The gift of gratitude

My most recent experience of gratitude occurred in a spiritual dream. We were at Aspiration-Ground, the meditation garden were we all meet in New York, as a very important play was about to begin. There were a lot of disciples there, as well as quite a few guests. Guru was standing next to the guests for a photo, and the media gallery was huge, with sixty to seventy videographers and photographers.

Guru then asked me about getting into Pilgrim-Dream-Museum, the house next to Aspiration-Ground where he hosted distinguished guests. I looked up and saw that it was already open. I told Guru, who began walking up there. I was behind Guru, watching him as he moved through the crowd and noticing the surprise and devotion of people as they saw him approach.

When we arrived at Pilgrim-Dream-Museum, I was overcome with a beautiful sense of gratitude at being given the opportunity to serve Guru in this simple but important way. Guru did not go inside but just moved around, giving me time to fully immerse myself in this powerful feeling of gratitude. I awoke with tears streaming down my face, knowing that this awesome experience was gratitude.

I realised that the experience of gratitude is purely a gift. It almost seems counter-intuitive because I always thought that gratitude was something that a person offered to someone else. But no, true gratitude is a beautiful, fulfilling experience that God just gives. There seems to be very little a person can do to earn it—at least as far as I can figure out. I am just hoping that if I value it, then it will come more frequently.

On the other hand, the experience of gratitude was so powerful that I am not sure if my outer awareness could deal with it. For me, it has only fully happened either when I have been in trance (once) or in a spiritual dream (twice). In each case, it felt like I was being inundated in the blast from a fire hose—it was absolutely overwhelming.

If you have gratitude,
You must realise
That your gratitude has come
From God Himself.

Sri Chinmoy 1

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'I am the marathon Guru'

In April 1982, one evening Guru inquired of those present if any of us were proposing to run in the Boston Marathon, only two days away. Nobody was. Clearly disappointed, he asked whether any of us would now do so – about a dozen of us raised our hands, myself goaded into acquiescence by my impulsive friend Simahin, and we filed past our smiling Guru on the stage. I was astonished by this sudden turn of events and amazed by my own mad act of abandonment – my first entirely unintended marathon!

The next night around 9 pm we caught Guru’s old blue bus for the overnight trip and now there we were, start time for the great Boston race, untrained, unregistered and looking for an opportunity to vault over the starting area’s picket fence without officials seeing us when the gun sounded.

We flew down the hill at a fantastic pace, trailing the greatest marathoners on the planet. I cast aside all common sense in the exhilaration of these first few crazy, high-velocity miles, impervious to all misfortune. But misfortune eventually came – and at 20 miles I remember slowing to a walk and shuffling up the aptly named Heartbreak Hill, much chastened by this first experience of ‘the wall’.

Racing down our avenue of dreams, we had felt like champions, that first thrilling mile a gauntlet of cheering, rapturous crowds – but with 42 kms of America’s countryside behind me, I limped across the line in 3:20, Simahin close behind me.

Sri Chinmoy in training

During our bus ride back to Queens, Guru asked us for stories. “I am the marathon Guru,” he said to us, half-jokingly, “and all of you will have to run at least one marathon before you go to Heaven.”

Then he told us how pleased he was with the handful of runners who had accepted his challenge and how much progress we make when we run. He added that our willingness and our cheerfulness were much more important than our timing in the race.

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'See, sometimes the Supreme speaks to me'

After a wonderful meditation session on Australia’s Gold Coast, Sri Chinmoy was heading towards the elevator. He saw a bunch of us boys, looked at us pointedly and said, “What, no frisbee?” Now, please understand that this is a fairly rare comment for Sri Chinmoy to make, and it seemed somewhat incongruous. However, it was also extremely welcome. What better thing to do after a beautiful meditation than to run around on the beach with your friends playing the great game of Ultimate Frisbee.

Fifteen minutes later about twelve of us were fully immersed in an intense battle of Frisbee down on the beach. As we were about to begin the next point, I saw two boys from the other team running into the surf. The next thing I saw was them carrying Kritartha, a Czech student of Sri Chinmoy, out of the ocean with quite a deep and nasty gash in his calf muscle. I ran back to the hotel and borrowed a van to take him to hospital.

I went into the function room to explain the situation to Guru. That was the first time I had ever given news like this to Guru, and it was fascinating to watch his reaction. He was very focused, and with each nuance of the situation he would take it in and meditate for a second or two.  The gist of the news was that the injury happened while Kritartha was surfing and is a fairly common occurrence in these waters. The cut was quite deep and there may have been muscle damage. If so, they would then need to cut the leg further to stitch the inner muscle. Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case, and I am convinced it was due to the force that Guru put on the situation.

After I told Guru all the news, he inquired, “Why were you on the beach? Were you surfing?”  “No,” I replied, “We were playing Frisbee like you said we should.”  Guru looked at me fixedly and with a twinkle in his eye said, “See, sometimes the Supreme speaks to me. It would have been much harder for him if you all had not been there.”

