Meditation and water are wedded forever


Recently I had a long-ranging conversation with a friend about the world situation.  I told him that sometimes I get so worked up about the multiple tragedies unfolding around the world, that no matter how much I meditate during the day, I’ll still wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares.  Sometimes I’ll even cry out in my sleep.  I told him that I’ve come to the conclusion that absorbing the news isn’t that great for my consciousness.  It’s better for me to block it out, if I can.

It doesn’t mean I don’t care!  It’s just the time I spend on the news, on lamenting over human stupidity, is time I could have spent on my spiritual life.  But that time is now lost.  Every second I spend thinking about civilizational collapse in this or that part of the world, is time I will not be able to give to God.

Also, I weep for the victims.  How can I not?  Sometimes I even weep in public, although this is an act of emotional demonstration that I don’t think fits in with our spiritual path.  But when I become enraged or saddened by the all the violence and death, what happens is that I lose my poise and balance.  I forget that there is a deeper Will that permeates this earth-creation.  We may not see it, or even feel it in operation, but this universe is definitely governed by a benevolent force.  I believe this.  When I cry and weep and lament, what happens is that I become another victim.  God has enough direct victims to take care of.  I can’t serve God if I’m miserable.  He doesn’t need more victims.  He needs people who can maintain their composure and equanimity, so that they can act in a calm and considered manner.  These are the people who will solve world-problems.

He then segued into another issue altogether.  He asked me, hypothetically, if I ever got the chance to talk to a most inspired young seeker, and the wanted to know one exercise for concentration, one exercise for meditation and one exercise for contemplation, what would I tell him?  This would be my only chance to interact with this soulful new disciple.

I told my friend, that my favorite concentration exercise from Guru involves a little japa.  I would recommend to this seeker that he just repeat, countless times “I am the heart, I am the heart, I am the heart.”  Then, after some time, when he felt his consciousness had entered into his heart, he could say: “I am the soul, I am the soul, I am the soul.”  I recalled how Guru said that when Sri Ramakrishna would touch seekers and send them into trance and samadhi, it was for a few hours.  So, just by repeating, “I am the soul, I am the soul, I am the soul” we can connect with the real seeker in us, the aspiring soul.

As for meditation, I said that the seeker could try to meditate on the ocean, and then, after some time, he can just imagine that he is that ocean, that his entire existence is composed of thousands and millions of drops.  Feel that the drop and the ocean cannot be separated.  Remember that Guru always said that another name for water is life, and that another name for life is God.

For contemplation, I would tell the seeker to imagine his highest, most intimate moment with Guru, his sweetest or most profound inner experience with the Master.  Guru told Pradhan once that people send in their letters of interest or their photographs and they think that is how they became accepted as disciples.  But Pradhan told me that Guru said, with a smile on his face, “But I have a third Eye!”  Guru said that, with his third eye, he was calling his disciples towards him long before they became aware of him on the outer plane.  Guru also said that, through his third eye, he adjusted the life circumstances of his disciples so that it would be possible for them to come into contact with Guru.  In my case, I feel that it was no accident that I got rejected from my first-choice college, and had to go to a less-prestigious school, which was, however, much closer to Guru’s home in New York, and where I was easily able to meditate in the homes of some nearby disciples!  So, in imagining the first time we became aware of Guru, we can enter into that experience, and feel our oneness with Guru’s dynamic Compassion, that made our spiritual life possible in the first place.  This might be a good first step in climbing the lofty contemplation-mountain, which is a state of ecstatic oneness with God.

I definitely go high and deep when I talk to other disciples.



I wish


In the late fall of 2006, my Guru, Sri Chinmoy, initiated a special out-reach project for disciples to contact luminaries in various walks of life, including writers, politicians, musicians, and college professors.  Sri Chinmoy felt that it was very likely he might win the Nobel Peace Prize that year, and so asked his students to kindly contact well-known or accomplished people and to ask them to please write a letter of recommendation on his behalf for the Nobel committee.

To be honest, I don’t think Guru needed the Nobel Peace Prize, or any other outer recognition.  On the one hand, it was an opportunity for us to make progress by reaching out to people on the Master’s behalf.  This is called God-manifestation, when we publicise the name and life of a God-realised soul.  On the other hand, if our efforts were successful, and the Master had won the Nobel Peace Prize, it would have been a tremendous victory for Guru, and would have made him instantly well-known to millions of people.  This would also be a manifestation of the Master’s inner divinity.

