A Few Reflections
Sometime after Sri Chinmoy's passing I jotted down some reflections and reminiscences, letting the flow of memory with its sweet things and moments of understanding carry me along...
Late summer is a vivid blaze of green, in the shading boughs of oaks and sycamores at Aspiration-Ground, in the all engulfing mass of driveway vines – but look carefully, autumn is stealing in, a hint of yellow high up in the crowns of trees, in the industry of squirrels, a sudden night chill. Winter stirs in the falling sap. In the afternoon breezes, a slow flurry of falling leaves, tawny golds and browns tumbling down, the season turning on its heel. Many dread the coming months, the long summer of our Guru’s earth-life now in one sense ended, the bereft contemplating the chill of a harsh new season. But no, this is not the case. Guru is alive, and alive too in each one of us, a part of us. There in the silence-nest of meditation we can quickly find him. And the outer goal which he embodied and held up to us is the inner Self within each of us – enlightenment is an act of remembering.
When my wife Subarata passed away Sri Chinmoy said ‘Do not grieve too long, she is alive, she is alive. Do not look for her around you, she is inside you, a part of you.’ How remarkably true that turned out to be. If this is so with another human being how much more powerfully this will prove to be so with a great Master. He who has initiated us inwardly, meditated countless times on our souls, planted aspiration, light, countless blessings in our hearts, assigned inner beings or emanations to counsel and protect us – a part of his own inner reality – and pledged responsibility for our realisation to God. ‘When I am united with the Universal Consciousness, I am in everybody’ he once said. Can’t you feel it?
I think that I learnt all of my most important lessons in meditation by simply observing Guru, just by being there around him. ‘God does not expect you to be perfect. He just expects you to be available’. Yes, just being available was almost enough. An osmosis – trying to absorb what we saw in Guru’s face and consciousness into ourselves. Filing by in a walk past or sitting in his company I tried to feel that what I saw and felt in him was also within myself – I am that. So you begin with imitation, imagining inside yourself that selfsame yogic calm, that poise, delight, detachment, radiant peace. Then imagination becomes a reality, you can feel it growing inside yourself – beneath the dross of imperfections your little divine Self remembers and stirs. Sri Chinmoy was a mirror – look hard and often enough and there you are, smiling back at yourself.
I woke this morning at 2:50am, floating up to wakefulness from strange faraway dreams. The Brahma Muhurta, Holy Hour, the still point of the turning world – to slip past the painted veil of this world into eternity’s silence, through this opening gateway into an infinite Beyond. One day, yes, but not yet, not yet. Sitting in Subarata’s room to meditate, this room with its so many memories. One small bookcase is jammed with items, memorabilia from her life with Sri Chinmoy – a small silver casket containing plum stones from his mouth, orange peel from prasad given by his own hands, tokens of her devotion, many little poignant things that she treasured. In one corner a small musical box. You wind up the mechanism and it plays ‘Gurur Karma Amar Dharma’ – ‘My Guru’s work is my sole code of life . . .’ – in tiny charming tinkling notes, slower and slower as the spring uncoils. The sweet childlike tones and melody bind the years together in a leitmotif, a refrain of memories and feelings. On the front of the music box a smiling picture of her guru in sailors cap, sitting on the deck of a boat. I remember, I was there. It was Christmas long ago in Tahiti and for half an hour I held an umbrella over our seated master, shielding him from the sun. Someone shouted ‘dolphins!’ and everyone rushed to the side of the boat to watch a gleaming trio frolicking in the sea. Then someone asked Subarata, Irish born, to sing Molly Malone, and after some persuasion she did. The Annam Brahma girls joined in to help. When they sang ‘singing mussels and cockles, alive alive oh’ everyone joined in. It was a very happy day. Like this, each little thing on her shelf carries such sweet echoes of the long ago.
