The Beauty's Dawn of the Climbing Aspiration-Heart
Pillar

Curtains

 

Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Chinmoy

By Dr Kusumita P Pedersen, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, St Francis College, NY.
© 2011 Prabuddha Bharata.

 

Sri Chinmoy is widely known as the exponent of a spirituality of transformation, a philosopher, a poet, a musician and artist, a humanitarian, and a server of peace.
Born in Chittagong in East Bengal, present Bangladesh, in 1931, he spent his youth at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and lived in New York from 1964 until his passing in 2007. For his entire life, Sri Chinmoy cherished a most intimate inner connection with Sri Ramakrishna, whom he profoundly loved and held in the highest possible regard. In addition to the special kinship claimed by many Bengalis, this connection was a spiritual one. Those who met Sri Chinmoy during his lifetime and who knew about Sri Ramakrishna could clearly see this oneness; it is also abundantly evident in his written and musical works. In personal conversation through the years, Sri Chinmoy's references to Sri Ramakrishna were always frequent and spontaneous, flooded with affection and an in-depth knowledge of the Master's life and teachings. His writings contain many quotations from the Master and recount numerous events from his life and those of his disciples. For Sri Chinmoy, it is incontestable and basic that Sri Ramakrishna is one of the greatest teachers about God and God-realization and that he is a paradigm for spiritual life. As Sri Chinmoy says in ‘Ramakrishna’, one of his many poems about the Master:

He was born in a tiny
Obscure Bengali village.
He lived in a tiny corner
Of a big temple.
A Kali-worshipper he was.
A man-lover he became.
A world-teacher he is
And
Forever shall remain.1

Sri Chinmoy powerfully affirms the harmony of his own philosophy with that of Sri Ramakrishna and declares him to be a guide for all humanity. We may see both of them as part of a single stream of spirituality in our time, which has its source in India but now inundates the world.


The Voice of Vivekananda

Chinmoy Kumar Ghose was born in the village of Shakpura in Chittagong, the youngest of seven children in a well-off Kayastha family. The family deity was Mother Kali, so an affinity with Sri Ramakrishna could already be felt in a way that was deep and enduring: while he communed with the Supreme in many forms, wherever he was throughout his life, Sri Chinmoy always kept an image of Mother Kali near him.
The oldest child in his family, Hriday Ranjan (1911-76) was a spiritual seeker and a student of philosophy. When he was seven or eight years old, Hriday started praying to Mother Kali. When he later learned through reading that Sri Ramakrishna was the dearest child of Mother Kali, he was spiritually drawn to the Master and came into contact with some of Sri Ramakrishna's disciples. Not only Hriday but also other members of the family were spiritual aspirants and sensed an inner connection with the Master and Swami Vivekananda; all were devoted to Sri Ramakrishna and called him 'Thakur'. In time Hriday found his guru in Sri Aurobindo and at the age of twenty-two became a permanent resident of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry. In 1936, while on a journey to South India to see Hriday, the family visited Dakshineswar. Many years later Sri Chinmoy would recall that during this pilgrimage, even as a child of four, he experienced the presence of Sri Ramakrishna while at the Panchavati. When their parents Shashi Kumar and Yogamaya died one year apart in 1941 and 1943, all of the brothers and sisters not already residing there moved to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Here Sri Chinmoy lived from the age of twelve to thirty-two when, responding to a call from within, he travelled to New York to begin his service of teaching and inspiring spiritual seekers.
In the Sri Aurobindo Ashram the young Chinmoy lived in a community where the spiritual height of Sri Ramakrishna was fully recognized and which was saturated with his direct influence. Sri Aurobindo (1871-1950) regarded Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda as establishers of the spiritual work he further developed in his own philosophy of Integral Yoga. Among his many statements about Sri Ramakrishna's importance, he says:

When scepticism had reached its height, the time had come for spirituality to assert itself and establish the reality of the world as a manifestation of the spirit, the secret of the confusion created by the senses, the magnificent possibilities of man and the ineffable beatitude of God. This is the work whose consummation Sri Ramakrishna came to begin and all the development of the previous two thousand years and more since Buddha appeared, has been a preparation for the harmonisation of spiritual teaching and experience by the Avatar of Dakshineswar ....
A new era dates from his birth, an era in which the peoples of the earth will be lifted for a while into communion with God and spirituality become the dominant note of human life.2