Guru said once that some Masters become flowers.  They realise God, and then the fragrance of the flower spreads spontaneously.  The flower stays where it is, but people come from afar to breathe the beauty and fragrance of the flower.  He also said that other Masters take the approach of the mother.  They go from place to place with the idea of serving the divinity in humanity.  They know that many seekers may be inwardly hungry, but they may not know where to find a true God-realised Master.  Or even if they do know the name and location of a real Master, they may not have the money or enough inner drive to buy a plane ticket and travel to see him.  So, these Masters go to many countries to meet with seekers and inspire them.  Sri Chinmoy said he tried to combine both approaches in his life.  He spent most of his time in Jamaica, New York and seekers from all over the world came to Aspiration-Ground to see him and meet with him.  Again, he spent months out of each year going to various places to raise the consciousness of so many countries, and personally meet with thousands of people.  You can read Sri Chinmoy’s own thoughts on the subject here.

One night during this time, Guru asked those of us who were working on the project  to come up to the microphone, and to speak about our progress in contacting luminaries, and getting letters of recommendation for the committee.  When it was my turn, Guru looked at me and said, “I thought you had already started.”  I had actually contacted Guru two weeks prior and had told him who I was planning to contact.

He then said something else, which I couldn’t understand.  I asked him, gingerly, “Guru, I was sleeping?”  And Guru said evenly, “No- you were meditating.  My disciples do not sleep.  They meditate.  My disciples meditate and work.  They work and work.  I sleep and sleep.”

That day I had woken up at around nine o’clock, a perfectly useless time.  So, before I was even aware of what I was doing, I said into the microphone, “I wish!”

Some disciples gasped.  There was a moment of dead silence.  Then an old woman at the back of the room laughed.


Then Guru slowly turned to face me.  It was one of the oddest experiences of my life.  This is because, as he was turning his head, I didn’t feel like I was looking at a human being.  I felt like I was in the presence of some reality from some distant planet or galaxy, like some kind of extra-terrestrial.  At first, he had no expression, blank and totally empty.  And then a sweet and mischievous smile spread over his face and he said with a dramatic slap to the air (he did not slap me): “From tomorrow: work hard!”

I said “Yes, Guru” and walked away.  One boy told me later that Guru gave me a very affectionate smile as I was leaving the stage.

But, the moment after I made that somewhat inappropriate remark (we do not contradict God-realised Masters, even as a joke), and Guru’s playful response, I remember that emptiness I saw in Guru, that absence of expression.  It was as if he was showing me what poise really means.  He does not choose to act in this way or that way in any given situation.  He has given one hundred percent of the responsibility to his Inner Pilot.  God chooses every action for him.  Someone else who had been in Guru’s position in that moment may have responded very differently- by scolding me, for example for my audacity.  But the Inner Pilot, the Supreme in Guru, saw that I was just joking with my Master in a familiar way, and therefore Guru blessed me with his infinite affection and sweetness.  But it is not his tremendous kindness and oneness that I found most striking in this case.  It is his inner silence, his poise, his ability to respond to each situation in the perfect way, based on his “emptiness”, his unconditional oneness with God.  This is what I remember.  This lesson I will always treasure.  Now I understand why Guru said that poise was his most important quality.  I am trembling even as I write this down.

Practice and patience



Guru says that good things should continue- even if you cannot carry them forward at the same rate.  Once you start something good, it should always continue.  I guess that’s how I feel about writing.  I might not write as much as I’d like, but I do continue to write.  It’s  good thing for my spiritual progress, and I continue this little sadhana, even if I can’t post every day.

Often Guru would initiate projects, with a certain goal, and then he would not necessarily finish.  For example, his wonderful series of poems, Sail My Heart-beat Sail was originally supposed to number a thousand poems.  He only finished one hundred and forty of them.  Similarly, he had asked my friend Kalatit to submit one hundred and one questions, which he would answer and then publish- he ended up only answering about nine of them.  But in these cases, he started.  He announced his intention, and he started, and even if he did not reach the goal, he went a long way towards it.  It is better to start something, to achieve, even if we cannot reach the goal.  But if we feel the goal is too far, why bother starting at all, then we achieve nothing.  I have no musical talent, but I practiced the violin for two years under various teachers.  I didn’t get very far, and now other projects have come along that take up my time.  But those two years of plugging away did give me a deeper insight into making music.  When I listen to string quartets or even piano sonatas I have a practical, mechanical insight into the music I wouldn’t otherwise have.  It’s always good to start- no matter how far you get.  Any achievement is worth treasuring.

It’s funny, two days ago a gentleman came to my line, he’s my good friend.  I asked him how he was doing, and he said to me that he wrote down the aphorism(by Guru) I gave him a few months ago: “Patience is the light of truth.”  He also told me that, on that occasion, when he asked me why I looked happy, I said to him, “It is because of my willingness and openness to accept God’s Grace.”  And he wrote that down too.  On that day I was not in a good consciousness at all, not in any kind of good mood.  But the fact that a customer would treasure Guru’s writings that I had quoted, and note them down in his diary, and then come back to tell them to me, means everything.  I’m happy I’ve found a way to incorporate Guru’s consciousness into my job, to offer a little bit of my Master’s Light.


