Sri Chinmoy met with President Nelson Mandela on several occasions, and the two became good friends. Sri Chinmoy frequently offered his appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifice and commitment of Nelson Mandela to the cause of justice, peace and reconciliation. President Nelson Mandela also found time in his very busy schedule to offer Sri Chinmoy his own encouragement.
The first meeting between Nelson Mandela and Sri Chinmoy occurred at the United Nations in June 1990, soon after Mr. Mandela's release from prison. On this occasion, Sri Chinmoy presented Nelson Mandela with a song he had composed for him entitled “A Perfect Justice-Voice”. The words begin:
“Nelson Mandela, torture-sufferer supreme, High Heaven's Smile and earth's solace-dream.” [fn:1]
In December 1995, Sri Chinmoy made a pilgrimage to Robben Island, the place where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment.
From the very cell in which Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated, Sri Chinmoy offered this soulful prayer:
"Our beloved President Mandela, O Supreme Pilot of South Africa-Boat, it is here in this tinier than the tiniest room that you embodied your beloved country's streaming tears and bleeding heart. There was a time when this cave-room played the role of punishment. Now this room plays the role of humanity's sacred, illumining and fulfilling shrine.”
Colonel Elsa Jones, the Commander of Robben Island, who escorted Sri Chinmoy on his tour of the correctional facility, afterwards declared:
“I have been to the cell many, many times but this is the first time that I felt it was sacred — like Sri Chinmoy said, a holy shrine.”
On January 29th, 1996, Sri Chinmoy met President Nelson Mandela at the ANC Headquarters in Johannesburg. Sri Chinmoy was able to offer in person the U Thant Peace Award — a special award from 'Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditations at the United Nations'. Sri Chinmoy stated that the award was for Nelson Mandela's unique contribution in promoting forgiveness and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa.
At the end of the meeting President Mandela exclaimed:
“This encourages me in the difficult work that we are doing. You have given me a real shot in the arm! I cannot express in words my joy! What you are doing is in the interest of the entire humanity and the world.”
In September 1998, Sri Chinmoy met Mr Mandela and his wife Mrs. Graça Machel in New York. The three of them held aloft the Peace Torch from the worldwide Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run — a photo which has inspired countless young people to participate in the global relay run for peace.
Sri Chinmoy met President Mandela in Pretoria at the Presidential Residence on March 9th, 1999, when Sri Chinmoy lifted and honoured the President as part of his “Lifting Up the World With a Oneness-Heart” programme. This is an award which offers individuals recognition for their various contributions to the betterment of the world.
At that time, President Mandela exclaimed,
“I am happy this moment has come. Your powerful group carries an equally powerful message for the world.”
Sri Chinmoy wrote a book about Nelson Mandela entitled: Nelson Mandela: The Pinnacle-Pillar of Mother Earth (1998). The book includes poems, songs and touching anecdotes about the life and inspiration of Nelson Mandela. A small selection of poems includes:
"President Mandela's very name
Builds a hope-cathedral
In the heart of despair-flooded humanity."
"He is a magician supreme!
Our very long-standing bitterness
Into our abiding sweetness
In the twinkling of an eye."
"Whoever genuinely desires
To redress humanity's suffering
Feels behind him one hundred per cent
The living presence of Mandela's heart."
Sri Chinmoy regularly offered heartfelt appreciation to the President, as on Madiba's 78th birthday in 1996 when he wrote in a personal letter:
“You have conquered the whole world, even those who tortured you, by virtue of your heart's love, your soul's nobility and your life's forgiveness.”
A few weeks after being lifted by Sri Chinmoy in 1999, President Mandela wrote to Sri Chinmoy:
“The Peace Centres that you have established in various parts of the world are critical for the survival of humanity.”
Just after Sri Chinmoy's passing in October 2007, at a time when Mr. Mandela had already ceased sending public messages, he wrote a profoundly moving letter:
“It is with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of my dear friend, Sri Chinmoy...May his messages of love, peace and understanding continue to resound throughout the world for many years to come.”
Again, the following year, when an art exhibit of Sri Chinmoy's paintings was shown inside the United Nations, Nelson Mandela wrote a message which is as revealing of his own world-vision as it is of his appreciation for Sri Chinmoy:
“We are a single humanity. We must work together, united as one, to build a world of justice and harmony for all...This is the great cause of world peace to which my dear friend Sri Chinmoy devoted his life and to which his Paintings for World Harmony at the United Nations are dedicated.”
For many years, every June 18th on the President's birthday, members of Sri Chinmoy's humanitarian service project, The Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles, supplied thousands of blankets and toys for the South African children who came to celebrate at his Children's Foundation with their beloved leader.