Sri Chinmoy's Philosophy of the Heart
This talk about Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy was delivered in Russia in 2004.
Sri Chinmoy is a philosopher of consciousness, a philosopher of the spirit. In his writings, he describes in considerable detail the evolution of human consciousness, showing how it has emerged from the dim, limited awareness of the animal life to the analytic clarity and intelligence associated with the life of the mind – which represents its current stage of development.
But the mind is not the end of the evolutionary spiral. Sri Chinmoy believes that human consciousness is on the verge of another pivotal change – from the life of the mind to what he calls the life of the heart. It represents a change so extraordinary that it promises to re-shape the very destiny of mankind, pointing the way – for the first time ever – to lasting peace and universal oneness on earth. Sri Chinmoy is not only a prophet of this change, but also a tireless advocate. And to countless people around the world, he has become its living symbol.
But even the life of the heart is not the end, for the human spirit is always aspiring for something higher. Its insatiable inner hunger, its endless yearning for ever-greater perfection, will one day take man beyond the heart to levels of consciousness that far, far surpass it. In Sri Chinmoy’s words: “Our goal is to go from bright to brighter to brightest, from high to higher to highest. And even in the highest, there is no end to our progress, for the human spirit is unlimited.” In my talk today, I would like to tell you about Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of the spirit, his dreams of world peace and his vision of the beyond.
In the course of evolution, the development of the mind was a major step forward, a breakthrough of incalculable proportions. It separated humanity from the animal kingdom, freeing us from blind impulse and dark instinct. It gave us a sense of past and future, a sense of history and time. It raised us from the murk of primitive superstition, giving us a rational understanding of the universe. It brought us new sources of energy and food. It showed us how to explore the bottom of the sea and travel to the moon.
The mind was responsible for the industrial revolution, which produced enormous material comfort for mankind. It brought medical advances that tripled and quadrupled man’s life span. It allowed us to change and control the environment, turning deserts into farmlands, rivers into cities. It brought us mathematics and physics, poetry and music – opening countless dimensions for the human spirit to grow and flourish in.
For centuries the scientific mind, the analytic mind, has represented the pinnacle of human consciousness. But there is also another form of mental consciousness – what Sri Chinmoy calls the ordinary mind or lower mind. As the scientific mind became increasingly prominent in human life, the ordinary mind also took on a growing importance. We allowed the mind to extend its authority beyond science – to guide not only our intellectual life but also our personal relations, our social policies and political agendas. Over the course of time, we gave the ordinary mind free reign over all aspects of our lives – without even realizing it.
Because the ordinary mind is always ‘talking’ to us, flooding our consciousness with its thoughts and suggestions, we have now forgotten how to listen to other realities inside us. We so completely identify with the mind that we think we are the mind; we believe the mind represents our inmost self. In today’s world, the ordinary mind has become not man’s servant but his lord and master.
This is unfortunate since the mind – especially the ordinary mind – has its limitations. The main limitation is its sense of separativity and divisiveness. It teaches us to see others as different from us, separate from us. If we are inclined to reach out to help someone, it will urge us to be cautious – to ‘think twice.’ It teaches us to care only about our own needs, our own wishes, and not those of our fellow man. It encourages us to compete with others and try to dominate them. And because it is constantly trying to dominate or take advantage of others, it makes us think others are doing the same to us.
International politics, for example, has become largely a contest of egos, a battle between intractable minds. Each country thinks it knows better than the rest. Each country seeks an advantage over the others. Countries distrust one another, suspect one another, misunderstand one another’s motives and, ultimately, try to destroy one another. The mind has brought us unparalleled prosperity, unparalleled material achievements; but it has not brought us happiness. It has not brought us peace – either peace of mind or peace on earth.
As a result, many individuals – including those who rule countries – are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the dominance of the mind in human life. Some have already started looking for new pathways of living, new ways of finding peace and satisfaction. As time goes by, more will join them. They may not be aware of what they are doing or why they are doing it. But something from within – their own inner aspiration for something better – will compel them to start searching for a new manner of relating to the world around them, and they will discover the way of the heart.
