Sri Chinmoy Tribute Edition
I like what Sri Chinmoy said, some eight years ago, about the power of the heart:
“People in this world can appreciate physical strength or vital strength or mental strength, which is at a lower level. Psychic strength, who is going to appreciate? Psychic strength is oneness-strength. If you use your psychic power, then inwardly you can go to Africa and with millions of people you can establish your oneness. With psychic strength you can go up to the highest peak of the Himalayas and from there you can send your good will everywhere. Swami Vivekananda said that the whole inner world will resonate with the sound of that psychic will. But who will believe that kind of thing? They will say it is all mental hallucination.”
from Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 9
“Psychic power” as Sri Chinmoy used it, is not a synonym for “occult” power, but rather the expression of inner and spiritual will. Psychic power, I believe, is the strength of oneness- oneness with God and with God’s creation.
When I was studying at college, a friend of mine pointed out a picture of Sri Chinmoy that someone had tacked onto the bulletin board in the library. It was an advert for Sri Chinmoy’s upcoming World Harmony Concert, in Philadelphia.
He pointed at Sri Chinmoy’s face and said, “Look at that. That’s heavenly.”
We both looked at Sri Chinmoy’s gently smiling face for a long time.
I’m thirty-one years old, and so I’m neither an old man nor a very young one! But I can say that nobody has ever loved me with so pure a love as Sri Chinmoy did. Even though I never had much outer interaction with him, and barely ever got the chance to speak with him, I was always palpably aware of his sincere love and concern for me.
He gave me more self-confidence, self-esteem and faith in my capacity to stand on my own two feet. These are really precious gifts and only a real teacher could have imparted them.
An Italian friend of mine, a painter, told me about an opportunity he had to meet with an old artist in his studio. This old man worked twenty-odd hours a day, painting and drawing feverishly. When he asked him why he worked so hard, the man said, “To give hope to people.”
Spiritual Masters give people hope through their childlike simplicity and sweetness. They remind us that we have come into this world to be God’s children, and to smile throughout our lives with freshness and enthusiasm.
Many people have told me that they have seen Sri Chinmoy in their dreams, or that they can feel his spiritual love and compassion operating in their lives. That’s not a surprise, because Sri Chinmoy was a truly great spiritual Master, whose consciousness far transcended the barriers of the physical body. He belongs to Eternity, he is the common property of all sincere seekers and God-lovers.
I’ve dedicated this issue to the memory and legacy of Sri Chinmoy. Not many people, however, wrote for this issue. That’s understandable. This is a time for quiet reflection and taking-stock.
Tolkein spoke these beautiful words through Frodo, in The Fellowship of the Ring:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Our Beloved Master offered us this poem before leaving the earth-scene:
“My physical death
Is not the end of my life—
I am an eternal journey.”
I extend my deepest gratitude to my dear spiritual sisters and brothers, now more than ever. We shall travel down that Road as a heart-family, guided by our Master’s vision, love and Light.Mahiruha Klein
Title photograph: Pavitrata Taylor
Is there such a thing as a junkophobe? That’s me. I buy the same thing over and over because I keep throwing useful stuff away; I’m ruthless to the point of impracticality. I can’t tolerate anything old, broken, unlovely, unclean, or out of place.
Then what is this old Cheese Doodles packet doing here? Cheap crinkly empty bag, garish primary print, “Made with real cheese” blaring from the top, like that would make it ok. It’s taped into a big silver book of handmade paper, Indian beads hand stitched onto the front. It sits beside seven others, now amongst my most precious possessions: one of raw silk in a rainbow weave and coloured pages, one embroidered with satin ribbons, one with my name across the face of a dog, and a felt-tip drawing of a bird.
Words are scrawled inside: rough shapes of words, the pen hurried or tired, the phrases hackneyed and dull, but this content has held me stunned over the last two days; compelling as an elysian dream remembered at daybreak.
These, my journals of the last ten years, have stayed mostly unopened. I wrote them for a future self I thought I would not meet for many years to come, never imagining my Master would leave his earthly frame for Heaven so soon.
I knew such apparent debris would turn to treasure then. The spent packets of blessed food from Sri Chinmoy’s hand are now a link to another world which used to be my own; a world of outer instruction, more subtle, more powerful, more inwardly refined than I can even comprehend, let alone fit into the bounds of words. The Path of The Heart; The Silent Teaching; the sacred life of meditation; the unaviolable bond between Guru and disciple.
