New York, United States
Considering that I entered this world as a fourth generation atheist, who would have predicted a future in the spiritual life for me? I certainly wasn’t given any training in spirituality as a child. But the concept of infinity always fascinated me as it eluded me. I spent summers at my grandmother’s house in the New Jersey countryside, where I slept on a porch that was all windows on three sides. I would lie there looking up at the night sky, where the Milky Way and millions of stars were visible (you could see all of that clearly when I was a kid!), and I would imagine more space behind the stars and the Milky Way, and more space behind that space, and more space behind that space, and more space – and more space – until, my head spinning, I fell asleep.
As a young adult, I came across the writings of Edgar Casey, Yogi Ramacharaka, and that wonderful classic, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. My fascination with yoga, vegetarianism and spirituality was growing. After a two-week vacation at a yoga camp, my fate was sealed. On my return home, Yoga of Westchester, my yoga studio, was born.
One day during the following summer, I had a visit from an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in a number of years: a violinist named Sol Montlack. We were having a chat when I recalled that he had been with a spiritual group. Nearly a year of involvement with yoga had intensified my new interest in spirituality. I asked him about the group, and his answer was that he was no longer with that group or any of the many others he had tried.
He said, "I have found a Guru who is everything I have been looking for." I asked the Guru’s name, and Sol said, "Chinmoy." For clarity, he pronounced it as if it were two words. "Chin Moy?" I said. "That sounds Chinese," while the thought ran through my mind quickly that I would meet his Guru and that he would be my Guru as well.
I soon learned that my old friend Sol had been given the spiritual name "Dulal" by his Guru, and was now president of the Aum Centre, as the Sri Chinmoy Centre was known in the early days. A few weeks later, at the end of the summer, my con-versation with Dulal flashed through my mind and I decided to phone him. "I would like to meet your Guru," I said.
"He holds meditations every Thursday evening at eight o’clock, and you are most welcome," he answered.
The next Thursday I climbed four flights of stairs in an old brownstone on East 64th Street to a small railroad flat, which was the home of the Aum Centre and its young Guru. Everyone sat in the living room, most of us on chairs, and a few on a sofa against the side wall. The room was filled with the delicious aroma of incense. A small shelf in the corner held a flickering electric candle, and Guru stood at the front of the room with folded hands. The silence was very deep.
I had already been meditating for a year on my own, so I closed my eyes and turned inward to enjoy the peace that I felt in this room. After a few minutes, my eyes flew open and I found Sri Chinmoy standing right in front of me with a small flower in his folded hands.
He was looking at me with an otherworldly smile on his face. When he put the flower into my hands and placed his hands over mine, I felt a thrill flow through my whole being. As he moved about the room giving each person a flower, I had no idea that this would turn out to be, for me at least, the beginning of a 40-year blessing!