Praying for God’s Grace to Descend

Cross-posted from sweta.srichinmoycentre.org

In Nepal, venerating God’s Presence at home and in temples is daily ritual, as Sweta explains in her story. However, she wondered why an Avatar — a spiritual Master of the highest Height – had not come to earth in these times. Little did she know that finding her Master and integrating meditation to her already strong prayer life in the process would help her find God in her own heart.

Growing Up in Nepal

As long as I can remember growing up in Nepal, I never missed a single day without praying to God, every morning. Like other Hindu families, ours had a small puja (prayer) room. I learned Sanskrit mantras and prayers from my mother and tiny prayer booklets. Chanting mantras every day, I came to remember them by heart.

I had strong faith in the existence of God, but I thought God lived in Heaven, somewhere far beyond the blue sky. Like everyone else in Nepal, I believed we had to pray hard to please God. Every time I had some wish, like passing exams, I’d make a vow. “O Lord Ganesha, please make me pass my exams, and I promise to offer 108 laddoos (candied balls).” I visited all the temples in my neighborhood, one of the busiest in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city; offering my fervent devotions to Ganesha, Durga, Shiva, Krishna, Mahakal, Bhairav, Hanuman, Narayan and many others. Sometimes I also feared that if I missed visiting temples and offering prayers then I might displease the gods. So, I never failed at it. I even used to fast sometimes when I desired some special boon. 

As a member of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, Sweta takes the Peace Torch on a prayerful pilgrimage to a Nepalese temple.

My grandfather sacrificed live animals on special festival days. When I was 12, I got so overwhelmed watching these poor animals being sacrificed I decided to never eat meat again. My family ate meat, so it took me almost four years of sincere trying to give up eating meat and fish.

Sweta with her mother, Indira, during a Peace Run ceremony

 While praying, I cried to God. Lord Vishnu had incarnated in human form to destroy evil and protect people in a different era – I asked why do we not have an Avatar for this era to guide us?

Finding my Guru

I took up a part-time job in an educational consultancy after graduating from the university, and enrolled for a postgraduate degree at the same time. The very first day I joined the office, I became good friends with a girl who had been working there already for a few months. I liked her company the most as I felt she was very smart, yet so simple, kind and caring. She later told me that she does meditation, and that she has a Guru. My feeling and respect for her grew even more.

Cover of 'The Spiritual Life' showing an early picture of Sri Chinmoy in meditation.

On my birthday, she gifted me The Spiritual Life (Path of the Heart), a book by Sri Chinmoy. When I started reading the book, it was a miracle change in my life. I felt all my life’s questions answered. Every word and sentence gave me so much joy. I was literally crying, reading this book. I felt it showed me the Absolute Truth. I felt Light coming out of the book and showing me what Truth is. God is so lovable. I felt the palpable existence of God. His sweetness, affection and love inside my heart. I felt these qualities emanating from inside my own heart, too — not somewhere in the far blue beyond, as I’d previously imagined.  

The cover had a picture of Sri Chinmoy in a seated position. Before reading the book, I thought I was seeing the picture of a Guru who was great because my good friend gave me his book. After reading the book, I bowed down to Sri Chinmoy’s picture on the cover. 

I shared my experience with my friend. She told me everything about becoming Sri Chinmoy’s student and following the spiritual life. But my mind was strong; I thought my family would never allow me to join and I would be okay with my prayer life. 

One evening after work, she took me to a free meditation class. For the first time, I learned what meditation was about. It was a guided meditation to imagine a flower blooming petal by petal inside the heart. When I closed my eyes to imagine the flower petals, I couldn’t imagine it, not even for a fleeting second. So many thoughts came pouring in. I thought meditation was the most difficult thing on earth and thought it was not for me, I am happy praying. I didn’t continue. 

However, I asked my friend for more books by Sri Chinmoy, that she borrowed from the Centre. I would finish reading them quickly and return it to her, hoping to get to read new ones. The more I read, the more intense my spiritual hunger got. It had never happened before, that my mind was absolutely silent while reading books. There were no thoughts, but just the reality of the writings were melting my heart, stirring my soul. 

