First steps on the Spiritual Path - short stories
from Sri Chinmoy's students around the world
"It is your mind that has no Master yet, but your heart has."
Once we met a very interesting Chinese man, a coach of oriental wrestling named Chin Pin Sin. Raised by his grandfather, a Buddhist monk, he had stayed in a monastery since the age of 12. When we met him, he was about 40.
At that time, a group of friends and we studied Sri Aurobindo's books on our own and tried to practise meditation. One day we were waiting with this group for a long time to meet the Chinese man, but he did not come. When only four of us remained, he suddenly arrived. He explained that he had taken so long because he was waiting for the merely curious people to leave.
We had a long and interesting conversation. He was smiling at us and explaining what our mistakes were. When we asked him to accept us as disciples, he said that it was not possible because we had a Master already. We tried to explain that we had no Master, but he said, "It is your mind that has no Master yet, but your heart has."
He said that he saw our Master above our heads. He added that he did not know the earthly name of our spiritual Master, but that he clearly saw that this was a very strong and divine spiritual Master, that his disciples were Heavenly soldiers and that we were going to join a higher path than the one he was following. We would not meditate as he did, but the Master would meditate through us.
At the end he said, "The Master will himself bring you to the path. Please, wait and be careful." He also said that we should not meet him any more, and it would be wrong if he were to accept any of us as his disciples.
In 1996 we came to Guru's path, and we have no doubts that the Master whom the Chinese man was speaking about is our Guru.
Vladimir and Galina (Krasnoyarsk)
I went to a workshop offered by another meditation centre at the request of my husband Pragunya, who was very keen to learn meditation. When I drove into the carpark, I immediately did not like the feeling I got – it felt cold. As a result, I did not like the instructor and couldn’t imagine how she could teach me to meditate. I came home and announced to my husband that I was not interested in parting with $1,500 for something I did not think the teacher could teach me.
The next day Pragunya returned from work with a flyer from the Sri Chinmoy Centre. All their courses, not just the introduction, were free, so he said, "We are going together." On the 22nd of May 1996, at 7:30 p.m., we approached the door to the Centre. I will always remember the contrast in what I felt. As we climbed the stairs, I felt a warmth inside me, and when we opened the door, the feeling was so familiar and homelike that I said to my husband, "I can definitely learn to meditate here."
Next moment we met the classgivers - Subarata and Jogyata - at the sign-in desk. We both immediately liked them and wanted to talk to them. Jogyata made our name tags and invited us to take a seat in the classroom. The first photo I saw of Guru was Guru standing in a doorway holding a lily and wearing a pale pink dhoti with his hand lightly resting on his cheek. Guru looked so peaceful.
Pragunya and I were inwardly instantly hooked, although we needed the course and continuation classes for our minds to grasp all the newness. On the 1st of September 1996, Guru saw a photo of our family (we have two sons who were three and seven at the time) and accepted us as his disciples. But for me, I felt that Guru did not need to see us; our souls were already connected. That first step up the stairs of the Centre, the spontaneous heart-warming feeling we received, was our souls’ delight at our Guru finding us again.
Prageeti (Auckland, New Zealand)
My first meditation with Sri Chinmoy
My very first meditation with Guru was in San Francisco. We were all seated at tables, having finished a meal, with Guru facing us. Guru began concentrating on us, one by one, starting with the person to his right.
As Guru’s gaze came closer and closer to me, I was filled with more and more light. Finally, when his divine eyes were focused on me, my whole being was filled to the brim and beyond with amazing light divine. Such grace! How glorious!
Imagine my amazement when, the next moment, he actually was meditating upon me. I could hold no more inside nor radiate enough beyond. Divine tears poured from my light- filled eyes.
Visiting Sri Chinmoy in New York
This is about my first experience in New York ten years ago, when I came to April Celebration to see Sri Chinmoy for the first time. He was my Master for a year and I could not see him earlier because of all kind of problems that Yugolsavian citizens faced at that time with geting visas.