Mostly these packets, photos, notes, bulging out of pages, are triggers to more abundant memories than those recorded. A concert ticket took me to the first time I saw Sri Chinmoy in person, Heathrow Airport 1997. In a bustle of artificial light and noise and movement, waiting for his arrival, I entered into one of the most profound meditations of my life. He passed by, looked into me with such surety and pure affection, I knew my life had found its home. Here at last was a teacher who could take me to God; a journey I knew I needed more than my own breath. His was the most familiar face I had ever seen, recognition flooded with sanctuary. Tears of relief followed me for twelve continuous hours.
Today I met with four others to meditate, the thirtieth day after Sri Chinmoy’s Mahasamadhi, an official end of mourning. One of our little band was raised a Hindu, as was Sri Chinmoy, and told us that in India, family members take lotuses on such a day, to set them adrift in the Ganges with a prayer. Perhaps we could do the same as a symbolic mark of gratitude and respect.
We took golden roses with only stubs of stems to help them float. We walked a long way down the river Ouse, slipping on the cobbles in the damp of autumn, checking at intervals with each other if “this” could be the “right place.” Two lads, three girls, and one sleek white dog named Pearl, seemingly out for a weekend stroll.
Who would have thought such profundity would come to pass on a rotting jetty by a rowing club somewhere in North Yorkshire. In the space of moments, so many impulses rose up in me that I have not dared to feel these past days. It seemed we grew up all of a sudden. Orphaned, we had only each other then, with whom to carry the legacy of a sacred life into an unknown future, to offer to others what we have had the unimaginable boon of receiving.
I set the small bundle of softness on the wide mass of water and watched it bob away. It seemed to have its own light, glowing with a joy and purity I thought only Heaven could conceive, smiling and shining at the onset of an unknown journey; a warm light above the dark and changeable—on it, in it, yet apart from it. I touched my fingers in the water, then to my head and heart, making some unspoken promise to this beautiful city where I was raised: a sudden totality of love and oneness.
We parted, all but wordlessly, and I went home. I smiled to the homeless man selling magazines and gave him a pound—I will not give to beggars, but he works hard, all in joy and fun, to make others smile. I saw myself in part in him. I smiled to the youth absorbed in a greasy paper of chips and scraps. I smiled to the aged lady struggling in pain and fear from the harbour of her own front door: I saw myself in part in her, and felt only love. I smiled to the big girls in skinny jeans, cursing and shouting (in fun, or in fear of not being heard?); the lady in shades on an overcast day; the pub landlord at his back door in a dressing gown, ruddy from the night’s excess; the sulking seven-year-old whingeing to her Dad for something vitally important.
Today I saw myself in part in them all. Or was it God?
“Thou art one Truth, one Life, one Face.
Supreme, Supreme, Supreme, Supreme!
I bow to Thee, I bow.”
Photograph: Unmesh Swanson
I couldn’t sleep on Thursday night. I suppose you could give reason its name—a strange mixture of tiredness, utter wide-eyed awareness, keeping body and mind awake. Some would it insomnia. But oneness is the term I prefer.
Half a world away, at the very beginning of the day before, my beloved Guru Sri Chinmoy left the earthy stage.
It does not seem strange that I, who like nothing more than to write, was at the opposite end of the world, already up and with pen in hand. In the early hours of that morning, I was possessed by a burning, shining inspiration to write.
It seems now as if I was challenging, with pen alone, the darkness of the night.
He had been unable to sleep during his last few days, and for the most part so had I. But, to what would have been his joy, it was not the cruel grasp of pain that kept me from closing eyes. In fact, something completely the opposite.
That week, as though new born, I was held within the gentle arms of the most intense, most happy time of my life, spiritual experience after experience raining, drowning upon me, as if waves upon a raw and tender shore.
As if the one, true ocean of reality was drawing to and fro, slowly, gently ever-near.
The writing of it started immediately, then and there, and will continue on to completion—even if it takes a thousand years.
Thursday October 11th, at approximately 7.00am in the morning EST, and the day after my 33rd birthday, my Master passed from this world.
Grief, bewilderment, regret aside—for the tears, racking sobs came thick, torrential at first—there were immediate concerns, necessities to attend.
I live in a household, modern day ashram of meditation students, and had to wake each and tell them the news; cancel an early morning restaurant shift, for the owner called and, through incomprehensible tears, asked me what to do.
“Close, call your staff, go home, wait for more news.”
To me at least, what to do was clear enough. I am a brother in a spiritual family. I had a duty to do.
