“The word ‘peace’ is not simply a grouping of letters, but a living entity which must be nurtured if it is to flourish…. With every blossom that Sri Chinmoy helps to foster, the dream of world peace becomes a more viable reality.” — Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts
Sri Chinmoy, an inspired artist, author, composer and musician, has been an advocate of peace throughout his lifetime. A student of the world’s great religions, he has embraced the wisdom and light of each one, and Sri Chinmoy’s efforts to instill peace on Earth has been acknowledged by spiritual and secular leaders from around the world.
He returns to the Twin Cities Oct. 21 to present the Twin Cities Peace Concert, an event that will take place in the new Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. His free peace concerts are an experience of music, heart-openings and joy. Admission is free but tickets are required by calling (612) 874-9911.
Born in Bengal, India, in 1931, Sri Chinmoy was raised in a deeply spiritual and loving family atmosphere. He spent his later youth, until the age of 33, in a progressive spiritual community in southern India. His early training included a Western-style education and much involvement in athletics.
He arrived in America in 1964, devoted to the cause of peace. He seeks to inspire people to seek the deepest fulfillment in life and to offer their highest capacities to the world family. As an inspiration of what can be created, he has composed more than 15,000 songs, authored more than 1,300 books, has painted more than 150,000 works of art and has created more than 11 million peace-bird drawings representing the flight and freedom of the soul. He is an advocate of physical fitness, himself a tennis player, marathon runner and weightlifter.
Sri Chinmoy spoke with The EDGE from his office in Queens, New York.
Why are you returning to Minnesota?
Sri Chinmoy: I love Minneapolis. I love the people and I love to serve mankind, so I would again like to be of service there.
Is there a special inner quality that you associate with Minneapolis?
Sri Chinmoy: I came to Minneapolis for the first time in 1965, I believe. I have a very dear friend in Minneapolis named Mrs. Ida Patterson and she invited me to visit. She is very, very kind and compassionate to me. Since then I have gone back three or four times. In Minneapolis, people were extremely kind to me and they showed tremendous love and concern for my spiritual service to mankind. Even during my first visit, they had so many interesting questions to ask me. I was very pleased to be of service to them.
What is the purpose of your Peace Concert?
Sri Chinmoy: There is only one purpose: I try to be of service to mankind. When thousands of people gather together, I feel that we are working together. I am not the only one who serves. The people who come to listen to my music or to join me in praying are also doing something most significant. We are all trying to bring about world peace. It is teamwork.
So, everybody resonates peace together?
Sri Chinmoy: We are all working together. It is not that I am going to give peace to others — far from it! We shall work together. We are all in a boat sailing together towards the destination, which we call the Golden Shore.
What can somebody who comes to the concert expect to experience?
Sri Chinmoy: It is my prayer that they will get inspiration in abundant measure. Then, the following morning, they will be inspired to do something better in their life. My sole purpose in giving these Peace Concerts is to be of inspiration to others.
The same is true of my heavy weightlifting. When people see me doing this heavy lifting, they say, “Look what a 69-year-old can do!” I do it only to be of service to mankind. Again, I have written many books and I have drawn millions of birds. Everything I do only with the hope that I can be of service to mankind in the form of inspiration. In this world, people give up hope, and that is what I do not like. There is always hope, as long as we are alive. Until we breathe our last, we must have hope and promise.
There are many people who are sad and fearful. What first step can they take to find peace and happiness?
Sri Chinmoy: We are sad and fearful because we are not trying to identify ourselves with the rest of mankind. We are afraid that others will hurt us. We are afraid that they will speak ill of us. We cannot take them as members of our own family. But if we pray and meditate to establish our oneness with the rest of the world, our fear goes away, because we identify ourselves with something vast.
The finite is always afraid of the Infinite. It is like a tiny drop and the vast ocean. I am a tiny drop, and if I throw myself into the ocean, I feel that I will lose my very existence. But what actually happens is that I become the ocean itself. In exactly the same way, we are fearful because we take somebody else as separate from our own existence. But if we take others as members of our own family, naturally there will be little ones and grown-ups in the family. In a family, the smallest is not afraid of the father. The father is so tall, stout and strong, but the little one knows that it is his father, and so he is not afraid. His father is all affection for him, and he is all affection for his father.
In exactly the same way, if we can feel that our friends, relatives, and neighbors are our own, very own, then there can be no fear. And when there is no fear, there can be no sadness.
How do you define peace?
Sri Chinmoy: Peace is something that has to be experienced by each individual. Each one has to feel peace the way God wants him or her to feel peace. In my case, peace is the fullness of human existence on earth. Without peace, we are not complete.
Without peace, no matter what we achieve, we will not have satisfaction. There is no abiding satisfaction in anything that we achieve without peace. Peace is the completion of our journey. We can have name, fame and everything else, but in these things there is no abiding peace. But even if we do not have anything to show to the world at large, we are the most fortunate human beings if we have peace of mind. Peace of mind is of paramount importance. If we do not have peace of mind, no matter what we achieve in this lifetime, we will not have happiness. Peace gives us happiness, peace gives us satisfaction, and peace gives us fullness.
Is peace just part of the journey, or is there something beyond peace?
