by Sharani Robins
East Providence, United States
I came to Sri Chinmoy's path at the age of 25 after taking a weekend session of meditation classes held at Harvard University in 1985. In some respects, no one was more surprised than I to embark on an inner journey as a disciple of Guru. During my youth and early adulthood, I had a secular approach to life – even considering myself an atheist for a brief period of time. I did seek a sense of greater meaning in life but looked mostly to politics to try to find fulfilment. I participated in numerous social change movements – everything from socialism to radical feminism to serving as a town meeting member in local town government. Social activism meant a lot to me and I played a leadership role with students and faculty during the nascent stages of women’s studies at the school where I began college.
Then I transferred to a school well-known for various progressive departments and majored in women’s studies, which was already well-established in the curriculum. However, the more causes I volunteered for, the more I found myself discouraged that the liberal groups working for change (including me personally) seemed to mirror in a microcosm the very problems in society that we wished to see transformed.
After college, I worked as a typesetter at a weekly newspaper and enjoyed the job until the paper went out of business. This led me to move to Boston. By the time I moved into an apartment with a friend I knew from college, I had switched my main focus to education and career as a possible alternative to find deeper meaning in life. I was attending graduate school part-time to get a master’s degree in library science and I was working full-time at a library at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I tried to play the part of the highpowered career woman and found my studies and job fairly challenging and interesting. Yet when I tuned in beneath the surface, I felt this ringing hollow inside as a raison d’être.
I was also at a watershed in my personal relationships and did not feel inclined to marry and have children with my now long-distance boyfriend, who had moved to Connecticut to take a job as a union organizer. It never occurred to me that there might be other places to look in my search for meaning. Spirituality had to land in my lap for me to consider it.
That friend from college whom I moved in with had first exposed me to Guru while we were in college. Whenever we travelled as a group of friends on some adventure to Cape Cod or environs, she always started her day by meditating on a photo of Sri Chinmoy. I found it odd at the time, but we never even discussed spirituality because I had no interest in it. Nevertheless, looking back on it now, this was when I first learned of Guru.
Then she began attending Boston Sri Chinmoy Centre meetings while we lived together and eventually she encouraged me to attend a free meditation weekend workshop being offered at Harvard on a Saturday and Sunday by a visiting lecturer who had come to town. I felt I had too much homework to do and did not plan on going. However, the night before the workshop I had a dream that I was meant to attend the workshop and that the person who was teaching it sat across from me and we had this long and meaningful telepathic conversation. We bonded without saying a word and I felt so appreciated, understood and supported by this person. Without words, we were discussing my background as an organist and how it felt to be a dedicated, accomplished musician. I was kind of fascinated by the dream when I awoke because I am not a musician and have never played the organ. This dream convinced me to attend at least part of the workshop.
To my astonishment, the person teaching the workshop was the exact same person who had appeared in my dream the night before. I often had premonitory dreams, so I took this as a sign that I was really meant to come to the weekend workshop. Despite this experience, I stayed for only a small portion of the day’s events. Then, when I went back on Sunday, I missed much of what happened on that day but arrived when the class was meditating on Sri Chinmoy's photograph. I felt something quite powerful inside during that meditation which made me feel I should keep exploring more about this meditation group.
I started attending meetings without yet sending in my photo and application to become a student of Sri Chinmoy. Through my roommate, I knew details about the lifestyle and felt uncertain about vegetarianism, the whole notion of being on a spiritual path and leading a pure life. I kept coming back to the dream and the way I felt something special while meditating on Sri Chinmoy's photograph for the first time, so I agreed to join my roommate and attend a public Peace Concert by Sri Chinmoy offered in New York City during April Celebrations. I often travelled to New York already, so it seemed simple enough to go there for the concert.
My first time seeing Guru continued this theme for me of accidental spirituality. I found the whole atmosphere of the audience and the concert to be too unfamiliar and unusual for my taste but even as I resisted the experience, I realised that there was a part of me that was actually meditating and that I also felt something special and powerful. I prided myself on trying to be open-minded, so I felt that it was important that I not ignore that underneath the turmoil I felt at the concert, something special had also touched me inside.
After returning to Boston, I kept attending Sri Chinmoy Centre meetings, since my roommate belonged, and I mostly just kept focusing my life on school and work. Then the Centre leader, Begabati, announced one evening that Sri Chinmoy requested seekers to formally apply to become students if they wished to attend Centre meetings. I went out for pizza afterwards with another girl who had kept coming since the Harvard meditation workshop in February. We discussed whether or not to apply to become Sri Chinmoy’s disciples, and her light-hearted comedian personality served as an antidote to my ultra-serious nature. With a smile, she said she felt uncertain about joining but that the food was good, so why not give it a try? Begabati had a health food store in Boston and she would often serve delicious vegetarian food at the classes and meetings. The lighthearted approach of this girl from the same workshop made me laugh and I thought to myself that it wasn’t so necessary to agonise about knowing if this was IT. Why not just try it out for six months and decide then how it felt to have a Guru?
Well, that six month-experiment turned into 24 years, and I remain profoundly grateful to Guru for showing me that spirituality existed as a source for life’s purpose and meaning instead of just politics, job or family. I finished graduate school while a disciple and slowly unfolded into a true appreciation and yearning for God, Truth, Beauty and Guru – all intermingled as one and the same in my journey as a disciple of Sri Chinmoy.