Adding Meditation to My Prayer-Life

Once she got me a thick book, an early version of Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction with photos of Guru in his highest meditation, along with smiling pictures. Every day, I looked at Sri Chinmoy's Transcendental picture1 and prayed to be accepted as his student. I desired nothing else in my life — only to have Sri Chinmoy as my Guru. I implicitly felt he was an Avatar, here to guide and illumine us. 

I told my friend that I wanted to become a disciple. She took me to her Centre, and the Centre leader had me fill an application form and also took my picture to send to Sri Chinmoy in New York. I was informed that my application was sent, and that I would have to wait. I started praying every day, looking at Guru’s picture, telling him that even my meditation capacity is poor, but that this life is only for God alone and that I would never give up trying to become good. After a month, I heard Sri Chinmoy had accepted me on Tuesday evening, 13th March 2007. 

I cannot imagine life without prayer and meditation now. Problems and challenges are inevitable for every human being. Our daily prayers and meditation help immensely to stay focused, running towards our real goal to please God, in God’s Own Way. My favorite meditation is memorizing poems and prayers written by Sri Chinmoy. When I recite them, I feel I am intimately conversing with God. Singing prayerful and devotional songs are another favourite, as it helps me dive inward quickly.   

Putting Meditation to Work

Working in a bank for close to a decade (a six-day work week) can be monotonous and often stressful. However, my daily morning meditation is like saving “Peace Money” in my inner bank account. At the end of the day, when I recall the day's events, I feel only gratitude in my heart – if I were not following the spiritual path, work circumstances would affect my inner poise, disturbing my consciousness. In my evening meditation, I offer everything at God’s Feet. It makes me happy I have something strong to hold on to, an inner wealth that is infinitely more powerful than just outer wealth alone. I feel totally protected and safe in my Guru’s Heart.

We have Centre meditations twice weekly. Attending Centre meditation is equally important to fully recharge or fuel up my inner engine — an inner engine that keeps me humming smoothly and confidently, on the inner road and my outer journey. 

Regaining a Mistaken Loss

On 11th October 2007, when the message came from New York to all the worldwide Sri Chinmoy Centres about our teacher's Mahasamadhi2, I immediately ran to meditate at my shrine. I could not hold back my streaming tears. My only desire to see my Avatar Guru in person was shattered! I didn’t know how many more long years of sadhana (spiritual practice) would help me reach the highest meditation to see Guru, if only in the inner world. These thoughts were making me feel heavy, and I felt such pain in my heart. 

Suddenly, my eyes became transfixed on one very beautiful framed photo of Guru smiling. My face smiled, to see Guru smile. My mind asked how could I smile being in such a terrible heart-tearing condition, but I stopped crying. It was a strange feeling. I could only feel a big smile on my face, with my heart totally free from the devastating pain I’d felt just moments ago. The smile from the picture was so tangible, absorbing all my tears. I felt my whole being becoming light and free. 

Now, when I see Guru’s picture, read his books or watch his videos, I never feel we have not ever met. I feel I’ve always known him. Or rather, he has known me forever, always been guiding me and fully taking responsibility for my life. While Guru has left the physical, his more than abundant writings, music, art, and sports activities make our one lifetime too short to enjoy the vastness and preciousness of these sacred treasures.

My physical death
Is not the end of my life –
I am an eternal journey.

Sri Chinmoy 3

A beautiful statue of Sri Chinmoy has been watching over the mountains of Nagarkot, Nepal since 2011; amazingly, it remained unscathed following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015, despite the surrounding area being reduced to rubble.

Running for My Life’s Progress

Besides daily prayer and meditation, Guru gave so much importance to running or physical exercise. I was never active in sports when young, never into running races. After becoming a disciple, I started running. I started with one-mile and two-mile races. I used to be the last one at the finish line. The initial races, I remember I would be panting and gasping for breath. I was always totally exhausted after the race. I hardly trained for long distance running because I never liked running in the hustle-bustle and busy outskirts of Kathmandu. Finding a park or wide roads for daily training is difficult where I live. 

