Photo by Pulak Viscardi


Sri Chinmoy meets with the Japanese composer and concert pianist Masanobu Ikemiya at Annam Brahma Restaurant in Jamaica, Queens, New York.


Questions Asked by Mr. Ikemiya and his Friends

Question: When you play different instruments, are you expressing different qualities?

Sri Chinmoy: Each instrument has its own unique soul. Again, each time we play an instrument, the soul of that particular instrument expresses a different quality. Again, while we are playing an instrument or singing, every minute or two and sometimes every second, our own soul can bring to the fore a different quality. The soul can change its garments very rapidly. This moment it wears one garment; the next moment it wears a different one. But it is not actually a garment; it is the soul’s fragrance that is changing.

This moment, while you are playing, your soul-flower is offering a soulful or prayerful fragrance. Then something happens in your consciousness, and the soul-flower offers a different fragrance. It is not that the music or melody are changing, no! Your own consciousness is changing, so your soul is expressing or manifesting another quality. The soul has countless qualities, and which one it expresses at any moment depends on the consciousness of the performer.

Question: Do you feel this when you play?

Sri Chinmoy: In my case, I try to become the embodiment of what my soul wants to express. I may play all wrong notes, but my soul does not care. My soul does not care for my perfection. It cares only for my prayerfulness and soulfulness. It cares only for how much mental purity I have and for how much psychic oneness I have established with my inner life. The soul does not care for technique at all; only it sees how much I am in tune with it in the inner world.

Question: As a pianist, sometimes I am so caught up with technique that I lose the soul or forget what I am trying to say.

Sri Chinmoy: If you can meditate for three or four minutes before you play, your mind will be inundated with light. Then your mind will be clear and confusion will not dare to enter into it. At that time, you do not have to think of the technique; it will come automatically. Everything comes from light — even technique. The light will pull the technique.

If the owner or manager of a restaurant asks one of his workers to do something, immediately the worker will try to please him. Similarly, when you embody light, the light within you will command the technique to perform for you, and you will go far beyond the domain of technique. Now you are thinking about technique; you are begging it to serve you. But at that time, technique will be dying to serve you and please you because you are the boss.

Spending a minute or two in silence is like putting money in your pocket. If you have money in your pocket, in the supermarket you can buy anything you want. When you meditate for two or three minutes, you accumulate inner wealth — peace, light and bliss. Then, as soon as you stand in front of the audience — before you play even — spontaneously you are sharing this wealth with them. So before you even start to perform, you have already pleased your audience. Then, even if you play wrong notes, they will be sympathetic towards you.

It is like a mother and her child. The child makes a million mistakes when he plays an instrument, but the mother thinks, “Oh, it is so excellent!” The mother’s love for the child makes her feel that whatever the child does is perfect. So if you distribute your inner wealth before you play, the audience is not going to judge you because it is already satisfied. You can play anything you want and the audience will be pleased.

When I play for my students, they do not care how many mistakes I make. Why? Because before I play, I meditate with them and we establish our oneness with one another. So right from the beginning there is mutual satisfaction. At that time, they are so inwardly happy and satisfied that no matter how bad my outer performance is, their mind and heart are happy. And when you are happy and filled with inner delight, you do not see any mistakes. When you are in a very high state of consciousness, nothing affects you; everything is joy.

It is like a host trying to please his guests as soon as they come in. If the host stands at the door and gives them a flower or a smile and talks to them, then half the battle is won. No matter what else he does, everything is perfect because he has already conquered the hearts of his guests. But if the guests are pouring in and the host is somewhere else, they will say, “Look at this! He is so callous and irresponsible!”

Question: All of us before going on stage are so nervous, but we don’t show it.

Sri Chinmoy: Everybody has nervousness, but by virtue of prayer and meditation you can conquer nervousness — to a great extent or completely. In addition to prayer and meditation, there is also something you can do on the practical level. Instead of seeing a thousand people in the audience, imagine that there is only one person, one listener. Then feel that this one person is not even a musician. He is not somebody who will find fault with you; he is just an ordinary person. Since you are an infinitely better musician than he is, why do you have to worry? Or feel that he is your greatest admirer and you are playing for him out of sheer compassion. You should do this not in an aggressive way but in a sympathetic way. So from a thousand people in the audience, bring the number down to one person, and feel that that person is your most sincere admirer.

Question: I have trouble organising my life. It takes so much time to pay bills and do the everyday things in life that there is not enough time for music. There is so much junk in my life; it is just like my mind. I would like to have a much more simple life, but to live in this world I need to do so many things.

Sri Chinmoy: You have to have silence, not sound. Sound can be silenced by silence itself. When you meditate, there is tremendous silence. On the surface there are huge waves, but the waves are only a very small part of the ocean. At the bottom of the ocean there is deep silence.

