Part VI — Pacific School of Religion Meeting

Pacific School of Religion Meeting

On 5 October 1978, Sri Chinmoy was named “Honorary Visiting Scholar” at the Pacific School of Religion, which is part of the Graduate Theological Seminary at Berkeley. Dr. John von Rohr, President of the Pacific School of Religion, made the presentation. Also present were Dean A. Durwood Foster and Dr. Stillson Judah, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion, as well as a few of the Masters disciples. A transcript of the ceremony follows:

Dr. von Rohr: Very, very nice to meet you. We welcome you here.

Prof. Stillson: How do you do?

Dr. von Rohr: Well, won’t you sit down?

Disciple: Dr. von Rohr, Sri Chinmoy would like to make a presentation to you.

Sri Chinmoy: May I offer these books to you? These are actually not books. These are my aspiration-plants which are growing inside my devoted heart. So my aspiration-plants I am offering to you.

Dr. von Rohr: Thank you very, very kindly. We appreciate so very, very much your generosity in supplying us with these books. We know that those here who read them will find them profitable and helpful and spiritually meaningful. And we’re very, very grateful for your kindness in giving not only books but also in giving of yourself and your own experiences that are reflected in these writings. In return, I would like to present, on behalf of our school, this token of our appreciation which indicates that you are designated as an honorary visiting scholar of the Pacific School of Religion. We welcome you, therefore, as a member of our family.

Sri Chinmoy: I take it as a great honour to be a member of your family. I am not a scholar and I will never be a scholar. I am not an author, writer or composer. No! I am just a seeker. I try to aspire with my heart’s sincerity, and it is my aspiration that I am trying to offer both to the heavenly Father and to His children, my brothers and sisters on earth. It is my inner cry which I am trying to offer to the world at large. All that I write is only the expression of my inner cry. Here I am not going to illumine anybody. Only I am trying to share with the rest of the world my heart’s cry, which tries to serve the Beloved Supreme in each individual.

Dr. von Rohr: If you join our family, you are joining a family of seekers, because we are all united together in that seeking. Oftentimes we seek by different paths and in different ways, but we are all seeking the same illumination, the same experience of Grace and Light, the same kinship with divine love that will help us even as that love helps you to serve brothers and sisters in all humanity.

Sri Chinmoy: I tell my friends and students that all religions are like homes. We cannot live in the street. You live in your house and I live in my house. But we all go to the same place to study and there we get illumination. There is no such thing as religion. It is only oneness: oneness of the heart, oneness in the heart and oneness for the heart. The heart is our home.

I am so happy, delighted and honoured at the same time. Here we are all seekers. As you have mentioned earlier, we are all members of the same family. We are seeking soulfully, devotedly and unconditionally. Our great spiritual Master, Sri Ramakrishna, once said, “In the hoary past, the Vedic seers used to have the vision of the ultimate Truth. The word for vision is darshan, which also means philosophy. Now the scholars study philosophy in books.” We feel on the strength of our prayer and meditation that one day we shall develop this power of vision. It is not the books but the dedication of the heart and the conscious awareness of the soul that gives us the realisation that we are of the One and also of the many, that the one life-tree has many branches and that we are part and parcel of that life-tree.

Dr. von Rohr: I like the image of the home that you used in your statement. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John that: “In my Father’s House are many mansions.” There may be many mansions that are slightly different from one another, but they are all parts of the Father’s House.

Dr. Judah: When Dr. Foster and I went to India, we visited Auroville and we were there a while with the community. One of the things that impressed me was that there were youths that had come from France, from America, from all over the world. In thinking back, I realise that in our country, too, the youth of America, in the last few years particularly — from the sixties on — have had this great interest in India. In fact, they have had a great interest in religious experience in a way that I think we have not really seen before. Now I wonder, do you have anything to illuminate us on this thing? Because it seemed to me that even in India, the Indian young people were not turning towards religion as much as the youths from France and America and all of the other different countries — European countries in particular. Why has the West suddenly, particularly among the youth, found this great need for illumination and religious experience?

