The written word and spiritual perfection

 

 

Sometimes I sit down to write without fully knowing what I’ll say.  I just fill the empty page with my thoughts and experiences.  After I’ve hit the “publish” button and the whole world can see my train of thought, I will read my own piece and say, “Oh, so this is what is going on.”

In other words, keeping a blog, however inconsistently, gives me a clarity on my life I wouldn’t otherwise have.  It’s almost like creating a map.  Blue means water, green is forests, stubbled grey is elevation.  Because I’ve written, I can see my life with the objectivity of distance.  I see where my strengths and weaknesses lie.  I know now what I have to do.  I encourage everyone to write if they want better self-knowledge.

Sri Chinmoy says repeatedly that through writing, we can perfect our spiritual life.  In Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Father’s Day Prayers he says:

“The reason why I write: I long to correct myself…”

In The Mind and the Heart in Meditation, he writes:

“Then we can write about our own experiences.  We won’t want to publish them, no.  But while we are writing them down we are revealing our own inner light and perfecting our spiritual nature.  For half an hour we can write and we can read what we have written.  Each time we read about one of our own experiences we get abundant peace, light and bliss.  This is not our false imagination.  As soon as we have written we have created something.  The creator always wants to enjoy his creation…”

He offered this message repeatedly, in many books, that through writing we are perfecting our spiritual nature.

Sri Chinmoy is saying here we don’t have to publish them, but I find it personally helpful to write down my experiences in the public sphere.  This is because when I write for other people, I have to set down my experiences clearly and concisely.  When I come back to them years later, I can actually understand and contextualize what I have written.  Whereas if I wrote it just for myself, I might write in a more fragmented, haphazard way.

Also, I think our Guru mentioned that it is our personal experiences, our spiritual experiences, that if we can write them down, will have the greatest impact on the world.

He did say that to get any real benefit from spiritual writing, it must be set down in pen and paper.  But at least this blog is a very easy way for me to get my thoughts down, and to share them.

I write about the things I’ve learned on my spiritual journey.  I also write about my own problems and weaknesses.  I set down the good and the bad, but I try to be detached from my own positive and negative qualities.  Neither the good nor the bad really expresses who I am.  I just am.  The real in me is the soul, and the soul is beyond good and bad.  I haven’t realized this truth yet, at least not in my own psyche, but I feel it to be so.  Sri Chinmoy writes in The Golden Boat (part 5):

“When sin plagues him
He cries aloud.
When virtue plagues him
He cries aloud.
His Lord today tells him:
“No sin, no virtue, My son.
Only think that
I experience the life-breath
Of every moment
In a different way,
That’s all.””

By putting my life down on the page, I can learn from my own mistakes and bathe in the light of my own higher aspiration.  It’s an easy practice, a very accessible sadhana.

Today, at the grocery store, a young woman told me that she feels life needs joy, that joy is the essence of life.  I told her that in Bengali “joy” means victory, and I sang her Guru’s immortal anthem to the great Mother Kali: “Joy, joy, joy…ma, ma, Kali ma- tomai kebal bhalo basi ami antarato- ma”.  This means, I believe, “Victory to Mother Kali- your beauty I love with my whole heart.”

She was so moved by the song!  She told me, that going forward, she will remember that “joy” means “victory”.

I was ringing up another woman’s groceries, later in the day, and I told her that I felt she has a very deep connection with Mother Nature; I felt rivers, mountains and forests in her aura.  She told me that her middle name means “river” in German, and she was happy to get confirmation of her name.

Later in the day, two young Indian men came to my line, along with a young Chinese woman.  One of the Indian gentleman asked me if I knew the sloka in the Gita, quoted by Oppenheimer, where Krishna says, “I am become time- destroyer of worlds.”  He asked me if I knew it in Sanskrit.  I said yes, and I recited:

“Kalo ‘smi pravidraham lokas skaya skrit.”  The literal meaning is “I am time grown old, to destroy the world.”

