First steps on the Spiritual Path - short stories

When I was a freshman in college, I took a course in western philosophy. I thought the course would be a real breeze and I wouldn't learn anything I didn't already know. I'm philosophical by nature, I like to read a lot and also I had studied lots of philosophy when I was on my high school debate team.

When my philosophy professor entered the room the first day of class, I noticed something unusual. The professor was an old Italian man with grey hair combed back and with liver spots on his hands. An immaculately groomed gentleman in a nice conservative suit. And something else.

The room was flooded with light when he entered. I can't describe it any other way. He carried an ocean of peace and light with him and that light emanated from him in waves. When he started speaking, I felt this gentle peace permeating my entire body, and I felt lighter and lighter. His eyes were so profound, yet I saw this deep joy radiating from them.

This man has been so influential in my life because as soon as I saw him I knew that I wanted to have what he had. I wanted that peace, that light, that joy for myself.

I approached him during his office hours and I asked him why he was so full of peace and joy. He explained to me that joy comes from being who you really are. You can only know who you are through sincere reflection, meditation and spiritual discipline. He also told me that he had been a monk in his youth, and had maintained a four year vow of silence.

"Look for a Master," he told me. He said that I would have to look sincerely for a real Master and that I should only accept a Master who satisfied me completely.

I was fortunate enough to find a real spiritual Master in Sri Chinmoy. When I showed my professor a photograph of Sri Chinmoy in a deep state of meditation, my professor was speechless with wonder.

"Who is this man?" he asked me after looking at the picture for a few minutes.

I told him who Sri Chinmoy was and that he was my spiritual teacher.

He said to me,"You are so lucky that you have found a real Guru. There are many charlatans out there but a charlatan Sri Chinmoy most certainly is not. He is the real thing. He is superb."

My professor saw so much spiritual light in Sri Chinmoy, and he speaks of Sri Chinmoy with the deepest love and reverence.

I am and I shall always be extremely grateful to my professor for inspiring me on my spiritual journey, a journey which has led me at last to a real Master- Sri Chinmoy.

- Mahiruha (Chicago)

prageeti-pragunya.jpgI went to a workshop offered by another meditation centre at the request of my husband Pragunya, who was very keen to learn meditation. When I drove into the carpark, I immediately did not like the feeling I got – it felt cold. As a result, I did not like the instructor and couldn’t imagine how she could teach me to meditate. I came home and announced to my husband that I was not interested in parting with $1,500 for something I did not think the teacher could teach me.

The next day Pragunya returned from work with a flyer from the Sri Chinmoy Centre. All their courses, not just the introduction, were free, so he said, "We are going together." On the 22nd of May 1996, at 7:30 p.m., we approached the door to the Centre. I will always remember the contrast in what I felt. As we climbed the stairs, I felt a warmth inside me, and when we opened the door, the feeling was so familiar and homelike that I said to Chris, "I can definitely learn to meditate here."

Next moment we met Subarata and Jogyata at the sign-in desk. We both immediately liked them and wanted to talk to them. Jogyata made our name tags and invited us to take a seat in the classroom. The first photo I saw of Guru was Guru standing in a doorway holding a lily and wearing a pale pink dhoti with his hand lightly resting on his cheek. Guru looked so peaceful.

Pragunya and I were inwardly instantly hooked, although we needed the course and continuation classes for our minds to grasp all the newness. On the 1st of September 1996, Guru saw a photo of our family (we have two sons who were three and seven at the time) and accepted us as his disciples. But for me, I felt that Guru did not need to see us; our souls were already connected. That first step up the stairs of the Centre, the spontaneous heart-warming feeling we received, was our souls’ delight at our Guru finding us again.

Prageeti (Auckland, New Zealand)

The first time I saw Guru was at NYU Law School, where he was lecturing. I was sitting at the back of the room, and couldn't hear (or at least understand) a word he was saying. But something inside of me seemed to leap out and fly to him, with great intensity, crying "Father! Father! Father!" It was as if my soul, seeing its spiritual Father for the first time in this incarnation, was seeking solace and protection from the idiot who was making such a mess of her own life.

