When first discovering a night sky, the eyes may pick out a few tiny stars. Waiting and watching reveals thousands, until it seems there is yet more light than empty blackness. So my life has been, and so it continues. This is my story, in gratitude to Sri Chinmoy: for teaching me how to wait, and how to watch.
Revelations, no matter their size, seem to hide when they are hunted down by thoughts and wonderings. Like untamed creatures in their own private world, they only let themselves be seen when I am either still and quiet, or disarmed by helplessness. This is no new phenomenon. I dare say everyone has been struck by at least one bolt of inner brilliance while the senses are otherwise engaged in the beauty of a sunset, or the smile of a child, or the grandeur of the open sea. Ironically, sudden insights may also come when one is at a complete loss to unravel the mysteries of life, suspended somewhere in the universe on this relatively small rock, all of us together and yet so very much alone. Rather than leaving such revelations to chance, one can consciously harness and harvest them through meditation. Ultimately the moments string themselves together into a constant stream of understanding – a full and open connection to the divine.
Or so I believe. While I am yet far from reaching that exalted state, I have witnessed enough to know it exists: through increasing glimmers of my own experience, and most of all through the presence of a genuine spiritual Master.
I often wonder how I had the good fortune to find Sri Chinmoy, or even to take up any sort of spiritual practice at all. On paper it was highly unlikely, having been born into an atheist English family, and yet perhaps that very background played its own essential role. I was brought up never to leave things to chance. If something was broken, I was taught to study its components – at least in order to inform myself of how it was made, if not to mend it. I was encouraged to believe that everything could be questioned or taken apart, physically or theoretically: that everything follows logical reason, whether or not we understand the reason at a given time. Extending the theory to life in general, I always felt empowered to shape my destiny.
Although I still have faith in that empirical spirit, and in my ability to change my life for the good, I now consider a pragmatic attitude – however positive – as only part of a much wider truth. While it is no doubt vital to give one’s best, it seems there is also a time to let go one’s grasp, to trust in something bigger, to admit that one does not have the answers, and to be at peace with that for now.
It was at such a time when Sri Chinmoy arrived in my world. I did not think I was looking for an Indian Guru, and he was not at all as I imagined an Indian Guru to be. He was smiling and clean-shaven, as gentle as he was inconceivably strong, his childlike humour in easy balance with a wisdom that seemed older than the world itself. He was eminently practical, acutely conscious of the human condition, and yet not bound at all by the sort of petty earthliness that seemed to dog my own existence. He carried an abundance of everything I had longed for in life: constancy and creativity, freedom and sensitivity, certainty, peacefulness and most of all, immaculate poise. He brought me answers to questions I had not even yet formed: in poetry, in songs, in physical demonstration and silent meditation. He charted maps for me: maps of immediate inner lands, and others I will not reach for a very long time.
I made many mistakes before finding him; error itself had been my faithful tutor until then. I tried many apparent shortcuts to fulfilment, each of them ending in its own cul-de-sac. If nothing else, I discovered quite clearly what I do not want in life, before discovering what I do. Finding happiness through aprocess of elimination is, after all, a way of finding happiness – albeit a tortuous one. While I would not necessarily have chosen such a long route, I have come to realise the journey is an intrinsic part of the destination. If a pilot somehow found a way to perch a helicopter on the summit of Everest, his satisfaction and exhilaration would surely not compare to that of a mountaineer, even if they shared the same view at the end of the day.
According to Sri Chinmoy, the past is dust: we must learn from our mistakes and then continue on our way, carrying only that new knowledge with us, and leaving the useless weight of failure behind. I have come to show you the pieces of my past, not to confess my own secret hurts and imperfections – they are far from useful or exceptional – but to illustrate the extraordinary transforming influence Sri Chinmoy has had on this otherwise ordinary person: proof that the past is indeed dust, and that each of us may leave it behind if we choose.
I have neither designed nor necessarily deserved my good fortune. It came when I both needed it and was ready to accept it; when taking apart the components of my life no longer informed me well enough to mend it myself. After much racing around in pursuit of happiness, I found it had been inside me all along; I only needed to be still and quiet, knowing how and where to look. These are the real secrets I have come to tell you, in the hope of bringing that same good fortune to you, wherever you are on this relatively small rock. While we each must make our own steps to the peaks of spirituality, many have already gone before us, so we are never really alone.
There have been bleak nights along my way, many of my own making, but life is all the brighter for them now. To the human eye, without the darkness there are no stars.