BY DR. VIDAGDHA MEREDITH BENNETT
On Sunday, July 3rd,1983, Sri Chinmoy completed the final poem-poem number 10,000 – of his monumental series entitled Ten Thousand Flower-Flames.
It is not often that we are given the opportunity to celebrate a poetic “event.” Both as readers and critics, we are seldom in touch with the immediacy of creation and though a poem should become immortal in after-ages, something of that original impact, akin to a new discovery, is lost with the lengthening passage of time.
But if a poet should pour forth his writings from our midst, then we may rise to greet him, wakened by a living impulse. The poet’s creation is imperative, it demands a response, and, rejoicing in the singular freedom of having hearts, minds and souls uncluttered by the accumulated critical views of many years, we may discover within ourselves an answering intensity of experience.
Such is the case with contemporary poet Sri Chinmoy. His poetic venture spanned the months from October 22nd, 1979 to July 3rd, 1983. As the bards of ancient times chaunted a living history, so Sri Chinmoy, assuming the office of the bard of the soul, records the episodes of man’s inner life. The colour and richness of battles, defeats and victories tinge this world too. Here there are journeys and sacred goals, mysteries and revelations, yet all these are projected from the poet’s inner vision. For it is the interior life, the life of the soul, that these poems announce in such splendid tones and as they progress, we come to learn that we ourselves are their heroes and heroines. Indeed, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames is not only for us but of us, for therein is contained the full circuit of man’s soul – whence it has come and whither it is returning.
To sing this modern epic, two fundamental capacities are required of the poet: the power of continuous vision and the power of ample expression. With his overlordship or sovereign grasp of spiritual realms, Sri Chinmoy’s vision is utterly comprehensive. Here is to be found the measure of man’s subtle experiences in all their diversity and grandeur. Again, the epic of the soul cannot be contained in fragments but seeks out, of its own accord, a corresponding immensity of production. Indeed, the very abundance of Sri Chinmoy’s works confers on them a qualitative significance, for it is the outer sign of an inner profusion of the spirit.
I hold the emergence of Ten Thousand Flower-Flames to be without parallel in this century. No other work of such scope has dared to posit the soul’s journey as its theme and to suggest that it comprises the true modern epic. Nor, in this age of highly personalised utterance and opinion, is it fashionable to write public poetry of the kind that any man may read and comprehend with facility. Ten Thousand Flower-Flames represents the advent of a new and direct form of poetic address. It enkindles our souls and infuses us with longings for a higher perfection. At a time when poetic response has considerably atrophied, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames moves people. No other testimony could be as indicative of its worth.
Reading the steady stream of poems that appeared during the three and a half year period of composition, I have found myself challenged by Sri Chinmoy’s constant departures from the norms of poetic speech and theme. What kind of visionary insight can forge its own utterance and thus speak out to man with such transparent clarity? Why does this “beholding” not struggle against itself to establish its precise nature? I offer the following commentary with the hope that it may adequately serve not only as an introduction to Ten Thousand Flower-Flames but as an adumbration of its spiritual essence and an exploration of its language and design.