A barrage of Candy Bullets

Sometime in the late 1990s I sat in a hotel room in Atitlan, Guatemala, feeling incredibly depressed. Every year around Christmas and the New Year, Guru would travel to different countries for all of us to share and learn from inspiring people all over the world. Several hundred of Sri Chinmoy’s students would stay at the same one or two hotels and we had many functions, plus a lot of time for sports.

Playing soccer earlier that morning, I had felt depressed. Eating breakfast—depressed. A mid-morning nap, avoiding everyone—depressed! In our hotel function room I sat at the back, avoiding Guru’s scrutiny and the banter of friends. Guru had a bag of sweets in his lap and was tossing them out, like a playful father.

Suddenly he stopped, glared at me with a fierce concentration, then began hurling wrapped sweets at me with incredible velocity. I felt a jolt inside and sat bolt upright. The sweets were whizzing by me, a barrage, bouncing off the seating and ricocheting away like hurtling bullets. I couldn’t believe it! Relentless, Guru threw one after another, firing away, a wild fusillade of candies.

Then I caught one and Guru stopped. I held it in my hand and started laughing—Guru started laughing too. Suddenly my depression went away. It was quite extraordinary. He had known how I felt and banished this force from my mind in such a remarkable way. After that I felt happy and grateful to be on the trip and didn’t allow depression back to rule my mind.

Have you seen the Buddha?

Spiritual Masters who have truly realised God are very rare souls, and most human beings will almost certainly never encounter one. And if they did, how many would recognise in this encounter a being who had scaled the highest heights? For the lives of God-realised souls are characterised by humility and simplicity, not the overt trappings of pomp, power, and status that characterise most other forms of human celebrity.

There is an illustrative story of an ascetic in search of the Buddha. He travelled far and wide, at last coming to stay for a night in a house where the Buddha was also staying. “Have you seen the Buddha?” he asked, but unaware of what the Buddha would look like, he continued on his way the next day, disappointed and still searching. In the same way you could pass an enlightened Master in the street, but without some training of your own, you would in all probability be unaware of who had just passed you by.

A 2002 performance by Sri Chinmoy on the pipe organ

In late 1989 Guru was in New Zealand for a few days. One afternoon following a pipe organ performance at the Auckland Town Hall, at his request we took him to a local gym. In a bright yellow dhoti (a traditional Indian garment) after his concert he was an unusual figure, seemingly a small unassuming Indian man in his early sixties with two or three attendants.

Well known for his feats of strength, and for his advocacy of meditation as a key to transcendence in all areas of accomplishment, in no time he had a small group of weightlifters and bodybuilders around him. They were keen to ask questions and determine for themselves the authenticity of the stories they had heard about his achievements.

A calf raise lift by Sri Chinmoy

Guru was asked about his lifts and the weights involved, and he replied with simple candour. As though to dispel any doubts about these claims, he then went to two or three sets of apparatus while his audience closely watched and lifted first a 900-pound stack on the standing calf-raise⎯even lifting one foot off the platform at the height of the lift⎯and then a very heavy overhead one-arm press. His audience was clearly surprised and impressed, and several tried to emulate these feats.

His credibility now established to everyone’s satisfaction, Guru then began an impromptu and informative talk about the relationship between strength and power, body and spirit, and ended by saying “I can do nothing, I am nothing without the Grace of God, my Beloved Supreme.”

It was thrilling and moving to see this simple situation being used to bring a new understanding to the people there. With absolute confidence and at the same time absolute humility, he disowned any form of personal accomplishment and credited his achievement entirely to God, inspiring each person there to understand their own unlimited potential when finite matter is harnessed to the infinite possibilities of spirit.

In their lives, spiritual Masters teach others in every little thing they say and do, spreading the light of God and the message of the Infinite into the everyday and finite stuff of human life.

Forcing the soul back into the body

One of Sri Chinmoy’s students, an Indian man named Mitra, was shot in the chest in a parking lot in Queens. His wife immediately sent a message to Sri Chinmoy, who asked one of the Centre doctors and myself, as a nurse, to go right away to the hospital. Sri Chinmoy himself came very quickly, but the doctors would not let him into the emergency room.  We told them that Sri Chinmoy was the family priest, but they said that the case was not very serious, that the patient’s condition was stable and that he did not need a priest.