Sri Chinmoy: There are quite a few significant reasons. The West valued materialism for a number of years, but now it truly feels that materialism is not the way to true satisfaction. Everybody wants satisfaction. A child wants satisfaction, but his satisfaction is different from ours. He breaks something and gets joy; that is his satisfaction. But your satisfaction will be to give somebody peace of mind; unless and until you have given some peace of mind to someone, you will not be satisfied. So each individual has a way of offering satisfaction and, at the same time, of getting satisfaction from life.

The Western youth went through drugs and a few other things and they thought these things would be the answer. But they were not the answer. So they searched for something else, which is very good. They are always looking for the new. We won’t say that the old is bad; but the old has played its role. Our goal is forward, ahead of us. If we remain all the time with the things that we have already achieved, then we are acting like a stagnant pool. Our life has to be like a river, constantly flowing, flowing, flowing towards the sea, towards the Source. Then only will we be happy. The Western youth are like rivers flowing very fast towards the Reality-Sea. They are doing the right thing. They are getting something new and it is inspiring them.

The Indian youths, unfortunately, think that they have everything because of their forefathers. We Indians had the Vedic seers. We had some so-called spiritual Masters. So the Indians are like spoiled children. Their parents were rich and they have left them a legacy, and they are exploiting this legacy. Westerners, on the other hand, think that their parents have not left them a vast amount of spiritual wealth, so they feel that they have to cultivate it. Indians feel that they have everything because of their forefathers, but this is not true. I have to pray myself; my father’s prayer will not illumine me. If my father is a seeker, he will inspire me so that right at the very start of my life’s journey I will pray and meditate. But he will not be able to give me realisation. That my Heavenly Father has to give me.

Here in the West, they are seeing that, forgive me, they are not getting the answer either from the so-called priests or from the church. I am not speaking against anyone; only I am saying that the Westerners want something and they are not getting it. The real temple, the real church is here, in the heart. When we go to church, if the priest can inspire us and make us feel where the truth is, where the actual God is, then we will dive deep within. I always tell my students that it is not the place they go to or the person they see, but they themselves who have to answer the questions. I can help them; I can tell them where the box is, where the jewellery is; but I am not the jeweler, I am not the diamond, I am not the box. They have misplaced the box inside their heart and I can show them where it is to be found. “Here is the box. Here is the diamond. And if you want me to open it for you, I’ll open it, but it is your treasure. It is not mine. Within your heart you have everything, but you do not know this because you have misplaced your inner wealth.” I always say that spirituality is not the monopoly of any individual, of an Indian; everybody has it in abundant, infinite measure.

Sometimes my students have difficulty accepting our path because of Christianity. I tell them, “If you are sincere, then you will see the Christ and the Supreme are one. He and his Father are one. Here, the Father has quite a few children. One Son — the Christ — has come and has illumined the world. But also there was Sri Krishna and Lord Buddha and Sri Ramakrishna. They all come from the same Source. Now, if I love my Father, I have to love my brothers and sisters; I have to love my uncles and so on. If I truly love my Father, how can I disown my uncles or my brothers or my sisters? There are quite a few seekers whose faith in Christianity and Christ has considerably increased since they have joined our path. Instead of going far, farther, farthest from Christianity or from the Christ, their aspiration, their devotion, their surrender, their oneness with the Christ consciousness has increased. We are not taking anybody away from the Christ consciousness. Only many people were wanting faith in their own religion, in their own capacity, in their own receptivity. We are trying our utmost to bring forward that faith in their own religion, in their own divinity.

To our extreme joy, people who have become really spiritual are not giving up religion as such. Real religion is our inner cry for oneness with our Absolute Lord Supreme. There are many who gave up Christianity when they accepted our path. But we have to know that there is a tremendous difference between the Christ and Christianity. The Christ is the Saviour. He embodies the Universal Consciousness, the transcendental Consciousness. He and his Father are one. But when we think of Christianity, our consciousness descends, because so many things go on in the name of Christianity which do not inspire us.