I became Sri Chinmoy's student by seeing his photo - with such a smile I have never seen in my life before. Immediately I felt extraordinary Light comming into myself, something very deep and profound inside my heart and I was very surprised that it came from the small newspaper photo. Before I became Sri Chinmoy's student I had read quite a few books about the relation between student and the Master and I could not wait to meet my own Master.
And it finally happened. I felt the most sweetest feeling ever when I first saw him. I was just happy to be in his presence and I did not expect anything else. After a few days we celebrated April 13th, the day when Sri Chinmoy came to America. In the morning at the Aspiration Ground everything seemed like usual. But suddenly Sri Chinmoy started walking around in his deep meditation. For me it was so strong and beautiful, I felt my heart was melting spontaneously, even not being aware what was going on. Later on I realised that I was prepared for something more high and more deep that I will never forget.
Having finished his meditation Sri Chinmoy started talking to us with very gentle and smooth voice. It was a very long talk, but I did not hear his words and I couldnot remember anything he said that morning. I only felt that he brought me so far to the Source that I unconsciously knew existed. My heart-tears were flowing though my eyes and I could not stop them, I only knew that I was waiting all my life to be brought to this deep feeling of being one with myself and everything else on this earth.
- Jadranka (Belgrade)
My son had been a disciple of Sri Chinmoy for two years already, which was met with some scepticism by the rest of the family. One day, he took us along to a picnic organized by his meditation group. We all enjoyed the picnic very much: a group of men (Arthada’s music group) played beautiful music, and in the afternoon we played various games. To make it short: it was a very pleasant picnic, and the members of the meditation group made a good impression on me.
Following the picnic, we were invited by Urdhagaminee to attend a meditation class for beginners that she was leading together with Indivar in Vienna-Neustadt. Vienna-Neustadt is only 28 km away from my home and I was also curious to see what exactly my son was doing and what kind of group he had joined, so I decided to give it a try.
For the following 8 weeks, I drove to Vienna-Neustadt once a week to attend the meditation class. The meditation class was very good and I liked it. When the time came to make a decision on whether or not to continue this way of meditation and become Sri Chinmoy’s disciple, I was not entirely sure. But then I thought to myself, "After all, nothing bad can happen. And if they ever start criticising other religions, then I’ll know for sure that this is a sect." But this was never the case – rather the contrary. Over time I learnt that Sri Chinmoy treasures all religions as part of a world-family. It has been eight years now since I joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre and I have not regretted a single day of it.
- Didivi (Vienna, Austria)
It was a beautiful summer day and I had to get something from a certain shop. When I was done, a sudden downpour of rain stopped me from leaving, so I just waited under the canopy in front of the shop. A girl about my age also took shelter there. She started reading a big Mickey Mouse comic book and after a while she said: "You know, I think it’s better to talk to you!" She was so nice, smiling and looking really happy. In the end she gave me a flyer for a meditation workshop.
Well, I was not particularly interested in meditation, but the happiness of this girl impressed me a lot. (At that time I looked at everything more from the darker, depressed side of life.) So I went to the workshop and these are the things I still remember:
First: Meditation is like gaining 500 inner Apfelstrudel (apple strudel). During the day you lose them and then you have to meditate again. The person leading the workshop was Canadian, and Apfelstrudel was the only German word he knew.
Second: The first day I just couldn’t look at Sri Chinmoy's picture on the meditation shrine, but on the second day I was brave enough and had quite an uplifting meditation experience with stars and the universe involved. When I told my family about it enthusiastically – I was still in school and lived with my parents at that time – they just smiled at me indulgently. ("Of course, you’ve been in the universe...Anything else?")
Somehow something drew me to that meditation group. So although living in another city, I came to the Centre once a week. It took me quite a while to understand some things about our path. The inner call was there, but the mind needed some time to realise how to gain this happiness through meditation.