The family was about to leave the hospital for a while, but Sri Chinmoy told them most urgently, “Don’t leave — stay here and pray and meditate. His case is very serious. He is dying!” At that point I saw that Mitra’s blood pressure was dropping rapidly, his pulse was weak and thready, and his colour was ashen white.  We alerted the doctors, who then saw his condition was critical. He was given volumes of blood and electrolyte solution intravenously to replace lost blood and increase blood pressure.

Because of the position of the bullet near his heart and his deteriorating condition, the doctors were not hopeful.  A team of three surgeons operated for four hours. The chief surgeon was surprised that Mitra survived the surgery, but remained very guarded in his prognosis. They had stopped the bleeding and tried to repair the damage to the tissue, but the bullet could not be removed.  We all felt Sri Chinmoy’s meditation-power constantly at the hospital and around Mitra and his family. Sri Chinmoy asked me to stay there twenty-four hours a day, and to call him every hour with an update. The family also kept a vigil day and night in the hospital chapel.

In the surgical intensive care unit, Mitra quickly improved, but he was unable to talk because of the endotracheal tube in his throat.  With two chest tubes, four IV lines and catheters, he could not move, either.A few days later, when he was taken for an x-ray, Mitra suffered a cardiac arrest. Sri Chinmoy was contacted immediately.  He later told us that he had meditated most powerfully and three times he had literally forced the soul back into the body. He explained that he had done so for the sake of Mitra’s children. The soul wanted to leave because the body was so shattered. But the children were still young and needed their father.

The crisis was averted, Mitra steadily improved to the great surprise of his surgical team, and after three weeks he was ready to leave the intensive care unit. It was remarkable that his body could withstand the assault of this massive surgical intervention.

However, Sri Chinmoy kept saying that Mitra was still in danger. Sure enough, on the day he was discharged from the ICU, his pulse shot up to 140. On examination, one doctor discovered a large, bulging aortic aneurysm. The bullet had created a weakness in the wall of the aorta, the major blood vessel coming out of the heart, and now the weakened area was ready to rupture. The doctor faced this life-threatening complication with great sadness. He called in a vascular surgeon, who said he would have to operate within six to eight hours. The surgeon was an Indian man who had heard of Sri Chinmoy, and he kept a photograph of Sri Chinmoy in a high meditative state in his pocket during the surgery.  Again, the surgery was successful.

When Mitra was able to talk, he kept repeating over and over, “Guruji, Guruji.” He had one hundred percent faith that Sri Chinmoy would save him: he said he knew he would survive when he “saw Guru in the operating room.” He told us that during his month-long ordeal he had been talking to Sri Chinmoy inwardly and often saw Sri Chinmoy’s form coming out of his photograph. In this way, Sri Chinmoy would talk to him, sing to him, stroke his forehead and so forth.  When we told Sri Chinmoy this, he said it was absolutely true; that he had often appeared to Mitra in his subtle form.

'It's a miracle you're alive'

It has often been said that we make the most progress when we have to overcome obstacles or hardships. I have had the firsthand experience that this is true, but that experience almost cost me my life!

One hot, quiet Saturday afternoon in July of 1976, I was working in the back room of our stationery store. I was alone in the store; the front door was open, and I was busy doing paperwork, figuring I could hear if anyone came in and needed help. I was wrong. Suddenly I heard a noise and the moment I looked up, I knew I was in serious trouble. Just one foot away, an evil-looking man stood staring at me, seething with hatred. Those few seconds of frozen silence felt like an eternity.

Stunned, I jumped out of my chair. The man instantly charged at me as if to stab me. I covered my chest, expecting to be attacked with a knife, but instead he smashed me over the head with a lead pipe he had concealed in his other hand. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion, and I remember thinking to myself after the second or third blow, “What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you invoking help from Sri Chinmoy and God the Supreme?” I started chanting aloud, “Guru, Supreme, Guru, Supreme” — each time this hostile being struck, I would cry out, “Guru, Supreme!”

After seven or eight blows I fell to the ground, but he continued to attack me. I was convinced he was trying to kill me, when suddenly, for no apparent reason, he stopped. He grabbed my wallet and wristwatch and sauntered out of the store.

