Dialogues and suitcases

 

 

 

I dreamt the other night that I was staying in Celebrations housing.  On the floor next to my big air mattress, I saw a suitcase.  It was covered with stickers that announced the countries it had been.  But when I approached the suitcase, I saw that the stickers were not customs tags.  Rather, they were a dialogue between this disciple and Guru.  On the top of each note was the disciple’s question or comment, and on the lower half was Guru’s response:

 

“My Lord, I am the weakest branch.”

“No My Child, You are My branches, My Leaves, My F lowers, My All.”

 

“My Lord, I am lost in the world, I am dead in the world.”

“No, My Child, You are found in Me, you live in My Heart.”

I am paraphrasing, as I don’t remember exactly what each sticker said.  I just remember that they took the form of a dialogue between this seeker and the Master.  I was moved by the fact that, wherever he went, this disciple took nothing from these various places, except his inner conversations with his Lord.  What else do you need?

A new journey

 

Recently my grocery store installed more automated self-checkout lines and gave the cashiers veiled warnings that our time was up.  I wasn’t surprised last Saturday when I got the axe.  I have by now grown tired of the new corporate mentality.  It is time to go.

Interestingly, I had a dream the night before my dismissal.  In my dream I was back in New York, at The Oneness-Fountain-Heart restaurant.  It was very late at night, well after midnight.  I looked at the dimly lit dining room, all the empty tables and chairs, the Jharna Kalas on the walls.  I walked into the kitchen and I saw a visiting European disciple who had once helped us at the restaurant.  He had been chopping vegetables and was washing off the cutting board, and told me he was about to leave.  I went one more time into the dining room, to meditate on Guru’s picture by his special alcove, and then I returned to the kitchen.  The lights were still on, but the disciple had left.  I was alone.  I was upset, in my dream, because I didn’t have a key and couldn’t even close the gate.

Then, I thought to myself, well, that’s okay, because this restaurant does not exist anymore.

So I just left.  I was still somehow troubled that I had left the restaurant unlocked and after I had traveled a few blocks I turned around and I saw the restaurant from a distance.  It was far away, but there was still light seeping out from the kitchen door, still emanating and spreading over the dark streets.  I thought to myself that the spiritual Masters appear on earth for just the briefest of intervals.  They appear, they have their Lila, their divine play on earth, and then they leave.  People living in the ordinary world, who are not disciples of these Masters, just for a fleeting second perceive something unearthly, divine, in these Masters and their children.  And then the Masters disappear, and people forget what they saw.  But the light is still there.  Like the light emanating from The Oneness-Fountain-Heart.  On the outer plane, the restaurant doesn’t exist anymore.  The very building has been torn down.  But the light is still there.

I offered Guru’s poems at the grocery store- to thousands and thousands of people.  It was one of the most satisfying manifestations of my life.  I’m grateful I got that opportunity.  I don’t know what is next.  I don’t need to know.  I am waiting patiently for another assignment.

 

–Mahiruha

What is real

What is real
Is only the soul
Of the world,
Like water rushing
Under an ancient
City.
Modern light
Is no match
For a flower
Pressed between
The pages
Of an old book,
Fresh and fragrant
Still after centuries.
We can all kiss
The pages of wisdom,
Learn how to
Become flowers
In the spine.
Throw my dust
In the water
On an August morning,
And the beauty
I have embodied
Will marry
The river
Of time.

-February 7 2024

Writing to spite the sleep queen

 

I’ve been suffering from insomnia recently.  This isn’t a wholly bad thing.  I get a lot done during those hours when most people are sleeping.  Sometimes I spend the hours by reading poetry, like Dylan Thomas’ great poem  I Fellowed Sleep, which may possibly deal with insomnia.  It ends with the line “My father’s ghost is climbing in the rain.”

Wow!  Sometimes we read long poems just to encounter a single powerful line like that one: “My father’s ghost is climbing in the rain.”

What does this mean?  I don’t know.  I don’t know rationally, but I understand it anyway.  Some part of me feels it, fathoms the meaning without having any need to explain it.

