Friday, June 01, 2007

An Anonymous Email Message and My Response

Hello Mr. Neuhalfen,

I've read your post about Sri Chinmoy visit in Mongolia. First of all I apologize for my poor English and I hope you'll forgive me for that. I hope as proof of freedom of speech include this post in your blog.

I'm a fan of Sri Chinmoy so I'm not really legitimate to reply to your post. So don't trust me completely.

Although I would like to suggest you that when we are speaking about renowned people it's easy to find different opinions. Especially for people that are in the spiritual field. Christians should remember the beginning of their religion after all. Even San Francesco was criticized inside the church and he went in front of the Pope to prove he was not guilty.

If you could use Google at the time of Gandhi, you could find bad reviews from British but also from Hindu extremists. Same probably for Rev. Martin Luther King, bad review from KKK and also from who like Black Panther and other group thought that his non-violence approach was bad. On Mother Teresa there hundreds of negative websites.

I mention these three names on purpose. I've seen Sri Chinmoy be awarded by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the most renowned and internationally respected Indian cultural institution, with the Ghandi Peace Award. He received the award together with Coretta Scott King, the widow of Rev. Martin Luther King. I spoke also about Mother Teresa also because I was there when Sri Chinmoy and Mother Teresa met first time so I've seen how she appreciated the poems and the songs he wrote for her.

Are the words of Rick Ross who also have a very uncertain reputation if we enquire on Google
more trustable of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan or Mother Teresa?

About the fact that United Nations asked to Sri Chinmoy to change name, I think is interesting that they did not ask to interrupt the meditations, but to change name of the program. If they would be against the project they would stop it. So I see the permission to keep "The Sri Chinmoy Meditation at United Nation" as a real honour. Of course Sri Chinmoy has no statement in UN, is not employed nor any task is assigned officially to him. Please see the interesting story wrote about Sri Chinmoy and UN from Secretary General U Thant speech writer

About your feeling with the music needless to say Sri Chinmoy is not a musician, but his improvisations on keyboards as any form of art cannot be judged by how complex they are. It's true that also a child can paint like Chagall, or Klee or Pollock. Even the famous speech of lotus of Lord Budda could be done by everyone. When he was asked to explain his teaching, instead of speaking he showed a flower in his hand, remaining silent. Also we could do the same. But probably the audience could not get the same reward.

Back to the music a great admirer of Sri Chinmoy's compositions is one that you mentioned in your post: Ravi Shankar. Is pretty common in art, some likes some not. Many times I've heard people that Pollock paintings are horrible or even scams....

Thanks and good luck for your writer activity



On the contrary, your English is fine, far better than my Italian: thank you for learning my native language. Even if your English were less than fine, no apologies nor forgiveness would be necessary.

In the very recent noise over “freedom of speech” in comment forums, I think this consensus is clear: you are not obligated to allow anyone to post anything to a website that you maintain. “Freedom of speech,” as articulated by the framers of the United States Bill of Rights, proclaims that the right to say whatever you wish shall not be infringed upon. “Freedom of speech” addresses spoken words, whereas “freedom of the press” addresses printed words, so perhaps “freedom of the press” is more appropriate here. Though they have since been inscribed in many nations’ founding charters to be emulated by many societies (Mongolia’s constitution proclaims the protection of these same “freedoms,” as I presume Italy’s does as well), how and with what authority these old American notions of “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press” shall or should be applied to the World Wide Web is yet unsettled. “Freedom of the press” is not intended to mean that a person who operates a printing press is obligated to print whatever you wish, but it should mean that you may operate your own printing press and print whatever you wish. An appropriate analogy may be: if you wish to post your words to the Internet, you are free to maintain your own website.

Blogger, the entity that provides the resources that allow for me to maintain this website, is owned by Google Inc., a legal entity that is headquartered in California with offices in many countries. How is this relationship to be understood or moderated: an Italian citizen (I presume from your email address) in Italy (I presume again) interacting with an American citizen in Mongolia who maintains a website through a corporation that transcends physical boundaries? “Freedom of speech”? What entity has the authority to proclaim it and, importantly, to enforce it?

There is no such thing as a universal “freedom of speech” because there is no universal governing body with the authority to proclaim nor protect such a “freedom.”

It is perfectly legitimate for you to reply, and I can only express appreciation for your polite and considered words.

Yes, prominent figures always have both supporters and detractors.

Appeals to Christian faith—indeed, to any sort of faith whatsoever—carry little weight with me.

Gandhi and King and other political leaders—no matter how spiritually focused they may have been, nor how great their accomplishments may have been—were humans and therefore subject to human failings. Such failings, though they may be legitimately criticized, do not diminish their political feats.

Unlike Chinmoy, neither Gandhi nor King declared that they were capable of superhuman feats, such as lifting thousands of pounds with one arm.

Regarding Mother Theresa, I find the arguments of Christopher Hitchens to be rather persuasive.

Your assertion that Rick Ross’ statements might be questionable because his “reputation” might be questionable can be dismissed forthright as irrelevant: it is an example of argumentum ad hominem, one of the most commonly invoked of the formal logical fallacies. To expressly dismiss your assertion: a person with a criminal record is not incapable of identifying and speaking truth.

I specify “identifying truth” because much of the content on Ross’ site was not written by Ross himself, but by journalists for various periodicals, which Ross himself only reprinted, including Andrea Kannapell of the New York Times, Patricia Andrews of the Miami Herald, Alex Ginsberg of the New York Post, and Brian Howard of

In my post, the first quotation that I listed from Ross’ website is attributed by Ross to Mike Ervin of the Chicago Tribune.

I read through the speech, which apparently was never delivered; it is not even stated for whom the speech was written. After Weymen Huckabee’s references to a “God” and the will of this “God” and random stories purporting supernatural attributes of the U.N. Meditation Room (dynamite fuses go out all the time: is each place in which a dynamite fuse has gone out a special place?), the speechwriter, Donald Keys, reveals that Chinmoy was “asked from within” to associate himself with the U.N. Keys then claims that “Sri Chinmoy had a particularly poignant and deep relationship with U Thant,” but rather than support this claim with a statement by Secretary-General Thant, which would have been substantial, he presents a statement by Chinmoy, which is not substantial. I could say that I had a deep relationship with Thant, and you could quote me, but that is not as convincing as Thant saying that I had a deep relationship with him.

My opinion: it was an uninspiring concert.

The mythical, anecdotal Buddha is a cool character. I disagree with your assertion that his speech could have been made by anyone: I do not think that an ordinary teacher, when asked to explain her teachings, would have enough imagination, confidence, and self-restraint to be capable of simply displaying a lotus.

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