Sri Chinmoy's one-person play performance

In 1973 Sri Chinmoy gave a one-person performance of the first act of The Son, a play he had written about the life of the Saviour Christ. Janaka Alan Spence, a poet and novelist who later became Scottish Writer of the Year, was there in the audience that night. This is his experience.

I remember sitting many years ago in an auditorium in New York city. It was very late, on a hot summer night. I was very tired. Yet I found myself deeply moved by what was happening on stage, where Sri Chinmoy was performing, solo, the first act of his play "The Son", a dramatisation of the life of Christ. But to call what I was watching a 'performance' would be to limit it. Rather, what was unfolding on that stage was a sustained meditation, a revelation of the most profound spiritual truths.

That opening scene takes the form of a dialogue between God the Father and God the Son, in which the Son is being prepared for his mission on earth. By playing both parts, Sri Chinmoy gave at the same time a stunningly simple literal interpretation, and a poetic dramatisation, of Christ's statement "I and my Father are one."

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Sri Chinmoy meditates on the Christ-consciousness

(extracts from the play)

FATHER: My son, I have an excellent plan. I wish to share it with you. I want you to descend to earth and play the most significant role.

SON (Jesus Christ): Father, my Father, indeed that is a splendid idea.

FATHER: You know, to work for earth, to work for the transformation of the earth-consciousness, is an unimaginably difficult task.

SON: But Father, I do not want to miss this unique opportunity. Besides, I know pretty well that You, my Father, will inundate my earthly pilgrimage with capacity. Since I have no hesitation whatsoever, Father, I cannot brook any further procrastination.

FATHER (with a broad smile): Son, you will be on earth for thirty-three years!

SON: Only thirty-three years! How, then, am I going to fulfil my task?

FATHER: Son, you can and you shall. Son, on earth some people walk, while others march and still others run. In your case, you will not only run the fastest but also manifest the highest. Son, your body will remain on earth for thirty-three years. But your Consciousness shall guide the earth-consciousness forever and forever.

There are further surprises in the short scene, which packs a great deal into a few minutes of stage time, as Sri Chinmoy sheds new light on important areas of speculation. He brings his own spiritual insight to bear on the theme of predestination, the Father telling the Son to be a mere instrument. He addresses the doctrine of Incarnation, placing Christ alongside the other great 'Avatars', Rama, Krishna and Buddha. He suggests that during Christ's 'missing years' he was to spend time in India, receiving spiritual instruction.

And not least, he offers a radical reinterpretation of Christ's "I am the Way..." (This interpretation, if universally accepted, would contribute immeasurably to religious tolerance and understanding!)

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Sri Chinmoy performs the role of 'The Father'

FATHER: Son, you will tell the world that you are the way and you are the Goal.

SON: Father, you have just thrown me into a sea of confusion.

FATHER: Why, my son? How, my son?

SON: Krishna, Buddha and others have preceded me, Father. And I am sure, after my departure, there will be others to succeed me. Such being the case, how can I tell the world that I alone am the way and the Goal?

FATHER: My son, when I said you, what I actually meant was aspiration. When I said you, what I actually meant was salvation. You embody aspiration, the way. You embody salvation, the Goal. It is you the aspiration and you the salvation who will serve Me, manifest Me and fulfil Me on earth. Son, is My philosophy clear to you now?

I suppose none of this is surprising. Sri Chinmoy is one of the best known and best loved of contemporary spiritual teachers. It is on the strength of his own inner realisation that he can shed such light on the Christ story, developing the great themes of that first act through the play as a whole.

His comments on the Beatitudes for instance - again rendered as dialogue, the Father explaining the aphorisms to the Son - go straight to the heart of Christ's message. No mere gloss, these passages are poetry in their own right, enhancing our understanding of the originals. Something old, familiar and well loved is suddenly seen in a fresh light, from a different perspective.

FATHER: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

JESUS: Wonderful, Father.

FATHER: Son, it means that if a man has a tremendous sense of superiority, he will lord it over others, but if the same man feels that he is weak and helpless without Me, then he will develop a deep sense of humility. This humility will make him one with all human beings on earth. His universal oneness is the strength that will enable him to claim the earth divinely and supremely.

So too, in the rest of this beautiful play, we come to feel Christ's love and compassion, his forgiveness, and most of all, his surrender. "Be thou an instrument" is the central message of the play, finding its echo in Christ's "Thy will be done." And we glimpse through Christ's eyes, from the height of that awareness, the astonishing truth that all the characters - Judas no less than the others - are acting out their necessary roles in a great unfolding drama.

Read 'The son' at Sri Chinmoy Library

This review was originally published in a Sri Chinmoy Centre magazine, 1973.

Cross-posted from