- Janhita (Nuremberg, Germany)
The following incident happened when I was 20 years old. At that age I did a lot of things that you do when you are young and impetuous. One night in September, I went with my best friend and two other boys to a disco. At one o'clock in the morning, when we wanted to go home, we were all quite drunk. In such a situation, for some reason you think of yourself as immortal and you are not at all expecting that things can go wrong. We had come in one car, and the driver had a reputation for losing his self-control very easily after drinking. For this reason, my friend asked if he could drive instead, but the driver insisted on driving himself, since he was also the owner of the car.
On our journey home, we were stopped at a traffic light when another car stopped besides us. The driver of this car started to provoke us into joining him for a little race. When the light turned green, both cars speeded up to full throttle. The race led us into a long tunnel, and while the other car fell back, we went on at highest speed.
I was sitting behind the driver in the back seat, with my friend beside me. We both began to feel uncomfortable about the whole thing and we shouted at the driver to slow down. But he was totally deaf in that ear and seemed to be completely out of control, as if possessed by madness. All of a sudden, the whole atmosphere in the car changed. The car was filled with electricity and the air was so thick that you could cut it. It became obvious to me that this journey would find no good end.
After leaving the tunnel, there was a dangerous curve and our driver was still driving like a maniac. I became fully aware that an accident was unavoidable, and that an accident at this speed would cause either my death or very serious injuries. I had hardly finished this thought when something astonishing happened: all at once I became totally calm and tranquil and all fear and panic vanished from me. The next moment, something from deep inside my heart came to the fore, surrendered completely and unconditionally to God and started to pray with utmost humility and devotion. The prayer went something like this: "My beloved Father, I know that I have committed quite a number of mistakes in my life and I am ready to bear the responsibility for this. If it is Your Will that I die now, or if I have to spend the rest of my life in a wheel- chair, then I will accept this fate most devotedly. Thy Will be done."
Right after this prayer, I saw pictures and sequences of my life running very fast like a movie in front of my inner eye. All this took only a few moments, and when I concentrated again on what was happening around me, I saw that the driver had lost control of the car and that we were heading into the left crash barrier. I barely had time to press my knees against the driver's seat and to pull my arms in front of my head. Afterwards we came to know that the car crashed at about 120 km/h into the left crash barrier, overturned across the two lanes, crashed against the right crash barrier, flipped over it and finally landed on its roof against a small tree.
The next thing I remember was that I was lying on my back on the asphalt. I was afraid that other cars would run over me, so I got up as fast as possible and found myself standing on the pavement. Somehow I must have been thrown out of the car window when it overturned. I saw the wrecked car lying there on its roof, and I felt I had to lie down near the car in the grass. My whole body hurt and I felt totally weak. There was dead silence. The only thing I heard was the dripping of some liquid that was running out of the car. I was afraid that it was gas and that the car would explode. Then I saw the driver and the other boy crawling out of the broken windows of the wreck, and I remembered that my friend must still be inside. I told them to get him out of the car, and they pulled him out by one arm.
When I saw that he was still alive, I was able to breathe freely again and to calm down. I was still lying on my back in the grass, when I found above me the most beautiful starry sky. All the stars and the whole heaven were so close to me, it seemed as if they wanted to cover me, and I felt myself infinitely safe. My heart began to fill with gratitude, and suddenly I felt the presence of God. I felt Him caressing my head two or three times full of love and affection. Then I felt Him saying that my time for leaving had not yet come and that there was still something for me to accomplish in this lifetime. This message was something I felt very intensely, rather than something I heard with my outer or inner ears. My eyes filled with tears and I was overcome with infinite peace and gratitude, and I started praying, full of gratitude to God that He had protected me and saved my life.