But it was the most painful, heart-rending thing that morning, breaking the news to friends—brothers in truth—I the person to tell them the dearest person in their lives, of their Life, had passed away.
Far more painful than my own grief, for in one I literally saw something break at the news.
Thankfully, there was someone other than myself to take care of the bigger picture, make immediate arrangements and plans, and we were soon on our way to a hastily called meditation.
Outside, as though right on cue, the heaven’s opened, and the rain began to pour.
The water could not fall any faster, and I could not drive any slower, for the roads, streets, entire land even, were swimming in deepest tears.
And yet, two hours later, meditation over and a tender, snow-white happiness beginning to frame grief and despair, darkness passed completely from the sky, and, as it does, always does, the sun began to shine.
The sun, like his love in our hearts, continues to do its duty.
Inside my, your, our hearts, Sri Chinmoy will shine forever still.
“My physical death
Is not the end of my life—
I am an eternal journey”
Sri Chinmoy Kumar Ghose
Auckland, New Zealand
Photograph: John-Paul Gillespie
Back when I was hunting to buy my first house, my nature and tree-loving inclinations had me secretly hoping for a yard around the house with at least one nice tree. The realtor helping me in this house-finding mission would give me for sale listings in the vicinity of the apartment complex where I lived because I wanted to stay nearby if possible. I used to awaken in the early morning and go out walking carefully viewing the houses and trying to imagine what kind of home I would succeed in buying. One day I studied the latest additions to the MLS listings and saw that a house was listed for a very reasonable price only about a mile from my residence. I set out on foot to find this house for sale and crossed my fingers and toes that I would like it.
As soon as I located it during that morning's walk, I instantly liked it from the front and the backyard beckoned. I somewhat boldly walked along the periphery of the property and my heart delighted in seeing a number of trees in a very nice yet not too large backyard. This house with the wonderful trees and yard did end up becoming my new home shortly after that morning peek into its promise.
Now many years later I continue to enjoy the trees in my backyard and whenever I sit under the three trees prominently towards the center of the yard I feel a sense of peace and contentment basking in the shade under their canopy of branches and leaves.
One day a number of years later as my car approached my house from a distance up the street I suddenly was struck by the difference in height of two trees in my backyard which are next to each other. All those years from the ground underneath the trees, they share a sense of sameness in my eyes, even with one being a red maple and the other a green maple.
As if for the first time ever, my eyes were opened to an altogether different viewpoint through the sight of the trees in my backyard from afar as they loomed up over the roof of the house. "Look at how much taller the green maple is than the red," I exclaimed to myself. That tree on the right is very, very tall - infinitely higher than the one next to it and appears to be one of the highest trees on the entire street. How is it possible that I never noticed before the impressive height of this tree compared to the others? From the ground-level underneath the trees, they seemed precisely the same and I never would have noticed the one's towering height over the others if I had not viewed them from the crest of the gentle hill a few houses back from mine.
What a lesson this observation hinted at! Depending on the viewpoint, one might apply the same analogy to the world of people instead of the genus of trees. When a great man or woman bends down in humility and self-giving to share the flowers and fruits of the tree with people found at the foot of the tree, we might never realize just how high into the thin altitude of greatness this giant among men and women truly was. Such is the man Sri Chinmoy, my spiritual teacher for the last 22 years, who to my deep sadness passed away on October 11, 2007 at his home in Queens, New York. His spiritual philosophy always emphasized the importance of humility and the obstacles inherent in pride and human ego in the quest to find true satisfaction in life. In one poem he writes,
“To become spiritually tall, taller, tallest,
We must be always On our knees.”
This poem from a series of poetry by Sri Chinmoy is aptly named in relation to this tallest tree musing since the book's title/series is Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 23.
His lifetime of offering and service in so many walks of life glowed with a sheen of greatness that I have never witnessed by any other person alive today. Yet this giant among men also dedicated his every breathing moment to instilling a sense of gratitude, encouragement and support for all he came in contact with. He composed countless songs in honor of friends and guests, wrote at length about all he admired - even in great detail about the diversity of religions and spiritual teachers through the ages in such a manner that you would feel "here is a follower of Christ, here is a follower of Buddha, here is a follower of Krishna" depending on which passage you read from his prolific writings.
I honestly and deeply believe that there was never a moment that he was not trying to see the best in all whom he met and he truly is a teacher whose middle name is encouragement and positive all-forgiving divine love. He coaxed forth potential and promise that I never in my wildest dreams imagined might be waiting dormant within me.
