Sipra's stories

sipra.jpgI joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre 30 years ago when I was 31. I came to the spiritual life after having many life experiences. Although opportunities had been placed before me to marry and have a family – always I found myself avoiding this step in life. When I joined Sri Chinmoy's path, he told me it was not necessary for me to marry. When I heard this, I experienced a tremendous sense of relief and felt liberated from the social pressures that are put upon women to have a partner and children.

However, although I believed I had 'done it all' when I joined Sri Chinmoy, he was able to show me that I had not even scratched the surface of my potential. Through his gentle encouragement and invitation to transcend our previous achievements, I was able to experience so many things by bringing forward my inner spiritual strength.

A few years after I joined the spiritual life, Sri Chinmoy announced that he would like 100 of his students to run the New York City Marathon. I was in Australia when I heard this, and immediately an inner thrill let me know I had to be one of these Sri Chinmoy participants. That year, which I believe was 1978, only 10% of the entrants in the marathon were women. However, the Sri Chinmoy contingent was composed of 50% women. This gave me a tremendous feeling of pride that I belonged to an organization which encouraged women in this way.

I noticed also that Sri Chinmoy encouraged his female students to attempt inspiring activities that normally they would not do if they had not joined the spiritual life. Often, women in the outer world become so involved with family, children or career. They use this as an excuse not to develop their own spiritual potential. I believe the spiritual life can protect you from the illusion that you do not have the capacity to achieve your own destiny both inwardly and outwardly.

I work in the outer world, and come into contact with many women who do not live fulfilled lives. They so often are on a roller-coaster of emotional turmoil and insecurity. I am so grateful to have found Sri Chinmoy half of my lifetime ago. He has allowed me to continue to develop both my inner and outer life. Even when I make countless mistakes and seriously neglect certain aspects of my life, he remains patient and encouraging, never giving up on me, or for that matter, on any of his students.

Sri Chinmoy manifests his spirituality and divinity in many ways – through his music, art, poetry, prose, meditation, athletics and weightlifting.  He encourages his students to live in the world and serve our fellow human beings in whatever profession, creative endeavour or work that we take on.

In order to provide a happy work environment and a spiritual haven for the public, he asked some of his students to open small businesses.  In the area of Queens where Sri Chinmoy lived  there are restaurants, cafes, clothing stores, flower shops as well as laundries and barber shops managed and owned by his students.  He called these small businesses ‘Divine Enterprises’.    

I first became familiar with a divine enterprise in Perth, Australia in 1974. This was the year I became Sri Chinmoy’s disciple. A young couple purchased a small coffee lounge and  transformed the untidy space into a sparkling vegetarian  restaurant which they named ‘Flame-Waves’ in honour of a collection of poems and aphorisms that Sri Chinmoy had recently published.  A meditation room was available behind the kitchen and the owners lived in rooms behind that

When Sri Chinmoy visited Perth in 1976 he requested the meditation centre be in another location separate from the restaurant.  This left several rooms in the building vacant which another member of the group decided to make into a bakery.  This he called the ‘Inner Smile Bakery’.  I do not recollect ever tasting any of the bread or other goodies which were produced in this bakery and after a very short time the bakery was no more.   The owners of ‘Flame-Waves’ decided to use the space as extra seating for their patrons.  So from a small operation of 20 seats in the front room, extra seating including a little fountain garden at the rear had the restaurant catering for 50+ people.  On Friday nights customers lined up outside to get a seat.

When I visited New York in the1970’s I would often help out in the Divine Enterprises in the Queens area.  Sri Chinmoy calls this selfless service - a very important component for any karma yogi.  I served at Guru Health Foods as well as Divine Robe Supreme and during a six month stay in New York Sri Chinmoy had me attached to Annam Brahma Restaurant.  The owners of this restaurant were given the task of providing meals for Sri Chinmoy so I was very happy working in such a spiritually charged atmosphere. It was always such a difficult adjustment to make when I left New York and came back to Australia and had to take up a position once more  in a state college.

When Sri Chinmoy came to Melbourne to give his first Peace Concert in Australia all his Australian students gathered there to receive our Guru’s Blessings. At that time Animesh, the leader of the Brisbane Sri Chinmoy Centre was publishing a running magazine which was named: ‘Runners: Oneness-World Harbingers’. Kishore, leader of the Melbourne Sri Chinmoy Centre, was working with the publisher of the country’s premier running magazine –‘Australian Runner’. This was the height of the running boom and Guru was very pleased with these two.

One morning I was standing in the lobby of the hotel where Sri Chinmoy was staying.  As he passed through he glanced over to me and said, “Why don’t you publish a running magazine? “  I responded that I did not want to compete with the other two boys.  He then stated quite strongly, “Don’t compete with them, compete with yourself!”  I realized that Guru never says anything lightly and he was giving me the capacity to do the necessary.

The next day at breakfast in the hotel Sri Chinmoy gave me specific guidelines regarding the number of pages, how often it should be published and how to get articles from disciples around the world. That day we flew out of Melbourne to visit Canberra.  On the flight I was inspired with the cover of the inflight magazine which was covered with blue sky and fluffy white clouds.  I placed a picture of Guru running on the front of the magazine and presented it to Guru for his approval for the first cover.  Guru liked the idea and wrote in his own handwriting the title for the magazine: Runners: Joy-Discoverers of the Beyond.