I also quoted to them Sri Chinmoy’s mantra from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees (part 34): “Time either weakens or destroys the evil forces”.  Sri Chinmoy’s poem gives a special clarity to Lord Krishna’s utterance.  I told them that mantras can be offered in English as well as in Sanskrit.  They told me they wanted to sit down with me at a future time and have a discussion about our favorite mantras.  I look forward to this.

One of my customer-friends is a former college soccer player.  Today we got in a mock fight.  When he approached my line, I shouted, “Oh no, it’s my worst customer!”  At some point during our heated battle I told him he could ring up his own goddamn groceries next time.  He slammed his fist on the counter and replied “This morning you woke up and you chose war!”

I don’t know where the phrase “you woke up and you chose war” comes from, but I see it’s a mantra.  You can find them anywhere.

I’m writing this at five-thirty in the morning.  It’s time for me to get some shut-eye before I start my day.  Ciao for now.

A blue light in the library of dreams

 

 

My favorite movie is “Waking Life”, an animated feature directed by the great Richard Linklater. I’ve watched it many times. It is told from the perspective of a college student who is experiencing a state called “lucid dreaming”- where you are dreaming but are also conscious of the fact that you are dreaming. It is a phenomenon that has long fascinated mystics, scientists and laymen like me. In his “lucid dream” he interviews his professors, friends, and total strangers about weighty philosophical questions like the nature of consciousness, how to find authentic happiness, the corrosive power of time, and humanity’s future. The entire soundtrack was provided by an Austin-based tango ensemble. This movie taught me how to love tango, that strange hybrid of klezmer, classical chamber music and Iberian ballads.

The movie begins with the college guy as a child, playing a card game with his sister. It is an intricate, numerical numbers game. She asks the boy to select any card, and then she counts down and tells him to pick the last card. He does and she passes it to him. It reads: “Dream is destiny.”

Dream is destiny. This reminds me of Sri Chinmoy’s Invocation: “My life, Thy soulful Dream.”

One of my customers owns a bunch of movie theaters, nationwide. A long time ago I had told him that “Waking Life” is my favorite movie. Yesterday he came through my line with his wife and he asked me to rattle off my favorite movies. I said, “Oh, “Fight Club”, “Spirited Away”, “Shawshank Redemption”, “Waking Life”.”

And he said “Oh, “Waking Life” by Richard Link-what’s-his-face?”

And I yelled “Linklater you idiot!” (He’s my friend. I can get away with this)

So, he handed me a gift bag. Inside the gift bag was the DVD “Waking Life”. It was signed “To Mahiruha- from Richard Linklater- Dream On…”

He got Richard Linklater to autograph my own copy of my favorite movie!

I had other customers, but I just sat down on the little stoop where we usually put the bags and held the DVD over my heart. I was so stunned.

I’ve been thinking of dreams recently. The Rebbe of Berditchev, one of the followers of the great Jewish mystic the Baal Shem, said that to get old on the spiritual path is a crime. The path is only for the young. We must never get old in heart, in spirit. Sri Chinmoy said something similar, “To our last breath, let us aspire, and let us try to inspire others.” To aspire is to dream. To dream is to walk the path of constant self-renewal. Dream is destiny.

One of my friends told me that when he used to come home from his job at the UN, he would spend his nights doing selfless service or attending meditations at the Master’s house. Then, at night, he would be dead tired after a long day of work, service and meditation. He would go to sleep in a pretty good consciousness. But he often woke up after just an hour of sleep. He would have vivid vital, sexual dreams that would startle him awake. He tried meditating before going to sleep, but the problem persisted.

So, one night, during a function with the Guru, he asked Sri Chinmoy why he so often has lower vital dreams about an hour after going to sleep. Guru responded that it is at that time, about an hour after falling asleep, that people start going through the vital worlds. This led to other disciples posing a gauntlet of questions to Guru about dreams and sleep, but my friend wasn’t satisfied. So he followed up with another question: “If it is true, that after an hour I pass through the vital worlds in my sleep, what can I do about it?” Sri Chinmoy responded in a very succinct way: “Imagine a green-blue light.”