Like a towering tree that sends forth countless seeds and fruits to germinate and sprout in the future, his influence will resonate long after this end of his life at age 76. With thousands of students and well-wishers from across the globe arriving in New York to pay homage to this beloved man who touched countless hearts, I think of the tree in my yard looming high above the others yet sharing a message and perspective of unity and equality when viewed from underneath the bottom branches. I am fully confident that the many centres based upon his teachings will continue to blossom long after his death. I know that my own life will continue to bask in the wisdom his life embodied until I too reach my end. Thank you Sri Chinmoy. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart.
Rhode Island, USA
Photograph: Kedar Misani
It was the summer of 1990. My mother had recently passed away and I was floating in a sea of confusion. She was my touchstone of my family life. She alone was the one I felt the most love from. Now she was gone.
I had been a meditator for a couple of years by then, but I taught myself and even though I now know I was meditating, I did not know for sure then.
A seeker of truth with a strong desire to grow spiritually I frequented a center that nurtured my needs for several years. The head of this center always told me not to get caught in the small stuff, the readings, the healings, but to keep focused on the Highest. I took the advice to heart.
It was at this center that I saw the small flyer, “Learn to Meditate” and the event was free too. I registered. I needed to make sure I was meditating correctly as I thought that in order to truly meditate, one had to sit in the lotus position. There was no way I could do this.
Nayak from the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Seattle was the first of four to come to Anchorage, Alaska to give a series of four classes, one every two weeks. At the end of the class he asked if we wanted to see a video of Sri Chinmoy. I was enthralled.
Nayak might have been surprised when I phoned him at home later that week asking how I could “sign up” as I put it and so started my disciple life.
How can gratitude ever end when my Guru has saved me in many ways. In addition to saving my physical life more times than I can count on two hands, he has saved my vital from shock after shock, my mind from depression, my heart from abandonment. He has shown me unconditional love. There can be no end to gratitude even feebly expressed.
There were times in life when I was absolutely stunned, rendered speechless, my gut tight and aching, my heart shattered. In the safety of my home, with fists balled tight, I would scream until my throat was raw at some callous injustice. Then, with physical and vital sated, I would go to my meditation room and in the haven of my Himalayan cave, sit and cry to God. With emotion calmed, I would read Guru’s writing. With mind slowly understanding and comforted by His words, finally, I could meditate.
As I write, I realize this is how I dealt with many things over the 17 years I have been blessed by being on Sri Chinmoy’s Path. What a revelation to define the process! In my meditation room I sought and found the solace to go on. In spite of depression, hurt, anger, disappointment, Guru never failed me. His light was there if I could be open to it.
The worst news came on October 11, 2007. Guru entered into Mahasamadhi. In other words, he died, left the body. Fear and grief prevailing, when I arrived home from work, I went straight to my meditation room.
I spent the afternoon there, receiving and making phone calls to my friends about my arrangements for getting to New York for the Memorial Service and week of meditation. I had coffee with Guru in the form of his Transcendental picture. I shared panic, grief and shock. I took comfort in the great invisible arms that hold me when my world is coming apart.
This is my relationship with my Guru. It is one of respect and honor, friendship and love, confidante and confessor, guidance and protection, Mother and Father. As some others, because of outer distance from Guru and other disciples, my relationship with him had to develop into an inner one of faith. I am grateful He stuck with me as my Guru and became my All.
Sri Chinmoy has offered me experiences I never thought nor dreamed. Foreign and domestic travel, a treasure hunt style of spontaneity, sleeping side by side in a crowded room with my fellow disciples while working on a concert, public speaking, running around the United States, marathons and ultra marathons, attending events where famous musicians give an impromptu concert and famous politicians, dignitaries, royalty, sports figures or entertainers are present. He has rounded out my life in a variety of ways.
Now I and my brothers and sisters must continue without his physical presence. Judging by the palpable presence of his essence left here on earth, this should not be as difficult as we imagined. Even in my little room surrounded by the memorabilia, Sri Chinmoy’s life and mission continue stronger than ever.
Guru, I remain eternally, Your Palyati.