Spare change at the till


Recently, I’ve been studying Sri Chinmoy’s inspired book of poems, The Goal is Won.  He wrote all 360 poems, on a single day, 28 April 1974.  I had not been born at that time.  But even though I wasn’t there, I feel a deep link to these poems.  They possess charm, beauty and power.  I feel like I can read these poems forever and find new things in them.  This book of poems may be closest to my heart.

A few nights ago, it was late at the store, and I was tired.  A young woman came to my line.  Like me, she looked tired, and did not say much as I was ringing up her groceries.  Towards the end of our transaction, I asked her if she would like to hear a poem.  She said she would, and I asked her to give me a topic.  She said, ‘The weather’- so I picked the one in my memory that had to do with ‘the sun’, from The Goal is Won:

“The morning sun
Greets your accomplishment-life.

The evening sun
Salutes your new hunger.

The inner sun
Perfects your life of deception,
Guides your life of aspiration
Fulfils your life of abnegation
Through the power of love-devotion.”

(Sri Chinmoy, The Goal is won, Sri Chinmoy Centre, New York, 1974)

As I was reading out the poem, I felt bathed in light and warmth.  I realised that the problems we face are all temporary.  I can turn towards Guru’s poems for support and consolation in my darkest hours.  They are always there.  The young woman gave me the kindest smile and told me I had transformed her mood.  I told her she had also greatly inspired me.

Yesterday, two middle-aged women came to my line.  They carried a spiritual vibration.  After I had finished ringing their groceries, I asked them if they wanted to hear a poem written by my spiritual Master.  They said they would like that, so I chose this great mantra from The Dance of Life:

“At the pinnacle
Of the Rama-enlightenment,
I became Sacrifice divine.

At the pinnacle
Of the Krishna-enlightenment,
I became Love divine.

At the pinnacle
Of the Buddha-enlightenment,
I became Compassion divine.

At the pinnacle
Of the Christ-enlightenment,
I became Concern divine.

At the pinnacle
Of the Ramakrishna-enlightenment,
I became Cry divine.

At the pinnacle
Of the Chinmoy-enlightenment,
I became Surrender divine.”

(Sri Chinmoy, The Dance of Life, part 5, Aum Press, Puerto Rico, 1973)

Usually, this is a poem I would share only with disciples, but I felt it was the appropriate poem at that time.   When I had finished, one woman said simply “Very soul-touching.”  Her friend said, “I felt that.”  They bowed to me and I bowed to them.

Little by little, we can find ways to manifest our Guru’s Light in the world.  There are always ways.  Today we were understaffed, but I sang Guru’s Kali and Krishna bhajans the whole day to myself, while speedily checking out the groceries.  People told me that they found my singing beautiful and soothing.  My heart is troubled by the news of the world.  I can do nothing outwardly.  But through the intensification of my own sadhana or spiritual practice, I feel I can offer something.  This opportunity is not denied to anyone.

Autumn kites

Recently, my new store leader asked me to try to ring up customers’ purchases quickly- to emphasize speed over extended interactions.  I get it.  We’re terribly understaffed, and the holidays are coming.  No time for chit-chat.  I work at a white heat, ringing, checking, bagging, handing out receipts and wishing people a nice day.  I try to recite short poems for each customer, classics from Sri Chinmoy’s treasury of aphorisms:

“Peace begins when expectations ends”

“Love stretched a long distance becomes forgiveness”

“Patience is the light of truth”

And I find that people respond to these short poems!  They repeat them a few times, they smile.

Of course, there are sometimes people to whom I want to give more attention- people who seem like seekers.  My boss told me to work quickly.  In general, I do.  But I do make time to recite longer poems for people who I feel will appreciate them.  At least I try!

Autumn is here- and with it all the reminders of mortality- passing time.  I feel my time is limited.  Sometimes this gets to me, but then I simply do what I can.  Sometimes a time limit can be helpful.  In 1974, at the end of April, Sri Chinmoy gave himself twenty-four hours to see how many poems he could write in that time period.  The result was “The Goal Is Won”, one of his most exalted poetry collections, absolutely.  Limits give us something to race against.  Limitations are synonymous with difficulties.  Sri Chinmoy writes, in “The Goal is Won”:

“No difficulty,
No Divinity’s Grace.

No Divinity’s Grace,
No Reality’s face.

No Reality’s face,
No humanity’s race.”

