The seven letters in this volume, written by Sri Chinmoy between November 1968 and January 1969, were first printed in a booklet entitled ‘My Letters’.
They provide a unique insight into Sri Chinmoy’s relationship with his students at a time when his mission in the West was just beginning.
The formal style of Sri Chinmoy’s letterwriting is charmingly quaint, yet it is imbued with abundant wisdom and a light-hearted sense of humour that is immediately appealing.
Since these letters were first written, they have largely remained unread. They are published here in their entirety, with the original typed pages displayed in a slideshow format and the unedited text for each letter available through the table of contents.
Nov. 18, 1968
Despair tortures your heart, sorrow plagues your mind, and your Mother scolds you bitterly because you are very absent-minded. You are also afraid that I may dislike you for your absent-mindedness. To tell you the honest truth, either my liking for you or my displeasure in you does not depend on your absent-mindedness. I like you just because you are a child of God. I like you precisely because you meditate.
You say that you are absent-minded even at the time you meditate. You are deeply sorry for that. You are positive that you can never become successful or great in your life, especially in the realm of spirituality.
Now I wish to tell you a secret, a top secret. Some of my intimate Indian friends used to call me an ‘absent-minded hero’. Believe me, I enjoyed their fond criticism and wise assessment. In this connection I wish to tell you that even today, this very day, I believe, I have topped the list of successful absent-minded candidates. I did, yes, I did. What I did was to dial my own telephone number, not once but twice, while I was trying to give an important message to a very very close disciple of mine. Who is she you know? She is nobody else but the second personal pronoun!
Also I wish to tell you that there is a kind of absent-mindedness of which you may not be aware. This type of absent-mindedness is rather unusual and unearthly. There have been and still are great spiritual Masters who would forget even their own names, not to speak of others’ names, when they come out of a most powerful trance. It takes some time for them to enter into the earthly consciousness and start operating like a normal man. But for this divinely strange act of theirs nobody dislikes them, nobody mocks at them. On the contrary, people like them, adore them, no matter what they say, do or become. When an ordinary person is absent-minded, people do not appreciate him. Needless to say, he in no time becomes an object of ridicule, if not hatred. But these spiritual Giants are loved and adored even when they are totally absent-minded, not only by their close disciples, but by unaspiring people who have nothing to do with spirituality and the inner life. They love and adore the spiritual Masters because they feel that these Masters have given unreservedly what they have and what they are to God, have become God-intoxicated and finally they have realised God and are swimming in the Sea of God’s infinite Consciousness.
This does not mean that absent-mindedness is a kind of virtue. No, not at all. At the same time, absent-mindedness is neither a fatal crime nor a vital sin. Neither is it inevitable, nor unavoidable. It is a mere disease that can easily be cured by God’s love and compassion. And God has the necessary love and compassion, nay, infinitely more than required, for you and me. Let us pray for His love and compassion. We shall succeed.
You want to be great and successful in life. Please charge your memory, and you will discover that many eminent scientists, poets and philosophers and also men of tremendous success in various walks of life, were, if I am allowed to say so, nothing short of absent-minded princes.
Now, very often what you and I call absent-mindedness in our lives, others call it, that very thing, negligence. And according to them, this negligence is not only deplorable but unpardonable.
How can we truly and effectively free ourselves from these two robbers? To free ourselves from the snares of absent-mindedness we needs must feel the spontaneous necessity of our constant achievement and fulfilment. Likewise, to free ourselves from the fetters of negligence we must be absolutely aware of the fact that the entire world not only demands but needs and deserves our express and soulful concern for its own development and success.
Birds of a feather, wholeheartedly,
Dec. 20, 1968
Your letter was all about your anger. You are positive that your anger is of the quickest. I challenge you with a mighty NO. I have studied your nature. I wish to say that your fear, especially fear of God, is of the quickest. You say that you have, at long last, discovered that your worst enemy is anger. Anger is not your worst enemy. Doubt, undoubtedly doubt, self-doubt, is by far your superlative foe. However I am not saying that doubt and fear have caused your anger. I only say that you have to pay more attention to doubt and fear.
