face of the entire globe.
Imperfection and impossibility we cherished yesterday. Today, imperfection and impossibility are our unwanted guests. Tomorrow, they will be seen nowhere. Perfection and divinity will be our most welcome guests.
The nation that soulfully cries for inner development and devotedly cries for outer growth can alone be in the vanguard of the teeming nations. Why does a nation fail? A nation fails because it does not want the sustaining Truth to be on its side. When does a nation fall? A nation falls when it deliberately and vehemently resists the idea of being on the side of Truth. How can a nation succeed? A nation can succeed by following the Truth within and without. The very pursuit of Truth can make the existence of a nation free, meaningful, purposeful and fruitful. Now, how can a nation flourish? A nation can flourish when it sees no difference between the Creator and the creation. A nation can flourish when it loves the world, not for what the world will give in return, but for the sake of love. Selfless love, true love, never ends, never fails. Love is its own immediate reward.
To me, the real worth of nations lies in their united principles; and it is in the united principles that one can see the fruit of true inner oneness and divine perfection. The united principles must needs have co-operation. If there is no co-operation, then the united principles will bear no fruit whatsoever. The present-day world needs co-operation.
Supremely significant are the words of the Secretary General, U Thant: "I can think of no worthier task for a man or a woman to be engaged in than that of creating the tools for international co-operation and working for the betterment of his fellow human beings." Also, the Secretary-General soulfully affirms: "Our work at the United Nations gives us the privilege of contributing actively from day to day in the ardent process of building peace."
With our deepest joy and greatest fortune we see here at the United Nations the promising hearts of one hundred and twenty-five nations. Each nation is unique, for in and through each nation the Lord Supreme wants to fulfil Himself. Each nation is chosen by the Supreme, to fulfil Him in an unprecedented, unique manner.
Each nation right now needs peace. We all need peace. To have peace, what we need is the right path, the Path Divine. Four thousand years ago, in the hoary past, the Vedic seers offered a supreme prayer to the Lord Supreme:
Lead us, lead us by the right path to well-being."
War and 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.
War and peace. Man invents war. Man discovers peace. Man invents war from without. Man discovers peace from within. The smile of war is the flood of human blood. The smile of peace is love, Love Divine, below, above. The animal in man wants war, war to devour the sleeping, snoring world. The divine in man needs peace, peace to feed the hungry world.
UT 92. This lecture by Sri Chinmoy, delivered on 15 July 1970, shows that Sri Chinmoy's spiritual ideals for the United Nations harmonise most significantly with those of U Thant. Since 1970, Sri Chinmoy has served as Director of the United Nations Meditation Group, holding meditations twice a week for UN representatives, delegates and staff and delivering a monthly lecture series in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium. The Group's work at the United Nations was highly appreciated and encouraged by U Thant during his Secretary-Generaliship and has also won the deep appreciation and support of current Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, who praised the Group for its "work and dedication to the United Nations" and presented Sri Chinmoy with his 'special medallion' at a private meeting on 16 July 1976.↩
U ThantU Thant, U Thant,
We love your silence-soul,
We loved your compassion-heart.
Your world-harmony role
U.N. Pilot supreme,
You treasured perfection-dream.