A tribute by Congressman Gary Ackerman
On 13 October 2007, Congressman Gary Ackerman arrived to pay his respects to his dear friend Sri Chinmoy. Here is a transcript of the moving speech he gave.
Dear friend, give me the strength to put words to my thoughts.
There has been a death in the family. And my friend, my brother, has brought us all together yet again. There is pain in our hearts, there are tears in our eyes, there is confusion to our thoughts; and yet, there is a compelling compulsion for us to gather to be together. And I know, I really know, that there are so many throughout the world—thousands and thousands of people whose hearts, souls and lives have been touched by Guru—who wish to be here, and indeed have somehow learned to be here. Despite the fact that they are not physically here, they are here in spirit, they are here in thought, they are meditating with us now. Their souls are intertwined with ours and with Guru’s, as it was meant to be.
Death in itself is confusing. It is even more confusing when somebody who has exhibited such unbelievable dynamism, such strength, such humility, such power, if that word can be used, somehow seems—seems—gone from our lives.
But that is not the truth. It may be the reality, but it is not the truth. Because what is a visionary, but for his vision? The visionary may be gone, but the vision is here. If he did his job—and he did—the vision lives in each and every one of us, the pupils who have learned from the teacher: the teacher who has taught his lessons well and far, who has cast his net across many seas, who has reached into the minds and the hearts of so many people with a simple vision.
People die; thoughts do not. You cannot kill a thought. They do not come with expiration dates. They are eternal. And good lives on. If Guru was anything, he was good. If he reached anywhere and had any influence, it was into the better part of each and every human being whose life he touched. And they were many: the poor and the humble, people who dwelled in poverty, people who thought they dare not dream until they were inspired and had the spark within them ignited—no different than the rich, the mighty, the powerful, the law-makers, the war-makers, the trouble-makers and the dream-makers.
He was, in a way, very counter-cultural, maybe like the mighty salmon, swimming against the tide, moving upstream, leaving a message, leaving a generation, inspiring the multitudes, and then moving on.
You cannot kill an idea.
He was a personal inspiration to me. It was right here in this wonderful place that he did not lift me up, but he uplifted me (and there is indeed a difference). When he came to Washington, he did that as well. He did that around the world. Some people thought it was hokey; some people thought it might be cute. All who experienced it found it inspirational to be lifted and uplifted by one of the most spiritually uplifting people who have ever been. How cool is that!
And when you think about it, what makes that quiet man—that soft-spoken man whom people leaned towards to hear his whispered words that were so clear, so audible, so quiet—so strong? They were words of peace; they were words of harmony; they were the message that the good, inner part of each and every human being has. For that is the real strength of people; that is the real strength of human beings; that is the real strength of the weak, and the weakness of the powerful.
He was indeed, as I said, counter-cultural. As so many marched to war, he ran towards peace. He gave us that message. And at a time in the world where we look around and say, “This world is going in the wrong direction. There are more troubles, there are more problems, there are more insurmountable things that we conceive than ever before,” how does he leave us at this time?
Well, that is really the message. The message is, when it looks like it’s more and more impossible, that’s when you start to do it. When it looks like the body does not have the capacity to do certain things, this man small of size but great of stature showed that the mind and the soul are capable of overcoming those things that you think you might be incapable of doing; that a single person can make that difference; that you can overcome the impossible, the things that you think are inadequate about you. And when we look around the world and multiply our inner self by 6 billion other human beings, if we multiply that force that is within us, to do the good that he taught us to do: to think the thoughts, to allow the chemistry of our brain and body to overcome what the scientists do not yet understand—it is then, it is then, that the world will achieve peace; that each and every one of us that he has inspired, whose heart he still reaches into, whose soul he still grips, can go on like those spawned by the salmon who swam upstream, and spread that message to inspire in others what he inspired in us.
The teacher is not gone, as long as that which he taught has been learned. And it is we, each and every one of us, as insignificant as we may appear on the greater stage, who have been taught to do it: to reach beyond ourselves, to find something significant in each other, to help to bring that out, so that the world can truly understand how magnificent a place this is.
Each and every one of us has been privileged, because we have been touched by a great master-teacher, a great inspirer, who has given us a message, a message to live by. And if we live that message, we will be the teacher.
Think not that you cannot be great, because you are. Think not that you cannot make a difference, because you will. Think every day, no matter where you are, of this time and this place. Think about the person who inspired us, who lived a life of quiet, peaceful, serene passion, of deep feelings for our fellow beings—two-legged and four-legged; who inspired our great love for each other. The weak die, the mighty die; the poor die, the wealthy die. But the true riches and the real power, which is the glory inside each and every one of us, survives. The messenger may be gone, but what is the messenger, if not his message? The message lives; the spirit lives.
Let us dedicate ourselves to the principles that we have learned, and let us do the impossible. Let us touch as many lives and as many souls and as many hearts as Guru has touched.
Thank you for allowing me to share this moment with you.
Video Tribute by Gary Ackerman