You are talking about paying bills and so many other things that you have to do. You have to think of these things as monkeys that are biting you; they are not biting your body but your mind. If you pick up a big solid stick, the monkeys become frightened and stop biting you. In this case, the stick is your inner silence. When you keep your mind absolutely quiet, you will know what is most important. You are a musician and not a secretary or a politician. If you do not answer certain letters, your world will not collapse. But if you do not pay attention to your music first and foremost, then you will be the real loser. Again, you have to be practical and pay your bills. But the money for this comes from your music. So always you have to go to the source. Music is the source of your inner life and also the source of your outer life.

If you pay utmost attention to your music, from your music-world you will get tremendous joy. Then, if you are happy, you will pick up a particular letter that came three months ago or six months ago and answer it. But if you are unhappy, you are not going to touch anything. So first you have to derive joy from your music. Then, once your mind is inundated with joy, everything else will come easily. But if you do not do first things first, which in your case is music, then everything will go wrong.

I have one particular song that is the source of all my musical pieces; it is called The Invocation. I sing The Invocation every day, as well as play it and listen to it on tape. Before that I meditate. All my disciples early in the morning also sing that song in front of their shrines. Then their outer world and inner world become in tune with the universal harmony. For me and my students, the highest type of music is meditation. Life without meditation is out of tune with the inner harmony.

Question: How do you have the same amount of inspiration every day?

Sri Chinmoy: In my case, I am dealing with the Source, which is inexhaustible. Every day I am entering into my heart-garden, where there are so many beautiful and fragrant flowers. If every day we enter into our heart-garden by virtue of our prayer and meditation, we will constantly get a fresh supply of inner beauty and inner purity. If we cannot enter into the inmost recesses of our heart, if we just enter into the mind-jungle, we will only occasionally find flowers. To have flowers all the time, we have to enter into the heart. The heart is all freshness and newness because of its oneness with the universal spirit. Every day it offers us a newly blossoming dawn.

Question: Some days I feel so down and other times I am up high.

Sri Chinmoy: One day we climb up the life-tree and another day we climb down. We have to be wise. When we climb up to the top of the tree, we have to feel that we are plucking the fruits. Then, when we are coming down, instead of feeling miserable, we have to feel that we are distributing the fruits that we collected. There is a joy in achieving and there is a joy in giving. So when we are up, we are achieving; when we are down, we are giving. But if we do not take that attitude, then when we are down we feel miserable because we have nothing to do. No, we do have something to do — we have to share our wealth with the rest of humanity!

Question: Is giving as important as achieving?

Sri Chinmoy: If the father gives the child a piece of candy and the child gives the father a sweet smile, that smile will conquer the father’s heart. For the child, his smile is all he has. So when he smiles at the father, he is giving the father all his wealth.

When we follow the spiritual life, we come to realise that we never give anything to a third party; the giver and the receiver are the same person. God is in everybody. This moment God is playing the role of the giver inside me, and the next moment He is playing the role of the receiver inside you. Then it is reversed. It is like taking from the left hand and giving to the right hand. Again, God the giver cannot be happy unless God the receiver takes what is offered. When the father gives something to the child, if the child does not take it, the father will feel sad. But when the child takes and is happy, the father is also happy. So it is reciprocal happiness, in which the giver and the taker are of equal importance.

If you are playing a masterpiece and the audience is not receptive, then you are very sad. Only if the audience is very, very attentive and receiving joy from your playing will you also get tremendous joy. So the joy has to be mutual. Everything in life we have to share. What you have, you have to share with me. What I have, I have to share with you. Otherwise, there is no happiness.

Question: So sharing gives joy to everybody, and I am the one who has to start activating this?

Sri Chinmoy: Somebody has to start. In a relay race there will be four people. But one has to start. If everybody starts at the same time, everybody will collide and it will be chaos. One completes the circle around the track and then the next one starts. The whole world is going around like this. But one has to start with his self-giving heart.

Question: So many people in this country do not care for music or poetry or dance anymore. They do not see value in it. Do you think it will change?

Sri Chinmoy: It is only a matter of time. The eagerness and self-giving of the musicians, poets and artists will eventually conquer the public’s restlessness or unwillingness. If the performer has readiness, willingness and eagerness, then he is bound to win over the heart of the audience. Right now the audience is like a naughty child, but if the mother is extremely kind-hearted and has infinite patience, eventually the mother is going to win. The mother’s compassionate tears or her smile will eventually conquer the heart of the child.

Question: That is how we have to deal with our own mind, too!

Sri Chinmoy: Exactly! In everything we do, we need patience. In the beginning, when a child tries to stand up, he falls down again and again. After falling down a number of times, he could say, “No, I am not going to try to get up anymore.” But he has a tremendous inner urge to walk. He sees his father, mother and elder brother all walking and he, too, wants to go forward. The patience that a child exercises unconsciously, a grown-up has to exercise consciously.

For a child patience is natural because he is all the time in the heart. But because adults live in the mind, they have to try so hard to get back those heart-qualities. When we are in the mind, everything becomes crooked and distorted. So we have to bring the unruly mind under the control of the heart.

Published in Sri Chinmoy Answers, part 10