In Death and Reincarnation Sri Chinmoy writes:
'When a Master leaves the body and sees that his disciples are crying bitterly over their loss, the Master feels sorry because the disciples do not recognise him fully as a spiritual Master. A spiritual person, one who has realised God, lives on all planes; his consciousness pervades all the worlds. So if his disciples cry bitterly for him, feeling that they will see him no more, then they are putting their Master in the same category as an ordinary person... The Master knows that he will appear before the disciples who are sincerely praying to him or who are meditating and aspiring sincerely. He knows that he will be all the time guiding, shaping and moulding them. He knows that he will be able to enter into them, and they will be able to enter into him.'
I think the easiest way to feel Guru is really alive is to start thinking it, feeling it. Released from the cage of the finite, our Guru’s Universal Consciousness now exists everywhere – our faith, love, devotion, soulful meditations magnet-like bring it into our awareness, into our heart. Devotion and faith create reality because consciousness is the matrix of the universe and shapes it into being. Believing in Guru’s livingness is not an abdication of reason but attunement with deeper fundamental laws, a recognition of a Reality that exists quite beyond the comprehension of the finite human mind. I don’t intend to sound mystical, but belief really allows this reality to come into our awareness and to take birth.
I like the Sri Krishna stories, Arjuna being shown Krishna’s Universal Form on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, or Krishna’s mother looking into the child Krishna’s mouth when he yawned, seeing the universe turning inside him. Sometimes when we looked at our Master, didn’t we also see a little of this, the infinite contained within the finite, the ocean embodied inside the drop, God’s love-delight-immensity-measureless peace-everything there in his eyes, his face. I really think so.
‘Yes, for a while the disciples can feel sad that they have lost their Master, that they will not see him in the physical frame. But that sadness must not last because the soul’s joy, the soul’s intense love and all-pervading concern have to enter into the disciples who have sincerely accepted the Master as the sole pilot of their lives.’ (ibid.)
Curiously, since Guru has left behind his physical body so many of us are feeling a renewed sense of energy and commitment, intensity, a rejuvenated urge to manifest, an urgency of purpose. It seems widespread and unmistakable. I think he is working very powerfully in us. Guru writes:
‘When he leaves the body, he is totally free. From the other shore the spiritual Master works through the soul’s light or willpower . . . so from the higher worlds the Master can easily connect with the disciple’s aspiring soul, and the disciple can respond to the Master’s light. It is in this way that the Master can and does and must help the disciple.’ (ibid.)
Sri Chinmoy’s passing seems to have unleashed a great force and additionally a sense of great respect and receptivity around us in the world for who Guru was. Perhaps the passing of an Avatar – as with Christ, Sri Krishna, the Buddha – is a huge tsunami in the inner world, ushers in great change, a resurgence of spirituality. Guru’s Universal Consciousness everywhere spreading.
I think we all know that from now on we will all have to prove ourselves, be exemplary. More time at our shrines, and singing our favourite songs, more time with our centre family, go to every celebrations, diminish then discard any eroding bad habits, throw the TV out the window, go to the centre more, let the sunlight of grace into our lives through selfless service, read Guru’s writings half an hour every day, don’t find fault with anybody (yes we know that everyone else is seriously flawed and riddled with blemishes, but practice turning a blind eye), keep fit, find a centre project to serve the world. Long list, big challenge!
That last one, what Guru calls manifestation, is a great task – prove your love for God by service, work, self-offering.
‘Early in the morning, when I hear God's Voice, I open my inspired eyes and meditate. During my morning meditation, God says to me, "My child, go and prove to the world that you are all for Me.’
(Source: A Seeker is a Singer)
I like this little quote of Guru’s very much – it contains one of the banner principles of our path. It is not enough to just meditate – prove your love for God and do something for others, for God the Creation. Filled now with a new resolve a reinvigorated love for Guru’s mission, we can venture out into the world and accomplish great things, fulfill our soul’s immortal promise, spread the Light of the Supreme as Guru taught us to do.