Dr. von Rohr: [Speaking to one of Sri Chinmoy’s disciples, a former student at the Pacific School of Religion] You have found a combination, haven’t you, between the Christian tradition as you’ve known it and experienced it and the wisdom, inspiration and light of the East.

Disciple: Well, as Durwood knows very well, through my association with Sri Chinmoy I think I’ve come to understand and appreciate Christ very, very deeply. And I definitely attribute that fully to my three years with Sri Chinmoy — no doubt because I find that Sri Chinmoy represents in a living being, right in front of me, some of the things that I want to believe about Jesus. These things are rather far-removed historically but very, very present in a living soul of Sri Chinmoy’s stature. So I would say yes, that my appreciation for Jesus and his mission has really very much increased.

Dr. Foster: I want to say that he (the disciple) has been a great blessing to us in his study at the Pacific School of Religion this last year. We’ve been very privileged to have him. He has made us more deeply conscious of you in so many ways.

Sri Chinmoy: It is so kind of you to say so. It is your heart’s magnanimity. Your heart’s magnanimity is coming to the fore. I am very grateful to you. We belong to the same family, as you were saying. We try to serve our Beloved Supreme; according to our limited, very limited receptivity, we try. What He wants from us is a sincere approach. Here I am in real heaven. Here we are discussing religion. Here there is no Christianity, no Hinduism — only children of the same parents. We are discussing the Glory of the Absolute Supreme. Again, sometimes when children are not good, we suffer. About ten years ago, I was giving a talk at Harvard, and there were four or five priests sitting in the front row. They were very displeased, to say the least, that people were so drawn to me. The rest of the audience was almost spellbound. The priests were arguing with me in the question and answer period. Afterwards, they came up and said to me, “How is it that you can answer all the questions.” I said, “In your case, you feel that you are doing it. In my case, I feel that I am the instrument. Today my Father is speaking in and through me. Tomorrow, if He sees that I am not receptive, He will just throw me and use somebody else; He will take you. So if you can feel that you are His instrument, then you will be given the same capacity and opportunity. But if you think you are doing everything, then you will not.

Then, sometimes I have such unfortunate experiences. I went to the chapel, with folded hands, and offered my utmost devotion to the Christ in Puerto Rico one time. And the Mother Superior got mad at me because I am not a Christian. She scolded and insulted me, and then finally said, “Oh, you have devotion for the Christ; Christ will forgive you.” Then again, in some universities when the spiritual figures or priests introduce me, they show such sincere love and appreciation. All these experiences I accept with equal joy and equanimity. All of them I place at the Feet of the Supreme. Here I am appreciated, there I am insulted, to say the least. It is their lack of understanding and receptivity. Some people are very limited. Someone comes, but they can’t house that person because their capacity is very, very limited. But once they can widen their heart, they will see that everyone is inside their heart.

Dr. von Rohr: Do you find persons at the United Nations receptive?

Sri Chinmoy: Some of them are very receptive. I must say, some. All can’t be, but some of them are very, very receptive. Our past Secretary-General, U Thant, was very, very spiritual, and he was kind enough to be my personal friend.

Dr. von Rohr: Is there a chapel at the United Nations that can be used?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, right across the street.

Dr. von Rohr: I see.