Like the mind, the heart also is a reality inside us. Like the mind, it too speaks to us – not in words and ideas but in a different language, the language of silence. Because it speaks so softly, and in a lexicon the mind rejects, most of the time we either fail to hear its messages or choose to ignore them. But these messages are very real, very persuasive.
When most people speak of the heart, they are referring to something different from what Sri Chinmoy means. The heart they are talking about is the emotional heart – the heart, for example, that will lead a young person to do something foolish, something that he may later regret. They are talking about the heart that is impractical, silly, immature. But this is only one aspect of the heart- consciousness, and not the one Sri Chinmoy is referring to. Earlier, I indicated that there are different kinds of mental realities – the scientific mind, for example, which is filled with grandeur, as well as the ordinary mind, which is full of ego, suspicion, pettiness and uncertainty. Similarly, there are different heart-realities.
When Sri Chinmoy speaks of the heart, he is not speaking of the physical heart, which supplies blood to the body, or the emotional heart; he is referring to the higher heart, the heart that is the seat of the deepest human wisdom. This is the heart that teaches us to see others as an extension of our own selves and makes us feel one with all humanity. This is the heart that teaches us the meaning of selfless love – the love that does not seek to possess others or be possessed by them, but wants only to give without expect anything in return. When it helps someone, it does not feel it is making a sacrifice, any more than our right hand feels it is making a sacrifice when it helps our left hand lift something heavy. Nor does it feel any kind of superiority – a feeling that is often present when we feel we are being ‘charitable.’ Spontaneously it just reaches out to help. The heart is like this also.
It is easy to see, then, how the life of the heart holds enormous possibilities for human progress. The heart offers us the message of oneness – a oneness that can become the foundation for the global peace that mankind has dreamt of for millennia. It is only when the mind yields to the heart, when our feeling of division and separativity surrenders to our feeling of oneness and brotherhood, that I feel your need as mine and you feel my needs as yours, and we are both ready to help one another. Similarly, if everyone can regard his own nation as nothing but a tree, whose branches are the other nations, then I will see your country as a branch of my nation-tree and you will see my country as a branch of your nation-tree. At that time, working together we can easily solve the world’s countless problems.
Sri Chinmoy feels that humanity has gone as far as it can with the mental consciousness, that the time has come for the next step forward – a radical change in the way we look at the world and our fellow man. In essence, he sees the fast-approaching end to the all-encompassing tyranny of the mind – the overthrow of the mind and its replacement by the heart in the far-reaching social and political arena. In science, in industry, in every sphere of endeavor demanding rationality and intellect, the mind will play its role. But in other human activities, in areas where individuals deal with their own lives and with their fellow man, the mind will be subordinated to the heart.
This kind of shift in consciousness, Sri Chinmoy feels, represents the next great, transforming step in mankind’s evolution – every bit as significant as the ascendancy of the mind over the animal consciousness. This, in short, is Sri Chinmoy’s new vision for the New Millennium.
Some 30 years ago he formed the Sri Chinmoy Centre to help build momentum for this change. The Centre's educational, cultural and athletic activities have one aim – to inspire people to discover the capacity of their own hearts and develop a sense of oneness with their fellow man. He also founded the Oneness-Home Peace Run – a global relay run that strives to create a linkage of hearts, a deeper feeling of brotherhood among peoples through sports. Over the course of several months, a group of Sri Chinmoy’s students run through more than 70 nations, passing a flaming Peace Torch from hand to hand relay-fashion – creating an arc of friendship that literally circles the globe. Along the route thousands of local people – many of them schoolchildren – cheer the runners as they go by, and many take the Peace Torch themselves and run with it for a few yards or a few kilometers. The Peace Run expresses Sri Chinmoy’s vision of human oneness and global friendship in a simple yet powerful fashion, and its inspirational message has touched the hearts of countless individuals from many, many cultures. This event, which has been held every other year since 1987, has also won the support of Presidents, Prime Ministers, religious leaders, educators, scientists and artistic luminaries in dozens of countries.
In the growing worldwide turn toward the life of the heart, in this tectonic shift of the spirit, Sri Chinmoy is playing a most significant role – not only as a spokesman for change but also as agent or instrument of change. Over the past quarter century, he has discussed his philosophy with countless world leaders, including the late UN Secretary-General U Thant, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul and Mikhail Gorbachev. He has also brought his message of the heart to large audiences through the Peace Concerts and lectures he has offered in hundreds of cities around the globe. And for the past three decades he has been exploring the possibilities of a oneness-world with delegates and staff at the United Nations through the silence of his twice-weekly peace meditations.
