The United Nations Meditation Group With Muhammad Ali

On the morning of his championship fight with Earnie Shavers on 29 September, Muhammad Ali met with Sri Chinmoy and members of the United Nations Meditation Group for an hour of prayer, meditation and discussion. Sri Chinmoy garlanded the champion and presented him with a trophy, saying, “Along with this is my heart. My heart is inside this.” Later, some thirty United Nations Meditation Group singers sang a song which Sri Chinmoy had composed in the fighter’s honour, and the group meditated together in silence for about twenty minutes. Afterwards, Ali told Sri Chinmoy, “I was so deeply absorbed, I couldn’t do anything.” As the group was leaving, he added, “This really got my spirits high. It might end in one round now. God bless you.” This is a short excerpt from the conversation, as well as a commentary about the meeting which Sri Chinmoy gave at the United Nations the next day.

Sri Chinmoy: Yesterday it was our strong desire to honour you at the United Nations. Unfortunately, you could not be at the United Nations.

Muhammad Ali: I was so obligated; I couldn’t make it. I appreciated it. I was real honoured to get that invitation, but we couldn’t make it. What do you do there?

Sri Chinmoy: We pray and meditate twice a week. On Tuesdays and Fridays we pray together with the delegates and staff. There I was going to offer you my deepest gratitude for what you are doing — not only for the black Muslims but also for mankind. You are changing the face and fate of mankind. Your very name encourages and inspires. As soon as people hear “Muhammad Ali”, they are inspired. They get tremendous joy. They get such dynamism to be brave and face ignorance. Your very name does that. That is why I am so grateful to you, so proud of you.

Muhammad Ali: My goal is to be like you one day — to be peaceful and out of this sport working for humanity and for God. I was telling Jeremiah that after we finish boxing I want to learn how to get out of this life and use my popularity and my intelligence for humanity — to help people in whatever way I can. I don’t know how, but I want to do something — bring people together, work for God and help people. I know there is something I am supposed to do, but I don’t know really exactly what its purpose is; but it’s something.

Sri Chinmoy: You know the purpose. It is only a question of Allah’s Hour. You are the supreme instrument of Allah. Today He is utilising you as the greatest boxer. One day He will utilise you as the greatest preacher. The other day I was reading in the newspaper about you as a preacher and minister. So, now your heart of love you are using for a special purpose.

Muhammad Ali: I’ll only say one thing, Brother, not to cut you off. But I don’t want and I never wanted the image of being the greatest preacher. Boxing is all publicity. In this country this is how we promote: “I’m the greatest. I’ll get him in round seven.” But this is not really my heart. This is just outer appearance to promote fights. I don’t really feel this way. Ministry is so serious, and there everybody is equal before God. Therefore, I don’t want to get the image of being the greatest preacher, because that’s boastful; it is not humble, it is not spiritual. So I don’t want to go into the thing that I am the greatest preacher: just a minister, just a lecturer or helper.

There are so many people who are great but only God, Allah, is really great. Therefore, I want to get out of this brashness, this image. We’ve got to stop that “I’m the greatest” thing and forget it. I am just a humble servant and I have a lot to learn. I need people like yourself to teach me what to say and what to do and how to approach certain things. So I don’t want to talk that “I am the greatest” attitude and preach it. Do you understand what I mean? I don’t want that.

Sri Chinmoy: You don’t have to say that you are the greatest, but your heart of oneness with all humanity makes you the greatest.