Back in those days there was almost no business on a summer weekend, and I might have lain there for hours, but miraculously within seconds a friend came into the store and spotted me curled up on the floor in a pool of blood, holding my head. She sank to her knees and started crying hysterically. I was so moved that anyone would care enough about me to cry like that; I even tried to calm her down by saying, “Don’t worry, I’m okay.”

Of course, I wasn’t really okay. The police came, and an ambulance took me to the hospital, where they discovered that my scalp had been split open in several places. Sri Chinmoy had just flown in from somewhere to JFK Airport, and when he got the news he came straight to the hospital. I was all bloody and bandaged and felt helpless, but I managed to fold my hands in prayer and bow to him when he came in. I was just overwhelmed with gratitude because I knew he had just saved my life. But that was just the beginning of the story.

The hospital released me, but the doctors were concerned about possible long-term neurological damage. I was extremely dizzy and weak; I could barely get up out of bed, and slept for hours and hours. But I felt a very powerful spiritual force healing me.

One day Sri Chinmoy visited me at my house and brought two pies from Bubka’s Bakery. I felt him pouring his blessings and compassion and love into me. Then he asked me about the man who had attacked me. He described what the man looked like and even mentioned a spot where the man had a mole on his face — he was absolutely correct! With no prompting from me, Sri Chinmoy said with great intensity that the man would suffer unbearable karma for what he had done.

After Sri Chinmoy’s visit, day by day I got stronger, and my heart became fuller and fuller. I had spectacular meditations, full of light and bliss. Unbeknownst to me, my body was healing at a miraculous rate.

Within two weeks, I was healthy and working behind the counter at the stationery store. Customers who had heard about what had happened were shocked to see me.  A few weeks after I came back to work, a policeman walked in. He had responded to the 911 call and was there when the ambulance took me to the hospital. He hesitated when he saw me and then awkwardly asked, obviously not recognising me, “You know that guy who used to work here who got beat up — well, do you know if he, uh, survived?” I laughed and told the officer that he was looking at “that guy” face to face.  At first he didn’t believe me, but after I showed him my scars he finally accepted the truth. He shook his head and exclaimed, “You know, it’s a miracle you’re alive.”

Well, now two of us know

In a dream five years after Guru passed away, he looked at me pointedly and asked lovingly yet knowingly, “Is everything okay?”

My initial reaction was to say, “Yes, yes, of course,” (partly out of a desire to not create any problems for Guru – which is actually totally stupid because if something is not okay, then Guru is the exact person to fix it – and partly out of embarrassment in not wanting to acknowledge that I was having a problem).

Just as I was about to respond within this dream, I remembered a situation in real life when Guru had gently inquired as to why he had not been seeing me around. I had responded by saying nonchalantly, “Oh Guru, I’ve been very busy working on the World Harmony Run,” when the real reason was that I was extremely upset with another disciple and also very mad at Guru because that disciple was very close to Guru. (I think that if I had actually admitted that to Guru, I would have burst into tears and totally broken down—there was so much emotion bottled up in the situation. Upon reflection, I think Guru was trying to help me release that emotion rather than let it fester.)

Anyway, Guru sadly acknowledged my response and lovingly requested that I come to functions. That very evening, Guru launched into a long public discourse, talking generally about disciples being honest with him and how he can see through our half-truths and evasive responses as easily as you or I might drink a glass of water. Listening to this, I fidgeted in my seat.

Having learned from this real-life experience, when Guru asked me in the dream if everything was okay, I said that I would like to tell him privately what was bothering me (in this dream I was in Guru’s house and there were other people around).

We went into Guru’s kitchen, where I was alone with him, and I explained my problem.Guru said, “You should have said something earlier, because you need help.” I was about to point out that Guru had passed away five years earlier, but I held my tongue as I knew Guru would get very upset with me. He would launch into a whole talk about whether I believed in the inner world and all that. (Which of course I did, as this whole exchange was taking place in the inner world, in my dream!)

Guru then reassuringly followed up with, “Well, now two of us know.” I knew that what he meant was, “Now you can rely on me to fight this battle with you.” And because I do believe in the inner world and the inner life, I felt confident in this reassurance, which helped me to face the situation.