A few days ago a disabled man came over to my line with his wife.  He was unable to stand up straight and had to lean almost crazily to one side and his hands shook- maybe he had some kind of parkinsonian condition.  His wife, like him, was quite elderly and yet still a beautiful woman, wearing a blouse with a kind of Native American jewelry set into it. I just looked at them and I asked the husband if he enjoyed flying kites.  A look of happy nostalgia came over his face and he told me that when his kids were young he took them to the beach every weekend and they went fly kites- often homemade kites because they didn’t have much money.  They flew box kites that they made from wicker boxes and newspaper and twine- they’re so simple and primitive but he got so much joy and thrill from it.

I told him that according to my spiritual Master, Sri Chinmoy, kites have two meanings- the first is Immortality and the second is divine glory. And his wife gasped to hear that; they were both so happy to hear my masters interpretation of the meaning of kites. Then I don’t know why or how, but the conversation segued to the Vespers of 1610 of Claudio Monteverdi and the wife told me that that piece is absolutely divine and heavenly and once again I thought of kites. And during this whole conversation with these two people I kept seeing beautiful, ethereal, almost diaphanous kites in a sky that was flooded with light.

Later in the day, another elderly lady came to my line.  She told me her name was Trisha.  I told her that in India “Trisha” means “the inner thirst- she who is thirsty for God’s light.” She was very moved to hear this.  She told me she had just started meditating, and the meaning of her name gives her the confidence she needs to continue.  There was a lull in our conversation, and I started singing a song that has “Trisha” in it- “bedanai bara.”  She asked me what I was singing and I told her I was singing a song which included a form of her name “trishita paran”- my thirsty heart.  She was so happy to hear that there is a song with her name!

After that we talked about our favorite key lime pie and pasta penne recipes and she shook my hand and thanked me for all of the information but I was the one who was grateful to her.



Keats at the Condo Association




Today, an older woman, slight with silver hair and a big smile, came to my line.  I think she looked at me and said, “Oh, the poet!”

I guess she must have checked out with me before.

We spoke briefly about some of our favorite contemporary poets, and I ventured to tell her about an interesting dream I had a few months ago.  In my dream, I was in a vast apartment complex.  There was no concept of any “outside”.  There was just a huge complex of houses, schools, gyms, pools, even parks with artificial lighting- but no contact with the sun or the air.  In this reality, people lived only inside.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps the surface had been made uninhabitable by human folly.  Anyway, in my travels through the endless maze of galleries and corridors I stumbled upon a condominium holders’ meeting.  There were about a hundred people, listening to their president, a woman in her mid-fifties.  I sat down, and she somehow recognized me and said, “Mahiruha- would you kindly come up and recite a poem for us?”

I didn’t know these people or how this woman had known my name!  But I went up to the microphone and everyone fell silent and I recited the following poem by John Keats:

“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever—or else swoon to death.”



Such a beautiful poem!  It’s strange- I wasn’t always able to recite or recall poems in my dreams.

Anyway, when I had finished speaking, I saw an African American woman in the front row of the audience, wearing a white t-shirt on which featured a quotation from JRR Tolkien: “The Road goes ever on and on…”

And that was the dream!  The lady I was speaking to asked me what I felt that dream meant, and I told her that the poem I recited “Bright Star” is the last poem that Keats wrote before his death.  It is a meditation on death.  The star represents the lofty, unattainable dreams he knows he will not be able to fulfil in his life.  But, there is consolation.  Yes, he, the poet- John Keats, will soon die- but the star is steadfast.  The hope is always there.  Also, the images of falling, of swelling, of snow, of a mask falling to earth, of watching, of ripening- these are all images of life.  Death is not separate from life, but a condition of it.  Also, the quote from “Lord of the Rings”- The road goes ever on and on- reminds me that we are all eternal travelers.

The woman then told me that she has been fighting pancreatic cancer for the last four years.  It is in remission now, but she knows it will return.  She told me she liked my dream, and can relate to it, and liked the idea of us being eternal travelers.  We wished each other well with a smiling “ciao!” and I went on to ring up more customers.


Falling from my bike at Aspiration Ground

I have a bad temper.  I can keep it under control most of the time, thank God, but not when I’m on my bicycle.  I don’t like injustice- so when I get cut off by drivers or if they drive too close or don’t signal, I tend to get really angry and frustrated.  This frustration often bubbles over and I scream, shout and curse at them.  I don’t hold back- I use every word in the dictionary, including some I may have actually made up!


I don’t know why I act like this- I guess it has to do with my sense of being helpless on the road.  I need to compensate for my feeling of being defenseless by raging at cars.  It’s not a good habit.  Cars outweigh bikes, and also they can go faster.  Do I really want to go head to head with an angry driver?

Also, this is America.  People carry guns!  Is the satisfaction of telling drivers off really worth the risk of getting shot?