Despite this experience, because of problems in my outer life, I was not yet ready to become a disciple, and I spent some time exploring different ways of meditating, including Sufi dancing. One day, at the end of a seminar, Sufi Master Pir Vilayat Khan announced, "If any of you want to meet a real spiritual Master, Sri Chinmoy will be offering his annual New Year's Meditation" at such-and-such a time and place.

The New Year's Meditation was a powerful experience. I began attending the Saturday evening meditations for new seekers, which were then held in disciples' apartments in Manhattan. At one of these sessions, those who wanted to become disciples were invited to have a short, private interview with Guru.

During my interview, I explained to Guru that, although I felt he was my spiritual teacher, I also felt much respect for Pir Vilayat Khan. With great patience, Guru told me, "You have to know who your spiritual Father is, and who your spiritual Uncle is." Guru elaborated at length how there are many valid paths to the Goal, but how we must follow only the path meant for us. At the end of his answer, I felt a bit mischievous and, only because I knew that my all-loving Father would allow me, I piped in, "But can I still go Sufi dancing?"

"Fine, fine," he said, realising that although I said I was 22, I still had the emotional make-up of a 14-year-old.

Once I knew that I could go Sufi dancing, I never had the desire to go, and I explored my new spiritual path with enthusiasm and intensity.

- Nayana (New York)

In November of 1969, I had been meditating for fifteen years with another spiritual group in Manhattan, but felt that I was not making much progress, so I started actively searching for a living spiritual teacher.

One day, I walked into a new health food store only about five miles from my home in Westchester. I wanted to tell them how happy I was that they were opening in my community, because in those early days the next closest health food shop was at least an hour’s drive away. As I entered, ready to intro-duce myself, I noticed a tiny Transcendental photograph of Guru on a book displayed on a shelf in the far corner of the shop. Its light drew me like a magnet; as I came closer to the photo, I asked, „Who is this?“

The shop owner replied, „That’s Sri Chinmoy.“

I heard the intensity in my own voice as I responded, „Is he alive?“

„Yes,“ the owner replied. „He is going to give a talk about meditation at my home in Larchmont in a few weeks. Would you like to come?“

My heart started to pound. „Oh yes. I’ll get a baby sitter for my children and I will be there.“

He gave me the directions to his apartment and, on January 13th, 1970, I drove from my home in the worst snowstorm the New York area had seen in fifty years. As I passed many accidents on the road, a part of me wanted to turn back, but the need to see this man kept me going. The journey, which should have taken only twenty minutes, lasted almost two hours.

As I rang the apartment bell I thought, „I am so late that Sri Chinmoy has probably finished and is on his way home.“ But when the door was opened, I saw Guru sitting at the other end of a large room. After removing my coat and boots, as I sat down behind the other seekers, Guru looked up at me. Suddenly, all the problems I was facing at that time seemed to wash away; I experienced pure bliss. My eyes filled with tears of gratitude to Guru for allowing me to walk this earth with him. I never dreamed he would accept me as his disciple, but he did! And that was the beginning of a new, remarkable and fulfilling life for me.

Ishani (New York)

The first time I went to what used to be known as the Aum Centre in Miramar, Puerto Rico, was in June of 1968. I went continuously for about 3 months, but at that time I considered myself to be a disciple of another spiritual Master. After some time, I felt that I was being unfaithful to him, so I stopped coming. A few months later, I also stopped coming to that other guru's group, to devote myself to the "hippie path".

I used to have recurring dreams about "this man" who would just observe me at times and at other times simply smiled. I do not recall having any conversations with him. All I remember was that he was very special, very divine, and his presence brought great comfort, reassurance and joy. In my wakeful state I would also see him at times in quick flashes and at other times for possibly a full minute. He was always observing or smiling sweetly. Then he disappeared into thin air. It came to the point where I would look for him everywhere, even in my dreams.