The Year of Endless Surprises

In early 1998 Guru completed what was then his most prodigious poetic work—the 270 volumes of his monumental Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants—and so concluded an epic venture spanning more than fourteen years. It was another of those relentlessly sustained and patient undertakings which together coursed like a braided river through Guru’s life, those multiple strands of inspiration, of paintings and soul-birds, literature and music and wonderfully original things.

One evening we were with Guru shortly after the last poem in this series had been written. We asked Guru for suggestions for how his New Zealand disciples could celebrate the culmination of this vast poetic work. Guru rose and went through a doorway into an adjoining room for two or three minutes, then came back with a series of ideas that quite astonished us. It was as though he had also stepped through an unseen portal into another world where the future, the unimagined, the possible, lay awaiting its manifestation—and gathered from there a few trinkets to bring back. The first of these? That we shake 27,000 people’s hands, giving each of these people a card of poems and a sweet!

This unique challenge consumed the New Zealand disciples for some time. We visited school assemblies, announcing a handshaking-record attempt to honour Guru’s achievement. We stood at escalators in shopping malls with a microphone to introduce ourselves and, armed with a hand-held manual counter to accurately record numbers, visited universities and busy streets. We toured towns, distributed 27,000 sweets, and gave away 27,000 large cards—each carrying an explanation of Guru’s achievement and a sample sprinkling of 27 poems, like this one:

If you want to remain always happy,
Always perfect and always fulfilled,
Then always keep inside your heart
A pocketful of sweet dreams.

Sri Chinmoy1

Everything about this unusual commemoration charmed people a lot, and left 27,000 spirit-awakening, heart-warming mementos with their 27 inspirational poems scattered throughout this peace-hungry world.

Later in the year of 1998—that bustling, breathtaking year of endless surprises and astonishing undertakings—Guru challenged us all to further highlight the completion of Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants. Guru summoned his Australia and New Zealand disciples and we stood before him in a semi-circle, in wonderment, racking our brains for wonderful ideas to further commemorate this mammoth achievement.

It was Guru—who else could imagine with such inventiveness and freshness?—who first suggested different assemblies of animals to illustrate the vast number of poems in his latest work. Could we gather together 27,000 kangaroos or lambs or cows to numerically demonstrate the multitudes of aphorisms, the seemingly infinite gold nuggets of wisdom?

We accepted the challenge to film 27,000 lambs in New Zealand, a documentary that involved locating a high country station with almost numberless sheep—and would permit us to visit for this unusual purpose.

Guru loved the result and on several occasions watched excerpts of the video—it was over an hour long! There they were, 27,000 lambs and ewes, some as a long procession winding down from high country pastures and mountainscapes and streaming across the yellow-tussocked foothills to winter in the valleys; others crowded into pens or plodding along country roads or scattered like handfuls of tossed white sesame across startling green hillsides. Each lamb was a poem and all the poems a galaxy of tiny gems, flung like stardust before our amazed, uplifted eyes.

How often like this Guru changed the entire course of a year with his challenges to accomplish something fresh and new and extraordinary—the routines of the everyday replaced by a divinely inspired clarion call, an attempt at things seemingly impossible. Eagerness and enthusiasm, resourcefulness and daring, self-belief and God-belief—we were being trained in discipleship, discovering a new path for a modern world, exploring all the possibilities to find and manifest the eternal message of spirit.

  • 1. Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 6

No Fear, Only the Heart’s Concern

Guru was always far over the horizons of my comprehension—and what I could comprehend was always wonderful and breathtaking.

I often marvelled at those hundreds of times that Guru walked alone onto a concert stage before audiences of up to 18,000 people, folded his hands together over his heart, and simply by standing there, through the force of his love, the power of his meditation, his abandonment to God, brought a hushed, pin-drop silence to the entire auditorium. His tranquility, absolute poise, and the great achievement of his God-realisation were felt by everyone.

Then I would marvel at how he would sit in front of an unfamiliar piano or pipe organ with absolutely no idea of what he would play, no sheet music, no keyboard training, no mind or anxiety, entirely trusting in the higher worlds of music to pass through his fingers⎯the same surrender to God.