In recent years, he has embarked on a new, unconventional approach: using the sport of weightlifting to demonstrate his philosophy. His astonishing one and two-arm lifts – involving weights as heavy as 450 kilograms – have been broadcast on television newscasts throughout the U.S. and Europe. Sri Chinmoy is not a professional athlete; he is a 69-year-old philosopher, artist and poet. Yet he is able to lift weights that men far stronger, and much younger, could never raise. The reason: They are using their minds and their bodies, whereas Sri Chinmoy is using the heart – letting its capacities work in and through the body. Through weightlifting, he has discovered a graphic means of demonstrating the heart’s remarkable power.
In his words: “There are countless people on earth who do not believe in the inner life, the life of the heart and spirit. I do not agree with them, and my ability to lift heavy weights proves that it can work in matter as well. I am doing these lifts with my physical body, but the power is coming from the inmost recesses of my heart. The same inner strength that allows me to lift heavy weights can also help bring about world peace. It is only because of insecurity that nations fight with one another. In the depths of their hearts they know they are weak, so outwardly they want to prove that they are strong. But if they can acquire inner strength and confidence from the heart, at that time they feel secure, and they will not feel the necessity of proving anything. If a country is really strong, with inner strength, peace and poise, then that country will remain peaceful.”
To Sri Chinmoy, heart-power is not a metaphor; inner strength is not just a figure of speech. The heart embodies enormous energy, enormous strength, enormous will power and determination. It can achieve things that the mind considers impossible because it is more receptive, more open, to the limitless power of the human spirit. The mind has its fixed notions as to what can and cannot be done, and it is reluctant to even attempt to go beyond that point. The mind will set a goal and, after achieving this goal, wants to rest on its laurels and retire. But the heart is always ready to go forward, always eager to take on new challenges. The heart is continually inspiring us to transcend our previous achievements, to strive for greater and greater perfection and satisfaction.
In politics, for example, man right now is dreaming of a oneness-world, where all men will treat one another as brothers. From the viewpoint of the mind, this is the ultimate goal; and when this is achieved, the mind will be fully satisfied. But the heart will see this as only the steppingstone to a higher goal. To quote Sri Chinmoy again: “The League of Nations was a dream. It no longer exists. Instead, it has blossomed into another dream, a greater dream. The United Nations is also a dream, and this dream also will take a better and more fulfilling form. It may take fifty or a few hundred years, but one day the light that the UN embodies is bound to cover the length and breadth of the globe, and this world of ours will become a oneness-world. But even when oneness is established, this will not be the end of the game. No, inside oneness there must be a continuous aspiration to go higher, to go deeper, to go farther. Only then can we have real satisfaction, which is nothing other than man’s endless journey to ever-increasing perfection.”
For Sri Chinmoy, this vision of continuous self-transcendence is not just dry philosophy. It is the very life-breath of his existence. He does not merely write about it; he lives it. He has composed nearly 16,000 songs – more than any composer in recorded history. He has written several hundred books of poetry. In January of 1998 he completed his most recent opus – a series of 27,000 poems that took him 142 years to finish; that very same evening he began work on an even larger opus – a series of 77,000 poems. So far, he has published 19 volumes in this new series, each containing 1,000 poems. He has also produced literally millions of paintings and drawings – a number that virtually defies belief. This kind of creative outpouring could never be accomplished by the mental consciousness; long before the artwork was finished, the mind would revolt and give up. It is only the heart-consciousness that can do this.
The paintings, the music, the poems continue to come – seemingly without end. They flow like a river of inspiration from the aspiring heart, the heart that is linked to the source of creation, the human spirit itself. This kind of volcanic creativity is not the achievement of a single man. Rather, it is the expression of an ideal, the embodiment of a principle. Sri Chinmoy’s own life is the embodiment of that principle – a living expression of the heart’s ceaseless aspiration for ever-greater progress and fulfillment.