Photograph: Projjwal Pohland
Late summer is a vivid blaze of green, in the shading boughs of oaks and sycamores at Aspiration Ground, in the all engulfing mass of driveway vines—but look carefully, autumn is stealing in, a hint of yellow high up in the crowns of trees, in the industry of squirrels, a sudden night chill. Winter stirs in the falling sap. In the afternoon breezes, a slow flurry of falling leaves, tawny golds and browns tumbling down, the season turning on its heel. Many dread the coming months, the long summer of our Guru’s earth-life now in one sense ended, the bereft contemplating the chill of a harsh new season. But no, this is not the case. Guru is alive, and alive too in each one of us, a part of us. There in the silence-nest of meditation we can quickly find him. And the outer goal which he embodied and held up to us is the inner Self within each of us—enlightenment is an act of remembering.
When my wife Subarata passed away Guru said “Do not grieve too long, she is alive, she is alive. Do not look for her around you, she is inside you, a part of you.” How remarkably true that turned out to be. If this is true with a so-called “ordinary” human being how much more powerfully this will prove to be so with a great Master. He who has initiated us inwardly, meditated countless times on our souls, planted aspiration, light, countless blessings in our hearts, assigned inner beings or emanations to counsel and protect us—a part of his own inner reality—and pledged responsibility for our realisation to God. “When I am united with the Universal Consciousness, I am in everybody,” he once said. “Can’t you feel it?”
I think that I learnt all of my most important lessons in meditation by simply observing Guru, just by being there around him. God does not expect you to be perfect; He just expects you to be available. Yes, just being available was almost enough. An osmosis—trying to absorb what we saw in Guru’s face and consciousness into ourselves. Filing by in a walk past or sitting in his company I tried to feel that what I saw and felt in him was also within myself—I am that. So you begin with imitation, imagining inside yourself that selfsame yogic calm, that poise, delight, detachment, radiant peace. Then imagination becomes a reality, you can feel it growing inside yourself—beneath the dross of imperfections your little divine Self remembers and stirs. Guru was a mirror—look hard and often enough and there you are, smiling back at yourself.
I woke this morning at 2:50am, floating up to wakefulness from strange faraway dreams. The Brahma Muhurta, Holy Hour, the still point of the turning world—to slip past the painted veil of this world into eternity’s silence, through this opening gateway into an infinite Beyond. One day, yes, but not yet, not yet. Sitting in Subarata’s room to meditate, this room with its so many memories. One small bookcase is jammed with items, memorabilia from her life with Sri Chinmoy—a small silver casket containing plum stones from his mouth, orange peel from prasad given by his own hands, tokens of her devotion, many little poignant things that she treasured. In one corner a small musical box. You wind up the mechanism and it plays Gurur Karma Amar Dharma—“My Guru’s work is my sole code of life ...”—in tiny charming tinkling notes, slower and slower as the spring uncoils. The sweet childlike tones and melody bind the years together in a leitmotif, a refrain of memories and feelings. On the front of the music box a smiling picture of her guru in sailors cap, sitting on the deck of a boat. I remember, I was there. It was Christmas long ago in Tahiti and for half an hour I held an umbrella over our seated master, shielding him from the sun. Someone shouted “Dolphins!” and everyone rushed to the side of the boat to watch a gleaming trio frolicking in the sea. Then someone asked Subarata, Irish born, to sing Molly Malone, and after some persuasion she did. The Annam Brahma girls joined in to help. When they sang “Singing mussels and cockles, alive alive oh!” everyone joined in. It was a very happy day. Like this, each little thing on her shelf carries such sweet echoes of the long ago.
In Death and Reincarnation Guru writes:
“When a Master leaves the body and sees that his disciples are crying bitterly over their loss, the Master feels sorry because the disciples do not recognise him fully as a spiritual Master. A spiritual person, one who has realised God, lives on all planes; his consciousness pervades all the worlds. So if his disciples cry bitterly for him, feeling that they will see him no more, then they are putting their Master in the same category as an ordinary person ... The Master knows that he will appear before the disciples who are sincerely praying to him or who are meditating and aspiring sincerely. He knows that he will be all the time guiding, shaping and moulding them. He knows that he will be able to enter into them, and they will be able to enter into him.”
I think the easiest way to feel Guru is really alive is to start thinking it, feeling it. Released from the cage of the finite, our Guru’s Universal Consciousness now exists everywhere—our faith, love, devotion, soulful meditations magnet-like bring it into our awareness, into our heart. Devotion and faith create reality because consciousness is the matrix of the universe and shapes it into being. Believing in Guru’s livingness is not an abdication of reason but attunement with deeper fundamental laws, a recognition of a Reality that exists quite beyond the comprehension of the finite human mind. I don’t intend to sound mystical, but belief really allows this reality to come into our awareness and to take birth.