That’s all he said- imagine a green-blue light. So this person started meditating on that shade between blue and green. The dreams unfortunately continued, and he realized that, upon waking up, he really wanted the dreams. The charm of the vital world is overwhelming! But he did continue to visualize a blue-green light, and he even bought Christmas lights and nightlights which refracted that color- between blue and green. He kept meditating on this color, and he said that just his own haphazard attempts to follow his teacher’s advice- in spite of not knowing exactly what shade of blue-green to meditate on, or even what this color means in relation to the vital world- he has started to acquire some calmness and control over this part of his life. And he realized that light was the answer, light itself. He felt that from his daily prayers, his service to his Master, his attempt to merge his meditation and his work-life, that he began to bathe in light. He realized eventually that the light is not blue or green, but it is an all-encompassing light.

I had a dream recently which in some ways touches on my friend’s experience. In my dream, I was walking down a long hallway at my college gym. I paused in front of the locker room door, and I had a moment of lucid awareness. I knew I was about to enter the vital world. I opened the door with fear, and yes, anticipation.

The funny thing is that on the other side of the door, instead of a locker room, showers and saunas, there were just rows and rows of bookshelves, extending in all directions to the vanishing point. All the books were perfectly lined up and categorized. Everything was clean, serene and silent. My dream-self muttered, “The locker room must become a library.”

At that moment I woke up and sat up in bed. I swear I heard a voice say, “And the library must become a temple.”

I think this dream, if it came from my soul, may be telling me something. In short, the dream means that I am not the one who is going to transform my impure vital into something higher and divine. That is God’s responsibility. All I can do is prepare myself by continuing my sadhana: prayers, reading, running, meditating, singing, writing. If I brood on my vital problems, I will not transcend them. If I dedicate myself more wholeheartedly to the spiritual life, I can bring light into the vital realm. I can turn the locker room into a library.

Guru says we always have to go to the superior world to find solutions in the inferior world. The slothful body must take shelter in the dynamic vital- the gym. The dynamic vital must be guided by the higher mind, with its refined aesthetic sense, which also includes the love of nature’s beauty, artistic beauty, God’s beauty- the library. The illumined mind must surrender ultimately to the wisdom and light of the heart, which gets this directly from the soul- the temple.

My name means “climbing aspiration-tree”. The answer is always to climb, to keep climbing, to climb higher. Dream is destiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meditating with Sri Chinmoy, early meetings

The first time I saw Sri Chinmoy was at the Philadelphia Peace Concert in 1996, at the old hockey arena, called the Spectrum.  I think I was wearing my favorite, somewhat ratty old red shirt and jeans, and I sat on one of the folding chairs relatively close to the stage.  I remember hyperventilating; I was responding to his extraordinary presence.  He had an unmistakable aura of white light over his head, and also the entire building was flooded with his consciousness.  I was speechless, immobile, dumbfounded.  I kept my eyes closed because his spiritual height was unbelievable, I couldn’t process it with my rational mind.  Also it was more comfortable for me to keep my eyes shut, I found the light was impossible to absorb.

Then, suddenly, a voice inside of me said, “Look!  Look!  Open your eyes!  Open your eyes!”  It was the end of the concert, the closing meditation.  The Master was standing in the middle of the stage, with his hands folded in prayer, meditating in a sublime and exalted trance.  For the first time in my life I felt the Grace of God as an actual palpable reality.  That moment, that first moment meditating with the Master, in his highest consciousness and perceiving who and what he was, was the most significant moment of my life.

Maybe six months later, I traveled up to New York to see him at a public “seeker’s meditation”.  I remember not knowing what to expect, and wondering if I would have the same experience as I had in Philadelphia.  This meditation was held at his outdoor tennis court slash meditation space, called “Aspiration-Ground.”  I just remember he entered the tennis grounds wearing a track suit, and walked round and round the length of the court, a serious aspect, his brow furrowed.