Sri Chinmoy: The present Secretary-General is also very sympathetic towards our cause. I tell the delegates that there are two ways to reach the destined goal of peace: through inner peace and outer understanding. I tell them, “You are trying to bring about world harmony through outer understanding. If I understand you and you understand me, then we don’t quarrel, we don’t fight. At the same time if I have peace of mind, if I have peace in the inner world, in my heart, then I will not fight you. Prayer and meditation can bring to the fore our inner peace. Again, their way of trying to create understanding among countries will also bring about world harmony. After all, the inner world and the outer world must go together. Otherwise, in the inner world we shall have peace of mind and in the outer world we shall fight. When we pray, at that time we are good people. But then as soon as we enter into our multifarious activities, if we quarrel and fight, this is no good at all. I always say, early in the morning when we pray, we have to feel that we have got some Peace, Light and Power, which is inner wealth — like money power. When we have money in our pocket, we can go and buy anything we want. Similarly, if we have peace, love and joy inside our heart-pocket, then when we need these qualities during the day, we can bring them forward and have them.

Dr. Judah: Some time ago I made a study of the Hare Krishna movement here, and I became quite close to their spiritual Master Bhaktivedanta. It was very interesting, you know. One time we were walking on the beach together down in Los Angeles. He was saying that they believed in Jesus as the Lord, but they believed also, of course, that Krishna was the highest personality of the Godhead, of the One. To me it was rather interesting, because this explained in a way why so many of the youth who had come from Christian families here in America had turned to Bhaktivedanta. As one of them said, “I was a Methodist, I am still a Methodist.” And he felt that he was still a Christian even though he was worshipping Krishna, because he was worshipping Krishna as the symbolic form, you might say, of the Father, with Jesus Christ as the Son. And he was still recognising the oneness and the unity of all. It was rather interesting because, you see, it indicated that there was a rejection of a materiality which many of them felt that our churches were expressing. And so, as they turned toward spirituality, it seemed to me that what they were actually doing was transferring the symbol, but still retaining the same general ethic which is identical in all of the great religions.

Sri Chinmoy: This is absolutely true. Only one thing: If they say that Krishna is above all, then I find it difficult to accept that. I am an Indian. I wish to say that the Christ, Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha are all one — with different names. A little boy will address his father as “Daddy.” But when the father goes to the office, he is “Mister so-and-so.” Here too, the Christ, Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha are all manifestations or representatives of the one Absolute Supreme. Unfortunately, one hundred years ago or so, the Christian missionaries went to India and said that the Christ was the only saviour. But Krishna, Buddha — they are all saviours. They are awakening and saving and illumining the consciousness of the entire world. But if one says that the Christ is the only one, then Indians will find it very difficult to accept this. Again, Westerners will find it very difficult to accept Krishna as the only saviour. This time our heavenly Father is using Christ as His representative. Next time it will be somebody else. These are only changes in the name and the form.

The missionaries used to go and say that Lord Krishna is only a thief; in his childhood he used to steal butter. But if they had taught us that you have your Krishna and we have our Christ, then that would have been something else. It is like this. Two brothers go to the market. One buys an orange; one buys a mango. Let us share both fruits. The Christ brought Compassion. For me, he brought everything but his Compassion aspect touches me most. He brought down Compassion. In Krishna’s case, you are seeing all harmony and joy. He is asking the two parties — the Kauravas and Pandavas — not to fight. Don’t fight, be peaceful! But that is not the solution. Then he said that good must transform the evil forces. We don’t use the term “destruction.” How can we destroy something? God has created the world not for destruction but for transformation. I am unlit. You will use your illumination to illumine me. But if you destroy me, then you are destroying part of God’s creation. If you do that, then how can you strengthen and illumine God’s creation? I am obscure and impure. Your duty is to purify me. But if your duty is to destroy me, then where do I stand? If you want to transform me, then only one day will I be perfect. Perfection comes through gradual progress, not through destruction. If somebody destroys me, then how am I going to be perfect. If somebody has more power than I, he has to show his compassion, encouragement, sympathy and light so that I also can be illumined eventually.

Dr. von Rohr: Yes.

Sri Chinmoy: I must not take any more of your precious time.

Dr. von Rohr: This has been very profitable.

Dr. Judah: Yes, it certainly has.

Dr. Foster: Thank you so much. Bless you. thank you.