I like the Sri Krishna stories, Arjuna being shown Krishna’s Universal Form on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, or Krishna’s mother looking into the child Krishna’s mouth when he yawned, seeing the universe turning inside him. Sometimes when we looked at our Master, didn’t we also see a little of this, the infinite contained within the finite, the ocean embodied inside the drop, God’s love-delight-immensity-measureless peace-everything there in his eyes, his face. I really think so.
“Yes, for a while the disciples can feel sad that they have lost their Master, that they will not see him in the physical frame. But that sadness must not last because the soul’s joy, the soul’s intense love and all-pervading concern have to enter into the disciples who have sincerely accepted the Master as the sole pilot of their lives.”
from Death and Reincarnation
Curiously, since Guru has left behind his physical body so many of us are feeling a renewed sense of energy and commitment, intensity, a rejuvenated urge to manifest, an urgency of purpose. It seems widespread and unmistakable. I think he is working very powerfully in us. Guru writes:
“When he leaves the body, he is totally free. From the other shore the spiritual Master works through the soul’s light or willpower ... so from the higher worlds the Master can easily connect with the disciple’s aspiring soul, and the disciple can respond to the Master’s light. It is in this way that the Master can and does and must help the disciple.
from Death and Reincarnation
Guru’s passing seems to have unleashed a great force and additionally a sense of great respect and receptivity around us in the world for who Guru was. Perhaps the passing of an Avatar—as with Christ, Sri Krishna, the Buddha—is a huge tsunami in the inner world, ushers in great change, a resurgence of spirituality. Guru’s Universal Consciousness everywhere spreading.
I think we all know that from now on we will all have to prove ourselves, be exemplary. More time at our shrines, and singing our favourite songs, more time with our centre family, go to every celebrations, diminish then discard any eroding bad habits, throw the TV out the window, go to the centre more, let the sunlight of grace into our lives through selfless service, read Guru’s writings half an hour every day, don’t find fault with anybody (yes we know that everyone else is seriously flawed and riddled with blemishes, but practice turning a blind eye), keep fit, find a centre project to serve the world. Long list, big challenge!
That last one, what Guru calls manifestation, is a great task—prove your love for God by service, work, self-offering.
“Early in the morning, when I hear God's Voice, I open my inspired eyes and meditate. During my morning meditation, God says to me, ‘My child, go and prove to the world that you are all for Me.’”
from A Seeker is a Singer
I like this little quote of Guru’s very much—it contains one of the banner principles of our path. It is not enough to just meditate—prove your love for God and do something for others, for God the Creation. Filled now with a new resolve and a reinvigorated love for Guru’s mission, we can venture out into the world and accomplish great things, fulfill our soul’s immortal promise, spread the Light of the Supreme as Guru taught us to do.
Regarding manifestation, Sri Chinmoy’s 13,000th song, Phukai Amara, is one of those immortal gold nugget theme songs of our path that really helps us to feel purposefulness and strength, a thrilling warriors’ song. I often sing it over and over to myself, especially when I go out postering and flyering (which has got harder over the years!).
The English words:
“In the battlefield of life we blow the Victory Horn of our Lord Supreme. In our heart-sky we fly the Victory Banner of our Father Supreme.”
from Phukai Amara
Once, years ago, Guru personally sent me on a Mission-Impossible-type high level meeting with government officials, telling me to be a “roaring lion” and not on this occasion a “New Zealand lamb.” On the plane ride to the capital I sang Phukai Amara all the way, instilling into every atom of my being an unyielding resolve. How powerfully I could feel Guru’s force! Mission Impossible became Mission Accomplished—we were successful despite great odds—and Guru was delighted, which made us all very happy. He said lots of nice things about ‘obedience’ and ‘faith’ and Subarata with her Irish humour said to me, “This would be a good time for you to depart this world and head off to heaven.”
Yes indeed, a good time to leave for the soul’s world, the Master’s praises ringing (at least for now) in our ears, armed with an A+ entry pass to the ineffable Beyond. Oh my!
In each of his many endeavours—in the fields of art, literature, music, poetry, weightlifting for example—Guru’s achievements are astonishing and in many cases absolutely unprecedented. But collectively they form a mind-boggling pantheon of accomplishments the likes of which have never been seen before and will surely never be seen again. What an unbelievable legacy for future centuries to absorb. Regrettably, and equally certainly, his inner accomplishments—that great Unknowable Biography of a Spiritual Colossus—will never be known or imagined, so far are these beyond our understanding. Distracted by the human form he inhabited, our capacities too little to see deeply, how could we comprehend that unfathomable, infinite ocean that existed in the finite form of our Guru, a dynasty of consciousness barely glimpsed in his outer works?