Regarding manifestation, Sri Chinmoy’s 13,000th song, Phukai Amara, is one of those immortal gold nugget theme songs of our path that really helps us to feel purposefulness and strength, a thrilling warriors song. I often sing it over and over to myself, especially when I go out postering and flyering (which has got harder over the years!). The English words: "In the battlefield of life we blow the Victory Horn of our Lord Supreme. In our heart-sky we fly the Victory Banner of our Father Supreme." Once, years ago, Guru personally sent me on a Mission Impossible type high level meeting with some of our national officials, telling me to be a ‘roaring lion’ and not on this occasion a ‘New Zealand lamb’. On the plane ride to the capital I sang Phukai Amara all the way, instilling into every atom of my being an unyielding resolve. How powerfully I could feel Guru’s force! Mission Impossible became Mission Accomplished – we were successful despite great odds – and Guru was delighted, which made us all very happy. He said lots of nice things about ‘obedience’ and ‘faith’ and Subarata with her Irish humour said to me ‘This would be a good time for you to depart this world...’
Yes indeed, a good time to leave for the soul’s world, the Master’s praises ringing (at least for now) in our ears, armed with an A+ entry pass to the ineffable Beyond. Oh my!
In each of his many endeavours – in the fields of art, literature, music, poetry, weightlifting for example – Guru’s achievements are astonishing and in many cases absolutely unprecedented. But collectively they form a mind-boggling pantheon of accomplishments the likes of which have never been seen before and will surely never be seen again. What an unbelievable legacy for future centuries to absorb. Regrettably, and equally certainly, his inner accomplishments – that great Unknowable Biography of a Spiritual Colossus – will never be known or imagined, so far are these beyond our understanding. Distracted by the human form he inhabited, our capacities too little to see deeply, how could we comprehend that unfathomable, infinite ocean that existed in the finite form of our Guru, a dynasty of consciousness barely glimpsed in his outer works.
As Guru’s physical form was lowered into it’s final resting place we sang songs – 'Oh my life’s Love Supreme, sleeplessly I invoke You' . . . I was reminded of the Egyptian kings, sealed in their vaults beneath great blocks of stone, resting in an endless silence and darkness. The body of a realised Master, too sacred to touch or profane with fire, its presence able to inspire awe, reverence, spiritual awakening, devotion for thousands of years to come, its invisible grace guiding the faltering steps of countless unborn seekers.
This sacred place will become a world shrine, a portal to God like Mecca, Bodh Gaya, Borobodhur, Delphi, Gethsemane, a centripetal force or haven of spirit acting like a spiritual magnet, aligning our waywardness to the pole of enlightenment.
And did you see, in the midst of our singing and tears at the burial, that enormous Golden Monarch butterfly that suddenly appeared and hovered for an age around the side shrine at Aspiration Ground, around Guru’s photo, lingering for an age there, swooping about and hovering. I thought could it be? Could it be . . .? At 2:30am that morning, walking home along the empty streets, ahead of me a girl in her white sari stood beneath a street lamp, weeping inconsolably. Unmasked by the secrecy of night she was shedding tears of grief at the loss of her beloved teacher.
Sri Chinmoy taught us many things that are simply not found anywhere else, little secrets unique to our path. And not just taught but brought them into our consciousness as the living breath of our discipleship, drilled us over and over until each lesson had sunk in. ‘Soulfulness’ for example - where else is this found? In our singing – ‘be more soulful!’. In our meditations - ‘please be more soulful!’ Or filing slowly along in a walk-by procession, those wonderful encounters between the disciple’s aspiration and the master’s probing grace – soulfulness! To be as close as possible to the consciousness of our own soul – its sincerity, purity, humility, sweetness – and then to maintain this as long, as deeply, as often, as consciously as possible in ones life. Soulfulness is one of the four rungs of ‘the consciousness-ladder that unites earth’s cry and Heaven’s smile . . . God’s favourite spiritual quality is soulfulness . . .’ (Source: Everest Aspiration)
And then too, all those other secrets to ignite our aspiration like ‘self-transcendence’, ‘gratitude’, ‘oneness’, ‘living in the heart’ - words on a page suddenly brought to life, transformed and elevated into the highest spiritual teachings, our polestars, Guru the Master-Alchemist animating language – inert, passive – into the gold of a living truth and way of being. Under his tutelage and personal example these simple concepts became the foundations of our sadhana, the sap of true spirituality responding and rising up to flower in our lives.