I can’t account or explain this behavior.  I don’t feel good after I’ve cursed somebody off.  It affects my consciousness for the rest of the day.  Also, I dread getting on my bicycle.  I hate the idea that I’m going to get into these kinds of situations with people.  This kind of behavior is not in harmony with my spiritual life.  I don’t use this kind of language on other disciples- why should I use it on anyone?

Anyway, at Celebrations, I voiced my experiences on my bike with a friend who is a champion cyclist.  He listened to me, and agreed with my own self-assessment, that my behavior, sooner or later, could result in my getting seriously injured or worse.  He told me there have been disciples who have been involved in very serious bike accidents.  He told me his three maxims while cycling:

  1. Always put safety first
  2. Always anticipate danger
  3. Always avoid conflict

He also told me that “There is no justice on the road- there is only survival.”


I needed to hear these words.  Perhaps if he had told me these affirmations or mantras some other time I wouldn’t have been receptive to them.  But I’ve been thinking about how miserable I feel at the end of each bike ride.  Forget about the fact that screaming at people is dangerous and reckless- besides all that it absolutely wrecks my consciousness!  I have hated getting on my bike recently.

The next day, at Aspiration-Ground, I had a bad fall.  It is kept dark during prasad and love offering and I missed a step.  I fell very hard.  I tore my clothes, scraped both knees, was terribly shaken up.  To this very day, one of my fingers is a little stiff, and I still have a little bit of pain in my lower back.  It was a real fall.

Why did I fall after my friend gave me this advice?

Well, what if all of my screaming and cursing has set in motion a certain karmic pattern?  I’ve been screaming at cars for years now- cursing, swearing, threatening.  What if the karmic consequence of all this is that I am destined to get in a serious bike accident?  My friend intervened, I took his advice to heart, and I stopped screaming at cars.  But what if this karmic sequence is already in motion? Yes, I’ve stopped this behavior, thanks to my friend’s advice- but the karma is still there.  What if some divine force mediated my little accident at Aspiration-Ground, as a way of relieving me of my karmic debt by having me sustain an injury similar to falling from a bicycle- just less severe than the accident I was destined to have.  It’s like how you create an antivenom from the original venom.  I think there’s a Zen parable that runs to the effect that once we resolve to behave virtuously, those boulders we set in motion may still fall upon us.  But if God’s Grace intervenes, the big rock can become just a pebble.

For the past two weeks I make it a point to meditate before I get on my bike.  While meditating, I say these four lines like mantras-

  1. Always put safety first
  2. Always anticipate danger
  3. Always avoid conflict
  4. There is no justice on the road- there is only survival

I also say them over and over while I ride.  Since I came back from Celebrations, I have not cursed or shouted at anyone.  Drivers give me the right of way, and they give me more room.  On the few occasions when I’ve been cut off, I see that people wave at me apologetically.  Maybe they’re not perfect drivers, but I’m not a perfect cyclist.  However, I don’t get angry anymore.  I don’t shout or scream.  I feel safer, and I can stay in a nice consciousness.  I’ve repeated these maxims hundreds and hundreds of times.  They have become true mantras for me, and they have changed my life.  They produced the desired effect very quickly.

I repeat many of Guru’s mantras for purity, forgiveness and gratitude.  I have not noticed the sudden overnight transformation as I did with the cycling mantras.  This is because the cycling mantras that my friend gave me are for a change in my outer behavior.  It was a change I was ready for and they produced the appropriate effect very quickly.  Guru’s mantras are for a fundamental change in my consciousness.  It will take a longer time.  But as these cycling mantras changed my life, so will Guru’s mantras have, in time, a profound effect on my life.  I just have to continue saying them.

But, on a human level, practical affirmations that can adjust our behavior can play a most important role, as my experience shows.

Beauty and truth: The journey of mantras

Today I presented a program on Sri Chinmoy’s poetry at the Parliament of Religions, here in Chicago.  It was an interesting experience for me on many levels.  First of all, it’s the first time I have ever presented my Master’s poetry at a public gathering.  I have recited Sri Chinmoy’s poems at Centre-related events, but I have never recited for a fairly large group of seekers.  The program lasted an hour.  There were about thirty people in the room.

When I got to the room, I saw there were already some people waiting.  I put the vase of flowers on the front desk and said, “These are for the presenter.”  Then I put one of my bags down and told them that the presenter would be back in a minute, and that he would promise to stop talking about himself in the third person.  They laughed.

When I returned, I saw a fairly large group of people.  Some of them were Western Sikhs.  The audience was racially diverse, a mix of young and old, and almost as many men as women.  A few of the women in the audience were wearing saris.  Quite a few people came with notebooks.  I was happy that I had actually spent some time preparing my presentation.  I pulled up a chair, asked them if they could hear me, and put aside the microphone.

