On 29 January 1996, President Nelson Mandela received Sri Chinmoy in Johannesburg at the headquarters of the African National Congress.
The two had met previously, on 22 June 1990, immediately prior to Mr. Mandela’s address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
This time, the President came to join Sri Chinmoy and sixteen of his students in the Conference Room at ANC Headquarters.
President Mandela (greeting Sri Chinmoy): My dear friend, how are you?
Sri Chinmoy: Beloved President, I am so grateful to you for so kindly allowing me to be in your blessingful presence.
President Mandela entered the conference room, where he was greeted by applause and shook each person’s hand with great kindness. President Mandela (greeting the singers): It is a real pleasure to see all of you. You all look very impressive. I am so happy to see you.
Sri Chinmoy (asking the President to sit down): As your time is very limited, we would like to sing some songs which I have composed in your honour, and then I would like to offer you our U Thant Peace Award.
President Mandela: It is so difficult to sit down when you are all standing!
Sri Chinmoy (showing the President the sheets of music): These are the two songs that they are going to sing right now. The choir performed “A Perfect Justice-Voice” and “Long Walk to Freedom. ”
A Perfect Justice-Voice
Nelson Mandela, torture-sufferer supreme,
High Heaven’s Smile and earth’s solace-dream.
Your heart has won the world’s admiration-choice.
Within, without, a perfect justice-voice.
Long Walk to Freedom
Long walk to freedom, long walk to freedom
To be a child of oneness-kingdom.
Long walk to freedom, long, long, long:
Our proudest victory’s sweetest song.
President Mandela (applauding): Well! Thank you very much! This is a great honour.
Sri Chinmoy: Now the singers will sing four of your momentous utterances that I have set to music. (Showing the President the words and music of the four songs) They will be singing these, and then we shall offer you our U Thant Peace Award.
President Mandela: This is absolutely wonderful!
The choir performed the four songs.
Sri Chinmoy introduced the U Thant Peace Award presentation with the following words:
Highly esteemed and beloved President Mandela, it is the greatest honour for me and my students to offer you our most profound and soulful appreciation in the form of our U Thant Peace Award.
Dear President, yours is the life of a supremely chosen instrument, embodying both the excruciating bondage-pangs and the soaring freedom-dreams of your nation. The sweet hopes of your innocent childhood you unhesitatingly surrendered to Destiny’s challenging call. The loftiest goal of universal liberation you wholeheartedly embraced. Impossibility, defeat and bitterness are words never to be found in your oneness-heart-dictionary; unfathomable courage, unparalleled determination and indomitable strength radiate on every page.
Dear President Mandela, your life of unconditional sacrifice and your beloved country’s miracle-transformation are inseparable. Sleeplessly your lifeboat is plying between Africa’s bleeding heart-shore and Africa’s smiling soul-shore. Your triumphant peace-loving and oneness-building spirit the entire aspiring world shall forever love, cherish and adore.
Sri Chinmoy then read the inscription on the award .
The U Thant Peace Award is presented to President Nelson Mandela:
* South Africa’s visionary oneness-leader;
* epitome of humanity’s nobility-aspiration-height;
* heroic justice-champion;
* radiant patience-embodiment;
* illumining forgiveness-ocean;
* glowing humility-servant of your suffering and striving people;
* towering majesty-king of their blossoming unity-victory-destiny.
President Mandela: This is a wonderful honour. I do not have the words to express it. It is such a pity that I am seeing you at the last moment because I must proceed to Pretoria and fly to Cape Town today. But when my Comrade Zuma phoned me and told me about you, I said I would be honoured to meet you, and I hope you will not mind the fact that I can only spare just a few minutes because of the tight programme which I have.
This gift, this award from you is one that I am going to respect a great deal, and which encourages me in the difficult work that we are doing. It is not easy to preach the message of peace and reconciliation in a country which for more than three centuries has been divided by racial conflict and tensions, and where many people have lost their lives because of torture and persecution. It is not very easy, but we are trying.
This gesture makes it possible for us to be able to do this work. To be appreciated by an organisation like yours is a real shot in the arm, and I am very grateful to you.
Sri Chinmoy: Thank you. (Showing a newspaper article about his visit to the President’s cell on Robben Island) This is about my prayerful visit to Robben Island. In the cell I was praying, and this is the message that I offered there: “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.”
President Mandela (reading the message): That is very good! I am really honoured.
Sri Chinmoy (presenting his book The Garland of Nation-Souls): These are the talks that I have given at the United Nations over the years.
Sri Chinmoy points to the caption under the picture of his meeting with the President at the United Nations in 1990: This is the message I gave you at that time: “South Africa sleeplessly needs the fragrance of your heart for its liberation and peace, and the whole world soulfully needs the garden of your life for its inspiration and bliss.”
President Mandela: I will read this with great interest.
<i>Sri Chinmoy: Now we will end with a short song I have composed in honour of Africa.
The choir performed “Africa. ”
President Mandela: Thank you very much. Thank you. I cannot express in words my joy, but I wish you good luck and success in what you are doing. It is in the interest of the entire humanity and the world. I am really honoured. Thank you.
Sri Chinmoy: We are so grateful to you.
The President again shook hands with everyone present, thanking them as he left.