One year, I got very sick during the New York City Marathon. I took some aspirin along the way, thinking that it would help my sore muscles, but it actually caused a real problem in my stomach. It unfortunately started a chain reaction that started to break down my intestines.
When I ran through Central Park, I saw a disciple-friend of mine who is my coach. He was very frightened when he saw me; I had no colour in my face. And then someone I knew from the United Nations saw me just before the finish line and they had the same reaction.
When I crossed the finish line, immediately two people came up to me and said, “Are you okay? Why don't you come with us?” They took me to an emergency tent and gave me something to drink, and I got a hot chocolate. My stomach started to knot up very painfully. This was happening every five to eight minutes in a very intense way. I went to the bathroom, and it was blood. So, they immediately put me in an ambulance to take me to the hospital. By the time I got to the hospital, I was in extreme pain. I couldn't drink anything because that made it worse.
In the school where I was, there was one seeker who meditated on Guru’s Transcendental photograph. He was not yet a disciple, but a seeker. He was in another class, but I went with the girls from his class on vacation – not vacation, but more like a school where you learned how to cook, how to do the things that girls did, such as sewing. They saw me, and they said, oh, we have one boy in our class and he is exactly like you, you have to meet him. They told him the same thing, but he was a seeker and he was not interested in getting to know a girl.
But then, a few weeks later, I was in the same room as he was. Somehow Guru managed it so that everybody else was out of the room except the two of us. We realised that we must be the ones who were exactly "the same", even though we had absolutely nothing in common. We were actually very different, but the other schoolgirls felt something was the same inside us.
I’ll tell you a funny story. Guru had two monkeys, Jadhu and Madhu. There was a little monkey house off Guru’s porch at his house where the monkeys lived. My first job in the morning was to feed the monkeys. Each morning I would bring the food into the monkey’s house. They would come down and sit on my shoulder and they would sort of pick at the plate – it was a tin from Annam Brahma – and take what they liked. Guru would ask me if they ate.
One day, Guru told me to sing to the monkeys. I am a terrible singer. I don’t sing on key and I’ve been asked not to sing The Invocation because it puts everybody off. So I sang “Never Say No” to the monkeys. Guru would be sitting on the porch a lot of times, resting, looking out on the street. He had a couch there that he would rest on.
After about a month of singing “Never Say No,” Guru said, “Change the song.” So I sang “I dearly love my India and I dearly love my America.” And that one went on; but one is hard to sing, I love it, but I do not think I sing it right, ever.
I became a disciple in 1975. I heard that Carlos Santana was going to be playing a concert at this Unitarian church; I was very excited because I knew he meditated. I went over a couple of hours early and I was sitting in the front row, but nothing was happening.
So I asked the person at the church when the meditation was going to be. He said, “Don’t worry, it’s definitely happening. But first we have a few children who will do piano and violin recitations.” And for the next hour and a half, I was sitting in the front row watching the children play their music.
Anyway, they finally showed up and there was a tremendous meditation. It was not an electric concert; it was a meditation with acoustic music. I had a really powerful inner experience. I felt that I was floating. I was having a kind of out-of-body experience. I had never experienced anything of that kind, and I was extremely enchanted by the experience.
I was at that time still a ski teacher, so in February, I had to be one week with some children at a children's class. I was supposed to teach them skiing in the Swiss mountains. I was there in a nice wooden house in the mountains. One night, I woke up at maybe 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. It was pitch black. I was becoming very conscious. I had never been so conscious. I saw Guru’s face, and from his third eye a streak of light came into my heart in a color like yellow or green, something like that. Now I know it's love, the colour of love.
It expanded and suddenly I was a pond of water. The water was falling down, a waterfall into the next pond, which was much bigger. Guru's face had disappeared, but I was the water of this pond and the next pond was very big. The whole pond fell down as a waterfall into a big lake. And that water again fell down as a waterfall into the ocean.
The very first time I heard about my spiritual Master
Whenever I remember how I first came to Guru, I get very emotional.
I was in high school. I was maybe 16 or 17 years old, and at the time I had recently moved from the island of Maui in Hawaii to Puerto Rico. When I was about 16, I started to have some inner spiritual yearnings and some spiritual experiences. No one, in my circle of friends in the school that I was going to, shared these kinds of experiences.
