Question: What happens to geniuses like Bach or Shakespeare after they die?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on God’s Will and also the eagerness of the soul. If Bach played his role as a great, supreme musician, and if he does not want to manifest any more music, and if it is the Will of the Supreme, then he will give up that life totally. In his next incarnation he may enter into the field of literary activity. If Shakespeare has finished his role as a great writer and if he wants to enter into music, he can do it. Again, if Shakespeare and Bach feel that they have not played their roles satisfactorily, that they could give more to the literary world or to the musical world, then they will continue in the same field in their next incarnation.

We feel that Bach composed such great music. Who could be a better musician than he or who could be a greater writer than Shakespeare? But only the souls of these two great figures know whether they contributed to the fullest extent what they embodied and what they came here to give us. If they have given everything, then they don’t have to go through literary life or music life any more. But if they have not given everything and if they want to continue, and if the Will of the Supreme is for them to continue and give more of their soul-stirring music or soul-elevating literature, then they will give. Again, they may not want to continue this particular game. On the sports field, a game lasts for forty-five minutes or an hour. If one plays for forty-five minutes and then becomes tired, he may say, “I do not want to play this game anymore; I am ready to play some other game. I was playing football and it was very exhausting; now I want to play something else, some indoor game.” And then God may say, “All right, you don’t have to play that game. You can play some other game. I am offering you My Compassion.”

Usually great geniuses like Shakespeare and Bach have completed their roles. Then, God may take them into science or spirituality. In the case of Bach, he had already accepted spirituality, whereas Shakespeare had not consciously accepted spirituality. So Bach’s music is full of spirituality. But Shakespeare’s higher ideals are not spiritual; they are something else. Spirituality is everywhere, true, but you have to know what spirituality you are aiming at. The one has already touched spirituality; the other has not properly touched the real spirituality. It is entirely up to God’s Will what they will do next.