I began by relating the perhaps apocryphal story that when Thomas Edison invented the radio, it was his express wish that the newest communication technology should be inaugurated by transmitting the most ancient scripture- the Rig Veda.  So, according to legend, he asked Max Muller, the great Sanskritist to read out those opening lines, and that would mark the dawn of the radio age:

Agni mile purohitam yagnasya devamritvijam hotaram ratnadhatamam.

I explained to the audience that this is a mantra dedicated to Agni, the fire god.  But Agni also refers to the mounting flame of aspiration within the human heart.  We all embody Agni when we accept the spiritual life seriously.

I then explained that mantras can be created in any language.  What is most important when chanting a mantra is soulfulness, soulfulness.  It doesn’t matter how many times we chant, if we do not carry soulfulness, the mantra will not help us.

We then chanted mantras together from the writings of John Keats (“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” for example, as well as “Beauty is truth, truth beauty- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”) from Wordsworth (“A mind forever voyaging”), the Bible (“Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole”).  I even had them chant the word “Philadelphia” seven times, since Sri Chinmoy said many times that the name of that particular city is a mantra!  People were amused by this, but they did chant it soulfully.  I recommended that they think of the inner qualities of America as they chant “Philadelphia”- the city of peace and brotherhood.

I explained to them that the mother of all mantras is AUM, and that AUM refers to the tri-partite nature of God- God the Creator, God the Preserver and God the Transformer.  I explained to them that many people in India have realized God just by chanting AUM.  I then said that Sri Chinmoy preferred to use the term “Supreme” for God- for the word “Supreme” implies constant self-transcendence, and the Supreme is nothing if not the ever-transcending consciousness.  We chanted this word seven times.

I asked people if they could feel the joy, the invigorating power of these mantras, and they said they could.  I then launched into a discussion of Sri Chinmoy’s poetry, and I explained that the mantras in Sri Chinmoy’s writings could be said to fall into three general categories:



Esoteric vision.

Under “Affirmations” we chanted together his great mantra “Obstructions loom large within and without.  Nevertheless, like a kite I shall rise without fail against the wind.”  Along with the wonderful poem from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees: “A river of enthusiasm is carrying my life to Infinity’s ocean, singing “Yes, yes and yes.”  We also recited one of Sri Chinmoy “Christmas Trip” mantras: “With my tear-waves I go to God.  With my smile-seas I return.”

Under wisdom, among other poems we chanted the great Service-Tree mantra, “The wisdom of all the sages: never see darkness in any human being.”

I noticed something started happening as I recited the mantras- people stopped reciting the poems with me.   I did not give handouts.  I asked people to practice “meditative listening”, to identify with the words, not with a piece of paper.  But I noticed that after a while people stopped repeating the poems with me.   It was agreed that they would recite the poems three additional times after I had said a particular poem twice.  But they stopped.  They just listened to me recite the poems over and over.  At first I found it disconcerting, and then I opened my eyes, and I saw many of them were sitting with folded hands!  Their faces were glowing, they were caught by the undertow of the poems.  They just wanted to hear them and meditate.

So for the rest of the program, I just recited each mantra five times, or even more, and the people just meditated.  For the next section, “Esoteric vision”, I chanted another Service-Tree poem:

“God’s first smile was born the day humanity awoke to His Light.”

Anthropologists and paleontologists struggle to determine the origins of the human species, but I think this poem has the answer.  The moment human beings became aware of God is when the human race emerged from the animal kingdom.  This moment in time marks the separation of the human beings from the animals.  Human beings awoke to the Light of God, and that Light elicited God’s first Smile.  But this journey has no beginning and no end- the awakening of humanity and the Smile of God are in eternal synchronicity.  They are eternal compeers and travelers forever.

I also recited Sri Chinmoy’s immortal mantra:

“The descending fire descends;
The ascending fire ascends.
The smile of Light
Watches their tasks divine
From across the empty space
Where the hands of ether
Salute the golden mystic sun.”

(From “The Wings of Light”)

People seemed taken aback by this poem.  I asked them to identify with the reality that Sri Chinmoy is offering here.  Where are we?  We see the smile of Light watching ascending and descending fires- but where?  Where “the hands of ether” are.  But the “hands of ether” are doing something. What is it?  They “salute the golden mystic sun.”  I recited this poem five times.  I asked them if they agreed with me that a poem like this embodies meditation.  They felt it absolutely did.


Then I chanted mantras that Sri Chinmoy has written, associated with other Masters.  I picked three poems from Sri Chinmoy’s play on Jesus Christ “The Son”:


God is a man

Ah! Simple to learn

A week of ecstasy’s highest height


And also his immortal mantra for Lord Buddha, which is actually his translation of one of his own songs!