I looked through some of the anti-God books at San Francisco airport recently and had to laugh. One or two were quite brilliant and certainly entertaining – but so hostile and arrogant! A sort of irreligious fundamentalism. Trying to contain the mysteries of the cosmos, the boundlessness, unknowableness, immeasurableness of God within the tiny cage of the human brain is inherently flawed. And shows a critical shortage of humility – the awareness of how little is our elfin understanding of everything. Science itself is still a juvenile, barely out of evolutionary kindergarten. Such ratiocination also disregards all the other aspects of human knowing, other forms of non-mind knowledge and perception that are usually undervalued. And disregards the wisdom of the greatest luminaries, the most impressive human souls ever to walk this planet! Einstein very nicely wrote “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility towards the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos. The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who – in their grudge against traditional religion as the 'opium of the masses' – cannot hear the music of the spheres.”
It might be argued that God-love is one of the highest expressions of intelligence since it exhibits a rare ability to see past the painted veil of ‘reality’ to the very heart of Truth and Reality, the true nature of things. The neo-atheists remind me of truculent, frenetic, unmanageable primary school brats, leaping about scribbling over everything and in need of a good ear-pulling.
I think one of Guru’s unheralded but truly remarkable achievements has been to make God – the Supreme – an absolutely living reality for so many people. For his disciples Guru’s own intimacy with God was so obvious and compelling, his deference to God in everything he did so moving, and the godliness that he himself embodied so utterly beautiful that he quietly shunted – at least in my case – three prior decades of agnosticism into the waste basket.
Of all the things I have seen in this world, Guru’s physical presence was the most powerful, the most irresistible proof of God. Getting to know Guru was getting to know God – unmistakably this great yogi-soul had realised God and revealed the divine at every moment through his own person and life. God was not a matter of belief or disbelief, a concept to be examined and argued. But there, in front of you, look! I was blessed with a long time to immerse myself in this – my dawning understanding of my teacher’s height was forged and tested and proven over twenty-six years. The Guru is a bridge between earth and heaven, God’s intermediary, a step-down transformer converting the infinite power of the Supreme into a manageable voltage for earth’s consumption.
For us the mantra Supreme has become our living bridge to God and often sustains our personal feeling of a loving, caring Supreme Reality with whom we are connected and a part. Guru introduced us all to God, emancipated us from the various handicaps and constraints of our fossilized, past religiosity or indifference and made of God a dear and intimate confidante, one to whom we prayed, opened our hearts, shared our secret thoughts, our worst mistakes, our gratitude and tears. In the light of this sacred relationship and knowledge we can measure what is really important in our lives, or what is not – chart our course with ‘two things absolutely unparalleled; the map for the eternal journey and the courage for the immortal travelling’. (Ten Thousand Flower-Flames)
Spiritual literature down through the ages is filled with profundities, atom bombs of Truth and Reality, gorgeous quotes that thrill the soul, the uncompromising and life-changing utterances of great sages and Masters. They are so powerful as to sweep aside an entire lifetime of cultural indoctrination – that tragic and ill fated love affair with worldliness that we are all immersed in from cradle rock to last breath – and in a moment help us to perceive the highest wisdom and deepest purpose of life, truth stripped to its quintessence. Guru always had that effect in our lives – a Reality Check, bringing us back on course, reminding us what it’s really all about. In the Gita his Guru of long, long ago played such a role.
In a world of enchanting distractions, a culture steeped in material ambitions that suffocate the spirit, how lucky we all are to have this Lodestar, pointing the way home.
All quotes above are by Sri Chinmoy.