Sri Chinmoy makes this case far better than I, in Sri Chinmoy Answers part 7:

“I always say that man writes prose, but it is God who writes poetry in and through man. In poetry, each word carries us into the Unknowable, where there is tremendous joy. We may think that when we enter into the Unknowable, we will be totally lost. But we are not lost; we are flying.

“Poetry is intuitive, so we should not try to understand it. It is not the mind we need in order to derive joy, but the heart.”

Here Sri Chinmoy is explaining to us what poetry is, but at the same time his spontaneous creation is nothing but mantric poetry.

Joyce Kilmer said something similar, albeit  in a whimsical fashion, about the intuitive power of poetry:

 

TREES

By Joyce Kilmer

 

“I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

 

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

 

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

 

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

 

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”

 

It’s funny- I’ve never read this poem in its entirety until thirty seconds ago, when I googled the last two lines- the most famous part, much quoted in popular culture.  But now, at this very moment, reading these lines, it’s clear that Mr. Kilmer was trite in his word-choice, his rhythm is flat and deadpan.  Yet, for all that, what an affecting piece of word-music!  He’s created a mantra, so soulful and haunting.  No wonder the crown of this poem, the last two lines, has endured in the memory of humanity.  It’s almost as if God played an inside joke on the poet. Kilmer is saying that only God can make a tree, and God, by creating this beautiful mantra through the poet, rejoins, “It is only God who writes poetry in and through man as well!”

Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.  What a line!  Remarkable.

My mountain-climbing, English Channel swimming, tennis champion friend, Anugata, told me “We are people of high moments.”  In other words, a spiritual seeker might spend a whole afternoon reading sacred books, just to find one line or one word that touches him, and elevates his consciousness to a higher pinnacle.  He’s willing to spend a whole day just to get a drop of light.  In the same way, when I read Keats or Thomas or Shelley, I read them for one or two brilliant phrases that I can keep with me and recite over and over.

Sri Chinmoy said something very interesting in this regard concerning a line of Keats’:

“When Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” he was in a very high consciousness. But did he remain in that consciousness? When you read the whole of ‘Endymion’, you see that there are many lines that are not at all good. But the first line is so powerful. He reached that height for a fleeting second and wrote an immortal line, but then he fell down most comfortably and stayed there. But his achievement remains immortal. It has become humanity’s achievement and humanity’s treasure. It is like a builder who builds a superb house. For a while he feels that it is his house: but then the person who employed him to build the house starts occupying the house and throws the builder out.” (From Art’s Life and the Soul’s Light by Sri Chinmoy)

 

As I said, Joyce Kilmer was not a particularly gifted poet- in any way.  But he still wrote that immortal final couplet:  “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”  So, it doesn’t matter.  He offered something that will last in the heart of humanity for Eternity.  Keats offered us the great line: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” that incredible opening line that overshadows the rest of Endymion combined.  Of course Keats, unlike Kilmer, was a supreme poet, but he still needed the Grace of God to write something truly immortal.  He wrote in one of his letters: “…(M)y greatest elevations of Soul leave me every time more humbled.”

 

 

Today, for no reason at all, and to the displeasure of the new company code- speed of above all- I recited William Blake’s great poem “Tyger, Tyger” to a young couple.  They really enjoyed it.  But, as I was reciting it out, I was struck by the lines:

 

 

“…When the stars threw down their spears

And watered Heaven with their tears…”

 

Where did that line come from!  What an inspired piece of word music.  Once again, I don’t understand it.  I don’t need to- it speaks to a deeper part of my being.

 

My friend Janaka, the great Scottish writer, wrote a really accomplished and polished book of verse called Glasgow Zen.  I’ve been reading and re-reading it in my sleepless hours.  In one section of the book he renders Japanese haikus written by Issa, Ryokan and Santoka, into Scots dialect.  The effect is charming and oddly thought-provoking:

 

 

“the full moon shinin

on this buncha heidbangers

(me included)”

 

 

“a wee kickaboot

wi the kids in the street-

the night lights”

 

“nights drawin in

patchin my auld claes-

dae me another year”

 

 

(My Microsoft Office Word autocorrect function does not like Glasgow English!)