I will be another Buddha

I concluded by chanting some of my favorite mantras from Sri Chinmoy’s 1974 collection The Golden Boat:


Why do you smile

To rend the veil of my life


I finished with two poems.  First, from the “Garden of Love-Light”:

I sought you at the dawn of my life

And then “The Dance of Life”:

When I saw my life in the silent room of death

I bowed to them, and I looked around the room.  Once again, every face was shining with light.  People felt Guru’s consciousness, his living presence, and they folded their hands and bowed most soulfully.


One woman asked what the goal of our path is, how we would define transcendence on our path.  She said it was obvious that on our path we accept society and the world.  I agreed with her, and I recited two poems from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees that I thought were illustrative of our path:


I am so glad that I did not follow the path of Nirvana

“Inner wealth is to be acquired for distribution, and nothing else.”

One young man told me that he will now incorporate spiritual poetry into his sadhana.  He had never thought he could make soulful poems part of his life-breath, but that I had convinced him.  He said he felt honored to be in the presence of such divine devotion.  I told him that his words meant a lot to me, and that the essence of our path, the life-blood of our path is devotion, bhakti.

One woman asked how spiritual Masters know when to set mantras to music, so I sang for her two songs, by Sri Chinmoy dedicated to different Masters:

Jishu Avatar (For Jesus Christ)

Namo namo Buddha deber (For Lord Buddha)

I told him that “Jishu Avatar” has a Middle Eastern feeling, which makes sense since Christ was a Jew.  I also said that the melody of “Namo, namo…” sounds very Buddhist, in its hypnotic rhythm.  I explained that a God-realised Master like Sri Chinmoy has access to every Master, of every tradition, and can evoke the consciousness of that Master in mantra and song.  I also explained the esoteric meaning of the Buddha song, how the song includes so many epithets to Lord Shiva, as the Buddha, like Shiva, embodies “Achapal”- the unchanging, or “Sthir”- one who is forever still.

One woman asked why I seemed to sing or intone the words as I was reciting.  I explained to her that these poems are in fact really mantras.  When we chant a mantra, we enter into a meditative state, and in that state, we will begin to express the words in a different way, as they are no longer coming from the mind or the tongue, but from our inner existence.


One man asked what comes first- the chanting or the soulful feeling.  I told him we can start chanting any mantra we like, and we can enter into the soulful reality of the words.  Again, we can start with a soulful heart, and then let that soulfulness guide our chanting, while keeping ourselves open to whatever inner secrets or experiences that mantra might have in store for us.

A few people in the audience called my presentation life-transforming.  I told the audience that they had changed my life, too.


Borderlands and rain

Recently I’ve been feeling a little depressed.  In my case, depression is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s just a time to reflect on what needs to change in my life, what needs to happen.  I get depressed when I lose sight of my goals, or when I can’t properly articulate my goals, or even if I can articulate them, I don’t know what to do to reach them.  It’s funny isn’t it, how the words “goal” and “depression” are connected.  When I have a goal, something to strive for, I do not feel depressed.  When I have no goal, no sense of mission, at that time I feel myself floating aimlessly.

Guru writes,”Float with the current if you have nothing to give”.

I try to write and publish daily.  This gives my life some purpose, and makes me feel I’m contributing.  Blogging might be a substitute for Prozac.  (An important point: This is NOT medical advice!)

At the same time, I don’t think depression is necessarily a bad thing.  Right now I’m experiencing very mild depression.  It’s like walking through the city on a misty, rainy morning.  I have an umbrella, a raincoat, and a hot cup of tea waiting for me.  I don’t even call this state of mind “depression”, I call it “the gray zone”.  I have a sense of being a traveler, on my way somewhere, but never arriving wherever it is I’m supposedly headed.  I don’t know where I’m going, or where I’ve been.  I feel like luggage.  I just drift along the conveyor belt.  One day someone will claim me.  Until then, I belong to the belt, the hum of the airplane, the fickle wind.

In this state, I often go for long runs late at night.  I run on safe streets, in well-lit, wealthy neighborhoods where there are plenty of cops on duty.  It’s not one hundred percent safe, but it’s safe enough.  I’ll run from eleven at night until two am the following morning, just following the stars and the moon.  I like the empty streets, the quizzical looks I get from the tired people at the bus stop, the locked cafes and record shops.

And sometimes I’ll just ride my bicycle in circles around the big parking lots of the local IBM tower, the local trucking firm, the high school.  Nobody is out there late at night, so I’ll just ride my bike around and around the perimeter of these parking lots, singing Guru’s songs and saying his poems for hours on end.  Sometimes I’ll pray, but I find Guru’s poems and songs embody prayer.  I just have to say them soulfully, and they carry the essence of my prayers.  I can’t think of any other Master for whom this maxim holds: if you claim his creativities as your own, your act of claiming and identifying equals your highest meditation.  Sri Chinmoy was fabulously generous in this.