Guru’s personal example in this area of his life—which he also demonstrated in everything, everywhere—taught us much. He wanted us to understand our own capacity to uplift and serve the world, to live cocooned in God-trust, our confidence and power resulting from our growing oneness with him and God.

Once I was very touched by a small incident that occurred prior to a Peace Concert in Auckland. I went to Guru’s dressing room backstage to let him know that the hall was full and all was ready—there were 3,000 people waiting expectantly in the auditorium. I imagined Guru would have at least a little of our human apprehension or pre-concert nerves, but instead he looked at me with absolute attentiveness, calmly and so lovingly.

“Are you all right, Jogyata?” he asked, and looked deeply at me, wanting me to tell him of anything that might be troubling me. He was about to walk out in front of a packed concert hall and play for two hours, but his only concern was my welfare! I was amazed and tears came to my eyes.

Every day
The Master is
His torrential Heaven-blessings,
His Heaven-love
And his Heaven-concern
For his disciples.

Sri Chinmoy 1

  • 1. My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 53

The Drop and the Ocean

When I was around 20 years old, I went through a difficult period in my young life. I had just graduated from school, a new chapter of my life was beginning, and I was quite unsure of what to do with myself.

Before I went to New York for Guru´s Birthday Celebrations in August 1996, I wrote him a long letter, telling him all my thoughts and worries and, most importantly, about some of my past behaviour which I felt had been “undivine.”

When I arrived in New York, the Celebrations were in full swing. As usual, there were many activities and functions with hundreds of disciples from all over the world. Guru was, as always during these days, very busy. I was quite uncertain if and when Guru would say something to me about my serious letter.

Then one day at Aspiration-Ground (the private tennis court where we all met), after Guru had finished playing tennis, he went down to the gully behind the court where he sometimes did his sprinting training.

I was sitting in the bleachers, when quite unexpectedly one of Guru´s attendants approached me to give me the message from Guru, that I should wait about ten minutes, then join Guru down in the gully. My heart started pounding, since it was very special and a great honour that Guru would bless me with this opportunity to speak to him personally.

After anxiously waiting for a few minutes, I walked along the path leading down to Guru´s training track, trying to be in a soulful consciousness. Guru was walking all alone in a meditative consciousness, and signaled me to walk by his side. It was a most beautiful and extraordinary moment to be in Guru´s close presence, not even a metre away. I could feel the immense love, power, and infinite concern that Guru was radiating.

As we slowly walked side by side, Guru quietly spoke to me for a few minutes, asking me this and that, all about my outer troubles of the past, and giving me some very practical advice. I felt so immersed in Guru´s world and felt clearly that he was in charge of everything in my life.

At one point Guru paused and then asked firmly, “Do you believe that I have realised God?” 1

“Yes, Guru,” I replied.

He continued most powerfully, “I am the ocean and you are the drop! Do you not think that the ocean can take everything from the drop?”

I will never forget this most special and blessingful moment with Guru! He showered upon me his love and concern, and wiped away all my difficulties with a single question. I will be always grateful.

Sri Chinmoy offers Aruna some advice on another occasion.

I am a tiny drop
Inside an infinite ocean of light.
I have only to expand slowly and steadily
To become the ocean itself,
And then I shall unmistakably
Be able to claim the entire ocean
As my own, very own.

Sri Chinmoy 2

  • 1. God-realisation refers to the state in which a person achieves total oneness with God, or the Supreme.
  • 2. Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 12

All I needed was the Supreme, and I would always win

For three years, starting in 1977, some 200 New York area students of Sri Chinmoy trained as a group for the Pepsi 24-Hour Bicycle Marathon in Central Park, as he encouraged us to challenge our limitations and thus discover our deeper capacities.

Starting a month before the race, which was held on Memorial Day Weekend, Sri Chinmoy would lead us on daily training rides in Flushing Meadow Park. The Pepsi Bike Marathon drew thousands of amateur participants, but also a core group of professional riders who competed seriously for the prizes. None of our team members had experience in racing, though a few of us did cycle regularly and take road trips. The first year we entered as a team was a bit of an experiment, though I think we won a prize or two for the size of our team and for our uniforms. But the second year, 1978, we trained more seriously, and I felt that Sri Chinmoy was determined to show us the limits of what was possible.    

