Notes From A Diary – April 2004
Experiences and impressions while visiting Sri Chinmoy in New York.
The first alarm clock goes off in the darkness and people begin to stir. There are 13 of us staying in this small New York house in Jamaica, Queens and space is at a premium. So is the hot water – enough for only ten showers – and outside it's been snowing. The prospect of a cold shower inspires much good-natured rivalry and beds are quickly emptied – then the stillness of the 6am meditation descends upon the house. Now candles one by one are lighting the darkness and the fragrance of incense fills the air – in their individual circles of light the disciples begin the morning meditation, indistinguishable black silhouettes illumined against the candle flames. In a two-mile radius of this New York street some 800 visiting disciples of Sri Chinmoy are also beginning their day, drawn from over fifty countries to the wintering streets of this often daunting city to benefit from the presence of this great living Master. 'A moment with the Beloved,' goes the saying, 'and the river changes it's course.'
Sri Chinmoy will also be meditating and probably has been most of the night – the thought is comforting, as of some infinitely loving being watching over his children and extending to the whole of humanity an unfathomable and divine concern.
After meditation I run 3 miles with two Australian friends, navigating the icy, sleeping suburbs and a gauntlet of snowballs from other disciples. The outer running cultivates dynamism, well-being and clarity of mind. It expedites the inner running, the urge towards progress and a final promising liberation or enlightenment. There is an exhilarating sprint finish, more snowballs and playfulness – some New Zealanders from our Auckland Centre have found their way onto an overhead balcony and in concealment launch a fusillade of snowballs, scoring some direct hits. We are forced to retreat into our local diner, The Smile of The Beyond, already jammed with disciples and steamy with warmth and food smells.
Overhead on the wall some lines from one of Sri Chinmoy's poems which inspired the name of this restaurant catch my eye: 'His smile is the fragrance of the Soul. His smile is the Smile of the Beyond.' Already it feels good to be here, a sense of coming home.
The sun is out, bright and cold, and the streets are turning to slush. Anticipating spring, squirrels are materialising everywhere in the high overhead boughs, scampering and leaping across impossible spaces in games of aerial pursuit. Down below on the Aspiration Ground – once an outdoor tennis court but now a place devoted solely to spiritual practicessuch as singing and meditation – Sri Chinmoy has taken a seat inside a small motorised cart framed in the shape of a Golden Boat. Built by his New Zealand students and transported piece by piece to New York, the charming miniaturised replica boat is a gift honouring Sri Chinmoy's 40 years of service to mankind. The boat is an apt metaphor of the inner, spiritual boat (the Path), of the Boatman (the Guru), and of the journey across life's ocean to the shores of God-realisation.
Eyes half closed in a meditative trance, the Boatman steers his Golden Boat in calm, slow sweeps, circling the court and summoning a profound stillness. Eight hundred people silently observe and meditate. Such moments when the seeker's aspiration and the Master's inner guidance intersect offer rare opportunities for breakthrough meditation experiences – the Aspiration Ground is almost breathless in a silent intensity of purpose.
In this early afternoon Sri Chinmoy calls us down from our seats to form three long lines in front of him – this is a walking meditation, always a high-point in our visits to New York. Each column of disciples is to choose one song and to sing this aloud as we slowly file past the seated master. The mantric song-chants and the slow meditative pace of the walking generate a sense of sacred ritual – and the Master's searching, momentary concentration on each of his disciples as they slowly file by inspires in each an intense, mounting aspiration. Here the timeless and hallowed Guru-disciple relationship reaches its penultimate expression – for these moments where Sri Chinmoy meditates on the soul of each disciple expedite our development and progress to an unimaginable degree.
The hot afternoon sun and the shuffling procession of feet are now stirring up a thin, grey dust – looking down at my brown feet in their tattered sandals, I am reminded suddenly of the dust and heat of some other place and time, the image floating up and tugging at the edges of memory, an ever so faint echo from some irretrievable past. We were seekers from some timeless inner landscape and I could feel my soul's memory of the long centuries spent in the search for enlightenment and the quest for God. Captivated by this feeling I was stumbling in the wake of the singers, body barely upright, intoning the mantric cadences of song and the words of the immortal melody 'Dak eseche, dak eseche – call has come, call has come, Lord Supreme's call.'
Some were singing with great power, the song a war-cry, others were whispering, as though barely able to speak. We were embodiments of the eternal seeker, the quest for God which lies at the heart of all human experience – and the moment evoked the timeless quest for self-knowledge, enacted in a thousand dusty ashrams, temples, places of pilgrimage everywhere where the spirit of man is awakening.
Then a long AUM sounded from Sri Chinmoy and our voices, one by one, fell silent. Reluctant to forsake my meditative tranquility and utter detachment from body and mind I sat on a nearby bench, eyes closed. It had been a lovely finish to my week with my teacher.
Later, prior to my departure for the airport, Sri Chinmoy invites those who are leaving today to file by, and we walk past the smiling, reclining figure for a last valedictory blessing. I like this wordless and unsentimental farewell, reminding us that for a God-realised Master there is no separation. "In true oneness," Sri Chinmoy once said, "there is no coming or going, no giving or receiving." Armed with the knowledge and feeling that the Guru and disciple are always together and one, I leave for the airport. My new journey will outwardly take me to the farthest end of the world but inwardly is simply another step in the fulfilment of the soul's promise to serve God.
35,000 feet above the snow drenched mountains of Colorado. I jot down the opening lines of a poem I might someday write, but doze before much comes out. The words sprawl lazily across my notebook, then trail off the page as sleep comes...
Sometimes I feel like a slingshot, hurled,
Flung far into the void.
At last come to rest on some distant shore.
Sometimes I feel like a banner unfurled,
Hoisted aloft, heraldic,
Your victory to proclaim in some distant war.
Sometimes I feel like a child, curled,
Asleep in your arms, Beloved
Dreaming of promises made I can't ignore
Hearing You say "Awake! You must do more!"
Dreaming of promises made in lives before...