However, with running one way to make faster spiritual progress, I started running annual half-marathons in Kathmandu. When I finally could go to New York for the first time in 2014, I participated in the Sri Chinmoy Marathon. I finished my first marathon in 4:04. I was so happy because it was definitely not my body’s capacity. It was all Grace that I could finish. I’d watched videos of Guru visiting the course. I felt blessed and fortunate to run on the same course Guru had been on, and had blessed. The feeling of joy and gratitude fed my body with energy until I crossed the finish line. 

Sweta crosses the finish line in the Sri Chinmoy Marathon, August 2014.

Since then, I go to New York City for Guru’s annual Birthday Celebrations. I never miss the opportunity to run the Sri Chinmoy Marathon. In 2017, I ran the marathon in 4:15 hours; two days later, I finished the 47-mile race in 9:39 hours. It’s also thanks to the inspiration, encouragement and support of our wonderful brothers and sisters of our amazing spiritual family.

There is the Sri Chinmoy 3100 Mile race that happens every year in Queens, NY. It is so thrilling to see the 3100 mile race and to witness the brave runners finishing this most challenging race in the world. When we feel one with their self-transcendence, it inspires us immensely. When we could transcend our limited capacities with our faith, determination and surrender, the joy is then unimaginable.

In 2017, Sweta spent a few days at the 3100 Mile race as a helper for New Zealand runner Harita Davies (centre). This photo was taken at the finish, showing Harita with all her helpers.

In 2014, I ran the final leg of the North American Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. It was the most amazing experience of my life. I was running on America’s beautiful wider roads for the very first time. It was far more than merely running miles. The moment of silence holding the Peace Run Torch was magical. It was overwhelming.

Sweta passes on the Peace Torch to her Peace Run team mate, Aparanji from Brazil.

Everything was new—meeting people, visiting local communities, YMCAs, schoolchildren. Above all, carrying Guru’s loftiest vision for world peace in such tangible ways was very special. It was entirely a newness-oneness-joy experience for me.

A presentation during one of the many school visits.

Thereafter, I joined the North American Peace Run again in 2016 and 2018. I always feel more fulfilled when I get to participate in the Peace Run. Each time, the experience gets more profound. It was great learning how much dedicated effort and selfless service team members and organizers put in, to make Peace Run so successful. Not only our aspiration but our dedicated service is also equally important in our meditation life or spiritual life, to make progress and to manifest Sri Chinmoy’s vision for a more peaceful world — that begins with the individual. 

  • 1. A picture of Sri Chinmoy in a very high consciousness that his students use for meditation. When they meditate on it, they connect to that higher consciousness and become aware of their own inner divinity.
  • 2. A term used in Indian spirituality to denote the departure of a spiritual Master from the earthly plane.
  • 3. From the book Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, part 52, Agni Press, 2007. This was the last poem published by Sri Chinmoy before his passing.

Regaining My Inner Joy

Cross-posted from sweta.srichinmoycentre.org

How did you become interested in meditation? 

This was in the early 80’s. I was working as a kimono designer in Kyoto, Japan, but the work was hard and it was telling on my health. In order to get some exercise, I started going to a hatha yoga class. The teacher was a professor of Indian philosophy at a prominent university. Because he had become much healthier by practicing hatha yoga, he privately taught it in a small school. 

He used to talk a lot about Indian philosophy and Buddhism. Almost every class, he told us how important it is to have a Guru (spiritual teacher) if you want to make progress and reach self-realisation. I learned for the first time that there is a person called a Guru. 

Influenced by this teacher, I started searching for a Guru. We did a few minutes’ meditation at the end of each class, so I was interested in meditation itself, too, and wanted to deepen my understanding of meditation, but my main focus was to find a Guru. 

Happily Attending Meditation Classes for the First Time

During those years as a kimono designer, I used to browse fancy department stores in central Kyoto, consuming expensive clothes and accessories, yet never felt satisfied. In fact, it became a barren desert inside, wondering why I was living this life. 

One day in February, 1983, I found Sri Chinmoy’s book, Meditation (in Japanese translation) at a book store in Kobe. I can’t remember the content much, but a line from one poem touched my heart. I felt purity. At that moment, I decided I would become this Guru’s disciple. I contacted the Centre in Tokyo, and they told me that a class-giver from France would come for a lecture tour in March, and he would come to Kyoto. When I went to the class, I was so happy that I had finally found a Guru, a living Guru! 

