My father died 2 years ago, at the age of 76, after 10 years of increasing ill health due to Parkinson's disease and a leukaemia-type blood disorder. He worked as a scientist for all of his adult life, at one of the main universities in Melbourne, where I grew up. One of my earliest memories is of visiting him at work and exploring the cyclotron (an atom splitting device) which he had designed for his doctoral thesis. It had a HUGE magnet about 3 times my size and a room full of wires and dials and things made of metal. A completely foreign world to the one I knew, which was at that time filled with soft toys.
Whilst Dad was, like most scientists, very focused on working out how the material world worked, he had a very philosphical bent of mind, and loved to ponder the 'big' issues of life. He could debate about the existence of God until the cows came home! He was a very refined man, with a love of classical music, very introverted by nature and rather self contained. He loved exploring new fields of knowledge, and adored beauty. Mid career he transfered much of his research energy into botany and the mathematics of plants, mostly because of his love of rhododendrons.
I became a student of Sri Chinmoy about 11 years before Dad left the body. On seeing me enamoured of sitting still for long periods appearing to do nothing, and noticing (for once!) that I seemed at times to be wearing an unusual garment (i.e. a sari), Dad enquired what it was I was doing. I attempted to explain, but was left with the feeling that he did not quite grasp what it was all about. "But I like my mind!" he said to me. He couldn't see any advantage whatsoever in taking a break from mental work!
A little while later though, he said to me "I don't really know what this meditation is all about, but I just want you to know I am really proud of you for what you are doing." His pride stemmed I think, partly from the realisation that I was deeply exploring a territory so unknown to him, and also from the knowledge that I was to a certain extent going out on a limb as far as mainstream Australian culture went.
At around this time, my mother went to a work function with Dad and overheard a colleague ask him what I was doing with my life. Mentioning nothing about my professional life, Dad apparently said proudly, "Oh she's a disciple of Sri Chinmoy!"
Although outwardly it seemed that Dad didn't 'get it' as it were, inwardly, he was clearly responding to Guru more and more. A time came when he and Mum had to go into hospital for operations one after the other. At the time I offered to lend them about 5 of my favourite photos of Guru - a couple of them rather large. I explained that having photos of a spiritual master would assist in healing and provide protection against any negative influences in the hospital. They both duly put the photos up and seemed to enjoy having them there. A month or so later I went to visit my parents and decided to retrieve the photos, which by that time had been placed strategically all around the house. I will never forget my father's face when he saw the collection of photos ready to return home with me. Usually not one to display emotion outwardly, he suddenly looked completely creastfallen, like a little boy who had lost his most beloved toy. I decided at that moment that I would be unable to take the photos and must give them to him. Before I could open my mouth, my mother came into the room, and on seeing the photos, said "You can't take them back, we talk to him!" So that was that!
Of the hundreds of ways in which Sri Chinmoy has helped me and my whole family, one particular series of events is the most striking.
During the busy preparations for Sri Chinmoy's 1993 Chicago Peace Concert and the Parliament of World Religions, one night I found a message from Italy on my answering machine: my father had been hospitalised. As other disciples suggested, I asked Guru whether I should go. The answer came very shortly: "If you are close to your father, you should go." If I had any hope for my father, this answer made it very clear that the case was serious.
It was a very difficult time from all points of view. Besides my responsibilities, I had just been approved for permanent residence in the United States and was not allowed to leave the country for a certain period of time. After an entire morning spent at the Immigration Office to get permission to leave the U.S., I stopped briefly by the Centre to get a ride to the airport. At that very moment Guru called. The timing was unbelievable!
After Guru talked to a few others, my turn came. I will never forget his words: "So, you are crying. You do not believe in my philosophy…" and a lecture on death and reincarnation followed. He concluded: "Remember, if anything happens to your father, I will take care of his soul." With a heavy heart I left. Guru's words hadn't left much hope in me.
Although the surgery went well, after a couple of days my father began to feel worse. He had problems breathing. In the afternoon things became so bad that the doctors gave him morphine. When my sister Anna went to call my other sister, I was left alone in the room with my father. I did not know what to do. Clearly this was it. I pulled out my little wallet-size photo of Guru and started invoking Guru. At the same time I was talking to my father's soul, since he could not hear me. I tried to explain how this was not the end. Suddenly, a beautiful white light came out of the photo. It felt good.
When my sister came back, I put away Guru's picture. My nephew, who is a nurse, came to spend the night at the hospital. We instructed him to call us at any time if anything happened and went home sure that we would not see my father alive again. The next morning at 7 a.m. my nephew called: "You wouldn't believe it. He is getting better!" The doctors couldn't understand, but my father recovered and lived one more year, during which he reconciled himself to death.
But the story is not over. A year later my father died. When I went to Italy for the funeral, his home felt incredibly peaceful. I felt reassured that my father had died peacefully. So, I thought, Guru had indeed kept his promise.
The surprise came a few days later when I was back in the U.S. One morning during my meditation, I had a most beautiful experience. I saw a circle. Within it was my father: alive, younger. He was wearing a jacket of light blue sequins and the blue sky was behind him. He was smiling and reassured me that he was well. As promised, Guru had indeed taken care of his soul!
Kapila (Ann Arbor)