Sri Chinmoy: Our philosophy is self-transcendence. For us, there is no end, for we sing the song of self-transcendence. At every moment we are transcending, we are going beyond our previous capacities. So, peace is something that can be increased. Today we know that we are supposed to have an iota of peace. Tomorrow, on the strength of our prayers and meditations, we can try to increase the amount of peace that we have. We cannot say that if we have peace today, that is enough. No! We have to see how much peace we actually have. Do we already have peace in abundant measure or boundless measure?
We are all following the path of self-transcendence, so whatever we achieve today is not the final end. We have to go beyond and beyond and beyond.
When did you first experience peace?
Sri Chinmoy: I first experienced peace many years ago, when I was 11 or 12 years old, in India. My parents happened to be religious and spiritual. My brothers and sisters, who were older than I, went to live in a spiritual community, and I followed them.
So they showed you the way?
Sri Chinmoy: They showed me the way. My oldest brother went to that spiritual community in India in 1933, and I joined him in 1944.
Why have you chosen in this lifetime to be a teacher and leader of peace?
Sri Chinmoy: I have not chosen to be a leader and I never declare myself a teacher of peace. I am a student of peace. I have been telling the whole world that I am a student of peace. I go everywhere to learn, and while I am learning, people feel that I am giving something. In the process of learning, we feel that the teacher and student give something to each other. While the student is learning, the teacher also learns something from the student.
As a student of peace, I have been to many places over the years to pray and meditate. It is not something that I have chosen. My Inner Pilot has commanded me to be of service to Him. God is the Creator and God is the creation. My Inner Pilot, God, has asked me to be of service to God the creation. That is why I go here and there to be of service to mankind.
And there are many places around the world that are dedicated to peace in your name [Minneapolis is dedicated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace City, St. Paul is a Sri Chinmoy Peace Capitol and the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge uniting the two cities is a Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossom].
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, but that is also a source of mutual inspiration. We are all working together. People are so kind to me. They are becoming part and parcel of our peace movement. We feel that if we get inspiration, then we can eventually become better citizens of the world.
Do you feel that there is a growing peace on the planet?
Sri Chinmoy: Definitely, definitely! Over the years, I have observed that peace is growing. I have been here in the Western world for 36 years. Previously I saw dozens of times that peace was only talk. We were only talking and talking about peace. Now people are praying to have peace in the depths of their heart. Talking has now given way to experience. In many parts of the world, people are experiencing peace. So the world has made tremendous improvement! Of course, we cannot say that in today’s world there is no conflict, there is no fight, there is no confusion. There is conflict, but in comparison, it is less.
Previously we were afraid that there would be a Third World War. Now, we do not foresee that possibility. The First World War destroyed us and the Second World war destroyed us, but we do not see any possibility of a Third World War. There is mutual compromise, and this is a sign that people want peace. Otherwise there could have been a Third World War by this time.
And peace eventually begins in each person’s heart, right?
Sri Chinmoy: Definitely! It starts in the heart, and then only it will come into the mind. Now we have peace in the soul and peace in the heart, and this peace has to be brought into the mind.
And how do we do that?
Sri Chinmoy: There is only one way: by virtue of our prayers and meditations. We have to pray to do something good, to become something good. If we really want to become good citizens of the world, then we have to pray, we have to meditate. There is no other way.
How can the quality of music convey peace?
Sri Chinmoy: Music is the universal language. We do not have to learn any particular language to communicate with others if we can play soulful music. Soulful music is next to meditation, and it carries the beauty and fragrance of silence, the message of the inner worlds and higher worlds. When we play spiritual music, people enter into the world of inspiration and aspiration. When we aspire through music, at that time we do not need any earthly language, whether English or French or German. The heart itself becomes the universal language. The heart is receiving the beauty and light of the higher worlds.
You perform on the flute. Why?
Sri Chinmoy: The flute gives me joy. I play many instruments, because each instrument is like a flower in a garden. If you have only one rose, everyone may not appreciate it. But if there are many flowers, then people enter into the garden to appreciate them. They see such a beautiful garden where there are so many types of flowers. That is why I play Western flute, Indian flute and so many other Eastern and Western instruments.
They are like many, many beautiful flowers of different types. In a garden, we appreciate the beauty and fragrance of all the flowers, and then again we choose whichever flower we like best. In the supermarket, also, there are millions of things. You will choose whatever you need and I will choose whatever I need. When I play many instruments, there are some people who appreciate my flute while others appreciate my piano or some other instrument. So, it is a matter of individual choice whether people prefer the flute, the cello, the esraj, the viola or the piano. It is entirely up to the seekers who are coming to receive inspiration and give inspiration. Again, I also try to become an instrument of God. As I said before, we are all working together. If people get inspiration from my western flute, then it will help them in their own inner search.
And to experience peace in your outer life, you must find peace within first?
Sri Chinmoy: Definitely! If you sow a seed under the ground, eventually it germinates. Then it becomes a plant, and finally it becomes a huge banyan tree. Similarly, peace has to be established in the depths of our heart first. Then only it will come to the fore.
What would you like everyone to know about himself or herself?
Sri Chinmoy: That they embody God, they embody Truth, they embody Light. Each individual should feel that he or she embodies God: God’s Divinity, God’s Eternity, God’s Immortality.