Creativity and Spirituality

Question answered by Sri Chinmoy


Question: When creative people or serious artists enter into the spiritual life, sometimes they lose their creative inspiration because spirituality is so vast that it seems no longer valuable to them to make their own style of art. Or they have to compromise their spirituality just to survive as artists. I see that they often do not seriously continue to create their own art. Is there any way to utilise creativity to make the maximum progress in spirituality, instead of taking them as two different things? How can we unite these two activities into one?


Sri Chinmoy: We all want satisfaction. If we write a wonderful poem or create a wonderful piece of music, we get satisfaction. But the satisfaction that we get from creativity cannot be compared to the satisfaction that we get from our prayer and meditation. When we have created a wonderful melody, haunting notes, we get joy in only a few parts of our being; the entire being does not get joy. But when we have prayed or meditated most soulfully for five minutes, we feel that our entire being — from the soles of our feet to the crown of our head — is all satisfaction-delight.

Spirituality is the source of everything. Life is everywhere. I am full of life. In my arms I have life, in my legs I have life, in my head I have life. My life-energy is percolating everywhere. But if I want to discover the source, then I have to say it is in the heart. Inside the heart we find the life-breath, and inside the life-breath is God's Will. The life-breath is inside the heart and, at the same time, the heart is inside the life-breath. God's Will is inside the life-breath and, at the same time, the life-breath is inside God's Will.

Spirituality means oneness with God and with God's Will. Everything we do can be part of spirituality, since everything is part of God and everything offers us oneness with God. But some things offer us a better way of becoming aware of our oneness with God. God is everywhere, but most human beings cannot see and cannot feel God everywhere. So God says, "All right, if you cannot see Me or feel Me everywhere, then see Me in your prayers and feel Me in your meditations."

Water is everywhere, but if we want to swim, it is best to use a stairway that leads to the water. There we know it is safe. If we want to enter into the water and swim in other places, there may be danger; perhaps there is an undercurrent or some other kind of problem. So we can say that the best way to enter into God's Consciousness is through spirituality — our prayer-life and meditation-life.

We are all God's children; we are all members of the same family. But then, why did God create Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ? They also had human bodies like us. But through Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Chaitanya and Jesus Christ, God was able to manifest Himself more completely than through other human beings. These great Avatars also took human birth. They had their parents and brothers and sisters. But God found them more receptive or, let us say, God made them more receptive so that He could manifest Himself more fully in and through them.

Similarly, spirituality is one subject, poetry is one subject, music is one subject, science is one subject. But God finds it easier to manifest Himself through spirituality because spirituality is more receptive to His Will. In a family, everybody cannot be equally receptive. If one child is five years old and another child is twenty years old, we cannot expect the five-year-old to carry the same load as the twenty-year-old. We expect more from the older child because he is stronger.

We have to take spirituality as the eldest member of the family. God always relies more on His eldest son. God teaches the eldest one everything. My father taught everything to his eldest son. When the eldest took to yoga, he taught everything to the second one. Then we learned everything from him. From spirituality, from prayer and meditation, we have to learn everything. We have to learn how to write better poems, how to compose better music, how to be a better engineer or scientist or anything. If we separate these other activities from spirituality, it will be a mistake.

In a family, if one member becomes very strong and the others are not strong, then it is not a perfect family. The one who is strongest will not be happy if his brothers and sisters are not with him. Only when the entire family is together do all the members get joy. If one member is a musician and he is playing music, then not only is he happy but all the family members are happy. At that time he is spreading his happiness to the other members. And if his sister is singing, then there is more happiness, greater happiness, in the family.

Nothing can exist on earth without being created. God created spirituality. Then He said, "Now, from you, let others come." It is like the Christ. The Father created the Christ, and the Christ's Light entered into the whole world. In exactly the same way we have to think of spirituality as our own, very own. Spirituality will never mislead or misguide creativity; only it will give poetry, music or art in any form the capacity to go up, go up, go up. We can take spirituality as the trunk or root and creativity as a branch. If there is no trunk, there can be no branch. Again, if there is no branch, how can we call it a tree? The most important thing is the trunk. First the trunk grows, and from the trunk the branches grow. The branches should feel that their very existence depends on the trunk. The branches are so beautiful; they have so many fruits, so many flowers, so many leaves. But they have to be grateful to the trunk because the trunk is their source. Again, the trunk has to be grateful to the branches for adding beauty to it. The branches, flowers, fruits and leaves are adding beauty to the main life-tree. So the trunk and its branches have to go together. It is like a family. In a family we see the father, mother, brothers and sisters. But we have to know that the father and mother are the source. If they did not exist, then there would be no children. Again, the father and mother feel they have become perfect and integral only because of their children. In this way a family branches out.

