A soulful interpretation of two of Sri Chinmoy’s songs, arranged and performed by Kamalakanta Nieves

Dear listeners, I wish to share with you a medley arrangement of two of Sri Chinmoy‘s songs. Sri Chinmoy composed more than 20,000 songs, of which approximately 13,000 are in his native Bengali, and 7,ooo in English. They are, for the most part, devotional songs. Some of his songs were composed in honor of people who he wanted to honor.

Sri Chinmoy’s songs, like his poetry,  express the myriad states of consciousness that the seeker experiences in his/her long journey to God-realisation. From the first time I saw Sri Chinmoy and became his student in 1978, I fell in love with his music. At the time I was studying music theory at the university level, but my greatest joy every day was coming home from school, turning on the cassette player, and singing along with Sri Chinmoy the songs from “Sri Chinmoy Sings, Vol.7”, also known as “Bela Chale Jai”. The sweetness I felt while singing this songs can be felt, but cannot be described. To this day, 35 years later, his songs serve as my heart’s consolation and my life’s guiding light. I take refuge in this wellspring of nectar-flooded songs.

For this medley, I chose the title “Self-Transcendence Attempt” inspired by the following poem by Sri Chinmoy:

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“Even
Self-transcendence-attempts
Are most remarkable.”

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

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I am inspired by this poem because, in our efforts at self-improvement and self-transcendence, sometimes we find it difficult to change or to make progress. It is, I believe, a common experience among seekers throughout the centuries, to encounter obstacles in the path to self-perfection. Sri Chinmoy’s poem inspires me, when he states that even an attempt at self-transcendence is most remarkable. So I chose the title, even before playing a single note! I try to do music in an intuitive way, and that includes titling the arrangements. For me, intuition is a very important tool in my life, both in my spiritual practice, as well as in my creative endeavors in the field of music. I try to follow the creative flow, and it seems to work for me. All my best decisions in life have been intuitive, and that includes the decision to study meditation with Sri Chinmoy, and the decision to study music.

There are two songs by Sri Chinmoy in this medley/arrangement. The first one is “Se Je Amai Chaina Kabhu”:

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SE JE AMAI CHAINA KABHU

Translation

He never wants me whom I call.
I have received only deception from Him
In return for my love.
I always play on my compassion-flute
In spite of my heart’s ceaseless pangs.
Alas, Him I can never forget.

– Sri Chinmoy

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This song attracted my attention because of its poignancy. The devotee is complaining of the fact that God is not answering his call (“He never wants me whom I call”). He feels that God has deceived him! (“I have received only deception from Him in return for my love”). Yet in the middle of the song, a sweet feeling overpowers us: the seeker says that he will continue to stay in his heart, and will continue to cry for God’s Compassion, in spite of his sufferings (“I always play on my compassion-flute in spite of my heart’s sufferings”)….  and the last line is most significant (“Alas, Him I cannot forget”). The devotee has fallen in love with the Lord, and even though the Lord seems to ignore him, he cannot forget his Beloved. Even though the song has a sad overtone, there is an underlying joy in the feeling of intimacy and oneness with God, in the very fact that this love, this need for the Supreme, has awakened in the seeker’s heart.

There is another consideration in these feelings: one cannot claim affection or love from a stranger! If I go up to a stranger on the street and make a claim on that person, the response will be: “And who are you? I don’t know you”, etc….  So the fact that the devotee is making a claim, expecting a response, means that there is already an intimate relationship with the Divine. Something happened, we don’t know what, but a connection has been established. Here are some of Sri Chinmoy’s writings about God-intimacy:

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” ….A child tells his mother, “I am hungry,” and she feeds him. Then the child will be able to tell the world, “Look, I have this kind of closeness and inner connection with my mother.” Yes, the mother would have fed the child on her own, but the fact that he asks and his mother listens to his request gives him more joy. It means that she is at his beck and call…

Prayer intensifies our intimacy with the Supreme. Meditation, on the other hand, increases our oneness with the Supreme.”.. continue reading

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…….”Then you will sit on the branch called devotion. While sitting on the devotion branch you have to feel not only that God and you are one, but that there is a tremendous intimate concern and feeling of inseparable oneness between you and God. God devotes His infinite Light to the fulfilment of the aspirant and the aspirant devotes his utmost capacity, whatever capacity he has, to the fulfilment of God’s Will. On the branch of devotion your oneness is thickened and intensified.”   continue reading

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I find great beauty in this; the cry of the heart, aspiration, when it becomes intense, becomes devotion (intense love). And this love opens the door….

 

The second song in this medley is “Vishnu Debata Vishnu”:

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VISHNU DEBATA VISHNU

Translation

O Lord Vishnu, O Lord Vishnu!
You are Your Eternity’s Patience-Light.
O Compassion Incarnate!
You are Your Infinity’s Forgiveness-Flow.

– Sri Chinmoy

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Here is a quote by Sri Chinmoy about Vishnu:

Vishnu
“…..when it is a matter of Compassion, the most compassionate is Vishnu.”

“….From this story we learn that when we want to approach the most compassionate aspect of the Supreme, we should approach Vishnu.”

“….Spiritual seekers in most religions want to merge with the highest Truth. Usually human aspiration wants to lose its individuality and become totally one with the Divine. But in Vaishnavism it is different. The lover and the Beloved will become one, but the lover wants to keep his own individuality. Why? He feels that if he becomes inseparably one with the object of his adoration, then the sweetness, the closeness and deepest intimacy, which is ecstasy itself, will not be felt. That is to say, when an aspirant becomes one with his Lord, then both of them are now Lords. At that time, the aspirant’s sweetest feeling for his Beloved will disappear.”

Extract from Vishnu by Sri Chinmoy

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I will share a personal story with you. While playing this arrangement throughout the last few months, whenever I sang the song “Vishnu Debata Vishnu”, two people came to my mind’s eye: Sri Chinmoy and my mother. I felt that my meditation teacher and my mother were the people who had been most compassionate towards me; the two people who had expressed this unconditional love we call compassion. I was surprised by this, but the feeling was strong, so I followed it…. A few moments ago, looking for Sri Chinmoy’s quotes on the themes of God-intimacy and self-transcendence, I found a beautiful answer by Sri Chinmoy to a question posed to him (What does mother-love mean in the spiritual life?”). I find the answer extremely beautiful, and it explains my feelings while playing this song, so I would like to share it with you as well:

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Question: What does ‘mother-love’ mean in the spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: “When we see our mother, immediately we feel love. The word ‘mother’, especially to an Indian, means love.     ……In father-love we will not find that infinite patience; we will find wisdom and other things. But in a mother’s love, in addition to wisdom, we will find infinite patience. …….When it is a matter of inner intimacy, it is the mother’s love that is most successful.

(Extract from: Service-Boat And Love-Boatman, Part 2)

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So here is the connection that I feel between the two songs: God-intimacy, through love. In my own life, both Sri Chinmoy and my mother manifested this patient, compassionate aspect. I can only hope to be more and more grateful to both, in an ever-increasing measure.

Dear listeners, I hope you enjoy this music, which feeds my heart with inner joy and peace.

Artist: Kamalakanta Nieves
Name: “Self-Transcendence Attempt”
Composer: Sri Chinmoy
Release year: 2013
Duration: 9:29
Uploaded: Kamalakanta Nieves / Tejvan Pettinger
Acknowledgements: Sri Chinmoy, Kamalakanta Nieves
Format: Advanced Audio Coding