In September 1969, one of the Puerto Rican disciples came to a festival organised by a group of my friends. She had with her a small Transcendental photograph. Somehow she managed to gather a large group of us and caught our complete attention. She spoke briefly and straight to the point. Holding Guru's picture in one hand, she said, "This is my Guru, Sri Chinmoy. He is lecturing in Japan, and he will be back to the Island (meaning Puerto Rico) in December." The following Sunday morning, a large group of about 40 to 50 seeker-hippies invaded the Centre.

When I saw Guru's picture at that time, I knew this was an old friend, someone whom I had known all my life and was finally going to meet once again. I did not make the connection with my dreams yet; I just knew that I wanted the "high" in that godly face on that photograph and that it made me very happy.
Toward the end of December 1969, Guru visited the Island. Our first meeting with him was on a bright Sunday morning. After a very powerful meditation, Guru spoke very beautifully and very convincingly. Among the things he said to us was that he was the "high" we had been looking for: "I am your highest consciousness." Then he invited us to introduce ourselves to him.

I used to wear a laminated Transcendental photograph around my neck so that the picture actually fell over my heart chakra. When my turn came and I stood up, before I could even open my mouth, Guru said with great excitement, pointing towards his own heart, "You've got me here! You've got me here! I have been calling you for a year. Your guru brought you to me." I realised at that moment that Guru was the Real Thing.

- Sevananda (Puerto Rico)

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 following three evenings until the end. Kailash told me that in case this nun stayed until the last evening, 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 fairytales, 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.

After a few weeks Guru came to Munich, and since Dodula came to our Madal Bal store every week, I told her, "Next time I will not be here; I will go to visit Sri Chinmoy in Munich." She said that she had written a poem for him and asked me if I could translate it and give it to him. I opened the envelope, and there was a photo of her inside. I asked her why she wanted to give Sri Chinmoy a photo of her (since I never told her how to apply to become a disciple). She said that since she had so many pictures of him, she wanted him to have at least one of her, just so that he knew who was thanking him for all his blessings and help.

Then I had to tell her that Sri Chinmoy happened to be not only a peace philosopher, artist, composer and poet but also that he was a spiritual Master of the highest order who accepted his disciples through a photo. She had tears in her eyes and said, "If he is not my teacher, then who is my teacher? I learned from him much more in these few months than I learned in all my 27 years as a spiritual sister in the convent!"

When Guru saw her picture, he accepted her as a disciple and said, "Christ has stolen her heart and brought it now to me."

- Gunthita (Zurich)

This is about my first experience in New York ten years ago, when I came to April Celebration to see Sri Chinmoy for the first time. He was my Master for a year and I could not see him earlier because of all kind of problems that Yugolsavian citizens faced at that time with geting visas.

I became Sri Chinmoy's student by seeing his photo with such a smile I have never seen in my life before. Immediately I felt extraordinary Light comming into myself, something very deep and profound inside my heart and I was very surprised that it came from the small newspaper photo. Before I became Sri Chinmoy's student I have read quite a few books about the relation between student and the Master and I could not wait to meet my own Master.

And it finally happened. I felt the most sweetest feeling ever when I first saw him. I was just happy to be in his presence and I did not expect anything else. After a few days we celebrated April 13th, the day when Sri Chinmoy came to America. In the morning at the Aspiration Ground everything seemed like usual. But suddenly Sri Chinmoy started walking around in his deep meditation. For me it was so strong and beautiful, I felt my heart was melting spontaneously, even not being aware what was going on. Later on I realised that I was prepared for something more high and more deep that I will never forget.

Having finished his meditation Sri Chinmoy started talking to us with very gentle and smooth voice. It was a very long talk, but I did not hear his words and I couldnot remember anything he said that morning. I only felt that he brought me so far to the Source that I unconsciously knew existed. My heart-tears were flowing though my eyes and I could not stop them, I only knew that I was waiting all my life to be brought to this deep feeling of being one with myself and everything else on this earth. I still remember this strong feeling of being in the Source that was his heart and oneness with him and everybody around me. I felt deep gratitude to him for giving me an oportunity to be on his path.