A week before the race, Sri Chinmoy chose who would be on the two small teams that would compete for the team prizes. I felt honoured that I was the only woman on the first-string team of ten, but I was quite alarmed when Sri Chinmoy solemnly called us up in front of the whole group and told us he envisioned each of us doing 300 miles in 24 hours! That weekend we held a preliminary time-trial on the actual course in Central Park, and I tried to keep the pace that I would need to finish 300 miles in 24 hours. It was grueling. After seven hours I dropped off the pace, and left the park very depressed. I was still depressed the night before the race, when Sri Chinmoy meditated with all the cyclists. As he was leaving the hall, he passed by me and smiled at me with a twinkle in his eye, as if to say, “You don’t know it, but you’re in for quite an experience!” 

When we arrived in Central Park the next day, as soon as I saw the banner that said “Pepsi Bicycle Marathon,” a thrill passed through me. From the minute I got on my bike, I felt a subtle but powerful force propelling me around the course, like a hand actually pushing me, and I simply could not stop. I raced around the five-mile loop for hours on end, up and down the hills, as if I were electrified. At one point during the night, I remember hearing the turning of the pedals, the whirring of the wheels, the wind in my face, and being totally lost in the sound, in the experience. My sense of self disappeared and I became totally one with the bicycle, one with the force that was pushing me. 

There were a few other good women cyclists in the race, but for one reason or another they all had to drop out or pull back. I wasn’t thinking much about who I was competing against; I was only focused on completing the 300 miles Sri Chinmoy had asked me to do for the team prize. By the end of 24 hours, I had reached 310 miles. 

Pragati being interviewed after the race

When I stopped and got off my bike, a TV reporter from Eyewitness News came up to me and said, “Congratulations!” I replied, “For what?” She said, “Oh, you won!” A wave of gratitude rose from my toes to my head. In silence I said, “Guru, if I never win anything else in my life ever again, this is enough.” I’m sure that other members of our team had similar experiences because that year we won all the team prizes and many individual awards.  Our fellow team member Ashrita Furman took third place for men, cycling over 400 miles, and has also recounted the powerful experience he had, which inspired him to embark on setting world records.  For myself, I was in the process of getting divorced, and I knew that this bicycle experience was Sri Chinmoy’s way of teaching me that I didn’t need anybody else. All I needed was the Supreme, and I would always win.

Meeting Sri Chinmoy for the first time

December 1970

December 2nd 1970 was a date that came to have supreme importance in our lives. In Glasgow it was a cold wet night, but Janani and I were heading out with some anticipation to hear a talk by a visiting spiritual teacher - Sri Chinmoy!

sri chinmoy
Sri Chinmoy in meditation

We knew little or nothing about Guru, but the talk, at the University’s Catholic Chaplaincy, had been advertised for some weeks, with little A5 posters around campus. The posters showed a striking photograph of the Master in meditation - we would soon come to know it as the Transcendental! In a curve around the image were the words LOVE, DEVOTION, SURRENDER, and intriguingly the lettering style was a computer font. The suggestion was that this was a teacher for the modern world, the here and now.

The poster had first been drawn to my attention by my friend and fellow writer Tom McGrath (soon-to-be Nityananda!) He had been organising events on campus, and the Philosophy Society (who were promoting Guru’s talk) had asked him to help spread the word. I remember Janani and I sitting with Nityananda and his wife Shantishri, in their kitchen, looking at the poster and saying how powerful it was. But we did not really know what to expect.

For some time I had been reading spiritual books, mainly on Zen. I had been to hear a Buddhist teacher, Rimpoche Chogyam Trungpa. I had sat with Nityananda (again in his kitchen!) chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. I was clearly seeking something - a way, a path - but what it might be I had no idea.

We came into the lecture room and were happy to see a fair number of people had turned up. Guru was standing at the back of the room in gold-yellow kurta and dhoti. He looked at us as we came in the door and I can only say I felt scanned by his gaze! I said to Janani, ‘Quite a presence,’ and we found seats near the front, next to Nityananda and Shantishri. The murmur of talk died down as Guru came to the front of the room and onto the platform where he stood a moment in silence with folded hands.