Sri Chinmoy wrote so much poetry, over a hundred thousand poems, that anyone can recognise can respond to his work and say, “Yes, this is me.”  Sri Chinmoy said that his poetry most often comes through the third eye, the eye of vision.  He says he just throws himself into the Universal Consciousness when he writes poetry.  That means that he might identify with someone on the other side of the world, and the poem will reflect that particular person’s present consciousness or state of mind.  But from studying and memorizing the Master’s poems for many years, I get the sense of Sri Chinmoy the poet, the personality that shapes the words.  This person is introverted, moody, meditative, likes taking long reflective walks, enjoys solitude.  He has known the extremes of joy and sorrow, but somehow always comes back to the middle, where things are not ideal, but okay.  He can always continue, continue.  He knows the gray zone.

If it’s a rainy day in your inner life, remember the rain can make the soil rich and receptive.  You can also write and express yourself.  You might not see the sun in that state, but you can become the sun through your own creative offering.

The hill and the song

Today I was very busy, had a lot of customers and did not get the opportunity to share very many poems.  So I just decided to quietly sing my Master’s songs while I checked out people’s groceries.  I was singing Guru’s beautiful song “karuna nayan” at one point.  I was singing it softly but powerfully, with utmost feeling. And a young woman, who was perhaps two customers behind when I started singing this song, when it was her turn, asked me what I was singing.  I said “Well I’m singing the song composed by my Master in honour of Lord Buddha” and she said “Oh I thought you were singing a song for the Buddha.”


Giant Buddha



And I asked her how she knew and she told me that the feeling of of the song suggested to her the Buddha. I was very impressed with her receptivity and intuition. The song is in Bengali and nowhere is the name “Buddha” mentioned.  The only word used is “tathagata” which is Bengali for the Buddha- but unless you know Bengali you’re not going to know that word!


Towards the very end of my shift a young woman came to my line named Elisha and I told her that in the Old Testament, Elisha was the companion of Elijah. I told her one of the most famous stories of Elisha- that after he died- he was penniless- so he was thrown into a pit and then many years later the there was a battle around the perimeter of the pit.  A soldier was wounded, died and tumbled and into the pit, but the moment his body made contact with Elisha’s bones he was immediately revived. Such was the holiness of Elisha’s bones. You have to wonder how much austerity, how much tapas or spiritual disciplines Elisha had to undergo to attain this level of sanctity. She had never heard that story before and was very impressed by it.


June 27 - Prophet Elisha - Saint John the Baptist Orthodox Christian Church


I also shared with her my Guru’s poem on the savior Christ:


O Saviour-Christ,
Please tell me,
What did you mean
By your strongest affirmation:
‘I and my Father are one’?
Tell me in what sense you and your
Father are one.

“O dear brother,
Of all people, how is it that
You, my wise brother,
Do not understand my simple message?
On earth I am my Father’s Face,
In Heaven I am my Father’s Eye.
In that sense we are one, inseparable.
This is what I meant when I said:
‘I and my Father are one'”

(Sri Chinmoy, Brother Jesus, Agni Press, 1975)


She repeated the last phrase “On earth I am my father’s face, in Heaven I am my father’s eye.”  I felt she had really internalized those lines.  She thanked me deeply and then said she’s studying Christian discipleship with a mentor and she felt meeting me and discussing these verses was a very significant milestone in her own spiritual progress.  I was very honoured to hear that and very grateful. She paused and then said “God is something!” And I quoted one of Guru’s talks where he said God is, and she repeated God is.  It felt like a very high moment.  I thought of this mantra from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees:

“Not only the person
Who answers,
But also those who ask
God-hungry questions
Are awakened and wise.”


Guru said that it is a very helpful spiritual exercise to remind ourselves, seven times a day of the fact that we are on a very special spiritual path- and to remember this fact with a great inner intensity. So before my meals and sundry snacks I try to take just a minute to remember one precious experience I I’ve had, inner or outer, with my Master. Today I remembered how in late 2001, I was jogging up that monstrous 150th St. hill and I saw Sri Chinmoy, my Master coming the opposite way down the hill. I was running on the street, while he was walking on the closest sidewalk, his brow was furrowed in concentration.



I did not bother him, I did not engage him, but as I passed by him I folded my hands over my heart and kept running.  Now many years have passed, many good things and many bad things have happened in my life, but the trick is to keep running up that hill.  And how many millions of times in these years I have passed by my Guru without knowing it I will never know.