Part I — I wanted to be a seeker of the Infinite

WSI 1-5. In February of 1965, Sri Chinmoy was very graciously interviewed by Mr. Edwin Ross of WBAI Radio in New York City. Following are excerpts from their conversation. This is the earliest known radio interview with Sri Chinmoy. Mr. Ross at times referred to his guest simply as "Chinmoy," as would have been natural at the time, but in those instances the honorific "Sri" has been added.

Mr. Edwin Ross: How long have you been in the United States, Mr. Ghose, Chinmoy Ghose?

Sri Chinmoy: I have been here for the last nine months.

Mr. Edwin Ross: I see. Now, I imagine that the average Westerner — although I am sure there are some who are more familiar with it — thinks of yoga as something a little out of this world, where a man stands on his head with his feet up against the wall and somehow or other this is supposed to bring him something. What that is, I do not quite know. Could you elaborate on the physical aspects of yoga, which most people seem to be familiar with, and the other aspects, which I imagine most Americans, at any rate, are not quite so familiar with.

Sri Chinmoy: This is one approach to the spiritual life. We call it hatha yoga. It is physical yoga. This is only one approach to the spiritual life. It is not the only one, and it is not suitable for every individual.

Mr. Edwin Ross: The physical aspect of it is not suitable for the average individual.

Sri Chinmoy: The benefit that we derive from this yoga can be attained by other methods as well. One of these methods is meditation.

The traditional yogic postures and breathing exercises attempt to place the body into a state of receptivity in order to bring down peace, light and certain higher forces from Above. But with meditation we can bring down these higher forces into the body. The practitioners of hatha yoga know that it is only preliminary to entering into a higher consciousness, and there is a more subtle means to invoke this higher consciousness.

Mr. Edwin Ross: The hatha yoga is what I would call physical yoga. But apparently there is more than one path to this goal that you call a higher consciousness, is that correct? The physical is only one path.

Sri Chinmoy: It is one aspect of the total being. There are other yogas as well. We call them jnana yoga, the path of the mind; bhakti yoga, the path of devotion; and karma yoga, the path of service.

Mr. Edwin Ross: Do different people practise different types of yoga, as you have outlined, or do they generally practise all three types together? Are they all part of one whole, or are they separate?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual. Some people prefer to adopt jnana yoga, while others prefer other yogas. But I was brought up in a spiritual atmosphere where we gave importance to all yogas. That is to say, it is a path of fulfilment in the full sense of the term, where body, mind, heart and soul each will have its own function for divine manifestation. In earlier times, people used to pay more attention to one aspect of yoga. But now we have come to the conclusion that in order to see the Divine in each and every thing, we have to have a consciousness that is all-pervading. And in order to attain to that all-pervading consciousness, our body, mind, heart and soul must aspire simultaneously.

Mr. Edwin Ross: In other words, the manner in which you were brought up encompasses the body, mind, heart and soul, each as one aspect of yoga, whereas I gather that there are some groups that practise, let us say, the body yoga, and others that may practise the mind yoga, and others the heart? They concentrate on the heart as a separate kind of yoga.

Sri Chinmoy: On the heart. It is a devotional approach.

Mr. Edwin Ross: I suppose the reason that the body type of yoga has become most familiar in the United States is probably that it requires less mental effort on the part of the participants or the adherents than the others would. It is something that they can practise that is less alien to them than the mind, heart and soul yoga. Would you say that that is approximately correct? It seems to me that, as our other guest said, the pace of American life is quite different from Eastern life, from what I understand of Eastern life. I think that the average American is not given to thinking as deeply in spiritual ways, and he finds it difficult. The entire concept, I think, is more difficult for him, whereas something physical he can adapt to more readily than something that he would consider a lofty, idealistic sort of concept.

Do you have any thoughts on that, Sri Chinmoy? Or do you feel that your familiarity with the Western way of life is not sufficient for you to be able to have a reaction to this?

Sri Chinmoy: My own feeling is that the West still feels that the body is the only instrument to achieve something. That is to say, the West feels that whatever we aspire for, it is the body that should come forward. With the help of the body, the dynamic aspect of the body, we can reach our goal, we can fulfil our mission on earth. But as a matter of fact, if the body is pushed by the mind, heart and soul from behind, then the body becomes the real instrument of God-realisation, or whatever the aim people place before them.