The wording on the poster had been Love, Devotion, Surrender, but the first words Guru spoke were the actual title of his talk: Divine Duty and Supreme Reward.

"God thinks of His Duty. God meditates on His Duty. Man loves his reward. Man cries for his reward…" 1

The voice was mesmerising, musical, the delivery slow and incantatory. It was like nothing I had ever heard before, and I surrendered myself to its rhythms. The talk was not a lecture in any traditional sense. Nor was it a sermon. It was a heightened spiritual discourse. It was as if Guru had entered into meditation and was channelling the words, letting them speak through him.

"In our life of realisation, duty is our divine pride, and reward is our glorious, Transcendental height." 2

I have since read the talk and found it coherent, engaging and well structured. At the time I was simply following it as best I could. At moments the words came into focus with great clarity, and I found myself thinking, That’s just right! At other times I was simply looking at Guru, letting the words wash over me, amazed at what he was radiating, his being. At one point I could see a gold light around him, but my mind tried to dismiss it as a trick of the light - my eyes must be tired, his gold robes were causing a flicker against the colour of the wall behind him. But the image persisted.

After some time - I have no idea how long - Guru was winding down, concluding.

"This is my last talk. My tour has come to an end….Yesterday I was in Ireland and today I am here in Scotland. What am I doing? I am trying with utmost sincerity to be of service to sincere seekers. Each individual has the capacity to be of service to others…" 3

He chanted AUM, powerfully, and recited a prayer from Hindu scripture. He bowed to us with folded hands, then said if there were any questions he would do his best to answer them. A few people did indeed ask questions and in his replies he mentioned his path of meditation. In what, I think, was the last question, Nityananda asked how we could find out more about that, and if we could put it into practice. Guru said, very sweetly, that if anyone was interested, they could come and see him when the meeting was over. Then he looked at his watch and said, ‘In fact the meeting is over. You can come and see me now!’ He came off the stage and went out by the side door.

I have often thought of that moment, a turning point, the resonance of that one word. Now.

There must have been a slight delay while a small side room was made available. I was aware of the Catholic Chaplain saying (with what I thought was some consternation!) that he too had seen Guru’s aura of gold light. I overheard the University’s Professor of Logic saying to one of his acolytes, ‘It’s not exactly our kind of philosophy, is it?’ (And I thought, thank God for that!)

Then it was time to decide whether to go with Guru. Nityananda and I had both been deeply impressed by Guru, could see he was the real thing. But momentarily there was some kind of resistance, the stubbornness of the male ego. What are we getting into? But while we hesitated, Janani and Shantishri were already out the door. What could we do but follow?

There had been perhaps eighty people at the talk, but just seven of us went in to the little side room.

Guru sat on a chair and we sat on the floor in a little half-circle. Again there was that sweetness as he asked us each a little about ourselves. Then he said he would meditate with us.

He gave us very simple instructions. Keep the back straight, breathe through the nose. Focus on what he called the spiritual heart, in the centre of the chest. He asked us to close our eyes and imagine a flower there at the heart centre - a rose for the men, a lotus for the women. Then he said he would meditate on each of us.

What happened then was extraordinary. There were no fireworks, nothing huge or Transcendental, simply a profound sense of lightness and peace, an opening up. We all felt it, and we knew when he was concentrating directly on us.

Later I was to read something Guru wrote:

"When you meet a genuine spiritual Master, his silent gaze will teach you how to meditate."

And that was it, exactly.

There was such a feeling of peace and light in the room. Everyone was smiling.

Guru had to leave to travel back to London and from there to his home in New York. He asked us to meditate every day and to meet together once a week as a group. He gave each of us a small Transcendental picture and told us we could meditate by concentrating on it, and he entrusted a bigger one to Nityananda to use in the group meetings.

The Master’s silent gaze…

A bright-eyed Canadian woman was accompanying Guru on his trip. We would come to know her as Alo Devi. She said we would look forward to our group meetings, like an oasis in the midst of our lives. I found it very touching. (And of course she was absolutely right!)

We said our Thank yous and Farewells and stepped out into the night.

We had found our Guru, or rather, our Guru had found us.

- Janaka Spence