Being on his path for eleven years I have got so many extremely deep experiences and I have changed the whole point of view in my life, making it simple, more sincere, more beautiful and more advanced in every way. I have learned so much from him and his students that I have got inspired to do much more in various walks of my life, like sports, music, cooking, writing etc. I have learned the beauty of unconditional selfless service and also, I have learned that being successful in outer world is one thing, but being transformed as a person in the spiritual world is something that I was born for. My heart will always be grateful to Sri Chinmoy for taking care of my whole life, not only of my spiritual life.

- Jadranka (Belgrade)

My son had been a disciple of Sri Chinmoy for two years already, which was met with some scepticism by the rest of the family. One day, he took us along to a picnic organized by his meditation group. We all enjoyed the picnic very much: a group of men (Arthada’s music group) played beautiful music, and in the afternoon we played various games. To make it short: it was a very pleasant picnic, and the members of the meditation group made a good impression on me.

Following the picnic, we were invited by Urdhagaminee to attend a meditation class for beginners that she was leading together with Indivar in Vienna-Neustadt. Vienna-Neustadt is only 28 km away from my home and I was also curious to see what exactly my son was doing and what kind of group he had joined, so I decided to give it a try.

For the following 8 weeks, I drove to Vienna-Neustadt once a week to attend the meditation class. The meditation class was very good and I liked it. When the time came to make a decision on whether or not to continue this way of meditation and become Sri Chinmoy’s disciple, I was not entirely sure. But then I thought to myself, "After all, nothing bad can happen. And if they ever start criticising other religions, then I’ll know for sure that this is a sect." But this was never the case – rather the contrary. Over time I learnt that Sri Chinmoy treasures all religions as part of a world-family. It has been eight years now since I joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre and I have not regretted a single day of it.

- Didivi (Vienna, Austria)

It was a beautiful summer day and I had to get something from a certain shop. When I was done, a sudden downpour of rain stopped me from leaving, so I just waited under the canopy in front of the shop. A girl about my age also took shelter there. She started reading a big Mickey Mouse comic book and after a while she said: "You know, I think it’s better to talk to you!" She was so nice, smiling and looking really happy. In the end she gave me a flyer for a meditation workshop.

Well, I was not particularly interested in meditation, but the happiness of this girl impressed me a lot. (At that time I looked at everything more from the darker, depressed side of life.) So I went to the workshop and these are the things I still remember:

First: Meditation is like gaining 500 inner Apfelstrudel (apple strudel). During the day you lose them and then you have to meditate again. The person leading the workshop was Canadian, and Apfelstrudel was the only German word he knew.

Second: The first day I just couldn’t look at Sri Chinmoy's picture on the meditation shrine, but on the second day I was brave enough and had quite an uplifting meditation experience with stars and the universe involved. When I told my family about it enthusiastically – I was still in school and lived with my parents at that time – they just smiled at me indulgently. ("Of course, you’ve been in the universe...Anything else?")

Somehow something drew me to that meditation group. So although living in another city, I came to the Centre once a week. It took me quite a while to understand some things about our path. The inner call was there, but the mind needed some time to realise how to gain this happiness through meditation.

- Janhita (Nuremberg, Germany)

The following incident happened when I was 20 years old. At that age I did a lot of things that you do when you are young and impetuous. One night in September, I went with my best friend and two other boys to a disco. At one o'clock in the morning, when we wanted to go home, we were all quite drunk. In such a situation, for some reason you think of yourself as immortal and you are not at all expecting that things can go wrong. We had come in one car, and the driver had a reputation for losing his self-control very easily after drinking. For this reason, my friend asked if he could drive instead, but the driver insisted on driving himself, since he was also the owner of the car.

On our journey home, we were stopped at a traffic light when another car stopped besides us. The driver of this car started to provoke us into joining him for a little race. When the light turned green, both cars speeded up to full throttle. The race led us into a long tunnel, and while the other car fell back, we went on at highest speed.