I was so happy just being with disciples, I followed them everywhere after the classes, doing things like eating udon noodles together, until it was time for me to catch the last train back to my apartment. I was just happy being with them; for the three days, every evening, I went out with them, following them everywhere. There was a translator, but I hardly understood anything of the class content. Being with these people was so joyful and that kept me going back to the classes and spending time with them every day. 

After the classes, I started going to the Centre meetings in Osaka. In May or so, they asked me if I would like to be a disciple. I answered: “What do you mean? I have been coming along here all this time. Of course I want to become a disciple.” 

Sri Chinmoy’s answer to my application came before long, but inside myself, I had already been his disciple since I encountered his book at the bookshop. I had been reading all sorts of books by and about different Spiritual Masters up to that point: Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, and Paramahansa Yogananda. I had been drawn to Spiritual Masters; but I thought it was all like a fairytale — having a real Spiritual Master surely would not or could not happen to me. That is why I was overjoyed when I went to the meditation class. 

Meditation brought me joy, but after actually meeting Guru, the quality of my meditation changed greatly. There was a lot more joy. And most importantly, I felt Guru’s love for me... this was the first time I felt being loved this much. I could not believe I could be loved so much! Not even from my loving parents had I felt this much love. Now, after 35 years studying meditation under the guidance of Sri Chinmoy, I want to say having a teacher is a must.

One year after Sujata opened her first restaurant in 1986, Sri Chinmoy visited it before going on to offer a Peace Concert in Kyoto's Avenatti Hall that evening.

The spiritual life is normal to me

Cross-posted from sweta.srichinmoycentre.org
Shankara, and her sister Dipika, are co-managers of Run and Become, an independent chain of running stories that have become well known for the personalised service they give the running community.

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve the blessings I receive in this life, but I know how lucky I am. Every day I get to work hard, try to do the best I can at work, along with all the other things I’m involved in. I feel fulfilled. My life is pretty simple. I know, too, the only thing that brings this feeling of satisfaction and worth is spirituality. 

When I was younger, I thought the only way you could really change the world for the better was to go into politics or find some way to sway influence on a big scale. I must admit I never really understood Sri Chinmoy when he said the best way to change the world was to change yourself. Hmm … that could never have a big impact on the world, surely? However, the older I get, the more I laugh at my younger self. Now, I’m convinced the best thing I can do is try to change myself; to chase illumination, not world politics!

Growing up

How did I start? My parents joined the London Sri Chinmoy Centre when I was 5 years old, so I grew up with my family meditating together. I find it significant that the very first conversation I can recall as a child was my Mother telling my sister and I that she had found a spiritual Guru and was going to start meditating with him. She said we could join her if we liked. I can still feel my legs swinging on the chair that was too high for me, and see exactly where we were sitting in our house. Although I was so young, some part of me found the conversation very significant.

Shankara and Dipika, with Sri Chinmoy.

Our parents (Ongkar and Vinodini) took us along to Centre meditations. There were a number of children in the Centre and we would play together while our parents meditated. We would also join in the meditation for at least 10 minutes. Sri Chinmoy always involved us children in activities, that were very much part of Centre meetings. Children are always cherished and made to feel important as Centre members.

Sri Chinmoy’s love, care and concern have touched every part of my life and continue to do so. I am no great aspirant, far from it; but I have faith in my spiritual life and in Sri Chinmoy. This faith protects and enlightens me. I guess my love and faith have deepened and expanded over the years. On this spiritual path, you never stop learning, which is so satisfying.

My spiritual practice

Meditation does not give you a predictive experience, because it changes the whole time. Throughout my life, inspiration has ebbed and flowed. At different stages in my life, I have found the need to call on different aspects of the spiritual life for guidance and support. My Pole Star is devotional singing. Sri Chinmoy wrote thousands of devotional songs 1 that I find indescribably beautiful. Singing at my meditation shrine, I am always transported from the incessant drumbeats of my mind to the sweetness of my heart where peace resides. 

Shankara is the leader of the Temple-Song-Hearts music group, which gives concerts all over Europe.