A smile spread over my face, I was grinning from ear to ear.  I couldn’t even control it!  I folded my hands spontaneously, and just gaped in amazement and wonder at this man.  His entire body radiated a deep blue light, sea-blue or sky-blue.  It was just blue light, radiant blue light.  Even when I closed my eyes and meditated, I could see the blue light entering through my eyelids, seeping into my body and mind.

Spiritual Masters, great God-realised Gurus, make you aware of your own divinity.  They make you feel that God-consciousness is something achievable!  Sri Chinmoy made me feel this blue light was not a mental hallucination; it was my own forgotten property: the light of Infinity, the light of spirituality.

One older disciple told me later he saw my face, the fact I was in ecstasy and rapture, and he knew I was destined for this path.

Previously, maybe three months before, my Centre leader got permission for me to attend a disciple function with the Master.  It was a celebration of the anniversary of his Jharna-Kala paintings.  “Jharna-Kala” means “Fountain-Art” and his artwork is certainly an inspired flow.  My most vivid memory of that evening is Sri Chinmoy returning from the hallway into the main function room.  He walked past me, and I saw the expression on his face.  It was an expression of the utmost confidence and satisfaction.  It was like he was completely fulfilled in his life, he didn’t want for anything or need anything- he was happy with his inner reality.  Also, as a seeker, I was trying to fathom him, trying to understand him, but he was inscrutable.  I knew then that this person wasn’t someone who was going to explain himself to me, but rather I would have to mold my consciousness and life in his own way, or let him mold me in his own way, before I could ever begin to comprehend him.  He would not meet me on my terms, the terms of logic, ego, reason and mental arithmetic.  That was not his way.  I was not yet a disciple, but I knew that in order to become one, I would have to learn his game, and see the world through his eyes.  Was I ready to do that?

I did make that decision soon after- to become his student, his disciple.  As I progress on the path, I see my own life with Sri Chinmoy as an ever evolving mystery.  There was no beginning.  There is no end.

The long journey, and thoughts of Agni

 

An old woman came to my line today.  Her hair is blond; I’m sure she dyes it.  She has youthful eyes, the eyes of a child.

She was fascinated by my name.  I told her I got my name from my spiritual Master, Sri Chinmoy, and that it meant “fast-climbing tree.”

She told me I was doing the right thing, I was on the right path.  She told me that fifty years ago she used to read “Be Here Now” and other spiritual books on a regular basis, but she didn’t pursue it.  Her greatest regret in life is that she never took the time to develop her spiritual self.

I asked her if she wanted to hear a poem, she said yes, so I recited this great mantra from Sri Chinmoy’s The Golden Boat:

 

“I have just begun my long journey
With my first step.
Look,
My Lord says that
I have far advanced on the path.

I have just begun to meditate
In the early hours of the morning.
Look,
My Lord says that
My Goal no longer remains
A far cry.”

Sri Chinmoy, The Golden Boat, part 10, Agni Press, 1974

It brought her to tears.  I then wrote down “Beyond Within” and “Sri Chinmoy” on a slip of paper and handed it to her.   I told her this book was written by the man who wrote the poem and who gave me my spiritual name, and that it changed my life.

She told me she felt she was destined to meet me.

 

I took the bus home from work as it was raining heavily.  A burly, grizzled old man was sitting across the aisle.  He noticed I was reading “A Lost Friend” by Guru and he asked me wat it was about.  I told him it was a book of spiritual philosophy, by my spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy.  He nodded with knowledgeable appreciation, but didn’t say anything.

I noticed he looked a little disoriented, perhaps drunk, but that he had a regal demeanor, great dignity and shiny eyes.  Before I got off the bus I told him I felt Shiva consciousness in him.  He said, “No, no- I am Agni.”

