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.

Trees, leaves and sun

Yesterday at the gym my friend Enrique asked me a very interesting question.  He asked me what prompted or incited my Master to give me my spiritual name “Mahiruha”. And I told him that the Master gives people names based on his inner assessment of their progress.  Also this is based on his own understanding as to whether or not a spiritual name will be actually helpful to the seeker.  To maintain one’s aspiration and dedication throughout life is much more important than any name or title could ever be. I suppose the greatest advantage or benefit of having a spiritual name is that it gives you another opportunity to manifest the Master’s light. In other words my name is exotic-sounding so people ask me about its derivation and voila I have this golden opportunity to talk about my Guru!

So I told him that about a year and a half before I got my spiritual name I had a kind of interesting and prophetic dream.  In my dream I was alone with Guru in a schoolroom.  He was sitting in the middle of the room in a simple chair and he said to me “Mahiruha, I want you to tell me your soul’s qualities and I will form your name from that.  So I circled the Master three times and each time I passed in front of him I uttered a different quality.  The first time I said “A sea of self giving.”  The second time I said “The power that conquers pride.”  The third time I said “Inexhaustible patience.  When I had finished saying these things Guru nodded slowly and gave me a soulful smile and said, “Very workable.”

People might be confused as to why I said “The power that conquers pride” in my dream as opposed to “humility”.  But it’s actually quite self-explanatory when you think about it. Let’s say that humility is one of your inner qualities. If you go around telling people that you are humility incarnate, then you’re not being humble. Guru has an aphorism:  “Humility disappears the moment we become proud of it.”  He has another aphorism“If you take pride in being humble, then you are a humility clown.”  So humility is kind of like the Chinese concept of the Dao whose value and worth is diminished the moment you say what it is.  It is something ineffable, and really should not and cannot be adequately described.  It just is.  Guru’s own Teacher Sri Aurobindo has a line in one of his poems”  “Therefore we know by Thy humility that thou art God.”

The second reason why I think I used the phrase “The power that conquers pride” is because we tend to think of humility as something feeble or delicate but it is not.  In Sri Chinmoy’s play about the life of the savior Christ the Father says to his beloved Son: “Son, you know the supreme secret, that supreme secret is humility.  It is your humility that will crown you with the transcendental triumph.”

So humility is the power of oneness and the power of oneness is best exemplified by the tree which once it becomes laden with fruit bows down for everyone to take. So, a year and a half later when I got my name Mahiruha which simply means “tree” I was able to assimilate that name quite easily on the strength of my own previous inner experiences. So I explained to Enrique that if you practice the spiritual life you gradually become conscious of your own soul- for the spiritual life means to mix with your soul, to fathom your soul and to gradually grow into your soul ‘s light, identity and divinity.  I then recited some of the Master’s poems including “ Insecurity’s length” and “I escaped from the embrace of God” and “The animal in me rages in vain  The human in me ages in vain.  The divine in me races and succeeds.”  He told me that he could tell these poems are very dear to me and he’s right.


This morning as I biked to work, I recited this poem, from The Golden Boat:

“There was a time when I was the sadness

Of a saddening thought.

There was a time when I was the madness

Of a maddening thought.

But now I am the vastness

Of an unhorizoned thought.

I am the brightness

Of the solar thought.”


It’s interesting that only in the last line, does “a thought” become “the thought.”  Sadness, madness, even vastness, are all prefaced by the word “a”.  It is only when we get to the concept of “brightness” and “solar” that the article changes to “the”.  It is as if there is only one true thought, it embodies and transcends all other thoughts, and it is inconceivably brilliant- “the brightness of the solar thought.”  I recited this poem forty times today, and each time I felt the poem was a challenge to lead an awakened life.  All thoughts ultimately empty themselves into the one thought, the supracosmic “solar thought”.  It is the only reality in the world of thought.  Seek light.  This is what I need to remind myself.  Seek light all the time.

I recited the last stanza of “Leaves of Grass” for a lady today at the supermarket.  She was indescribably moved, she shed tears, and kept saying “I am so grateful, I am so grateful, I am so grateful.”  I rarely get THAT kind of appreciation from people, and I told her it was mutual.  It’s interesting, as I was reciting these concluding lines, beginning with “The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me” I felt Whitman’s mighty soul, around me.  Poetry, if offered in the right spirit, is always an invocation.

Coltrane, a heart of gold and the Chicago red line

Today I was taking the train back from my pool and I saw an older Black man on the train. I think he was in his mid to late seventies.  He was smartly dressed, in a purple Stetson hat and pure white slacks, white button down shirt, a nice overcoat and dark blue polished shoes leather shoes.  He was sitting across from me on the train.