So, I started going to bookstores and looking for spiritual books. One of the very first ones I was fortunate enough to get was a book on yoga, a general book of yoga. It was not Guru’s book. I began reading about yoga and spiritual life. I started practicing the physical exercises of yoga and some basic concentration exercises on my own because no one that I knew in Puerto Rico was doing anything like this. Then I started buying other books and reading on Zen Buddhism and Hinduism and some other paths, but there was one message that kept coming out to me from each of these books. That message that these books were, these teachings, were talking about was higher worlds, higher levels of consciousness, how to achieve real inner peace. But they always said that if you want to achieve this, you need a teacher, you need a Master to guide you.
These past two years have been extremely difficult for everyone, especially for our healthcare workers. Two nurses who are members of our Centre, Kritagyata Nicholls from New York and Florbela Caniceiro from Portugal, share their experiences of how their spirituality has helped them and the people around them.
Hope, courage, endurance and cheerfulness
by Kritagyata Nicholls, New York
I am a neonatal and pediatric intensive care nurse, with a background in psychiatric nursing. In 1991, Sri Chinmoy asked me to co-ordinate his humanitarian service programme The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
When wondering how we could be of assistance during the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, I recalled my years in the neonatal ICU of Lenox Hill Hospital, where I would silently recite one-line poems of Sri Chinmoy’s while I was working. That one phrase became a powerful vehicle to bring a sense of peace and poise into our daily challenges at the unit.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our team also listened to interviews with doctors and nurses who were working tirelessly in our hospitals to save lives. They spoke of the need for hope, courage, endurance and cheerfulness.
Researching Sri Chinmoy's poems on these themes, we created Thoughts for the Day, which brought inspiring and encouraging words of wisdom to medical teams. Posters and banners were prepared for hospital Emergency Departments and related services.
The response was most inspiring from hospitals in Italy, Germany, Russia and the USA. I would never have imaged a huge banner of poetry in an emergency room, yet doctors and nurses found that the wisdom conveyed by these poems was deeply valued by patients and staff, and provided them with hope, strength and encouragement.
Our Work with Children
As a nurse, I saw first-hand how devastating the lockdowns and restrictions were deeply impacting children’s emotional health. Our experience has been over the years, that once children participate in making things better, it empowers them, giving them a sense of fulfilment in the knowledge that their efforts are really making a difference.
After listening to a speech by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, on the impact of the pandemic on the lives of children worldwide, and being aware of Sri Chinmoy’s dedicated service to the UN for 37 years, we initiated programmes to connect children in different nations.
In Kazakhstan children drew artwork as an expression of gratitude to doctors and nurses. The artwork was displayed as a huge poster at 40 bus stops in the capital city of Nur-Sultan, being placed just before the International Day of Healthcare Workers. The installation will be in place for almost a year.
We have had an ongoing programme called Drawings of Love where children send drawings to support children and adults around the world. This year children in Russia created artwork for children undergoing chemotherapy at the Raisa Gorbachev Memorial Institute in St. Petersburg. As both the donor and recipient children were experiencing a lockdown, this mode of communication coordinated by our team was most gratifying for all participants. Messages of encouragement, friendship and comfort were exchanged and turned into slideshows to share via hospital TV with all pediatric patients.
Comment by Ambassador Mehrotra
We had the opportunity recently to tell Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, Former High Commissioner from India to Sri Lanka, about our work with hospitals and children, and he said, "Sri Chinmoy’s words act as balm on bruised souls, and inspire those engaged in serving victims of Corona!"
The inner connection
a personal story from Florbela from Portugal
I have been a nurse for 31 years and a student of the spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy for 12 years. I have been a frontline worker in the fight against the pandemic, either conducting individual or institutional screening tests, treating the sick in their homes, and now most recently doing vaccinations.
The last two years of my life have been like all of us, very difficult. But for health professionals they were beyond difficult. They were frightening and during some periods, absolutely lonely. The move away from our family and the fear of death were always very present.
But what I would like to share with you all, is not the difficult part of this experience, but the fact how much being a student of Sri Chinmoy has helped me personally, and allowed me to help co-workers and – above all – our patients.
Meditating daily gave me the confidence and courage I needed to reassure colleagues that together we would make it! It gave me enough peace to always convey to the patients the relief they needed, for the fear that flooded them.
Reading Sri Chinmoy's books allowed my mind to have a period of rest, optimism, and to be refreshed to continue receiving all the information, which came several times a day and had to be put into practice quickly to protect people.
Sri Chinmoy's music made me feel his presence, his concern and love for all of us. It gave me hope!
Sri Chinmoy's videos were my companion when nothing else made me happy.
The inner connection with my spiritual Master saved me, in the most difficult time I have experienced so far.