 

I’d just like to conclude with one of Sri Chinmoy’s mantras from his great collection Twenty-Five Aspiration-Flames, a brief anthology of some of his most inspired utterances from 1987:

 

“My son, the unknowable can be known.

My son, the unknown can be known.

My son, the known can easily

remain unknown.

My son, the knowable can eternally remain

Unknowable.”

Interestingly, when Sri Chinmoy was discussing poetry, he said it carries us into the “Unknowable”.  He did not use the term “Unknown” but rather “Unknowable”.  Some things will never be understood by the outer mind of man.  I was talking to some college kids in the sauna the other day and I mentioned one of the things my great philosophy Professor, Dr. Iorio told us, that science has never been able to account for the unity of a single thought.  In other words, matter can be infinitely divided, taken apart and analysed:  molecules into atoms, atoms into protons and electrons, which in turn can be broken down into quarks and so on.  Everything in the physical world is subject to division and investigation.  But a single thought, is self-evidently real, and is not susceptible to any division or investigation.  It just is.  And here immediately we see the difference between the world of matter and the world of consciousness.  Talk about neurons and synapses until the sky falls down- science has not and never will  be able to account for the unity of a single thought.  Consciousness is unknowable.  Only through prayer and meditation can we fathom these mysteries.  Poetry can also help us in reaching these realms.

Winter thoughts

 

I’ve been recently reading Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain”, the novelist’s masterpiece.  I can’t say what it’s about yet- but the sheer beauty of the language is extraordinary.  I am an instant fan.  It’s funny, how this gifted translator, John E. Woods, who passed away just last year, has become the bridge between me and the novelist.  Through Woods’ translation, I can see Thomas Mann had a love of words that borders on hysteria and madness.  As a poet, I can identify.  When I finish this book, I promise a full review.

I’ve also just discovered the poetry of Mark Strand.  Please read his poem “Answers”, one of the tersest poems I’ve ever read about father-son relationships.  It’s concise and sad, with the son questioning the father.  The father answers each question coyly, but then, when his son repeats the question, he answers honestly.  and the poem ends with the father asking to just be allowed to lie down.

I never became a father.  This is a good thing as I don’t have much patience, and would have expected my child to clean the house.  This is the wrong reason to have children.  I guess there are people like me who are not meant to be parents, but who have felt societal pressure to marry and have children.  I meet a lot of young guys at the local college.  When I hang out with these students at the cafeteria, the library or the sauna, they ask me to recite poems for them.  When I read out ten or twenty poems, I feel the bridge between us is Guru’s consciousness.  At that time, it doesn’t matter I have thirty years on these boys, or the fact that they never saw Guru in the physical.  He becomes, at those moments, the universal Father, and we breathe in his heartbeat, his breath.  The Christians say to pray without ceasing, and to seek out the community of believers.  I aim to one day fill every waking moment with Guru’s poetry.  The more committed I can be to Guru’s consciousness, the more I can rely on it to guide me.  The ultimate realisation of a disciple is that the Master is all you need.  When college students hear my poems (even though they are written by Sri Chinmoy, by memorizing and treasuring them they have become my own), they apply the light and knowledge that these words contain in their own way.

Once, in our small but maxed out sauna (guys often put wet paper towels on the thermometer in the sauna to make it thermonuclear), I recited one of my favorite mantras to an almost-graduated senior:

“At every moment,

In the depths of my heart,

I shall have to fight against

All my temptations.

Then I will be

Another Buddha

With all unique

Qualities

Of the

Absolute.”

