I was at NYU and I began doing Sufi dancing. At one point, the students that were leading the Sufi dancing said, “Our teacher is coming to give a weekend seminar. Would you like to join? His name is Pir Vilayat Khan.”
I felt Pir Vilayat Khan was very sincere, very spiritual, although I did not have an experience with him the way I did with Guru. But at the end of the two-day seminar, Pir Vilayat Khan said, “If any of you want to meet a real spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy is offering his annual New Year's meditation at Hunter College,” and he gave the date and time.
That is how I found Guru again. Some of you may recall that Pir Vilayat Khan and Guru became good friends. You may have seen a picture of Guru and Pir Vilayat Khan meditating on each other at the United Nations. Pir Vilayat Khan was very, very devoted to Guru.
I got a call on the phone from a disciple, a doctor in Vienna. He was very Austrian, very matter of fact, and he just said to me, “I'm trying to get a message to Guru that Shamita is dying.” Well, that got my attention!
He explained that Shamita, a musician who plays the cello and is a very good ultra-runner, had run an ultra-race in Austria and had collapsed.
So, I knew that Guru would want as many details as possible. I remember writing them down. Pratush said that her organs were shutting down, which apparently is very, very serious. The doctors thought it was just a matter of time till she died.
Well, of course, I knew how serious that was, so I remember I ran out of the store, just dropped everything and ran out of the store. I remember jumping on my bicycle and pedaling like crazy to Guru's house.
One time in I think it was 1997, we had a Christmas trip in Mexico. On the Christmas trips, I worked very, very hard. I had to get up very early. I had to deal with some things in Guru's hotel room and I did a lot of media work and a lot of getting Guru on television. So, it was an exhausting time and a very busy time. I filmed for Guru to archive, but also, I did a lot of events which we would take to television. We used to get Guru on television a lot in all these countries.
After Guru held a concert one night, I was coming back to the hotel. I was not in a good space. I was very tired, but also mentally I was not in a good space, and you could say spiritually, I wasn't in a good space, since they often go together. I remember waiting in the lobby for Guru. I was some distance away because I knew I wasn't in a good consciousness, and I didn't want to bother Guru. There were a lot of disciples in the hotel lobby. I was tucked right away, almost out of sight.
There was another time, maybe in 2003, probably 2004, where, again, I used to do enormous amount of work video for Guru. Guru had everything filmed and there was a lot of the equipment. I would carry cameras, tripods, lights, cabling—most of it by myself. So, after a while, my physical started breaking down. I was a lot younger then, but still, wrist problems, back problems… everything was torturing me. I was also not in a good spiritual space because the two can be related. Also, I hadn't slept much for many days. Whatever excuses, I wasn't in a good space.
All the same, I was very lucky because I used to go to Guru's house all the time. Most mornings I would be there for several hours during Guru’s lifting. And in the evenings, I would come too, and sometimes in the afternoon. I was very lucky to have that outer physical connection.
So, I told Guru, “I'm not in a good space. I'm having all these problems.”
Guru said, “I'm concentrating on your soul right now.”
Purifying your mind by serving your spiritual Master
On my first Christmas trip, which was in 1990, I went to Hawaii and then Bali with Guru. Every morning, early in the morning, we would wake up about 4:35. We would go down to the beach and wait for Guru, and Guru would practice throwing shot put. He had many special shot puts made from lighter ones to very heavy ones. The heavy one was very heavy, maybe 80 kilograms. Guru would practice. We would give Guru the shot put and then we would also pick it up. There was a line of us and we would take it in turns to give Guru the shot put and then also pick it up.
With the very heavy weights, you would have to go very close to Guru. I was not super strong. I'd have to go very close to Guru to be safe and to give it to Guru safely. You were very, very close to Guru when you would do this. As a guard, often you would have to work around Guru. You learned how to purify your consciousness, to be in a good consciousness because when you're around Guru, you're very aware of his consciousness and you want to be your best too.
When Vyakulata left New Zealand after some years to live in New York, she left behind her bright yellow car and kindly invited us to use it whenever the need arose. One day I drove her car out along the southern motorway to perform as a clown at a kids’ birthday party in south Auckland, decked out in voluminous clown trousers, big shoes, red nose—the works!
Halfway to my destination, I was suddenly overwhelmed by sleep. I tried singing, putting my head out the window, shouting my name, anything to stay awake. Then I crashed, driving at 90 kilometres per hour, head-on into a concrete bridge column! The engine was pushed up into the passenger seat, the wheels were shorn off, everything was concertina’d into a crumpled wreckage. Fast asleep, helpless and with seat belt on, I was awoken by a tremendous bang on impact, and saw only whirling sky and flying glass.
