Interview with Sri Chinmoy
by Robert Swan for Simply Living magazine, in Canberra, Australia.
Question: You have said that your philosophy is a merging of the inner and the outer. Most people would interpret meditation as being an inner process and I wonder if you could explain for us how you feel marathon running has a place in spiritual development.
Sri Chinmoy: The inner running and the outer running complement each other. For outer running, we need discipline. Without a life of discipline, we cannot succeed in any walk of life. So when we do outer running, it reminds us of the inner running. The inner running, we know, is the longest distance, eternal distance. We do not know when it started and we have no idea when we are going to end it. Whereas, if it is a marathon, we know that after covering 26 miles and 385 yards, we come to an end.
For outer running, we need a life of discipline, endurance and patience — so many things which are good! In the spiritual life also we need many things — we have to conquer our fear, doubt, jealousy, insecurity and so on. So we feel that one is helping the other.
Early in the morning, if I have freshness in my mind and if I have sound health, then I will be inspired to pray and meditate. If I do not have good health, then I am not going to get up and pray and meditate. So it is my good health that is helping me to become a good seeker.
Again, if I am a true seeker, then I will try to do something for mankind on the physical plane. If I love God the Creator, I must also love God the Creation, otherwise what kind of love is it? If I love God, who has created this world, I must also love the Creation itself. So while we run outwardly, it is the Creation that we see and when we pray and meditate, we are trying to have a conscious awareness of the Creator.
Question: Does that mean that people who are not physically healthy cannot reach enlightenment?
Sri Chinmoy: Oh no, most definitely they can. The only thing is that we do not have to be the strongest man, we do not have to be a boxer or wrestler, no. I am saying that early in the morning if I do not have stomach upset or headache or fever, if I am running or doing some other physical activity, then it helps me a lot. Otherwise, if I enter into the Himalayan caves and start praying and meditating and neglecting the body, then how many days can I go on, how many weeks, how many months?
There are some people who tend to neglect the body, the needs of the body. We are not saying that we have to become the world’s greatest boxers or wrestlers, no. Only we should try to maintain a basic fitness. If I am physically fit, then I will be able to get up early in the morning. Then I can pray and meditate. If I am physically unfit, will I have the capacity to pray and meditate?
Question: I have heard from some teachers in the Shankaracharya tradition that yoga asanas are good because they lower the metabolism of the body and help lay the foundation for meditation. But running, or Western sport, would seem to be in the other direction. You do not see it in this way?
Sri Chinmoy: No, no, no, because I have practised these things. It is only that hatha yoga is an Indian way of thinking and there was a time when whatever the Westerners did was very bad and whatever we Indians did was always good. For some time it was difficult for Indians to see anything good in the West. So the Indian theory was that our asanas are by far the best and the Western way of approaching the reality was wrong.
Now I wish to say that there should be a combination of the Indian spirit, which is calm, quiet and tranquil, and the Western spirit, which is dynamic. We have to take them as one. The Indians think that the West is all restlessness, which is not true. And again, the West thinks that India is all poverty-stricken and Indians are lethargic, which is also not true. Both sides exaggerate the facts.
When we think of the West, we have to think of the good quality of the West, which is dynamism. And when we think of the East, let us say India, we have to think of calmness. It is like the ocean. On the surface there are waves and surges, it is all dynamic movement, and down at the bottom it is peaceful. We cannot separate the waves from the tranquillity which is at the bottom. They have to go together. Dynamism and peace must go together. If some people feel that by doing Indian asanas they will get a peaceful feeling, they are correct. But again, by running and jumping and taking physical activities we can acquire dynamism, otherwise it will be all one-sided. So dynamism and tranquillity must go together, like the obverse and reverse of the same coin.
Question: So in this philosophy are you creating something new, something different from what has been created generally in the East and in the West?
Sri Chinmoy: I do not want to say that I am creating something new. Only I am saying what the East and the West need to become complete and perfect. It is not my creation, only I am saying that I am aware of something and, if you see eye to eye with me, you will agree and, if you find it difficult to accept my theory, you are perfectly entitled to do so. I wish to say that the West has something to offer and the East has something to offer and their contributions are equally valuable.
Question: I do not think that Western sports people in the past have considered that their sport would lead them to enlightenment!
Sri Chinmoy: No, I am not saying that. Sports only will help. We have to know how much importance we are giving to sports. Our goal is not to be the world’s greatest athlete. Our goal is to have physical fitness and for that only the amount of sports — of running, jumping, throwing or tennis — that is necessary we shall do. Not to neglect the body as such is our aim.
If we pray and meditate soulfully, how can we neglect the body? It is one of the five members of our family — body, vital, mind, heart and soul. We shall pray with our heart, we shall meditate, and then, when activity is demanded of the body, we shall not neglect it. We have to give due importance to each member of our family. If we pay attention only to one member, then will not the others feel sad? If a father has five children, he has to pay attention to all the five.