As Guru’s physical form was lowered into its final resting place we sang songs—“Oh my life’s Love Supreme, sleeplessly I invoke You ...” I was reminded of the Egyptian kings, sealed in their vaults beneath great blocks of stone, resting in an endless silence and darkness. The body of a realised Master, too sacred to touch or profane with fire, its presence able to inspire awe, reverence, spiritual awakening, devotion for thousands of years to come, its invisible grace guiding the faltering steps of countless unborn seekers.
This sacred place will become a world shrine, a portal to God like Mecca, Bodh Gaya, Borobodhur, Delphi, Gethsemane, a centripetal force or haven of spirit acting like a spiritual magnet, aligning our waywardness to the pole of enlightenment.
And did you see, in the midst of our singing and tears at the burial, that enormous Golden Monarch butterfly that suddenly appeared and hovered for an age around the side shrine at Aspiration Ground, around Guru’s photo, lingering for an age there, swooping about and hovering. I thought could it be? Could it be ...? At 2:30am that morning, walking home along the empty streets, ahead of me a girl in her white sari stood beneath a street lamp, weeping inconsolably. Unmasked by the secrecy of night she was shedding tears of grief at the loss of her beloved teacher.
Guru taught us many things that are simply not found anywhere else, little secrets unique to our path. And not just taught but brought them into our consciousness as the living breath of our discipleship, drilled us over and over until each lesson had sunk in. ‘Soulfulness’ for example—where else is this found? In our singing—“Be more soulful!”. In our meditations—“please be more soulful!” Or filing slowly along in a walk-by procession, those wonderful encounters between the disciple’s aspiration and the master’s probing grace—soulfulness! To be as close as possible to the consciousness of our own soul—its sincerity, purity, humility, sweetness—and then to maintain this as long, as deeply, as often, as consciously as possible in one’s life. Soulfulness is one of the four rungs of “the consciousness-ladder that unites earth’s cry and Heaven’s smile... God’s favourite spiritual quality is soulfulness...” (Sri Chinmoy, from Everest Aspiration).
And then too, all those other secrets to ignite our aspiration like ‘self-transcendence’, ‘gratitude’, ‘oneness’, ‘living in the heart’—words on a page suddenly brought to life, transformed and elevated into the highest spiritual teachings, our polestars, Guru the Master-Alchemist animating language—inert, passive—into the gold of a living truth and way of being. Under his tutelage and personal example these simple concepts became the foundations of our sadhana, the sap of true spirituality responding and rising up to flower in our lives.
I looked through some of the anti-God books at San Francisco airport recently and had to laugh. One or two were quite brilliant and certainly entertaining—but so hostile and arrogant! A sort of irreligious fundamentalism. Trying to contain the mysteries of the cosmos, the boundlessness, unknowableness, immeasurableness of God within the tiny cage of the human brain is inherently flawed. And shows a critical shortage of humility—the awareness of how little is our elfin understanding of everything. Science itself is still a juvenile, barely out of evolutionary kindergarten. Such ratiocination also disregards all the other aspects of human knowing, other forms of non-mind knowledge and perception that are usually undervalued. And disregards the wisdom of the greatest luminaries, the most impressive human souls ever to walk this planet! Einstein very nicely wrote “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility towards the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos. The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’—cannot hear the music of the spheres.”
It might be argued that God-love is one of the highest expressions of intelligence since it exhibits a rare ability to see past the painted veil of ‘reality’ to the very heart of Truth and Reality, the true nature of things. The neo-atheists remind me of truculent, frenetic, unmanageable primary school brats, leaping about scribbling over everything and in need of a good ear-pulling.
I think one of Guru’s unheralded but truly remarkable achievements has been to make God—the Supreme—an absolutely living reality for so many people. For his disciples Guru’s own intimacy with God was so obvious and compelling, his deference to God in everything he did so moving, and the godliness that he himself embodied so utterly beautiful that he quietly shunted—at least in my case—three prior decades of agnosticism into the waste basket.