Miraculously I was completely untouched—not a scratch or even a bruise. Ambulances came, police came, tow trucks came—everyone was astonished that I was alive, and even more so that I had emerged so totally unscathed.
Curiously, each time I passed this spot over the next few weeks—pointing out to my passengers the yellow splashes of wreckage still dotting the roadside—I could feel a force pulling me, as though down a dark tunnel, into the same place. Later Guru said that it was a hostile force that had attacked me, but that I had felt the arms of the Supreme around me and survived.
An experience of the love that the Supreme has for me, and for all of us
On my round-the-world trip, I left Australia on a Russian passenger ship from Sydney to the Panama Canal.
I went into the chess room on the ship; I used to play chess a lot. I saw this man playing chess by himself. And I said, “Can I play?” He said, “Yes, please sit down.” He was from England and he was going back to England on this boat. He told me that he had a Master in Thailand for 6 or 7 years and his Master told him to return to England because he could not teach him anymore. You can imagine that during my trip I had spoken to many people about meditation, I had tried meditation, but nothing ever really clicked.
When this man spoke to me, I asked him, “What’s the purpose of meditation?” He said, “To know who you are, to realise your true self, to realise God,” and for some reason, this time it made total sense, total sense. We played chess—one game—and I thanked him. It was about 1:00 in the morning on the ship. I went up to this very small deck; it was deck F.
President Gorbachev: a special soul brought down for a special reason
Interviewer:Recently, I've been watching the video that you have made on the meeting of Guru and President Mikhail Gorbachev, which took place in 1997. There was another part of this video after the meeting when Guru was gathering with the disciples and discussing this meeting. Guru seems to be so excited about that meeting, because it seems like Guru was really setting Gorbachev apart from all other politicians and prominent people that he communicated with in his lifetime. Could you please comment on this relationship of Guru with Gorbachev?
Mridanga: Well, I would have to agree. I've never seen Guru so happy than when talking about President Gorbachev. I mean, to me, I never see Gorbachev as a politician. Of course, he is. But Guru held him as someone much, much, much higher.
Guru said that he had a connection with President Gorbachev previously and that Gorbachev was a very, very special soul brought down for a special reason.
Even if you look historically just at what Gorbachev did, okay, we all know that. But I don't think I've ever met a politician that's been as receptive to Guru. I mean, it's almost like Gorbachev recognized Guru, his height somewhat, and Gorbachev just happened to be a politician.
On the 2nd day of the first time I saw Guru, Guru was talking to us about the importance of being clean and taking a proper shower, for the girls to have long hair and the boys to have short hair and shaved faces. He explained to us that the importance of having the clean-shaven face is that it’s easier to see the light of the soul being expressed through our face. When the soul is bringing its light into us, it is through the face and through our eyes that it shines most.
I wasn’t totally convinced with what Guru had said and I wanted to show him how spiritual I was. I raised my hand to ask him a question and he called on me immediately. Before I opened my mouth, I noticed that Guru was looking at me in a peculiar way. His eyes shifted to the side and there was a smile on his face.
I asked him, “If Christ had long hair and a beard, why can’t I have my long hair and beard?”
Guru remained quiet for a few moments, again with his eyes shifting to the side. The expression on his face was not something I had seen previously. It was totally new to me. His reply was, “If Christ the Saviour comes to me with his long hair and beard, I run to him and kiss the dust of his feet. But when I see you coming with your long hair and beard, I run as far away from you as I can.”
I can tell you the outer circumstances about how I came to the path. At the time, I was studying music, studying grand piano. I just got the feeling that I should learn to meditate because that would help me with my piano performance. This was in 1982. It was my final year of music study. I got the feeling that I should find somewhere to learn to meditate, I should look in the newspaper and that there would be an advertisement for meditation classes.
So, I looked in the paper and there were two advertisements for meditation groups. One of the groups was much closer to my house and it was called the Sri Chinmoy Centre, which I had never heard of. But because it was close to me, that's the one I went to. The disciples later told me that they only ever placed one advertisement in the newspaper. That was the only time they ever put an advertisement in the newspaper. That was the day I got the idea that I must look in the newspaper to find an advertisement.
So, I was coming to meditation classes for nearly six months. I was not looking for a Guru or a spiritual master or a spiritual path. It never occurred to me that these things were important. But I was enjoying coming to the Centre and I was enjoying reading Guru's writings and listening to Guru’s music. More and more, this was becoming a very important part of my life.