by Shashanka Karlen
At the age of 18, I left college. I was very critical of the development of society, did not get any inspiration from school and was quite into drugs. I was wondering what life was all about but did not get any satisfactory answers from people I talked to.
I worked for some months at the central post office in Zurich and then went travelling for six months to India, Nepal, South East Asia and Australia. My travels showed me that there are very different lifestyles and attitudes towards life. I was not consciously looking for spirituality at that time. Certain drugs seemed to show me that there are other worlds of perception. Once in Western Nepal I rented a small boat with a friend. The sun was setting behind the mountains and there was a beautiful glow of light. I was quite captivated by it. Suddenly I felt a very strong inner voice calling, "This is where I have to go, this is where I have to go, this is where I have to go." I did not pay too much attention to the experience then and continued my travels.
After my return and several temporary activities (military service, English language course, work at the post office again, travel to the Philippines), I finally decided to live in a tent in the forest in order to be as far away as possible from the society that I did not really want to support.
This is when God said "Enough!". I went to a Madal Bal health food store in Zurich, run by Sri Chinmoy's students - I was looking for a book on macrobiotics for no particular reason. I remember telling Shikha, who was managing the store at that time (1981), "I am out of everything." We had quite a long conversation and I finally decided to read the meditation book by Sri Chinmoy. I quite liked it and everything somehow seemed to make sense. I found many answers to my questions. But I was quite critical because of some experiences I had had with disciples of another path who had wanted to sell me their books in an aggressive manner. So I said to myself that, before entering more closely into a group, I should read books by another Master.
I went back to the Madal Bal store and bought a book by Sri Aurobindo. I read only a short paragraph every day because it was difficult to understand, but I slowly realised for myself that there were two things I needed in life to become really happy: meditation and a spiritual Master. I then thought that I would have to go to India, as in my opinion all the Masters lived in India. I went to another bookstore and searched for a book about spiritual Masters in India. Interestingly enough, none of the descriptions really appealed to me.
I continued to go to the Madal Bal store about once every two weeks and one day Shikha said, "Why don’t you come to a public meditation in the Centre on Saturday?" I went, and the moment I stepped into the Centre I felt: "This is it." At the end of the evening I applied to become a disciple of Sri Chinmoy.
Some months later I had a very clear and deep dream which I felt was my initiation. Deep inside me a light started to glow and then started to grow in circles very rapidly until my whole being was only light, the most brilliant and almost blinding light.