Question: How do you see the new movement in the West towards the merging of scientific principles, like the quantum theory, with the ancient Vedic traditions or understanding of enlightenment?
Sri Chinmoy: Unfortunately, science is not my forté. I am totally ignorant of scientific developments. Since I know nothing about science, it would be the height of folly on my part to say anything about it. Only I know a little about the inner life, being a God-lover and Truth-seeker.
Question: If we look at your meditation technique itself, can you explain a bit about it?
Sri Chinmoy: We do not have any set technique or method. Everybody knows that in the beginning, when you start meditating, you should make the mind calm, quiet and tranquil so that you can have a very peaceful meditation. Then I tell my students: try to meditate the way you feel is best. If you like a flower, the fragrance of the flower, the beauty of the flower, then try to imagine the flower inside you. Petal by petal your life is blossoming, the way petal by petal a flower blossoms. Your whole life is blossoming like a flower.
Or, if you are inspired by a flame, try to imagine a burning flame inside you, rising up and illumining the inner darkness. If you feel the necessity of climbing up the Everest, that is, the highest in the spiritual life, then envision the flame within you climbing up high, higher, highest.
Then again, I tell my students, it is a matter of joy. If you get joy from the flower, then do it; if you get joy from the flame, then meditate on the flame; if you get joy looking at my picture, then do it. Anything that gives you joy while praying and meditating you should do. If you want to look into the vast sky or at the sea, or if you want to be at the foot of a tree and derive peace from the tree itself, then meditate at the foot of a tree. If you want to meditate on the power aspect of life, then look at the sun and meditate. And if you want to have mildness, softness, tenderness in your life, then you can meditate on the moon. I tell the individual, while meditating keep in mind the thing you like best in your life.
Question: You said in particular that meditating on the moon is for tenderness. Can you tell us some more of these particular relationships? Meditating on the sun?
Sri Chinmoy: The sun represents power, not the power that destroys, but the power that creates, originates. If you want to have power, then look at the sun and meditate.
Question: How do you know which one is right for you?
Sri Chinmoy: That is the thing! You have to choose the one that gives you the most joy. If you get power, are you getting more satisfaction? Or when you develop some sweetness, tenderness, fondness is there more joy in your being? You have to decide. Then, as I said before, if the flower gives you more joy than the flame, then meditate on the flower inside your heart. If the flame gives you more joy, then meditate on the flame. And I tell my students, if my picture gives you more joy, then meditate on that.
Question: What will that effect be?
Sri Chinmoy: I am saying that from the joy you are growing.
Question: Just from the joy?
Sri Chinmoy: Joy expands. You look at the flower and then the beauty and purity of the flower enter into you. Then, if you feel purity, on that day you will not indulge in impure thoughts because already you have received purity from the flower.
Question: So it is really the joy that creates the enlightenment?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes. God created this world out of joy. We use the spiritual word ‘delight’. In the Vedas it says, “From delight we came. In delight we grow and, at the end of our journey, we enter into delight.” This means that we go back to our Source.
If you have joy, then you create, like a child. A child has joy all the time. That is why he is able to do things here and there. If I am an octogenarian with no interest in life, am I going to create something? When we are happy, we want to do something for the rest of the world. When we are miserable, we do not do anything, either for ourselves or for anybody else.
Question: Can you tell us a little about the state of enlightenment?
Sri Chinmoy: The state of enlightenment is not something that we discuss; it is something that we grow into. You may like the taste of mango. If you are eating mango, you will say it is most delicious, but if a second person is not eating it, if he does not have the opportunity to eat a mango, then how is he going to understand it? He sees how happy you are, but he is not eating it. Since he is not fortunate enough to have a mango, it will be sheer imagination for him to say it is like this, it is like this. It will be all mental.
Question: So there is no point in talking about it before?
Sri Chinmoy: It is a matter of belief. If I say that the mango is most delicious, then you will try to procure a mango and see for yourself. But if you do not believe me when I say that the mango is most delicious, if you say, “Oh no, he is telling a lie,” then you will not try to obtain one. So first we have to believe.
It is like a teacher and his students. If the teacher says he has seen the truth, then the students believe him. These people are my students. When I say that I have attained enlightenment, they believe me. By staying with me, they will be able to see whether I have attained enlightenment or not. If they see that I am a fake, then they will go away. So it is because of their belief in me that they have remained my students — and because of my belief in them, as well, that they are sincere and genuine seekers. They believe in my realisation and I believe in their aspiration, so it is our mutual belief that keeps us together.
Question: Many teachers that have come out of the East don't particularly like talking about their past.
