During the 1970s, the early days of the Centre, Guru would have a private interview with each seeker who wanted to become his disciple. You could sit down with him and have a face-to-face interview in which he would ask you questions and things. So on the first day I saw him, I was also introduced to Sevananda as one of the recent seekers. He said, “Okay, I told Guru about you, and he wants to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00.”
The next morning I came to the Centre. I was so excited, my heart felt like it was coming out of my chest. They asked me to wait in the library room and said they would call me when Guru was ready. So I sat there just feeling completely happy and thrilled. Finally Sevananda came in and said, “Guru will see you now.”
I went into the kitchen, which was very small. Guru, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, was seated by himself at a tiny kitchen table, writing something while resting his head on his other hand. Sevananda said, “Guru, this is the boy I was telling you about.” Guru didn't look up right away—he just kept writing.
Guru periodically performed weightlifting exhibitions in which he would perform one enormous and creative lifting feat after another. He announced in the fall of 2004 that he would like to have another such exhibition. He wanted ideas for new lifting machines. That was when we built his “shrugging” machine and one or two other new ones like the leg press machine.
I had the idea that Guru could lift his own cute little blue smart car, but from overhead rather than from underneath. I told Guru that this was definitely a more difficult way of lifting the car, but that as long as the car wasn’t over 2,000 pounds, I thought he would be able to lift it. Guru liked the idea, and immediately called Prataya to ask what the weight was because she had bought the car for him. It turned out that the weight was 1,971 pounds.
So Guru asked us to start building a machine to lift the car right away. But he also kept asking, “Will I be able to lift it?”
We were told Mother Teresa was staying at a church in Rome, very close to the Coliseum. It was near a church but it was a convent. It was so simple. There was no running water or heat, and the nuns lived with such simplicity. Guru was so excited and so delighted.
When Guru got there, Kailash was driving, and I got to be in the car with Guru. There were about 50 disciples who were already there waiting. They wanted us all to gather at the back entrance of the convent. It was quite beautiful. There were beautiful trees and a view of Rome.
The nuns said Mother would be coming very soon to see Guru and that she was so excited to meet Guru. I walked around to the front to see how everything was going. There was a Cardinal with a huge black Cadillac. The Cardinal was very upset and was walking back and forth by his Cadillac very impatiently. Probably he had been waiting for quite a while. Mother had just come back to the convent a little bit before we arrived from the airport. I am sure he was thinking he would see her right away.
What happened was that Mother Teresa did not go to the front to greet him. Instead of seeing the Cardinal who had been waiting for a really long time, she went to the back to greet Guru and all of us. Everyone was very happy.
When I started to meditate under the guidance of Sri Chinmoy, the situation in the family wasn't so good because of the doubts of my spouse and my parents. I could not even talk about meditation. But I had a little corner in the basement where I could be by myself. It was in my office behind the door. I had set up a little altar, a very minimal altar, and I would meditate in the morning. I would try to wake up at least 20 minutes before François, my son, because when he was up, it was another world, since he was hyperactive.
Both children attended the local school. François was in grade 4, Julie in grade 2. At school, François always wanted to joke around and have fun. He would do things that distracted the teacher or made him/her upset. Julie, two years younger, was an example of conformity. François was the opposite! He was a little bit hyper, and this created challenges.
So I had started meditating to help me accept my son and not get too upset with everyday events, either at home or at school. Before the children woke up in the morning, I would go to my secluded area for about half an hour of relaxation, deep breathing, building up my tolerance level…
I was blessed to have quite a bit of private time with Guru on various occasions. One time I approached him having allowed myself to be immersed by a sense of failure. I told him that I was feeling failure all around me.
He said, “It is not like that. You have to think of yourself as the lump of clay that the potter has. When the potter is working on the lump of clay, you cannot say that it is very beautiful. But he is working on it and it becomes something beautiful.”
Another example Guru used was the farmer who works in the field. He spreads fertilizer, and you cannot say that that is very beautiful. But eventually the farmer grows a bumper crop of food. So it was not that I was a failure, Guru explained to me―it was simply that I was not finished yet. I was witnessing myself in the process of being perfected.
Then Guru added, “If all else fails you and none of that works, just remember that you belong to me. You belong to me.”
Every second with your Master on earth is precious
The Masters speak of the inevitable dry spells along the journey to our self-realization. I experienced one after twelve years on Sri Chinmoy’s path, when I felt flat for a number of weeks. I thought to myself, “I have not made any spiritual progress,” and one day I simply knew I had to go to New York to be with Guru.
