Interview for the Ted Bonnet Show
The following interview was broadcast on radio station WRNW in Briarcliff Manor, NY, on 19 February 1976, at 2:00 p.m.
Question: What approach to God do the follower’s of your religion take?
Sri Chinmoy: First of all I would like to make it very clear that ours is not a religion. Ours is a path, a path that leads to God-realisation. In order to reach this destination some people pray, while others meditate. In our case we do both, but the emphasis is on meditation. There is a definite difference between prayer and meditation. When we pray, we talk and God listens. When we meditate, God talks and we listen.
Question: What benefit do you derive from meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: First and foremost, when we meditate we get peace of mind. The world has everything except peace of mind. Then, the world has become very complex. We want to simplify our lives so that we can run towards our goal without countless distractions. When we meditate, we simplify our earthly life so that we can run faster towards our goal. When we meditate, we see the reality in everything. Right now there are many things on earth which do not seem real to us. But when we meditate, we see the essence, the reality-seed, in everything.
When we meditate properly, we come to realise that God is not only in Heaven hut He is also on earth. In the West there is a belief that the Father is in Heaven and the son is on earth. But when we meditate properly, we feel that wherever the son is the Father also has to be. If the son is on earth, the Father is also on earth. In His entire creation, the Compassion-Light of the Supreme reigns. Meditation makes us feel that there is no place where God does not exist. And it is through meditation that we bring to the fore the living presence of God in all our multifarious activities.
Question: How can a person learn to meditate?
Sri Chinmoy: If someone wants to learn how to meditate, either he has to go to a spiritual teacher or he has to study some spiritual books. If the seeker does not care for a spiritual Master, then he has to study some spiritual books. The difficulty here is that each individual seeker has a specific way to meditate. A book will give general instructions with regard to meditation, but if the seeker has no teacher, he has to select from the books the things that will suit him. If the seeker accepts a Master, the Master will give him at the very beginning the inner guidance that will help him learn how to meditate properly. This is the advantage of having a Master.
Question: If someone does not want to study spiritual books and does not want to go to a spiritual Master, then what should he do?
Sri Chinmoy: In this case he should try to make his mind absolutely calm and quiet when he wants to meditate. Then, if he sees that there are some good thoughts arising in his mind, he should let these good thoughts play in his mind. If he has thoughts of love, joy, peace, and bliss, then he can let these thoughts grow and play in his mind or in his heart. But if he has thoughts of fear, doubt, jealousy, insecurity and other negative forces, then he should try to destroy them immediately. He has to feel that his mind is his door. He has quite a few friends and quite a few enemies who are trying to come in, but he will allow only his friends to enter the door, not his enemies. His friends are love, joy, peace, bliss and so forth. This is the simplest form of meditation.
Question: Will it be easier to meditate if one knows how to concentrate first?
Sri Chinmoy: If one wants to start with concentration, then usually it will be easier for him to meditate. There are three spiritual terms that go together: concentration, meditation and contemplation. Concentration paves the way for meditation. If one knows how to concentrate, then it will be easier for him to meditate. And if one knows how to meditate, then it will be possible for him to contemplate. Concentration is the practice of focusing our attention on a particular subject or object to the complete exclusion of anything else. Our entire mind will be concentrated only. on that particular subject. Nothing else in God’s creation should be allowed to enter into our mind. We will focus all our attention on one particular object.
When our power of concentration becomes strong and vigilant, we can try to meditate. In order to meditate we make our mind calm, quiet and tranquil. We try not to have any thoughts at all. Then, when we are successful in our meditation, we can try to contemplate. Contemplation is the third stage and it is both the most important and the most difficult. The seeker becomes one with his Beloved Supreme on the strength of his proper contemplation. He feels that he and his Lord Supreme exist as one; there is nothing separating the two. They become one and inseparable.
To come back to your question, if one knows how to concentrate, then it will be easier for him to learn how to meditate, although one can learn meditation without practising concentration first. The best thing is to start with concentration. It is like walking up a ladder. The first rung is concentration, the second is meditation and the third and ultimate is contemplation. I would advise the beginner to start with concentration. But if a beginner finds it too difficult even to concentrate, then he should start with japa. Japa means repeating a syllable or a word or a few words over and over again. He can start with ‘peace,’ ‘joy,’ ‘love,’ ‘God’ or any divine word that gives him satisfaction. This will help him considerably if he cannot concentrate right at the very beginning.
Question: Do we really need a spiritual teacher?
Sri Chinmoy: Whatever you want to learn, you will be able to learn faster and better with a teacher. Suppose somebody wants to learn how to sing. Naturally, he will go to a singing teacher. After he has studied under the teacher’s guidance for some time, there comes a time when the student has learned everything. Then he no longer needs the help of a teacher. We need a teacher for everything: singing, dancing, swimming. Meditation also needs to be learned properly, and he who is wise will go to an authority on this subject in order to learn it.
People come to me because they feel that I am familiar with this subject and I can offer them some light, some peace of mind, some inner and outer guidance and assurance. As I said before, books are available in the market about how to concentrate and meditate, but most people need direct guidance if they really want to learn well. People go to school just because they feel the necessity of a teacher to give them direct knowledge and guidance. In the inner life also, if one wants to make fast progress, then one goes to a spiritual Master. I am not the only one; there are a few others on earth. But if one likes my method of teaching or my course of study, then he will come to me. If one likes somebody else’s method, naturally he will go to that other Master. Eventually, my students and the students of other Masters will arrive at the same Goal. All the true spiritual paths lead to the same Goal. The destination is one, although we are walking along many roads.
Question: How many disciples do you have?
Sri Chinmoy: Right now about a thousand students all over the world. These are my actual disciples — those who have outwardly and inwardly accepted me as their spiritual Master. But I also have followers. Followers are those who read my writings and try to get some inspiration and wisdom from my writings. The difference between the followers and the disciples is that the disciples try to follow certain spiritual disciplines regularly. They pray, they concentrate or meditate, they try to follow my advice as sincerely as possible. The followers are not as strict as the disciples. They are also trying to make progress, but in their own way. So altogether I have about a thousand disciples in about fifty Centres all over the world.
Question: I was told you will be going to Australia next month. Why are you going there?
Sri Chinmoy: I have been invited by the disciples in four Centres of mine there to hold meditations and give spiritual talks. I shall be there for two weeks giving talks at various places. For the last four years my disciples in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide have been inviting me to hold meditations, give talks and offer my dedicated service to the Australians. So now I am going at last.
Question: Do you give spiritual talks often?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, very regularly. For the past three weeks I have been speaking at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I gave a series of seven talks there. Two days ago I gave a talk in Cape Cod. Twice a week I go to the United Nations and also I have centres in Connecticut, New Jersey, Manhattan and Queens. I am occupied every day.
Interviewer: Sri Chinmoy, thank you very much for being on the air with us today.
Sri Chinmoy: I offer you my heart’s sincere appreciation and gratitude for having given me the opportunity to serve your listeners.
Published in AUM – Vol. 3, No. 2, February 27, 1976