He paused and reflected in silence for a moment.  Then he said that the poem is interesting, because it is by overcoming the temptation to conform to social pressure, social norms, that we become absolutely unique, like the Buddha.  If we want to be completely unique, then we must shun temptation in every form, both from society and the temptations and traps that come from our own ingrained patterns of thinking.  I almost gasped, because I had never responded to the poem that way.  To me the key word was temptation- overcoming temptation, but for this boy the key word was “unique”- becoming who you truly are by peeling away everything extraneous.  Meditating on the uniqueness of the Buddha, his extraordinary achievement, is another way of overcoming temptation.  We can fight against temptations, yes, but if we can remember the goal, the unparalleled Godhood that the Buddha, Christ and Sri Chinmoy have, it becomes easier.  I folded my hands and bowed to this young seeker, for he had exposed me to this poem’s hidden depths.

I’ve been writing more poetry recently.  This is better than watching soap operas.  For me, poetry writing can be laborious.  I fill up hundreds of pages to arrive at a single poem.  But I know that there is a poem there, waiting to be revealed.  My notebooks are full of references to traffic lights, highways, shadows and alleyways.  My imagery tends to the dark.  But even then I get joy, I feel that behind all the melancholy imagery, there is a reassuring light.  I feel I offer my inner turmoil and frustration to God in my poetry, and He turns it into something else.  Everything we have must be offered at the Feet of our Master.  Then these possessions are no longer ours.  In a similar vein, the moment I start writing poetry, I know I will arrive, I will get at least one polished, respectable poem.  When we embark on any journey, we must not think of the length of time or distance.  If we get the inner assurance that we can ultimately arrive at the goal, then we have only to start.  Sometimes I wish I could  write faster, and get quicker results.  But I’ve discussed the writing process with other poets, and we’ve come to a consensus that it takes about forty-five hours of total labor to get a good poem.  No pain, no gain.

I used to say I fill my notebooks full of trash to get the diamond.  I write hundreds of mediocre poems to get one good poem.  But an older disciple told me I must not refer to my notes as “trash”.  She explained that human creativity is the Supreme’s Self-expression.  It is just an extension of Guru’s consciousness.  Therefore, the very process of writing, of dreaming through paper, is sacred.

Sri Aurobindo would often ask his disciples to learn foreign languages.  He once asked one of his closest devotees to learn French, and gave him novels by Dumas and Balzac to read, even though his disciple didn’t speak a single word!  Sometimes the only way to learn something is to do it.  By giving this man whole novels to read in a foreign language, I think Sri Aurobindo was trying to overcome the stubborness or resistance of this man’s outer mind, which says that knowledge has to be acquired always in a piecemeal way.  You have to jump and dive into the unknown in order to claim it.  I have a lot of Polish customers; from talking to them in Polish every day I am learning the language.  I can now carry on a basic five-minute conversation completely in Polish.  I’m not afraid to look or sound foolish.  In the same way, I officiated my first wrestling match last week, at the college level.  I didn’t know what in hell I was doing.  The wrestlers knew it, but they helped me make my calls.  I had help from a back up ref, too.  But I often beat him to the punch in making calls.  I’ve jumped into a new field.  Sometimes you just have to jump.  Who would have thought Sri Chinmoy the poet, the Yogi, would be known as a great weightlifter?

It’s time for me to unplug from social media, and get ready for the real beginning of winter.  Supposedly the proximity of Chicago to the lake makes our winters more moderate.  That’s not my perception, at all.  But I live in Chicago for the culture, great restaurants and disciple community- not for the weather.

Tales from the mat

 

I’ve recently begun my training to become a high school wrestling referee.  It’s my side gig.  I don’t know much about wrestling, but I’ve always loved the sport, and I appreciate the intense discipline involved.  I guess discipline comes from the fact that wrestling involves so many moves, and so much strategy.  In fact when I watch the very best wrestlers, like Spencer Lee and Dean Hamiti, it looks more like they are dancing than wrestling.  They have that kind of agility.  I also appreciate the amount of strength training and weight-cutting they have to do.  Yes, it is true I often see wresters spend an ungodly amount of time in the sauna at my local college, trying to cut water weight.  I also see them frequently in the weight room.  Surprisingly, many of them don’t look that strong.  Wrestling involves conditioning and speed.  That’s why so many of my wrestler-friends look skinny and unimposing.  But when they wrestle, I see a whole different dimension- ferocity.