I can remember feeling disturbed and somewhat disappointed when the first helpers arrived to take care of us, because they interrupted this deep inner experience most abruptly. The driver and the other boy were completely unharmed. My friend and I were taken to the hospital, but after four days they sent us home. I felt it was an absolute miracle that nobody was seriously hurt or killed. When the driver of the other car, which had raced us, had to give a statement to the police, he told them that he did not think that anybody would leave this car alive, after he saw the car overturning through the air like a sparking ball.
In the following years, I became interested in spirituality and meditation, and after six or seven years I came in contact with Sri Chinmoy's path and became his disciple. After some time, one day I realised that the divine presence that you feel in those special moments when you are inwardly or outwardly very close to Guru was the same divine presence I felt after the accident, when I was lying there in the grass! All at once I became aware that it was Guru who was there that night and saved my life, long before I became a disciple! It was he who caressed my head and who let me know that there was something left for me to do in this lifetime!
I do not know what the Supreme has planned for me in this lifetime, but I do know that I wish to have at every single moment of my life that same kind of unconditional surrender to Him as I had just before the accident. And I wish to have at every single moment of my life that same kind of infinite gratitude to Him as I had just after the accident, when I was lying there in the grass.
- Jitendra (Munich)
Although I had belonged to the Theosophical Society for many years, I was never satisfied. I didn’t know where else to go, so I never followed it up.
One night my neighbour went to a meditation meeting in Devonport, and the next morning she came and said, „You gotta go! You gotta go!“ So I took her and her ex-husband to hear Jogyata speak at Devonport. The first night there I had a vision of Guru. He was about three feet off the floor, sitting cross-legged and wearing a white garment drawn up between his legs and over his shoulder. After the meeting, I asked Jogyata who the gentleman was, and he said, „Oh, that’s Guru!“ Then I was hooked – I knew I had my pudding. I’d always had a meal without a pudding, but when I heard Jogyata speak, I knew I had my pudding. That was 25 years ago.
Harshani (Auckland, New Zealand)
In 1973, when I was a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, one day my mother phoned me up and told me that she had a Guru. My first thought was that she must be going through the 'change of life' that makes women of a certain age sometimes do strange things. But actually, it was not so strange – my family had been going through a spiritual transformation for years. Inspired by my oldest brother, I had become a vegetarian and started doing yoga while I was in high school in Port Washington, on suburban Long Island. And I had been deeply moved by several spiritual books, including Hesse’s Siddharta and Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ. I had started meditating twice a day when I was a freshman in college, to stay healthier under the pressures of student life. And my mother had been pursuing her spiritual search in her own way, exploring various philoso-phies and paths. She had an interest in acting and theatre, and a friend of hers from the community drama troupe, who we now know as Chameli, had introduced her to Sri Chinmoy.
The concept of a Guru was not totally foreign to me. I had recently read Be Here Now, in which a former Harvard professor tells the story of his journey to India and how he found his Guru. And I had heard of Sri Chinmoy: the great guitarist John McLaughlin used to come to our university to take lessons in Indian music, and he sometimes gave concerts for the students with his Mahavishnu Orchestra. He had Sri Chinmoy’s poetry and photos on his albums. I saw and felt something special in Mahavishnu and his music. I had also dabbled in some psychotropic substances that confirmed my deep inner sense that there was some other reality, some other way of being, of knowing, that I would never find at school – and I was increasingly dissatisfied with my intellectual life.
In early 1974, when I came to New York on class break, my mother took me to see Guru at New York University, where every Saturday night he offered a public meditation. The medi-tation was held in a lecture hall that had banks of seats rising upwards. Guru sat at the bottom and, at one point, turned his gaze from row to row, meditating for a brief second on each seeker. When his eyes met mine, I knew in an instant that he could see everything inside me, but this was not frightening because I felt that he was intrinsically loving and compassionate. I also knew that he KNEW everything that I wanted to know in this life, and that he was the highest being that I had ever met and was ever likely to meet. And then I felt a sensation, like a „ping“, in the centre of my chest. I had no idea what that meant, but years later I understood that Guru was awakening the energy in my heart centre.