He also states that, during his imprisonment (1908-9) in Alipore Jail, 'I was hearing constantly the voice of Vivekananda speaking to me for a fortnight in the jail in my solitary meditation and feeling his presence' (26.68). At this time Vivekananda instructed Sri Aurobindo inwardly on one very specific aspect of spiritual attainment. Sri Chinmoy dramatized the life of Sri Aurobindo in The Descent of the Blue, a play written in 1958 while he was living in the ashrama. Here is how he portrays this event:

(Aurobindo in his cell. Early morning.)
Aurobindo: I wonder from where this fragrance is coming. There is no flower nearby, nor even a gentle breeze. (A voice breaks out in the silence.)
Voice: I am Vivekananda. I want to speak to you about the workings of the consciousness above the mind.
Aurobindo: Above the mind?
Voice: Yes. I myself had no idea of such workings while I was in the body. Now I have it and I will help you with it. For this I shall visit you every day for about two weeks.
Aurobindo: I believe these workings would lead towards some Supreme Dynamic Knowledge.
Voice: That is for you to discover. I can but show what I have found. The world's burden of progress rests upon your shoulders. It is a great happiness to find you ready to bear it. Godspeed.
(The spirit of Vivekananda disappears.)3

Sri Chinmoy's rendering of this extraordinary interchange emphasizes the continuity of the labours of these two spiritual masters for the benefit of the world and their conscious collaboration in the inner realm.


My Mother's Nectar

The writings of Sri Chinmoy are very extensive and include poetry, essays and lectures, aphorisms, answers to questions, stories and plays.
Though mostly in English, they also include works in Bengali. In his writings, in all genres, Sri Chinmoy mentions Sri Ramakrishna often.
One of Sri Chinmoy's earliest works is a tribute to Sri Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda in the form of a play interspersed with songs. It was originally written in Bengali in India—probably in the early 1950s—and was later revised and translated into English by its author, and published in 1973 as Drink, Drink My Mother's Nectar. The play is in twelve scenes centering on the relationship of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda but including other events as well, its wording often following closely the original Bengali of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Very affecting in performance, it remains a favourite with the students of Sri Chinmoy.
Through this play and many stories, poems, and songs Sri Chinmoy has encouraged his own students to venerate and learn from Sri Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda.
The very first of the thirteen thousand songs in Bengali that Sri Chinmoy composed is, as he has said, a prayer of Swami Vivekananda for divine compassion during a time of difficulty, the haunting 'Tamasa Rate Nayan Pate': 'In the dark and dense night, / You cast Your benign Eyes upon me"4 The second of these songs is gently lilting and expresses intense adoration, the experience that Sri Ramakrishna's disciples would have as they sat before him when he was in samadhi.

Sundara hate sundara tumi
Nandana bana majhe
Nishidin jena antare mor
Tomari murati raje
Tumi chhara mor nayan andhar
Sakali mithya sakali asar
Chaudike mor bishwa bhubane
Bedanar sur baje
Pabo kigo dekha nimesher tare
Ei jibaner majhe

You are beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful,
Beauty unparalleled in the garden of Eden.
Day and night may Your Image abide
In the very depth of my heart.
Without You my eyes have no vision,
Everything is an illusion, everything is barren.
All around me, within and without,
The melody of tenebrous pangs I hear.
My world is filled with excruciating pangs.
O Lord, O my beautiful Lord,
O my Lord of Beauty,
In this lifetime, even for a fleeting second,
May I be blessed with the boon to see
Your Face.

The third, with a stirring and soaring mdody, expresses the indomitable spirit of Swamiji as he set out for the West for the first time:

Jago amar swapan sathi
Jago amar praner pran
Jago amar chokher jyoti
Rishi kabi murtiman,
Jago, jago, jago
Jago amar bishal hiya
Byaptajaha bishwamoy
Jago amar sei chetana
Bishwatite shesh ja noy
Jago jago jago
Jago amar dhyani-swarup
Jago amar baddha jib
Sarba jiber tandra tuti
Jago amar mukta shib
Jago jago jago

Arise, awake, O friend of my dream.
Arise, awake, O breath of my life.
Arise, awake, O light of my eyes.
O seer-poer in me,
Do manifest yourself in me and through me.
Arise, awake, O vast heart within me.
Arise, awake, O consciousness of mine,
Which is always transcending the universe
And its own life of the Beyond.
Arise, awake, O form of my meditation transcendental.
Arise, awake, O bound divinity in humanity.
Arise, awake, O my heart's Liberator, Shiva,
And free mankind from its ignorance-sleep.