I was sitting behind the driver in the back seat, with my friend beside me. We both began to feel uncomfortable about the whole thing and we shouted at the driver to slow down. But he was totally deaf in that ear and seemed to be completely out of control, as if possessed by madness. All of a sudden, the whole atmosphere in the car changed. The car was filled with electricity and the air was so thick that you could cut it. It became obvious to me that this journey would find no good end.

After leaving the tunnel, there was a dangerous curve and our driver was still driving like a maniac. I became fully aware that an accident was unavoidable, and that an accident at this speed would cause either my death or very serious injuries. I had hardly finished this thought when something astonishing happened: all at once I became totally calm and tranquil and all fear and panic vanished from me. The next moment, something from deep inside my heart came to the fore, surrendered completely and unconditionally to God and started to pray with utmost humility and devotion. The prayer went something like this: "My beloved Father, I know that I have committed quite a number of mistakes in my life and I am ready to bear the responsibility for this. If it is Your Will that I die now, or if I have to spend the rest of my life in a wheel- chair, then I will accept this fate most devotedly. Thy Will be done."

Right after this prayer, I saw pictures and sequences of my life running very fast like a movie in front of my inner eye. All this took only a few moments, and when I concentrated again on what was happening around me, I saw that the driver had lost control of the car and that we were heading into the left crash barrier. I barely had time to press my knees against the driver's seat and to pull my arms in front of my head. Afterwards we came to know that the car crashed at about 120 km/h into the left crash barrier, overturned across the two lanes, crashed against the right crash barrier, flipped over it and finally landed on its roof against a small tree.

The next thing I remember was that I was lying on my back on the asphalt. I was afraid that other cars would run over me, so I got up as fast as possible and found myself standing on the pavement. Somehow I must have been thrown out of the car window when it overturned. I saw the wrecked car lying there on its roof, and I felt I had to lie down near the car in the grass. My whole body hurt and I felt totally weak. There was dead silence. The only thing I heard was the dripping of some liquid that was running out of the car. I was afraid that it was gas and that the car would explode. Then I saw the driver and the other boy crawling out of the broken windows of the wreck, and I remembered that my friend must still be inside. I told them to get him out of the car, and they pulled him out by one arm.

When I saw that he was still alive, I was able to breathe freely again and to calm down. I was still lying on my back in the grass, when I found above me the most beautiful starry sky. All the stars and the whole heaven were so close to me, it seemed as if they wanted to cover me, and I felt myself infinitely safe. My heart began to fill with gratitude, and suddenly I felt the presence of God. I felt Him caressing my head two or three times full of love and affection. Then I felt Him saying that my time for leaving had not yet come and that there was still something for me to accomplish in this lifetime. This message was something I felt very intensely, rather than something I heard with my outer or inner ears. My eyes filled with tears and I was overcome with infinite peace and gratitude, and I started praying, full of gratitude to God that He had protected me and saved my life.

I can remember feeling disturbed and somewhat disappointed when the first helpers arrived to take care of us, because they interrupted this deep inner experience most abruptly. The driver and the other boy were completely unharmed. My friend and I were taken to the hospital, but after four days they sent us home. I felt it was an absolute miracle that nobody was seriously hurt or killed. When the driver of the other car, which had raced us, had to give a statement to the police, he told them that he did not think that anybody would leave this car alive, after he saw the car overturning through the air like a sparking ball.

In the following years, I became interested in spirituality and meditation, and after six or seven years I came in contact with Sri Chinmoy's path and became his disciple. After some time, one day I realised that the divine presence that you feel in those special moments when you are inwardly or outwardly very close to Guru was the same divine presence I felt after the accident, when I was lying there in the grass! All at once I became aware that it was Guru who was there that night and saved my life, long before I became a disciple! It was he who caressed my head and who let me know that there was something left for me to do in this lifetime!

I do not know what the Supreme has planned for me in this lifetime, but I do know that I wish to have at every single moment of my life that same kind of unconditional surrender to Him as I had just before the accident. And I wish to have at every single moment of my life that same kind of infinite gratitude to Him as I had just after the accident, when I was lying there in the grass.