You wanted to know if spiritual persons can experience anger. I tell you that not only spiritual persons but even the great spiritual Masters can have anger. They have realised God, but they have yet to conquer their lower nature. Until they have conquered their lower nature, anger can and does torture them, their outer life. Again I must tell you that it is extremely difficult for others to know whether the spiritual Master’s anger is genuine or whether it is just a clever pretence. Sometimes he feels that by expressing tempestuous anger to his disciples whom he considers to be his very own, he can destroy their ignorance-night sooner than if he had employed any other means. True, at times he expresses animal-like anger. It is equally true that his anger is immediately followed by Compassion-Flood. This Compassion of his is pure Nectar. Drink it, drink it to your heart’s content. Lo, your life is changed. Totally and for good.
Dear Ethel, your last question is:
How to conquer your anger. There are various ways to conquer your anger successfully and gloriously. Suppose right now you are angry with your husband. By the way, I am sure that you are amused when I call your husband Socrates and you Xanthippe of the twentieth century. Yes, you are angry, terribly angry with my Socrates. Now the first thing you shall have to do is to repeat aloud three times: “Perhaps he is right, perhaps he is right, perhaps he is right.” Then silently you repeat three times: “He is right, he is right, he is right.” Then you say aloud: “In this case, I might have done the same. In this case, I might have done the same. In this case, I might have done the same.” Then silently you say: “In this case, I too would have done the same. In this case, I too would have done the same. In this case, I too would have done the same.”
By this time, anger will lose all its hunger for you and it will not be at all interested in devouring you. It will leave you, it will go elsewhere to knock at the door of somebody else.
You have launched into the path of spirituality, dear Xanthippe; you have been meditating. You are making good headway. For some time concentrate only on divine Peace and leave aside all other divine qualities. During your meditation, try to bring down Peace, sublime and solid, from above. Your enemy is anger. Anger’s enemy is Peace. Anger openly hates Peace. If you invoke Peace soulfully, then anger will hate you ruthlessly and never will enter into you, your life, consciously or unconsciously. One thing more: Before you invoke Peace, surrender your life-breath ten times to the Will of the Supreme. There is no other way to become one with the Will of the Supreme than to make a conscious surrender to the Will of the Supreme. Your surrender is your safeguard. Right in front of your surrender stands God with His Omnipresence. With your surrender is God’s Omniscience. In your surrender is God’s Omnipotence.
Anger: just put a “D” before Anger and it becomes Danger. I do not want you to play with Danger, but I want you to play constantly with your soul’s surrender, heart’s surrender, mind’s surrender and body’s surrender.
Your anger-chasing friend,
Dec. 28, 1968
Some people write letters when they have nothing else to do. You write letters because you feel and I too certainly feel (Perhaps, more than you do) that you have something special to offer to the world. I write letters because I am afraid that if I don’t write, people, especially my students, will lodge severe complaints to the Supreme against me. To be up to date in correspondence is as difficult for me as to walk along the road in the coldest night without a heavy and thick overcoat. I deeply appreciate your kind, thoughtful, meaningful, powerful, blessingful and soulful letters.
Robert Frost once said: “For God’s sake, don’t give up writing to me simply because I don’t write to you.”
My heart of gratitude voices forth the same to you.
Dear esteemed friend. You want me to tell you what I feel about common sense. You have come to the conclusion that the world is empty of common sense. I fully agree with you. You are positive that the world badly needs common sense. I agree with you with all my heart and soul. One of the main reasons, if not the main, why people are wanting in common sense is that their self-love is a life-long romance. They feel that the sooner they can get rid of their common sense, the quicker will they be endowed with proper sense. So they want to stick to their self-love. At least I think so. And I mean it. The main reason why people are wanting in common sense is that they like consciously or unconsciously the snares of ignorance. They like to fondle and at the same time be fondled by the tempting bondage. They do not have the time to appreciate or enjoy the world of real reality. Their precious time they use only in believing fictions, cock and bull stories. They are simply enamoured of wallowing in the pleasures of real unreality.