He knows some of the cosmic gods!  Not many people know that Agni is the fire-god.

I told this man that Agni is one of my very favorite gods, because he is a literary god, a lover of the arts, and also kindles within human beings the flaming hunger for self-knowledge.

Interestingly, when Agni appeared before Guru, he spoke in English!  (Please see this page on Sri Chinmoy Library:  https://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/awa-28)

I have heard, but have not been able to confirm, that when Thomas Edison invented the radio, he asked the world’s foremost Sanskrit scholar to recite the opening of the Rig Veda as the first transmission (“Agni mile purohitam…”  It is an invocation to Agni.  Apparently he wanted the most ancient scripture in the world to be relayed by the most recent technology.

I try to read my Guru’s books for two hours a day.  I may not be the best at silent meditation, but I can access Guru’s consciousness behind the words.  Often I have seen the Transcendental Photograph when I read Sri Chinmoy’s poems and inspired talks.  Definitely studying his writings is another approach to his highest consciousness.

Wales, Affirmations, and Mother Kali

 

 

Today an older couple came to my line.  The man had deep wrinkles, and grey eyes.  He had hair like Dylan Thomas, so I offered him a discount if he could name the author of a particular poem.  He accepted the challenge, so I recited the first and the last stanzas of Thomas’ great poem, “Fern Hill,” which deals with the vanishing landscape of childhood and the innocence we can never fully recover.  The concluding line stays with me: “Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.”

 

I knew I was reciting well because I felt myself step away from my body and I just observed my lips move and I felt the sound being generated by my throat, but I wasn’t involved.  I don’t have that experience very often, where I enter into a state of trance, but when I do experience that kind of dissociative “trance”, where I’m not there, then I know I’m reciting well.  That’s the experience I had today.  Both he and his wife were so moved.

He paused and asked if the author was Dylan Thomas and I said “Yes!”

 

So I gave him a free health candy bar.

 

Sri Chinmoy wrote something interesting about Dylan Thomas.  He happened to have been speaking of Emily Dickinson but he said something also about Thomas, almost as an aside:

 

Emily Dickinson wrote thousands of psychic poems. One short poem of hers is enough to give sweet feelings and bring to the fore divine qualities of the soul. Dylan Thomas’ poems also have that quality, although Thomas sometimes has been misunderstood.”

 

(Sri Chinmoy, I need my country: Beauty’s Soul, Agni Press, 1975)

 

Dylan Thomas is of course the great Welsh poet.  Vidagdha Bennett, a scholar and chronicler of Sri Chinmoy’s life, recorded the Master’s impressions of Wales from 30 October 1991:

 

When I was there first time, everything was crying with joy.  Such haunting memories!  There I was born and raised.  Who can forget Wales?  Such simple people.  When I see my development since that incarnation, not in simplicity ways but in other ways.  For simplicity I should go back to that incarnation.  When I see simple people I get such joy.  They are real jewels.”

(Taken from “Notes from a Vagabond Disciple 1991, 1992, 1993” by Vidagdha)

 

I feel a strong attraction to Wales.  I have never been there, but the very name gives me great joy.  I grew up in a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania that had been founded by Welsh settlers.  All the towns and villages around had Welsh names: Bryn Mawr, Bala Cynwyd, Gladwyne, Radnor, Wayne.

 

I read and re-read The Lord of the Rings in middle school, and fell in love with Elvish names- Galadriel, Lothlorien, Sindarin, Elendil.  Much later I learned that Tolkein had been inspired and influenced by Welsh!

 

I read Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series as a child, a refiguring of Welsh mythology for the twentieth century.  I can still recite the opening couplets by heart:

 

“When the Dark comes rising six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; Water, fire, stone;
Five will return and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday; bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning; stone out of song;
Fire in the candle ring; water from the thaw;
Six signs the circle and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the sleepers, oldest of old.
Power from the Green Witch, lost beneath the sea.
All shall find the Light at last, silver on the tree.”

