I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life. That’s not necessarily a good thing. I often overthink things, I get lost in the thickets and the weeds.
I try to keep it real. I’ve been writing a lot recently, and that helps me to be a little more objective about my feelings. I’ve dabbled in various self-help modalities from time to time, including various forms of psychotherapy and even Ayurvedic herbology. But I find my own meditation and spiritual discipline, especially when practiced daily, to be of paramount importance. I’m not casting shade on these other ways of self-knowledge and self-care, no. I’ve gotten help from them. But when it concerns ultimate questions of my life’s direction, spiritual happiness, and sense of purpose, I can only get that from diving deep within. One of my favorite Master-Disciple volleys comes from Sri Chinmoy’s book Perfection and Transcendence:
Question: “How can I get satisfaction right this minute?”
Sri Chinmoy: “Go deep within. Satisfaction is there. That is the simplest answer.”
How pithy! But true. It’s funny- on two separate occasions when I tried psychotherapy, both counsellors broke off meeting with me after learning that I had a spiritual Master. They both said, “If you have a Master, you listen to him, you follow his teachings. You don’t go to a therapist unless you want to change your path. But you are clearly happy with your path. Therefore, listen to him, follow him.” Really! I’m not making this up. I was lucky. Less ethical therapists might have tried to pry me away from my spiritual path. But these people gave me what basic advice they could, as far as they could fathom my situation, and they told me to stick with the Master.
Go deep within. Satisfaction is there. That is the simplest answer.
Today, I had a long conversation with a young couple about mantras. The man had actually practiced Sanskrit chants. So I shared with them my Master’s feelings that mantras can be created in English as well as in Sanskrit, and I gave them some examples.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” (John Keats)
“Daughter thy Faith hath made thee whole” (Jesus Christ)
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty/That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know” (also John Keats)
Philadelphia (yes, my Guru said the very name “Philadelphia” is a mantra, and the man said that he always gets joy when he hears that word)
The woman asked who gets to decide what is a mantra? I told her that the right question is actually what is NOT a mantra. I explained that anything can be a mantra, if the word or phrase is repeated with utmost soulfulness. It is your own inner attitude that determines what is a mantra. She was very pleased with this answer. I was very impressed with their openness and sincerity.
Today, also at the grocery store, I answered question after question about my path from a gentleman I have not met before. He has a sprightly, energetic personality, with a restless speaking style. I noticed after I would share a basic truth about my path, he would connect it to some pat platitude from popular Zen. So when I told him that I went to many Gurus before finally finding Sri Chinmoy he said “All the doors you knock on is the wrong one until you find the right one.” I didn’t mind his questions, because I felt his sincere desire to learn about my path, but finally, when he asked for the third time about how my path relates to Buddhism, I just broke down and sang Guru’s immortal song for Lord Buddha, “Karuna Nayan.” I felt a deep silence come over him when I finished, and I just suggested that he try spending more time in spiritual singing as opposed to reading philosophical books. He liked the idea. We said “namaste” to each other and he left.
A long time ago, I had cherished a particular desire, but I didn’t think I would ever see it come to fruition. It was just a simple, ordinary desire, to get autographed first-edition copies from my favorite novelist, recently deceased. Then COVID happened, and the family, in charge of the novelist’s estate, told me they could not get the books from the publisher. Also, there was a tremendous demand for these signed copies, and they told me that even though I had asked first, there was no guarantee I would ever get these books. I felt disappointed and depressed. Then, a year later, we finally got that plague under control, I got fully vaccinated, the lockdowns were lifted, and one day I came home from work, to find a package from the author’s estate on my doorstep! I took the package in my arms, ran to my shrine, and opened it. I was shedding tears, just voluminous tears, when I tore open the cardboard and tape, reached through the popcorn foam and pulled books out, all of them signed.
I don’t think this novelist ever consciously accepted the spiritual life. I don’t think he has any outer connection with Guru. But he’s still my favorite novelist. And Guru fulfilled my desire to get signed copies of his books. I don’t think I have ever offered Guru such gratitude as I did then. I was weeping with gratitude. I’ve never given Guru that kind of gratitude. And, as I looked at the Transcendental, I saw that Guru was also weeping with joy that he was able to make me happy. Such is Guru’s oneness-heart with me.