On the ladder of sense, common sense is only one rung above nonsense, and super-sense is only one rung above common sense. I try my very best with all my soul’s determination at my command to keep my life firm on the common sense rung.
A man may be dissatisfied with all the vast world, but he is almost always satisfied with the paltry common sense that he already has. The common sense that he has he feels is more than enough. To be sure, if somebody is in need of common sense, then his world can neither make any sense to others nor has any sense in itself.
The present-day world badly needs the psychiatric treatment. God is kind. He has filled the world, at least the western world, with countless psychiatrists. The psychiatrists are desperately trying to make some sense out of their patient: the world. You and your soul’s friends are leaving no stones unturned to supply and enlighten the psychiatrists with a divine sense, with a sense of the ever-growing, ever-glowing and ever-fulfilling Beyond.
Dear friend of my heart, you are absolutely right that the entire world needs an immediate change. A change for the better, of course. Whether the world deserves it or not is altogether a different matter. Yes, the world needs a total transformation, inner and outer. Now the trouble is that everybody feels that he is the wisest man on earth. Right now Napoleon’s significant utterance flashes across my mind. He said: “The only one who is wiser than anyone is everyone.”
Let me tell you a sacred secret of mine. A few years ago my heart was burning with the desire to change the face of the world. God came to me and said: “Wonderful, my son, wonderful; You want to change the world and I want to change you, your human life and earthly nature totally.” To my sorrow, I have not been able to change even an iota of the world nature. To my joy, God is succeeding in transforming me, my nature, my whole life very rapidly. Just recently I touched my Lord’s Feet and prayed to him: “God, kindly free me from my self-imposed responsibility. This world is yours, and definitely not mine. Do change the face and fate of the world at your choice hour.”
At long last I am happy. God too is happy because He sees that wisdom has dawned on my devoted head.
In the hoary past, say four thousand years ago the Vedic Seers cried most devotedly and selflessly for a better world, a world of illumination. Now you are doing the same. Not to speak of the politicians, even the lovers of humanity and religious teachers cherish the same aim, the same goal. I wish you all success.
I believe, it will not be out of place if I cordially welcome George Bernard Shaw at this point. Shaw remarked: “We are told that when Jehovah created the world he saw that the world was good — what would he say now?”
I am sure, Jehovah’s immediate reply will be: “The world, my world, is better now. Some day it has to be the very best, for I cannot be satisfied unless and until I have manifested my perfect perfection on earth.”
Shaw comes one step ahead to inspire the human souls that are eager to correct and perfect the world. “If there was nothing wrong in the world there wouldn’t be anything for us to do.”
Well, as for myself, I feel that I have many things else to do than correct and perfect the world. Let me first of all consciously and devotedly collaborate with my Lord Supreme in His tireless endeavour toward my nature’s absolute transformation.
Dear revered friend, we may not be perfect when others criticise us. We may not be perfect when we criticise others. But we are perfectly ourselves, without any mixture, when we are not observed by others.
Tolstoy was a colossal soul. He pronounced something quite striking:
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
However, in defence of man I wish to say that man thinks of changing the world and not himself precisely because he feels that it is infinitely easier and more important to change the world than change himself. Now we all know that his time is unimaginably precious and unbelievably limited. Since man has no time to think of changing himself, poor God is thinking of man and thinking of changing his nature. Surely, God is bound to succeed.
Your ex-self-styled and self-imposed
Jan. 5, 1969
Your whole letter can be summed up in one single word: nervousness. It seems that your life-dictionary houses only this word, and no other word. I can rightly call you Nervousness A 1. Of course, with your kind permission.
You have been coming to the Centre regularly, faithfully and devotedly. When I look at you, or you look at me, you become nervousness itself. The other day I gave you a short interview. You wanted your heart to speak to me. But unfortunately your nervousness spoke in its place. You made me feel that I am either a lion or a tiger. Dear Robert, why do you want me to go back to my animal incarnations which I left with untold difficulties many centuries ago. I am a simple human being. You need not and must not be afraid of me.