When I entered into the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at the age of eleven and a half or twelve years, I prayed and meditated and also started writing poems. Hundreds of poems I wrote by the age of thirteen. I gave value to both my spirituality and my creativity. At the same time, I felt that my poetry and my music were the creation of my spirituality. Always we have to go to the Source, which is God. Importance we shall give to creativity, but we have to give more importance, utmost importance, to the Source, which is spirituality. Again, we have to know that spirituality itself is creativity. Unfortunately, some musicians and poets feel that spirituality and creativity are two different things. In fact, very few creative artists feel that the source of everything in the world is spirituality. Most people keep their creative capacities separate from their own inner root, their original virtue, which is their love of God. But we have to know that there is only one virtue, and it is called faith. Our faith in God is the trunk, the root, and as it branches out, we become a musician, a singer, a dancer, an engineer, a scientist or anything else. There is no conflict between spirituality and creativity. One should not create a problem for the other.

Some musicians have left the spiritual path because they felt that spirituality was taking away their freedom. But this is a totally wrong idea. Spirituality is infinitely vaster than vastness itself. It is not spirituality that is binding them but their desire for immediate glory. They do not realise that glory is one thing and working for humanity is something else. Some singers, musicians, artists and others want to be great, and they think that spirituality will help them become greater. Spirituality does help them become great, but when spirituality sees that their greatness is only killing them, spirituality says, "My God, if they really become great in their own way, then they will lose contact with their own divinity." When spirituality sees sincerity in these individuals, then it does not want to fulfil their desires.

A good person can easily become a great person, if such is the Will of God. But for a great person to become good is very, very difficult. Many world figures are great but they are not good at all. Presidents, Prime Ministers and other leaders are all great people. They say, "Get up!" and the whole country has to get up. They go somewhere and thousands of people come flocking to see them and stand up to honour them. But if a saint or a sadhu or a spiritual Master sits somewhere at the foot of a tree, is anybody going to stand up? People will just pass by and ignore him. The whole world has taken a wrong turn; now it gives more attention and more value to greatness than to goodness. Greatness is honoured immediately. But if someone is trying to be good, if he is praying to God and trying to conquer jealousy, insecurity and impurity, nobody pays any attention.

Julius Caesar and Napoleon were great; they wanted to conquer the whole world. But they did not conquer the whole world, and all that they accomplished on the outer plane has gone. Jesus Christ, Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha, Sri Aurobindo and Sri Ramakrishna were good. They did not want to conquer anything; they wanted only to love. But their goodness and light slowly and steadily spread throughout the length and breadth of the world, and it will last forever. When light spreads, it goes everywhere. But when power wants to spread, it does not succeed. The power-bird looks very big and very strong, but it does not fly. The bird of light flies everywhere.

The power aspect has one most serious problem: it has darkness inside. Power always wants to show off: "My arm measures 25 inches and your arms only measure 10 inches." The very nature of power is to show its supremacy and destroy. It embodies the feeling of destruction and command; it is like a commander-in-chief. But the very nature of light is to illumine. That does not mean there is no power inside light. Inside light there is divine power, which is the most powerful power. The most powerful power is light, which has the power to spread everywhere. The power that is inside light is the power of love. It is always sharing with its brothers and sisters, with its dear ones, with the whole world. The whole world is its friend. But we do not pay attention to this divine power.

When some people enter into the spiritual life, they feel that they are entering into the Himalayan caves and that they have to give up their music and other earthly activities. But that is not the case. Again, we have to know that there is something called evolution. In the music world, there is vital music, which only excites us, and there is spiritual music, which wants only to elevate us. Some people get satisfaction by composing and playing vital music: rock and roll, jazz and so forth. They alone know what kind of satisfaction they are getting! But after playing this kind of music for a few years, what happens? Such vital depression comes! Why? Because they hear about another musician who is getting more acclaim, more name and fame. They read in the newspaper that 20,000 people came to listen to somebody in another part of the world, whereas perhaps only 4,000 people came to listen to them. And that is not all. Perhaps this other musician also got a standing ovation for five minutes. So they say, "Oh God, I got only this number, and he got so many; plus he got so much admiration and adulation!" Then vital depression starts killing them.