I arrived very late, and in my morning meditation the next day, I felt no enthusiasm to be seeing Guru soon. I went to Aspiration-Ground (the tennis court where we met) despite this, where there were only a few dozen disciples waiting for Guru’s arrival. Suddenly, I felt a strong inner push to get my camera from my accommodations―just a small, ordinary camera. I ran as fast as I could so that I could return quickly, saying to myself, “Every second with your Master on earth is precious.” (How quickly things had already changed for me inwardly!)
I made it back before Guru arrived, and when he did, he called for a photographer. This day was one of his tennis anniversaries, celebrating his accomplishments in playing the game.
I looked around and none of the usual photographers seemed to be there, so I went and stood on the far side of the net. He would play a set with one of his tennis court assistants; they would then come to the net, Guru would place his tennis racket on the person’s head in blessing, and I would come close and snap a picture of the moment. Guru had asked for a photographer knowing that for each player, the blessing-photo would be a treasured memento. Somehow I got the inner message to run for my camera even though I was in the depths of a spiritual dry spell!
Some years ago, the father of one of our Auckland disciples died – ‘passed on’ is a better term, for as Guru mentions, the secret of life is that there is no death. The disciple-son mailed his father’s photograph to Guru, asking his spiritual Master to bless the father’s soul and help him on his way.
Some weeks later, in a vivid dream, our Auckland disciple saw his father playing tennis with Guru, a clear event on another plane of consciousness, so real that he woke in the morning feeling greatly reassured. Guru was surely showing him that he would take care of his absent father (who incidentally loved tennis).
That same morning he went out to get his mail – and there among his letters was the photo he had sent to Guru weeks earlier. It had been returned and arrived on the morning of the dream, and on the photo Guru had drawn two little tennis racquets in confirmation.
I do not want to be
A tennis ball,
But I really want my life
To be as perfect
As the surrender
Of a tennis ball.
God has chosen the conditions under which you are living your present life. It is like a play. The stage is set and the curtain has been raised for you to perform your part and advance along the spiritual path. Your present conditions are the best possible ones for your advancement.
I just love this quote, as it puts my life situation into perspective and helps me find gratitude for life, as well as courage and inspiration to move forward and make progress.
Once we were embarking on a campaign of giving meditation classes. To help improve our presentation, we shot a video of a class with the idea we would watch afterwards to see how it could be better.
Sri Chinmoy gives advice on meditation, and demonstrates the heights of meditation in silence
After I managed to overcome my initial discomfort of watching myself, I was fascinated to see the difference between myself pre- and post-meditation. It was dramatic. After meditating, I had so much more poise, more focus, more clarity.
I am inspired to share one story that happened in the last two years, after Sri Chinmoy departed this world, as a way to illustrate that he continues to watch over us all from the higher planes, though we may not always be aware of it.
One day I was driving back from an appointment on Long Island when I hit some traffic on the Grand Central Parkway and decided to get off and take the back roads through Jamaica Estates. I was driving at a moderate speed up a slight hill in this residential neighbourhood.
It was a small two-way street with cars parked on both sides of the street, which in reality left room for only one car to drive at a time – a very common situation in this area of Queens.
As I approached the top of the hill, I saw that a car was speeding up the other side of the hill, not seeing me – it must have been going at least 40 or 50 miles per hour, with its engine roaring. I jammed on my brakes, but there was no room for me to pull over, as there were parked cars on either side of the road next to me. I shouted Supreme (invoking God as Sri Chinmoy urged us to do when in danger) and prayed in that split second before what seemed an inevitable crash and very possibly the end of my life!
In my early years of exploring meditation and the little-known subject of reincarnation, I came across a rather discouraging description of the long passage of time the soul supposedly takes from its very earliest entry into the earth arena until its full blossoming in God-realisation. Imagine, said the words of an old Indian text, a beautiful white bird flying to a large lake once every several thousand years and taking away a single drop of water in its beak. The length of time it takes for the bird to empty the lake is a description – metaphorical of course – of how long it takes for this journey to be concluded, for realisation or self-blossoming to be won.
A rather bleak thought! But encouragingly, it did add the further comment that for those who have a curiosity or an awakening interest in spirituality, the lake is almost empty and the long journey of the soul is not in front of us but already behind us.