An Advocate of Peace
This article was written in 1990 following Sri Chinmoy's second visit to New Zealand in 1989.
At a time when religious differences continue to create division and turmoil in areas of the world, it is refreshing to reflect upon the efforts of a recent New Zealand visitor who has done much to promote greater unity and global awareness among the world's religions.
He is a man who on three separate occasions met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican and had a special friendship with the Pontiff; a composer of devotional music whose meetings with Pope John Paul II inspired eleven songs using words spoken by the Holy Father; an author of over 1000 spiritual books and plays, including a life of Christ entitled The Son, which ran for two years in London and was hailed by Christians of all faiths as a masterpiece; and an athlete who sponsors inter-faith tennis tournaments for religious leaders to encourage unity and oneness among religions.
The humble and quietly spoken Sri Chinmoy resists any attempts at religious classification – ‘my religion is love of God’ – and identifies rather with the universal truths which he believes most religions embody. He once commented: "I have the deepest admiration and adoration for the Christ. Although I was born in India and brought upon the teachings of Krishna, the Buddha and other spiritual Masters, when I studied the Bible I found that the teachings of the Christ and the teachings of our Indian Masters are the same. This is because God is Truth, God is Love, and Truth and Love are universal."
Now 75, Sri Chinmoy spent his first 33 years in India before moving to New York in 1964. At the invitation of diplomats and staff members, he was invited to conduct twice-weekly meditations for world peace at the United Nations, a role he has continued to fill ever since. So successful were these programmes that in 1984 Sri Chinmoy was invited to inaugurate weekly peace meditations at the United States Congress in Washington in the same spirit and format.
UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar said: "In your meditation you see beyond the superficial distinctions of race, sex, language or religion, as the Charter encourages us to do. You concentrate on the truths and ideals which unite all mankind: the longing for peace, the need for compassion, the search for tolerance and understanding among men and women of all nations... In recalling the fundamental goals which inspire our work, you are helping to reaffirm our commitment to the organisation and it's purposes."
In his first and memorable meeting with Sri Chinmoy in 1972, Pope Paul VI commented: "This meeting of ours has been most essential. The Hindu life and the Christian life shall go together. Your message and my message are the same. When we both leave this world, you and I, we will meet together."
At their last meeting, in 1976, Sri Chinmoy presented Pope Paul VI with a book he had written about him, Compassion-Father, Champion-Brother, Perfection-Friend.
Sri Chinmoy is regarded as the most prolific composer of devotional music today, with over 19,000 compositions to his credit. These has been performed at over 700 free concerts of harmony-inspiring music in major concert venues world-wide.
His favourite instrument is the pipe-organ, and many Aucklanders will remember Sri Chinmoy's astonishing and moving performance in the Auckland Town Hall last November. He has performed in many major cathedrals around the world and this year performed on the Vatican organ, a special honour which acknowledges the respect in which he is held in the international community and which recognises both his musicianship and his accord with religious leaders.
After hearing a performance of Sri Chinmoy's music, the late John Balka, director of the office of sacred music at St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, remarked: "Sri Chinmoy has understood that the essence of music has the power to move the soul in ways that words alone cannot. Combining his highly developed spirituality and his well-honed physique into one brilliant and expressive energy, he projects the considerably unique power of music through performance that is perfect in it’s freedom from reservation and constriction. This is how he teaches with his music; that is how he moves thousands at a time, through the super conscious, into that perfectly serene light of God's Peace... This is art of the highest order."
In 1987 the Auckland City Council acknowledged his major contribution to world peace by establishing a recreational Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile in the Auckland Domain. During its November dedication a poem by Sri Chinmoy was offered for reflection:
My Lord, I do not want the peace
That tells me I need nothing more.
No, I want the peace that creates in me
Constant hunger to receive You
In every way
And distribute You
In every widening heart.
– Sri Chinmoy.