When we consider Ten Thousand Flower-Flames as a whole, undoubtedly the first thing that strikes us is the scale of the work. It signifies a level of inspiration with which we are unfamiliar. Inspiration as most people know it, however profound, is a fleeting experience. When a man is filled with the inspiration to create, his life becomes in that instant altogether transformed. He would seem to dwell on the sublime heights of mystic vision and to breathe in an air far more refined and subtle than any he had previously known. As long as inspiration lasts, he remains transported in this manner but the moment his sacred muse departs he is returned to the world of ordinary thoughts and actions. Thus, although a man may scale the summits of human experience in his visions, his outer life generally reveals a dichotomy between the two.
In some rare poets, however, we perceive an essential harmony between their life and their art. Life itself is revered as an art – the art of self-discovery and self-perfection. Sri Chinmoy is a poet of this calibre. In him we encounter the unusual phenomenon of a man whose inner realisations have entirely permeated his outer activities, to the extent that his life as whole may be regarded as the unfoldment of an inner divinity. Sri Chinmoy explains this unity in the following terms:
“The Supreme Art is to know the Supreme Artist intimately, within and without. This knowledge, well-established, cannot but guide all our movements on artistic lines. And this knowledge will be the basis of a perfectly beautiful life within and without. Art in the most effective sense of the term is a sublime truth that draws our soul from within towards the Infinite Vast.”
For Sri Chinmoy this knowledge is instinct with the creative urge. New vistas of human endeavour have opened before him, leading him to create not merely individual works but entire worlds of poetry, music and painting. His is not the fugitive glimpse of the artist upon whom inspiration descends but fleetingly. His is the unfailing vision of the seer whose life is lived in the light of a vast and all-encompassing realisation.
Reading the poems, one gradually becomes aware that this realisation is far more than a philosophy of life. It is a total world view, so potent and comprehensive that it touches every aspect of human activity. No thought or feeling, however subtle its nuances, passes through the human consciousness but that it makes its appearance here. It is one of the outstanding characteristics of this work, as of Indian writing as a whole, that a knowledge of the soul or unseen Reality is the ground and essence of all existence, empirical and absolute. Further, that man may have a direct experience of the soul and through it enter into a state of oneness with the universal and ultimate Self, is regarded as the highest knowledge. “The Beautiful-Winged, though He is one, the wise poets shape with manifold songs,” says the Rig Vedic poet of ancient India and, emphasising this convergence of all things in God, Sri Chinmoy writes:
A MAN OF WISDOM-DELIGHT
If you are a man of knowledge-light,
You will know what the world has.
If you are a man of wisdom-delight,
You will know who God is
And where God is.