Let me tell you an amusing incident in my life. Last year in Puerto Rico my devoted disciple Narayan (Raphael Elvira) introduced me at a T.V. station. Narayan is a well-known musician in Puerto Rico. He was about to introduce me. Lo and behold, he came to me hurriedly and said:
“Master, I am nervous. I am nervous. You know, Master, I have been playing here at this T.V. station for the past twelve years regularly. But today I don’t know what is wrong with me. I am so nervous. Master, do you ever become nervous like me?”
“My dear Narayan, your Master does not become nervous like you. Do you know why? Your Master has given away all his nervousness to his sports-life. He has spent all his nervous-money in his athletics. But the Supreme out of His infinite Kindness has replaced your Master’s nervousness-money with confidence-money.”
Dear Robert, I have seen many people getting nervous on various occasions without any rhyme of reason. Needless to say that I sympathise with them with all my heart’s love and concern. But to be frank with you, the sad memories of their helpless nervousness do not have an abiding place in me. They just fade away slowly and sorrowfully. But one experience of nervousness which a cousin of mine offered me can never be discarded from my mind. I was then seven years old. He was eight. My cousin Gauranga committed to memory the names of Vidyasagar’s (the noted Bengali reformer) parents, Vidyasagar’s father’s name was Thakurdas and mother’s name was Bhagavati. Alas, when our teacher would ask Gauranga the names of Vidyasagar’s parents, he would either say that the name of Vidyasagar’s father was Bhagavati or some other name, a pure feminine name. Similarly on being asked the name of Vidyasagar’s mother Gauranga would say Thakurdas or some other name, a pure masculine name. Alas, this went on and on. One complete month it took him to tell the teacher correctly the names of Vidyasagar’s parents. During this month, every day he was beaten black and blue by the brute teacher. In addition, he fell a victim to the students’ ceaselessly roaring laughter. Now the simple fact is that the very sight of the teacher would throw Gauranga into an ocean of nervousness.
This letter is addressed to you. Among my students you are not the only one whom nervousness tortures ruthlessly. There are quite a few who sail in the same boat. Don’t be nervous. My sweet spiritual children, don’t be nervous of me. I am not a man-devourer. What I have is love. What I am is also love. Nothing more and nothing less.
Nervousness is a deplorable thing. But it is not an unpardonable crime. You must and you can overcome nervousness unmistakably, successfully and infinitely sooner than you imagine. I shall tell you how.
When you are nervous, immediately you say: “My name is confidence. My life’s name is confidence. I am not only my confidence but God’s all-knowing Confidence.” Then take a deep breath and say: “O my heart, I am with you. Don’t be nervous. O my mind, I am with you. Don’t be nervous. O my vital, I am with you. Don’t be nervous. O my body, I am with you. Don’t be nervous.”
Then take another deep breath and say: “My body is God’s all-knowing confidence. My vital is God’s all-embracing confidence. My mind is God’s all-illumining confidence. My heart is God’s all-fulfilling confidence.”
Now I tell you the greatest secret. When you are nervous, in no time, you cry out inwardly: “O my Guru, I need you badly.” Before you have completed the word ‘badly’, one of my inner beings will come to your immediate rescue. But one thing I must tell you. This promise is not given to each and everyone. This promise is given to those who have surrendered unreservedly to the Supreme in me. This promise is given to those who have accepted me as their very own. This promise is given to those who think and feel that I think of them and feel for them more than they think of and feel for themselves.
Finally, dear Robert, if you want to exchange your constant nervousness with my soul’s confidence, I am willing, more than willing. Do come. I am ready and eager.
Jan. 12, 1969
You are extremely sorry that I am a stranger to humour. I am extremely sorry that your hard-laboured discovery will not let you win the Nobel Prize since your discovery is not founded on truth. Truth to tell, I do enjoy humour. Humour is the salt of life. For sure. God would not have preserved this world of ours which is ignorantly brilliant and brilliantly ignorant if He Himself was wanting in the sense of humour. Elizabeth, do you know that many a philosopher feels that the world is a big joke, a costly farce and an empty show? To me, the world is real, absolutely real. It is wise and significant. This does not mean that the world has to be serious, strict and severe in order to see the face of Reality and sit at the Feet of God. No, never. Humour does not and cannot take one away from the path of inner life.