 

Also as a child I read Lloyd Alexander’s wonderful fantasy series The Chronicles of Prydain, also based on Welsh mythology.  Such beautiful books!  How I wish we could inspire young people to start reading again!

A very nice older lady came to my line today.  Her name is Nadine.  She asked me how I was doing and I told her my hangover is getting better.  She laughed (thank God!) and then she told me she comes to my line whenever she can to hear some wisdom.  She was wondering if I had any wise words to impart.

 

I recited this poem by Sri Chinmoy:

 

“Be indifferent to blame and praise.
You will be happy.

Don’t be sick of solitude.
You will be happy.

Discard the splendour of desire.
You will be happy.

Recognise not the ranklings of jealousy.
You will be happy.

Let death be inaugurated in your vital’s volcano-pride.
You will be happy.”

Sri Chinmoy, Transcendence-Perfection, Agni Press, 1975

 

 

She smiled, radiant and sincere, and told “This wisdom I have received today.”

 

I then asked her a question I often ask my customers- to tell me three things, apart from health and family, that she is grateful for.  I ask people to put aside health and family because those are stock answers, and I just want people to think a little.  She came up with three things for which she is grateful:

 

  • The awareness of how to be grateful
  • To give and receive a smile
  • The emotion of awe

 

I knew then that this woman is a spiritual seeker, and I asked her to repeat her selections and I wrote them down.  Nobody has ever given me such excellent answers, founded upon the heart’s awakening, wisdom that comes from heart-cry.

 

 

 

Last week, many people at my store caught some virus and had to call off.  So I did not have time to recite poetry for my customers.   I was too busy, the lines were too long, we were short-staffed in the extreme.   So I just sang the Master’s Kali bhajans, devotional songs for Mother Kali (the Goddess of speed and power) as I rung and bagged.  People smiled at me as they heard the songs..  They saw that I was happy and in a good consciousness, and that made them happy.  True, I could not recite any poems last week, but I could sing and chant, and offer Guru’s light in a different way.  I’m not the best singer, but I am not shy.  There is always a way to manifest.

 

Corn chips and theology

 

smile-beyond2
Smile of the Beyond

A few weeks ago, I dreamt I was at our little diner in Jamaica, Queens- “The Smile of the Beyond”- founded I think in 1975.  It’s just a little breakfast house tucked away between a laundromat and a dry cleaning store, and is operated by fellow devotees of Sri Chinmoy.

smile-beyond-Photo-May-28-7-50-14-PM

It was late at night and my dear friend Sanatan, who passed away a few years ago, was working behind the counter, maybe cutting vegetables.  He used to do a lot of the chopping, I think.  He also worked as a merchandiser for local supermarkets.  Unknown to most of his colleagues in the outer world, Sanatan was also an artisan, a craftsman, an artist, and an absolutely sleepless server to my Master, Sri Chinmoy.  He was a rare breed.  I miss him very much.

I asked him in my dream a very simple question: “Sanatan, now that are no longer alive, now that you are in the soul, can you tell me something about God?”

And Sanatan just paused in his chopping and he reached for a bag of corn chips and opened it.  He reached inside for a chip, and before biting down on it he just looked at me and said, “I am what I am.”

What does this mean?  I think Sanatan was trying to warn me against unnecessary intellectualization.  God is something to be experienced and felt, not to be analyzed.  God doesn’t care for our mental analysis.  God just is.  Sanatan is telling me to live in the heart.  The heart accepts life as it is.  Only through accepting life can we transform it.  I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, where I saw a graffiti mural on the wall of an underpass- it was an image of balloons in the evening twilight, all different colours.  Hovering just above the other balloons was one sky-blue balloon, set off against the dark blue of the sky.  Inside this balloon there was just one thought-bubble.  It said: “Be.”

Just be.  One of Guru’s books is entitled “God IS”.

God is.

“I am what I am.”

Thank you, Sanatan.