Despite this powerful experience, it took me some time to accept Guru’s path. I had other plans for my life. I moved down to New York and transferred universities to live with my boyfriend. I knew that we needed to get married in order to follow Guru’s path, so that took a little time. And then, still, I was hesitating. One day, as I was sitting on a bench at Queens College between classes, I was thinking about my life. Suddenly tears came and a voice from somewhere within me said, “What are you waiting for? This is what you have been waiting for all your life!“
At the next opportunity, I told my mother that I wanted to follow Guru’s path. According to the custom at that time, she phoned Dulal, who then phoned Guru with my request. The phone call came back from Dulal: Guru had replied, „Oh, I accepted her a long time ago.“
Pragati (New York)
During the late 1960s, I had begun to question my own way of being, as well as that of the world in general. As an honours student in one of the best suburban high schools in Westchester, New York, I was pretty much assured of getting into a good university, but my disillusionment and bewilderment were making me restless and draining me of enthusiasm for school. In my senior year especially, I found it difficult to relax and even more difficult to concentrate on my studies. My everyday tension was most apparent to me in my modern dance. I had always been athletic and stayed in shape with tennis and swimming. But when it came to the subtleties of working with different sets of muscles in dance, I saw I could become much more limber.
I did not realise I was searching for a different way of life, but thoughts of wanting to rise above daily tensions, and feelings that there had to be a deeper reason for existing, were gradually becoming more prominent. One day in school, I happened to stumble upon a friend sitting on the floor in a corner of a classroom, struggling to get her legs into the lotus position. Since I had not the faintest idea of what she was up to, I inquired. She told me she was taking yoga exercises and persuaded me to come to some of her classes. Partly out of curiosity, partly because I was always open to new experiences, I went. I should add that in those days, ‘yoga’ was not a house-hold word the way it is now, and the concepts of Hatha Yoga and meditation were quite esoteric and mysterious.
So it happened that in the fall of 1967 I began going to Yoga of Westchester, run by Sarama, who herself had just become Guru’s disciple. The exercise classes were followed by short meditation sessions, which I hoped would improve my concentration. Having been raised as an atheist, I was not approaching this new activity as anything religious. But as the months went on, during my meditation I found myself spontaneously praying to some kind of higher power, as it were. I felt that if I did not pursue the possibility of a spiritual dimension in life, I would always wonder whether it existed or not. Also during that time I adopted the vegetarian lifestyle, which, again, was not as widely accepted as it is now.
At one point a middle-aged woman named Beatrice Serlin, who lived in the same community, began attending the yoga classes with me. In September of 1968, unbeknownst to either of us, Sarama showed our pictures to her Guru, who then invited Beatrice and me to come to meditations held at his recently-acquired home in Queens. I barely knew what a Guru was, but I decided to go. In those days the only Centre activities were the Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon meetings, and I fit right in with some mini-skirted young women and hippie-ish looking, long-haired young men who had recently joined the core group of middle-aged disciples.
After two or three sessions, Guru told me that I should concentrate on opening my heart more. I decided to work on this on my own for exactly a month, before going back to attend the Centre meditations again. I did not tell anyone why I stopped coming to Queens or what my intentions were. It was my own little spiritual secret. I continued my various activities, while always focusing on my heart, even wearing pendants and pins over my heart centre as a reminder. When the end of the month approached, I felt some uncertainty as to whether I had been successful enough, so I decided that perhaps I should wait before going back to the meditations.
Lo and behold, exactly on the last day of my month-long self-imposed sadhana, Sarama telephoned me and said, "I just got a call from Guru. He’s been concentrating on you for the last month, and you’re in, kid!" That was how I learned I had been accepted as a disciple.
Nilima (New York)
Sri Chinmoy's students describe their inner and outer experiences.