I have a lot to learn.  I’m starting by watching college NCAA champion matches and watching the referee- seeing why he makes the calls he does.  I also go to wrestling referee clinics, or procedural meetings, to learn the latest rules and changes.  I went to a clinic three weeks ago, in Naperville, which is about fifty miles west of Chicago.  Naperville’s just a small town.  I love Chicago, because it is so cosmopolitan and international, but it doesn’t have much peace.  Naperville doesn’t have the kind of cultural opportunities that Chicago has, but it has tangible peace.  You can walk along the hills and rivers, the old abandoned mansions and little arts and crafts stores.  You can feel the peace.  It’s good for me to visit other places.  It breaks my rhythm, it shows me other ways to live my life.

 

The clinic was held in the early evening at Naperville Central High School.  I was sitting in a classroom with about thirty guys, most of them in their fifties and sixties, although some were older or younger.  I saw that some of the head officials were in their seventies, but they had maintained their wrestling physique their whole lives.  They looked like those ancient Mahabharata warriors, old men who had become like ancient trees in terms of power and beauty.

“No biting” was one of the first rules they talked about.  I was confused- I mean we live in a civilized society, so wouldn’t it be just a given that you can’t bite your opponent?  But it must happen frequently enough that they had to make it an official rule.  They told us that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a hard bite or a soft bite.  It leads to automatic disqualification.  We also discussed the order in which the various weight classes wrestle.  How do you decide who goes first?  There’s an app that you can program to randomly generate the order.  But one school does something different- they put a mouse in the middle of a maze.  The maze has twelve exits.  Depending on which exit the mouse chooses, the corresponding weight class gets to go first.

The clinic was basically preparation for the open-book wrestling exam, which I took online.  By reading the rules book and going to the clinic, I was able to pass the exam.  But that’s not enough to prepare me for being a referee.  That’s why I’ve been going to every tournament in my area, where I just shadow the referees and watch what they do and how they make calls.  What impresses me is how fast and knowledgeable the referees are.  I’m going to have to go to many more tournaments before I’ll be comfortable officiating my own matches.  But I’ll get there.

The veteran referees are happy to teach me the ropes.  There’s a shortage of referees, so they’re happy to have new blood.  The wrestling officials I’ve met come from all walks of life- although many of them are teachers or take blue collar jobs like firefighters or mechanics.  My grocery store is in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago – a schwa and ritzy neighborhood, so I enjoy meeting and working with people from a different background.

I went to a junior varsity tournament yesterday.  Most of the kids were middle-school aged, although some looked slightly older.  A very diverse group of wrestlers- Mexican, African-American, Asian and white.  During one match, a boy cried out, “He’s choking me!”- referring to his opponent who had him in a kind of headlock.  The veteran referee looked at me and said, “Well, if that were true he wouldn’t be able to say it.” And he allowed the match to continue.  The boy got pinned, but he lived.  As an official you have to know when someone is crying wolf.

I saw one Black kid with an unbelievable style and speed.  He pinned his opponent in less than ten seconds.  I feel he has a great career ahead of him.  It’s exciting to see.

During another match, a boy was about to win, but he said, “Sit down boy!  Sit down boy!” to his opponent.  The referee told him that his opponent is not a horse, and penalized him for unsportmanlike conduct.  They restarted the match and the boy held his tongue and won easily.  He was short and fat but had tremendous will power.  His grandmother was there snapping photographs but she scolded him.

The coaches got a little feisty!  As a referee, you have to hold your ground if you know you made the right call.  I’m thinking about learning some judo in case I have to fight off a disgruntled coach or parent.

 

I really admire the discipline and perseverance that these boys develop.  Their tenacity and intense training reminds me of the 3100 mile race.  Saturday I have another tournament, which is another opportunity for me to learn from more experienced officials.  I’m not sure where my wrestling journey will take me.  I don’t have to know.  When Guru gives you a new road, you just follow it.

 

“Four unfinished stories
I must finish:
Man’s journey into the Unknown,
Earth’s despair-death,
Heaven’s indifference-smile,
God’s Perfection-dream.”

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

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
And
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.