Depression means weakness. When the vital is depressed, all the temptation of the world in the form of vital excitement attacks the individual. It is easier for temptation to enter into the physical, vital and mind when depression is there. When someone is depressed, he wants to destroy himself. At that time, he starts taking drugs and alcohol, which is like stabbing oneself with a knife or naked sword. He says, "There is only one way to be happy. Let me drink alcohol. Let me take drugs. Let me enjoy the vital world and mix with beautiful women." This is what eventually happens to people who are playing music on the vital plane. Some of my disciple-musicians have left the path for this reason. When they were with me, they played spiritual music. But when they were not with me, they played their rock and roll and all kinds of things. Everybody has the right to say, "I am expressing God's Will through my vital music." Everybody is at perfect liberty to exercise his will in this way. But then look what happens!

Again, there are some who play only spiritual music. Although they may be making many mistakes, God is not counting their mistakes. God is seeing how soulfully they are singing or playing. Of course, if somebody is singing soulfully and also correctly, then God will be more pleased with that individual. Some people sing soulfully, but perfection is not to be found in them. Some people sing perfectly, but soulfulness is not there; zero, zero, zero they are getting.

I am not flattering you, but you are one of the very few who sing very soulfully and also perfectly. When you sing some songs, it absolutely melts my heart. Many so-called good singers do not sing soulfully. Others will sing soulfully, but not perfectly. In your case, your soulfulness is singing and the perfection-seeker inside you is also singing. You sing most soulfully and most perfectly. That is your absolutely rare, tremendous achievement among the disciples.

I admire your singing so much. Only one thing I do not admire about your singing. If you want to know what it is, then ask your daughter why she makes fun of you. When you start jumping up and down while you are singing, then you are entering into the restless vital — not the dynamic vital. The vital is like a volcano. People who are dynamic can keep the volcano under control. But people who are restless cannot, and then it just erupts.

So you have to know your two supremely good qualities. Soulfulness you have; perfection you have. But you also have this one defect. You are allowing your restless vital to enter into your body and into your consciousness. Your restless vital is trying to add something to the soulfulness and perfection of your singing. But it is not adding; it is only lowering. Secretly, like a thief, this restlessness is taking away your soulfulness and your perfection. Fortunately, it is not as powerful as the soulfulness and perfection in you, and it is not succeeding. But others who are watching the movements of your head find it difficult to enter into your heart when you are singing so soulfully and perfectly. They do not get the utmost benefit from your singing. When they see you shaking your hands and your head, their restless vital enters into you; then your restlessness and their restlessness come together and enjoy each other.

In the spiritual life, after five years or ten years or twenty years, some people want to see how much progress they have made. Many people do not even think of that. As long as they are in the boat, they say "Enough, enough!" There are far more people who do not care to see their progress than those who do. Many, many of the disciples who have been on the path for twenty or thirty years do not care about their progress; they are leading most ordinary, unaspiring lives. Again, there are people who have joined one year ago or two years ago who are doing so well. Last Wednesday night, I asked people to walk past me according to the number of years they had been on the path. Up to four years, I got such joy from seeing them. Their petals are so beautifully blossoming. But in those disciples who have been on the path for more than ten or eleven years, I saw that the petals are crooked or bent, or one corner is missing.

Our goal is to go from limited light to more light to most light to infinite Light. Instead of that, the lotus that was blossoming so nicely and giving me such fresh joy for one year, two years or three years is suddenly becoming withered. Why? The heart is like a bank. In a bank, we deposit money, and sometimes we overdraw our account. For a few months, perhaps the bank people do not check, but then they catch us. Finally, we realise that we have become totally bankrupt.

Similarly, in the beginning, people who are in the spiritual life are constantly depositing into their heart-bank their prayers and meditations and their determination to conquer jealousy, insecurity and all their undivine qualities. They are depositing purity, simplicity, sincerity and divinity. Then they start withdrawing and withdrawing. Most of the disciples have overdrawn from their heart-bank all their good qualities. Now they are totally bankrupt!

To come back to your question, people who are separating spirituality from music, art, poetry or any other field of life are making a mistake. After a few years they may say, "Oh, if only we had stuck to music, we would have been more successful." No, perhaps they would have been more successful for a few years. Then competition would have started, and they would have heard about another musician who received more acclaim, more name and fame. You may say, "If I had not joined the spiritual life, then I would have become as famous as so and so." But just wait a few years. Then you will hear that this fellow who has become so famous has found somebody else who is more famous. Then his depression will start and he will enter into the lower vital world or the drug world. Then the story will end.

But the musician who remains in the spiritual life will grow like a lotus — little by little he will blossom so beautifully. Then he will place himself at the Feet of God, and God will be so satisfied that He has received such a beautiful lotus at His Feet. If we follow the path of greatness, eventually we will discover someone who is greater, and then our desire for greatness will only dig our grave. But if we offer ourselves to God and try to become good, then God blossoms in and through us so beautifully, petal by petal, like a most beautiful lotus.

Published in Sri Chinmoy Answers, part 21