Nemi has been a student of Sri Chinmoy’s since 1968; here she describes the process of spiritual growth that led her to become Sri Chinmoy’s student.
I am extremely fortunate to have been a student of Sri Chinmoy since the age of 18. In the Sri Chinmoy Centre, I meditate, I sing, I write, I run, I organise projects, I perform in plays, I travel and meet people from many different cultures with remarkably similar aspirations. In the job I have held in the so-called "outer world" for 27 years, I work hard and interact cheerfully and harmoniously with my colleagues. Thanks to Sri Chinmoy, the inner life and the outer life, for me, have become seamless. There is no difference. The spiritual life is everything, and everything in life is spiritual.
I know my goal, be it ever so far, and I know my way. Along the way, opportunities reach out to me constantly, thanks to my spiritual teacher. Every aspect of my life is tended to with utmost care and concern. Sri Chinmoy has given me the most beautiful name--which means sanctity, purity, sacredness--and he has given me the constant encouragement to grow into these divine qualities. What more could I ask from life? For all the blessings I have received, I am profoundly grateful.
I was a very conservative kid in a suburb of New York. My family was not religious, but I became religiously oriented during my teens. I went to church on my own, joining the choir (mostly middle-aged folks) and even teaching Sunday school. But as I approached my last year of high school, my interest faded; religion seemed too narrow.
During that year I felt the sting of conscience, as someone from a privileged family (it was the ’60s, after all!), so I decided to do some volunteering. There was a special class at school for retarded children, and I nervously presented myself to do some afternoon social service. That led to the offer of a summer job as a camp counselor in the Catskill Mountains with a dozen or so of these children. My self-made immigrant parents were horrified, but I insisted. They drove me up in their gleaming grey 1959 Cadillac (battleship style), little knowing that I would be learning yoga, becoming a vegetarian and reading about reincarnation in those few weeks. Little did I know myself! I also acquired a boyfriend there, the son of the camp directors.
In September I went off to college – alas, a depressing experience. Here I was, accepted into one of the top universities in the country, and I pretty much hated it. Something was badly lacking. At one point I heard from my boyfriend, who was studying in Michigan, that his family had met a Guru. Finally, in May of 1968, I took a train from college in Boston back to New York one weekend to meet the Guru. My boyfriend told me to keep my eyes open, no matter what. That made me afraid and intrigued in equal measure! I was blessed to have a private interview with Guru, with my boyfriend.
We drove into Manhattan in a little black Renault covered with flower-stickers (those were the times, but I favoured miniskirts over the hippie style). It was a Saturday morning and a light rain was falling. I remember walking up several flights of stairs to Guru’s apartment on East 84th Street. There was a simple room with empty folding chairs lined up, as I recall. White curtains were billowing in the breeze, and Guru, dressed in saffron robes, was walking back and forth in front of the windows. My impression was that everything was very plain, very serene and very high.
Guru, then 36 years old, spoke to both of us, seated in front of him. He was very kind and compassionate, asking about me and my family. He meditated, moving his eyes in his extraordinary way, and I did keep my eyes open. I felt that Guru knew me completely. He gave me two Transcendental photographs. I did not think about „becoming a disciple.“ The next day there was a group meditation in Guru’s apartment, and I went. It was natural – of course I would go.
“I Am So Fortunate“ and “All Your Grace,“ Guru’s immortal songs from the summer of 2007, perfectly describe my being found by Guru at age 18.
When I had been a disciple for about two years, I had a serious difficulty and Guru advised me what I should do. He told me something which I found very challenging. When I hesitated, Guru said, "If I ask you to go to hell, rest assured that I shall be there first to catch you." These astonishingly powerful words have come back to me many times in the years since.
The morning after we arrived for our week in Paraguay on the Christmas trip, Guru quietly mentioned during the function, "Nemi will bring buffalo milk." I was startled, because Guru had never requested me to go out and find something unusual before. Could I do it, I wondered anxiously—and in a completely unfamiliar country? Many years earlier, Guru had revealed that I had had two water buffalo incarnations, and now it was time for me to research my past!
I knew that there was no such thing as a casual request from Guru, so that afternoon I started tooling around Asunción with my patient roommate, Mandira, looking for buffalo milk. Someone had supposedly seen buffalo milk in a store while we were in Brazil, but where to look in Asunción? I dusted off my Spanish and explained my need to the cab driver. He phoned his dispatcher, who suggested a fancy European-style delicatessen. A worker there said they had buffalo yogurt, and perhaps I could phone the dairy to ask about milk. But, looking at the container, I saw that it was only ordinary yogurt. Two supermarkets proved equally disappointing.
I was starting to panic, imagining myself at the end of a week in Asunción with a buffalo-sized failure in my heart. A disciple to whom I mentioned my challenge suggested I speak to the chef at the hotel, and that I did, with Nishtha. He in turn phoned the manager's office and left a message conveying the unusual request.