For some reason I felt spontaneously inspired to strike up a conversation with him.  I remarked on how nice his white suit looked, and that, in India, the color white is the color of the Divine Mother.  People wear white to honour Her.  He was so deeply moved to hear that!  He told me his name was Wallace, and when I told him my name “Mahiruha”, he repeated it ten times until he got it right.  Wallace asked me many questions about Indian spirituality, which I endeavored to answer based on my reading of Guru’s books:  the concept of the cosmic Mother in India and with whom the Mother is identified.  I told him that you can call her Shakti , you can also call her Mother Kali. And I told him about the role and function of Kali in Indian philosophy- the transformer human ignorance, the Saviour of the Universe and the destroyer of evil.  I told him that She is the supreme power in the Hindu religion, the greatest of all the deities.  He asked me if in Indian philosophy the feminine is superior to the masculine and I said no they both have their equal roles to play.

Then I told him that since his eyes were blue- sky blue- that this is the colour of the Divine Father, and the colour is associated with Krishna. And I told him a little bit about Krishna but especially how blue is his most favorite color and how blue represents vastness, spirituality and infinity. And I told him how, according to my Guru, Krishna and Kali are eternally and inseparably one.  I told him how Sri Chinmoy, has written many songs expressing their eternal oneness.  (This one in particular is mesmerising)

I told him a little bit about our path and Master.  I shared with him how our Master would meditate in the little auditorium at the Queens inner-city elementary school, PS 86; when he meditated he would flood the room with a sense of light and delight and peace, that he brought down a higher consciousness.  He turned the little auditorium into a temple.  I said, in response to his question about our philosophy, that it’s really the acceptance of life for its transformation.


I told Wallace about the dream I had several months ago about how I was walking along the lakefront and I saw a homeless Black man come out of his tent and he was holding a violin case.  He opened it and started playing the violin on the hill.  I could recognize the melody as a Bach partita!  I approached this Black man in my dream and I asked him “What are you?”  He put down the violin and he said to me “I am an unconditional smile.  I am an absolute smile.  I am an eternal smile.”


The gentleman on the train told me that there are some dreams in life that you never forget.

I explained to him that my Master always used the term “Supreme” for God, because “Supreme” implies constant self-transcendence.  The Supreme is always in evolution.  This idea pleased him very much.  He mentioned “A love Supreme” by John Coltrane and spoke to me a little bit about his wife Alice Coltrane’s spiritual awakening (I think she incorporated Indian chants in her music).  In response, I recited Guru’s great poem, perhaps inspired by Coltrane: “Lord, when You kill me with Your Love supreme”.

I told Wallace that even though I follow an Indian path I’ve had intimate experiences with other Masters- with Jesus Christ as well as with other teachers. And I told him about my experience in the Cloisters museum in Manhattan about how I stood in front of the Fuentiduena chapel and how I was simply bathed  in affection, just overwhelming affection, I just felt waves and waves of affection pouring from Jesus Christ, and I realized then that the essence of Christianity is not the pageantry, not the power or the glory or the rapture or even the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  It is his affection. And as I spoke about my experience with Christ I felt that affection once again- the experience came back to me.  I also told him how sad it was that that the museum had desecrated that holy space by removing the ropes and allowing people to just walk through it.  Wallacce told me that that experience is inside me now. And that that by talking about it I am actually manifesting what I felt.

He said when some people feel Divinity, or the essence of God they run away, they get scared while other people come closer and walk the path of self-discovery. Then I told him that only in the presence of my Master, Sri Chinmoy, have I felt the kind of affection that I felt in the Fuentiduena chapel. And he asked me about my Master, what he looked like.  I just happened to have a book called “A Perfect Divine Enterprise” and I showed him the cover.

Wallace looked at Guru’s face and smiled and said “He’s Black!”  I told him what Guru said during a private gathering with his “Chosen Children”, his Black disciples, that “white people have mushy hearts, while Black people have hearts of gold and I am one of those”.  He asked me to repeat that, he was laughing and delighted to hear that. He said to me that Black people can also have mushy hearts and I told him that he undoubtedly has a heart of gold and he said “You do, too.” I told him that he made my day and he said “same here.” It was one of the nicest experiences I’ve ever had on the train, the notorious Red line in Chicago.