These three songs and several others are incorporated into Drink, Drink My Mother's Nectar, enhancing the atmosphere of soulful devotion when the play is staged.

To commemorate the one hundredth birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in 1962, Sri Chinmoy wrote a series of essays, collected as The Disciple and the Master: A Centenary Offering. In 'The Child of Kali', he offers this reflection:

Ramakrishna will appear to one as a man of overflowing emotion, to a second as an ardent aspirant, to a third as a man of philosophical wisdom, to a fourth as a man of unique sincerity. It is obvious that different persons should possess different opinions regarding his personality. For in a matter like this, a flawless analysis on an intellectual basis is next to impossible, and all our human judgement must sadly fail to yield any useful result. But nobody will ever hesitate to call him the most beloved child of Kali the Mother. His sole aim in life was to have nothing save and except a constant union with the Mother Kali. His aim he did fulfil. And in one word we can sum up the message of his llfe: M?.

Here Sri Chinmoy says and also shows that by usingthe heart rather than the ordinary mind one can come closer to a real understanding of who Sri Ramakrishna is. He continues:

His trance-bound countenance, the simplicity of his expression, his unassuming and genial manner, the lucid cordiality of his relationship with all, coupled with his magnificently hallowed life and divine lore won for him a universal attraction and devotion. It was Ramakrishna who peacefully housed in himself the Cosmic and the Trans-Cosmic Consciousness with all possible inclusiveness of outlook. What he felt was spontaneous. What he said was spontaneous. What he did was spontaneous. He had no purpose of his own, and whatever we apparently hold to be his purpose, that too, to our astonishment, was never influenced by the stream of desire. He had no will of his own save that of his Mother Kali.5

In this passage the Master practically seems to appear before us and we feel as if we are meeting him in a real, living encounter. This vivid immediacy that Sri Chinmoy is able to capture in words, as well as his unreserved appreciation and deep understanding of Sri Ramakrishna, are manifestations of his boundless love and feeling of inseparable oneness with him.
One century after Swami Vivekananda's participation in the 1893 Parliament of Religions, Sri Chinmoy offered the opening meditation at the inaugural plenary of the centenary Parliament in Chicago. To honour the one hundredth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's arrival in the West, in 1993 Sri Chinmoy published a volume collecting his writings and songs on Swami Vivekananda, including thirty-nine new poems and aphorisms, one for each year of the swami's earthly life. As well, beginning in the early 1990s Sri Chinmoy composed over one hundred songs that set to music the utterances of Sri Ramakrishna, the sayings of Swami Vivekananda and his poems, and songs dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, Satada Devi, Swami Vivckananda, and Sister Nivedita. One of the first of this series is:

Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna, joy hok taba joy!
Kalir dulal sarva dharma
tomate samanvoy.

Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrlshna, may your victory be proclaimed! The darling child of Mother Kali, in you all religions become one.6

Sri Chinmoy also composed hundreds of songs addressed to the Divine Mother, including many to Kali in particular, and songs that invoke Sri Ramakrishna's spirit such as 'Ay Ma Shyama Pagli Amar': 'O my mad Mother, come, come! Your mad son is crying for you.'7 In addition he wrote two books of stories retelling incidents from the lives of Girishchandra Ghosh and Nag Mahashay, well-known disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.8

 

Sri Ramakrishna, the Soul-power

Sri Chinmoy was once asked the difference between his own spiritual path and that of Sri Ramakrishna. His answer was that there is virtually none, and that both are the path of love, devotion, and surrender to the Supreme.9 At the centre of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy is aspiration, the longing for a higher and deeper reality, which he speaks of as an 'inner hunger', an 'inner mounting flame', and an 'inner cry'. This cry is none other than the cry that Sri Ramakrishna tells us is indispensable for God-realization. Without this aspiration-cry no spiritual life can exist, but with an intense cry all can be attained--as the Master says, the Mother reveals everything if the devotee cries to her with a yearning heart.10 Sri Chinmoy affirms this as a core teaching of Sri Ramakrishna and identifies the cry for God in its highest form as an essential aspect of Sri Ramakrishna's divine consciousness.
Sri Chinmoy looks upon Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda as inseparable, saying: 'The Master and the disciple were hardly two distinct individuals. Each helped to shape the other.
To our deeper vision, they formed an integral whole.' 11 He movingly expresses this unity in a poem that is a dialogue between the Master and his beloved disciple.