Sri Chinmoy: In my case also, I always say that the past is dust. We are running towards the golden future. Today’s goal will be only tomorrow’s starting point, so why do I have to waste my time knowing who I was? The most important thing is what I am going to become. If I think of my past, why limit it to 40 or 50 years ago? Why not a few centuries before? At that time I was in the animal kingdom. Perhaps I was a lion or some other animal. Then if you go back even further, I was in the mineral and plant consciousness. So now, will I get joy if somebody tells me, “You were that particular tree” or “You were that tiger or panther?” Or, if somebody says, “No, you were a thief, you were a very undivine person in your past incarnation.” Does it give me any joy?
Sri Chinmoy: Even if someone says, “You were a good person, a simple, honest person in your past incarnation,” does it help me much? Goodness is one thing, but perfection is totally different. We have to have all-embracing good qualities, then alone can we become perfect. So unless and until I have become perfect, I am not satisfied. I do not want to be satisfied with an iota of peace and bliss. I want to have an ocean of peace and bliss.
Sri Chinmoy: I was brought up in South India in a spiritual community. Then around the age of eleven or twelve, I got my inner illumination. At that time I developed free access to my Inner Pilot.
Question: You had a teacher?
Sri Chinmoy: I had a teacher in those days. Sri Aurobindo was my teacher. I was at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for twenty years. But then, when I became fully aware of my inner realities and existence, the Supreme became my Guru. At first, Sri Aurobindo was in the physical body, then he left the body in 1950. But once I got my inner illumination, then I found that the Absolute Supreme is the only Guru — your Guru, my Guru, everybody’s Guru. Only the Lord Supreme is the Guru of the entire world.
Question: Can we look at the world situation? What do you think of it?
Sri Chinmoy: It is my inner feeling that the world is progressing. I do not encourage pessimistic ideas, thoughts and so forth. God Himself is inspiring the world, it is His Creation. He is not doomed to disappointment, far from it. He looks at His Creation and He sees that it needs encouragement, inspiration and guidance. When we create something, we try to make it better and more illumining and fulfilling. Even so, God has created His Creation and now He is trying to make it more beautiful, more fruitful. So the world is progressing. We are all trying to become better instruments of God.
Question: There are a lot of people who would suggest that the world situation is fairly tense right now.
Sri Chinmoy: That story we have heard right from the beginningless past! Four hundred years ago, if you read any history book, you will see that they said the world was going to end and people were not nice. You can start even from the Vedic era. Everybody, from the beginning of Creation, will say this world is not divine.
All right, it is not divine. Now also it is not divine, but the fact is that we are using the terms ‘divine’ and ‘perfect’. That means we have an inner urge to become perfect. When the very idea of goodness enters into our mind, that means we want to become good.
Our philosophy is to move forward. Once a sprinter leaves the starting blocks, he does not come back. He has to go forward until he reaches the goal.
Question: But in the scheme of things, according to Vedic thought, we are in the kali yuga now. Is that not correct?
Sri Chinmoy: If we say that in the Vedic era people were more spiritual or more illumined, it will be a deplorable mistake. It is only that we get tremendous joy by saying that our forefathers were most spiritual. We extol the past to the skies. But we have to see everything as a spiritual growth. The seed that was planted in Vedic times had tremendous potentiality. Gradually, gradually it became a tree and now it is flowering with spirituality. Nothing is touching the abysmal abyss. Everything is going up high, higher, highest. If we see the bright side, the Vedic Seers prayed and meditated. They gave us inspiration. Now in so many places people are praying and meditating.
Question: What does kali yuga mean then?
Sri Chinmoy: It is all mental theory. When people are not aspiring, when the consciousness has descended, it is called the kali yuga. But I want to say, was there a time when the consciousness did not descend? In the Mahabharata time, five thousand years ago, why did Sri Krishna have to fight against the Kauravas? He Himself asked the Pandavas to fight against the wrong forces. So you see, even five thousand years ago, there were undivine elements in the world. And if you can be aware of the satya yuga, the Golden Age, you will see that there were countless undivine people on earth at that time.
Our goal is not to look behind, not to enter into the past. Our goal is in the future, in the Eternal Now. Yesterday I was crawling, then I started walking. A few times I fell down. Then I began running. Now, will it help me to remember that I crawled? No. The only thing that will help me is to think, “I am a runner. I want to be a better runner, I want to be an excellent runner.”
Published in Sri Chinmoy Answers, part 34
MAJOR CONCERT TOUR HELD IN GERMANY
Sri Chinmoy embarked on a whirlwind concert tour through Germany, performing in a different city every day for eight straight days.
The tour began in Freiburg on Sept. 14, then moved to Mannheim, Nurnberg Munich, Dresden, Berlin, Dortmund and Hamburg.
To handle the overflow crowds, both an afternoon and evening concert were given in Munich.
Nearly 30,000 people attended the nine concerts.
Published in Anahata Nada, Volume 39, August-Early November 2005