Of all the things I have seen in this world, Guru’s physical presence was the most powerful, the most irresistible proof of God. Getting to know Guru was getting to know God—unmistakably this great yogi-soul had realised God and revealed the divine at every moment through his own person and life. God was not a matter of belief or disbelief, a concept to be examined and argued. But there, in front of you, look! I was blessed with a long time to immerse myself in this—my dawning understanding of my teacher’s height was forged and tested and proven over twenty-six years. The Guru is a bridge between earth and heaven, God’s intermediary, a step-down transformer converting the infinite power of the Supreme into a manageable voltage for earth’s consumption.
For us the mantra Supreme has become our living bridge to God and often sustains our personal feeling of a loving, caring Supreme Reality with whom we are connected and a part. Guru introduced us all to God, emancipated us from the various handicaps and constraints of our fossilized, past religiosity or indifference and made of God a dear and intimate confidante, one to whom we prayed, opened our hearts, shared our secret thoughts, our worst mistakes, our gratitude and tears. In the light of this sacred relationship and knowledge we can measure what is really important in our lives, or what is not—chart our course with “two things absolutely unparalleled; the map for the eternal journey and the courage for the immortal travelling.” (Sri Chinmoy, from Ten Thousand Flower-Flames)
Spiritual literature down through the ages is filled with profundities, atom bombs of Truth and Reality, gorgeous quotes that thrill the soul, the uncompromising and life-changing utterances of great sages and Masters. They are so powerful as to sweep aside an entire lifetime of cultural indoctrination—that tragic and ill fated love affair with worldliness that we are all immersed in from cradle rock to last breath—and in a moment help us to perceive the highest wisdom and deepest purpose of life, truth stripped to its quintessence. Guru always had that effect in our lives—a Reality Check, bringing us back on course, reminding us what it’s really all about. In the Gita his Guru of long, long ago played such a role.
In a world of enchanting distractions, a culture steeped in material ambitions that suffocate the spirit, how lucky we all are to have this Lodestar, pointing the way home.
Auckland, New Zealand
I like the late string quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven because of their unique choral quality. Sometimes the violins sing giddily high and happy notes. Meanwhile, the cello sits alone in its corner, mumbling to itself, and while it might repeat word for word what the violins have just said, it lends a gravity and a thoughtfulness to their phrases.
You hear the violins, but you feel the cello.
When Sri Chinmoy was on earth, we saw him and we heard him. Now that he has passed on, we can only feel him.
I’ve referred before to that scene in King Lear, where the mad king inquires of the old, blinded Gloucester as to how he can see the world when he has no eyes. He responds: “I see it feelingly.”
I’m also reminded, for some reason, of that wonderful exchange in the first book of Lord of the Rings, where Frodo concludes that Strider, for all of his gruffness, can’t be an agent of the Enemy because:
"I think one of his spies would --- well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand."
"I see," laughed Strider. "I look foul and feel fair. Is that it?"
In one of my favorite collections of Sri Chinmoy’s poetry, The Caged Bird and the Uncaged Bird, Sri Chinmoy writes:
“Be not enamoured
Of what you see outwardly
Be not indifferent
To what you feel inwardly.”
from I Am Ready
I like how Sri Chinmoy’s writings have a mystery and a depth that can only be sounded through careful reflection and deep meditation.
I once had the good fortune of asking my Guru a question on the spiritual essence of Bach and Beethoven. My memory is far from perfect here, so I can’t quote Sri Chinmoy word for word! But if I remember correctly, he said when he thinks of Beethoven, he immediately sees a huge, fully blossomed tree.
I was wonderstruck at the idea that Beethoven could be a tree. Outwardly it doesn't satisfy our so-called “rational” judgment.
But as I’ve gone back and have listened to Beethoven’s work, especially his gracious and melodic late pieces, like the string quartets, I feel a life-affirming and hopeful quality in them, and also a profound but spontaneous charm.
Sri Chinmoy was himself a beautiful tree, who gave everything he had to give people hope.
I adore Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, especially the part where a child comes running up to him with a few blades of grass, asking him what the grass is, and Whitman doesn’t know how to answer the boy.
He says at last, to himself, “I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.”
I also like the ending of the poem:
“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles…”
I’d like to quote another poem by Sri Chinmoy, from his Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees series:
Before I left Heaven,
I asked my Beloved Supreme
For a smile.
He granted my desire.
Before I leave earth,
I shall ask Mother Earth
To give me a smile.
I do hope she will bless me with a smile
Instead of heart-rending tears.”
from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees
My sisters and my brothers, let us try to smile.
Photograph: Kedar Misani