Fame in my hair


One of my customers is an old painter.  Today he showed me one of his little sketchbooks.  The tiny page he showed me was full of swirls, like nebular galaxies, but as I looked at it, I saw that each arm of the galaxy was composed of smaller swirls, and I also saw that he used a different kind of line for each arm of the galaxy.  I didn’t know lines could be so expressive.  Each arm of the galaxy was so different, but there was a unity in the galaxy.  One part looked like a Renaissance drawing of the night sky, another part looked like a Hudson River School artist depicting a wave composed of tiny rivulets.  The page he showed me was no more than three inches by three inches, but I looked at it and saw more detail the longer I looked.  It was hypnotizing.  I told him he’s the real deal.

I then asked him if anyone has ever done a documentary on him, and he said that no-one yet has.  I told him that he deserves a documentary, and much more fame.  He responded by saying, “As long as my art-spirit is happy and I am productive, that’s all I care about.”

So I recited the following poem that includes the word “fame”:

Earth-grief burnt his body’s frame

He nodded his head several times as I recited it.

He then said, “I was a given a garden to take care of, and as long as I cultivate the garden and take care of it, and as long as the actual owner of the garden is happy, I don’t have to worry.”

This is not the statement from some hack, but these are the words of someone who has some real intuitive vision.

Sri Chinmoy writes in his book The Street Beggar:

“When we look at life,

It frightens us.

When we look into life,

It surrenders.”

This is a man who has looked into life.  I deeply value our conversations.  I feel fortunate to know him.

Before he left he told me a story about a great poet who Fame did not favor in his lifetime.  He saw Fame walking through the streets of the city wearing other poets’ words in her hair, but she never wore his poems in her hair.  One day he accosted her and said, “Why do you wear these other poet’s words in your hair, but you do not wear mine, when my poems are far superior, and will last forever?”

She smiled and said, “I will visit you in the cemetery in a hundred years, and you will see that I will be wearing your poems in my hair.”

The Master once wrote “With whatever I have I shall run.”

Who cares if others do not appreciate your vision and manifestation?  Just offer what you have.


Here’s a piece by one of my favorite American painters, John Singer Sargent.  It is called The Jetty and makes me think of journeys.  This is relevant to my life now.


Thanksgiving in July


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.

Surprises in the health food store


This morning a man in the early autumn of his days came to my line.  He had grey to white hair, but looked in good condition.  He told me he beat cancer and is preparing to start running triathlons again.  I told him I know a running mantra that I use all the time, written by my spiritual teacher.  He asked me about the mantra, and I recited this one: “With a happy speed I run and run…”

Sri Chinmoy – sprinting

He immediately crossed himself, kissed two fingers of his right hand and held them up above his head in salutation to God, and told me I had made his whole day.  He asked me who wrote it and I told him “Sri Chinmoy”.  He thanked me from the bottom of his heart.

Guru’s poetry embodies his aura.  It’s Guru’s own spiritual aura that makes these experiences possible.  People feel Guru’s divinity in his writings, for they are inseparable.

A little later a forty-ish looking man came to my line.  He asked me if I was a Sri Chinmoy follower.  I said yes, and then he reminded me that he was the one who attended a meditation class in Washington DC around 2002.  He had told me about his experience a few months ago.  He said that as soon as the presenter walked into the room, he felt she brought with her the most rarefied energy, and light, just pure light.  She was simply radiating light.  He told me that he gasped when he saw her, that her face was just shining with light.  He told me that class changed his life.  He told me she was a great ultra-runner and I told him her name is Suprabha, which means something like “glorious morning light”.

He always associated Sri Chinmoy with the light that Suprabha brought into the room.

I had called Suprabha the next day and told her about this man’s experience.  She was so moved.  She thanked me for sharing the story and also thanked Guru for “accompanying us to all the classes.”  She said she feels this is a sign for her to begin giving classes again: “the time is now.”

A few nights later, I had dreamt I was at Aspiration-Ground, and Suprabha offered me a vase of gratitude-flowers.  To me, these flowers represent the highest purity.  Maybe her soul was telling me that we can solve all our problems just by being more soulful in our dedicated service.

Towards the end of my shift, an older gentleman named Frankie came through my line.  Noticing his accent, I asked him what country he was from, and he said, “Puerto Rico”.  I told him that my Guru, Sri Chinmoy, established his mission in Puerto Rico, and Frankie said, “Yes, in 1964.”

I gaped!  I asked him how he knew that and he said that he has known of Guru for decades.  He said that he knows our community in Chicago, and that he has a co-worker who looks just like Sri Chinmoy.  He said that this reminds him of Sri Chinmoy every day.

We said “namaste” to each other, and the man walked away.

I recited many more poems today, including one of my favorite mantras- it’s the English translation of this Bengali song:  “…I will be another Buddha…”

I also recited this stunning mantra from 365 Father’s Day Prayers: “Go out if you want to widen your mind…”

It was a good day.