Elizabeth, you are a staunch Christian, catholic to the marrow. I have a few sallies of humour to present to you. I feel that nobody will be a better recipient than your humorous self.
1. “We sing in a church — why should we not dance there?” — Bernard Shaw
We have not to dance in a church, for God dances while we sing. We sing with our devotion-flight. God dances with His Compassion-Light.
2. Fear is a guest whom we hate. Christmas is a guest whom we adore. Unlike other guests, these two guests come in secretly and cheerfully long before their actual arrival.
3. Somebody says: “Many a minister has been criticised because on six days of the week he is invisible, and on the seventh day he is incomprehensible.”
The victim can easily tell his critics that he is at least better than God, for God is both invisible and incomprehensible to them every single day of the week.
4. Somebody says: “A clergyman is a man whose mother practices what he preaches.”
The clergyman is really lucky and should be proud that even his own mother cares for and believes in his teachings. Not only that she practices her son’s lofty teachings. We all know that a prophet is not honoured in his own country. But here is an exception and a happy one, too.
5. “The first clergyman was the first rascal who met the first fool.” — Voltaire
I do not want a fool to remain always a fool. It will simply break my heart. The fool will at least learn something from Le Monsieur Voltaire’s rascal friend, clergyman, and then for a further knowledge the fool can go to a true saint.
6. Somebody says: “Some women take themselves to church but most take their clothes instead.”
Some men leave aside the soul at home, the body on the way, the mind at the church-gate, and then with the flesh neither aspiring nor receptive, but with the flesh perspiring and smelling, deceptive and inquisitive, enter the church.
7. “To a philosophic eye, the vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues.” — Edward Gibbon
To my sorrow, I had to learn this truth at long last.
8. “You must believe in God in spite of what the clergy say.” — Benjamin Jowett
O dear Benjamin Jowett, at least I listen to your kindest advice everyday.
9. I cannot blame people if they don’t go to church, for from the very beginning they wanted and still want to go to Heaven and nowhere else.
Dear Elizabeth, I hope I have given you some joy. At least I believe I have taken away some tension out of your mind. So be thankful to me. Before I end this letter I wish to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I deeply appreciate the church, the clergy and ministers in their sincere efforts for a divine life on earth.
Finally I want to tell you that no spiritual man has ever denied the existence of humour in his life. How can I dare to be an exception?
Yours in God, the Supreme Humorist;
Jan. 12, 1969
You have written to me that your daughter constantly asks you for money and your son demands time from you. You need my advice. I wish to tell you that you should give money to your daughter when she needs it and that you should give your son time when he demands it. Otherwise you will suffer the rest of your life from your daughter’s lack of love and from your son’s lack of knowledge.
Your wisdom-giving friend,
Jan. 12, 1969
You want to know from me if the so-called silly jokes can ever be instructive. I wish to tell you that sometimes they can be not only instructive but most instructive. Dear Joshua, you are now young and green. You are now in the seventh heaven of romantic life. Do you know what Baudelaire said? He said: “A sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle.” I am sure, you will agree with Baudelaire. But I want to tell you that when you start drinking the bottle of wine, one day it will all be used up, and it will naturally turn into a wine bottle. At that time who can be your bottle of wine, nay, nectar? God, and God alone. Don’t worry. Some day you are bound to taste it. Dear Joshua, again if you want the largest bottle of wine, divinely intoxicating, for your life-long use, then your life’s partner must be spiritual, absolutely spiritual. Joshua, your name means, ‘whom God has saved’. So you are lucky. God has already saved you by giving you a spiritual soul whom you will use for God and who will use you for God.
I am mighty happy that God has saved you. I am truly happy that you two will work for God, my beloved Supreme.
Love and blessing,