The first edition of Runners: Joy-Discoverers of the Beyond came out later in 1984.  The first cover did feature Guru running through the clouds.  The second edition displayed Guru with Olympian Carl Lewis. Soon after the magazine reached the stores I received a message from Guru that it was not necessary to have his picture on every edition.  However, I could let him know what would appear on the cover of each edition.  When the first edition appeared in newsagents I understood the spiritual concept of ‘we are not the doers’.  It was difficult to believe that I had in any way put this beautiful magazine together at all!

This was a period of very deep happiness and joy manifesting in this way.  There were some issues with obtaining enough advertisements to pay for the printing and receiving enough articles.  I sought stories on running injuries and their treatment from my chiropractor and a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in San Diego volunteered to supply articles on a runners’ diet for each edition. Then Guru intervened and instructed various disciples around the world to write stories for our magazine.  It then truly became an international running magazine.  If the London marathon was to be run soon a phone call to London Centre to request someone to cover it and supply photos was made.

One disciple sent along an account of an ultramarathon race; however, it was almost unreadable. The spelling, grammar and syntax were so bad that it was difficult to make sense of the story.  As our editorial policy was to include as many articles by disciples as possible, we corrected and rewrote the article, while attempting to preserve the essence of the author’s account. The disciple was overjoyed at seeing the article in print.

Guru then instructed the disciple to continue sending stories and, in fact, fill up the magazine when we were lacking in articles.  When I heard this, my heart sank! Later Guru detailed how the disciple was to do this. He was to attend track meets, go to airports etc and interview famous runners.  The tape of the interviews was then to be transcribed, edited and corrected by another disciple. In this way our magazine carried interviews of the highest caliber with top ranking athletes which made us the envy of many other running magazines.  This experience helped me to understand that when a disciple has enthusiasm and willingness, then the Guru will provide the capacity.

During the two years that we published the magazine I continued in my day job and would lay out the magazine on my kitchen table at night time.  I found during this period of my life I required very little sleep.  The one big problem was finding enough advertisements to pay for the printing.  Eventually my debts became insurmountable and one of the printers sued me to recover the money we owed him. I let Guru know that I would be taken to court as a result of this debt.   He asked me to give him the exact date and time that I would be appearing before the magistrate and hence the experience had me feeling Guru’s presence so powerfully during the hearing. Very soon after this a disciple in our Centre had received a large inheritance from a relative and he very graciously gave me several thousand of the money that was owed.

I felt depressed that I had to stop publishing the magazine.  Instead of feeling that this was an experience I could learn something from, I lapsed into the depth of feeling I had failed my Master in this most significant manifestation.  A week or so later I received a phone call from Guru.  He spoke to me most compassionately and requested that I remain happy.  Ten minutes later Guru called again and spoke briefly and sternly.  “I said be happy!”  I realized how much I was torturing Guru with my grief and how important it is to obey the master in his every request.

Guru started painting very soon after I became a disciple. On many occasions when Guru was painting thousands of works of art at one sitting, he would share the experience with his disciple-children. Often Guru would paint in the basement of his house with a group of girls taking each painting, placing a number on the back and then framing them in a cardboard matte frame. Guru often spoke about his paintings as having unique souls. Each one was his creation, his special child.

One night I was working on matting Guru's paintings when I came to one which I admired very much. I was inwardly saying, "Oh, this is Guru's most beautiful little child." Guru had been sitting in silence painting. As I was having this thought, Guru suddenly said, "Oi, you people you don't appreciate my paintings enough. Now look at this one ‘Australia' (the name Guru often called me in those days) is working on. How beautiful it is!"

I held up the painting for everyone to see and inwardly thanked Guru for so graciously letting me know that he is aware of our every thought.

In 1976, I went to Adelaide to start a Centre. During the first six months of my time in Adelaide, a city unfamiliar to me, I had many moments when I felt isolated, both outwardly and inwardly.

One morning I was meditating on the Transcendental photo when Guru's eyes appeared to turn brown and become quite alive. I was enjoying this experience for a few moments when the phone rang. It was Guru calling from New York to ask me what I was doing.

In each city we visit on the Christmas trip, Guru will usually offer a Peace Concert for the local people. On occasion these Peace Concerts are quite spontaneous, with only a few days to prepare, promote and make final arrangements.

When we were in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, I was assigned to try and find a venue for a large Peace Concert to be given in this spiritual Buddhist city. Unfortunately we had no luck with the authorities in waiving red tape and official permits. The only place that was available was outrageously expensive, so Guru decided to hold the Peace Concert in the meeting room of the hotel where quite a few disciples were staying.

Because we did not have official permission from the authorities, we could only advertise it by word of mouth. Disciples invited taxi drivers, people they met in the street and even storekeepers at shops where they had purchased goods. The day of the concert, Sarama approached me and asked if she could invite the owners of the small hotel where she was staying, which was in a different location from the hotel where the concert would be.

I suggested that Sarama approach one of Guru's assistants and ask him to check with Guru. We were standing in the meeting room, which was being rearranged for the concert, and Guru was sitting in the front of the room sketching his dream-freedom-peace-birds. When Sarama approached Guru's assistant, he considered this not an important enough reason to disturb Guru. Sarama was upset, but I could see that the boy was adamant in not disturbing Guru.

I looked at Guru and inwardly said: "Guru, what can we do in this situation?" He immediately stopped sketching, looked up and said: "You people must bring in more chairs as the disciples staying at the other hotels will want to invite the owners."