One of Sri Chinmoy’s main goals is to inspire others to look within their own hearts for new sources of energy and strength, to encourage people the world over to discover in their hearts their own unlimited possibilities. In his words: “Each painting, each poem, each thing that I undertake is nothing but an expression of my heart’s cry for something higher – for more light, more truth, more delight. If one activity of mine inspires someone to lead a better or higher life, then I shall feel that I have succeeded.”
As the heart gains ascendancy in human life, as man begins striving for higher and higher goals, the evolutionary process will start to speed up. And sometime in the future, man=s own yearning for progress will carry him beyond even the heart-consciousness – to higher planes of reality that right now can only be imagined. Discovering these higher worlds will require a different mode of perception than what is now used, a tool more powerful or, let us say, more subtle than the analytic mind. Once again, it is the heart that will help us. Sri Chinmoy has written extensively on the epistemology of the heart – showing how its unique way of knowing can significantly expand the parameters of scientific knowledge.
The heart sees and touches reality in a different way from the mind. Whereas the mind will try to analyze, categorize, summarize and understand something, the heart will try to identify with something and become one with it; the heart will resonate with the very essence of the thing that it touches. If we study the sea with our mind, we will take note of its temperature, its wave height, its currents and so on. But if we contemplate the sea with our heart, immediately we will feel a sense of fullness, a sense of peace or power – as though the ebb and flow of the sea has somehow permeated our own awareness. The knowledge obtained by the heart is experiential and intuitive rather than analytic. But that does not mean it is fuzzy and unclear, soft and unreliable. It is the knowledge of insight – a knowledge that allows us to perceive something in its entirety rather than in separate pieces, to experience something on its own terms rather than through the matrix of our own sense perceptions or mental analyses.
When one becomes experienced in this kind of knowing, as Sri Chinmoy is, one becomes aware of inner worlds or planes of consciousness not accessible to the analytic mind. These higher worlds of peace, light and ecstasy cannot be captured in a structure as limited, as indiscriminate as language; they cannot be expressed as thoughts or ideas. So Sri Chinmoy has attempted to convey their enormous subtlety, their supernal beauty, their unearthly splendor in another way: through art, music and poetry.
He has drawn, for example, more than 11 million bird drawings, each bird representing a fragment or glimpse of a higher world – in this case, an inner world inundated with peace. Sri Chinmoy calls them “prayers for peace, prayers from my heart.” Completed over a nine-year period, these 11 million birds represent the most eloquent, far-reaching cry for peace ever presented in the medium of art. But there is nothing solemn about these bird-prayers. They literally vibrate with energy. A feeling of joy infuses the curve of their wings, every thrust of their beaks. If these birds are prayers, what the artist is worshiping is the dynamism and diversity of life itself, and the sense of peace they convey is tinged with delight.
Sri Chinmoy’s music is also unique. Some of it is very powerful and dynamic, expressing a sense of the very heartbeat of creation. Other of his compositions are haunting, quiet – the embodiment of an otherworldly silence and peace that resonates with beauty. At times the musical notes seem to emanate from a silence and perfection so subtle that it is difficult to tell whether the music is expressing silence, or whether the silence and peace are expressing themselves as music. Sri Chinmoy used his ability to identify with the higher worlds to compose this music, and those listening to it can get a sense of these worlds, and feel inside themselves the peace that they offer – according to their receptivity and skill at using the heart as a mode of perception. But many who listen to his Peace Concert performances are deeply touched and profoundly inspired.
So this, in a nutshell, is Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy. He is the spokesman for a new direction in the evolution of consciousness, a tireless advocate of the way of the heart. His vision for change, his vision of world harmony, is at the very core of a growing worldwide cry for peace. He has expressed his philosophy of the heart and spirit through literature, art, music and sports and, with the help of his worldwide centers of learning, is carrying its message to the far corners of the globe. Millions of people in virtually every country of the world have been inspired by his teachings and outpouring of creativity, and because of him are trying to lead better lives.
It would be a mistake to attribute all these accomplishments to one person, and Sri Chinmoy himself – with all humility – refuses to take any personal credit. He is only a traveler along the path of the heart, and his life – and success – stand as a testimonial not to the man but to the awesome power, energy, aspiration and creativity of the aspiring heart.