- Jitendra (Munich)

Seven years ago we met a very interesting Chinese man, a coach of oriental wrestling named Chin Pin Sin. Raised by his grandfather, a Buddhist monk, he had stayed in a monastery since the age of 12. When we met him, he was about 40.

At that time, a group of friends and we studied Sri Aurobindo's books on our own and tried to practise meditation. One day we were waiting with this group for a long time to meet the Chinese man, but he did not come. When only four of us remained, he suddenly arrived. He explained that he had taken so long because he was waiting for the merely curious people to leave.

We had a long and interesting conversation. He was smiling at us and explaining what our mistakes were. When we asked him to accept us as disciples, he said that it was not possible because we had a Master already. We tried to explain that we had no Master, but he said, "It is your mind that has no Master yet, but your heart has."

He said that he saw our Master above our heads. He added that he did not know the earthly name of our spiritual Master, but that he clearly saw that this was a very strong and divine spiritual Master, that his disciples were Heavenly soldiers and that we were going to join a higher path than the one he was following. We would not meditate as he did, but the Master would meditate through us.

At the end he said, "The Master will himself bring you to the path. Please, wait and be careful." He also said that we should not meet him any more, and if he were to accept any of us as his disciples, would be incorrect.

In 1996 we came to Guru's path, and we have no doubts that the Master whom the Chinese man was speaking about is our Guru.

Vladimir and Galina (Krasnoyarsk)

Although I had belonged to the Theosophical Society for many years, I was never satisfied. I didn’t know where else to go, so I never followed it up.

One night my neighbour went to a meditation meeting in Devonport, and the next morning she came and said, „You gotta go! You gotta go!“ So I took her and her ex-husband to hear Jogyata speak at Devonport. The first night there I had a vision of Guru. He was about three feet off the floor, sitting cross-legged and wearing a white garment drawn up between his legs and over his shoulder. After the meeting, I asked Jogyata who the gentleman was, and he said, „Oh, that’s Guru!“ Then I was hooked – I knew I had my pudding. I’d always had a meal without a pudding, but when I heard Jogyata speak, I knew I had my pudding. That was 25 years ago.

Harshani (Auckland, New Zealand)

In 1973, when I was a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, one day my mother phoned me up and told me that she had a Guru. My first thought was that she must be going through the 'change of life' that makes women of a certain age sometimes do strange things. But actually, it was not so strange – my family had been going through a spiritual transformation for years. Inspired by my oldest brother, I had become a vegetarian and started doing yoga while I was in high school in Port Washington, on suburban Long Island. And I had been deeply moved by several spiritual books, including Hesse’s Siddharta and Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ. I had started meditating twice a day when I was a freshman in college, to stay healthier under the pressures of student life. And my mother had been pursuing her spiritual search in her own way, exploring various philoso-phies and paths. She had an interest in acting and theatre, and a friend of hers from the community drama troupe, who we now know as Chameli, had introduced her to Sri Chinmoy.

The concept of a Guru was not totally foreign to me. I had recently read Be Here Now, in which a former Harvard professor tells the story of his journey to India and how he found his Guru. And I had heard of Sri Chinmoy: the great guitarist John McLaughlin used to come to our university to take lessons in Indian music, and he sometimes gave concerts for the students with his Mahavishnu Orchestra. He had Sri Chinmoy’s poetry and photos on his albums. I saw and felt something special in Mahavishnu and his music. I had also dabbled in some psychotropic substances that confirmed my deep inner sense that there was some other reality, some other way of being, of knowing, that I would never find at school – and I was increasingly dissatisfied with my intellectual life.

In early 1974, when I came to New York on class break, my mother took me to see Guru at New York University, where every Saturday night he offered a public meditation. The medi-tation was held in a lecture hall that had banks of seats rising upwards. Guru sat at the bottom and, at one point, turned his gaze from row to row, meditating for a brief second on each seeker. When his eyes met mine, I knew in an instant that he could see everything inside me, but this was not frightening because I felt that he was intrinsically loving and compassionate. I also knew that he KNEW everything that I wanted to know in this life, and that he was the highest being that I had ever met and was ever likely to meet. And then I felt a sensation, like a „ping“, in the centre of my chest. I had no idea what that meant, but years later I understood that Guru was awakening the energy in my heart centre.