The following morning, Tuesday, I spoke to the manager myself. He assured me that he understood perfectly what I wanted, and that he was doing everything he could to find out where the milk could be obtained. I told him that when the Master asks for something, it is definitely possible, and we always feel it is important to fulfil the Master's wish. This kind of thing one may not be able to say to every hotel manager, but our manager accepted it seriously and wholeheartedly.
The next morning, the manager said he had made lots of phone calls and had finally traced the one single place in Paraguay where buffalo are raised, 100 kilometers away. The farmer would milk the buffalo the following morning and our manager-friend would arrange for a truck to collect 35 liters of milk and drive it back to the hotel. That would be great, I thought; now let's hope it actually happens!
Sure enough, late on Thursday morning, three days after Guru's request, the manager summoned me from our function room and said quite excitedly, "The buffalo milk is here!" I was thrilled! Then, some details: how to serve it? It had not been pasteurized or homogenized. Shephali recommended a good boiling, and the chef graciously complied, despite the long hours our presence was already demanding of him. The boiled milk separated, but the chef put vat after vat of it in the blender—and it came out tasting very rich and sweet.
Guru accepted my notification about the arrival of the buffalo milk quite matter-of-factly—he clearly knew everything that was going on!—and said it should be served at 9:30 p.m. Our meeting room extended around a corner into the dining area, and I spent an hour or so during the evening function by the kitchen, out of sight, trying to pour the milk into every available hotel glass. I had just finished when I heard Guru say, "And now Nemi will give buffalo milk." It was exactly 9:30!
I was afraid there would not be quite enough for everyone, but Guru most compassionately and sweetly said, "Girls' night—girls will get first. But as long as you have brought for you and me, why do you have to worry?"
As it happened, everyone who was brave enough to try it did get a glass of buffalo milk as prasad. I was privileged to offer Guru a glass. After drinking some of the milk, he blessingfully gave it to me to finish. It felt as though the circle was beautifully complete. Guru was then inspired to speak about devotion, and particularly about a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna who scoured the earth to find a fruit that his ailing Master wanted, although it was supposedly out of season. It was a very happy and elevating night for me.
Before our departure from the hotel at the end of the week, the manager reluctantly accepted a small gift for his exceptional effort. He said he had learned something totally new to him, and he was visibly honoured and moved by the opportunity to serve the Master in this unique way.
From the search for buffalo milk I received an intense experience of Guru's loving and energising command that fed my devotion most powerfully. It remains the defining memory of my stay in Paraguay, for which I offer Guru my loving gratitude.
When my mother was terminally ill many years ago, I was under a lot of stress, although I did not realise it until some time later. During this period I developed an irregular heartbeat. I would start breathing heavily, feeling and almost hearing my heart thumping in an odd way. From time to time I would have to lie down, not from tiredness but from distress. A medical examination for which I was due at the time did give an irregular EKG reading.
I sent a message to Sri Chinmoy about this, and he took it very lightly. He said, "Do not worry; it is nothing." Some other disciples told me the same thing.
The condition went away, and some time later, months after my mother had died, I reflected on that whole time. Suddenly it occurred to me that an irregular heartbeat was far from "nothing", but Guru had not wanted me to worry. He did not want me to have mental sickness along with physical sickness, so he simply smiled and cured me!
A few years ago I became extremely disturbed about the mortal illness that had befallen someone I knew. Somehow I allowed myself to be absolutely distraught about this, and it occupied many of my waking hours. I was praying that the sufferings of this friend would be lifted and that the illness would be cured. That was most unusual, since I was not even in the habit of praying for my own problems to be resolved!
It was during Celebrations, and of course Guru was more occupied than usual with all the visiting disciples, but I was desperate. I wrote a note about my obsession or self-styled concern and put it next to Guru's chair at the function. In the course of the evening I saw him open the envelope and read my note.Then I saw him take out a pen. A few minutes later, he turned and handed me back my envelope, decorated with birds.
I worked my way to the back of the room and, in the privacy of the crowd, read what Guru had written. He was extremely firm and extremely compassionate. He said that I must not do this kind of thing; I must not get involved in other people's karmic sufferings. He wrote several other lines, which I devoured intently.
When I had finished reading Guru's words, first I was stunned, but then I practically said out loud, "OK!" Instantly I was absolutely cured of my preoccupation. It was as though Guru had amputated a diseased limb from me. I never gave the matter another thought, except to offer good will to the person inwardly, which Guru had said I could do. As a matter of fact, when this person's sufferings reached their fatal end a few weeks later, and many other people were deeply upset, I was absolutely calm and detached—no thanks to myself, but all thanks to Guru's miraculous power.