My Naren,
You have struggled and struggled,
You have fought and fought
To manifest me.

Our Thakur,
You have cried and cried,
You have served and served
To illumine me.

My Naren,
Your heart of love,
Your mind of light
Are my giant shoulders.

Our Thakur,
Your Feet of Compassion,
Your Eyes of Perfection
Are my Dream-Boat
And
Reality-Shore.12

Sri Chinmoy consistently affirms the sublime level of realization and the world-historical role of Sri Ramakrishna, invariably including him when naming great masters, saviours, and avataras. The following especially elaborated statement is from a lecture given in 1971 at Harvard University:

The mind-power, the heart-power, and the soulpower of the Upanishadic consciousness are boundless. In the realm of philosophy, Shankara embodies the mind-power; in the realm of dynamic spirituality, Maharshi Ramana, the great sage of Arunachala, embodies the mind-power. The Christ, the Buddha and Sri Chaitanya of Nadia, Bengal, embody the heart-power. Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna embody the soul-power. In Sri Aurobindo the vision of the mindpower reached its zenith, and the realisation of the soul-power found its fulfilling manifestation on earth. These spiritual giants and others are steering the life-boat of humanity towards the transcendental Abode of the Supreme.13

Here the 'Upanishadic consciousness' means the consciousness that possesses the full realization of God or Truth. This infinite consciousness is one and universal, but the great world-teachers embody and manifest it in different ways. Humankind is on a journey of transformation towards the goal of perfection. This voyage may be long and at times through stormy seas, but one day the boat of humanity will arrive at the shore of the beyond. Its arrival is destined, Sri Chinmoy declares, because it is guided by Sri Ramakrishna and other masters of the highest stature who are one with the infinite truth and light.14

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Notes and References
1. Sri Chinmoy, The Dance of Life (Santurce, Puero Rico: Aum, 1973), part 6, 23.
2. Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, 30 vols (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), 1.799-800.
3. Sri Chinmoy, The Descent of the Blue (New York: Agni, 1974), 49-50. The play first came out serially in Mother India, the cultural review of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
4. These songs, with musical notation, are printed in Sri Chinmoy, Vivekananda: An Ancient Silence-Heart and a Modern Dynamism-Life (New York: Agni, 1993), 196-201.
5. Sri Chinmoy, The Disciple and the Master: A Centenary Offering 1862-1962 (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), 14-15
6. Translation mine.
7. Sri Chinmoy, Supreme, Teach Me How to Surrender (New York: Agni, 1975), 39.
8. Sri Chinmoy, A God-intoxicated Man: Nag Mahashay (New York: Agni, 1997); and From the Undivine Tree to the Divine Fruit: Girish Chandra Ghosh (New York: Agni, 1999).
9. Sri Chinmoy, The Avatars and the Masters (New York: Agni), 13.
10. M, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, trans. Swami Nikhilananda (Chennai: Ramakrishna Math, 2002), 579.
11. Sri Chinmoy, 'Ramakrishna: Soul of the East', Vivekananda, 39-43; originally published in Amrita Bazar Patrika, February 18, 1962.
12. The Dance of Life, part 5, 27.
13. Sri Chinmoy, Commentaries on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita (New York: Aum, 1996), 80.
14. I would like to express my gratitude to the following people, discussions with whom have been invaluable in writing this essay: Paree Atkin, Ratan Barua, Vidagdha Bennett, Sabyasachi Ghosh Dastidar, Nemi Fredner, Radha Honig, Khourshedal Islam, Mahatapa Palit, B Ramamoorthy, Ranjit Swanson, and Shivaram Thrissur.

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