I mumbled something in agreement, while wondering if there was ever a time when the Supreme actually did not speak to Guru. I personally do not think Sri Chinmoy uttered a single word or even thought a single thought without it coming from the Supreme.

God’s watchful Eye
Is protecting my life
Every day.

Sri Chinmoy 1

  • 1. Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 28, 27894, Agni Press, 2002
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How I Learned from Sri Chinmoy


The way my Guru Sri Chinmoy affected me, in a large sense, is how we are all affected by each other’s consciousness. When you spend time with someone who is really happy, you come away happier than you were before.

Why do we choose someone as a friend? It is because we feel reinforced by their presence. This may not be conscious, but there is an inner kinship, and you are touched by that person’s life. You feel a sense of well-being in their presence. Of course, the opposite is also true. So on a very casual basis, all of us are affected by the consciousness of those around us.

Driving Sri Chinmoy in Chicago, 1998

With a spiritual Master, however, it is also more than that. To be in the presence of someone whose spirituality is that powerful lifts you. You walk away spiritualised by the encounter regardless of its nature. With a spiritual Master, you try to soak in what they are constantly emitting. This is something that has stuck with me throughout the years about Sri Chinmoy. 

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'Christ has stolen her heart and brought it now to me'

Dodula: I was a happy nun at my convent. I had friends and was successful in my job working with children. The institution where I worked and lived was situated by the lake with a view of the mountains. I felt like I was at the zenith of my life. No outer circumstances could have made me leave the convent.

In 1988, I was taking an advanced training course at the University of Zurich so I could serve as a therapist for children with behavioural problems. I was hoping the course would help me to serve these young people better. I was looking for teachers whose theories reflected life; however, with the majority of the professors, I did not see any correlation.

One evening after the lectures, I was on my way out when I saw a poster in the foyer that said “Introduction to Meditation.” I thought to myself, “When I studied here in my younger years, this topic was unknown. But the Bible says, ‘Try all and keep the best.’” So I decided to attend and see what the evening had to offer. The lecture was given by psychologist A.K. Beyer (whom I now know by his spiritual name of Kailash). In his case, I felt that word and deed went together. After the lecture I registered for an upcoming meditation seminar.

Gunthita: When Dodula first came to Kailash’s lecture, she was dressed in her black nun’s costume. To everybody’s surprise, she was one of the ten people who signed up for the follow-up. Kailash spoke the first evening, and I continued the remaining three evenings. Kailash told me that in case this nun continued for the entire course, I had better not speak about how to become a disciple, in order to avoid problems with the church. Sure enough, she was one of the few people who stayed until the last class.

Right from the beginning she was so open to Guru. She loved his Transcendental photograph; she said it was always smiling at her. She bought many books, which she also gave to her nun sisters and the Mother Superior. She also bought quite a few pictures of Guru and put them up in her little room.

When I was in New York, I was inspired to tell some of the experiences she had with Guru’s music and with the Transcendental picture in connection with the children she was teaching. The stories were as beautiful as fairy tales, but they were real! Guru’s only comment was: “Is she not a disciple?”

I answered: “No, Guru, she has been a Catholic sister for 27 years!” Guru just smiled compassionately at my stupid answer.

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Guru's curveballs

During my first Celebrations in New York, Guru had all the young disciples come up to him who had been on the path less than two years, which included me.

As we youngsters came up to Guru, he would throw a candy bar as means of blessing us, which we had to catch. He loved to do this as a joyful, childlike way to interact personally with each person in line. I remember thinking that it would be extremely important to not drop the bar, which in my mind seemed tantamount to squandering the Master’s blessings. Most disciples before me in the line had no problems catching the little bars, as they came sailing in graceful arcs out of Guru’s hand.

However, when my turn came Guru gave a little flick with his hand and the bar flew short of its anticipated course. I grasped after it and hit it with the back of my hand, tossing it higher into the air. As it came down a second time I reached for it again unsuccessfully. The candy bar was now making frantic somersaults in mid-air, about to unceremoniously drop to the floor, exposing me as the most unworthy disciple in the crowd.

In a last, frantic attempt I reached for it again. Fortunately, this time I managed to snatch it from its wayward course. My heart was pounding in my chest as relief washed over me.

I made it!

From the corner of my eye I looked at Guru and thought I saw a hint of a smile.

Unbeknownst to me then is that I had just witnessed Guru’s first curveball, which he threw at me. Over the years, more curveballs followed, moments where Guru would shatter my expectations, steer me off a mind-planned course and force me to improvise, which often meant a return to the fluid spontaneity of my heart.

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A Truckload of Humanitarian Aid Sails through Customs

In 1991, Sri Chinmoy founded the Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles humanitarian service. Among its first projects was a delivery of food and medicines to Russia (above) at the request of President Gorbachev - a project that Dr. Arthada worked on.