I’ll be honest. Regular discipline isn’t my forte. I tend to buzz around the place trying to do a million things at once, which quite frustrates my long-suffering family! Sri Chinmoy’s path works for me because it’s so varied. If you love meditating soulfully and silently, there’s plenty of opportunity for that. If you like to meditate, but sitting for hours is a kind of torture, then you can meditate first, then go and do “selfless service.” Serving soulfully can be anything from helping out or organising running races, working at a restaurant operated by students of Sri Chinmoy, or getting involved in the many projects the Centre organises. 

However, despite my love of action, I really treasure my morning meditations as they inevitably give me the best experiences of the day. I probably sing more than I sit in silent meditation. My meditation shrine is simple and lovely. It’s the one time in the day no one is asking anything of me, except hopefully, God. The rest of the day, I try to remember my spiritual life, my Spiritual Master, and moments of beauty and divinity. Such as on the bus, as I walk to the kitchen, or as I notice something beautiful, in connecting my inner and outer life. 

Meditation increases awareness and sensitivity to our surroundings. Meditation strengthens our instincts. By which I mean, as our souls come to the fore during meditation, the Soul’s Light and its guidance do not withdraw immediately, but continue into the day. This awareness, I feel, leads me to be more considered and thoughtful in my decisions. The aim is to do the right thing; one’s instinct or intuition is a hugely helpful tool for this to happen. I also believe my meditation, or rather my spiritual life as a whole, offers protection against falling foul of insecurity and other negative forces. Ha, but I have a long way to go on that!

Shankara is also a race director of the many races that Sri Chinmoy's students put on in the London area, ranging from 5 and 10k races to the UK's only 24 hour race.

A life of significance

I’ve never known a life without meditation or spirituality. The spiritual life is normal to me. I perceive my life to date as challenging, very challenging at times, but also wonderfully full and rewarding. My greatest fear as a teenager was to have a life where I couldn’t see the point of what I was doing, of a life with no achievement - and by 'achievement', I mean living a life of deep significance, rather than becoming a big-wig. I clearly remember being so grateful in my late teens that I had meditation and a spiritual life, as I was happier in myself, and less confused or frustrated than some of my friends. When I feel my heart open during meditation – or more commonly when I sing – I taste the sweetness of life (while worries and frustrations caused by politics, confrontation and the sheer hardness of life, lessen their intensity), and I gain perspective.

If I didn’t meditate, my choices in life would be so different, along with my priorities. I want to meditate. I want to live a spiritual life. For me, there is no set divide between the inner and the outer. I just want to do my best each day. I meditate every day and I try to serve in my daily life. My meditation with Sri Chinmoy shows me the way to live, which gives meaning to my life.

  • 1. During his lifetime, Sri Chinmoy wrote 21,300 devotional songs (including 13,625 Bengali; 7,462 English; 180 Sanskrit and 33 French songs)

No prior experience needed

Samalya explains how he was completely unfamiliar with spiritual concepts when he first took meditation classes, and how he feels that helped him because he had no preconceptions. He also talks about how the idea of having a spiritual Master slowly grew on him, and how he had a powerful experience that convinced him Sri Chinmoy was his Master.

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Sports, especially running, is a big part of life in the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Prachar recalls a fond memory of his Guru, Sri Chinmoy which took place during a one-mile race, which taught him a valuable lesson about enthusiasm

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In this wide-ranging interview, Purnahuti Wangner talks about how, despite being successful in many fields, there was something missing in his life. He talks about his journey starting meditation, growing a new meditation centre, and giving classes in Guatemala and South America. This interview is part of the LIFE Voices series, created by Kedar Misani.

How can we create harmony in the world?

In answering this question of questions, Baridhi recalls Sri Chinmoy's well-known aphorism: 

Try not to change the world. You will fail. Try to love the world. Lo, the world is changed. Changed forever.

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Baridhi explains how the affinity between a spiritual Master and his students is something that grows in silence, and talks about a few of his experiences in that regard.

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Freshly returned from running with the international team in the US, Nikolaus talks about how spending every day on the road with the Peace Run has changed him as a person for the better.

My first experience with Sri Chinmoy

Nayak, along with his wife Nandita, became a student of Sri Chinmoy in 1974. He describes his first impressions of Sri Chinmoy and his students, and then relates how Sri Chinmoy blessed both of them on that first meeting

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