But it goes even further. It has enabled me to help many patients during this most challenging time for humanity, and continues daily to enable me to help all the people I care for.
What I have received from Sri Chinmoy during the past 2 years cannot be expressed in words. I can only say: Gratitude! Gratitude for being able to have this life experience, is what I feel inside me the most.
Florbela describes the inner search that led her to meditation and the spiritual life
Listen to Nature: Living in Harmony with the Earth is a new book which presents a collection of Sri Chinmoy's writings on the environment. Through poetry, prose and question and answers, Sri Chinmoy explains the root of our own environmental crisis, how we can learn to love nature and why there is reason to be hopeful of creating a better future.
The new book has a foreword contributed by Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace.
[Sri Chinmoy] stresses the need for a deep spiritual connection with the natural world of which we are part and on which we depend.. Let us heed the words of this spiritual teacher before it is too late."
The book also includes several practical meditation exercises, where Sri Chinmoy offers us the opportunity to meditate on aspects of nature we often take for granted. Sri Chinmoy feels that developing this inner connection with Mother Earth not only feeds the natural environment, but can also bring peace to humanity.
Nature has its own rhythm, its own harmony, its own peace and joy. When you are identified, consciously or unconsciously, with universal Nature, it is all vastness and immensity. There you lose your own outer existence, the feeling that you are separate from other persons. In that state of unified oneness, you become totally one with universal Nature; you become part and parcel of the Vast and the Infinite. You forget your ordinary life, which is your physical frame, your name and your outer existence. In that state, you do not have to make your mind calm and quiet, for the mind is not functioning; you have already become identified with the treasure of universal Nature's consciousness.
Whilst Sri Chinmoy expresses his sadness at the way humanity has damaged Mother Earth, he explains this damage to the environment is a manifestation of the division, fear and greed which are predominant in human minds.
At the same time, Sri Chinmoy offers a message of hope, that through prayer, meditation and identification with Mother Earth we can help to heal the planet and restore the natural beauty of earth.
We must not underestimate the power of spirituality. Prayer and meditation mean new life. When we pray and meditate, at every second we are invoking God’s Compassion. We are saying that Mother Nature is being destroyed. But we have to know that Mother Nature is nothing other than God the creation. We are praying to God the Creator to save God the creation. So He who created this earth can once again create a new creation on the strength of our prayers and meditations.
This medium sized book is an excellent gift for anyone who has love for our planet and wishes to understand both what is going wrong, but also how we can help to protect and renew our connection with nature.
A week-long exhibition of artwork by spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy took place in Sofia, Bulgaria in November. Sri Chinmoy began painting mystical artworks in November 1974; he called them Jharna-Kala, which means fountain-art in his mother-language, Bengali. In 1991 he expanded his artwork to include bird drawings representing the freedom of the human soul. Many of the 102 artworks on display in Sofia displayed these bird drawings.
For me, birds have a very special significance. They embody freedom. We see a bird flying in the sky and it reminds us of our own inner freedom. As I said before, I am a Truth-seeker and a God-lover. So I feel that inside each of us there is an inner existence which we call the soul. The soul, like a bird, flies in the sky of God’s Infinity. So the birds we see flying in the sky remind us of our own soul-bird flying in the sky of Infinity.
The opening night featured a concert of Sri Chinmoy's music performed in Indian classical style by Kanala Auer (Austria, sitar), Sadanand Magee (Ireland, tabla) and Ushika Muckenhummer (Austria, tanpura). Ambassador of India, Mr. Sanjay Rana and his wife attended the concert as special guests. After the concert, Ambassador Rana said: "We really moved to a different world. Thank you for bringing Indian music to our hearts here in Bulgaria.”
I was an ordained Christian minister serving at the Metropolitan Community Church in Manhattan. I had found my “church home” there, and loved the community as well as the opportunity to serve the poor and downtrodden—but I was feeling a lack of spiritual direction for myself.
I began to feel desperate spiritually. Where was I going to find a place to address my personal spiritual growth? How was I going to grow in my walk with God? I couldn’t live without a place to grow emotionally and spiritually. I felt like I was dying inside. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Late one evening, I went into my bedroom and sat down to pray. I prayed to Christ and asked him to help me. I needed a new spiritual director. I needed someone who could guide and advise me in my spiritual life. Someone really, really far ahead of me, someone I wouldn’t catch up with in just a few years by learning all that they could teach me. I wanted someone so far ahead of me that I could spend a very long time learning from them.