Once I had almost finished collecting humanitarian aid for two or three truck deliveries that were supposed to go to Russia. Before the shipping, I and many other Austrian disciples went to Celebrations, a meeting of the disciples with Guru in America.

There, Kritagyata, a nurse who collected humanitarian supplies in America, told me that she had received a huge shipment of medical supplies for Russian children’s hospitals. The transport directly from America to Russia would, however, have been financially impossible and bureaucratically extremely difficult to manage by official means.

So the idea arose that we European disciples could take all these packages in our personal luggage back to Europe. At the next large international disciple meeting, disciples from other Centres could give these packages to the disciples from Vienna. The idea was that I would then add all these medical supplies to my already planned large aid delivery.

Secretly feeling relieved, I informed Guru that it was completely absurd to even think about bringing all these countless large parcels illegally to Europe in this way without Customs finding out. These parcels were significantly more voluminous than suitcases and, moreover, immediately identifiable from the outside as medical supplies. That was probably clear to everyone, and my many years of experience only made me smile pitifully at this idea. This is why, right from the beginning, I considered this project over and done with or rather hopeless and crazy. “One problem less,” I thought, but I did not know Guru that well yet.

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A close brush with death

The great sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar became a very dear friend of Sri Chinmoy. Both Ravi Shankar and Sri Chinmoy hailed from Bengal, India, and they shared the same mother tongue. Over time, Pandit-ji and Sri Chinmoy became extremely close, having claimed each other as true brothers after their remaining blood-relative brothers had passed away.

In the fall of 2005, I was at Sri Chinmoy’s home when I received a phone call from Ravi Shankar's wife, Sukanya. Her voice was trembling with unusual urgency: Ravi-ji was on his way to a hospital in Manhattan, where he was staying at the time, suffering from breathing difficulties. While Sukanya was simply calling to inform Sri Chinmoy, I immediately reassured her that we were all at her service.

Pandit-ji had been suffering from a weak heart for about a decade. Although Sukanya did not give any inkling of how serious his present condition might be, as soon as Sri Chinmoy heard the news, he immediately left for Lenox Hill Hospital where Ravi-ji had been admitted.

Sri Chinmoy quickly walked into the emergency room, sat down, and went into a very lofty consciousness amidst the chaos of the ER. It was in this high state of meditation that Sri Chinmoy remained for over an hour. Sukanya, who was by Ravi-ji’s side, knew Sri Chinmoy was there and was very grateful for his presence.

Cross-posted from

The Champion-Hero Supreme

Sri Chinmoy passes the baton to Carl Lewis for the final leg of a Peace Mile Relay race in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York, 1989.

To win one gold medal at the Olympic Games is an extraordinary feat. To win nine gold medals is practically unheard of! And yet that is exactly what the great American athlete Carl Lewis accomplished, earning him many accolades, including the title “Best Olympian of the 20th Century” from Sports Illustrated.

Narada Michael Walden, Sri Chinmoy and Carl Lewis in 1998

In November 1983, the renowned Grammy award-winning music producer Narada Michael Walden brought Carl to meet Sri Chinmoy at his New York headquarters. This was nearly a year before Carl’s first Olympic competition in Los Angeles, at a time when Sri Chinmoy was intensely involved in running as a way to keep the body fit and as a form of spiritual discipline. Carl very sympathetically coached Sri Chinmoy in sprinting, and Sri Chinmoy wholeheartedly encouraged and guided Carl in his stellar athletic career, travelling to several Olympic Games.

Try to feel that the whole earth is behind you and that you are getting blessings, love, concern, determination and oneness from the entire earth. You have to convince your entire being that the whole Olympic stadium is for you, because you are not representing any particular country or race, but the entire earth.

Sri Chinmoy
advice to Carl before the 1984 Olympics

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'This advice has guided me in leading my people ever since'

Sri Chinmoy with His Majesty King Pakoebowoeno XII

In December 2003, Sri Chinmoy set forth on a journey to Indonesia with a few hundred of his students from many countries. It was part of their annual Christmas and New Year’s travels to various countries. Their first destination was the beautiful green island of Java, the main island among the thousands of islands of Indonesia. Indonesia has a very rich and ancient culture, with Islam layered over its previous religious traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The dynasty of rajas (kings) in Indonesia originally came from India. Sri Chinmoy specially wanted to spend some time in Solo, capital of the ancient Kingdom of Surakarta.  Although he had visited Indonesia on several occasions before, this was his first visit to Solo, the historic royal city of Indonesia.

His students made an appointment for him to pay his respects to the elderly King of the region, but before Sri Chinmoy had the chance to go to the Palace, the King himself came to see Sri Chinmoy at his hotel. This particular King was very famous in Indonesia. Hailed as the King of all the Kings of Indonesia, he had been on the throne for more than 60 years. Although his proper name was His Majesty King Pakoebowoeno XII, he was respectfully known by the title Sinoehoen. Sinoehoen is a Dutch word that means ‘King of Kings’, dating back to the years when Indonesia was ruled by the Dutch.

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