Despite this powerful experience, it took me some time to accept Guru’s path. I had other plans for my life. I moved down to New York and transferred universities to live with my boyfriend. I knew that we needed to get married in order to follow Guru’s path, so that took a little time. And then, still, I was hesitating. One day, as I was sitting on a bench at Queens College between classes, I was thinking about my life. Suddenly tears came and a voice from somewhere within me said, “What are you waiting for? This is what you have been waiting for all your life!“

At the next opportunity, I told my mother that I wanted to follow Guru’s path. According to the custom at that time, she phoned Dulal, who then phoned Guru with my request. The phone call came back from Dulal: Guru had replied, „Oh, I accepted her a long time ago.“

Pragati (New York)

During the late 1960s, I had begun to question my own way of being, as well as that of the world in general. As an honours student in one of the best suburban high schools in Westchester, New York, I was pretty much assured of getting into a good university, but my disillusionment and bewilderment were making me restless and draining me of enthusiasm for school. In my senior year especially, I found it difficult to relax and even more difficult to concentrate on my studies. My everyday tension was most apparent to me in my modern dance. I had always been athletic and stayed in shape with tennis and swimming. But when it came to the subtleties of working with different sets of muscles in dance, I saw I could become much more limber.

I did not realise I was searching for a different way of life, but thoughts of wanting to rise above daily tensions, and feelings that there had to be a deeper reason for existing, were gradually becoming more prominent. One day in school, I happened to stumble upon a friend sitting on the floor in a corner of a classroom, struggling to get her legs into the lotus position. Since I had not the faintest idea of what she was up to, I inquired. She told me she was taking yoga exercises and persuaded me to come to some of her classes. Partly out of curiosity, partly because I was always open to new experiences, I went. I should add that in those days, ‘yoga’ was not a house-hold word the way it is now, and the concepts of Hatha Yoga and meditation were quite esoteric and mysterious.

So it happened that in the fall of 1967 I began going to Yoga of Westchester, run by Sarama, who herself had just become Guru’s disciple. The exercise classes were followed by short meditation sessions, which I hoped would improve my concentration. Having been raised as an atheist, I was not approaching this new activity as anything religious. But as the months went on, during my meditation I found myself spontaneously praying to some kind of higher power, as it were. I felt that if I did not pursue the possibility of a spiritual dimension in life, I would always wonder whether it existed or not. Also during that time I adopted the vegetarian lifestyle, which, again, was not as widely accepted as it is now.

At one point a middle-aged woman named Beatrice Serlin, who lived in the same community, began attending the yoga classes with me. In September of 1968, unbeknownst to either of us, Sarama showed our pictures to her Guru, who then invited Beatrice and me to come to meditations held at his recently-acquired home in Queens. I barely knew what a Guru was, but I decided to go. In those days the only Centre activities were the Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon meetings, and I fit right in with some mini-skirted young women and hippie-ish looking, long-haired young men who had recently joined the core group of middle-aged disciples.

After two or three sessions, Guru told me that I should concentrate on opening my heart more. I decided to work on this on my own for exactly a month, before going back to attend the Centre meditations again. I did not tell anyone why I stopped coming to Queens or what my intentions were. It was my own little spiritual secret. I continued my various activities, while always focusing on my heart, even wearing pendants and pins over my heart centre as a reminder. When the end of the month approached, I felt some uncertainty as to whether I had been successful enough, so I decided that perhaps I should wait before going back to the meditations.

Lo and behold, exactly on the last day of my month-long self-imposed sadhana, Sarama telephoned me and said, "I just got a call from Guru. He’s been concentrating on you for the last month, and you’re in, kid!" That was how I learned I had been accepted as a disciple.

Nilima (New York)

Cross-posted from